Making Dallas Even Better
D Magazine readers know Jamie Thompson’s byline. For the last six years or so, she has written for the magazine as a freelancer. A few highlights: the death of Kidd Kraddick (the first big story that she and I worked on together), the Susan Hawk saga, the unethical judge (who, as a result of Jamie’s story, had to step down from the bench). She did a bunch of smaller pieces for us, too, the sort of work every full-time freelancer has to take on to pay the bills.
What most readers don’t know is that Jamie is married to Steve Thompson, an investigative reporter for the Dallas Morning News. The couple moved to Dallas in 2007, when Steve took a job at the paper. It was his health insurance, really, that kept Jamie in freelancing shape. Not just for D Magazine. This Texas Monthly story about the Wimberley flood was, to my mind, the best magazine story written in 2015 (though it appeared online only, which is a mystery that confounds me still).
Well, actually, Steve was an investigative reporter for the News. His last day at the paper was March 1. He left to take a job at the Washington Post, where he will be a general assignment reporter covering local government. It’s a brilliant hire. Not only does the Post get Steve but, as management there surely knows, the Post gets a great new steady freelancer in Jamie. She has written for that paper before. Just as she has written for the News (most recently with this monster of a story about the SWAT standoff in downtown).
Bottom line is this: Dallas is left a poorer city for the Thompsons’ departure. Socially, for sure. They are two of the most cordial, delightful people you could hope to meet. But, more important, when it comes to journalism about the city and the people who live here, two of the best storytellers seated at the campfire just got up and left the circle.
Mike Wilson is the editor of the News and Steve’s former boss. I told Jamie that I blame Wilson for letting her husband take a job at the Post, just like he allowed Avi Selk to leave for the Post. Jamie is wiser and kinder than I. She set my head right. The Post is every newspaperperson’s goal (or the Times). Wilson can’t be blamed for two people taking their dream jobs.
But right now I’m not in the mood for wisdom and equanimity. I feel nothing but white-hot rage and the lust for blood. Dear Curious Texas, why did Mike Wilson let this happen?Full Story
What you see here is the March issue of D Magazine next to its sticky note-filled inspiration. In 2012, Mark Doty, the historic preservation officer for the city of Dallas, published Lost Dallas. It’s part of the Images of America series from Charleston, South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing. Our own Peter Simek, while doing research for our cover story (on newsstands this weekend), turned to Doty for advice and counsel. A tip of the cap to him for his help. As well, we’d like to thank the following for their assistance: Paula Bosse from Flashback Dallas, Misty Maberry from the Dallas Public Library, Dreanna Belden from the Portal to Texas History, amateur historian Mark Rice, and the folks at the DeGolyer Library at SMU. But especially Doty, because we stole his book cover.
After looking through hundreds of old pictures of Dallas, we came to the same conclusion that Doty had six years ago. That image of the boy sitting on the roof of the Baker Hotel makes a perfect cover. We never would have found it on our own, because it is owned by the California Museum of Photography. That’s how lost some of our history has become. You have to go to Riverside, California, to find it.Full Story
No doubt by now you have seen the piece by D Magazine contributing editor and [squints] Dallas Morning News staff writer Jamie Thompson about the July 7 police ambush and how the SWAT team took down the shooter. It’s called “Standoff” or maybe “STANDOFF” and it’s worth your time to read all almost 13,000 words of it. It has been online for a week or so, and on Sunday the Morning News published it on actual newsprint, giving it its own section in the paper.
Tim and I have been discussing it off and on since the story first went live, and I thought I would take a few moments out of my busy schedule of taking insanely good photos of downtown buildings to put a few of our talking points on our blog, FrontBurner, colloquially known as FB. I’m a bit worried I might step on a few toes, I believe the expression is, but I’m gonna go ahead and do it anyway. Are you ready? You sure? OK, cool. Wait, you are definitely ready? Alright. Here they are:
Yeah, I’m doing it again.
IT’S MORE GOOD NAMES FOR A DOG, Y’ALL, OR AT LEAST BETTER NAMES FOR A DOG THAN STORY, WHICH IS THE NAME OF DMN EDITOR MIKE WILSON’S DOG. LIKE “STORY, NO!” AND “STORY, COME HERE!” COME ON.
Fitzgerald (aka Fitz)
How does this keep happening? Early last year, the Columbia Journalism Review ran a story about how the new editor of Texas Monthly, Tim Taliaferro, planned to take the magazine in a direction aimed more toward lifestyle coverage. Then he complained that his remarks had been taken out of context. Then he said he’d been misunderstood. Now it’s happened again.
Today the CJR published another story about a Taliaferro-generated misunderstanding. This one involves an apparent quid pro quo wherein Taliaferro put the CEO of Bumble on the cover, and Bumble promised to spend $25,000 to promote the story on social media. TxMo staffers told CJR that Taliaferro told them about the deal in an editorial meeting. But after at least one of those staffers leaked to CJR and the magazine called Taliaferro to ask about the deal, he held another meeting at which he told the staff that he’d been misunderstood. All very unfortunate.
A few thoughts:
I feel bad for Sarah Hepola, the Dallas writer and sometime D Magazine contributor. Sarah wrote the cover story in question. I’m afraid her work gets unfairly besmirched as Taliaferro communicates poorly and is misunderstood.
The CJR got ahold of some of Taliaferro’s emails to Bumble. In one of them, he wrote: “I can’t stress enough how much is on the line for me with this deal. I must have this story perform and earn lots of eyeballs.” This deal is all about him, not the magazine. His bonus and/or his job must depend on increasing online traffic (my speculation). Given how often he is misunderstood, this doesn’t seem like a good arrangement.
The only way that the CJR could have gotten those emails is if a TxMo staffer handed them over. Obviously this means at least one person on his staff is having a hard time understanding the boss, and that misunderstanding is leading to disgruntlement. Further, the CJR reports that when Taliaferro communicated poorly with his staff, misleading them to believe that he’d struck a deal with Bumble, they sat in “stunned silence.” A media organization can’t operate (for long) that way. When the people at the top have really bad, unethical ideas, or when they simply get misunderstood, the mood in the room needs to be such that everyone feels comfortable raising a hand and saying, “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying. Because it sounds to me like you just said something that worries me.” Actually, this is true of all businesses. Silence in meetings doesn’t produce good results.
And then the last thing I’d like to say: the Bumble cover is lousy. Either put the woman on the cover or don’t. That goofy background was a bad idea.Full Story
In 1991, a young Tim Rogers landed an internship at D Magazine by posting a record score on the copy editing test and by offering to bribe the then editor (a scheme involving her daughter’s artwork and the preferred placement thereof in the halls of Preston Hollow Elementary, where my mother taught). You? If you want to be an intern here, all you have to do is send an email to our managing editor, Christiana Nielson ([email protected]).
Due to circumstances entirely within someone’s control, we had an intern back out of a commitment to join us this spring. That’s your spot! We love late-applying procrastinators! The gig starts next week(ish) and runs through May 8. Is it unpaid? It is very much unpaid. But in lieu of compensation, you will get to participate in editorial meetings, fact check award-winning stories, write for the web and print, and drink as much free coffee as your spleen can handle.
In all seriousness, we’re looking for college-aged kids who are brilliant (or at least sentient) and have about 20 hours per week to spare. We’ll show you how the sausage gets made and teach you a thing or two along the way.Full Story
Paul Kix once worked at D Magazine. I may have fired him. It’s unclear. In this episode of EarBurner, we discuss his departure from our staff and subsequent rise to stardom as a senior editor at ESPN the Magazine. Oh, plus his new book, The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando. We talk about that, too. Tonight at Wild Detectives, sometime D Magazine contributor Sarah Hepola will conduct a Q&A with Paul that is sure to be illuminating, though I doubt it will include as much teasing as Paul suffered in this podcast. Have a listen.Full Story
The Dallas Observer has a new editor. Earlier this week, Voice Media sacked Joe Pappalardo, who’d led the paper for two years. The new guy in charge isn’t exactly a new guy. Patrick Williams had been the managing editor for two decades. Here’s what he says about the transition:
Joe is no longer the editor of the Dallas Observer as of Wednesday. He’s still a friend — at least I hope he is — and a smart and talented journalist and author. He has a new book out, Spaceport Earth: The Reinvention of Spaceflight, which I think would make a great Christmas present for anyone. I wish him nothing but the best.
As for me, after 20 years of safely hiding behind editors in chief, it’s time to step up and show what I’m worth. (Timing was never my strong suit.) I’ve got Schutze and a small but extremely skilled group of editors and writers behind me and support from VVM above, so how badly can I screw things up? Start your timer … now.
It should be a fun ride, anyway. The Observer still has plenty to contribute to the conversation in Dallas, and I’m almost certain there are at least a dozen people in town we haven’t managed to piss off. We’ll find them, though.
If you follow any Morning News employee on social media, you’ve likely seen shots of them setting up camp at their new office in downtown, next to the refurbished Statler. Maybe, say, a photo of a guy in a vest, hands sassily on hips. I don’t know who you follow. While doing my usual perambulating around the CBD, I passed by the new joint. Pretty cool. Anyway, I’m no architectural or workplace expert, but I do have a few thoughts.
About dog names. Because, as far as I know, DMN editor Mike Wilson still has a dog named Story, and that is still not as bad as Inverted Pyramid or Compelling Narrative Lede or Pulitzer Finalist or whatever, but it is still not a great name for a dog. “Come here, Story!” “Story, sit. Story? Siiiit.” You get it. What about:
Dennis Smith Jr. Jr.
I’m not even a little sorry.
From 1960 to 1977, WFAA shot its news footage on 16 mm film. Unlike much of the video the TV news affiliate has subsequently used to record Dallas news, that 16 mm film was never deleted, corrupted, or recorded over. Instead, it sat in storage for years until it was recently donated to SMU’s G. William Jones Film and Video Collection. The university library has since undergone the painstaking effort of identifying, cataloging, and digitizing 17 years of images of Dallas’ history.
This evening, on VideoFest and KERA’s Frame of Mind program, you can see some of that footage. As part of the show’s 25th anniversary season, Frame of Mind producer and VideoFest director Bart Weiss handed over access of the WFAA footage — all 1.3 terabytes of it — to 10 area filmmakers, who have each taken the fragments of history and reconstructed it into 10 new short films.
The results aren’t so much historical documents as they are interpretations and conversations with the past, as well as considerations of the way that film captures, preserves, and distorts the historical record. In fact, most of the filmmakers choose to focus on footage and themes that resonate with our current moment — race, policing, violence, equality, sexism — exploring how some of these themes percolate through the historic footage.
Perhaps what is most interesting about all of the films is the way the disconnect between the filmmakers’ individual visions and the perspective or original intent of the WFAA footage reveals latent attitudes and cultural assumptions. For example, parts of Carmen Menza’s “Beyond 10” focus not on the newsworthy footage, but on the cameramen’s lapses — moments in which the camera strays from the assignment to zoom in and leer at the bodies of young women in crowds. Similarly, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts student Madison McMakin montages footage to juxtapose the way men and women are frequently portrayed, showing men in positions of power and authority, while women often appear confined to beauty pageants or domestic spaces.
In other pieces, images of young men in Confederate uniforms; Western film trailers; crime scenes; fires; and interviews with police, politicians, businessmen, and activists re-contextualize the once-news in a way that reveals unconscious perspectives about race, gender, power, business, and politics. The Dallas of the 1960s and 1970s can appear in these films as a somewhat alien place. However, reading between the lines — or between the frames, so to speak — it becomes clear that much of Dallas today is still rooted in the lost historical city captured by WFAA’s cameramen.
The strongest films in the series take a departure from the footage as mere historical artifact. Christian Vasquez uses the film to stitch together a fictional account of a woman named Jane X, conflating document and fantasy to tell the story of a bandit on the run who leaves in her trail a litany of real-life images of death and destruction. Michael Alexander Morris’ inspired, surrealistic apocalyptic parable finds in the WFAA footage images of a calf running down a Dallas highway, a shotgun-wielding grandma, reports on mysterious monsters lurking near Lake Worth, a crashed doughnut truck, and clips of George H.W. Bush, whose voice Morris has manipulated so that it sounds like a backward tape loop similar to the dwarf in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
The film’s ambiguity works on multiple levels, registering the paranoia and fear that seems to be the common emotional denominator that links the late-1960s and the present day, as well as, perhaps, the common, underlying tone that defines the way the news captures and tells the stories of all times.
Where to watch it: Frame of Mind airs on KERA November 16 at 10:30 p.m.Full Story
Don Huffines gets a tip of the cap, certainly. He is the state senator who pushed to get a measure on the November 7 ballot that will allow voters to kill Dallas County Schools. If you don’t know what DCS is, read this piece by Jim Schutze. To sum up, though, DCS isn’t a school district. It’s a transportation agency that provides bus service to area districts, the largest of which is Dallas ISD. And it’s a horrible transportation agency. It charges way too much, it crashes buses way too often, and its management for many years struck all sorts of questionable deals that appear to have enriched itself.
So, yes, Senator Huffines. Without him, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to stab this thing in the heart. But the knife was given to us by NBC 5. Reporter Scott Friedman and producer Eva Parks took a couple nibbles at this story way back in 2013, but they really sank their teeth into it a little over a year ago. (And, no, I am not mixing metaphors. These two are real watchdogs. Watchdogs who carry knives that they supply to citizens when needed.) You can see the whole repository of their reporting here.
When you vote against DCS on Tuesday, remember their names.Full Story
Director Anna Zetchus Smith today released a 75-minute documentary about Barrett Brown. Its full title is Accidental Warrior: the Life and Time of Barrett Brown. An opening sequence lays out the doc’s goal this way:
In early 2011 Aaron Barr, then the CEO of private internet security company HBGary Federal, claimed to have uncovered the “top leadership of Anonymous” in the hopes of receiving prestige and bigger contracts.
Members of Anonymous mocked him by hacking the company, which, among other things, resulted in the release of 70,000 internal emails, emails that revealed how these types of companies, unwatched, interact with government to build the surveillance state.
It would take an entire film to explain all of those details, and this is not that film. This film is about what happened to the journalist who did try to explain it.
It’s an interesting flick, featuring, without voiceover narration, interviews with Nikki Loehr, Barrett’s onetime girlfriend; Caleb Pritchard, a childhood friend; John Kiriakou, a CIA whistleblower; Marlo Cadeddu, one of Barrett’s lawyers; Kevin Gallagher, who helped raise money for Barrett’s legal defense fund; Gregg Housh, an early Anonymous participant; and me. Anna interviewed me in the D Magazine office the day Barrett was sentenced. If I’d known she was going to use that much of our discussion, I would have insisted on hair and makeup.
Anyway, it’s worth your time:Full Story
Forbes just dropped its list of the 400 richest people in America. Sorry. Wealthiest people. “Rich” is such a gauche term. Let’s have a look at the Dallasites who made the list and see how I, Tim Rogers, have personally interfaced with them. Just for giggles.
Andy Beal, No. 45, $10.9B
In 2010, I flew to Cape Canaveral on a 747 chartered by Beal to watch a space shuttle launch. Gabe Kaplan was along for the ride, too, on account of he, like Beal, enjoys high-stakes poker. I beat down Kaplan with questions about cards. He’s not nearly as nice as Beal. I shook Beal’s hand and thanked him for including me. Among the parting gifts given to everyone on the flight was a backpack that I still occasionally use to this day. Friendship rating on scale of 1 to 10: Beal and I are totally close. 8
Jerry Jones, No. 95, $5.6B
I’ve never met Jerry, but around 2000 I was thrown out of Valley Ranch for trying to interview a chef about what he was cooking for the team. Friendship rating: Jerry and I are lifelong enemies. 1
Robert Rowling, No. 108, $5.2B
Strange as it may seem, given that he has an alliterative name, I’ve never met Rowling. Friendship rating: there is hope that one day our families will vacation together. 5
Ray Hunt, No. 122, $4.9B
I talked to him once on the phone. Can’t recall why. He was once a part owner of D Magazine. His building is a block from our office, and I sometimes visit his lobby just to see his badass Foucault pendulum. Friendship rating: we’d probably bro hug if we ran into each other at lunch. 6.5
Trevor Rees-Jones, No. 132, $4.8B
I have an email from 2009 indicating that we made a mistake in the magazine involving TRJ. Friendship rating: it was a great mistake. 9
Kelcy Warren, No. 161, $4.2B
I interviewed him in 2014. We fell so hard for each other that he invited me to his wife’s birthday party at Savor a couple days later. They are both really nice people. Friendship rating: beyond besties. 10
Ross Perot Sr., No. 167, $4.1B
Earlier this year, a handful of D staffers got to tour the new Perot family office. Just by chance, we ran into Ross Sr., and I got to shake his hand and see his own personal office, which includes hundreds of pictures of artifacts from his fascinating life. Friendship rating: out of respect for one of the greatest Americans ever to live, I will not overstate our bond. 5.2
Mark Cuban, No. 226, $3.3B
Man, I hate to bring this up. It happened so many years ago. 2002, to be exact. But Mark Cuban once threatened to slice off my nuts. Those were his words. I’m not making that up. Anyway, I played pickup basketball with him a couple times after that. So no hard feelings. Friendship rating: we will probably play one on one as soon as his kids get older and he has more time. 8
Gerald Ford, No. 278, $2.9B
I’ve been in Ford Stadium. Friendship rating: it was only to drop off my daughter at soccer camp. 2
Ray Davis, No. 288, $2.8B
John Blake once cussed me out big time. John Blake is the head of communications for the Rangers. Ray Davis co-owns the Rangers. Friendship rating: I can tell that Davis values loyalty and that he has Blake’s back. 0
Herbert Hunt, No. 374, $2.1B
Wait a sec. Which Hunt is this? Friendship rating: seriously, there are so many Hunts that it’s hard to keep track of them all, and that’s before we even start talking about the Hills. 1
Ross Perot Jr., No. 374, $2.1B
Remember that tour of the Perot office I told you about? Ross Jr. led the thing. Nice dude. I offered to come lead a morning yoga class for him at the gym in their office. He politely declined. Friendship rating: next time he flies around the world in a helicopter, pretty sure he’ll ask me to be his copilot. 9
In the wake of the news that our old friend Barrett Brown has won a victory in his case against the government for snooping around to find out who contributed to his legal defense fund (I mean, seriously), we get this trailer for a double-B documentary that’s set for release November 1. I apologize in advance for my small role in it.Full Story
The paper visited the outspoken Channel 8 sports broadcaster at his ranch in Waxahachie to find out how the “white-haired grandfather who hasn’t voted since 1972” became a fixture on social media feeds around the world. At least part of his viral popularity is, as Hansen puts it, the surprise of a “fat, old, white sports guy” on TV acting against type and defending progressive causes.
The riffs have made Hansen something of an outlier: a local newsman with a national voice, a champion for social issues in a stick-to-sports world, a liberal voice in a deeply red state that’s as passionate about its sports as it is its politics.
Here in Texas, mixing those two religions is nearly a sin, but the cocky Hansen revels in taking on sacred cows, saying, “Oh, well, I’m agnostic anyway.”
There are a lot of good bits in the story, including Hansen’s not-so-diverse upbringing. Perhaps most importantly, we learn the name of Hansen’s mini donkey, Edward R. Burro, referencing the legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and the Spanish word for donkey.Full Story
More than likely, Jason Witten is coming back to Cowboys for the 2018 season, once again setting aside for a few months his duties at the Farmers Insurance branch that he manages in Mesquite. Back to breaking open defenses with seam routes while keeping an eye on the grill where he’s “got a little something special for y’all” (it’s corn on the cob) on the sideline.
But should the man who’s been a father of three since he was 8 years old decide to hang it up, Fox is apparently ready to make him part of its Thursday Night Football team. As a longtime Witten observer, I really doubt he will retire, even though he and Tony Romo tend to do things together. But if — big if, like B_G-things-happen-here-sign if — Witten decides to hang it up and become a broadcaster, would he be good at it?
Honestly, not really.Full Story
As a male with only a passing interest in cars but a healthy curiosity about television shows produced in and about Dallas, I sometimes find myself watching Fast N’ Loud. If you’ve never heard of it, you probably live a richer, fuller life than I do. But it’s a very popular car show on the Discovery Channel, and it centers on Gas Monkey Garage, which is over near I-35E and Walnut Hill, not too far from SpeedZone. So when one of the show’s main characters, the magnificently bearded Aaron Kaufman, left Fast N’ Loud and started his own Discovery show, to be filmed in a garage not far from the Design District, I decided to commit journalism. The story went online today, and you can get you some of that right here. But here’s a super bonus FrontBurner-only piece of artisanal content for you:
The picture you see above was taken by yours truly. To the left of the frame, you see D Magazine’s staff photographer, Elizabeth Lavin. As is her wont, she made the photo shoot much harder than it needed to be (and got a result much better than it would have been). If a subject is prepared to sit for a portrait in her workplace, for example, Elizabeth might instead convince her to climb into a jon boat and motor out to the center of White Rock Lake, which actually happened once. I was there.
So it went with Aaron Kaufman. After I interviewed him at his Arclight Fabrication, Elizabeth was supposed to shoot him there. She instead talked him into dragging one of his hotrods out to the levees for an al fresco shoot at sunset. Getting permission to do this from two departments at Dallas City Hall was, as you might imagine, a slightly complicated process. But Kaufman was kind to go along with the idea, and everything went off without a hitch (except for the part where a gust of wind blew over a huge light, which I caught with one hand while holding a $1,000 lens in the other).
Anyway, read the story. If you aren’t one of those people who lead rich, full lives, it’s worth your time.Full Story
Mark Davis is a right-wing radio host and frequent contributor to the Dallas Morning News’ op-ed page. When it comes to local Trump supporters, only First Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress could challenge Davis’ media footprint. His gross missteps bear scrutiny.
Here’s the piece that was printed in today’s paper. Davis went on a humanitarian mission to Haiti and wrote about what he experienced. All well and fine. He’s to be commended for his good works. But I’d like you to pay attention to how Davis frames his travelogue. It begins:
The most important thing about Haiti is not what President Donald Trump may or may not have said about it. The most important thing is that it is a suffering island nation of 11 million, with vast landscapes of people who need the help of nations as blessed as ours.
So Davis is saying that Trump might not have called Haiti a shithole and also asked, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?” He might have said that. But he might not have.
To be clear: Trump said it. Even Republicans agree that he said it. In the past, there is reason to believe, Trump has said Haitians “all have AIDS.” It is clear that Trump, for whatever reason, does not want Haitians coming to America. I would suggest that reason is racism.
As I say, the bulk of Davis’ piece is about his trip to Haiti. He writes about the poor conditions he saw and notes that he didn’t experience any animosity from the Haitians, all of whom exhibit an indomitable spirit. He concludes:
Once I returned, yes, everybody wanted to know whether the president or anyone else would be justified in that infamously coarse characterization of Haiti.
The short answer is: absolutely. But far from a slight against the inhabitants, the recognition of alarming conditions anywhere is a proper call to action to do what we can for them.
Ah! So Davis clears up the confusion he introduced about what the president may or may not have said. Now Davis is saying yes. Trump called Haiti a shithole. And now that Davis has allowed that Trump indeed called Haiti a shithole, he raises a question: was Trump justified in calling Haiti a shithole? And the answer to that question is absolutely. But, Davis contends, calling Haiti a shithole was not an insult. Trump wasn’t denigrating an entire nation as he tried to keep its people out of our blessed country. No, what he was doing was pointing out how badly Haiti needs our help. Trump was calling people to action.
Davis was sloppy to contradict himself. And his interpretation of Trump’s remarks is either sincere idiocy or a transparent lie.
The News has a new boss for its editorial board, the person who oversees the editorials and the op-ed page. His name is Brendan Miniter. Each time Davis writes something like this, he demonstrates Miniter’s lack of courage and that of Miniter’s boss, Mike Wilson. Both men are catering to the basest natures of some of their readers. The paper has a proud history of standing up to the Ku Klux Klan. No matter the financial repercussions, it published stories that assailed racists. Now, it seems, the paper prints stories that defend them.Full Story
According to the date on this, the DMN launched its Curious Texas feature on December 18 of last year. They call it a “project,” but I feel like that’s a little grand for something described by the paper as follows: “The idea is simple: You have questions, and our journalists are trained to track down answers.” But, whatever. Call it a project.
So far, the questions posed to Curious Texas have ranged from “no one outside of your aunt who watches nothing but MSNBC really thinks this” (“Are all Texans Republicans?”) to “awfully specific for a question from a reader” (“What’s hiding in the State Fair of Texas archives?”) to “shouldn’t someone on staff have already been working on this?” (“Why isn’t the Dallas police chief in uniform yet?”) to “lemme google that for you” (“Is it illegal to pick to Texas bluebonnets?”) to “who really cares?” (“What’s with all the ‘Barton’ names in Texas?”). They also spent something like 2,000 words unsatisfactorily answering someone who wondered if you could get around on a trip to Dallas and Fort Worth using only public transportation. Honestly, that rambling piece brought up more questions than it answered.
The whole thing, to me, is just a bad idea to begin with and chisels away at the paper’s authority. I’m not glass-housing this — we have bad ideas, too. (I came up with that cover shot.) And maybe I’m making too much of it. Most of the questions are harmless, if kind of pointless. But the item about Chief Renee Hall really bugs me. At best, it was a way to lightly editorialize the situation without taking ownership; the actual question, from Elizabeth Ehrsam of Plano, was “I keep seeing the new police chief without a uniform. Is becoming a Dallas police chief that hard?” At worst, none of the city hall/police reporters thought to ask it.
Anyway, Curious Texas seems like a pretty thankless task for reporters to take on. Which leads me to my question: how are these items assigned? Is there a chore wheel or something, and whoever’s name comes up has to google the pants off whatever question is up next or what?Full Story
Two things about SUCCESS that always bugged me: first, the all-caps title. Obviously. Second, the multilevel-marketing firm that underpinned its circulation. But whatever. It was a national magazine, based in Plano, that paid good money to real writers to do their thing. It was a part of our magazine ecosystem. And so I mourn its demise. The print and digital teams were both canned last night. It looks like the March issue will be the last of a magazine that was established in 1897. I’ve asked former employees for details of the closure. If I hear anything more, I’ll update this post.
UPDATE (1/17/18) To get a sense of how SUCCESS’ parent company does business, read this. (UPDATE 1/18/18 Somehow the people from the facial cream concern Nerium got the preceding article taken down yesterday. Actually, it looks like the entire site was taken down. Luckily Google has a cached version. You can read it here.) And here’s what a former SUCCESS staffer tells me: “The parent company just reached very dire financial straits over the last year and a half or so, which kept getting worse and worse. The magazine itself was always a vanity piece. It never made much money at all, and lost it more often than not. Finally things came to a point where the company couldn’t afford any losses at all. Almost 20 people from the Success (I don’t have to use the all-caps anymore!) media group were canned, and I don’t even know how many from the custom publishing side of the business. At least that many, I’m certain.”Full Story
Subscribers to our weekly newsletter D Brief got this in their inboxes on Sunday, but for all those who didn’t, (Ed. Note: subscribe here, under D Weekly! It’s very good!) I asked our editorial staff to write a bit about their favorite journalism published in one of the D properties last year. I say it’s worth your time. You won’t find rich service features that explore Indian and Japanese culture anywhere else. There are narratives about murder and drownings and more uplifting things like an imam fighting for social justice and the state’s first openly transgender mayor. There’s weird stuff, too, like a 6,000-word treatise written by a famous artist about the bar at the Lakewood Whole Foods that you never knew you’d need. Anyway. We’re proud of it. Here is everyone telling you why.
Tim Rogers, editor, D Magazine:
Initially, I had a hard time picking my favorite story of 2017. I loved Jamie Thompson’s story about a judge who was romantically involved with a lawyer who had a case in his court. It was filled with great cinematic detail, and it drew the sort of attention that may yet produce positive change. Our summer reading package, a collection of micro fiction, each story set in Dallas and written by a local author, was the kind of thing you’ll only find in a magazine. It’s one of the reasons you should subscribe to D Magazine. Richard Patterson’s essay about the Lakewood Whole Foods (and cheese and life and Dallas and art and real estate) was a real gas because it started out as a 300-word assignment that Richard decided required 6,000 words. I challenge you to show me something smarter and funnier that was written in Dallas this year. And Laray Polk’s investigation into the pre-history of the land that Dallas now occupies was the embodiment of our magazine’s slogan: let’s make Dallas even better. It has gotten some traction that we may be able to tell you about in the coming months. As I say, tough to choose a favorite.
But then I learned that Zac Crain’s favorite story of the year was his own dang story, a profile of Erykah Badu. What a cocky, egotistical whoreson that Zac Crain is. By the way, he’d never use a thesaurus to find a word like that. He’s too lazy.
In light of Zac’s pick, then, mine became obvious. I hereby choose as my favorite story of 2017 — the best thing this magazine published all year, a narrative that very well may change the practice of journalism in our post-truth era, a piece of writing that future journalists will study in the best institutions of higher learning, a triple hashtag longform — this artisanal, handcrafted, American-made profile of Krys Boyd. I wrote it.
(Also, our staff photographer, Elizabeth Lavin, shot the portrait of Boyd, which is awesome.)
Kathy Wise, executive editor, D Magazine:
It’s like bourbons. I can’t pick one. I’m leaving so many out. But here are five of my favorite moments of 2017:
1. “Erykah Badu Is My Homegirl” (February) ended up being an incredible collaboration between Zac Crain and Elizabeth Lavin. Zac provided a master class on how to write an insightful profile of an elusive artist with nominal participation, and Elizabeth took one of the greatest photographs I have ever seen of Erykah eating blueberries in her a kitchen full of peacock feathers. They both captured her essence perfectly.
2. “What to Think About When You Think About Krys Boyd” (April) was not only a great profile by Tim Rogers of a personal hero, but I got to meet Krys and have a beer with her and we are now Facebook friends. Plus, there’s that photo Elizabeth took through Krys’ study window with the dog propped up on the sill, held by an assistant whose hand has been Photoshopped out. Genius.
3. “A Meditation on the Proper Care of Good Cheese and the Soul of Dallas” (July) by Richard Patterson has to be my favorite piece of writing for the year. There’s a leg of lamb. There’s Picadilly Circus. There’s Arthur Miller. All in a Whole Foods bar in Lakewood.
4. Holland Murphy is one of the funniest, best, and most controversial (did you read her Ender about taking her son to the movies? Or her subsequent note to all those mommy shamers?) writers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. During the course of the year, she managed to spend the day with Vogue cover model Sarah Grace while she was getting ready for prom, got vintage fashion tips from Rihanna’s stylist at Weekend Coffee, hung out with the Black Dandies at the French Room Bar, and attempted a workout with the trainer for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (one which I bailed on). But my favorite Holland-initiated encounter was with Regina Merson, founder of the Reina Rebelde makeup line. Elizabeth shot Regina in an Adam Lippes floral dress in front of a Moooi floral rug wearing a custom floral headpiece by Bows and Arrows, creating a stunning Frida Kahlo-esque image for the April issue. Then we all went to El Bolero for a tequila tasting, during which Regina shared tales of her world travels and dating life. #girlboss
5. If you had told me a year and a half ago that if I took this job I would end up on The Ticket talking about Zeke Elliott, I might have turned it down. But you didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. In a pre-Weinstein, pre-#metoo world, I wrote about domestic violence (“On the Zeke Elliott Suspension: Even a Liar Can Be Beaten and Choked”) and was trolled for it. But I’m proud of providing a different perspective to what was, at the time, a very one-sided account.
Matt Goodman, online editorial director: The professional portion of my 2017 started in a courtroom. In November of 2016, I wrote a cover story about the neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch, who had a habit of harming his patients. He’d be sentenced to life in prison, the first physician to be convicted for aggravated assault related to his patient outcomes. I’d spent months researching that story, and covering his trial seemed like the follow-through that all those families deserved. They got their voices out there, over his.
When I look back on 2017 and the work we did online and in print at D Magazine, I think about that sort of follow-through. I think about standing in a cemetery in Oak Cliff on a steamy August morning, watching a backhoe tear into the earth. We were there to dig up the remains of Venice Parker, a woman raped and killed in 1953, to prove that the man our former district attorney had ordered killed for the act did not do it. I think about the incredible Jamie Thompson, who fought tooth and nail to tell the story of Ira Tobolowsky, the prominent attorney who was burned to death in his North Dallas home. Her piece is as gripping as it is empathetic, giving a voice to a family that had taken the investigation of who killed their father into their own hands.
I think of food critic Eve Hill-Agnus’ remarkable service features on Indian and Japanese food. The stale format of a list gets tossed out the window and replaced with something more robust; because of this, the reader gets a deeper analysis that winds up illuminating a culture through its food. I think of Zac Crain’s incredible profile of Erykah Badu, which he wrote through others’ eyes—because she didn’t talk to him in time for publication. I think of Peter Simek’s thoughtful coverage of the way this city lives and breathes, through everything from the Trinity River to poverty to Confederate statues and public transportation. I think of Kathy Wise’s brave reporting on Zeke Elliott, becoming the first writer to nail down all of the domestic abuse allegations against him. And I think of our coverage of the $1.05 billion bond package, which was, as far as I can tell, the most thorough detailing of its contents available ahead of the vote.
Alex Macon, online managing editor: I have almost zero interest in fashion or shopping, and the concept of a brand partnership makes me think the Amish may be on to something. So I was happily surprised by how compelling I found this September feature on the 10 most stylish people in Dallas, even if I am mostly repulsed by the suggestion that “personal aesthetic is identity.” I appreciate seeing how it makes the most of the digital medium, with short videos (.gifs?) and creative web design. (A version of the feature later ran in print, where it was fine, but diminished.) I like reading about fascinating people, and this has 10 (11, really) of them, from Leon Bridges to Justine Ludwig. I love feeling aghast and slightly outraged at how much a white shirt can cost. Writing about the most stylish people in Dallas requires a most stylish presentation, and this has it.
Zac Crain, senior editor, D Magazine: I have two favorite pieces this year, the first and last features I wrote. The former was something I’d wanted to do for a long time — a profile of Erykah Badu — and the timing was perfect. February marked 20 years since her landmark debut, Baduizm, was released. I intended for it to be a straightforward profile: your standard “hang out for a few hours” type of thing. What ended up happening — not talking to her until well after my deadline had passed — forced me to completely change what I was thinking, and the result was way better than I would have done otherwise. It proved that you can’t ever get too attached to an idea.
The latter — a sort of long-form obituary of Conrad Callicoatte, a mysterious old sailor who died at White Rock Lake in June — was strangely similar to the Erykah story, in that the lead character was absent throughout the process. I had to reconstruct a life based on other people’s words. And, again, what seemed initially like it would be a straight-ahead piece changed (and changed and changed and changed) throughout the reporting and even the writing. But because I had written the Erykah story, I knew how to go about it: talk to as many people as you can and let whatever happens happens. (And a special note to Elizabeth Lavin, who absolutely nailed the photos of Erykah.)
Peter Simek, arts editor, D Magazine: I was a big fan of Eve’s Indian food package. It was smartly written, well-researched, and brought to life a vibrant culinary culture in Dallas that can be intimidating to navigate for the unfamiliar outsider. I hope to work my way through the whole list.
Christiana Nielson, managing editor, D Magazine: For me, it’s a tie between Jamie Thompson’s feature on the murder of prominent lawyer Ira Tobolowsky in the May issue of D and Zac’s profile on Imam Omar Suleiman in D’s July issue. I fact checked both of them, which gave me an insight into how well they were reported and written. Jamie handled writing about the murder of prominent Dallas lawyer Ira Tobolowsky in a compassionate and respectful way. She had to balance getting a lot of details out of difficult, rude people (to say the least) while being sensitive when coaxing information out of the family. I got a sense of this while talking to family members who probably wouldn’t have told such personal details to anyone else. The feature was written in a digestible way and was probably my favorite piece I’ve ever fact checked, even though it required a ton of time and energy. And Zac also handled reporting on Imam Suleiman in a similarly gracious way. The story discussed sensitive subjects like the downtown police shooting and navigated how Suleiman was trying to change the way people think of Islam simply by being himself—inclusive and kind. While talking to Suleiman for fact checking, it was nice to hear how comfortable he was sharing all these details, which made for a powerful story.
Eve Hill-Agnus, food critic, D Magazine: I have to say that a highlight of the year for me was the work I did on the Japanese food feature, and particularly the profile of Teiichi Sakurai, a chef I’ve admired for a long time. The depth to which I was privy—seeing that his knowledge touched ceramics, aviation, the historical intricacies of the endlessly fascinating Edo period that is the basis of so much Japanese cuisine, besides the intricately involved mastering of soba—was fascinating.
But this was Zac’s year of profiles for me, in particular his piece on Imam Omar Suleiman, in which, with insight and grace, he shed light on a community leader in a personal, intimate way. His profile of Erykah Badu, with its deft solution that turned her absence in the piece into the piece’s very structure (much in the same way the incantational repetitions of the Suleiman profile became a defining part of the structure). And his piece on Jess Herbst, the transgender mayor of the tiny town of New Hope. The visual scenes—the opening scene with the daughter’s first “true” vision of her father—and work with chronology were terrific.
Caitlin Clark, online managing editor: I couldn’t put down the story about the investigation into the murder of Ira Tobolowsky, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after I read it. (Now I’m going to be obsessing over it all over again). Jamie Thompson did such an incredible job writing a piece that was both engrossing and terrifying, while remaining reverent to the Tobolowskys. I’m not generally drawn to true crime stories, but there was something so heart-wrenching and infuriating about what happened to Ira and the investigation that followed. I felt proud to work at the publication that published that story.
S. Holland Murphy, associate editor, D Magazine: Getting an interview
with one of the buzziest models in the world was one thing. Getting into her house was another. But getting to interview and photograph Sara Grace Wallerstedt in her Bedford house as she got ready for her senior prom was a pretty rare opportunity. Also, I got a lot of feedback from my response to mommy shamers—one mother even donated to Planned Parenthood in my name. So, you know, lemons and lemonade and all that.
Ryan Conner, executive editor, D Home: My favorite story of 2018 is “Welcome Home, Charlie” from the Nov/Dec issue of D Home. Christine Allison penned a beautiful piece about a couple who teamed up with local designers Bill Cates and Russ Peters to create a very special space for their family. Their son Charlie has Down syndrome, and the family and designers took care with very detail, including creating a professional art studio for Charlie. At D Home, we showcase many beautiful interiors, but this story truly embodies what makes a house a home.
Sarah Bennett, managing editor, D Home: My favorite piece this year was my home feature on Joe Minton’s Fort Worth abode. Not only was this my first feature for D Home, but Mr. Minton—who owns both a design firm and an antiques store—has curated a style of English and Old World antiques that I personally love. On our D Home editorial staff, we all have different styles. Editorial director Jamie Laubhan-Oliver loves a modern, clean-lined, black-and-white aesthetic, while I favor English and French tones of blue and cream (she likes to call it “lady”). The U.K. is a place near and dear to my heart, and it is to Joe Minton as well—he served there as a lieutenant in the Air Force during the Cold War. That love is reflected in the pieces throughout his home, which made this feature so much fun to write.
Lyndsay Knecht, online arts editor: I share Kathy Wise’s affinities for Rolling Rock and poetry (and the use of those details), but that common ground wouldn’t qualify “Congratulations on Your … Whatever” as my favorite response to news this year on D’s website. The thing about having a WordPress login for an outlet and getting paid to use it in the service of humans while human rights are under duress in the United States is this: you too, are human, and your whole existence is testimony to the case. For this piece, what marriage meant to Kathy and her now wife and partner of more than 20 years – both agnostic lawyers – changed color with legal recognition. Each moment is vivid and plainly told. As she attempts to make ceremony of their trip the Office of The City Clerk in NYC in her practical voice and cries on the phone with her wife when the Obergefell decision made marriage legal in every state (even theirs, which is ours) the reality of constant vigilance LGBTQ+ couples sustain between the social and legal implications of their love in a flawed system becomes real and exhausting. Readers learn that when Ken Paxton wanted to make null the same-sex partner benefits Dallas offered since 2004, he was threatening the very benefit that brought Kathy and Melissa to Dallas in the first place.
Glenn Hunter, editor, D CEO: My favorite this year was writer Kerry Curry’s feature article in the May issue of D CEO called “Reclaiming the Past.” Kerry told the story of Jim Lake Jr. and Amanda Moreno, a husband-and-wife property-development team that preserves and refurbishes historic buildings in North Texas. From transforming old gems like Jefferson Tower and the former Ambassador Hotel to helping redevelop Bishop Arts and the Design District, the Jim Lake Cos.’ “adaptive reuse” projects have contributed to making Dallas a more interesting place to live. “We are not just a real estate company,” Lake told Kerry. “We are developing a brand to develop historically important properties for Dallas that we will not sell, so that future generations can continue to enjoy them.”
Danielle Abril, managing editor, D CEO: In D CEO’s May issue, Joe Guinto recounted the genesis of Southwest Airline’s culture as an ode to its 50th anniversary in business. He brings to life the story of a once-scrappy startup founded by the spirited Herb Kelleher that has become a major player in the airline industry, boasting 44 consecutive years of profits and never experiencing a single layoff. Although the airline no longer parades go-go boots, hot pants, and whiskey giveaways, even through its toughest days of competition and the Wright Amendment battle it has managed to maintain a quirky, friendly culture that encourages fun. Employees still tell jokes over flight PA systems and participate in one-day, pep-rally-esque events. The airline continues to grow but current CEO Gary Kelly has maintained a strong connection to the company’s freewheeling roots.Full Story
Have you had time yet to read Jim Schutze’s latest banger about Museum Tower and Mike Snyder, or are you still recovering from the New York Times story about the alien invasion? Schutze is good at his job. If you looked at the issues he’s taken a side on, he’s probably batting .800. The whole West Dallas, Khraish Khraish-versus-Mayor Mike Rawlings thing comes to mind. So that’s probably why, when Schutze is wrong, his boneheadedness is so striking. It’s so rarely on display.
Today, Schutze wrote a piece for the Observer about Mike Snyder and the Dallas Morning News and how the paper has it out for him because it was always in the bag for the Nasher in its fight with Museum Tower. It’s complicated. Read Schutze’s post if you haven’t already. Here’s the part that really jumped out at me:
It wasn’t that I thought the pension fund was right or that Museum Tower may not have been too shiny. I’m not a shiny expert. It just pissed me off enormously that nobody in town wanted to let the pension fund talk.
The powers that be were handling the shiny debate the same way they always want to handle anybody who crosses them, by shoving a pillow in the other guy’s face. So it was great to see someone [Snyder, working as a sock puppet] allowing the pension to grab a gasp of air now and then.
Excuse me? Nobody in town wanted to let the pension talk? Schutze means Richard Tettamant, who used to run the pension, before it was raided by the FBI. I let him talk. Steve Thompson at the News let him talk. KERA gave him his space. Those are just the links that jumped to the top of my Google search. The reason the pension was gasping for air is that it had buried itself under a mountain of risky real estate investments. And because the FBI was breathing down their necks. And because it had to eat crow over the sock puppetry stuff. Don’t cry for Mike Snyder.Full Story
On Tuesday, we published a post about the Dallas Museum of Art and the Dallas Theater Center’s issuance of the phrase “inappropriate behavior” in the recent resignation and firing, respectively, of two high-profile employees. Especially in the case of the DTC, where the employee worked with minors and SMU students, we felt the public was owed more specificity. And we still feel that way. We stand behind the essential point of the post.
But in making that point, we let our passion blind us to a line beneath our feet as we crossed it. We — editors and writer — made an error in judgment in calling out by name the two women who run the PR departments of the DTC and the DMA. We apologize to them and to our readers for doing so. The original post has been altered.Full Story
If you’re familiar with the Longreads platform, you know they mostly aggregate great stories. But they also commission original work. This is an example that deserves your time. Author Shawn Shinneman (a name so alliterative that I feel compelled to profile him) does a great job with a topic that, sadly, is too familiar. His story is about a wrongfully convicted man who now lives in Duncanville. Save it. Give it a read when you can.Full Story
We’ve been on deadline, and I’m coming to this a little late, but you should read this recent Bud Kennedy column if you haven’t already. The gist:
We are not as powerful a city as we used to be, and the proof is as close as Colonial Country Club.
Once, about six phone calls would have rounded up sponsors for a pro golf charity benefit to raise $13 million and put Fort Worth on network TV all weekend.
The electronics, retail and energy giants that used to support Fort Worth arts, charities and causes are no longer around. Or they aren’t in any shape to help.
It’s an interesting conundrum for a city that is still growing and will soon break into the top 15 of largest U.S. cities. Kennedy says all that growth, though, is coming from technical and warehouse jobs. “We’re not growing executives,” he writes. “We’re not growing headquarters, or leaders, or decision-makers.”
And yet, every time ESPN comes to town for a big game, they erect their outdoor set in downtown Fort Worth, not Dallas.Full Story
Sometime D Magazine contributor Brantley Hargrove — who is muscled, clean-shaven, with Greco-Romanesque locks — has himself a story in this month’s Wired that you should read. It is titled “Into the Vortex: Megacomputers and the Quest to Understand Superstorms.” A taste:
At the edge of emerald fields of corn and soybeans sits the National Petascale Computing Facility, the crown jewel of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The 88,000-square-foot glass-covered facility looks like a fancy convention center, and it’s surrounded by a black steel fence strong enough to stop a speeding Mack truck. Past a retina scanner and through a heavy-gauge steel door resides a computer named Blue Waters. It’s big—spanning 10,000 square feet—and it’s made up of 288 matte-black rack towers that house the 27,000 nodes that are the key to its power. Each node holds two microprocessors, not unlike a stripped-down PC but faster than anything you’ll find at Best Buy.
Since powering up in 2013, Blue Waters has been one of the few computers in the world capable of processing the biggest of big data sets, encompassing everything from the evolution of the universe to the global spread of flu pandemics. It’s also one of the only machines in the world that can model the staggering complexities of a supertornado, which is exactly what an atmospheric scientist named Leigh Orf spent the better part of 2013 failing to do.
Everybody’s favorite Dallas-based ex-con journalist is at it again. Last night Viceland released its latest episode of the Cyberwar show, titled “Activists vs. the Surveillance State.” It features Barrett sitting in D Magazine’s conference room, talking on his flip phone to the Bureau of Prisons, trying to find out why he’s not allowed to talk to a reporter from Vice — which he goes ahead and does anyway. Aaaand he got arrested again. This all happened back in late April. Anyway, if you have about 20 minutes, it’s worth the time. For those who want even more Barrett, sometime next week a new documentary about him will drop. Stay tuned.Full Story
Once again, if you haven’t been following along at home, Folio: is a trade magazine about magazines. Every year Folio: hands out awards for the best editorial (Eddie Awards) and design (Ozzie Awards) work done across the country, both digital and in print. Yesterday, in the “city and regional” category, we won three.
We won an Ozzie for best use of digital photography for our May cover, about the Tobolowsky murder. The image was created by C.J. Burton, and the cover was designed by our own Kevin Goodbar, who also came up with the concept.
We won an Eddie for best series of articles. They were written by our own Matt Goodman about the Duntsch trial. You can find his reports and the cover story he wrote here.
And, finally, we won an Eddie for best news coverage, for a series of reports on Dallas City Council meetings written by Barrett Brown. You can find those here. In typical Barrett fashion, he was not humbled by the win. One of the publications he beat was something produced by the New York City Police Department. Here’s what he wrote on Facebook yesterday:
Ten years ago, upon moving to Brooklyn, I was grabbed off the street along with a couple of Puerto Ricans I was hanging out with, thrown up against a wall, called a “liar” for claiming I wasn’t buying drugs from them, searched, and then released with a warning that they were going to rob me. That was my first, though by no means last, experience with the NYPD. Today I was up against the New York Police Department’s NYPD News for “Best Local and Regional Coverage” award from Folio. I just beat them. Fuck you, pigs, and fuck your little pretend newspaper. Also, the drugs were in my sock.
Chris Shull eventually became a respectable adult and got himself a wife and a real job, but when I entered his orbit, in 1994, he was the arts editor for the now defunct Met, a Dallas alternative weekly staffed by brilliant minds working hard to do stupid stuff. Most of us were just a few years removed from college. Shull — we all called him by his last name — was five or six years older, which seemed like a larger gap back then. He was an elder statesman but only because we were such punks.
I’ve met few people with his breadth of expertise and interests. He was a horn player and knew plenty about jazz and classical music, of course, but he was also into drag racing. Somehow he convinced The Met’s editor, Joe Guinto, that we should run a profile of Kenny Bernstein. This was circa 1995, and Bernstein hadn’t lived in Dallas for more than a decade, but, come on, he was “The King of Speed,” the first man to go 300 mph in the quarter mile. I remember that trivia because Shull conscripted me as his co-pilot for a road trip to Kansas City, where Bernstein was racing the week prior to an appearance at the Texas Motorplex, in Ennis. Shull would interview him there, then write the cover story for the following week. I’d like to say that on that trip Shull and I had a long, meaningful conversation about our hopes and fears and plans for the future. And maybe we did. But I don’t remember that. What I remember is that I didn’t think his car would make it to KC and back. I remember shutting down a bar with him. And I remember how cool he was, how he was equally at ease navigating the pit lane at a drag race as he was sipping Chardonnay at intermission at the Meyerson.
He did it all while wearing rose-colored Ray-Bans, no matter the time of day or night. They were prescription glasses. He explained to me once that he couldn’t afford two pairs, so he’d chosen the sunglasses. After he became a respectable adult, he bought himself some proper indoor eyewear, but I’ll always remember him in those sunglasses. God, he was a funny, profane, big-hearted dude. He had an enormous, explosive laugh.
Kim Jones worked with Shull at The Met. In a Facebook group DM earlier today, she told a bunch of former staffers: “I can still hear him laughing and calling every woman in the room a fabulous babe. And talking about his cat Maia. I am 48 years old and have been married for 14 years and have two children. I hope one day that someone will talk about me the way that Shull talked about that cat.” It’s true. Shull had a weird thing for that cat. (Go here to read a really funny Shull anecdote from Kim.)
Shull spent some time post-Met covering the symphony for the Wichita Eagle, in Kansas. That is where he met Charla Sanderson. The two were married 17 years. She now works for the Office of Cultural Affairs, here in Dallas. A couple weeks ago, Sanderson noticed that her husband looked jaundiced. A visit to a doctor revealed that his liver was failing. Shull spent a week in ICU but seemed, for a bit, to be doing better. That wasn’t the case. He died yesterday morning. Shull was 55 years old.
Sanderson says there won’t be a service. She plans to have some dinner parties, to surround herself with people who loved and admired her husband. I hope she has a big table. She’ll need it to accommodate all those people, including many of the musicians at the Dallas Symphony. For those who wish to do something in Shull’s honor, she suggests donating in his name to help cats at Operation Kindness.
FROM JOE GUINTO, FOUNDING MANAGING EDITOR OF THE MET:
When I was his boss at The Met back in the day, I could never be mad at Chris Shull for long, even though rage was my most honed leadership skill. It didn’t matter if he missed deadlines — and, oh, how he missed deadlines — didn’t matter if he assigned stories to writers I hated — and he did — didn’t matter if he brought contraband along for a staff outing to a strip club at a gas station halfway between Dallas and Waco — and he did, despite my explicit, ranting instruction that he should absolutely do no such thing.
I loved Shull. Everyone loved Shull. And everyone hated me when I restructured Shull’s full-time arts editor job into a part-time position — part of a short-sighted decision to move a few thousand dollars of Shull’s appallingly low salary into some godawful fashion publication we’d just started (see above). Everyone hated me, that is, except Shull. When I broke the news to him, apologetically, he hugged me and he thanked me for being such a good boss. I wasn’t. But Shull was a good man and a dedicated editor who cared deeply for the Dallas arts community, especially the city’s classical musicians, and who made The Met’s coverage of that community into something respectable.
Early on, we’d have been lost without Shull. Later, when he left for full-time work in Wichita, we were lesser for not having his connections to, well, everyone — Shull had friends in high and low places — and for not having his loud, hilariously vulgar presence in our midst on a daily basis. As it turns out, everyone was right to hate me.
Like a lot of Met people, I saw Shull very infrequently in recent years. But he served as arts editor for our one-week-only 21st-anniversary issue, in 2015, and he brought his big laugh to our reunion party. I talked to him a lot at that event. On his way out the door, he stopped and hugged me as if I’d just laid him off. “Thank you for letting me be a part of this, man,” he said. But he had it backward. The Met wouldn’t have been The Met without Shull. And I’m sure that for anyone who knew him back then or more recently, life won’t be the same without him either.
FROM ERIC CELESTE, FOUNDING EDITOR OF THE MET:
Chris Shull was one of the few truly unique people I’ve ever met. He was also one of the kindest people you could ever know. He was a loving bear of a man who at once felt familiar and larger than life. He was Austin Powers without the lechery, The Dude with ambition, a redneck Mr. Holland.
Shull’s swingin’, cool-cat vibe was genuine. Twenty years after he worked for me, he still called me “boss.” (He may have called everyone that, but I choose to believe not.) The prescription sunglasses he wore indoors, the long hair he constantly pulled out of his eyes, proclaiming every female friend/colleague/performer “a fabulous babe” — each felt honest and innocent. In a world where most eccentricities feel calculated and pretentious, Shull’s were wildly endearing.
Women loved Shull, and he in turn really loved women. He loved their beauty, of course, but he found beauty in the things that mattered: their strength, their honesty, their hopes and fears. (And, it must be said, in less high-minded qualities.) At The Met, we worked above a bar called the Green Elephant, and after (or during) work, it was often we’d come downstairs and find Shull surrounded by young women, talking to each of them about their jobs, their boyfriends, school. He knew everything about them, he counseled them through their problems and concerns, and they never felt threatened by him. Despite proclaiming his love for each of them, they viewed him, correctly, as something of a father figure, someone motivated first by friendship and kindness.
But a man as fully romantic as Shull of course found love. Young love came in the form of women dazzled by his passion, awed by his encyclopedic knowledge of classical music, and tolerant of his more Texas-y pursuits (football and auto racing, in particular). As Tim pointed out, true love came later, when Shull moved to Wichita and met Charla. I didn’t know her well, but I knew how happy she and Chris were together. Every time I saw them about town, they beamed. They were *that* couple, the one that made you feel all things are possible through love.
I hadn’t seen Shull since last year, when he left the DSO, where he handled PR and publications. He would regularly email me and tell me to bring my “fabulous babe” of a girlfriend. Mostly because of him, we came often, and we always had a blast. He was great at his job because he loved the symphony so much, and he wanted to help me and other philistines share in what he found so exhilarating. He would dumb it down for me. “Don’t come to that show, come to the next one, the program is SEXIER!” “When that movement starts, and you feel the boomboomboomboom — boss, it’s like you’re in FUCKING DIE HARD!”
I hope some of you can hear his voice there. The temptation with Shull is to only recall how open, honest, and caring he was, because he offered more of his heart to his friends than just about anyone I’ve ever known. But I don’t want to forgot how wickedly funny he was. He was a World War II buff — again, endearing — and once, while writing a simple preview for The Met of a big Japanese-American art exhibit, he decided to write in the voice of an aggrieved veteran. I can still hear Shull laughing loudly, bellowing the words out, and us laughing maniacally around him. I’ll end this goodbye with those words because they always make me laugh. Also because I’m tired of crying, and I don’t want to go on about how much I want to hear him yell “Celeste!” and bear hug me one more time.
Here are the funniest, most inappropriate 192 words that were ever printed in The Met:
We have but one question for the fastidious organizers of “Sun & Star 1996,” this fall’s ubiquitous festival of Japanese art and culture that has relentlessly filled museums and concert halls since September: Remember Pearl Harbor? The sun and star have met and mingled before, and it wasn’t in the cool darkness of the DMA or the quiet grandeur of the Meyerson in that breathless moment between silence and music. Oh no, my friends. It was on the blood-frothed beaches of Tarawa and on the fire-swept hell of Iwo Jima that sun and star first mingled, and it was no goddamned tea ceremony either. IT WAS WAR, dammit. WAR! It was a peaceful Sunday morning in paradise, shattered by treachery and well-aimed 500-pound bombs. But you got yours, didn’t you, my little samurai? PAYBACK’S A BITCH, huh Tojo? You can make pretty little enamel lacquered boxes and folded paper cranes, but could you construct a simple self-sealing gas tank? HELL NO! Nimble is as nimble does, and your vaunted Zeros were just that: DUCKS IN A GODDAMNED SHOOTING GALLERY, from Midway all the way to Tokyo Bay. Never forget! Remember the Arizona!
Marc Stein, a long time ago, was a Mavs beat reporter for the Morning News. For a long time after that, he was ESPN’s top guy on the NBA, until he was laid off earlier this year. Stein was delivering scoops basically up until the second his tenure ended. He is the best. Just in time for the forthcoming NBA season, the Dallas-based Stein has hooked on with a little startup out of New York.
Proud and hugely humbled to share that, just in time for my 25th season covering the greatest league in the world, I'm joining the @nytimes
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) October 3, 2017
The only knock on Stein is that, back in 2009, when I was trying to pick a Premier League team to follow, he talked me out of choosing his beloved Manchester City, who went on to win the PL title two years later. The team I chose — Everton — hasn’t finished higher than fifth and has been total garbage this year. But it’s OK. I don’t dwell on that or anything.