25 Signs you grew up in Dallas in the 90’s

The following is based on questions I get about what it was like to grow up in Dallas.

1.  The Texas Giant – You remember how big of a deal it was when the Texas Giant opened. Like seriously, it was a really really big deal.


2.  Cowboys and 49er’s – You had one friend that hated the Cowboys and loved the 49er’s. Despite how awesome the Cowboys were in the 90’s, you had one friend that just had to be different and like the 49er’s.


Suck it 49er’s…and Keith from 9th grade for liking them

3.  The Toadies Rumor – There was that rumor at your school about the Toadies Song “Possum Kingdom” being about the lead singer sister’s death or something to that effect.


The Toadies were way more than one song from Guitar Hero

4.  Kenny “the Shark” Gant – You remember Kenny “The Shark” Gant from the Cowboys and his dances before kick offs.

KENNYGANTSHARKIt just goes to show that if you dance before kickoff and you’ll be more remembered than the starters.

5.  Penny Whistle Park – Looking back, a shed that housed a dozen carny-style amusement park-ish rides probably wasn’t that cool. But to the eight year old version of myself, it was an absolutely amazing place to have a birthday party.

penny whistle parkThat’s not a mistake, it’s just that no photo does Penny Whistle Park justice.

6.  The Black Hole at Wet ‘n’ Wild – First of all, it’s Wet’ n’ Wild, not six flags hurricane harbor splash world or whatever it is nowadays. And second, as soon as you went down the black hole at Wet ‘N’ Wild for the first time, you told everyone at school.

wet-n-wild-arlingtonUpon further review, building an entirely black water slide that soaked up the Texas sun, becoming blistering hot, might not have been the best idea.  But I’m not listening.

7.  Tatu and the Dallas Sidekicks – I can’t name a single other player on the Sidekicks, nor a single team that they played. But I know how big of a deal it was to go to a Sidekicks game and see him take his shirt off after a goal.

DSC03023No one is looking at you #15, stop waving.  Everyone is staring at Tatu’s early 90’s aura.

8Scotty’s on Park Lane – You spent days at Scotty’s on Park Lane. Before it was turned into Top Golf, that place was Scotty’s. And you probably spent countless afternoons playing miniature golf there, or in the batting cages.

scottys-golf-park-74231035If you know about Scotty’s then you know how awesome it was.  If not just trust us.

9.  Fair Day: Day off from school + free ticket to the State Fair + corny dogs and ice cream sandwiches + the pirate ship ride = best day ever.


F.Y.I.  Whenever you decide to go to the  Fair nowadays, always always check when Fair Day is for schools.  Don’t go on those days.

10.  The West End was cool – There was that arcade in the big building’s basement, like a three floor arcade. Plus the free fudge. Also a Planet Hollywood and some other stuff. Either way, as a kid it was a cool place.

wem-081709-0+(12)Whatever happened to that Giant Cowboy boot wearing Dinosaur?

11.  Mavericks games were free– You went Dallas Mavericks games basically for free.  Winning tickets to a Mavericks game in the 90’s was essentially the same as winning a pizza party for your class in grade school. Except the Three J’s weren’t at your pizza party.

three j'sBy “Crown” they meant, not last place.

12.  1994 World Cup – You remember the 1994 World Cup and that mascot dog thing. You may not have gone to the games, but you remember all the hoopla surrounding the games played at the Cotton Bowl.

world cup 94 mascotHis name was Striker, really I looked it up.

 13.  Your Favorite Texas Rangers were Rusty Greer, Nolan Ryan, “Pudge” and Steve Booooooo-shell, in some order.

41g-xY9LfeLPretty sure this baseball card is in a box at my parent’s house.

14.  The black tar heroin in Plano – You got lectured about drugs after all those kids in Plano died of black tar heroin.  Either at school or from your parents. The kids in Plano freaked out a lot of adults.

cheeseToday’s kids use “cheese” not harder drugs like the 90’s kids.

15.  Crystal Pizza – It was like Chucky Cheese on steroids, and way awesomer. A true birthday party Mecca.

crystalspizzaIt had a “Cartoon Theater”

16.  The Coca Cola Starplex – It’s not the Gexa Energy, Livenation.com Shirmoff Vodka Musical Arts Performance Center, it’s the Coca-Cola Starplex.

mXxqMDg5ArjOEx1AshrT3TAWish I could find a better picture, but this is a ticket stub from a Hootie and the Blowfish show at the Coca-Cola Starplex.  Can’t get much more 90’s then that.

17.  Dazed and Confused or Varsity Blues – These movies had some real similarities to your high school life. Sure, one of them was set in the 70’s and the other in a small town, but other than that, they weren’t that far off.

polls_varsity_blues_3835_124721_answer_1_xlargeI don’t want your life.

18.  Deep Ellum was cool and hardcore, or so you heard– Unless you were a teenager when 1990 rolled around and were old enough to claim you went to the Nirvana Trees’ show; you, like me were probably a little too young to really experience the Deep Ellum that your older cousin talked about. But still if you were lucky enough to see a show at Trees, or even to perform in Deep Ellum during the 90’s it was a badge of honor.

1e-002-ss-07-kpask_lgI knew that place was cool before I even knew what cool meant.

19.  The 972 area code role-out – You remember when they introduced the 972 area code. Before DFW had like twelve area codes, Dallas had one: 214. And when you called your friends you didn’t need ten numbers.


What would people get tattoo’s of if 972 was never introduced?

20.  Hoop-it-up – If you played basketball, you remember hoop-it-up. It was the pinnacle of quasi-non-organized basketball no matter what your age.

m_81Q2hD0g6SroblikhCLIQAnyone else remember the rumor that the Mavericks found Mike Izzuilno playing at Hoop-It-Up.

21.  White Rock Lake was a scary place – Before it was turned around, and became a haven for blue toothed bikers, slow runners and rowing teams; White Rock Lake was a bad place full of trash, dead bodies, and questionable men in cars cruising around.

117-rray-cycling-wrlSide Note:  If you think Oak Cliff is scary or dangerous today, twenty years ago you would have shat yourself.

22.  Town East, Redbird, and Valley View Malls – They were still decent malls, or well, they were still actually malls that were open.

TownEastMall030513Town East now advertises that they have a McDonald’s, never a good sign for a mall when it’s pimping Mickey D’s.

23.  The Dallas Times Herald –  I was too young to really read the paper when the Times Herald was around, but I do remember my father buying copies of its last edition.

1b-ashx1Biggest rule of Dallas media: no matter what’s going on, even if you’re going out of business…The Cowboys are more important.

24.  1310 the Ticket – Your dad listened to 1310 The Ticket while driving you around. I didn’t become a P1 until I was like 25 or 26, but my father like most fathers in Dallas was a day one P1.

Ktck11Do you like your gig?

25.  Mr. Peppermint and his musical son.  Mr. Peppermint was part of your childhood. So as a teenager your mind was blown when you found out that his kid was one of the Butthole Surfer guys.

mr_peppermint-630x329Side note, apparently Jerry Haynes, the guy who played Mr. peppermint, like to curse like a sailor when he was off camera and around adult guest stars just to get a reaction out of them

Top Ten Historical Places in Dallas you might not know about

Where are all the big historical places in Dallas – CF

Dallas has no shortage of historical places.  There are over a hundred places list on the National Historical Registry, and more than three hundred places have those historical markers from the state.

Like this one


And instead of listing the most popular ones, or the best known ones, I’ve listed ten that for various reasons are noteworthy but generally not well known.

The Very First Hilton Hotel – Before Hilton hotels became a name brand, before Paris Hilton became Paris Hilton, even before the founder of Hilton Hotels was portrayed by Chelcie Rose in Mad Men, Conrad Hilton was a small time hotel operator.  His very first hotel to bear his name was the 14 story tall Hilton Hotel in Dallas.  Seen here below shortly after opening.


Built in 1925 for 1.3 million dollars, Hilton also had his personal office in the building.  Currently it operates as the Hotel Indigo, a chic boutique hotel.

Enjoy Conrad’s first beauty at ­­­­Main Street and S. Harwood Street in Downtown

The First Highway in Texas – Chances are you’ve run by the historical marker for the very first highway in Texas.  Or biked by it maybe.  The first highway in the state was built back when Texas was a republic 170 years ago (yes they had highways before cars).  It ran roughly from Texarkana to Dallas and the road that most closely mirrors its path in present day Dallas is highway 78 or Garland Road.  As such the historical marker is located at the southern end of White Rock Lake above the spillway, right about at the damn.

If this is your view of the lake, turn around and walk up the hill, the marker will be on your left.

white rock spillway

Walk down the same path that the first Texans did at the intersection of San Raphael and Garland in East Dallas.

Sons of HermannThe Sons of Hermann Hall is a 100 year old fraternal hall.  A building that harkins back to an older era and it has more then a few claims to fame.

Known more commonly as “Sons”

sons of hermannFor one, it’s the oldest wood frame two story commercial building in the City.  Okay not impressed, well they filmed part of Robocop there and Kelly Clarkson’s American Idol auditions were there.  Still not, okay, well Pat Green played there, so did Townes Van Zandt, the Dixie Chicks, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Todd Snider and more.  It also happens to be the first spot in Dallas where Robert Earl Keen played, Wlico too.  And that little old band from Dallas, the Old 97’s, played their very first gig at Sons.  If you’re still unimpressed by all that, well it’s haunted too, so there.

Go see ghosts and the next big alt-country band before they get big at 3414 Elm Street in Deep Elbum.

Freedmen’s cemetery – Following the emancipation, small communities of freed slaves began to form on the outskirts of southern cities called Freedmen’s towns.  The largest community in Dallas was located just north of downtown and it thrived for many years.  Known as Freedmen’s Town North Dallas, and later “State and Thomas,”  there isn’t much left of it nowadays.  If you couldn’t tell by the State and Thomas name, the area went through a urban renewal/gentrification period, it’s most commonly referred to today as “Uptown.”  But the Cemetery’s still there, along with a nice memorial to the community.

Pay your respects to generations of African Americans at Central Expy & Calvary Drive in Uptown.

At Eastern Entrance to the Cemetery stands this memorial.


Lee Park – Lee Park’s an interesting Park with an interesting history.  It’s one of the oldest in Dallas (1909).  President Roosevelt (FDR) dedicated the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee back in 1936 on the Park’s grounds.  There’s even a replicate of General Lee’s home in the Park called Arlington Hall that was built around the same time.  Now fast forward three decades to when Oaklawn had become the happening place for hippies and the counter culture.  In April of 1970, the Park was the scene for the infamous “Lee Park Massacre.”  It wasn’t a massacre just a small hippie riot of 3 or 4 thousand hippies when the police arrested a few kids for swimming in Trutle Creek.  And now fast forward to today where the Park is the scene for the magnificent LGBT community staple, the Lee Park Easter Hat Derby.  Truly one of Dallas’s most unique and wonderful scenes.

The three stages of Lee Park







Go be a Fabulous hat wearing Confederate hippie at 3333 Turtle Creek Blvd in Uptown.

Historic West End Buildings – I’m only picking one of the historic building in the West End to point out.  I’m just going to quote from the historical Marker and let me know when something stops you down.  ‘Constructed in 1909, this building was first occupied in 1910 by the Hobson Electric company. The warehouse was next leased to the Maroney Hardware Company, which was bought in 1926 by Rufus W. Higginbotham”…Rufus W. Higginbotham, quite a name.

I know you’re thinking in your head that this is Rufus W. Higginbotham…but it’s not


This is Rufus, he was much sweeter, but still very Old World-y


Not to make light of of the name, but if you’re going to checking out a historic buildings in the West End, might as well have it be this one, seen below


Enjoy Higginsbothaming at 1701 Market St. in the West End.

Buckner Childern’s home and cabin – Buckner is more than just a road. Buckner was a caring Baptist and earlier settler of Dallas.  He has two large contributions to Dallas history.  First, he started a children’s home for orphans and abandoned children.  Which was something of a problem in the early frontier days, by the turn of the century it was helping 500 childern a year.

Buckner’s Charter for a Childern’s home from the 19th century

buckner_application_effieSecond, Buckner and his family watched over Dallas history.  They saved John Neely Bryan’s cabin, the first house, nay the first structure in Dallas.  For years he kept it in the basement of the Buckner Orphanage, and when it was recreated for the World’s Fair in 1936 in Dallas, the City used the remnants of the cabin as a model.

Be reminded of Dallas’s charity and early cabins at 5200 S. Buckner Blvd in Southeastern Dallas.

W. Lee O’Daniel – Quick name the only person in history to defeat President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) in an election.  Need a hint, he was also the inspiration for Governor Pappy O’Daniels  in the Coen Brother’s movie “O’ Brother Where Art Thou”  Yeah that guy, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel.   O’Daniels was a radio personality in the 30’s with a catch phrase of “pass the biscuits, Pappy.”   Which come to think of it, is a pretty awesome catch phrase.  He ended up running for and being elected as governor of Texas and then ran for the US senate beating LBJ and serving one term.   He retired to Dallas and founded an insurance agency.

Fake Pappy Signing


Real Pappy Signing


Share a biscuit with Pappy at Cedar Springs and Oaklawn (the Triangle) in Uptown.

The Davis Building – There are plenty of historical building in downtown, from the Kirby building, to Union Station, to the old City Hall. And just like with the Higginbothaming Building I’m only going to point out one.  So why point out this building, well there’s the wonderful cupola up top and the history with the Republic National Bank.

The cupola as seen at night on the Davis Building.


But really it’s the 1991 TV movie “Touch and Die” starring Martin Sheen that was filmed at the Davis Building means that its making this list.  It also stars his daughter, I think.    From the imdb summary “Magenta getting involved with a combination US Presidential Campaign and plutonium smuggling ring and almost ending up dying from radiation poisoning in the process.”  Made for TV movie about plutonium smuggling in 1991, I’m sure it’s awesome.

See where Martin and his daughter made a movie at 1309 Main St. in Downtwon

Anyone of Dallas 57 historic cemeteries – This might be cheating a little bit, but Dallas has some 57 different historical cemeteries.  That’s one per each 15 square miles.  There’s probably one your neighborhood or the neighborhood just over. Other then the Freedmen’s cemetery I mentioned earlier, there’s the French Utopian settlers cemetery from 1850, the migrate workers cemetery from the great Trinity Farm, cemeteries for settlers from New York, Tennessee, and the large Jewish cemetery.  There’s even one cemetery for the Pioneers of Dallas, that’s actually a cemetery created to combine several older cemeteries that had to be moved.  As a last note, I’d point out that these 57 cemeteries doesn’t even include the cemetery where Mickey Mantle is buried here in Dallas.

Pay your respects to men and women how helped create Dallas at some little cemetery likely located around the corner from you.

How the State Fair of Texas in Dallas became the largest annual Fair in the World

How did the State of Texas get so big?  Why is in even in Dallas? –  GD

It does seem odd that something like a Fair which is so closely associated with all things rural is held in the Texas City that views itself as the state’s most cosmopolitan city.  And that the largest annual Fair in the World is held in the City that also has the World’s largest Arts District.  But the State Fair of Texas(simply known as the Fair to locals) is study on contrasts.


Called Secular Cathedral of Texas the Hall State Building is one of the nation’s best examples of art-deco architecture in the nation


Also fried food

  • It is home to perhaps the largest collection of fried foods in the world, but also one of the largest collections of architecturally significant art-deco buildings in the world.
  • More prize winning livestock is sold at the Fair then anywhere in nation, but there also have been  years when famous New York City art galleries sell more art at the Fair than they do the entire year at the NYC galleries.
  • John Deere will sell as many tractors at the Fair as Subaru will sell earth conscience eco-friendly yuppie movers.
  • There are arguably more “carnies” per square foot on the fairgrounds then anywhere, but also three straight weeks of sold-out Broadway musicals and operas running throughout the Fair.
  • The Fair hosts the state’s most important and one of the nation’s biggest football games, but the Fair grounds are also home to the state’s first organic botanical gardens.

But let’s get to the Fair’s history, why it’s held in Dallas and why it’s so massive.

The first “State” Fair in Dallas was held in 1886 when a group of Dallas business leaders came together to put on the “Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition.”  It was held on land owned by good old Colonel Gaston (Gaston Ave.) on the present day Fair grounds in South Dallas.  A rival Fair was held in North Dallas that same year, but the two fairs merged shortly thereafter.


You’ll see later on why the woman are featured on this ad

Dallas because of its banking community and location on two major rail lines was well suited in the late 19th century to act as a showcase and clearing house for livestock and produce.  The City, because of large mercantile class and influx of European craftsmen from the La Reunion settlement was also well suited to be a marketplace for the latest consumer goods.  Both are big reasons why the early Fair in Dallas thrived.

But a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason that the State Fair in Dallas went from being a state fair to The State Fair, was that the early backers of the Fair released that providing entertainment and attractions for all walks of people was paramount to the Fair being successful.  The early backers of the Fair brought in family friendly events like hot air balloon demonstrations, they brought in wholesome all American speakers like uber-wholesome William Jennings Bryan.

W_j_-Bryan-Cross-Of-Gold-Painting-e1325306097592When people draw you bearing crosses, you know you’re wholesome

For those looking for high culture they had concerts the likes of John Philip Sousa.  (Note: I don’t mean concerts featuring the music of John Phillip Sousa; I mean concerts featuring the actual man John Phillip Sousa.)  But while the rancher may enjoy the musings of WJB, and his kids marvel at the hot air balloons while his wife enjoys the music of JPS, the ranch hands that helped get the prized heifer to Fair, the one who was just paid a month’s worth of pay after selling that cow, yeah he’s not looking for sweet wholesome highbrow stuff.  And though horse racing and gambling were big early attractions of the Fair (both were legal), it’s another big entertainment option that’s perhaps a better story.


These guys aren’t entertained by balloons and marches.

There is a story relayed from author and Times Herald columnist John Rogers that dates from the 1890’s about one of the biggest backers and promoters of the State Fair, banker and real estate developer, J.S. Armstrong.  A woman came into Armstrong’s bank seeking a loan.  She meets with a young morally chaste loan officer, who promptly took her request for a $5,000 loan to cover additional labor to Armstrong for denial.  Or so he thought.   When Armstrong asked his loan officer what line of work she was involved in, the loan officer said that she was a madam in one of Dallas leading brothels (prostitutions was legal in Dallas till 1913).  Armstrong then asked when she would need the money and the young loan officer, aware of his boss’s involvement with the Fair, sheepishly replied that she needed it for the duration of the Fair.  Armstrong immediately signed off on the loan and seeing the shock on his young new employee’s face, told him it was merely a business decision.  And her line of work did good business during the Fair.  Armstrong was right, and as the story goes, she paid him back in full.

2939354578_5ba3d72274See what  I mean

All of this helped turn a state fair in Dallas to the Texas State Fair by the turn of the century.  By 1905, more than 300,000 people attended the Fair.  In 1909, President Taft visited the Fair.  Two years later, President Wilson did.  The Fair continued to evolve in its first 50 years.  To court the highbrow crowd the Fair built the beautiful Fair Park Music Hall as an opera and concert venue in 1925.  When it became apparent that saddle makers and carriage  builders were being left behind in the wake of cars, the Fair started hosting its annual Auto Show, which is still so popular that the big three American companies (Chevy, Ford and Dodge) routinely roll out their new model year trucks at the Fair.  When the state moved to outlaw both gambling and prostitution, the Fair replaced those attractions with others.  Car racing became a big draw, not to mention a major plot in the 1962 movie about the State Fair of Texas called State Fair, staring Pat Boone and Ann Margaret.  The Fair built amusement park rides, including the largest Ferris Wheel in North America and installed a 50 foot tall Texan, named Big Tex for people to sacrfice their babies to and for the X-Men to battle around.


I quote from the comic “Emergency – All X-Men to the Cotton Bowl”


Please god of Texas, accept our sacrfice, don’t destory yourself in fire again

Football also became big.  Texas-OU first played their annual Red-River Rivalry Game on the Fairgrounds in 1929 and moved to the Cotton Bowl in 1934.  The game and the weekend is worth a post in of itself, but more beer is consumed that weekend in Dallas than any other, and during the game in 1968, the Fairgrounds swelled with more than 380,000 people making those 277 acres temporarily the 32nd largest city in the nation.


Texas-OU is the most entertaing day to go to the Fair.

But perhaps the one event that helped establish the Fair in Dallas as an annual celebration of all things Texas was the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition.  The Exhibition was an event designed to be a massive celebration of the 100 birthday of Texas.  It was courted by R.L. Thornton and held in Dallas rather than San Antonio or Houston almost solely based on his salesmanship of Dallas and the Fairgrounds (The joke in Texas goes, they started the war in San Anton, finished it in Houston, and held the party in Dallas).  Planned and held during the great depression, it benefited from the numerous federal works projects.  Most of the iconic buildings, art deco mural and statures in Fair Park where built, designed or commissioned  through the WPA, the CCC  or other Great Depression era work programs.  The building and art programs, along with the Exhibitions was such a success that President Roosevelt showed up along with more than 6 million other visitors.

girls498Most came for the exhibits on new farming methods

Without much of those buildings, the Texas State Fair would have likely hoped around from city to city, showcasing different cities in the State.  Luckily it stayed, and continues to thrive.  Texas, despite increasing urbanization, still has more land dedicated to livestock and agricultural production than any other state.  So there are still plenty of farmers and ranchers who head into to town to show off their prized bulls and sell them to the highest bidder.  Dallas also still maintains its reputation as a leading marketplace for the newest and best consumer goods.  And the Fair still provides expansive entertainment options, whether it be highbrow (the musical this year I believe is the Lion Kong), wholesome (last year an entire museum’s exhibits were dedicated to the Girls Scouts) or rambunctious (take your pick from the midway games, to the rides, to the Texas-OU game and two more football games at the Cotton bowl).


You show your livestock


Admire the latest trucks


And for the Texas-OU game

It’s difficult to explain the State Fair of Texas.  That annual three week tradition held in early September and late October at historical Fair Park in South Dallas. The collection of people and cultures is as unique as anywhere in the world.  In fact, I would say that nowhere in world will you find as diverse mix of people located within the same 277 acres.  It’s a rural, urban, white, ethnic, rich, poor, high-brow, folk culture, football crazy, opera watching mass of humanity for three weeks in the early fall.

Why Dallas has some of the best gentlemen’s clubs in the country

Why Does Dallas have some of the best Gentlemen’s Clubs in the Nation?  D.S.

So recently, when having dinner before a bachelor party, I was part of a conversation with a few guys, some from out of town, and some from Dallas but who have since moved away.  There was a discussion about how nice Dallas’s gentlemen’s clubs are compared to other cities.  A fact confirmed by conversations some of the guys had has with dancers in Vegas, and by other men who can speak with a vast wealth of knowledge on the subject.  Hell even the term Gentlemen’s Club was Invented in Dallas.

If this is news to you, don’t feel bad, this is one of those bits of information that is usually acknowledged, but not often talked about.  Most hotel managers, event planners, convention bookers, valets, and bell hops all know.  Though the question that was brought up to me was why?  Why in the world does Dallas have all these nice palaces built for the worshipping of women.   There are three reasons why, the first two are pretty straight forward, but the last one, the most interesting one is that we have some of the nicest palaces builts for worshipping God.  That’s right our churches.

The first reason is simple; money.  Just as the money allowed Dallas to have high fashion like Niemen’s, the money allows Dallas to have nice gentlemen’s clubs like the old Busty Bee’s, or present day Lodge.


 Plenty of this

The second simple reason is how Dallas got that money.  People say Dallas is an oil money town, that’s only partly right.  Dallas doesn’t have any actual oil here.  And though we have a number of people who made their millions by striking it rich, the majority of the “oil money” and the majority of those moneyed people got their money from financing the oil digs, insuring the oil derricks, and selling the oil futures.  Those types of industries usually employ white collar professional men and are very relationship based.  Meaning there’s a lot of entertaining clients and colleagues.

dalals pros     in_suite

Guys like these

But the last reason for high quality of our strip clubs is actually our churches.  You may be saying, wait really, our churches.  Well first I have to point out that just like our strip clubs, Dallas as some of the nicest churches and largest congregations in the nations(see here, or here or here), though they’re not terribly fervent(more on that later).  But yes, our churches help us to have the best places in the US. And here’s how.


Thank you!

First, they act to temper our clubs.  Without the church presence, Dallas would look more like Vegas, Reno or perhaps some cowboy version of New Orleans.  Dallas would be fun, but also dirty, seedy, unsafe.  The churches give Dallas a certain amount of respectability.  When paired with our strip clubs, the churches are the ying to the gentlemen’s club yang.  Which is of course why Dallas needs to keep the strip clubs, because without them then we’d fall into some sort of Tulsa or Wichita category.  The strip clubs give us the edge that we need to stay a vibrant entertaining city.  While our churches pull us back from the brink of being a den of sin.  Or as one dancer from Florida, who had recently moved to Dallas for work told award winning humorists Joe Bob Briggs, “…the guys here talk more and grope less. They’re basically looking for a party, not a sexual encounter.”

joebob Joe once said, “I  AM a male chauvinist. Who’s been saying otherwise?  So he obviously knows more about gentlemen’s clubs then you do.  Also he was in a Scorses film

But our churches don’t pull to far, completely removing the all the Bacchian delights.  Our churches may be big, and beautiful, but they’re not fervent.  The best story to understand why they don’t pull back too far comes from the story of the one of the first congregations in Dallas.  It was led by a reverend name Davenport who came to Dallas in the 1850’s.  At the time, Dallas was a growing frontier town full of gambling houses, saloon, dance halls, and brothels.   Davenport, an Episcopalian, came to Dallas to preach about the evils those saloons, brothels, and dance halls.  A young man, full of bravado, he burst into the largest saloon in Dallas and began preaching.  He was promptly shot at…twice.


What was that you said about us being evil?

He wasn’t wounded, other than his pride, and he returned to his room at the St. Gregory hotel to pack up intending on leaving the following morning.  But something funny happened over night.  Those cowboys at the saloon that had shot at him got to feeling guilty about it because after all, they didn’t want to hurt anyone, they were only trying to have some fun, (much like the men the stripper from Florida talked about).  So the cowboys passed a hat around to take up a collection for the good Reverend and the next morning right as Davenport was preparing to leave, the cowboys showed up with the collection for the sacred Episcopalian.  They insisted that he stay and continue his mission to do good and save their souls.


Please stay

Davenport stayed and the cowboys were the first members of his congregation.  He would do a lot of good work in the City and continued to preach about the evils of the saloon’s, brothels, and dance halls.  Though he did so with less fervor, because after all his congregation were responsible for much to the drinking, gambling and womanizing.  He understood that those who sin on Friday and Saturday nights, often show up on Sunday morning feeling guilty and ready to give.  Just like those cowboys.

saloon-0110-lg  MethodistChurchGroup

Saturday Night                                                                         Sunday Morning

So in the end, Dallas has the money to have nice gentlemen’s clubs and the clientele for the clubs. But Dallas also has the churches that temper us just enough to bring us back to a moral middle ground. Or put it this way, the popular phrase in Vegas is “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”  Because you can do a huge amount of very depraved things in a night out in Vegas and the next morning the local TV channels in your hotel room are advertising more and more depraved things to do. In Dallas you can go out for a wild night on the town after consulting the hotel guidebook under the “adult section.”  But when you wake up in the hotel room the next morning and turn on the TV, all the local channels have local church broadcasts.

Who Founded Dallas, Why its Called Dallas and what is has to do with Russian Czars and an Indian named Ned

Who Founded Dallas and who did they name it after?  HB

So the founding of Dallas, its name and its founder are all a little vague.  There are variations, but generally the story involves, murders, shootings, insane asylums, Russian Czars and an Indian named Ned.  Though there are different variations, I’ve included what most accept as the rough story.

Much of the vagueness behind the story lies in our founder, John Neely Bryan.  He was a rugged outdoorsmen who had lived with Indians, fled the Dallas after shooting someone and was driven to the bottle.  He was also a man who was described by author John Rogers as” “…a mortal whose life show spurts of considerable practical initiative, altering with the desire to wander off into dreams.  And as so often happens, his spirit must have been the unhappy battlefield.”  Well said John.


 John Neely is on the left and looking none to happy

He was a Tennessean by birth and moved to the American wildernesses in 1830’s to live for a number of years with Indians.  When he returned to the white man’s world, he helped to found the town of Van Buren in western Arkansas.  But hearing that there was fortune to be made in the newly formed Republic of Texas, he headed in search of his riches there.  His traveling group consisted of his faithful dog, Toby, a painted horse that he had given the Indian name of “Neshoba” which meant Walking Wolf, and an Indian, who he had given the white man name of Ned.  I should point out that this might actually have been the Indian’s real Indian name, but I doubt so.

Indian_large“Ned”…… maybe

Sometime, in 1841, the party came upon an embankment above a river that John thought would make a good trading post.  As legend has it, John took out a piece of buckskin, carved his name on it, and staked it to the ground.  Hence, Dallas was “founded.”


A replica of the Bryan’s cabin in downtown dallas

The town would slowly grow, and Bryan had some early success, even getting married and having children.  But for some reason he grew despondent, maybe it was the wanderlust in him, but it was said he took to the bottle more heavily than he normally did.  In 1855, believing that another man had insulated his wife, Bryan, while drunk, shot him.  Fearing that the man was dead and that the law, or worse, his enemies were after him, Bryan, while still drunk, rode off in the night leaving his family and Dallas behind.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

At least Ms. Bryan remembered Dallas fondly

He wandered around the American West for the better part of the next decade.  In 1862 he returned to Dallas after learning that the man he had shot hadn’t died and that he held no ill will towards him.  Bryan’s next ten years in Dallas wavered between those productive times and those periods chasing dreams.  By the 1870’s, the bottle had taken most of his mind, and he died in the state insane asylum in Austin in 1877.


John towards the end of his life

As far as the name of the town, you first have to clear up the idea that the county and the city are named for the same person or reason.  The town was founded in 1841, and referred to in personal journals and publications as such before the county was founded in 1846.  When the county was founded, they wanted to name it after the current US president James K. Polk, however there was already a county named after him in Texas.   So they went with the Vice President, George Dallas, who had been a respectable attorney practicing in Philadelphia and former ambassador to Russia before becoming Vice President.


Our counties namesake, George Dallas

But as I said, the town was founded in 1841, five years before the county.  And Bryan for his part said that “I named the town after my good friend, Dallas.”  This is according to a 1930’s history of Dallas published by Frank Cockrell, the son Alexander Cockrell, one of Bryan early and good friends in Dallas.  Who just so happens to have been tragically shot shortly after Bryan fled town by the town marshal while trying to collect a debt.  So, was Bryan good friends with the Russian ambassador, and did he get paid to start a spy settlement on the banks of the Trinity.  Well it’s highly unlikely that Bryan, who had spent the past decade living in the wilderness with Indians or in a frontier town in Arkansas knew who Dallas was at all.

56604819John and Alexander ran a ferry and bridge across the Trinity early in Dallas

No…who Dallas is named after is about as clear as the town’s early history.  There are plenty, plenty of theories.  But the best is that a man, who Bryan knew well, who shared property boundaries with him in Van Buren Arkansas, and who moved briefly to Cedar Springs in Dallas County in the 1840’s, is the friend Bryan mentioned to Cockrell.  That man, a “Joseph Dallas,” is the best bet for the town’s namesake.


Is this Joseph Dallas?

home alone

No it’s the old man from Home Alone

Why Campisi’s is called the “Egyptian Restaurant” and why people claim it’s tied to the mob

Why do they call it Campisis’s Egyptian Restaurant, is it because they’re in the mob? A.M.

So first of all, apparently whenever you’re writing about people you know personally, you’re supposed to say so.  I first met the Campisi family when I started preschool in Dallas at age 3 and met the twins.  But I’m not close to them; almost all kids that grew up in East Dallas in the 90’s knew the Campisi’s, or their extended family of the Fry’s, Culter’s, Dome’s, etc.  Now let’s get to the strangely named “Egyptian” Restaurant and its Italian food, wonderful pizza…and the alleged mob connections.

The Egyptian Restaurant                                              Obviously would specalize in this delicious pizza

Campisis Campisis-pizza

The Egyptian part of the name dates back the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.  The Campisi family had run a grocery in Dallas since the turn of the century, but had only started to make pizzas (very good pizza) after World War II.  In a few short years they had become somewhat successful, out growing their location on McKinney Ave. and moving to the current location on Mockingbird.  Before Campisi’s moved in, the space had been known as the Egyptian Lounge, a nightclub and bar.  Campisi’s spent most of their money on the move and renovations to the interior and kitchen, leaving little for a new sign for the restaurant.  So they took the Egyptian Lounge Sign that was out front, and paid what little money they had to remove the lounge part and add the restaurant part.  Since then the name has stuck…going on 60 years.

filename-p1120048-jpg  They changed this sign

What has also stuck is the reputation that the Campisi’s are involved in and the restaurant is run by the Mafia in Dallas, or at least associated with the mob.  Why?  Well, the Campisi’s are an Italian American Family, a large successful Italian American Family, a large successful Italian American family that deals in (up until recently) what is an all cash business.  Doesn’t take a genius to connect the dots or make the accusations.  Of course what people who make these accusations neglect to realize is that Dallas has never really been a big mafia town.  Our crime, the organized kind, is usually gunslinging-murdering Benny Binion gamblers, underhanded Dad Joiner oil wildcatters, or crooked Danny Faulkner land developers.

l  But see, it looks like a place the mob would hang out in

What’s usually the biggest evidence pointed out for the mafia connection is the fact that Jack Ruby visited Campisi’s and allegedly ate with Joe Campisi the night before Ruby shot Oswald.  Or as the conspiracy theorist go, Ruby was a solider in the mob and got his marching orders to kill Oswald from Joe, a local mafia member.  The problem here beyond the fact that mob in Dallas wasn’t really big, was that Ruby was never really considered a member of the mob.  He was a wannabe, all the press corp members and vice cops of the era said as much.  A.C. Green a columnist and former metro writer for the Dallas Times Hearld who knew Ruby, called him, “…an undistinguished man”  who ran “…an undistinguished club”  that “didn’t even have  elementary class.”  And because Dallas lacked a strong organized estblishament, there wasn’t much need for a pleadingly crummy nightclub manager.  For his part, Joe Campisi said he hardly knew Ruby, and told the Warren Commission that Ruby was “…a crazy S.O.B.”

jack-ruby-nightclub-operator-everett  The crazy S.O.B. is on the left.

What’s more realistic is that the Campisi’s had interaction with people who were involved in organized crime as a fact of running a restaurant.  Running a restaurant in the 50’s and 60’s you had to deal with them.  Consider Thorton Mellon’s hidden cost of development lecture. It made sense for Joe to have good relations with liquor suppliers, labor, town officials, and other suppliers. Some of whom were likely involved in organized crime.  Plus Campisi’s likely had a few organized crime members that ate at the restaurant, it wasn’t like the cabana in the Goodfellas, but Tom Landry also ate there, and he’s about as straight laced as they come.  The relationship has been played up recently mainly for publicity now that one Campisi became a Playboy Playmate and another got a short lived TV show.  But really, it’s not as glamorous not as interesting as people make it out to be.

What’s the deal with Reunion Tower?

What’s the deal with Reunion Tower, I know there’s a restaurant there but is that the sole purpose of it?

The simple answer is, it’s a 561 foot tall tower with a restaurant up there, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant.  It used to have an observation deck but it hasn’t been open since Wolfgang went in back in 2009.

DALLAS, TEXAS Reunion Tower (Dallas Historical Society)

Of course the right answer starts back in the 1850’s and includes French utopian artists, an attempt to corner the world market in silver, George Washington and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Reunion Tower gets its name from a utopian settlement on the banks of the Trinity River back when Dallas was just starting out.  La Reunion, as it was called, was a utopian community of about 400 European (mostly French, Belgian and Swiss) artists, craftsmen and intellectuals.  It was founded in 1855 about a decade after Dallas was, but only lasted a few years before disbanding.  The land would be incorporated into the growing city of Dallas, and roughly 150 members of the original community ended up staying in Dallas.  They brought with them the first piano to Dallas, started its first brewery, and brought many unique trades and artists to the city.  It’s said that this is where Dallas first got its cosmopolitan feel.  How Dallas started becoming more of a cultural center and something less like a simple western trading post.

considerant Victor Considerant…Radical French Socialist leader and Leader of the La Reunion Settlement (The Texana Review)

Now fast forward a hundred and twenty years to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and why Reunion Tower was built.  Back then Dallas was in the midst of a building boom funded by oil money and what turned out to be bogus Savings & Loan development deals.  Ray Hunt, an oil man, well the son of an oil man, decided to get in on the action.  Ray was of course the son of legendary oil man H.L. Hunt, the builder of a grand home on White Rock Lake designed to be an exact replicate of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and he was also thought to be the richest man in the world when he died.   Oh and Ray’s half-brother Lamar Hunt was into sports so he founded and at the time owned the NFL team the Kansas City Chiefs.  Also two of Ray’s other brothers had a well-publicized failed attempt to corner the entire world silver market in the 80’s.  I bring this all up, not as awesome crazy oil family stories (I’m actually leaving out the lobotomized eldest brother and an Austria Ambassador), but as proof that this family takes the “go big or go home” motto to heart.

Ray hunt appreciation Ray Hunt…wonder who won the Eastern Horseman of Year in ’05 (RayHunt.com)

Anyways in the late 70’s, Ray was in his mid-thirties by now, and he decided that he’d get into real estate development.  The spot that he picked out was a under used, and undervalued (according to Ray) part of land just southeast of downtown.  It was a piece of land created by George Kessler’s planning and Dwight Eisenhower’s …highwaying?  A spot between the Union Pacific train tracks and the mixmaster where the I-30 and I-35 highways come together.   He planned a sporting arena, luxury hotel with convention space, office towers, apartments, and more.  Including his very own “go big” part, a 600 foot tall tower, with a ball on top.  Why?  I dunno, ef ‘em, that’s why.  If I can’t own an NFL team or corner the market in something, I’m going to build a giant tower that looks like a lollipop.  What am I going to put in it, I dunno, a restaurant or something, maybe a radio station to broadcast world domination messages?    It doesn’t matter, point is, I wanna build an iconic giant building and this is the easiest way to do it.  Oh and also the tower should have lights that can spell out messages on it in case I have to use it to send secret coded messages.

reunion_godzilla2_jpg_728x520_q85 He Could have just had Godzilla attack (Pegasus News)

So Ray built his hotel, a sporting arena and a tower with a big ball on top and lights that can spell out messages, or Reunion Tower.  He didn’t get to build the rest of the development.  The project died, or lost momentum through a combination of the S&L scandals, a tanking real-estate market, lack of city investment (supposedly still a sore subject with Ray because of the City’s support of Trammell Crow’s Anatole development), and frankly a loss of interest by Ray after he found billions of dollars of oil in Yemen in 84.  But he got to build his fancy tower, 561 feet tall with three floors and lights all around.  At one time in time it’s housed various restaurants, radio stations, event venues, and an observation deck that up until the mid-2000’s you could still visit.  If you were lucky, and visited during the week, during the daytime, the attendants weren’t there, so it was free, and you could wander around there for hours.