Power Houses

A celebrity home tour of Dallas' rich, famous--and all too often tasteless--movers and fakers

Sitting in my car, staring at the modest, one-story house, I figured I was in the wrong place.

According to Dallas County tax records, this was supposed to be cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash's house. But there was nothing pink--or queenlike--about it.

The house was white. The 1996 Cadillac in the driveway was white. In fact, the only thing that was even remotely Mary Kay-esque was a spray of pink flowers in a small bed out front, but they were dwarfed by a flurry of bright yellow lilies. But more significantly, the house was, well, small. At least by Dallas celebrity standards.

No, I thought, this couldn't be her house. Not when you consider where she used to live.

The Pink Palace had been the talk of Dallas when Ash moved into it in 1984. Never mind that it was 11,874 square feet of space for one 66-year-old widow. It was a $2 million sweetheart cottage with 10-plus bathrooms, six fireplaces, and five wet bars. Dallas was well-acquainted with big. What made this celebrity manse different were the amenities--the pink marble bathtub, an exact replica of Liberace's, and the Roman swimming pool, surrounded by columns and statues and copied after the one at San Simeon. And then there was the color of the house: a distinctive lipstick pink, complete with matching pink guardhouse.

From the street, 8915 Douglas Ave. (1) looked like a two-story frosted petit four, sitting fat and pretty on a stunningly landscaped circular driveway.

Memories of that house made the one at 7246 Lupton Circle (2) I was now staring at look like a trailer home. The house was nothing to sneeze at, mind you. Despite its plain-vanilla looks, it was 3,200 square feet, $427,090 on the tax rolls. If you climbed a ladder and peered over the white brick wall along the 9400 block of Boedeker Drive--which I later did--you would see that the Ash abode sits on a beautiful man-made lake, which boasts a splendid, Old Faithful-like gusher in its center.

Still, sitting in front of the house for the very first time, I wondered if I'd misread the computer printout back at my office. How else to explain this apparently downwardly mobile transition from tony, lushly wooded Douglas to barren suburban obscurity on Lupton, a stone's throw from NorthPark mall?

So I decided to ask.
I walked past the Cadillac, across the fan-shaped, shaded entryway, and up the few steps to the large double wooden front doors. As I reached for the doorbell, I spied a security camera suspended unobtrusively near the mailbox--a bona fide star dropping, as far as I was concerned, causing me to fantasize about a bow-mouthed, platinum-haired Mary Kay answering her own door, her ample figure wrapped like a gift box in a frilly pink apron, her right hand holding forth a plate of pecan sandies, her left toting a basket bursting with Mary Kay hand creams. For me.

No such luck.
Instead, I got Robert Knight--ex-Marine and the Pink queen's bouncer--also a dead ringer, if not in looks then in personality, for Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf.

"Can I help you?" Knight boomed from the other side of the wrought-iron gate leading to the pool and back patio. I not only never saw Ms. Ash, I didn't get my question about the palace abdication answered, and I had barely gotten my business card stuffed into his mitt before the gate slammed behind me.

Subsequently, though, I did confirm that Mary Kay Ash did live there and did, in fact, simply make a decision to downsize. The Fort Lauderdale-style bungalow on Lupton Circle, complete with double-wide carport, was built in 1969 by Ash and her husband Mel, who died some years ago.

It seems that after a decade living in a cloud of cotton candy, Ash came to the conclusion--like most of the rest of us--that she simply didn't need Liberace's bathtub to be happy. So in March 1994, she sold the Douglas house to a Mesquite osteopath who was fortunate enough to have married a woman who yearned to live in a bright pink house. As for Ash, she is happily ensconced in her old house--the one she built when her cosmetics empire was in its infancy.

"She's very happy there," says someone who knows her well. "You know, she really is just a nice, normal person."

Which, of course, brings us back to the central question.
Are any of the other big celebs in town "normal?" How many of them, if any, choose modest lakeside bungalows over pink palaces--or the equivalent? Are they inner-city cats or Range Rover-driving suburbanites? Do they pay their property taxes? Do their fame and self-importance cause them to secure their properties like Camp David? Do they have tacky lawn ornaments?

Normally, we would have no hope of ever knowing the answers to these questions. That's because the Dallas media have for many years observed a gentlemen's agreement about not publishing the addresses of the rich and famous--after all, very often Dallas newspaper publishers and TV-station managers are the rich and famous, and they're the last ones who want to see their homes show up as a Park Cities stopover on the Kennedy assassination-Galleria mall Gray Line tour.

Well, dig out that Mapsco, stick the kids in the car; it's time to see how the other half lives. Believe us, you'll need a full day and a big tank of gas to see all the homes on this tour.

And while you probably have a few preconceptions about what you're going to see, we feel quite certain we have a few surprises in store in for you.

For example. People you'd expect to live in Pink Palaces--Ray Hunt, Michael Irvin, Robert Decherd--don't. Folksy celebs you'd expect to live somewhat "normally"-- that is, without barricading themselves inside their homes--people like Gloria Campos and Dan Peavy's little-known, allegedly tape-recording neighbor Charles Harman--don't. And someone you know is abnormal--we're speaking of Ross Perot, of course--lives in a house that only reinforces your suspicions.

It should come as no surprise that the people in this bunch with the flashiest, look-at-me-please houses are three of the highest-paid Dallas Cowboys--Jerry Jones, Emmitt Smith, and Deion Sanders.

On the other hand, it should come as a big surprise that Jerry Jones--a man who obviously lies awake nights searching for new ways to wring money out of his football franchise--isn't always prompt, or gentlemanly, about paying his house taxes.

And we certainly hope you don't feel too gouged when you see how Mr. Lee Roy Mitchell, co-founder and chairman of the board of the Cinemark movie chain, is living in light of that $5 million the Dallas taxpayers just gave his company to settle its lawsuit against the city: His new North Dallas castle, currently under construction, is so big it has 12 1/2 bathrooms.

And thank your lucky stars. In Hollywood they charge money for this kind of tour.

Let's start with the big tamale. It's Jerral W. Jones, thank you very much, and since December, 1992, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and his wife, Gene, have been the proud owners of a 1931 mansion at the southernmost tip of Highland Park.

The house is located at 4400 Preston Rd. (3), right where tacky Oak Lawn Avenue ends and opulent Preston Road begins. Jones' house marks the beginning of Power Row--a handful of massively proportioned estates located on Preston between Armstrong Avenue and Beverly Drive. From Preston Road, the view is pretty bleak--it's all massive walls and towering foliage. But if you toodle over to Lakeside Drive--which runs parallel to Preston on the other side of Turtle Creek, on which all these houses sit--you can glimpse the grandeur. We recommend a winter visit when there are no tree leaves to block the view.

When Jones first bought his house, it was on the tax rolls for $6 million, which included the house and 4.7 acres of wooded land. Today, though, thanks to the elaborate renovation the house is undergoing, the value of the two-story, Mediterranean-style villa is up to $8.5 million and climbing. (Jones and his wife are not in the house while the work is being done; they moved into a leased condo at 3510 Turtle Creek Blvd., Apt. 7C.)

Records at the Dallas Central Appraisal District, which sets the values on commercial and residential properties in Dallas County, report that Jones has 14,044 square feet of living space at this point, and the records also note nine-and-a-half bathrooms, six fireplaces, an elevator, a tennis court, a gazebo, and a pool.

In an attempt to confirm these things, a photographer and I recently visited the property--or at least tried to. Although both entrances to the property were easily accessible to the swarms of construction workers who toil there daily, signs posted on the driveway fences are clearly marked "private," and if you can't read plain English, a security guard posted at the Preston Road entrance will do it for you. Actually, we learned that you can get a few dozen steps past the Armstrong entrance for a quick gander, but be prepared for the burly men at the construction trailer parked inside the gate to shoo you off.

"No pictures--by request of the owner," the head burly told us. And who is the owner? we asked innocently. "I can't tell you that," he replied oh-so-secretively.

If the house is off-limits, county tax records are not. And there's a great story in them there records--one that, as you can imagine, has spread like wildfire among the legions of low-paid, county slaves who are forced to put up with unpleasant people on a daily basis.

It seems that after Jerry and Gene moved to the condo, they "forgot" to pay their 1994 county ad valorum taxes on their house, which were due on January 31, 1995. This, of course, was a significant amount of money--$19,793.28--and the county was more than slightly interested in seeing that it got collected.

Well, after several notices were sent and the account was referred to a lawyer for collection, Jones' attorney Bob Shelton appeared in person at the downtown county tax office on his client's behalf. You see, Shelton explained to the rapt tax clerks, who have heard it all before, that Mr. and Mrs. Jones never got their tax statement--they had moved to their condo at The Claridge, and the county had failed to put their apartment number on the forwarding address, and they just never got the bill. Because of that, the Joneses felt it was only fair to waive the $7,066.13 in penalties, interest, and legal fees that were now owing above and beyond the $19,793.28 in taxes.

The wizened tax clerks, armed with Section 31.01G of the Texas State Property Tax Code, promptly informed Shelton that failure to receive a bill was not a bona fide excuse for waiving penalties, interest, and legal fees--especially considering the Joneses had always paid these taxes in the past and Gene the Beauty Queen had apparently notified the other taxing authorities, like the schools and city, of their change of address.

Mr. Shelton was on a mission for his client, however, and would not be deterred. (After all, a dollar's a dollar, and you can buy a yard or two of imported drapery fabric for $7,000.)Though Jones dutifully wrote a check in July 1995 for the full amount owed--all penalties included--Shelton wrote a letter to the tax clerks' boss on August 10 requesting a full rebate of the $7,066.13. The letter went from the tax office to the county auditor's office, then to the county's tax-collection attorney, who informed Shelton on September 8 that the answer was no.

At that point, Jones--who wisely did not want to take this to court for all those nonmillionaire Cowboy fans to see--dropped it.

And this year, he paid his 1995 taxes on time.

These are Jerral Jones' Power Row neighbors. Clements, the former governor, lives at 4800 Preston Rd. (4) on 7.5 acres. His estate includes a two-story, 1914 house with 11,000 square feet of living space; servants' quarters; greenhouse; tennis court; pool; and "recreation building." All of which is on the tax rolls for $9 million.

Harlan Crow, son of mega-real-estate developer Trammell Crow and heir to his dad's business, is next to Clements at 4700 Preston Rd. (5). He has 7.7 acres, an 8,590-square-foot main house built in 1918 and two guesthouses, a greenhouse, spa, and servants' quarters. His estate is on the rolls for $9 million, too.

Harlan's dad, Trammell, and mom, Margaret, are just a few acres away at 4500 Preston Rd. (6). The parents have servants' quarters, a pool, cabana, and "three miscellaneous back buildings," which give you some indication of the size of these places. The senior Crow's estate covers six acres and is worth $6.5 million. Oddly enough, the two-story, 7,613-square-foot house alone is on the rolls for $74,000. Maybe Trammell told the appraiser that he and Margaret live in one of those "miscellaneous back buildings."

Moving north into the rarified bowels of the Park Cities, we come to very busy Lovers Lane, which seems an unlikely place for a quiet, dignified fashion legend to live out his twilight years. But Marcus' home at 3941 Lovers Lane (7) isn't actually on Lovers Lane. Located just a few blocks east of Preston Road, Marcus' home and two others are tucked away on a tiny cul-de-sac south of the main road--blink and you'll miss the turnoff. The Marcus two-story, red-brick home is farthest from Lovers on a lush piece of heavily wooded property that--like its owner--is immaculately groomed. The front yard consists of a circular driveway with landscaped island, a carpet of vivid green grass, and two striking sculptures, all of which face the woods, not Lovers. The $1 million property is the most modestly elegant, Upper East Side-in-temperament property we've seen in Dallas.

Decherd, chairman of A.H. Belo Corporation, owner of The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV Channel 8, has apparently been through a Mary 4 royal-trappings purge of his own. In 1989, Decherd built himself a mini-chateau on two acres at 9639 Hollow Way, currently on the tax rolls for $2.3 million. The 10,106-square-foot house pretty much had it all--including an enormous front lawn, an Oxford-looking façade, and a $50,000 cabana by the pool--but Decherd apparently wanted less. So he moved to a less chichi neighborhood south of Lovers in Greenway Park (8) to a more-comfortable-looking, 45-year-old house worth $936,690. He has four fewer bathrooms, one less fireplace, and 3,600 fewer square feet. On the other hand, his new home is far more people-friendly--at the other house, no one would dare drop by for a cup of sugar, but at 5520 Drane Drive, you could easily film a 1996 version of My Three Sons. It's a modest setup with no unsightly security gates. We are impressed.

Once we learned that former school-board member Dan Peavy supposedly had been covertly taped by an angry neighbor who's been battling with Peavy over some issues of territory, these two homes were too good to pass up. And once you get a gander at these two properties, it becomes clear why there's neighbor problems. If Harman had his way, he'd probably live on an island, accessible only by plane. His house is locked up so tight Steven Seagal would have a tough time visiting. It's a little bitty thing of 2,560 square feet, according to tax-appraisal records, but it sits on 6.5 acres at 9845 Kingsman Drive (9) in tacky Far East Dallas, and the only entrance we could find is locked up tight with a serious gate, a thick wall of bamboo, and a fat "Keep Out" sign. According to the records, though, there's a lake back there with a boat dock, a horse stall, a gazebo, and a "storm cellar"--a high-tech communications bunker?--all for only $316,890. Peavy, on the other hand, let's it all hang out--he backs up to Harman with 1.3 acres, and they sit naked for all the world to see at 2440 Peavy Rd. (10). His place--perfectly nice-looking but somewhat undesirable seeing as how it sits on an insanely busy street and, according to Peavy, has a neighbor with a thing for listening in on your phone calls--is valued at $153,790 and is up for sale. Chump change for legal fees.

Back on Planet Earth--after all, who in the world wants to live in that Ferguson Road-Buckner Boulevard nether world of abandoned strip shopping centers?--is Nice East Dallas.

We're talking M Street Land and what we like in particular are the M Streets between Skillman and Abrams where there are some big front yards and distinctively un-Texan-looking homes.

If you happen to be a liberal-to-moderate Democrat, this is your neighborhood. In the space of eight blocks live four big-time, reasonable-minded, city players: the mayor, the former school-board president, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, and the federal judge with the loudly liberal rulings.

Mayor Ron Kirk lives at 6342 Mercedes Ave. (11) in a wide, two-story white house that looks more like a house you'd find in deep-woods Connecticut, where it would be downright gorgeous, Mr. Mayor, if you'd throw a little color at it. Instead of playing golf on Fridays, get out there in the yard and put a little elbow grease into your $310,210 property. Even one bed of flowers would be nice. An American flag flapping proudly against the white paint would be striking--not to mention helpful for the political career.

Sandy Kress lives on the same street as Kirk, just three blocks down, in a smaller, funkier house with a prestigious architectural history that he is only too happy to tell you all about. While Kirk's house is sterile-looking, Kress' $122,090 abode at 6021 (12) has lots of homey touches--flowers, a whimsical paint job, even an old-timey perambulator parked by the driveway on the day we were there. (Star guide insider note: The inside of the 1,984-square-foot house is enormously charming, too.) Though Kress, unlike many males we know, pretty much had this place whipped into shape before he got married about six years ago, we attribute an equal share of the personality factor to his artist wife, Camille.

Paul Coggins, the U.S. attorney, and his wife, Regina Montoya, lawyer and former Clinton appointee, have a solid-looking, two- story brown house at 3302 Oakhurst St. (13). On the rolls for $249,980, the most remarkable thing about the property is its large, sloping side lawn--which would be nice for frolicking, though that's not quite the superserious Coggins' style.

Jerry Buchmeyer has issued some pretty seriously liberal rulings in this city--single-member districts for the Dallas City Council and the more-recent public housing for Far North Dallas both come to mind. After making a rather thorough canvas of his neighborhood, we can say on good authority that the judge doesn't have any HUD apartments casting long shadows over his $213,360 house at 6502 McCommas Blvd. (14).

No, there's nothing in the immediate environs of the judge's home to adversely affect his property values--or selling price, considering Buchmeyer's house just sold.

Of course, maybe the judge knows something his neighbors don't.

No list of prestigious Dallas addresses would be complete without the Little Colonel, but we are sad to say our guide will be a bit thin. Not that we didn't try. Knowing that Perot has a big, black, iron driveway gate and several acres of sky-high foliage that makes even the tiniest peek at the Perot layout impossible, we appeared, we admit, at the Perot homestead last week with a ladder in our station wagon. But after checking out the main entrance of 10444 Strait Lane (15)--complete with requisite security camera--we decided that it was indeed possible for a Sherman tank to be hidden on the other side of the gate. And, considering the billionaire's penchant for paranoia, we figured it wasn't impossible that we'd wind up with a cannon barrel stuffed up our nose.

We circled the 23.6-acre compound best we could--you can drive along its perimeter on three sides, including Royal Lane, Manson Court, and Strait Lane--but the man must have $20,000 in shrubbery out there. (He's also got some military-looking hangar-type sheds at the end of Manson Court, which we assume will explode into activity when the Islamic jihad pays that overdue visit. Or it may just be the site of the helipad Perot and his Top Gun son, Ross Jr., tried to build some years back, prompting the neighborhood to go bananas.)

That said, tax appraisal and county-tax-office records reveal the following: a relatively modest 8,264-square-foot home with four fireplaces, one wet bar, five-and-a-half baths, a tennis court, stables, and a greenhouse. (Star guide insider note: I can also vouch for a Perot Gymnasium, which I actually visited many years ago when I was on a date with one of Top Gun's friends. Specifically, I can say I trampolined at Perot's.)

The gonzo compound is on the rolls for $8.8 million, which is patently ridiculous seeing as how Perot has a spread the size of 18 football fields on one of the most prestigious North Dallas streets. It gets easier to understand when you consider that Perot dragged the appraisal district into court three years ago because it tried to raise his valuation. The DCAD and Perot wound up in binding arbitration instead of a trial, which Perot most ardently wanted to avoid because he didn't want the publicity. Well, it's dejà vu all over again: This year Perot's challenging his valuation again. The first protest hearing is June 27.

The well-known Channel 8 anchorman owns one of those nouveau riche, grossly overgrown monstrosities in formerly quaint Preston Hollow where houses used to be somewhat in proportion to lot size. That whole area between Preston and Hillcrest roads--south of Royal Lane, north of Northwest Highway--looks exactly like what it is: rich people who really want to (and deserve to) live in Plano, but can't stand the drive.

(Star guide insider note: Tracy turns 54 on Father's Day!)
Rowlett's house at 6738 Waggoner Drive (16) was built in 1990, and if you didn't have the house number memorized, you'd never be able to distinguish it from virtually every other house on the block. It's brick. It's big--5,531 square feet--though you can't tell it from the street. It tries to be cute--there are big planters out front, a decorative wreath on the door, and one of those seasonal banners (this one is spring flowers) flapping crisply out front. And, considering what he could have gotten up in Plano for his $626,820, we'd say it's overpriced.

Unlike Rowlett's cookie-cutter house you see Cowboy jersey number 22's house at 15001 Winnwood Rd. (17) once and you don't forget it. It's big and bold and clearly the signature piece on this prestigious Addison street. Of course, we really don't understand why Emmitt Smith, with his money, would want to build a showcase a block south of horridly congested Belt Line Road--especially when his 9,967-square-foot house is literally packed into less than an acre (he has no backyard).

Smith has an electronic driveway gate, as you can imagine, and we actually saw it work one day last week when a young, smiling woman in a downright humble Toyota Corolla was given the go-ahead into Emmittland.

Smith has nice landscaping taste--a babbling brook with flowers and rocks and mature trees out front. He also has a magnificently rich-looking wooden staircase inside the front door. And his architect did nice things with floor-to-ceiling glass windows across the front of the house.

It's a modern jewel with a value of $1.68 million.

This is hands-down the most disappointing house on the star-guide tour. Talk about an odd fit--2339 Aberdeen Bend (18) looks like the home of a somewhat successful hosiery salesman, not the flashiest, sassiest Dallas Cowboy who parades floor-length mink coats and diamond earrings before grand juries. We are talking suburban hell--far North Carrollton at Hebron Parkway and Marsh Lane, where it seems 10 degrees hotter and 20 degrees more boring than most anyplace else in the Metroplex.

Irvin's 1984 house is a $208,120, nondescript brick residence of a mere 2,629 square feet. It has a pool but nothing else of note. It also has a solitary, albeit rather large, pear tree in the boring front yard--a tree that was bashed up in one of our big rainstorms recently, and which Irvin has been very concerned about, according to his neighbors.

When Irvin was busted for drugs recently, he put a sign up in his front yard, neighbors say, asking people to respect his privacy. He was especially concerned about being gone during the day when his family was alone in the house. (Star guide insider note: Somebody promptly stole the sign, and Irvin hasn't replaced it.)

Security is simple, Michael--don't move. We guarantee you that most touristas will take one look at the Carrollton house and think they're in the wrong place.

Let's get the football players out of the way here. The Cowboys like these north Alaskan territories--Sanders is way up in Plano, and while it's certainly a long haul just to motor by one guy's house, in this case it is absolutely worth it.

Never mind Sanders' house--a pillared, tennis-courted fortress thing--which is on the rolls for $1.9 million, was built in 1994 for a previous owner, and is located at 5600 Preakness Lane (19).

What's fascinating is the neighborhood. This is precisely what all those Tracy Rowletts in Preston Hollow want, but aren't willing to drive for--because the Willow Bend Polo Estates, which used to be a private polo club, is the most dazzling, most grotesque display of cash you can find anywhere in North Texas.

The Willow Bend development is an enormous, impossible-to-navigate maze of million-dollar homes--and one of the many themes (it's like Disneyland where you pick your country and/or architecture) appears to be Houses for People with a Tara Fetish. The houses are so huge, so garish, and springing up so fast--acres and acres of them--that you wonder if it's all a giant scam by some smooth-talkin' con man who took the $600 million and split for Tahiti before everyone realized there was no indoor plumbing in these mansions.

The biggest question you have driving through here is how in the world our culture produced enough tasteless yet immensely rich people in America, let alone Dallas, to live here. It's a great book.

For something different, let's go to the "barrio" or the "hood," as Garcia and Price the politicians will refer to it 15 times in an interview.

Too bad it's neither--though it makes for great baby-kissing-type politics.
East Fifth Street in Oak Cliff is, as far as I know, one of the only streets in all Oak Cliff that faces a beautiful park with a large water feature. Lake Cliff Park, bordered on the west and north by Zang and Colorado boulevards respectively, would rank right up there with White Rock Lake, actually, if the city would spend a little time and money on landscaping and maintenance. Fat chance.

Both Price and Garcia have architecturally distinctive, perfectly nice homes on Fifth Street--Price a two-story clapboard at 406 E. Fifth (20) that's valued at $89,880 and Garcia a two-story, white adobe-looking place at 500 E. Fifth (21) that's $112,430.

The neighborhood, like all urban neighborhoods, is a mixed bag in that the old houses are in various stages of disrepair or renovation. Price's house, built in 1916, has a nicely maintained yard--someone recently planted two large beds of red begonias down front--but is in dire need of a paint job. Garcia's 1940 house is typical in that it's a lot like its owner in personality--shiny as a penny out front (brass door fixtures and large, snazzy planters) but rather corroded-looking if you peek around the back where the house is clearly in need of extensive updating.

Still, the two men share one of the best views of the Dallas skyline in town.

Our one other south-of-the-Trinity celeb is down-homey Channel 8 anchorwoman Gloria Campos, whose greatest marketing strength is that she comes across on the tube as your basic Everywoman. Katie Couric-esque, those Hispanic surnames roll off her tongue like butter on the griddle, and it makes you feel good just knowing that a smart, young, Hispanic female has made it big at a TV station filled with stiff, old white men.

With all that in mind, I motored to the Deep South of Oak Cliff--one street short of the Duncanville city line--to a sunny, rural road called Ranchero Lane. This is a street filled with long dirt driveways and weather-beaten metal mailboxes out at the curb--just like you'd see out on those remote country roads where you feel lucky just to get mail.

Down the street from Campos at 5510 Ranchero Lane (22), a horse farm is for sale with an indoor and outdoor arena. In fact, the only downside out here on Ranchero is that you're almost directly underneath the ugliest--orange and white, yet--water tower I've ever laid eyes on, and you're, well, in Duncanville.

Campos, though, apparently thinks she's in Beirut. She has a serious metal fence across her driveway with an electronic security system attached to it--so much for the folksy image. Unless you want to hike through some deep woods to get a glimpse of her modest, 2,842-square-foot home, you've just wasted a trip. Appraisal-district records show barns and horse stalls on the 4.6-acre property, and it's all worth a modest $251,220.

Clear across the county from Campos, as far north as you can go before you cross the Richardson city line, is the home of Dallas City Manager John Ware.

Ware was recently given a very generous raise, increasing his compensation to more than $173,450 a year and making him one of the highest-paid city managers in the country. He is the city's CEO--in charge of levying enough property taxes and fees citywide to try to keep the whole place maintained in the style to which we became accustomed in the '80s heyday, and which we'll probably never see again.

It's a tough job--a delicate balance--and one that is not helped in the least by the fact that Ware does not pay any of these property taxes himself. In fact, of all bizarre things, the Dallas city manager is a renter.

Ware rents at 9702 Burleson Drive (23) in a little pocket of suburbia--just north of the ugly commercialism that is LBJ and Skillman, just south of the Richardson city line--that appears to have been plunked down precisely for the reason that it afforded residents the chance to live as close to Dallas, where they work, as possible without sacrificing their God-given right to attend Richardson public schools.

Which is clearly why Ware and his wife and kids are there.
What's really embarrassing, though, is that Ware has one of the only houses in that six-street development that looks like a rent house. It's drab and unrelentingly brown. There's not a flowering thing anywhere. And the lawn needs water. We're talking 2,727 square feet, $147,600 on the rolls, and not a good thing to say about it.

We were intensely interested in knowing if the city's most famous handyman was, well, handy.

It was a potentially sobering mission. After all, after listening for years to Carrell's nasal musings on aluminum siding and window caulking on KRLD-FM 1080 radio, it would have been profoundly disturbing to see rotted gutters, loose shingles, or even an uncoiled garden hose.

Not to worry.
Carrell has a pretty tidy little abode at 9808 Boedeker Drive (24), on the other side of Walnut Hill Lane from Mary Kay Ash's private lake. Valued at $199,840, Carrell's two-story house doesn't have an inordinate amount of character--and it's a doggone nightmare if you don't happen to enjoy cars whizzing by your driveway at 60 miles an hour--but it's structurally sound and even has a few nice landscaping touches. Also, on the handy front, he's built himself a sturdy, wooden box out back to store unsightly trash cans.

We would recommend, though, that he take lunch with fellow radio commentator Neil Sperry to get a few gardening tips for the front yard. We would also take a few nails to the back fence, which is leaning over a bit. And we certainly would devise a handy way to keep that seasonal, Tracy-Rowlett-type flag from twisting up on the pole like that.

Otherwise, Carrell passes the hypocrite's test just fine.

We like Staubach's house for its solidness. It's just one of these all-American places--a brown split-level where you'd be happy to watch a Super Bowl game on a nippy afternoon. He has some California-esque landscaping ideas--sort of palmy-casual with some big, gnarled-wood baskets stationed at the front door. You can almost see the pool through the side gate, though you don't want to get too close--he has a sign on the gate directing your attention to his ferocious attack dogs.

The Staubach home, located at 6912 Edelweiss Circle (25), is in one of those busily traveled parts of town that you pass through at least once a week on your way to somewhere else--just north of LBJ Freeway, off Hillcrest.

On the rolls for $645,270, it's 7,491 square feet of space--with an 18-by-16-foot room addition--and a sauna, too.

It's a good thing that country-western star Charley Pride decided to move to Dallas, because with the exception of our charming football boys, this would be a pretty dull group of celebs on the home tour.

Pride lives at 5476 Northaven Rd. (26)--a popular, centrally located street that is pretty much deserted where Pride has stakes because it's right at the place where the Dallas North Tollway passes through, and there's no entrance or exit off the Tollway at that point.

It's not anyone's first pick if you're looking to buy four acres, which is what Pride has, because there's the highway and this huge electrical-tower jungle just east of his tennis court. Still, Pride has a nice spread compared to his neighbors'--lots of small lots with modest homes. Pride's fenced estate, which is nicely landscaped, is on the rolls for $1.2 million. The house is an endless one-story built in 1975 that is 8,543 square feet.

The biggest surprise on the home tour is the house of billionaire oilman and reclusive civic leader Ray Hunt, who we expected to be as paranoid and closeted as H. Ross Perot when it came to laying his head down on a pillow and trying not to think about the ninjas that any minute could slip through his bathroom window.

Also, considering how Hunt's Hyatt Reunion looks downtown--the twinkling ball on the tower, the relentless gray glass--we'd hoped we'd find a concrete-and-glass fortress off the Bent Tree golf course.

Instead, Ray Hunt--son of H.L. Hunt, who built that showplace mansion, Mt. Vernon, out on White Rock Lake--is Mr. Suburb. He's in a nondescript, Campbell Road neighborhood filled with $300,000 brick homes. He has a battered old Suburban in the carport, and a well-used basketball hoop in the driveway.

True, his 9,852-square-foot house at 5924 Twin Coves St. (27) is painted bright blue--and, yes, there are Uncle Sam wooden flower planters out by the front entrance--but we like it. It's the most patriotic house on the planet; in fact, he's the only high-profile Dallasite we know with a flagpole and waving flag right there in the front yard. There are pots of pretty spring flowers all over the place--even a floral arrangement pinned to the front door. It's all just so chipper and high-spirited that you want to go up and--I don't know--have a weenie and a bottle of beer with the guy.

It's that quiet money thing--$1 million on 1.3 acres--eight full bathrooms, a pool, a sauna, and a gazebo. There's a kid's wooden tree house and lots of yard to run around in.

And to think this is the same guy who keeps gouging the Dallas taxpayers for all his little real-estate projects. I don't know-- maybe when he turns 60 in a coupla years he'll feel bad about it all and write us a nice check.

And we'll all celebrate in the tree house.

We saved the best for last.
Mitchell's company recently sued the pants off us all for preventing him from building a mega-movie-theatre in a nice North Dallas neighborhood. Mitchell and company were mad. They wanted our money--and they got $5 million of it in a settlement.

And now we know what all the fuss was about.
If you had purchased two big lots at Park Lane and Inwood Road--home to some of the most gorgeous houses in town--you'd want to make sure your company was doing well, too. Mitchell is currently building a stone castle on one lot at 9769 Audubon Place; on the adjacent lot that he bought in December sits an empty house. We thought he might be turning the old house into a private movie theatre, but according to the THX sound sign out in front of the castle, he's doing that in the new house. His neighborhood, we might add, doesn't seem to have a multiplex theater.

He has multiple acres and lots of construction people running around, and so far, with an unfinished house still not accurately reflected on the tax rolls, it's up to $3.4 million.

We were going to get out and snoop around the house--unlike at Jerral Jones' house, there are no security guards here--but the whole thing kind of made us, well, tired.

Do us a favor, Lee Roy. When you're all done, and the money's all been spent, invite your nemesis, John Ware, over and give him a few tips on gardening and home maintenance.

It's the least you could do.

Blaine Jon Howard contributed to this story.

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