By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The town that killed Dr. L
The final shoe in Dr. Laura's March madness has dropped.
You'll remember, of course, that the Jewish Welfare Federation of Dallas invited the nationally syndicated radio shrink, who is, as she incessantly reminds listeners, a zealous born-again Jew, to speak at a fundraiser. A record 1,300 women paid Dr. Laura Schlessinger $30,000 for the privilege of being snubbed, humiliated, and generally treated like gum on the tiny shoe of the conservative talk show host who didn't even take the time to prepare a speech.
Two days later, when word got back to Dr. Laura that her visit to Dallas wasn't exactly a PR triumph and that her "people," as she put it, were offended by her behavior, she denounced them as malicious gossips and cried on the air (which, if you've ever experienced Dr. Laura's show, is pretty scary even to think about).
By Wednesday, Dr. Laura's sycophantic fans in trailer parks across the nation, of course, were enraged that a handful of Dallas women would have the audacity to kvetch about their special radio friend's perfect vacuum of manners, grace, and common courtesy.
You can guess the rest: The Jewish Federation received hundreds of angry calls, and, according to a staffer there, the majority were anti-Semitic.
Maybe next year, lesson learned, the Federation will invite a speaker who's more convivial, classy, and gracious. Buzz recommends Texas' own Kinky Friedman. We also recommend that Dr. Laura's fans profit from a close read of the lyrics of Kinky's biggest hit: They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore.
Don't laugh--Kinky gave a speech to a similar Jewish group in Washington last week.
Eric Celeste, formerly editor of the Dallas Morning News' puppet weekly The Met, has been making some steep installment payments on his Faustian bargain with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Celeste, who, while at The Met, was noted for his irreverent, often incomprehensible squibs, left the bohemian life behind for financial security at the stolid S-T. The way we got it, in return for regular meals and rent payments, he was to inject a youthful, "alternative" feel to that daily's lifestyle pages--and lure in a few readers still devil-may-care about their calcium intake and prostates.
Over the year that Celeste has been at the S-T, he changed his job from arts & entertainment editor to staff writer. But Eric dreamed that someday he would write a weekly media column.
Normally, anyone who's been in the newspaper business for, oh, 20 minutes knows that media columns by on-staff writers in daily papers range from highly questionable to downright corrupt. It's simple: How can you write credibly about your own paper--which you can't ignore because, as is the case of the S-T, it's not only the biggest media entity in town, but one of the largest employers? To attempt it at all violates the most basic ethical sniff test: They give you paychecks.
"I never really expected to cover my own paper--after all, they have an ombudsman," Celeste told Buzz. But Eric's naivete ran deeper. Though Celeste wouldn't go on the record about a rumored clash with his bosses over his proposed media column, sources say that his column was killed because he, sweet mother of God!, wanted to write about The Dallas Morning News, which, of course, is the 900-pound gorilla of media in this part of the United States and damn well needs to be watched. His editors at the paper spiked a sample column about Pete Slover's controversial scoop on the alleged McVeigh confession, Buzz sources say.
Because the paper already has a TV columnist, and Eric couldn't credibly cover The Met, D, or American Way, for whom he has worked or still occasionally works, the only news media remaining for Eric to cover in his column would be, er, us. Although we at the Dallas Observer would find a weekly column devoted to us fascinating, we're not sure everyone in Fort Worth would.
It was about then that hysterical rumors arrived in Dallas on the Wells Fargo wagon from Cowtown that Celeste's media column had been killed in utero, and the brash young journalist had furiously resigned.
Celeste, whom we reached at his snug S-T desk, explained that the rumors were exaggerated--he had taken a half day off to cool down after learning that his column's future was clouded. He denies that his media column was "killed," explaining that he and his immediate editor decided, after disappointing meetings with higher editors, that it would be best to hold off a while--maybe until the paper was sold to new and--they're praying--more progressive ownership. (A few media giants, including Knight-Ridder, are salivating over the prospect of gobbling up the Disney-owned S-T).
Until that new dawn, Eric says he is going to pursue the primary part of his job, feature writing, which may include occasional media stories.
To be fair to your bosses, Eric, there are some edgy column concepts you could develop. Lord knows the S-T has a real need for a push-the-envelope philately column to compete head-to-head with the DMN's "Stamping Ground."
D's hard-off for news
Buzz was confused by a story in the Dallas Business Journal that examined the decline of D Magazine's circulation. The villain was newsstand sales, which, according to the article, dropped 20 percent over the last year, bringing the overall circulation down 6 percent to about 40,000 benighted souls.