By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
He said, he said -- it seems everyone wants, if not deserves, credit for the rise of Deep Ellum from the dust of old warehouses long ago abandoned. Time has a funny way of skewing our perceptions of history; even those who were there don't know exactly what happened, perhaps because they were too busy or too stoned to catch the details. Hard to imagine now that there was a time when Deep Ellum was nothing more than a few half-assed clubs fending off skinheads and bankruptcy. But the more things change...
The only difference today is the skins have been replaced by the tourists from Plano, and the guys who used to have trouble getting financing are the ones owning all the buildings.
Former Theatre Gallery owner Russell Hobbs' letter to the editor, found on page three of this issue of the Dallas Observer, got us thinking: What really did happen during the 1980s? Some of us were there, but we were too busy drinking Blue Nun in the Theatre Gallery parking lot to notice. All we remember is Peter Schmidt without his shirt during a couple of Three on a Hill gigs; how could we forget? So we went digging through the Observer archives, pulling out every single Street Beat written by then-music editor Clay McNear from 1984 to 1988 -- the alleged heyday of Deep Ellum, meaning the years before downtown was overrun by guys who used to be in 4 Reasons Unknown. The result is a bona fide history of that era, in the words of those who were there, when they were there.
Not a single event is manufactured; not a single quote fabricated. This is God's honest truth, or a close approximation. So argue about who did what when and with whom all you want, fellas. Here's all the ammo you'll ever need.
Sometime in August: former construction designer Russell Hobbs opens Theatre Gallery at 2808 Commerce.
January: Three on a Hill, featuring singer-guitarist Peter Schmidt, forms.
January 27: Theatre Gallery hosts Unknown Theatre Benefit with The Tribe, Housewives Choice, Model 12, and Lucy Cruz.
February 5: The Fast and Cool Club, owned and operated by Tango/8.0 kingpin Shannon Wynne and John Kenyon, opens its doors on Greenville Avenue. The club's owners promise one national act and one theme party per month. The first "big-name" band is rumored to be Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, who are scheduled to perform sometime in early March.
February: New Bohemians -- consisting of Arts Magnet grads Brandon Aly, Eric Presswood, and Brad Houser -- play their first shows together, at Calm Eddy's, an Upper Greenville comedy club. Singer Edie Brickell later joins the band after taking the stage during one of the shows; myth has it she was induced by a shot of Jack Daniel's, but we know better. A few years later, the band will break up amidst grumblings that Brickell receives significantly more points per album than the founding members.
February 21: Three on a Hill plays its first show, at the Twilite Room.
March 15: Ex-Group Six members Jeff Liles and Jan Paul Daviddson join The End's Tench Coxe and vocalist Donald Watson in a new band called Animal Chance. The group plays its first show at the Nairobi Room, located at 2914 Harry Hines.
March 16: Local new-wave heroes the Telefones regroup after a lengthy split to perform at the Arcadia Theatre with fellow '70s rocker Feet First. It will be Steve Dirkx's last show with the band before the rest of the group leaves for Los Angeles.
April 20: The Twilite Room, located at 2111 Commerce, hosts a reunion of bands that used to perform at DJ's, a local punk haven. On the bill are The Assassins, Deprogrammer, the Nervebreakers, Quad Pi, and Superman's Girlfriend. The former new-wave nightclub threatens to reopen several times during the next few years but never does.
May 16: The Twilite Room changes the name of its music room to Charlie's Liberty Hall.
May 30: According to then-Observer music editor Clay McNear, "Theatre Gallery is fast becoming one of the better booked clubs in the metroplex." The club's June lineup includes Zeitgeist, The Pool, Doctor's Mob, and the Flaming Lips.
July 3: 4 Reasons Unknown, New Bohemians, and Debutante perform at the Arcadia for the "Son of Dance Dallas."
July 11: Dallas' two biggest hardcore/new-wave clubs, Theatre Gallery and Charlie's Liberty Hall/Twilite Room, engage in a war of words, since both are located on Commerce Street and competing for the same general market. Hobbs claims Theatre Gallery had to put an end to its Hardcore Sundays because the businesses surrounding TG were complaining of broken windows and other property damage. He believes Twilite Room staffers may be responsible.
Twilite owner Charlie Gilder responds that if he was "going to 'get' Theatre Gallery," he would "have somebody throw a Molotov cocktail through a window instead of a brick." Gilder placed the blame for the bad blood between the clubs on "hippie vices" and "paranoia." He also said he resents TG for intruding on "the area [of music] we excel at" and for not "following any of the rules." Theatre Gallery, at the time, does not have a liquor license or a City of Dallas dance hall permit.
September 14: Charlie Gilder opens Circle A Ranch, a new punk showcase for touring acts. The club is located upstairs at the Twilite Room's current location, and will be expanded to occupy space next door. The first show is Gleaming Spires. The Twilite Room remains in existence downstairs, and will feature local acts. No cover is charged downstairs.
September 27: The Butthole Surfers/Stick Men with Ray Guns show, originally scheduled for 500 Cafe, is moved to Charlie Gilder's Circle A Ranch after 500's owner Brian Panza was warned by Theatre Gallery's owner that the Buttholes crowd would tear up the place. Hobbs was apparently not worried about the same thing happening at Gilder's club.
October 3: Members of the Theatre Gallery staff start up Family Management, an organization devoted to aiding most existing downtown bands, including Da Nu Man, Shallow Reign, Howling Dervishes, The Trees, The End, The Underground, and Three on a Hill. TG spokesman Jeff Liles says Family Management is talking with 462's Mark Lee, once a partner in new-wave paradise the Hot Klub, about placing some of its bands with 462's national touring acts.
November: 4 Reasons Unknown accepted for MTV's Basement Tapes for the video "Visual Signs." The band is then accepted to perform on -- so help us God -- Star Search.
November 20: A Deep Ellum Clubowners Association is proposed, spearheaded by Club Clearview's Jeff Swaney and Steve Clohessy. According to Swaney, the cooperative effort is intended "to better the area's image, to bolster security and awareness of the area, and to [create] a focused concept of what everyone's venue is." The group's first meeting is held November 20 at Video Bar, and representatives from Deep Ellum's major clubs -- Video Bar, Adair's Saloon, 500 Cafe, Theatre Gallery, Twilite Room, and Kool Vibes -- are invited to attend. TG's Hobbs is ambivalent, agreeing with the idea of an organized scene but not with the notion of creating a scene. He thinks the area should evolve naturally.
November 29: Theatre Gallery's management company, 12 to 21, Inc. (whose owners are Hobbs and Logan Daffron, with Jeff Liles acting as public relations director-booking agent-creative consultant) opens the Prophet Bar. The club's grand opening takes place December 12. The bar is located just down the street from Theatre Gallery at 2713 Commerce, and is targeted for "an older crowd," according to Hobbs.
Hobbs says he opened the bar because there are no clubs in the area dedicated to the fine arts of drinking and conversing. At the time, Liles claims he would "run through hell in a gasoline suit" for Hobbs. Shortly after the Prophet Bar opens, Jim Heath begins a regular Monday-night solo gig there under the name Reverend Horton Heat, after disbanding his group the Polytones.
December 1: New Bohemians perform with 10,000 Maniacs at Theatre Gallery.
February: Hobbs and Liles form Deep Ellum Records, a label to be managed by Liles. Liles says the label is a "logical extension of Theatre Gallery and Prophet Bar." The company will be based above the Prophet Bar, and will open a store in Theatre Gallery's lobby in the coming months.
The label's first release, Feet First's EP In a Great Big Room, will be released April 21. Deep Ellum will also reissue The End's "Das Svidanya" b/w "Seven Day Servant" single. It will also distribute The Trees' Locomotion vs. Hittin' the Brake and an upcoming Shallow Reign single after the first 500 copies are sold. Austin's Pool Records, headed by Patrick Keel, holds the rights to the first pressings of both projects.
February 9: 4 Reasons Unknown win MTV's Basement Tapes with 29 percent of the vote, after a call-in party at the Fast and Cool Club. The band is awarded a recording contract with Epic Records, as well as a full line of Casio equipment.
February 15: Buck Pets, Shallow Reign, and Self Is On The Throne (with drummer Mischo McKay) perform at Theatre Gallery. Former New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain play at Circle A Ranch/Twilite Room. The Nervebreakers open.
February 20: Circle A Ranch staffers challenge the crew at Theatre Gallery to a game of Photon.
March 20: Owner Charlie Gilder bails out of the Circle A Ranch/Twilite Room venture.
March 22: The Mentors, Killdozer, Scratch Acid, The Larries, and Stick Men with Ray Guns perform at Circle A Ranch. Years later, Mentors frontman El Duce claims he was offered $50,000 by Courtney Love to kill her husband, Kurt Cobain.
April 3: Ex-Telefone Steve Dirkx releases Fate City Limits on VVV Records. The Trees put out Locomotion vs. Hittin' the Brake on Pool Records.
April 4: Loco Gringos, featuring Tom and Don Foote (both former members of The Devices), play their first show, at the Prophet Bar.
April 5: Deep Ellum veterans Legendary Revelations, who haven't stepped on a stage together in decades, perform at the Prophet Bar.
April 11: Under new ownership, Circle A Ranch/Twilite Room becomes The (Ob)Scene, with a show featuring Poison 13 and the Peyote Cowboys.
May 2-3: A&R reps Michael Alago and Kim Buie return to Deep Ellum.
May 15: The End changes its name to End over End.
June 5: Shallow Reign releases its self-titled debut on Pool Records.
June 20: Three on a Hill releases Biting on Tin Foil on Deep Ellum Records.
June 26:Former Twilite Room/Charlie's Liberty Hall/Circle A Ranch owner Charlie Gilder invests in the laundromat-nightclub Bar of Soap, located in Exposition Park.
June 29: The (Ob)Scene shuts its doors for the last time after a Sonic Youth show.
August: Texas Monthly staff writers Joe Nick Patoski and Jody Denberg do stories on the Deep Ellum music scene.
August 8: The Starck Club is raided after a six-month investigation by the Dallas police vice squad. Officers arrest 37 people, including night manager Ricky Lee Hall and employee John Thomas Anderson. Arrests include 15 for drug possession and 17 for public intoxication.
August 14: Liles and Hobbs move their apartments and offices out of the top floor of the Prophet Bar to make room for a restaurant, Tapaz, scheduled to open in October.
September: Liles leaves his longtime post as Theatre Gallery booking agent because of a falling-out with Hobbs. "I cannot have Theatre Gallery constipated anymore," Hobbs says. Several months earlier, Hobbs relieved Liles of his booking duties at Prophet Bar, TG's sister nightclub.
Hobbs, the majority investor in 12 to 21, Inc. -- now the umbrella organization covering Theatre Gallery, Prophet Bar, and Deep Ellum Records -- says Liles was let go because he was dissatisfied with recent TG bookings, and because Liles has "an attitude problem." Hobbs says Theatre Gallery started because he was looking for a place to live in Deep Ellum, "and it just snowballed from there. I guess I made the mistake of letting Jeff take over control of the bookings. He's looking for different values than I am...The club was founded as this open-minded thing, and Jeff was booking the bands he liked and refusing to book bands he didn't like. Theatre Gallery is a community club, not just one guy's club."
Shallow Reign singer-guitarist Bob Watson says, "It all seems so weird. We think Russell is really cool, and we have a lot of respect for him, but it's like, Jeff was the guy who put all the bands together and all that. I don't know anybody who's as well-versed in local music and in underground music around the country." In a remarkable bit of foresight, Watson added, "My personal opinion is that a lot of those bands that play Upper Greenville and stuff will probably be coming down to play Deep Ellum now."
September 1:Drinking age officially raised from 19 to 21.
September 11: Theatre Gallery hires Robert Englund, a friend of Hobbs, as its new production manager. Englund and Hobbs worked together at a radio station in Alaska during college. Englund will take over some of the functions formerly held by booking agent Liles.
September 22: Newsweek runs a story on the nation's burgeoning mini-SoHos, including Deep Ellum. A photo of Russell Hobbs is included.
September 26: Club Dada opens, owned by Victor Dada comedy-performance art troupe members David Border and Tom Henvey, with live music scheduling handled by Jeff Liles. Liles also recently began booking The Longhorn.
October 9: Deep Ellum Records releases "Sidestreets" single by Da Nu Man.
November 6: The rift that occurred in September between Hobbs and Liles, which led to Liles' move to The Longhorn and Club Dada, is now healed. Liles says the two have been talking about the future of Deep Ellum Records. "We're friends again," Liles says.
November 11: 500 Cafe holds its last musical performance, a concert by the New Bohemians. The club will later open an outdoor patio, dubbed the Exposition Street Theater, where bands will perform. The first show is Reverend Horton Heat and Randy Erwin on December 18.
November 13: The old Clearview Blind building goes up for sale, forcing Club Clearview to move.
November 18: Hobbs, who's managing local band Spam, receives a cease and desist letter from Geo. A. Hormel & Co., informing Hobbs of his band's copyright infringement of Hormel's processed meat product.
December 18: New Bohemians release their debut, cassette-only It's Like This. The tape immediately sells out.
January: Geffen Records signs New Bohemians to a two-album deal.
January 22: Liles is no longer booking at The Longhorn. Liles, however, continues in that capacity at Club Dada on weekends.
February 12: Patrick Keel officially moves Pool Records to Dallas. The label will be located at 4004 Main and will also serve as a rehearsal space for Shallow Reign.
February 27: Da Nu Man records a live album at Theatre Gallery. Three of the four members of The Shitty Beatles regroup as The Potatoes.
March 7: Theatre Gallery hosts a record release party for End Over End's first full-length release, Scenes from a New World, issued on Deep Ellum Records.
March 19: Deep Ellum Records has named a board of directors to oversee its day-to-day operations. The board consists of Hobbs, Liles, End Over End drummer David Mabry, Three on a Hill's Peter Schmidt, and Jim Heath.
March 25: Club Clearview reopens at its new location, 2806 Elm.
April 3: Hobbs signs Johnny Paycheck to perform at The Longhorn. Reverend Horton Heat opens. All profits from the gig will support the Horton Heat album, due for release on Deep Ellum Records. The record is never released.
April 16: Theatre Gallery inducted into Dallas Observer Nightclub Hall of Fame.
May 3: Theatre Gallery hosts a TABC Benefit Concert for its sister club, Prophet Bar, featuring 11 bands for $5, including The Daylights, Loco Gringos, League of None, End Over End, Shallow Reign, Da Nu Man, Three On A Hill, Lost Cause, Graceland, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!, and Twang Popes. The benefit is to raise money to pay back taxes the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says the Prophet owes them, some $10,000 by May 4.
May 7: Patrick Keel is hired by Planet Dallas Studio as a full-time production assistant.
May 7-9: The TABC raids Theatre Gallery, Prophet Bar, and Club Clearview in a crackdown on underage drinking. A handful of patron arrests are made at each club, with the majority being for public intoxication. The bartender at Prophet is arrested for allegedly serving alcohol to intoxicated persons, and four Clearview employees, including co-owner Jeff Swaney, are booked on similar charges.
May 9: Decadent Dub Team debuts at Theatre Gallery.
May 12: The Deep Ellum Freedom Festival is canceled five days before it was scheduled to take place. The Deep Ellum Planning Association (DEPA) had a verbal agreement with the city for a street permit, but in light of the recent bust, the city rescinded its offer at the last minute. The clubs involved in the festival were Video Bar, Club Clearview, Prophet Bar, and Club Dada.
May 16-17: Capitol Records' West Coast A&R rep Rachel Matthews is in town checking out The Buck Pets, Loco Gringos, Princess Tex, Three On A Hill, and Reverend Horton Heat. None of the bands will ever sign with Capitol.
May 30: Legendary Revelations, made up of veterans of the original Deep Ellum scene of the 1930s and 1940s, record a live track at the Prophet Bar for inclusion on the Deep Ellum sampler, The Sound of Deep Ellum, compiled by Kim Buie and Jeff Liles and released by Island Records.
June: Hobbs begins printing up "Prophet dollars." The currency, available in $100 increments, equates to a "free summer cover" at the Prophet, including nightly shows, roadshows, special events, and entry into the Prophet's sister club, Tapaz. The move is designed to give Hobbs' club empire an influx of cash, since both Prophet and Theatre Gallery are in financial straits. In a related note, after the bust a few weeks earlier, Hobbs is now forced to give Dallas police 45 days' notice for any outdoor shows.
June 4: Hobbs receives a letter from the TABC informing him that he has until June 14 to pay $9,400 in back taxes or the agency will shut down the Prophet Bar and Theatre Gallery. In order to avoid the closings, Hobbs plans a fundraising marathon on June 12 at Prophet featuring more than 30 bands. Performers include White Animals, End Over End, Shallow Reign, Three On A Hill, Decadent Dub Team, Larry's Dad, Changes, Loco Gringos, The Buck Pets, Princess Tex, Lost Cause, League of None, Josho Misho, The Daylights, Idea Men, Wild Peach, New Bohemians, White Shapes, The Trees, and Ten Hands. The concert raises enough money to keep the clubs afloat.
July 9: The Crowdus Street Fair, scheduled for July 10-12, is canceled at the last minute after four skinheads allegedly beat an undercover Dallas police officer with lead pipes on Oakland Avenue (now Malcolm X Boulevard).
July 23: Drummer David Mabry leaves End Over End. At the time, singer-guitarist Tench Coxe and bassist Kevin Moore plan to continue together after finding a new drummer and a second guitarist. However, Mabry will rejoin the band a month later.
August 24: Island Records' compilation The Sound of Deep Ellum is released, featuring songs by Three On A Hill, Decadent Dub Team, The Buck Pets, Shallow Reign, Reverend Horton Heat, New Bohemians, The Trees, End Over End, The Daylights, and Legendary Revelations.
September 10: Hobbs returns from a six-week European vacation with new plans for his embattled clubs on Commerce Street. Prophet Bar and Theatre Gallery were recently ticketed by the health department, as well as inspectors from the building, mechanical, and electrical offices. Hobbs decides to transform Prophet into a reggae bar, saying, "We've had enough of giving bands chances, and once they get a gig somewhere else, they forget where they came from. We're not doing new music anymore."
Theatre Gallery, rumored to be closing for the last few months, will be stripped down essentially to four walls and a stage in order to comply with city codes. TG will also stop serving mixed drinks, eliminating the need for a health permit. Among other things, Hobbs insists he's opening a "skinhead Nazi topless bar on Elm," the street where many of his detractors -- most notably Club Dada co-owner Tom Henvey -- operate.
September 21: The first single from Island Records' The Sound of Deep Ellum compilation, Decadent Dub Team's "Six Gun," hits record stores. The A-side is a 12-inch remix produced by NWA's Dr. Dre. On September 15, DDT left for Los Angeles to record a demo for Island.
Meanwhile, Russell Hobbs says he wants to "powwow" with Hard Rock Cafe owner Isaac Tigrett in order to set Tigrett's karma straight. Hobbs also threatens to install a "Prophet Bar across the street from the Hard Rock in every city in the world."
November 4: Alan Govenar presents two of his films and hosts a visual tour of historical Deep Ellum at 500 Cafe. Jeff Liles speaks on the current Deep Ellum music scene.
November 14: New Bohemians leave for England to record their Geffen Records debut with producer Pat Moran.
November 29: Decadent Dub Team signs with Island Records. The deal calls for the band to release a second 12-inch single for the label, a follow-up to "Six Gun."
December 1: According to manager Jeff Liles, Rigor Mortis will sign a letter of intent with Capitol Records, a preliminary to signing a full-fledged recording contract with the label.
February 6: Feet First calls it quits, going out with a show at the Arcadia with End Over End and Reggae Force.
February 18: Hobbs bans secular music at both of his clubs, Theatre Gallery and the Prophet Bar. In December 1987, Hobbs had transformed the Prophet Bar into The Prophet, cutting off alcohol and promising to donate 12 percent of the club's proceeds to the homeless and his church, in conjunction with his conversion to Christianity. At the time, Hobbs was quoted as saying, "The Devil has left the Prophet Bar, and God has arrived...I think alcohol is supported by the government to keep the masses down."
Now, Hobbs has wiped everything off both clubs' calendars, saying all bands have to glorify God or they can't play. He also says that Three on a Hill and Lithium X-Mas can't play anymore until they change their "blasphemous" names. Outgoing Theatre Gallery booker Kelley Walker says that Hobbs told her he would allow the performance by The Exploited -- a gig Hobbs booked personally -- to continue, with these conditions: that gospel music be piped in between sets, and that "an inspirational speaker" get up on stage and attempt to "convert the skinheads."
"I have been totally misjudged, and I have not been appreciated for what I've done," Hobbs says. "Prophets are never appreciated in their hometown. I gave people the murals on the walls [at The Prophet]. I gave them the music. Now that I'm taking it away, they're all crying and moaning and persecuting me. But you know, the two [Satan and God] can't live in the same house. The Bible says that. I've repented, and my beliefs have changed. Everybody thinks I'm a fanatic, but I'm really a blessing in disguise."
February 25: Tim Sanders, a member of local band The Affirmative and spokesman for music festival-cum-local music watchdog Change Your Life, responds to Hobbs' decision to ban secular music from The Prophet and Theatre Gallery. "We will get Russell Hobbs out of Deep Ellum at all costs," says Sanders, who now works for broadcast.com. "This is war now."
Sanders' problems with Hobbs' format change aren't aesthetic or religious, he stresses, just realistic. Sanders points out that Hobbs canceled a total of 41 scheduled bookings at his two clubs. He also adds that Change Your Life members voted to give $7,000 to The Prophet after a September festival on several conditions, including that liquor be sold. Sanders plans to sue 12 to 21, Inc., Hobbs' umbrella company that owns both clubs.
April 7: New Bohemians replace drummer Brandon Aly with Ten Hands' Matt Chamberlain.
May 24: The Buck Pets sign a one-album deal with Island Records, with options for six more.
May 28: Club Clearview's Jeff Swaney and short-film specialist Rob Thomas are co-scripting a film with the working title of The Deep Ellum Movie. The budget is $250,000, and a number of local bands potentially will be included. The duo begins hosting talent nights at Clearview, looking for everything from extras to gofers to prospective musicians.
June 2: Despite major-label breakthroughs by The Buck Pets and Decadent Dub Team (both on Island Records), New Bohemians (Geffen Records), and Rigor Mortis (Capitol Records), many -- including Island's Kim Buie -- are having doubts about the Dallas music community. "There's really no scene at all," Buie says. "The live music scene is stagnant, and there's no real hook. With [The Sound of Deep Ellum] it was Deep Ellum." A follow-up to Deep Ellum is deemed unlikely, even though the compilation had fairly strong sales.
June 30: Ex-Peyote Cowboy and future Old 97 Murry Hammond releases the cassette-only The Watering Wheel, his first solo album.
July 8: An argument between skinheads and punks breaks out at Greg Winslow's Commerce Street club, Honest Place. Winslow whips out a .22 rifle and fires nine shots into a passing van carrying 12 members of the Confederate Hammerskins. One skinhead girl is shot in the back but not killed; several others are injured. Winslow is taken into custody by Dallas police but released the same day.
July 19: Rigor Mortis' self-titled debut is released on Capitol Records.
August: Decadent Dub Team now consists of only Jeff Liles, as David Williams leaves the outfit, saying he can do "without all the megalomaniacal bullshit." "I'm not in it anymore," Williams says. "As far as [Jeff's] concerned, he's always been DDT." Liles responds, "Nothing's changed. Nothing's going down with DDT. Everything's going up." Paul Quigg was either tossed out or left DDT earlier in the year.
September 4-5: Club Clearview hosts its first annual Labor Day Weekend Party in its parking lot, featuring Course of Empire, Pack of Fags, Last Rites, Hash Palace, and New Bohemians.
September: An anonymous machine-gun attacker leaves holes in the Loco Gringos' Gringo Hearse. The Gringos hit the floor and escape unscathed.
October 16: The Prophet burns to a crisp. The Dallas Fire Department traces the cause to faulty wiring on an electric deep fryer in the kitchen. Estimated damages are $25,000. Hobbs can't be reached for comment, but it's believed neither God nor Satan is to blame.
October 29: Arcadia hosts "Munsters of Rock" show, featuring End Over End, Three on a Hill, Shallow Reign, Last Rites, Course of Empire, and Hash Palace.
November: Decadent Dub Team goes into the studio to record an LP for Triple XXX Records at Dallas Sound Lab. Liles is also planning a Deep Ellum compilation record of "all hard, heavy guitar bands," titled Dude, You Rock, to be released early 1989.
November: A sign is posted in front of the recently roasted Prophet. It reads, "Firewood for Sale."
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