Buzz hacks through the past in search of the cool cats and fools of the year that was

The tree, all trimmed with popcorn and tinsel and Dallas Morning News :CueCats converted into Christmas ornaments, is dim now. We've finally shipped off the gifts. (More free colon-afflicted :CueCats. Buzz is cheap.) So it's time to toss a few :CueCats on the fire, fill up a water tumbler with the traditional Yuletide tequila, and reflect on the year gone by in Dallas.

Lord, how we hate the holidays.

That's not exactly true. It's not the season Buzz dislikes so much, but three facets of it: children, hearing Anne Murray sing "The Little Drummer Boy," and maudlin sentimentality about the past. Children are noisy, impolite, and smell bad. Anne Murray is, well, Anne Murray. As for the last one, blame that on our upbringing.

Al Lipscomb
Dorit Rabinovitch
Al Lipscomb

When we were young, Buzz's father would haul us out of bed on Sunday afternoons to go collect our 90-something grandpa for long--very long--drives in the countryside where our old man grew up. There we'd be, the car filled with old-people smell, tooling down dirt roads at 20 mph past abandoned farmhouses with a young Buzz--16 and bored--trapped inside. Our granddad would drone on like Grandpa Simpson: "Is that corn or milo? What kind of cow is that?" and "That's where old Bob used to live; he let his hogs sleep in the kitchen." Eventually, we'd end up at some cemetery, saying hello to dead relatives.

Out of the 30 or so centuries we spent on these drives, the only conversation that sticks in Buzz's mind was the story of a farm boy our dad grew up with, a lad named Happy Johnson. (This story is as true as anything our father ever told us, which isn't saying much. Buzz's tendency to exaggerate comes to us honestly.) Happy's grandmother raised him, and she always wanted a daughter. Happy, being a boy, didn't exactly fit the bill, so the old girl made do with what she had: She made him wear dresses. He would stash overalls around the countryside to change into when he had to go to town or school but obligingly wore dresses around the homestead until he entered the Army in World War II, the old man said.

Young people had much more respect for their elders in those days.

Between the tedium, carsickness, the stink of the elderly, death, and tales of forced cross-dressing, you can see where Buzz might have developed a certain distaste for nostalgia. "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?" You can bet that Happy, wherever he is, thinks so.

So did we until recently, when we began looking over headlines for our annual year-in-review. Former City Councilman Al Lipscomb was convicted and is tucked away in home confinement, out of sight, out of mind. No more bribery scandals there. The Dallas school board came down with a nasty case of rationality, appointed an apparently sane man superintendent, and hasn't done anything particularly loopy in a while. Even Councilwoman Laura Miller, after fighting to keep city swimming pools open and winning a new city ethics code, has faded into quietude. (Going over plans for her new home in North Dallas, we suspect.)

Dallas has suddenly come down with a case of niceness, and frankly, as a paid professional wiseass, we're getting a little misty-eyed thinking about unhappy days gone by.

Of all the characters to exit the Dallas stage in 2000, we'll miss none more than former Dallas school Superintendent Waldemar "Bill" Rojas. With his free-spending ways, take-no-prisoners management style, and thinly disguised contempt for all things Dallas (particularly the school board), Rojas promised many hours of entertainment and column inches of news in the months ahead--a promise that was cut short when DISD trustees cruelly canned him this summer. Buzz thinks we speak for all of Dallas media when we say that was a dark, dark day. In fact, rumor has it that Channel 8's ace investigator Brett Shipp was seen sitting at his desk and bawling like a schoolgirl when Rojas got the hook. (We don't know if that really happened, since we just made it up, but it certainly might have.)

So, before we go into our month-by-month roundup, Buzz would like to take a special moment for a little uncharacteristic mawkishness on the occasion of Bill's parting. Please, dim the lights, raise a glass, and join us in singing this little song we wrote, to the tune of "The Way We Were." It goes something like this:

So-o-opers can be very hard to find
Rabid, whacked-out school guys,
Guys like Waldemar.

Costly contracts, of the clowns he left behind,
Deadwood we'll pay until doomsday,
Thanks to Waldemar.

Sure, he had the charm of Attila the Hun,
Stirring anger with tin-cup poses.
But we reporters thought he was lots of fun.
We say he beats the pants off Michael Moses.
Wally, we hardly knew ye.

Stu-u-udents may be better off, but don't bet.
We're still stuck with the same school board.
We may miss Wally yet.

Horse feathers: Thousands gather downtown to ring in the new millennium--a year early, if you're persnickety--and see the lighting of a new Pegasus, the advertising logo-cum-Dallas landmark, atop the Magnolia Hotel. Not to be outdone, Plano announces plans for its own lighted landmark, a 200-foot-tall sign for The Gap along Dallas North Tollway. The Dallas Morning News, meanwhile, celebrates the new century by reprinting a 100-year-old edition of the newspaper. It includes an announcement that the paper will now be "telephonically enhanced" with the inclusion of newfangled telephone numbers alongside its news stories.
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