By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Back in the early 1980s--long before Christian ever bought it--the studio found a home on 112 Irving acres purchased for $7.5 million by Trammell Crow. In 1982, the Dallas Communications Complex was built, with 41 acres reserved for The Studios at Las Colinas. A $10 million production center, it was intended to lure West Coast producers and their Hollywood projects. The studios soon hosted a string of films such as Silkwood and Robocop, but business throughout the '80s was sporadic, and in 1991, Texas Commerce Bank foreclosed on the studio's acreage.
With his then-partner Stephen Jarchow, Christian bought it in 1992 for $1.25 million.
Under Christian, a former Nashville singer who penned the Elvis tune "Love Song of the Year," the studio now includes 22 employees. Gone is a once-familiar face, the last original employee there: Mike Childress, who since 1982 had been a staple of the studios.
Childress now says that Christian "bled it dry" until it became a "rotting armpit." His allegations run from the comical (Christian stealthily eating the apple juice and crackers set aside for kids on the Barney set) to the more serious (the studio going two weeks without having its garbage picked up, and the failing air-conditioning system). "Here's this fine Christian man and our nickname for him was 'Satan,'" says Childress at his home in Keller.
These days, Childress has a more immediate, personal concern: treating the hepatitis C he was diagnosed with in 1999. He claims that once he told Christian of his health woes, his pay was soon cut by more than half. (He gave the Observer copies of his W-2 to prove his point.) Childress feels that he was slowly wormed out of the company, a charge that Klein says he can't fully address. "I don't know what to tell you about that," says Klein, though he does entertain the possibility that Childress' pay was cut because after Barney left, no other productions followed for four months.
Just as quickly, though, he's back to the new rallying cry: "It's a new day at the studios."
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