By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
He was convicted in 1983 and sentenced to eight years in prison. The planned visits to the campuses of Rice, SMU and Angelo State, where football coaches were promising scholarships, never occurred. Instead of a college campus, Gary Faison's new home for the next 32 months was the Texas Department of Correction's Ferguson and Beto units.
Once paroled, he found rebuilding his life difficult. For a time he worked in a snack-food warehouse, then with a printing company and, finally, in the deli of a grocery store managed by his father. Briefly, he tried to revive his athletic career, joining a local semi-pro football team. Then, in the summer of 1988, he made a serendipitous phone call that would lead to a new start.
"I was a big fan of The Tom Joyner Show," he says. (Joyner's show was then on KKDA-FM, KKDA-AM's sister station.) "And I called in one day to answer a trivia question." Soon, he'd become acquainted with other on-air personalities such as Willis Johnson and Chris Arnold and re-established ties with an old kindergarten classmate, Aaron Michaels, who was doing a late-night show.
"One night," he says, "Willis invited me to go with him to Players, where he sometimes worked as a DJ." In short order, Faison, in his mid-20s and up to 250 pounds, was serving as Johnson's assistant and bodyguard at the clubs where he was hired to work. One evening, a waitress questioned his age, pointing out that he looked too young to admit. Surprised to learn that Faison had just turned 25, she remarked that his baby face made him look much younger. Faison thus adopted a new moniker that remains to this day. Tinkering a bit with the king's English and to distinguish himself from the well-known R&B singer Babyface, he assigned himself the nickname "Babyfase." Soon he was visiting the Grand Prairie studios of KKDA, spending evenings watching as old friend Michaels did his late-night show. "He began to teach me," Faison says, "and would occasionally let me talk on the air."
In time, Faison was hired to work at the station, and the two became a team. When he wasn't bombarding his audience with an endless string of jokes and music, he was out in the community doing street promotions, offering first callers and those who answered trivia questions correctly a free fill-up of gas, tickets to concerts or copies of the latest releases of popular black recording artists.
Former class clown and ex-con, Gary "Babyfase" Faison had found his niche. By the late '90s he was one of Dallas' better-known radio personalities, not only hosting a daily show and earning top dollar as a club DJ but so active in the black community that it had begun to win him praise and plaques from the NAACP and other civic organizations.
He was, by his own admission, living the dream, with money in his pocket, driving a new Z-28 with personalized plates ("Babyfase," naturally), rubbing elbows with entertainment celebrities and a constant target of women admirers who seemed not at all put off that his weight had ballooned to 320 pounds. Though unmarried, he was the father of two daughters and a son and maintained a close relationship with them and their mothers.
On a Saturday night in July 1998, Faison's bright star suddenly turned dark.
"I'd been invited to a party," he says, "and on the way home I had to take a leak. I'd recently had an appendectomy and had been drinking. I was in pain and needed to go pretty badly." He says he pulled into an apartment parking lot and ran across the street to a row of unlighted bushes where he planned to relieve himself. Almost immediately, however, the flashlight of a security guard was shining in his face and he was being ordered to lie on the ground. Two other guards soon arrived, one handcuffing him while another placed a call to Dallas police.
During a 45-minute wait, Faison learned from those detaining him that a woman living in a nearby apartment had been attacked just a week earlier by a man who had hit her with a barstool from her dining room. There was also talk of the series of break-ins and rapes that had occurred in the general vicinity. "I finally snapped on the fact they were thinking I might be the guy doing all that," Faison says.
When the police arrived, however, they immediately ordered that the handcuffs be removed. "One of the officers seemed a little irritated at the security guards, looking at me and then handing one of them a flier and asking if he'd read it," he remembers. On it, the suspected rapist was described as weighing between 180 and 200 pounds, a weight range the 6-foot-1 Faison hadn't enjoyed since his teen-age years.
Faison was released. Before returning to his car, he recalls, he shook hands with the security officers and police. "I told them I understood they were just doing their job and that there were no hard feelings," he recalls. Aside from receiving what he perceived as a few too many speeding tickets from them, Faison insists he had no negative feelings toward law enforcement in those days. In fact, he says, he'd been occasionally dating a woman lieutenant with the DPD tactical squad, even riding along with her on patrol now and then. In his billfold he carried an honorary deputy constable card that had been issued him from Dallas County Precinct 7.