By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
You would think that if someone were to build the world's largest zoo in Denton and announce plans to have it open this summer, the public would have noticed by now. It's hard to be stealthy when you're moving lions, tigers and elephants into a suburb. It's even harder when your "zoo" promises to include giant fish tanks and a huge domed habitat.
Of course, we're talking Denton County here, so let's be frank: Those people tend to be--and we're trying to be polite here--asleep at the switch. Don't believe Buzz? Check out Dallas Observer staffer Charles Siderius' story March 20 about how Texas Motor Speedway persuaded--again, being polite, we won't say "hustled"--Denton County commissioners to pay for a pricey, unnecessary freeway interchange. Or perhaps you remember a little parody this paper did in 1999 concerning a Denton judge's decision to jail a 13-year-old over a homework assignment. We made fun of the decision with a made-up story. Much hilarity ensued--followed by a lawsuit that's still going. Them folks up in Denton don't much like pranks.
So Buzz respects the huge huevos possessed by Arlington radio station KSCS (96.3), which late last month sent postcards out to Dallas-area media telling them that "The World's Biggest Zoo" was opening in Denton this summer. The card did not mention the radio station's name but listed the name of a public relations firm and a telephone number.
The card said there would be a "preview tour and press conference" for the zoo on April 8 and listed a Web site.
On Monday, the country station aired a segment in which a radio station employee did interviews about the zoo, the animals and the dome. Members of the station's listening audience believed it, a station spokesman says.
"People are driving around looking for it. Hotels are calling; Hilton called," Mark "Hawkeye" Louis says. "The University of North Texas, about five different people called from there wanting to establish some type of animal program."
Note to UNT: A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
On Tuesday, the station aired a segment featuring the zoo's media spokesman who said that gates had malfunctioned and that a giraffe had escaped and was near the freeway and baboons were on a golf course. (Aren't they always?) The station received calls from local newspapers and television, the Denton Record-Chronicle, the Denton County Sheriff's Office and a bunch of others, Louis says.
But there is no zoo, and there weren't any animals on the freeway or anyplace else. The zoo was "an elaborate April Fools' joke," Louis says in a message on his answering machine. He thanks everyone for being good sports.
"It got way out of hand. It was really a lot of fun, although I don't think that everybody in Denton thinks it's so funny."
Well, Buzz appreciates the joke, Hawkeye. In fact, we can even recommend a good lawyer--just in case the "good sports" up in Denton stop chuckling.