By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Ten years ago, Eduardo Greene had the world by the tux tails. His restaurants, Eduardo's Aca y Alla and Cayuse, were hot--veritable petri dishes of buzz, the stuff Dallas craves almost more than money. He had scores of devoted fans, smitten by his savoir-faire and fierce sincerity. Eduardo's was a Dallas darling, drawing everyone from Mick Jagger to Harry Connick Jr. to fashion designer Oscar de la Renta. His presence siphoned women, who attracted men and drew money that tugged the city's moguls and politicians into his orbit. "He was one of the few guys who could still kiss a woman's hand and not be gross about it," says Dallas restaurant/club operator Shannon Wynne.
But inside Greene was a mess. He was haunted by dissonance between the man he was on the outside and the woman he felt himself to be on the inside. The discord reached its peak in 1993, following the death of his father, a brush with mortality that placed him at a crossroads. Just afterward, he had a dream. In the dream Eduardo saw himself as a 6-year-old boy playing in the back yard of his childhood home in Mexico City. The grown Eduardo was screaming at the boy, begging him to come into the house and talk to him, to tell him what happened and why. The boy smiled and didn't answer.
Like a ghost the boy passed through a windowpane and into the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and struggled to pour himself a glass of water. The boy was silent. He sipped the water, and just as he turned to leave through the pane, the boy said to the grown Eduardo: "You're not quite ready. I will come back and talk to you sometime and let you know why."
This simple dream opened a door for Eduardo and drove a stake through him at the same time. He began to annihilate himself. The first discard was Cayuse, his kitschy cowboy restaurant that opened in early 1993 on Oak Lawn Avenue. It couldn't generate the cash to match the buzz. "Cayuse was just too grand," Greene boasts. "It was witty, and it was before steak hit it big. We were the toast of the town." Now it was toast.
Then in August 1993, the 37-year-old Greene surrendered his restaurant Eduardo's to his wife, severed his marriage and found himself shuttling down the freeway with $60 in his pocket, driving with no destination in mind. There were two things he was sure of, though: His Eduardo persona must be extinguished, and he could never return to Dallas.
Twenty minutes into his escape he panicked. It suddenly hit him that he was in transitory limbo, and he was slapped by the terror of non-personhood. He didn't have a bank account, a Social Security number or a drivers license to indicate he was anyone other than Eduardo Greene.
He pulled up to a gas station phone booth and called a crisis line. That call steered him to Fort Worth and Barbara, a woman who, like Greene, was transgendered. Barbara provided Eduardo with shelter and personal support, but she would soon meet a tragic end. Over the next few months Greene suffered not only the anguish of this personal upheaval, he was faced with an unexpected series of events that abruptly swept him back into Dallas, a city he believed he could never stick his toe in again. Yet once he regained his footing, Greene cemented his identity as Monica and grew to become the city's grandest hostess. In 2001 and again this year, her peers named her the city's best restaurateur in a D magazine poll--this in a city generally known for its crusty conservatism.
But Eduardo's was suffering. Greene attributes the decline to a combination of factors, namely a sinking economy and unrest infecting Deep Ellum. Frankie Jimenez, who was a bartender at Eduardo's at the time, adds another factor: the inexperience of Maggie Felicetti, Eduardo's ex-wife and the woman to whom he gave the restaurant reins when he left Dallas.
Greene says Felicetti confronted her with a tricky question: How would you like to take the restaurant back? "I thought it was a bad idea," Greene says. "I just did not want to come back to Dallas and face what I had to face. My intention initially was to just disappear." This disappearance would spare her the "words and innuendo flying around" about her gender swap.
But the fate of Eduardo's pressed. Three partners--Felicetti, Felicetti's previous ex-husband and the restaurant's landlord, Lou Reese--wanted out. But dealing with these defections meant Greene would have to confront another detail she dreaded: facing her restaurant staff in a skirt and heels.