Un-chartered Territory

Plus: Coming Attractions; Torah, Torah, Torah!

Blackwood insists that her petition campaign is exactly and only what she says it is--an effort by a total outsider to do something about the stalemate at Dallas City Hall.

"This was something my husband and I talked about a year ago in the context of 'Surely there is some way to get this issue on the ballot without going through City Council.'

"We went and looked it up and found out that it's a 20,000-signature requirement."

Attorney Beth Ann Blackwood
Mark Graham
Attorney Beth Ann Blackwood

City staff began verifying signatures on the petitions this week. If the 30,000 submitted signatures include at least 20,000 good ones, the Blackwood proposal goes on the ballot next May.

And she and her husband didn't even have to go into executive session or have a food fight, that we know of, in order to get it done. --Jim Schutze

Torah, Torah, Torah!

What Does The Torah say about abortion? Adoption? What does the Torah say about the age of the earth? A harder question to answer: Is there a market for an orthodox rabbi and an ordinary Jewish guy to discuss on the radio what the Torah says about contemporary issues?

This Sunday at 5 p.m. marks the fourth broadcast of Damon and the Rabbi on KSKY-660AM, a conservative talk radio station based in Dallas.

"We're just trying to take contemporary issues and see what the Torah might say about them," says Damon Oran. "I believe the Torah can provide a moral compass to anybody."

Oran, a Dallas businessman, teaches Sunday school at Temple Shalom. Orthodox Rabbi Shimshon Silkin, a 30-year-old English scholar who moved to the United States in 2000, is educational director of the Dallas Area Torah Association.

As the adopted son of the late Jack Oran, a Holocaust survivor and castrated victim of the notorious Auschwitz officer Dr. Josef Mengele, Oran's childhood was dominated by his father's mental and emotional scars. He co-founded the Second Generation Holocaust Survivors Group of Dallas.

Oran and Rabbi Silkin got the idea for the show about nine months ago. By Torah, they mean first five books of the Bible, the Tanakh (the rest of the Old Testament), the Talmud, or "oral Torah," and other Jewish writings.

The two sold veteran radio producer Michael Spears on the idea. He warned the odd couple that it might take time to find an audience, but calls began lighting up the boards during the first few shows.

"There's really not much live radio of this type," Spears says. "I think it has a good chance of making it on the national basis."

It will take four or five months to know whether the show can make it in the competitive national market. The scholarly but feisty tone suggests the show fills a unique niche. "I wanted to call the show The Rabbi and the Schmuck," Oran says, "but I was over-ruled." --Glenna Whitley

Coming Attractions

An elderly man stands silhouetted by bright sunlight in the open doors of the Inwood theater. The lobby is empty, stripped down to the bone, with wires dangling from the ceiling and shattered bits of tile strewn across the worn carpet. Outside, the marquee promises that within a few weeks "an improved Inwood" will reopen. The man, nonetheless, is undeterred. "Are they showing movies here?" he asks the tall Australian standing amid the rubble the day after Thanksgiving. "Not till January," says Tearlach Hutcheson, director of development for the Landmark Theatres chain, which counts the Inwood among its 57 theaters across the country. Hutcheson's guest, though, cannot help but rib him: Man, this place was such a dump that old man couldn't tell the difference. Hutcheson, whose first job in the movie business was managing the Inwood in 1997, isn't entirely amused.

For years, the former management at Landmark promised it was going to renovate the crumbling Inwood, built in 1947 and apparently retouched last in 1948. But it took the purchasing of Landmark last year by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban to actually get things done. The project is extensive: There will be a brand-new concession stand, expanded bathrooms downstairs, a restoration of the murals and light fixtures, a door connecting the Lounge to the theater lobby (which means you can now take booze into the screening rooms) and other major touch-ups. "It's a dramatic overhaul," Hutcheson says. "The Inwood's going to get the tender, loving care it's needed for a long time."

For a year, rumors have circulated that Landmark's former L.A. bosses were going to shut down the Inwood; now, with local owners and a local president (Bill Banowsky), it looks to become the centerpiece in the chain. If this redo lures back moviegoers who've drifted to the Angelika or even Landmark's Magnolia, the chain could use the Inwood overhaul as a template for future renovations across the country. "When I started at the Inwood, most theaters that showed independent films were old theaters," says Hutcheson, who also oversaw the construction of the ultra-modern Magnolia. "But if this works, we will look at a lot of theaters to see which ones could benefit from a face-lift." --Robert Wilonsky

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