By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"Steve was really into it," says Wilson, who just finished filming Super X Girlfriend with Uma Thurman in Austin. "It turned out better than I thought it would. He was really funny." Look for Wilson around town this fall when Dallas starts shooting (he's playing Bobby Ewing in the remake of the movie based on the TV show Dallas). Hey, if you're hoping for a celebrity sighting, just look for Stodghill.
Though his buddies make fun of Stodghill for his name-dropping and stories about what famous person he had lunch with last week, this "simple country lawyer" is living a life most people only dream about.
"Steve has always been somewhere great and done something wonderful," says Peri Gilpin, who grew up with Stodghill in East Dallas. "He loves to say in passing, 'Oh, did I tell you about this?' Steve lives big. I know people who have plenty of money to do things, and they don't do that. He's able to make things he wants to happen materialize. He loves films, so he's wound up being great friends with a great filmmaker. It's so Steve."
Gladwell calls connectors essential in modern life because they bring together people who would ordinarily never meet, and the nexus creates change. But why is Stodghill a connector and 99 percent of people are not? Nature or nurture: Are connectors born or made? Is connecting a skill that can be taught in a classroom?
Think about all those business books on success, leadership, the seven habits, the six "thinking hats" and love as "the killer app." Now think about the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," in which anyone in the world can be connected by six links to the ubiquitous actor.
Play another game: "The Stodge's Seven Secrets of Social Success."
Master it, and maybe next year you'll be having dinner with DeNiro at the Tribeca Film Festival, but first...
A glowering Batman, arms crossed, stands to the left of the door at the spectacular office many people in the pink Banc One building call the "Stodge Majal." Black cape rippling, muscles flexing, he's 6-foot-2 and built of heavy-duty plastic, a Dark Knight to die for--if you're a 15-year-old boy in 1975.
To the right of the door is a painting of Gotham City by Stanley Kaufman. Down the hall in the Fish & Richardson law office is a conference room filled with Stodghill's extensive collection of Batman memorabilia. The more than 300 toys, action figures, masks and general bat stuff have been known to give the opposing side the willies during depositions taken in the Batcave. Heck, it's given some of his partners pause.
To say Stodghill is obsessed with Bruce Wayne and his alter ego would be like saying Jerry Bruckheimer is obsessed with explosives. The comic books he loved as a child are ingrained in his nature.
Dallas Mavericks President and CEO Terdema Ussery saw that emerge when the Mavs were sued by a law firm soon after Cuban bought the team. "Steve is a very, very nice guy, but if you twist him the wrong way or challenge his clients legally and you don't do it with diplomacy, he can react in a way that can be pretty devastating to the other side," says Ussery, who calls him "Snoop Doggy Stodge" for his goofy impression of a dancing Michael Jackson. "I'll never forget the night he said to me, 'When I get pissed, I can be the most dangerous man on the planet, and tonight I'm the most dangerous man on the planet--just like Batman.' He was going through this whole thing about superheroes. It was pretty funny, except he was dead serious."
Stodghill's fascination with Batman can be traced back to his father, who gave him subscriptions to all the superhero comics when he was 5 years old.
"I always liked Batman best," Stodghill says. "He doesn't have any superpowers. He has to accomplish everything without the ability to fly or super strength."
When Stodghill and Tom Melsheimer, a former assistant U.S. attorney, joined the firm of Fish & Richardson, Stodghill bought a Kaufman painting of Superman and hung it outside the door to Melsheimer's office.
"I think he likes that particular character because he's a combination of guile, trickery and intelligence," Melsheimer says, "and he spends his days as a rich millionaire. Stodge can tell you more about the particulars of Batman's encounter with a particular villain than he could about Roe v. Wade. I've had people say it creeped them out. If you had a really delicate situation and a client was facing indictment, I'm not sure you'd want to tell them that in the Batcave."
Is it wise for a lawyer--entrusted with the serious business of clients who are often in deep doo-doo--to flaunt the superhero theme?
Maybe not, but it's memorable.
Batman had an unhappy youth, unlike Stodghill, which brings us to...
Married for 47 years, Pat and Don Stodghill still live in the Forest Hills neighborhood east of White Rock Lake, where they raised Steve and his younger sister Sheri.