By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It looked great: With beautiful tigerwood floors and a new bar, the room, when it opened in April 2009, was an impressive space for intimate performances. And, in an inspired move, Tapia was able to convince revered local singer-songwriter and producer Salim Nourallah to book the space.
Nourallah was sold on the idea—not just for the Listening Room, but for the remodel as a whole.
"His idea for remodeling Dada was badass," Nourallah says. "When he told me about it, I saw it right away. And it would've been incredible."
Others, though, weren't so sure if the changes were necessary. Among that crowd: Members of Dada's own staff and a handful of its Elm Street neighbors.
"I was against it from the start," says Frank Campagna, who has owned the Kettle Art gallery space next to Dada since 2005. "It was mostly because I knew he couldn't afford to do it. The place needs a real good cleaning and refurbishing. But, as far as the layout it already had, it was fine."
Shortly after the Listening Room's completion, Dada would face more trouble from authorities—this time from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission—and the money spent on the room, Baker says, surely would've helped.
As for the naysayers among the Dada staff, Tapia believes their opinion is part of what eventually doomed the club. He says he had a whole slew of potential investors—including a potential silent partner who showed up at the club one night to check out the place and meet with Tapia to discuss the possibilities.
"You know what fucked me the hardest?" Tapia asks rhetorically. "My next-door neighbor and my doorman were so freaked out by the moves I was making that when I finally had the investor with deep pockets come in and see that my idea would work, [they] stopped him at the door to check his ID—when he's 48 years old—and he had to listen to their conversation about me."
Unsurprisingly, the investor then asked Tapia for more time to consider the deal.
"And in that time," Tapia says, "shit collapses."
"There just wasn't enough time," Nourallah says. "But Ben was doing the doggie paddle. Everyone knows that."
Indeed he was. Tapia's employees were quickly jumping ship—among them bar manager Wes Garratt, a key contributor to making sure that Dada's bar was being managed properly, something Tapia admittedly had little experience with.
Couple that fact with the lack of big shows, and even Tapia says he started to realize that the club's future was doomed. It didn't help, he says, that those who cheered his efforts to revitalize the club weren't showing to support it.
"I realized that the Dallas music scene wasn't supporting the Dallas music scene," Tapia says. "Think of how many people played there and never supported the place. The 35- to 49-year-olds would say, 'I love Club Dada, blah blah blah.' That's great."
But did they do anything to act on it? Tapia says they didn't. It was a pain, he says, to get Hard Night's Day to commit for a show—even when Cummins was still a partial owner.
"Deep Ellum is definitely suffering," Tapia says. "There's no denying that. And it's not only Club Dada. It's Deep Ellum. But there's not a lot of people who give a fuck. And there's not enough people who give a fuck. And the people who do give a fuck? Y'know, they can go fuck themselves. Because it's all words and no action. That 'Save Deep Ellum!' bullshit? It's more like, 'Hey, let's go to Kettle Art and have a slideshow of what was!' Respect your history, fine. But let's fucking make history."
It was Tapia against the world, far as he was concerned. Even visually, Tapia began to look defeated.
Drug abuse accusations started running rampant. Tapia was becoming more and more difficult to track down—for employees, for booking agents, for everyone.
"I'm a very extreme person," Tapia says. "I'm human. I've done stupid things, and I've done great things. There are things I'm proud of and things I'm ashamed of. As far as me going over the edge? Yeah, I'm extreme. I wouldn't say that I had a drug problem. And it's not a problem because I can get drugs anytime I want. The problem there lies in whether I want to do them or not.
"It's not an everyday thing. When you're working the days and hours that I have, if I decide to do them, I'll do them. Everybody and anybody, if you're in this business, unless you're in a Christian band or Barry fucking Manilow, you do drugs. It's part of the game. And if you don't do drugs, hopefully you can play guitar like Angus Young and you don't need them. I drink two to four nights a week. But I'm a binger. If I'm gonna drink, I'm gonna drink to get drunk. If I'm gonna do a line of coke, I'm gonna do it until I don't have anymore. If I smoke a joint, I'm gonna smoke until I can't get any higher. But it's not a problem."