Deconstructing Joe Bob
Before moving to Dallas this year, I read an old Calvin Trillin article for The New Yorker detailing Joe Bob Briggs/John Bloom's rise and fall in Dallas in the '80s.
Needless to say, I moved to Dallas anyway.

Since then I've read other Joe Bob articles and have found that they all (including Trillin's) follow the same basic trajectory as Jimmy Fowler's "Joe Bob In Bloom" [December 17]: Sagely, saintly nice-guy John Bloom wags his head--in shame or faux shame, it's never entirely certain--about the Joe Bob "phenomenon" while his contemporaries from his Texas Monthly glory days wag their heads in shame at their friend who once wrote wonderful non-fiction articles about snake-handling preachers and such.

In all these articles, Briggs/Bloom is seen as a two-headed creature that seems to perplex both its audience and the monster itself. However, in all the dissection of Joe Bob/John Bloom, has anyone ever stopped to consider that Bloom might be putting us all on, including himself? Despite his highbrow leanings, he's found a home disguised as Joe Bob in the decidedly lowbrow, irony-heavy "ain't cool unless it's crappy" pop culture of the '80s and '90s, turning a buck off celluloid detritus like I Spit On Your Grave while having plenty of writerly friends around to cite his true love of T.S. Eliot, thereby making him a "writer's writer" too.

Though Briggs/Bloom is a smart and funny man (no doubt very capable of writing very touching snake handler pieces), he can't have it both ways--whether he's a bigoted redneck or as a poker-of-fun at bigoted rednecks. Bloom ends up somewhere in between, wanting to please the bigots and the bigot haters. Because of this, his satire has become stale and formulaic and his love of "heavier" things seems tinged with insincerity. And worse, because of his love of fame, he's become an opportunistic money-chaser (albeit one who knows good poetry) who's watering down his "message" to find a cable TV audience.

Despite the furor and attention to his work, I would say that Bloom doesn't come close to being in the same circle of great American satirists such as H.L. Mencken or James Thurber, both smart, funny men who poked fun at things they hated but played straight with their audiences about their satirical intentions. Instead of these writers, I'd say John Bloom is more along the lines of, say, D.B. Cooper--they both took the money and disappeared.

Kevin Walters
Via e-mail

The crying reverend
Why is Robert Wilonsky so hard on me? I am just a local artist who is trying to feed my family. Sure, I may play concerts all over the United States and abroad, but I still like to think of myself as a local guy. I live in Dallas. I love Dallas.

In a recent issue of the Dallas Observer [Street Beat, December 17], Robert seemed to be dancing on my grave with the reports of Reverend Horton Heat getting "dropped." I long for the good old days when the Observer music writers were on the side of local artists instead of the big-business types at the major labels.

Robert called my album "filler." But if Robert could write at least one song as good as any of the songs on Space Heater, he could have his own silly band. Now that's a scary thought!

In the "Dude, you dropped" section of Street Beat, Robert starts with that "sources close to the band" stuff, and it makes me ask one question--why in the heck didn't he just call me on the phone to get the real story? It's not like I'm friggin' Cher or something! Instead, he writes falsities and insults.

Maybe Robert should think about shoring up some of those old journalistic abilities. He's not good enough to do his own job right, yet he can critique the job that I'm doing. It's people like Robert Wilonsky who love to destroy a good local music scene.

But I'm in good company. When Frank Sinatra died, Robert had this great idea. I could just hear him thinking, "Remember when I gave Frank Sinatra that bad review? Now that he died, let's run that same article about how much his last concert in Dallas sucked." Tasteful.

One night at Sol's Taco Lounge, Jeff Liles came up to me and said, "Robert Wilonsky just saw you come in the front door, so he quickly left out of the back." Well, Robert is not that stupid after all. So let it be known that when Robert Wilonsky loses his job, I will reflect and be a little sad. Because that is the kind of guy that I am. I'll save my dances for joyous times. And I'll be back reading the Dallas Observer.  

Jim "Reverend Horton Heat" Heath
Via e-mail

Editor's note: For more on Reverend Horton Heat, see "Homeward Sounds," starting on page 69.

East Dallas' rich squalor
Am I the only person in Dallas who believes that the disagreement between local residents of "heritage-rich" East Dallas, who oppose construction of a new supermarket in their neighborhood ["It's your store (like it or not)," November 19], is the silliest disagreement in recent memory? Rich heritage? What a laugh!

Old East Dallas is just that, an old, smarmy, and seedy hideout for illegals, drug addicts, street-corner boozers, and public urinaters. The entire area needs a good enema.

George Clayton

Foul balls
You hit the nail on the head with your "Free throwing up" article [Balls, December 10]. The NBA has been a disgrace for years. Luckily, I grew up watching Dr. J, Magic, Bird, The Iceman, and Isiah and got to see some real shit. Today's check-out-my-new-shoes commercial wannabes crack me up.

Tony Love
Via e-mail

Zac Crain's private life
Dear writer, whatever your name is, as I would rather forget it, after viewing the article on Depeche Mode [Music Listings, November 19], I can only think of the following: Your frustated tongue that screams out such unthoughtful words can only prove to me that your mind is totally closed to anything serious, elaborated, or complex. And while saying such, you deliberately say that those who are different are "delusional" (not forgetting that you are referring to about 30 million people), which makes me believe that you must have had a sad childhood. Either that, or you are not happy with your sex life.

I am sorry if Depeche Mode's sound and lyrics are too much for the small cells of your brain, but hey, you can talk about those kind of things with your girlfriend or something, but not in an article! You may relate facts, statistics, or information, but when you hate someone, keep it between you and your buddies. Now because of you, Depeche Mode's sales will maybe drop from 40 million to 39,999,999. But hey, I'll forgive you for that. Just don't do it again.

Via e-mail

Absolutely nauseating
I think your review of Meet Joe Black ["Death rattle," November 12] was absolutely maddening and revolting. Not one good thing was said about the movie. This review sounds like the author had his/her head shoved so far up his/her ass that they couldn't take the time to look at it from another point of view. I've been sitting at this computer for 10 minutes and read three bad reviews on Joe Black that are so terrible it makes me nauseous. I find more and more in movie reviews that the authors are either too thick-skulled to accept something different or maybe they just have their tie tied too tight.

I saw Joe Black this past Friday, and I do not believe it was slow or dull. I found it to be very good. Granted, movies these days are not all of the best quality, but that's what is good about the movie industry. Not every movie is the same as the last. Joe Black may not be an Armageddon or an Amistad, but it is a good movie. It's a love story, and a story about life and death. Next time you guys write a review about a movie like this, take the time to understand the movie.

Via e-mail

I was terribly disappointed by the review of American History X ["Don't know much about history," November 12]. I viewed this film with a Jewish friend of mine and we were both so moved that we didn't speak during the drive home. In the following hours, we discussed many issues that we never would have otherwise and were a lot more willing to accept alternate opinions as a result of the unabashed rage that was depicted in a very non-Hollywood manner. The purpose of these movies is to encourage communication of thoughts and feelings previously left untapped. I dare say that Pleasantville did none of those things. If you prefer the "light pop" of Pleasantville to a movie of substance, someone else ought to be reviewing the thought-provoking ones.

Kelly Feazell
Via e-mail

Out of Sync
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you too. I can't imagine having as much disgust in heart about a music group as Robert Wilonsky does for 'N Sync [Music Listings, December 24]. I'm 41, so I definitely don't fit the "flat-chested" fan profile. But I've seen them three times and have tickets to the December 30 concert. I love 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys, listen to their CDs, etc. Except for the screaming girls, their concerts are a blast. I've even met all the guys from 'N Sync, and they are the sweetest guys, down to earth, and totally pleasant.  

I won't argue your case about their talent, because what one person perceives as talent is simply a matter of opinion, and you know what they say about opinions. We all have them unless we're brain-dead. The 'N Sync Christmas CD is my holiday CD of choice. It's beautiful! It truly moves me, and I don't think there's anything more that you could ask of a holiday CD, do you? So Merry Christmas to you and yours. And I do mean that, even though I hated your review.

Carrie Berman
Via e-mail

Last week's cover story, "Blowing smoke," contains a significant error. The United Copper Industries plant in Denton expects to emit 260 pounds of lead per year, not tons. As noted in the article, United Copper's proposed emissions fall far below the limits established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. We apologize for the mistake.

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