Below the belt
Wow, "skunk stripe" and "bathroom throw rug"?
The Dallas Observer certainly is a hard-hitting news outlet. Hitting below the belt, that is. With the departure of Laura Miller, I expected the mean-spirited half-truths and personal attacks synonymous with her column to wane. Given the content of a recent issue of your paper [January 15], I see Ms. Miller's brand of journalism is alive and well.

I have grown accustomed to hearing of the regular potshots the Observer takes at me and my wife. Fortunately, this latest issue of your paper manages to leave my wife out of the fray. However, "Hizzoner" seems to be a favorite target of the Observer's personal attacks, attacks which I take so seriously, I choose not to address them.

Besides focusing on me, in this latest issue you also set your vicious sight on former Mayor Annette Strauss ["Picture imperfect"]. While Mayor Strauss certainly does not need me to come to her defense, I find your comments about her in your Buzz section highly offensive. I am not sure what substance your reporter was on when he had such a buzz, but I assume it contributed to his derogatory remarks.

You may disagree with someone's views or beliefs, but is it necessary to engage in such childish, playground-like tactics to make your point? Not only did you manage to make inappropriate comments about Mayor Strauss, but you also compared your own Laura Miller's wardrobe to that of a Nazi SS Officer. Given Mayor Strauss and Ms. Miller's heritage, it was a poor comparison. I certainly do not include myself as a regular reader of your paper; however, when I need a good laugh, I know where to look. Hearing of your articles helps keep me true to my real Indian Guide name, Laughing Bear.

Upcoming Events

If I were not such a gentleman, I would tell your paper where to go, but since I am, I will just say I look forward to more of your absurdly humorous statements.

Ron Kirk
Mayor of Dallas

I'll take Jerry
I recently came across the column "Balls" for the first time. I would like to comment on the article about Jerry Jones ["The madness of King Jerry," February 12].

It seems fashionable to lambaste Jones in every sports article and on all the talk radio shows in Dallas. His entry into the ownership of the Cowboys still leaves some people with the scars of the exit of Tom Landry, and to a lesser degree, Tex Schramm.

The vaunted experts of the written word and microphone snipe at Jones' every move without regard to the final outcome. Like the blind men in the fable, they can only realize a sliver of the picture but assault us great unwashed with their opinions as if it was being brought forth from the mountaintop--then they crawl back to whence they came if and when they are proven wrong, never acknowledging same.

The article in question points out the fabrications by Jerry Jones as if we, the readers, will somehow find this man distasteful and run him out of town on a rail. How dare he utter anything but the gospel when it pertains to our Cowboys.

The writer then discusses the coaches that are being interviewed as if he alone holds the key to the future of the Cowboys, and Jones, tin cup in hand, taps loudly along the sidewalk that is the NFL, deaf, dumb, and blind. Then he sums up his article by naming the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator as the logical choice for the job, but Jones will somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and hire someone else. Alas, the poor Cowboys and their fans.

The cloak of hubris with which the Dallas sports media shroud themselves reminds one of the fable "The Emperor's New Clothes." While they saunter down the boulevard, wrenching their shoulders out of the socket while patting themselves on the back, they're too busy to notice that their opinions are thin, at best.

The facts remain apparent to anyone that will look. Jimmy is gone, probably at his own request. Jerry is a major reason the Cowboys have won three championships over the last nine years. After all, he never balks at writing the check when it will help him win. And finally, do you remember Bum Bright?

Thanks, I'll take Jerry!
Michael Leath

Art for the masses
I want to thank the Observer for the article "Renoir Shmenoir" [February 5] admonishing the Kimbell Museum for pandering to the masses. I teach humanities at Richland College. One of the issues I emphasize to my students, most of whom have never seen the inside of a museum--never mind being able to tell the difference between a Manet and Monet--is the intellectual elitism that exists in the academic art community. Christine Biederman illustrates this perfectly with her fashionable cry against the mounting of an exhibit for people exactly like I teach: middle-class suburbanites.  

I love it when the Kimbell has a blockbuster show. It makes it that much easier to convince my students to make the trip to Fort Worth for their museum assignment. And now I have a ridiculously irrelevant article for them to use as a framework for their experience and the follow-up writing assignment that goes with it.

I find it wonderfully ironic that the paper that ostensibly writes for the downtrodden masses should get so upset when one of our crown jewels of culture reaches out to those masses with a very--or perhaps even too--accessible exhibit. Or is the Observer's position more related to its continuing need to differentiate itself from The Dallas Morning News?

Melinda Poss

Re: The February 12 letter from Camille King: "With all of the money in this town, we still have to drive out of town to see Monet or Renoir." A pleasant surprise awaits you: Monet, A Turning Point, featuring works spanning his entire career, will be on view at the Dallas Museum of Art March 29-May 17. And you won't have to leave town, Camille.

As for Valerie Brogan biting the hand that feeds her ["Deal of the arts," February 12]: Valerie, quityourbitchin'. The 500 Inc. plays by the Golden Rule: They have the gold; they make the rules. As for "having to supply" volunteers at Montage and ArtFest to man or woman (to be PC) the booths: She should consider it a privilege. At most other such festivals, exhibitors must pay for the privilege. I occasionally have worked these booths, and I'm not a member of 500 Inc. or any other arts organization. If Valerie Brogan doesn't like 500 Inc.'s rules, she doesn't have to join their game. Dallas' numerous theater companies have enough problems keeping afloat in these days of declining arts funding, so the last thing we need is a whining ingrate.

Rita Faye Smith

Money for the arts
Let me lay out my background (and possible prejudices). I serve on the boards of Undermain Theatre and the USA Film Festival, was formerly on the board of The 500, Inc. (I served one year as the funds distribution chairman--the person responsible for facilitating the grant process), and am a current member of The 500. From a beneficiary perspective, I have never resented the requirements of The 500.

The performance expectation is a great opportunity for us to build audiences. I don't think any arts group feels that their audience is too large; we welcome the exposure to people we might not otherwise see.

The 500's expectation of event support is different for each beneficiary. In my role as funds distribution chairman, I understood only too well that the resources of the USA Film Festival are different than those of the Undermain. We did not expect, and in fact discouraged, beneficiaries from spending their funds to send staff members to 500 events.

I do not find the grant application process onerous. I've prepared grant applications for private and government funders, and The 500's is far toward the easier end of the scale.

The 500, Inc.'s mission is not only to raise money for its beneficiaries but also to train its members to be leaders in Dallas' arts groups. In my role as liaison to beneficiaries and as a member of the 500 board, I learned many things that I hope make me more valuable in my current role as an active beneficiary board member. The liaisons from The 500 to our boards are appreciated; their exposure to different arts groups gives them a perspective that is invaluable to our boards. Many times the liaison is invited to become an active member of a beneficiary after his liaison role is completed.

The 500 Inc.'s funding process is very thorough (hence the credibility granted to The 500 beneficiaries) and democratic. A board (elected by The 500 members) does determine whether a group will be fully funded or receive a special grant. Once that determination is made, each member's vote carries exactly the same weight as another member's vote. A 500 board member is given no higher status than any other member.

In conclusion (and without any bitterness), each returning and prospective The 500, Inc. beneficiary should make an effort/benefit analysis. I know Undermain and the USA Film Festival have elected not to apply for grants from other organizations that will require more work than the grant justifies. If the 500's award doesn't merit the work, we should not apply for funding.  

Jim Nugent

Oprah con carne
Got home from Amarillo the other day and thought I'd give your paper a call--I wanted to see what you'd written ["Bull--it's what's for dinner," February 12]. For reasons I'm sure you understand, I am not a happy camper.

You treated me and my co-workers badly...and unfairly. We befriended you, let you hang with us when things were slow, and generally made you welcome. You turned around and lampooned us and our work. Pretty low.

I'm generally not a fan of stories where reporters are reduced to reporting on other reporters. Basically, though, I thought you weren't far off the mark to write about the borderline-carnival atmosphere surrounding the Oprah trial.

You, however, possibly in your zeal to flesh out your premise, misrepresented almost everything you witnessed while watching us. You clearly implied that FOX News made no effort to "get the story" from the ranchers' perspective aside from the light-hearted interview I did with a young woman who was dressed as a cow. Wrong. We did numerous interviews in town with ranchers and city officials long before we ran into you.

Regarding my performance in particular, you also badly misrepresented a portion of what I said on air. You distilled one of my live shots down to two sentences...and even they didn't appear on air as you wrote them.

I guess I'm most surprised (although I probably shouldn't be) that you treated us so poorly. In a setting where you could have found plenty to report on worthy of your talent, your paper, and the topic, you chose instead to skewer people who treated you well.

Next time you want to report on "bull," try doing so without feeling like you've got to produce some in the process.

Grant Rampy
FOX News Chicago Bureau

Now that the Constitutional protection against double jeopardy has been discarded by the courts, the Constitutional prohibition on lawsuits against a sitting President is history, and the Constitutional separation of church and state is under ferocious attack by storefront preachers, it doesn't surprise me that the First Amendment is headed for the trash can as well. What next? Are we going to repeal the amendment that ended Prohibition and bring back Eliot Ness? I am afraid to order a hamburger anymore. Who knows if some member of the Cattlemen's Association is not standing there taking down every word?

Be careful what you say about those guys. Who knows who they are going to sue next.

Via e-mail

Last chance
Thanks for printing the follow-up piece on TXI ["Bottom of the ninth," February 12]. I read your two previous articles and worried about the potential risks outlined in them, but didn't take the issue to heart until some people pounded on my door one night about four months ago. At first, I thought they were solicitors or the usual wackos looking for support. When I found out they were trying to raise public awareness about the toxicity levels of the emissions at TXI, and the licenses the company had petitioned for, I took it upon myself to write letters and encourage friends to contact our local representatives to ban the burning of toxic waste in such close proximity to my home.

Several of my friends have young children, and I myself have asthma, and I know the pollution in Dallas is already a problem without a cancerous soup going into our air, water, and land. After the recent revelations concerning cancer and low-level radiation being generated by a research facility on Long Island and the staggering effect it's had on their population, I don't want my area to fall prey to the greed of corporations that value dollars over human life. Let's stop the burning of toxic waste before we have to go on national TV and quote our own statistics of death, cancer, and illness to shut out TXI.

Lori Eaton
Via e-mail

Ashleigh, Ashleigh
So you are using Ashleigh and myself to try and get people to pick up your paper again [Buzz, February 19]. I didn't know that things had gotten that bad. I certainly would have thought that the HIV testing facilities would have provided enough revenue to float the Observer through another month or two.

I know you hate cover bands, especially mine, since we play in Deep Ellum and you seem to think that you can make or break a band in that part of town. Unless we were a tribute cover band, e.g., Hard Nights Day, you will always hate us. Your shortsightedness has made you overlook one important point, though--we get paid. No band, no business, no government can survive without money. The other clubs in Deep Ellum offer venues for all original bands to play, but the bands play to put money in the club owners' pockets. They finance their equipment and CD production costs by having other jobs, or sleeping with someone who does. Would you write for [Dallas Observer publisher] Lee Newquist for free then go get another job so that you could eat?  

Your article about us was also somewhat lopsided in the accuracy of reporting. I know that you came in during the first set from your description of the songs you heard. Well, by 11:30 Deep Drinks was full, as it is every Saturday night when we play there. You know why? Believe or not, when people go out they want to hear a band play something they are familiar with--even in Deep Ellum!

It is also interesting to note that you have never stayed long enough to hear the Haywires play any of our own music. Currently we have a CD out on the Internet at Audionet. It has been in the top 10 for months. As a writer, instructor, performer, and composer I am in contact with everyone from the Meadows family to the kids at the Granger Recreation Center in Garland. In my experienced opinion, Ashleigh Banfield is one of the finest people I have ever known. She is in a business full of sometimes egocentric people, yet I have never seen her once be anything other than sweet and friendly. Her compassion is as intense as her work ethic. She is an excellent band member who makes rehearsals, adds many good ideas for arrangements, and sings with power and emotion. Her beauty on the outside is matched by her beauty on the inside. It is my feeling that this is what makes her such an easy target for you.

It is my hope that you will continue your coverage of Ashleigh and myself, since such publicity would cost me a small fortune.

Tommy Hyatt
Via e-mail

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Now I understand why your reporting is most often wildly inaccurate (for proof check out how many corrections you ran in Street Beat this week). Your reporters miss obvious facts. The "nasty" letters you received after your recent slam of Ashleigh Banfield were in fact in support of both Ashleigh and Tommy Hyatt & the Haywires.

So, let's look at your article. You went to see the group at Deep Drinks on Valentine's Day, obviously catching the first set since the place was packed by 11:30 p.m. I would think, judging by how crowded restaurants were that night, that most people were out having romantic dinners earlier in the evening with their sweeties and friends. Was your reporter one of those lonely souls he/she took a swipe at in your article, not having a date that night? Also, the ad Deep Drinks was running said that live music wouldn't start until later in the evening.

Incontinence-inducing? Sounds like a personal problem your reporter should have checked out with a medical professional. Rather than print cute-sounding little phrases highlighted in bold text, why can't you print facts--or is that skill beyond your rudimentary tabloid training? Talk to the people that show up to see the band perform. Tommy & the Haywires play music that people enjoy. You can dance to it. You can sing with it. It's fun. Tommy is one of the best guitarists and performers in Texas. In 1996 he was inducted into the Buddy magazine Texas Tornados, an elite group of Texas' finest musicians. He has played and toured with some of the most successful musicians and performers in the world. Tommy and the band play some great original music too. His song "Easier Said Than Done" is incredible.

Next time, try to get your facts straight. Do a little research. Send an objective reporter who actually has some knowledge of music and who can appreciate a group that knows more than three chords.

Via e-mail

In the February 19 news story "Fee(ding) frenzy," the Dallas Observer incorrectly reported the amount of legal fees paid to lawyer Ted Steinke by the Dallas Independent School District. Steinke received $37,762 from DISD for work he performed on an internal fraud investigation, in addition to other matters. Also, information provided by DISD included some 1995 payments to lawyers that were mistakenly labeled as 1996 payments. We regret the errors.

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