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Moira Dobbs (second from left) swims with a pod of mermaids (Virginia Cox, Melanie Hancock and Ashton Larson) at the Adventure Scuba and Snorkeling Center in Plano.EXPAND
Moira Dobbs (second from left) swims with a pod of mermaids (Virginia Cox, Melanie Hancock and Ashton Larson) at the Adventure Scuba and Snorkeling Center in Plano.
Can Turkyilmaz

Dallas' 10 Most Fascinating People 2017

It takes all kinds, and if we've learned anything this year, it's that Dallas has them. The Observer published a lot of profiles in 2017, and in them you'll meet everyone from mermaids to sheriffs to movie producers. Here are 10 of the most interesting people we talked to.

The Cowboys of the Texas Gay Rodeo
The Observer's Rachel Williams spent an evening at the Round-Up with the gentlemen of the Texas Gay Rodeo in March, and they had a lot of juicy things to say about their chosen profession. Jim “Stella Mae Stardust” Gadient, a former interior designer from Chicago who got involved with the rodeo through an ex-boyfriend, said he owns more than 400 pairs of spurs and 60 pairs of cowboy boots. “I have a big-ass closet," he said.

Krys Boyd's radio talk show Think expanded to markets across Texas in 2017.
Krys Boyd's radio talk show Think expanded to markets across Texas in 2017.
Danny Gallagher

Krys Boyd
This year KERA's popular radio program Think began airing outside North Texas. Now you can hear the show's host of 10 years, Krys Boyd, interview scientists, politicians, authors and celebrities all across the Lone Star State. We spoke with Boyd in January about the transition, how she selects her guests and how she prepares for interviews. "If it’s a book, sometimes I might put 50 sticky notes in it and sometimes I might put 150," she said.

Scott Polikov
One of the biggest changes affecting life in DFW in the last few years is the redevelopment of historic main streets in Dallas' many suburbs. Charming, walkable main streets full of boutique shops and restaurants helped McKinney make it to the top of Money Magazine's list of best places to live in the U.S.

Scott Polikov, an attorney turned urban planner, is one of the key people behind redevelopment in McKinney, Duncanville and Roanoke. “I became a student quickly of the disconnect between our investments in transportation and place-making," he told us in November. "I just knew that was my calling."

Moira Dobbs (pictured at top)
Mermaids aren't a myth anymore; Moira Dobbs makes a living as one. She's the director of the mermaid school at Adventure Scuba and Snorkeling Center in Plano, the only such school in the country that operates year-round. Dobbs, a former ballerina who bought her first fin on Etsy, trains children and adult on the ways of the mermaid. Some adults travel from as far as Washington, D.C., to take her classes.

Dallas Sonnier holds a corpse prop from Puppet Master. Tate Steinsiek, who worked on The Amazing Spider-Man, designed it.EXPAND
Dallas Sonnier holds a corpse prop from Puppet Master. Tate Steinsiek, who worked on The Amazing Spider-Man, designed it.
Kathy Tran

Dallas Sonnier
The founder, president and CEO of Dallas' new entertainment company accomplished much in 2017. Cinestate filmed Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich; released Brawl in Cell Block 99, starring Vince Vaughn, to great reviews; filmed a second film with Vaughn (and Mel Gibson); and put out its first book, Hug Chickenpenny, and attached Jim Henson's company and Vaughn to the movie version. The Observer had a frontrow seat to the action, even making set visits on Puppet Master, and got to hear a lot about Sonnier's ambitious vision this year.

Joanie Schultz loved WaterTower Theatre's tradition of producing edgy family dramas and musicals, so she's rolling with more of that for the 2017-18 season.
Joanie Schultz loved WaterTower Theatre's tradition of producing edgy family dramas and musicals, so she's rolling with more of that for the 2017-18 season.
Joe Mazza

Joanie Schultz
This year, WaterTower Theatre got a savvy new artistic director in the form of Joanie Schultz of Chicago. Schultz has already made some bold choices. The first play she chose to direct was Hit the Wall, Chicago playwright Ike Holter’s 2013 play about the Stonewall Riots.

"If every play you do is not life-changing, then you’re doing it wrong," Schultz said. "I don’t know why you would do a play otherwise.”

Schultz is also impacting the local theater community in other ways. She has been a leading light in the conversation about sexual harassment in the theater. She helped arrange for a town hall meeting on the subject at Arts Mission Oak Cliff earlier this month.

Hector Rodriguez draws in his studio in McKinney.EXPAND
Hector Rodriguez draws in his studio in McKinney.
Can Turkyilmaz

Hector Rodriguez
We met local artist Hector Rodriguez this year as part of a feature on Latino comic book artists who are giving a voice to the unique experiences of Dallas' immigrant population. Rodriguez began writing El Peso Hero, about a "big belt-buckled, bulletproof freedom fighter who uses his superhuman powers to protect Mexican laborers and families" in 2011, and he's sold thousands of copies out of his publishing house in McKinney.

Rodriguez is also a teacher, and that's the source of his inspiration. Once, a student approached him crying because his father had been deported. "He’s crying and that kind of hit me,” Rodriguez said.

Kitty Carter
One of the largest personalities we encountered this year was Kitty Carter. She's a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and a dance studio owner who's known to fans of CMT's Making the Team as the harsh instructor who whips Cowboys cheerleader hopefuls into shape.

The Observer's Paige Skinner sat in on one of her classes this year. “I always say to put on a thong and bra and shake in front of the mirror. And anything that shakes, get rid of it," Carter said.

Parnell McNamara (left) says he was impressed by Jeff Bridges' (right) thoughtfulness when he called him to offer condolences for the death of his brother.EXPAND
Parnell McNamara (left) says he was impressed by Jeff Bridges' (right) thoughtfulness when he called him to offer condolences for the death of his brother.
Courtesy Parnell McNamara

Parnell McNamara
A Waco sheriff had his brush with celebrity this year when Jeff Bridges played him on the big screen. Hell or High Water is about bank-robbing brothers and a pair of Texas Rangers who try to stop them. McNamara helped Bridges prepare for the role, which won him an Oscar nomination.

“At the end of the movie, if you’ll notice, he’s already retired, he’s fixing to go talk to one of the bank robbers, the surviving brother, and he undoes his shirt and he sticks his gun in there, and I’m sitting there watching the movie, and I’m telling my wife, ‘My gosh, that’s exactly where I told him to keep the gun,’” McNamara said.

The Black family (from back): Cassandra, Carol, Paul and Carly.
The Black family (from back): Cassandra, Carol, Paul and Carly.
Daniel Driensky

The Black Family
We fell in love with the family-owned photography shop Photographique this year. At Photographique, customers can have prints made, develop film or rent a dark room, but what sets the Blacks' business apart — and allowed it to stay open as film became less popular — is their skill at photo restoration.

Sometimes customers start crying when they see the results. “It’s kind of overwhelming when you feel like you have an idea of what this image looks like in your mind and you give it to us to restore, and you get it back and it’s just completely changed and restored to what you never even thought was there; it’s pretty amazing,” Cassandra Black said.

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