Airing it out

By the time you read these words, some of you will have already wandered into a bookstore and skimmed through the pages of Jim Dent's new book, King of the Cowboys: The Life and Times of Jerry Jones.

You will have been so enthralled by Chapter 11 and its account of Jerry Jones' drunken womanizing that you surely will have plopped your butt down on the Barnes & Noble carpet to read more--about shady business deals, a caffeine addiction that leaves Jones wild-eyed even when he isn't drinking, and assorted other strange behaviors.

In short, this book's filled with fascinating stuff (notwithstanding News columnist Barry Horn's recent dismissal of all but Chapter 11 as old news).

But just as juicy as the book is the story of how Jones sought to sanitize its contents.

Jones would not speak directly to the Observer about the book or Dent's comments, though he did respond to some questions through his attorney. Jones has told other reporters (without getting specific) that there are inaccuracies in every chapter. But Jones' bizarre quest (as described by Dent) to purge damning material says something. You are free to determine just what.

It started in early June. That's when Jerry had his son Stephen, a Cowboys vice president, meet Dent in the parking lot of Prime Sports Radio, the national network based in Irving where Dent is an on-air personality.

"He said, 'Dad has to talk to you,'" recalls Dent. "Then he said, 'Think about how this is going to hurt my mother.'

"I told him, 'Your dad should have thought about that a long time ago.'"
About this time, Richard Cass, a prominent Washington, D.C., attorney with Wilmer, Cutler &Pickering who was representing Jones, had begun writing letters to Adams Publishing, the Boston publisher of the book, asking to review the manuscript before publication--a request Adams denied. In the letters, recalls Dent, Jones' attorney said the Cowboys owner was contemplating legal action because the book was full of errors. "At this time, no one had seen the book," said Dent. "They couldn't have known if it was full of errors.

"My publisher started sending me queries wanting to know how many sources I had on each thing. It was like a hundred questions at a time. Here I had just finished this book and you breathe this sigh of relief. Then they decided I needed to meet with Jones."

That's when things got really funny.
Jones had known Dent was writing the book for some time. The writer says Jones spoke to him for a total of more than 12 hours as the project proceeded.

But Jones' concern apparently began to mount last spring and early summer, when word filtered through the Valley Ranch grapevine that the book contained information on Jones' rather prolific social life.

Jones wanted to meet with Dent with lawyers present. Dent says his publisher vetoed the idea--but he preferred to meet with Jones anyway by himself, just man-to-man. On July 3, Dent said, he reached Jones in Florida. A meeting was set for July 6 in Dallas. Dent was insistent that the meeting not be at Valley Ranch, but on neutral turf.

"So he came to this building," says Dent, referring to Prime Sports' Las Colinas office. "His car was out there in the fire lane. He first said for me to follow him over [across the street to the Omni Mandalay Hotel]; he wanted to get his car out of the fire lane. Then he said, 'You're gonna drive.'

"Well, I drive an '85 Caprice Classic, wrecked, with a dent in the front. It's got McDonald's coffee cups all over the floor. It smelled bad. Newspapers all over the back. Typical inside-of-car like people in our business have. But he wants to go in my car."

Jones left his Cadillac with the valet attendant at the Omni, climbed into Dent's wreck, and they took off down the road. That's when the Cowboys owner showed him the tape recorder detector. "He shows it to me like he's proud of it," laughs Dent. "It had one of those little red lights on it, like a radar detector. I said, 'Well, let's try it out.'

"So I pulled a tape recorder out of my pocket, turned it on, and sure enough that light went off.

"Then he said, 'Now this is how we're gonna do this.' (And picture all this in Jerry's best snappy little, preachy country-boy voice.)

Jones asked him to name six places he'd want to go for this meeting. Dent named several bars, including TGI Friday's, Bennigans, Frijoles, and the bar at the Omni. Jerry was sitting in the collage of old coffee cups and yellowed sports sections, writing every choice down on a legal pad.

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Jennifer Briggs