Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Local wine publications haven't shown much resilience in Dallas. At least two upstart carcasses litter the landscape, testaments to the absurdity of attempting to translate Big D's thirst for cork-finished juice into an urge to read about it through a local lens. The Dallas Food & Wine Journal, a food-and-wine rag launched by entrepreneur Harvey Jury in 1995, lasted just two issues. Even the considerable heft of Belo couldn't get Dallas' sipper denizens to think local. The Dallas Morning News' quarterly insert magazine Wine and Food, launched in 1998, was scuttled after just a couple of issues.
So what makes former computer parts broker Paul Evans think he can conquer a market that has bloodied others with better armaments? Mental instability. "You have to be a crazy person to do this," says the 30-year old publisher of Vine Texas. "But you also have to be very passionate."
It's that passion--a term so often tossed around with respect to wine it has become as tiresome as road tar metaphors in tasting notes--Evans thinks will drive him to publishing success with Vine Texas, an upstart four-color glossy with wine personality profiles, reviews, beer and cigar jabber, as well as tips on wine acquisition.
So what? Aren't there enough glossies from New York packed with cherry-berry-leather-tar-tropical fruit-cream-grass-gooseberry notes of the latest bottlings? Sure. But Evans says Vine Texas is different. It's dedicated to the whims of the Texas wine enthusiast (the July/August issue even argues that those tasting descriptors are obsolete, as much of young America has never tasted raw fruit or unprocessed veggies--are Fruit Roll-Ups that pervasive?). "You're not going to see articles about wines that are hard to find in Texas," Evans insists. "We're not going to stick our noses in the air and brag about how we tasted this 1989 bottle of Petrus that you can't find except in some restaurant for $2,000."
Not that Vine Texas has a nose-in-the-air pedigree. Originally launched as Vine Dallas earlier this year, Vine Texas was dreamed up by Evans and entrepreneur Mike Whitaker after Evans lost his job as a sales manager at The Met following its purchase and erasure by Dallas Observer parent New Times in late 2000. Whitaker, publisher of the free Dallas nightlife/lifestyle magazine called The Link, brought Evans on to breathe some life into the rag.
But Evans says it was quickly obvious The Link was not long for this world. "The Link was very stressful, near the end, money-wise," he laments. "To tell you the truth, Mike and I both, we got sick of club and bar owners. They never pay on time, and when you're running a company off revenue from advertising, you have to rely on being paid."
So the pair sought to unearth a niche stocked not only with a panting audience, but also a cache of vendors willing to open their checkbooks. They decided to focus on wine because it was the preoccupation of several Link staffers. Evans and his cronies met with jeers. But they also had some cheerleaders among Dallas' restaurant heavies, including Al Biernat of Al Biernat's, Judd Fruia of Pappas Bros., Alessio Franceschetti (formerly of eccolo) and Efisio Farris of Arcodoro Pomodoro.
With virtually no seed money, Evans assembled a magazine prototype on the cheap and printed 1,000 copies, dispersing them to potential advertisers. "Next thing you know, I have people all over the place calling me," he boasts. "It was passed around like the plague."
Smitten by the interest the prototype generated, Evans and Whitaker shut down The Link last January after a two-year run and flushed all their energy into Vine Dallas, which turned out a January and a March issue. The original plan was to secure the Dallas market and then customize the magazine for other Texas markets, distributing titles such as Vine Houston and Vine Austin. But national advertisers balked at the move.
Vine Texas was the upshot. Evans and Whitaker pumped 80,000 copies of the first bimonthly (July/August) issue through a number of outlets, including Barnes & Noble, Winn-Dixie, Albertson's and selected fine wine shops. They hope to publish monthly by next summer.
Evans snickers when he thinks about all the people who told him he was crazy--or worse--for launching a Dallas wine magazine. "They said, 'If you have a third issue, I'll pat you on the back.' Well, pat me on the back. Number three has arrived."
It's no secret why KERA called Punch Drunk Comedy one of Dallas' best-kept secrets. The quartet of comedians serves up funny and unpredictable shows every Thursday for four to six weeks at the Home Bar off of Greenville Avenue. It also takes the revues--often centering around a theme and involving costumes, music and more--one step beyond during the final week of the show, when the members try to sabotage one another by improvising and changing their lines during "The Stunt Show." But even during a normal--we use the term loosely--show when they're relying on scripts, the audience never knows what will happen next.
You're taking your early-morning jog with your pet dog Old Blue and desperately searching your headset for some music to run by. Frustrated, you are willing to settle for anything other than the mindless prattle of two self-absorbed DJs who laugh at their own canned jokes as if they were entertaining someone other than themselves. You stumble onto WRR, the sole classical music station in town, and listen to Road Rage Remedy or the March of the Day and suddenly believe there is a God. Even the news becomes more tolerable, particularly as the cool, smooth voice of Valerie Moore hits the airwaves, her news stylings taking on a peculiarly sexy quality. It's just the news, you remind yourself, but with Valerie it's so much more. She knows just when to pause before she anoints the last word of a sentence, when to drop her voice an octave for just the right amount of primal ooziness before going to a commercial break. She seduces you to keep listening, just so you can hear her deliver the weather and traffic..."next."
OK, we've got bronzed cattle-drive re-creations, statues of hard-throwing Nolan Ryan, Texas Rangers, mustangs, et al. around town, but if it's real art by master craftsmen you want to see, the Oakland Cemetery, established in 1891, will blow you away. Elaborate memorial sculptures in granite and marble, some done as far away as Florence, Italy, are shipped here to stand guard over Dallas' Who's Who of yesteryear. The cemetery is open until sundown daily and offers not only a magnificent art exhibit but a fascinating visit to the city's history. Don't forget to take a camera.
With Dallas being home to more than 200 ethnic communities, Dallas International sees its mission as attempting to harness their cultural diversity by providing a forum to express the richness of their heritage and thereby create a better understanding of each group to the rest of the city. We think. Each year (generally in June) the organization produces the Dallas International Festival, spearheaded by Anne Marie Weiss-Armush. Regrettably, the festival had to make do this year as funding cuts forced it out of its digs at Fair Park and cramped it into the Majestic Theatre, where Dallas' finest global arts groups performed. The festival's International Bazaar has been rescheduled for November and relocated to the St. Mark's School of Texas at 10600 Preston Road. The food court alone will be worth the price of admission, which is free. Honorable mention: the martinis at Terilli's. Drink three of these and everyone will be your friend.
Too bad we don't have a category for Best-looking City Council Member so she could win twice. Dr. Elba, a dentist, wins this one because we have a very simple criterion: Does the council member do more or less what her constituents want? Garcia attacks her job obsessively as if every single constituent complaint were a dental cavity. She parked on the desk of the director of animal control until he agreed to go catch more dogs. Then she rode in the vans with the dog catchers to make sure they got it done. The Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce loves her because she fixed the huge mess with the Texas Theatre restoration. She got all the city's myriad Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis parades combined into one. And when the council shot down her idea of having the new Latino Cultural Center named for a brand of tequila (bad idea), she got funding instead from a dairy (good idea). So if she's so smart, what's she doing on the city council? District 1 just lucked out, we guess.
Just as the stand-up comedy boom of the 1980s was fizzling out, comedian Rob Becker began his research into the oddities of human behavior. Do women carry a shopping gene? Do men have a territorial imperative when it comes to the remote? Becker took what he learned and wrote Defending the Caveman, an insightful, enlightening and hilarious two-hour monologue explaining the anthropological reasons for the quirks that occur in the male-female dynamic. He tried out the show on the road in the early '90s, including a long stint at the Addison Improv, and ended up taking Caveman to Broadway. He's now performed it for more than 2 million people in the United States and Canada, and there are offshoot productions on the boards in Iceland and South Africa. Clearly, he's on to something with a universal message. With every syllable polished, Becker's show returned to Dallas this spring for a double run at the Majestic, where it played to sold-out houses of couples (mostly) who laughed till they cried and repeatedly jabbed each other in the rib cage, whispering, "He's talking about yewwwww!"
Besides the free parking and free admission, the African American Museum in Fair Park contains some really cool stuff about African American history in Dallas that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. One of the current displays contains artifacts from Freedman's Town, a black enclave in old Dallas that was buried under a freeway until some local black-history buffs banded together to keep the memory and the history alive. Artifacts include parts of caskets and children's toys. Besides that exhibit, which is ongoing, the nearly 30-year-old museum claims to have "one of the largest African-American folk art collections in the United States." The Fair Park building has four galleries, a research library and a theater.
It doesn't matter where you are, Sekt has been there. Street corners, drains, rain gutters and brick walls. Our very own building has been graced with the tag of the elusive being. We have to wonder, is that a name, a statement, some sort of slang or just a favorite word-cum-identity? We counted 100 "Sekts" in a quarter-mile walk to lunch and back. When does the tagging happen? Late nights we endured here and no sign of a person, yet in the morning new tags appear. One person we mentioned the urban phenomenon to saw a tag on an overpass coming from Fort Worth--now that's dedication, not to mention spare time. Dallas begs to know who is behind Sekt, group or person, fish or fowl. For the love of Mike, who the hell are you?! Even if we never know, we acknowledge Sekt for the stamina and misspelling that drove the short tag to conversation status.
Talk about commitment to one's art. For the title role in Barbette, a new biographical play by Bill Lengfelder and David Goodwin performed at Kitchen Dog Theater in June, Joey Steakley spent nearly a year learning the art of the trapeze and perfecting the moves of the "Spanish web," a balletic circus act on a rope 30 feet in the air. His performance as the Texas-born transvestite circus star involved not just perfecting aerial stunts but delicately depicting the young "Barbette" (real name Vander Clyde) as a dreamy farm boy in Round Rock, Texas, and his subsequent journey to musical hall stardom in drag and his stormy affair with a great poet in Paris in the 1920s. Steakley's fine, subtle acting in the physically demanding role--he did that rope ballet wearing little more than satin shorts, pasties and a blond wig--made the stuntwork even more breathtaking and affecting. For a young actor (he earned his degree in drama in May), fearlessness is as important as talent. Steakley has more of both than most actors of any age.
Owen and Luke Wilson, this year's Hollywood It-Boys, make it back home to Dallas pretty often, and when they do, they inevitably drop in (with their handsome 'rents) at this pricey but delish Park Cities Mexican spot. The country-club crowd this restaurant attracts (need the valet parkers for the Rollses, doncha know) generally ignores the Wilson clan and lets them eat their Barra de Navidad and Filete Cantinflas (two Javier's specialties) in peace. Some of us just enjoy feasting on the sight of the Wilsons in the flesh.
Unlike its crosstown cousin, not much of Dallas resembles the days of cattle drives or cowboys, and maybe that was the idea behind this popular public sculpture. The large herd of longhorns and cowboys, which promoters say is the "biggest outdoor sculpture of longhorns and cowboys in the world," is a most impressive sight. Plopped down in the middle of a bustling city near the convention center, the longhorns are gaudy and cool, like the city they represent.