Used to, we immediately hooked up the iPod for the drive home. That was before Lone Star 92.5 came around, putting Redbeard back in our ears right where he should be. At afternoon drive time, 'Beard often nestles a little nugget of the past in with his mix of outlaw country and bluesy rock in the form of what we like to call a flashback interview. Before launching into an iconic single, he'll play a snippet of some dialogue he shared years, sometimes decades, ago with musical legends. We were surprisingly enthralled by ZZ Top and then honestly teary, thanks to some time with George Harrison circa Traveling Wilburys days. Then there've been Clapton, Petty, Stevie Ray and more. It's something you don't hear much from newer DJs these days—the desire to educate audiences on where the good stuff came from and how legendary songs came about. Just like the best teachers, Redbeard makes history come to life...or back to life, every once in a while.
Opera's loss is musical theater's gain with this super-talented 32-year-old thesp. The Oak Cliff native and Arts Magnet High School grad headed off to the Eastman School of Music hoping one day to sing Othello at The Met. "But opera was too restrictive for me," says Cedric Neal, now one of Dallas theater's busiest singer-dancer-actors. He most recently starred in Uptown Players' hit tick, tick...BOOM! (by the composer of Rent) and in WaterTower Theatre's Brief History of White Music. Since making his local debut in Uptown's The Life in 2003, Neal hasn't stopped working. And when he's not singing his heart out, he's in church. Oak Cliff's Inspiring Body of Christ Church, to be precise. This spirited actor says he has three dream roles in his musical future: Tony in West Side Story, Fiyero in Wicked and one of the puppets in Avenue Q. Glad this guy likes to sing for his supper.
Beauty pageant pretty Cara Serber, 33, played against type last season by faking a space between her perfect teeth, putting on a gee-haw accent and yukking it up as one of the trashy leads in WaterTower Theatre's Great American Trailer Park Musical (a role she's currently reprising at the Addison playhouse through October 21). The tall blonde then vamped it up as the big-boobed Sharon Tate role in Uptown's adaptation of the pill-popping kitsch musical Valley of the Dolls. Singing Sondheim for Into the Woods or shaking her tail feathers as one of the down-home tarts in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Serber is hot stuff with both the music and the comedy. Offstage she's a North Dallas wife and mother of a Serber baby. Some of her neighbors, she says, never even knew she played the title role of a cheerleader-turned-porn-star in Kitchen Dog's production of the musical spoof Debbie Does Dallas. That's the life of an actress: Here today, whore tomorrow.
For some reason, the city of Allen has this weird idea that suburban people like trees, rivers, parks and walking trails. Rather than letting developers tear down any tree in their path in the name of one more knockoff subdivision with no personality or soul, the city of Allen has carved out large chunks of natural Texas land and reserved it for parks and trails. This trail is hard to find, but it's worth it. It's just off Alma and Rollins, down a paved bike path. Head in the direction of the trees, and not the overpass, and you'll find it. Once you do, there's no mistaking where you are. You're in the middle of a true Texas forest. The Trail at the Woods is nicely marked, and the actual trail is level and well-maintained. There are 10 trails in all, some of which overlook the Trinity River. Along the trails there are also little stands with information on the types of trees and wildlife that live in the forest. Look around, you might see a squirrel, a cardinal or maybe even a deer. There's no better place in the metroplex to forget that you live in a suburban wasteland.
Some playwrights want to be the next Chekhov or Albee. Matt Lyle, 29, just wants to be the guy who writes the plays that make you laugh out loud. He's been doing that for the past few years in his role as resident playwright and founding artistic director of tiny Bootstraps Comedy Theater. With actress-wife Kim as his muse, Lyle experiments with styles and subjects in his writing. Sunny & Eddie Sitting in a Tree, which premiered at the Festival of Independent Theatres in 2006, was a Woody Allen-style farce about neurotics who meet in their therapist's office. Then, inspired by the early films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, he pounded out The Boxer, an homage to the precisely choreographed physical comedy bits of the great silents. An audience fave at this year's FIT, the dialogue-free play starred Kim as a Chaplinesque heroine in baggy pants. In 40 minutes of wordless storytelling, The Boxer turned snickers into guffaws into knee-pounding belly laughs and left audiences ga-ga with admiration for Lyle's talent as a writer of a comedy that felt both classic and fresh. A day job at Dallas Children's Theater keeps Lyle's rent paid. And maybe it also keeps the kid in him from growing up and getting serious too soon.
When Dallas theaters schedule coinciding opening nights, as they frequently do, Uptown Players' wily producers know critics and in-the-know theatergoers will be in their seats at the KD Studio Theatre not just for the newest Uptown play but for the cuisine after the curtain calls. Free for opening nighters, Uptown's lavish buffet of hot hors d'oeuvres and champagne punch is a big part of the fun at this gay-themed theater company. Silver Tray Catering (www.silvertraycatering.com) provides the meatballs, tiny beef Wellingtons, sushi bites and other finger foods. Delicious Cakes (www.deliciouscakes.com) comes up with a wondrous, buttercream-frosted pastry themed to every new show. Ask any Uptown opening nighter why they're not at Contemporary for that house's premiere performance instead and the answer always comes up "Cake!" When the actors make their appearances at the Uptown party, their audience is already well-fed and half-sloshed. We'd applaud Uptown's good taste in goodies, but our hands are full of chicken kebabs and mini-quiches.
Lee Harvey's
Back when Lee Harvey's first opened, we loved the yard but couldn't stand the bathroom situation. With only a one-holer for both sexes, our beer-laden bladders just couldn't take it—that is until someone hipped us to the bar's side trough, where men are men and the lines are nonexistent. The trough also affords chances for some primo pee-talk, most of it consisting of things like "Man, this bar is awesome," "Man, ain't Texas great?" and "Man, I'm so glad I'm not a chick."
The Big Thicket Recreation Building, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, is a classic example of "WPA Rustic" architecture, made of natural materials and designed to meld handsomely into a natural setting. It was in pretty tough shape a few years ago when Home Depot and the all-volunteer Friends of the Lake took on the task of restoring it. They replaced a wrap-around porch and persuaded the grandson of the original artisan to come back and replace the light fixtures, among other tasks. This year the building won an award from Preservation Texas. You can rent it for about 60 bucks an hour by calling the number above. Holds about 50 people. Great place for a party.
Iron Cactus
This downtown rooftop is a must for anyone who enjoys fresh air and quality tequila. As the business day winds down in the summertime, the bar fills and the Herradura starts to flow in time with the large fountain near the stairwell. The place has more than 80 types of Mexican tequila. To sample it, order the tequila flight, three half-ounce glasses of silver, reposado and anejo. The names are as rich as the tastes: Cabo Wabo, El Conquistador, Corazon, Don Julio. And if you're not up for the straight shots, there's a wide selection of margaritas. They've got all the usual fruity varieties, but our favorite is the Cactus Juice, with Midori melon liqueur and blue curacao. Just watch your step on the way down the stairs at the end of the evening.
Ridgewood Splash Park is one of the few public places in Dallas (besides your garden hose) to cool off for free. True, you can't practice your backstroke, but you also don't have to worry about your kids wandering off and drowning, or teenagers doing annoying cannonballs onto your head. Though the park is obviously geared toward kiddos, we saw several adults enjoying the cooling ground and arch sprays while their tots frolicked nearby. An adjacent playground and covered pavilion with picnic tables offer shade and entertainment for kids who don't want to get wet. But honestly, what kid doesn't want to get wet? Stake out your party table early (the park opens at 10 a.m. May through September) as the park can get crowded in the hot midday hours.

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