Frisk David Quadrini for his hidden stash of sleaze or schmooze, and you'll come up empty-handed. He's a dealer, all right, but strictly legit, and he couldn't make a blatant sales pitch to save his life. Quadrini deals in high-concept art, and he's part idea-monger, part talent scout, part visionary and part mentor to visual artists. Mostly, he's an influence peddler in the art universe. He may be centered in Dallas, but he moves easily in and out of rippling, concentric circles of artists, art patrons, art collectors, art scholars and art fans from Australia to Europe and back again.

Quadrini owns and operates Angstrom Gallery, an art-filled anchor to a wedge-shaped strip of historic storefronts at the intersection of Exposition and Parry avenues. He chose the name in deference to science--the angstrom is the smallest unit of measurement in theoretical physics. "I'm really interested in the similarity between science and art," Quadrini says. "Most of the great scientists of the 20th century had intuitive minds." Fresh out of the University of North Texas with a bachelor of fine arts in painting and drawing, Quadrini tested his idea and opened the gallery in 1996. Like all solid science and most conceptual art, it began as an experiment. "I didn't want to own a gallery," Quadrini says. "I was headed to Cal Arts for graduate school, and I was looking for something to keep my sanity until then." On a whim, he signed a six-month lease at 3609 Parry Ave. and slammed some paintings on the bare white walls.

At the time, he says, it was hard to find anything exciting in Dallas galleries. "I looked for what wasn't being shown for Angstrom," Quadrini says. "Every show was really for my benefit. I found great artists who weren't being shown but who were making the stuff I wanted to see and live with." Everything Angstrom showed sold well from the start, and was favorably reviewed in art media, so Quadrini says he renewed his lease for another six months. "I've made a career in six-month increments," he says.

Over the past six years, Quadrini has shaken up the Dallas art world, showing talented nontraditional artists. He's made Angstrom Gallery into a safe, high-profile world for artists he may find as nearby as Dallas or as far away as Cologne, Germany. "I look for art that violates your expectations," he says. "Art is generally not about the object itself when it's really good. Art becomes an all-consuming relic of a process or experience the artist went through when making it. I'm interested in the hiccup--the unexpected--or the gray area."

Quadrini travels often to Los Angeles and New York, looking for new artists, new work, new clients among patrons and collectors. He's comfortable working with people--influencing, discussing, arguing, digesting--and eager for innovative input and creative energy. "It becomes clear, when you look at as much art as I look at, that some artists are really inventing something. They are really creating a dialogue or an image system that hasn't existed previously. There's always something problematic about that kind of work. It's always a little bit hard to look at."

Heading into the new art season this fall, Quadrini has scheduled Angstrom exhibitions for Peter Zimmerman, whom he found in Cologne, and Mark Flood, who lives in Houston. "This will be my third show with Mark," he says. "His paintings are like heirloom lace that is shredded and floating away. He's created a hybrid process of painting and printmaking. And he used to be the lead singer for Culture Side." Hyper-optic paintings by Suzy Rosmarin, Robin O'Neil's odd drawings of dinosaurs and boats, new work by local fave Erick Swenson and the blue-chip art stylings of Jeff Elrod, Jack Pearson and Brad Tucker will enliven the gallery this year. "Brad understands the space between the way things look and the way things sound," Quadrini says of Tucker's sculptures that would be music. "He is very much about the barrier between you and the object." Tucker casts old vinyl records, creating imprecise grooves that convey interesting, warped information and can be played on a turntable. "It's the textbook definition of an artist," Quadrini says. "He is dissatisfied with the world and has to remake it. He has to fix it."

Some months, Quadrini spends as few as 10 days at home in Dallas. He's here mainly to plan and install every monthlong exhibition at Angstrom, then he's off again in search of the next new thing. If you can catch up with him, you're in for some good, and decidedly intellectual, conversation about art and music, philosophy, science. The best scene, he says, is his neighborhood, unless the State Fair is on. "There are the greatest bars around here," he says. "Double Wide, New Amsterdam, Meridian Room, minc. Ours is the only block that is really interesting in the whole city. There are always musicians, writers and artists around. I love the bars and good conversation. But during the fair, we all leave."

Terdema Ussery is in his office. He's talking on the phone in lengthy, measured sentences, answering every question with cool aplomb, which is odd only because he's stayed in one place long enough to conduct the interview. He ought to be out conquering the world, or at least his corner of it. That's his daily gig. Formally, he's the president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Mavericks and the CEO of HDNet, a high-definition TV network. Informally, he's Mark Cuban's rainmaker, the guy who, in both the basketball and television businesses, generates the deals that keep your favorite billionaire flush with cash. Earlier today, on behalf of HDNet, he reached an agreement with Japan-based NHK, a big-time television company in the Pacific Rim. (Which means the Japanese soon will be able to utilize their expensive high-def TVs while the rest of us curse their purchases. Great.)

"They're the 800-pound gorilla over in Japan," Ussery says. "It's pretty exciting. I love it all, everything I do, but the interesting thing about the HD side is that it's all uncharted. It's always a challenge; I'm constantly on the move."

Perhaps that's why you've never heard of him. Or maybe that's not fair. Maybe you're a big Mavs fan and you make it your business to know these sorts of things. Maybe you're a player in high society and you've caught word of his windfalls while commanding your valet to bring you another, bigger bottle of Cristal. More likely, you're a slob who knows the name but not the face; you know he's a somebody, but you're not sure why.

"Terdema has been invaluable to the Mavs' comeback and HDNet's rise," Cuban offers. "With the Mavs, he keeps everything people don't get to see on a day-to-day basis humming along, which has enabled our revenues to grow even more quickly than our ever-expanding Mavs payroll. One of Terdema's great qualities is the ability to connect with just about anyone. We can have him working with local community groups, with our employees or working with the Japanese to acquire content for HDNet. That versatility has been a huge part of our success and makes my life much easier on a day-to-day basis."

Ussery is the embodiment of a strange dichotomy--at once omnipresent and unseen. Along with honing his business acumen, he's a community darling, doing benefits for Boys and Girls Clubs, heart disease and whatever other charities need an assist on a given week, and all the while without finding, or embracing, the spotlight's warm glow.

"You know, there are advantages to living that way," Ussery says. "You don't get hit. It's cool to be acknowledged, but I think part of the reason why Mark and I work well together is that I try to stay low-key. It's his team, and it's his show. My job is to make it work--that's what he pays me to do. And my ego is such that it doesn't bother me that people don't really know who I am."

A shame, really, considering the back story there, the mettle that makes the man, is all kinds of interesting. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles, in a section of the city called Watts--the birthplace of gangsta rap and home to a healthy crime rate. He left that behind, went to Princeton and got a bachelor's degree; went to Harvard and earned a master's; went to California and became a lawyer. Since then, he's served as commissioner of the Continental Basketball Association and president of Nike Sports Management. Sports Illustrated named him the 21st-most influential minority member in sports, and Black Enterprise recently selected him as co-corporate executive of the year. He speaks "passable" Japanese and...oh, you know what? That's enough. All these accomplishments are making us depressed.

"I am proud of those things; you appreciate where you came from," Ussery says. "I like to say that I'm bi-/tri-lingual. I think that you can put me in any situation, boardroom or inner city, and I'll be able to converse. My past made me who I am and, I think, my experiences have given me a skill set that's, I guess, a little unusual."

As he gives a tour of his metal shop, it takes Brad Oldham some time to describe exactly what it is he does.

Partly because he is passionate about his work, partly because he is paid to craft and forge and construct so many different metal things, well, he's got some splainin' to do.

Oldham goes into great detail about each piece of metalwork you come across in his shop. He excitedly notes that the heavy, ornate doorknobs to your left were fashioned as part of the historical restoration of the Parker County Courthouse in Weatherford, and he tells how many layers of paint he had to peel through to discover the knobs' original color. He spins to his left and begins describing the 135-pound eagles he's crafting for the restoration of the Harrison County Courthouse. He takes two steps and introduces some of his seven full-time employees. He circles the workshop, pointing out hinges and cabinet pulls and sculpture. He takes a dip of molten pewter and whips up some special-order coins. He shows off the plan for the donor recognition statue he'll unveil at Presbyterian Hospital on behalf of The Shiu Society.

These items and more he discusses in an attempt to explain what he does, why he's given up the fashion industry that he once worked in with his brother (Todd Oldham), why his kids draw pictures of him that pose him as a superhero called Metal Man.

"Basically," he says, trying to sum up, "we do the stuff you can't find anyone else to do."

Oldham (and, by extension, his employees) is a metallurgical jack-of-all-trades. For public entities that need restoration (usually courthouses), his company, Phoenix Restoration and Construction Ltd., asks Oldham's division to re-create the hinges, doorknobs, sculpture and other hard-to-produce architectural touches common in historic buildings. This makes up 35 to 40 percent of his work. Another 25 to 30 percent of his time is spent with restaurant and hotel clients (he's worked for everyone from Emeril Lagasse to Fossil to Manolo Blahnik). And about 40 percent of his time now is spent with residential work, i.e., folks who are smart enough (and have enough coin) to have Oldham create something unique for their homes.

"With me, you could walk in and say, 'I would like a stairwell banister made of my kids' arms and legs,'" he says. "And I'll say, 'All right, bring 'em in. Let's see what their arms and legs look like.'"

In fact, Oldham gets a big charge out of the challenge. Sure, it helps if someone says, can you re-create that chandelier, or this type of ceramic backsplash, or one of them sorta sconces. But it's not necessary. Oldham will come to your house, meet with you, try to get a sense of what your particular style is, what you like and dislike, and then craft what best fits you. "It allows me to design for them better. I can get a feel for what they want, what will make them happy."

Follow him into a back room, and you can see some of the wildly original products Metal Man has crafted, such as the sink where the gargoyle spits water off his tongue. "I feel like Felix the Cat sometimes," he says. "I open up my bag, and I've got all my people in there, with all our tricks we've learned; we try to make the magic happen."

Although the historical restoration does give Oldham a sense of satisfaction--"Being trusted to work with stuff that is 110 years old is wonderful"--he hopes to move more toward his passion, which is creating his own sculpture and artwork. He's already produced several by-commission works (including a 6-foot-tall bowling pin--long story) and anxiously awaits his first gallery show November 7 at Debris. If you go, you can ask him about the time he made 350 whoopee cushions for Pee Wee Herman, because we've only begun to talk about the variety of works Brad Oldham produces, and we're already outta space.

Real Southern Home-Style Cooking

They look like freeze-dried serpents, brittle with a golden sheath forged in a deep fryer. They're called tripas fritas, and they're served with rice and ranchero beans. But once euphemisms and lyrical language are boiled away, tripas fritas reveal their roots: coils of crispy cow intestines.

This dish is a delicacy in Northern Mexico. "My philosophy is to serve the food that people will find in Mexico that brings back memories as soon as they taste it," says El Ranchito Café & Club owner Laura Sanchez. This philosophy has paid off handsomely for the 52-year-old. Since she and late husband Oscar purchased the Oak Cliff restaurant in 1983, El Ranchito has gone from slinging some 30 pounds of coiled cattle plumbing per week to between 150 and 200 pounds. Cabrito a la parilla, or baby goat on charcoal, is another staple, and drives some 30 baby goats through her kitchen per week.

Since 1981, when her husband purchased La Calle Doce in Oak Cliff from the Cuellar family of El Chico fame (a second La Calle Doce opened on Skillman Street in 1999) for $1,250, Sanchez has unabashedly marketed her restaurants to Dallas' thriving Hispanic community, virtually ignoring those hordes of "see and be seen" Anglos who drive most Dallas restaurateurs into fits.

Sanchez never has to agonize over the latest tastes preoccupying this fickle society. Though she won't cite specific numbers, Sanchez says El Ranchito, whose clientele is 80 percent Hispanic and is the most robust earner in her stable, pulls in roughly $3 million per year. La Calle Doce restaurants, which draw roughly equal numbers of Hispanics and Anglos, earn a bit less.

It wasn't always this way. When she and her husband became restaurant owners in 1981, they geared the restaurant toward an Anglo clientele. "We were surrounded by banks and offices and lawyers," she says. "So the business was already there." They employed the same strategy when they bought the Fallis Steakhouse in 1983 for some $30,000, also from the Cuellar family, before converting it to El Ranchito. But as their Oak Cliff neighborhood gradually morphed into a Hispanic enclave, they shifted their strategy. "My husband used to say, 'I know the market is there, and I know it will take off once they know they can get the same kind of food that they can get in Mexico,'" Sanchez says.

They transformed the menu and aggressively marketed their restaurants on Hispanic radio and television. "I have good service, cleanliness--whatever you find in Dallas--but geared to the Hispanics. Sometimes there are invisible fences," Sanchez says of the experiences Hispanics often encounter in mainstream restaurants. "Here we welcome them."

That welcome mat is not made simply with exotic dishes like tripas and cabrito; it also features the rougher tequilas Hispanics prefer and mariachi bands--two of them, seven pieces each. "For an Anglo person, it sometimes is a little too loud," she says. "But for my Hispanic clientele, they feel extremely offended if the band doesn't play at their tables."

Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Sanchez took the helm of the family's restaurants after her husband was deported to Mexico in 1990 after several marijuana possession convictions caught up with him. He retreated to the family ranch in Garcia, Nuevo Leon, while Laura Sanchez operated the restaurants, squeezing in frequent and regular visits to the ranch until her husband died from a heart attack in 1997 at age 58. His death thrust the future of the family restaurant business into her hands.

The shift sparked a sleeping ambition. Sanchez has a map that crisply delineates Hispanic Dallas neighborhoods--locales ripe for her restaurants. Over the next few years she plans to pebble these targets with at least three more El Ranchito restaurants and at least one more La Calle Doce. Yet this may only be the footing for a far-reaching restaurant empire. Her son Oscar, 28, who comes equipped with a degree in economics from the University of Texas, has spotted targets throughout the Southwest as well as pockets in Colorado and North Carolina where he wagers El Ranchito will thrive.

To lay the groundwork for this expansion, Sanchez is radically altering the way she has done business for more than 20 years. Since opening La Calle Doce, Sanchez and her husband fed their methodical inch-by-inch growth exclusively via profits from routine cash flow. Now she is dredging her operations and implementing more sophisticated financial and management systems in an effort to attract bank financing. She expects to have her second El Ranchito restaurant open by the close of the first quarter of 2004.

To ensure success, Sanchez will continue to cater to the Hispanic cultural nuances that have made her businesses thrive. That includes a willingness to accommodate large groups of extended family members on a moment's notice. "Hispanics don't believe in baby-sitting," she insists. "It makes no difference if there are 20, 25 or 40 people. Have you ever heard of a place where they go in on a Friday night and say, 'Hi, how are you? We're going to be 20'? They're going to wait two hours. When was the last time you went in and waited two hours to be fed?"

At the end of a low-slung, flat-roofed, unprepossessing strip mall is a room that for some 40 years has been the site of mysterious magnetic or gravitational natural occurrences, not unlike the Bermuda Triangle. Since before the JFK assassination, whether the name on the door was The Loon, Joe Miller's or The Villager Club, the wrists of bartenders here have been loosened to pour deeply and heavily to the delight and occasional downfall of their patrons. Partly as a result, all dates in this story are approximate, coming as they do from the hazy memories (including my own) of longtime patrons and employees. For whatever reason, the one person in a position to know them for sure, Homer Rader, who has owned the property at 3531 McKinney Ave. throughout, declined to be interviewed for this article.

One thing everyone agrees on is that the room has always been dark, especially when entered from the blinding summer sunlight. Built into the brick wall by the original entrance is a functioning wood-burning fireplace, still welcome on winter nights but invaluable to the ambience when it first opened as a jazz bar, The Villager Club, in the early '60s. "It was just about the hippest spot in town," says longtime scene-maker Bill Gilliland, who was president of the Dallas Jazz Society at the time. "It would have been right at home in any noir movie, dark, smoky and always with an ironically detached piano player. The hippest people in town would gather there, including a lot of writers, journalists and otherwise, and--unusual because Dallas was only somewhat integrated at the time--a lot of black musicians, athletes, assorted hipsters and beautiful women."

Banks Dimon, who played drums at the club for years backing Jac Murphy, the ironically detached piano player who owned the club for a while, agrees. "The scene was a lot different back then; there were dozens of jazz clubs around town, many of them right on McKinney, and The Villager was where everybody wound up jamming, listening, drinking."

That's something else that's changed. Most people don't drink the way many people did 20 or 30 years ago, and most of the scenes from that room now sound like they belong in that smoky old noir film: a lot of passing out, a little nudity and some epic fights. One of the funniest involved legendary Dallas bartender Joe Miller, who figures large in the history of this room. According to Dimon, a jingle singer named Frank Bloebaum was a regular at The Chateaubriand, another storied Dallas spot where Miller then ran the bar, and had been verbally harassing Miller for weeks. "Joe was three sheets to the wind in The Villager one night when Frank walked in and the two immediately got into it. Their voices got louder and angrier until finally Joe threw a punch. He was so drunk that he missed completely and knocked over several tables, breaking a couple of ribs in the process. The whole town knew about it overnight, and the bar at the Chateau was mobbed for the next couple of weeks with people who wanted to watch Joe working in his cast."

In the mid-'70s, The Villager closed and Joe Miller opened his eponymous saloon there. Joe got rid of the piano and the sunken bar but changed little else. The newspaper and TV news guys, like livestock to the barn, returned to make it a sort of unofficial press room. Our current mayor used to drink there. Karen Hughes, W's close aide, met her husband there. Back when Dallas had two dailies, competing writers with the same beat would sometimes share assignments with the guy covering the story by calling it in to the writer at Joe's. According to Louie Canelakes, Joe's second-in-command and for the past 17 years the proprietor of Louie's, "At Joe's, there was no rivalry between the papers, but all the writers would drink together, and so would the editors, and the two groups would cuss each other."

The news people were augmented by advertising people, lawyers and the occasional celebrity, and the room was once again the hippest spot in town. The drinks were huge, the talk was spirited and Joe ruled with a whim of iron. Frequently argumentative, rarely violent, Joe would have feuds resulting in the 86-ing of those who displeased him, feuds that were almost always resolved. Louie quotes longtime sportswriter Sam Blair, "Joe Miller's was like Rick's place in Casablanca. Everyone used each other and nobody cared."

Joe died in 1985. His widow, Linda, ran the place for a while, eventually giving up and setting the stage for its current incarnation as The Loon. New owner Cliff Gonzales enlarged the room, squared off the bar and staffed it with what may be the best-looking bunch of young women who are neither hookers nor dancers to be found in any bar in town. (He denies that he hires for looks. I don't believe him.) Perhaps Gonzales' biggest change was to add food, standard bar fare augmented by longtime Dallas chef Alessio Franceschetti's Italian specialties.

Partly because of the food, the extended hours (The Loon now opens at 11 a.m. and serves lunch) and proximity to the West Village, the crowd is more eclectic now, changing as afternoon gives way to evening and then to late night. The war stories sound familiar, though. Gonzales tells of two groups of regulars, one made up of blind people and the other of daily afternoon drinkers known to the bar as "the boys." One of the boys once drank so much that--surely to his good fortune--he was unable to find his car and then couldn't find the door back into the bar. "He was led back in by one of the blind guys, and it brought down the house!"

Under Gonzales, The Loon has continued the tradition of the big drink. "I learned it from Joe," he says. "Pour heavy, make the customers comfortable and they keep coming back." Maybe, but I still go for the mystical force of nature/location theory.

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