Dead Again

Dead Again

Looking forward to a resurrection: Come on. Just because two beloved Deep Ellum nightclubs recently bit it doesn't mean an entire entertainment district is going down the tubes ("Deep Sixed," by Robert Wilonsky, January 12). Times are changing, the money people have to burn is far more scarce than it was 10 years ago and the proliferation of clubs, restaurants and even entertainment districts means those that aren't hitting the cusp of what any number of niche clientele think is best for what they want in their lives are going to have harder times than in the past.

For the 350 or so artists who colonized the decrepit district 20 years ago, Deep Ellum died the instant music clubs began opening. I remember one artist friend telling me way the hell back in 1985 that he was going to have to move because the Video Bar had just moved in next door, and he couldn't sleep, paint or even hear his own thoughts anymore.

For another crowd, Deep Ellum died when it exploded and thousands of strangers, all of them with wide varieties of cultural agendas, began "sullying" the carefully cultivated atmosphere.

Then Deep Ellum died again in 1994 or so because the district had become so popular that real estate investors were pouring in and developing North Dallas-style housing everywhere. Some club owners complained at the time that condominium owners and apartment dwellers were angrily calling them all the time and demanding they turn the music down.

Now the area's dying again. This seems to be a feat that even Jesus Christ hasn't managed to better: several deaths and resurrections instead of one really big one.

Doubtless Deep Ellum is going to have a period of transition with which to contend. As rental rates escalate, clubs that slid by aren't going to play that game. The character of the neighborhood may even change as it continues to gentrify. Just as I was quite saddened to see Club Dada, a place in which the employees and owners were like good friends to me when I frequented the place, go down the drain and just as I was saddened to see Trees hit the proverbial wood-chipper, I know Deep Ellum has more resiliency than some of us might believe right now. Still, I do think Wilonsky was right on one count: Some of these club owners might do well to diversify the musical fare. Oftentimes, what potential customers get at the door is music that sounds like a cross between a chainsaw and a snowblower. I remember asking one bouncer about the goings-on inside the club where he worked: "Hey! Who's getting castrated in there?" He shrugged and said, "I dunno."

Gordon Hilgers


Deep Ellum's bad rap: Funny thing, this last weekend, my band and two others from East Texas traveled to Deep Ellum to put on a show at the Texas Tea Room. While we were there, our trailer was stolen, and some of the other bands' equipment was also stolen.

Now that's bad enough, but the next day, the club sent out an e-mail that said the bands are giving Deep Ellum a bad rap by letting our stuff get stolen!

Granted, we are a "butt rock" band (whatever the hell that is), but it makes it hard to justify playing Deep Ellum when you don't get paid, get thousands of dollars worth of equipment stolen and then get blamed for the bad reputation of the area. Welcome to Dallas!

Name withheld

Van, Texas

Follow the music: Great article. Sad, too. On December 30, the wife and I went down to Deep Ellum for dinner, tattoos, music and to celebrate New Year's. Ten minutes after the tattoos were done, we left Deep Ellum and went to Poor David's to see Maren Morris. There was no music to listen to for us (we are in our early 30s). It's all driven by music, and it really is that simple. When the live music left, so did the people.

There is plenty of good music around Dallas if one is inclined to find it. Funny thing is, that's what they used to do in Deep Ellum: find it and play it. They don't anymore. Maybe that's where the problem starts.

John Coveney


For love of the 'hood: Nice, nice work. As a resident (20 years) and one who works in the neighborhood (new Deep Ellum Residents Council), I get sick of trying to explain why Deep Ellum looks or acts dead--it's been dead a lot over the last century. There are a lot of businesses and restaurants doing well, and it's a place where I know and wave at my neighbors. Business and bad decisions may be a blight, but I think you made it clear--there are more than three blocks. I, for one, love my 'hood.

Brian Barnaud


Squashing the street life: Your article on the demise of Deep Ellum missed one of the major causes--the street life was chased away. Curfews, anti-cruising laws and anti-loitering campaigns chased away people just hanging out on the street. I didn't just come to eat, drink and listen to music. People-watching was a major attraction. It could be punks, goths, S&M, rainbow people, hippies, bikers or any combination. While there, I did go to Elm Street Bar enough times to get to know the bartenders. I bought T-shirts at Mark and Larry's Stuff. I went to most of the clubs and ate at most of the restaurants, from Bear's hot dog cart on up.

Unlike now, I got to know people I met on the street--unknown bands, teens, bikers, bartenders, bouncers and shop owners.

I would rather spend my time and money somewhere else today. I hardly know anyone there anymore, and I won't have a chance to get to know anyone either.

Ron Wheeler