A La Mode salon owner Shelley Luther, who defied a county order to close her Dallas shop during the pandemic, stood recently in front of more than 100 people, riling them up. On this day, May 9, she was in Dealey Plaza as the headlining act at an Open Texas rally. She shared the mic with the likes of former Texas Senate member Don Huffines, and former Florida Congressman Allen West and a Texas doctor who bragged about prescribing hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients.
Luther spoke about her short time in jail for contempt of court and what she would do with the $500,000 raised by a GoFundMe campaign set up by one of her supporters.
Months ago, before the pandemic put the world on pause, Luther was doing more or less the same thing. Except, she hadn't been to jail yet. She didn't have half a million bucks in the bank, and she wasn’t surrounding herself with conservative political leaders. She wasn’t really political at all, in fact. She was singing to packed houses at places like The Tipsy Oak in Arlington and Marty B's in Bartonville with her band Crush.
The band, which Luther started with her boyfriend Tim Georgeff, liked to stay busy. The two started Crush after playing in another local band together. Georgeff says Luther has always enjoyed singing. She started out singing karaoke, but eventually, people started asking her to sing in different bands in North Texas. According to Crush's website, they were booked through December as the live karaoke band at Sidecar Social in Dallas.
Crush was a decent moneymaker for Georgeff and Luther.
Starting at $300, you could book just the two of them. For an extra $200, you could book them with a bass player. And starting at $1,200, you could book the whole band. They would come equipped with a repertoire of all styles of music from the '50s to today, and they always took requests.
Between the band, her salon A la Mode, and a makeup business she had on the side, Luther made an honest living. But, when the pandemic broke out, all that money stopped coming in. Luther closed her salon on March 22, and by then many of the band's gigs had been canceled. Georgeff says these shows included several large private parties, weddings, long term casino dates and performances all across the country.
"From the first day [the salon] was shut down, we started applying for unemployment. We started applying for [Economic Injury Disaster Loans] and [Paycheck Protection Program] loans, and we got zero help," Georgeff said in a Facebook livestream. "Between the two of us and our different businesses, we applied for four different ... loans."
Luther says she was calling the Texas Workforce Commission about 500 times a day to no avail. Georgeff said they eventually began considering getting night jobs stocking shelves at Kroger but decided not to because it might have hurt their chances of getting unemployment benefits.
The two were at a crossroads. If Luther opened her salon, she would be defying orders put in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If she kept the salon closed, she claims she wouldn't have been able to feed her kids.
"We can't live our lives held up inside a house anymore not working, not providing for our families," Georgeff said. "Shelley had three sources of income: She owns a salon; she's a professional makeup artist; and she's a singer. You wanna take the three things that give her identity and strip those away? I think that makes you a horrible person."
By now, nearly everyone knows what she decided to do. She opened her salon on April 24. In the weeks before, Luther was appearing on different media outlets to tell the world she was going to open.
The day before opening — the same day Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins sent her a cease-and-desist letter — a GoFundMe campaign was set up in support of Luther. Some have made this out to be evidence that opening her salon was part of some get-rich-quick-scheme. But Warren Norred, one of her attorneys, says this isn't the case.
"It was put together by a supporter of the cause [who] did not know Shelley, and did not know me. I still have only had one communication with that person," Norred says. "This narrative that she put it all together and that it was all a big scam is completely unfounded and is just a straight out lie."
Some have also speculated that all of this has been one big publicity stunt for the band.
Rob Case, the owner of Fiddle & Bow Music Co., which is adjacent to Luther's salon, took issue with her gun-wielding, maskless supporters gathering outside of his shop. Case was never able to speak with Luther, but one day he made his way through the supporters over to the salon and spoke with Georgeff. They spoke for about 10 minutes, Case says.
"I just asked him 'When's your record coming out? I have got to know the name of your publicist,'" Case says, recalling the conversation. "'If you don't have a song ready for this, I have about two I can loan you.'"
Crush doesn't put out original music (not yet, anyway) and some of their recent social media posts have been in support of a couple of the venues they used to play at. However, on May 4, the band made a post saying they had recently booked seven more dates for 2020.
The next day, Luther would appear in court in front of Judge Eric Moyé. You might have seen the hearing because Norred fought to have it livestreamed on 14th District Court's YouTube Channel. The video has since been deleted.
That same week, Luther received $18,000 in PPP loans. She has said the money was just deposited into her account without notice or instructions on how to use it. Additionally, because the stylists at the salon are considered tenants instead of employees, Georgeff said the PPP money could not be used to pay them without having to pay it back.
Moyé gave Luther the opportunity to apologize and admit she had acted selfishly in deciding to open her salon.
Luther responded: "I would like to say that I have much respect for this court and laws and that I've never been in this position before and it's not someplace that I want to be. But I have to disagree with you, sir, when you say that I'm selfish because feeding my kids is not selfish. I have hairstylists that are going hungry because they would rather feed their kids. So sir, if you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision, but I am not going to shut the salon."
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She was given two separate seven-day jail sentences for being found in contempt of court and defying stay-at-home orders. The next day, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was calling for her immediate release. The day after that, she was out of jail.
Since then, Luther and Georgeff have been on a media circuit, appearing on The View and speaking with pundits like Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro and others. They've also been going from state to state to speak at rallies like the one in Dealey Plaza earlier this month. Luther's supporters are now calling her a modern-day Rosa Parks.
This likely isn't the last you'll hear about Shelley Luther. She recently started a nonprofit called the Courage to Stand Foundation to help businesses pay bills during the pandemic. But, when it's all said and done, there will likely be many more gigs for Luther and Georgeff and their band Crush.
Georgeff says they are waiting for the casinos and large venues they perform in to reopen and that they will start scheduling shows again when the agencies that represent those venues begin booking.