Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Entertainment

“Dr. Dante” Dodges Bullets in Dallas — 1970

dante_wfaa_SMU_1The Dr. is in… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I’ve written about the interesting old WFAA Channel 8 news footage which was either never aired or was aired decades ago and hasn’t been seen since (such as newly discovered Jack Ruby footage and a fantastic short interview with Jimi Hendrix at Love Field), which is part of an ongoing digitization project by SMU’s Hamon Arts Library as part of the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection. There are so many (SO MANY!) quirky clips that are being uploaded to the web almost daily that it’s easy to miss the super-quirky.

A week and a half ago the clip below was posted online, featuring an unidentified man who was much groovier-looking than one would normally have seen on the nightly Channel 8 newscast — he said that someone had shot at him from a car, just before dawn, near the Hilton Inn at Mockingbird and Central. He seemed pretty sure they were associates of Frank Sinatra, who was not at all happy that our mystery man had been fraternizing with his daughter, the singer Nancy Sinatra. Take a look at this short (1:43) footage from May, 1970.

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Okay, that was weird. “I’ve been shot at *many* times — for one reason or another….” Add in an unexpected mention of Mrs. Baird’s bakery and, yeah, weird.

Who was that guy? The only information the SMU digitizers had on the out-of-context snippet was that it was filmed on May 21, 1970. It was obvious the guy was not local and, with that voice (and apparent ready access to Nancy Sinatra), he was most likely in the entertainment business. I could find no mention of this incident in The Dallas Morning News archives — I tried using every conceivable keyword I could think of. Nothing. So I checked Newspapers.com and found an AP story about this which had run all over the country — just not in the city where the incident had occurred.

The guy is Ronald Dante, who has gone by a variety of aliases but is generally known as “Dr. Dante,” the stage name he used for decades as a successful nightclub hypnotist. (According to a 1985 Dallas Morning News profile, he had legally changed his name from Ronald Hugh Pellar to “Dr. Dante” — with “Doctor” being his legal first name.) (This may not be true.) (Most of what Dr. Dante has said is not true.) At the time of the shooting described in the video above, he was performing in DFW.

To describe Ron Dante (who was born in Chicago on Feb. 5, 1930) (and is not to be confused with the Ron Dante who was the lead singer of The Archies) as “colorful” is an understatement. His extraordinarily … um … extreme life as a performer, con-man, fraudster, schemer, opportunist, convicted felon, etc., is too much to cover here, but there is a fantastic 2006 profile of him from the San Diego Union-Tribune here (seriously, READ THIS! — the part about him being orphaned in Kuala Lumpur when his family was attacked by Malaysian insurgents is great — in actuality, U.S. Census records show that he grew up in a nice Chicago neighborhood with his very-much-alive parents and brother).

But back to Dallas in May, 1970. Dante was, at the time, the estranged husband of Hollywood icon Lana Turner. They had married in May, 1969; it was Lana’s seventh (and final) marriage. In news reports of the nuptials, Dante was reported to be the same age as his new bride, but he was actually almost 10 years younger. (In the Channel 8 video above he is 40.) Below are some photos of the happy couple before Lana began to realize what she’d gotten herself into.

dante-lana_just-married_1969_ebay    dante_lana_pinterest

lana_dante_pinterest    dante_turner_california_ua

Their marriage hit the skids within 6 months, with Turner accusing Dante of misappropriating $35,000 of her money and, later, disappearing with many of her jewels, worth $100,000; on Nov. 14, 1969, Dante (not Lana!) filed for divorce on grounds of “extreme mental cruelty.” Two days later, the ad below touting a “computer-developed” self-hypnosis recording by Dante appeared in a Dallas paper, complete with a suspect thumbs-up testimonial attributed to estranged and recently-bilked Lana Turner (also worth a raised eyebrow was the inclusion of the even more suspect “American Medical Hypnoidal Assoc.” office which resided in a Dallas post office box) (click to see larger image):

dante_ad_nov-1969

Nov. 16, 1969

Six months later, Dante was in Dallas, claiming to have been shot at by men sent by Frank Sinatra to warn him to stop seeing his daughter Nancy. (A similar “being shot at” scenario was reported by Dante in Los Angeles in June, 1969 — photo here — Sinatra was not implicated by Dante in that shooting, but Lana Turner wondered about it in her 1982 autobiography: “Shortly after our wedding he was shot at, or so he said, in an underground garage, by a gunman wearing an Australian bush hat. It got a lot of attention in the papers — maybe that was what he wanted.”) One might reasonably wonder whether Dante was lying about the shooting in Dallas, but there seems to have been a witness: a Mrs. Baird’s employee, David Davis (whose name was misspelled in wire reports). Here’s the Associated Press report of the incident:

dante-ron_ap-wire_abilene-TX-reporter-news_052170AP wire story, May 21, 1970 (click to read)

Other reports noted that “a spokesman for Miss Sinatra said she did not know [Dante]” or had even ever heard of him; a spokesman for Miss Turner said they had been separated for several months and “she doesn’t even know where he is.” (It should be noted that Frank Sinatra had had a very steamy affair with Lana Turner in the 1940s — a tidbit which just adds all sorts of weird tangents to this story.)

I never saw a follow-up, but whether the story was true or not, it was pretty ballsy to accuse Frank Sinatra (a man of known “connections”) of being behind something like this. Someone should crack open this cold case!

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Ronald Dante’s first appearance in Dallas was at the Adolphus Hotel’s tony Century Room in January, 1963, back when he was known simply as “Dante.” Tony Zoppi, who covered the city’s nightclub scene for The News, wrote, “The handsome showman entertained his Century Room crowd with one of the most amazing hypnotic acts in the business” (DMN, Jan. 3, 1963). Back then his act looked something like this:

dante_on-stage_ua

An interesting New Year’s Eve engagement at the Adolphus’ Rose Room was announced in The News in December, 1970 (same year as the shooting…): 

The Adolphus Hotel has lined up a star-studded evening for its New Year’s Eve celebration, including hypnotist Dr. Ronald Dante, reportedly to be accompanied by his wife, actress Lana Turner. (DMN, Dec. 17, 1970)

An appearance by Lana Turner seems … unlikely. Others rumored to be appearing on the star-studded bill? Actor Ralph Bellamy, comedian Tommy Smothers, and … singer Nancy Sinatra. Unsurprisingly, none of the special guests showed up.

dante_dallas-new-years-eve_dec-1970


Dec. 20, 1970

A couple of weeks after the New Year’s Eve engagement, an ad appeared in the paper filled with SO MUCH odd stuff in it: after a “world tour” which had him playing at swanky venues in Rome, Paris, London, Athens, Japan, and Bangkok, the next stop by Dr. Dante (“Ph.D.”) was none other than the somewhat less exotic Ramada Inn in the somewhat less exotic Irving, Texas; he billed himself as the “favorite husband” of both Lana Turner and “Brigett” [sic] Bardot (to whom he had never been married); and his eyes and voice were said to have been insured for 10 million dollars. Etc. In general, statements made by Dr. Dante were more likely than not to be absolutely untrue … untrue but usually pretty entertaining.

dante_ramada-inn_jan-1971


Jan. 15, 1971

A year later, Lana Turner and Ron Dante were divorced — the judge ruled that Dante had defrauded Turner, dissolved the marriage, and “postponed indefinitely a ruling on community property.” That was soon followed by a string of weirdness including the bizarre case of Dante’s being charged with soliciting an undercover cop to kill a rival stage hypnotist (!), creating a “school” to teach aspiring cosmeticians to administer permanent makeup (via tattoos), suing Johnny Carson for one billion dollars (“billion” with a “b”), and running an extremely lucrative diploma mill. (And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.) There were convictions and there was prison time.

Ron Dante — who is probably 88 years old — is, I believe, still with us.  A short documentary about him, “Mr. Hypnotism,” was shown at SXSW in 2009 (watch it here). It’s entertaining, but he really deserves a much longer documentary — and I really hope someone is working on a book. (PLEASE let someone be working on a book!)

In a lengthy Dallas Morning News profile/exposé of Dante (“Dr. Dante’s Traveling Hypnotherapy Show,” Feb. 24, 1985), reporter Glenna Whitley wrote:

Whatever else Dante is, he is likable. Even the most outrageous statements seem strangely plausible when coming from his lips. That may be the secret to his success, says [District Attorney] Gary Kniep, who was alternately amused and exasperated during Dante’s attempted-murder trial.

“Yeah, I kind of like him,” Kniep says. “He’s got some sort of magnetism that gets people into his confidence.” (DMN, Feb. 24, 1985)

I can see that.

dante_wfaa_SMU_3

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Sources & Notes

Screen captures at top and bottom are from the digitized WFAA Channel 8 News film footage from May 21, 1970; the video is from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, held at the Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University. The direct link to the Ron Dante clip on YouTube is here. Follow the WFAA clips as they are added by SMU digitizers to YouTube here, and on Facebook here. (Thanks for your tireless dedication, Jeremy and Scott!)

Photos of Lana Turner and Ron Dante are from Pinterest and eBay.

The photo of Dante performing in a nightclub was found on a page about Lana Turner on the University of Alabama site, here.

See Wikipedia for more on Dr. Dante and Lana Turner.

I HIGHLY recommend listening to Jennifer Sharpe’s 6-minute 2007 NPR story on Dr. Dante (“Lana Turner’s Ex Maintains Dreams of Grandeur”), here (click the “play” button in the blue circle at the top of the page). The short film “Mr. Hypnotism” was made by her and Austin-based director Bradley Beesley — the full film is here, the trailer is here.

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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Casa Magnetica

six-flags_casa-magnetica_postcard_flickrHow often is juggling mind-blowing? It was here! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Every year my aunt and her fun friend Shirley took my brother and me to Six Flags Over Texas. This was the ’70s, so some of the original hard-to-believe attractions were already gone (helicopter and stagecoach rides?! — see a promotional video of the park from 1965 here), but it was still when the place was an actual “theme” park — an amusement park originally suggested by aspects of Texas history. The sections of the park represented the six flags that have flown over Texas (see a map here). One of those sections was the Spanish section, the location of two of my favorite Six Flags attractions: the log ride and Casa Magnetica.

Casa Magnetica was the hard-to-wrap-your-brain-around tilted house (newspaper articles reported it was built at either a 24.6-degree angle or a 34-degree angle) which made you feel completely disoriented, especially if you’d just stepped in from the blinding blast of 110-degree heat and were feeling a bit queasy from one too many Pink Things. I loved it. Things rolled uphill, you couldn’t stand up straight, and your brain was mighty confused. The text from the back of the postcard seen above:

six-flags_casa-magnetica_postcard_back

Casa Magnetica was introduced very early in Six Flags’ history — it debuted in the second season, 1962, and it was a huge hit. Here is how the SFOT marketing team described it in press releases at the time. (Clippings and images are larger when clicked.) Imagine what it would have been like to have been the architect of this place!

six-flags_casa-magnetica_daily-news-texan_042262Six Flags Gazette, April 22, 1962

six-flags_casa-magnetica_daily-news-texan_042962_text
Six Flags Gazette, April 29, 1962

As far as new attractions, the weird little house was the biggest hit of the 1962 season.

six-flags_casa-magnetica_daily-news-texan_042063
Six Flags Gazette, April 20, 1963

Here it is, under construction, in late 1961 or early 1962:

casa-magnetica_under-construction_history-of-six-flags-FB-group

And, later, with a teenage “hostess” sitting under its Spanish-mission-inspired arch.

casa-magnetica_six-flags-FB-page

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six-flags_casa-magnetica_daily-news-texan_052762

The caption of the photo above: “WHICH ONE’S STRAIGHT? — It’s hard to tell in the Casa Magnetica in the Spanish section. It’s difficult to keep from leaning the wrong way in this house where water seems to run uphill. Notice in the lower left of the picture how the basketful of goodies seems to be hanging instead of sitting.” (Six Flags Gazette, May 27, 1962)

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six-flags_casa-magnetica_daily-news-texan_042962

Caption: “SOMETHING WRONG? — Six Flags hostesses find that the law of gravity doesn’t seem to apply in Casa Magnetica.” (Six Flags Gazette, April 29, 1962)

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six-flags_casa-magnetica_irving-daily-news-texan_04262

Caption: “LEMME OUT! — In Casa Magnetica, a house in the Spanish Section of Six Flags which defies gravity, this hostess gets a little panicky when the 34-degree slant proves too much for her.” (Six Flags Gazette, April 26, 1962)

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Sources & Notes

Postcard at top from Flickr.

Articles and captioned photos are from the Six Flags Gazette, a seasonal supplement that appeared in both the Grand Prairie Daily News-Texan and the Irving Daily News-Texan during the early years of Six Flags.

Photo of Casa Magnetica under construction in the scrubby Arlington landscape is from the History of Six Flags Facebook group, posted there by the administrator Michael Hicks, submitted to Flashback Dallas by reader Brian Gunn (thank you, Brian!).

The photo of the Six Flags “hostess” sitting outside the entrance to Casa Magnetica is from the Six Flags Over Texas Facebook page, here (it appears with a photo of the Chaparral Antique Cars, the second-most popular attraction introduced in the 1962 season).

Read the “spiel” you’d hear when you visited Casa Magnetica, here.

And, in case you missed it above, I highly encourage you to watch the 6-minute Six Flags Over Texas promotional film from 1965 at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) website here (Casa Magnetica is seen briefly at the :45 mark). Watch it full-screen!

More Flashback Dallas posts on Six Flags Over Texas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“All the Beer You Can Drink In an Hour For 60 Cents” — 1935

beer_60-cents_AP_1935LOOK! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Summertime in Big D. It’s hot. REAL hot. For some, the only way to properly slake that nagging thirst is with a tall frosty mug of beer. In the summer of 1935, the management of the Texan Hotel Drug Store (at the northeast corner of S. Houston and Jackson streets) decided to offer a headline-grabbing promotion: “ALL THE SCHEPPS BEER YOU CAN DRINK: 60¢ PER HOUR!” (60¢ in 1935 would be the equivalent of about $11.00 today.) Sounds like a bargain, right? Maybe. Depends on your constitution — it meant that you would have to consume over a gallon of beer in one hour to save any money. (Not a problem for some, I realize.)

This made national news — there’s even newsreel footage. The photo above is from an AP wire story, accompanied by this caption: “A Dallas beer parlor offered ‘all the beer you can drink’ for 60 cents an hour. There were plenty of takers, but the proprietor said none had beaten him. The drinker would have to consume more than nine pints an hour to show a profit.”

beer_scranton-PA-repubican_072935
Scranton (PA) Republican, July 29, 1935

Speaking of newsreel footage, you can watch it below. As you can see, there certainly were a lot of very enthusiastic Dallas beer-drinkers doing their very best to surpass that gallon hurdle in order to feel they’d spent their money (and their hour) wisely.

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Ah, back when you could guzzle beer in a drugstore. (Several drugstores that same year — including this one — were routinely getting busted for selling illicit whiskey.)

The promotion appears to have been a hit, both publicity-wise and beer-sales-wise. The Dallas proprietor said no drinker had managed to come out ahead, but in Fort Worth, men appear to be made of stronger stuff. Cafe operator Byron Gaines hadn’t anticipated Chauncey C. Brown, a hops-loving patron described as “heavy-set” and “amiable.”

beer_FW_olean-NY-times-herald_081235Olean (NY) Times Herald, Aug. 12, 1935

According to United Press reports (this made national news, too), Brown took 58 minutes (rather than 53), but that “seven minutes of that time was spent in playing a slot machine.” It’s good to have hobbies.

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Sources & Notes

AP photo, taken in July, 1935, from the Press of Atlantic City site, here

Newsreel footage is from Critical Past, on YouTube here, and, for sale, here.

The Texan Hotel Drug Store was located at 218 S. Houston St. (northeast corner of Houston and Jackson) — see what the corner looks like today, here.

texan-hotel_south-houston_1936-directory
1936 Dallas directory

And … Schepps Beer? I was familiar with Schepps dairies, but not a Schepps brewery. But, yes, the Schepps family produced highly guzzleable beer: the Schepps Brewing Co. launched in 1933 and lasted into the early ’40s. (Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.)

schepps-beer_nov-1933Nov., 1933

schepps-beer_aug-1934Aug., 1934

schepps-beer-bottle-cap

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Cabana Motor Hotel of Dallas

cabana-motor-hotel_portal_postmarked-1967“Elegant and luxurious…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The Cabaña Motor Hotel is remembered mostly for being where the Beatles stayed when they came to Dallas in 1964 and for being a hotel with high hopes but which fizzled out fairly quickly. …But mostly for being where the Beatles stayed. When the Cabaña opened in 1963 on Stemmons Freeway, it was a big deal. It was swanky and even had a very show-bizzy lounge. Celebrities stayed there. The Beatles stayed there.

cabana-motor-hotel_portal_info

The Dallas Cabaña was actually the third in a proposed chain of hotels, following locations in Atlanta and Palo Alto. It even had some Hollywood star-power attached to it: Doris Day’s then-husband Marty Melcher was an investor in the company (turned out it was Doris’ money, and she wasn’t thrilled that he was investing so much of her money in this chain of hotels).

It was fab for a while — but the high point really was John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Before the ’60s had ended, the place was shuttered and mired in litigation. Melcher had died and left Doris $500,000 in debt. Ownership changed hands several times over the years, and each time, more and more of its original hep luster was lost. The building has never really recovered. For a few years it was a rather bizarre site for a minimum-security jail! In recent months it was announced that it has been acquired by the company that has recently renovated the long-moribund Statler Hilton — so there’s hope! It needs a lot of work, but it might actually turn out to be cool again.

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Sources & Notes

The postcard at the top is from the Texas History Collection, provided by Dallas Heritage Village to the Portal to Texas History, where I found it, here.

I have to admit that I’ve never really been a fan of this building until I saw this postcard. It’s like a Dallas version of a subdued Vegas hotel.

For more history of the Cabaña (…whenever I hear reporters in historic footage pronouncing the “n” in “cabana” with that tilde, it’s a bit jarring…), read the informative article “Lost + Found: Cabana Motor Hotel” by Preservation Dallas Executive Director David Preziosi on the AIA Dallas website, here. It’s got some great photos.

Images larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Mr. Wiggly Worm Does Much More Than Wiggle”

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_112061-det

by Paula Bosse

My first crush was on Mr. Peppermint, and I really, really, really loved Mr. Wiggly Worm.

This is a rather unfortunate depiction of my childhood TV pal, but how can you not love a smiling wiggly worm with a mailbox?

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_112061_mr-wiggly-worm_det

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_021163_text

WFAA understood the appeal of Mr. W. W. They even built a whole broadcasting-trade-magazine ad around him. (Click to see it larger.)

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_021163Sponsor, Feb. 11, 1963

Here he is again:

mr-peppermint_sponsor-mag_112061
Sponsor, Nov. 20, 1961

Mr. W. W. stayed at home for this one, but here we see Mr. Peppermint out mingling with his adoring public.

mr-peppermint_broadcasting-mag_061063
Broadcasting, June 10, 1963

And, look, “Communications Center” — bet you haven’t heard that in a while!

communications-center_sponsor-mag_112061_det1961

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Sources & Notes

These Mr. Peppermint advertisements were part of a series of WFAA-Channel 8 ads which ran for several years in television trade magazines.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Ann Wedgeworth: 1934-2017

wedgeworth_ann

by Paula Bosse

The actress Ann Wedgeworth has died. If you don’t know her by her name, you probably know her by her face, or, even more likely, by her voice. I’m always impressed when actors are able to retain their natural accents without having to homogenize them to meet Hollywood standards, and Wedgeworth’s Texas accent was pretty thick. I would bet hard cash she reminds you of someone you know or someone in your own family.

Even though she had worked as an actor since she was a teenager — in school productions, small regional theaters, off-Broadway, Broadway, TV, soap operas, and movies — it was probably her short-lived role as Lana on Three’s Company which brought her to the attention of the widest audience.

Elizabeth Ann Wedgeworth was born in 1934 in Taylor County and spent her early years in Snyder and Perryton, Texas, where her father had been the superintendent of schools (her mother died when she was 2); she arrived in Dallas around 1946 when she was about 12 years old. Her father worked in conjunction with SMU and the Veteran’s Administration for a time before becoming a longtime employee of the City of Dallas; her stepmother was a student counselor at Highland Park Junior High School.

She attended high school in Highland Park, graduating from HPHS in 1950 (the same year as her school friend, Jayne Mansfield). She began her acting career when she was a teenager, racking up quite a lot of experience in Dallas theater productions and in a Colorado stock company. She focused on acting during college, which included both SMU and the University of Texas — she probably met her future husband Rip Torn in Austin, where he was a fellow actor who had been active in the UT theater program (and who was, incidentally, the cousin of future actress Sissy Spacek). The couple was married in Dallas in 1955, at the First Methodist Church. They lived in Killeen briefly until Torn’s military stint at Ford Hood was up, then they headed to New York City, where the couple began to find acting work fairly quickly. The two had one daughter and divorced in 1961; she remarried and had another daughter. (More about Ann Wedgeworth can be read in the Wikipedia entry here.)

Ann worked a lot, and, as I said, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen her in something. Though known mostly for her work in TV and movies, she won a Tony Award in 1978 for her role in Neil Simon’s Broadway play Chapter Two. Her breathlessly exuberant (and charmingly ditzy) acceptance speech is amusing (I am such a sucker for that accent!):


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Ann Wedgeworth died on November 16, 2017; she was 83 years old.

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wedgeworth-ann_HPHS_sophomore-1948Highland Park High School sophomore, 1948

wedgeworth-ann_HPHS_junior_1949HPHS junior, 1949

wedgeworth-ann_HPHS_senior_1950
wedgeworth-ann_HPHS_senior_1950_info
HPHS senior, 1950

wedgeworth-ann_smu_freshman_1951SMU freshman, 1951

wedgeworth-ann_smu_campus_022252_photo
SMU sophomore, 1952

wedgeworth-ann_smu_campus_030552_cronyn
Appearing on national radio with Hume Cronyn, 1952

wedgeworth-torn_longview-news-journal_020655

wedgeworth-torn_longview-news-journal_020655_caption1955 announcement of her marriage to Rip Torn

wedgeworth-ann_scarecrow_1973Publicity photo for the 1973 movie “Scarecrow”

wedgeworth_pinterest

wedgeworth-ann

ann-wedgeworth
photo via Lipstick Alley

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Sources & Notes

Ann Wedgeworth’s obituary in The Washington Post can be found here.

School photos are from Highland Park High School and Southern Methodist University yearbooks.

The photo of 18-year-old Ann with Hume Cronyn appeared in the SMU Campus newspaper on March 5, 1952. (I believe Ann came in second in the competition.)

The wedding announcement of Ann and Rip Torn appeared in the Longview Daily News  on Feb. 6, 1955. (Rip Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr. — as a kid he was actually known as “Skip” Torn. …Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it….)

Most photos and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Event: “Remixing the News” Screening at SMU

remixing_hamon-library-blog-header

by Paula Bosse

UPDATE: The screening was great! For those of you who might have missed this event — or who would like to see the films again — the one-hour program is airing on KERA-Channel 13’s “Frame of Mind” on Thurs. Nov. 16, 2017 at 10:30 p.m., with another airing at 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 20.

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I’m really late announcing this event — WHICH TAKES PLACE TUESDAY, NOV. 14!! — but it sounds like something that people who are interested in Dallas history and/or video art would really enjoy: “Remixing the News,” presented by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection at the Hamon Arts Library (SMU), in collaboration with KERA television and Dallas VideoFest.

So what is it?

The Jones Collection at SMU includes the WFAA Newsfilm archive which contains what must be thousands of hours of 16mm film footage from the 1960s and ’70s, originally shot to be used as part of Channel 8 News broadcasts (this includes tons of B-roll footage shot to supplement the stories, but not always used in newscasts). As you can imagine, this is an unusual treasure trove of local news, history, and pop culture. I’ve dipped in and showcased some of the offerings in previous posts about the State Fair of Texas, and on Dallas appearances by Jimi Hendrix, Tiny Tim, and Glen Campbell.

Jeremy Spracklen, head curator of the Jones Collection, describes how this interesting local news archive was “reappropriated, recontextualized, and deconstructed” to become something altogether different:

We went in a unique direction in this — we did an experiment where we gave 10 local filmmakers a hard-drive with several hundred hours’ worth of footage on it and had them create their own interpretation of it. So, it is part history and part new video art.

I love this sort of thing. Eleven short films were produced by ten Texas filmmakers (Spracklen himself contributed two). Here are the films which will be shown Tuesday night, November 14:

  • “2,000 Hours in Dallas” by Jeremy Spracklen
  • “The Story of Jane X” by Christian Vasquez
  • “Dallas Circle” by Justin Wilson
  • “Lawmen & Cowpokes” by Gordon K. Smith
  • “History Lessons” by Steve Baker
  • “Beyond 10” by Carmen Menza
  • “Glass” by Madison McMakin
  • “Poofs are New” by Blaine Dunlap
  • “Divided” by Michael Thomas & Dakota Ford
  • “The Night in the Last Branches” by Michael Alexander Morris
  • “Echoes of the Past” by Jeremy Spracklen

The FREE advance screening of this collection (which will air at a later time on KERA’s long-running “Frame of Mind” series) will be held at SMU in the Owen Art Center on Tuesday, Nov. 14 (which might be TODAY!) — it begins at 7:30 p.m. After the screening, Bart Weiss, artistic director of the Video Association of Dallas, will host a Q&A with several of the filmmakers in attendance.

ALSO, Jeremy Spracklen tells me that those who are interested are invited to tour his very chilly subterranean film-archive lair after the event. So much Texas film history lurks beneath the SMU campus!

This event sounds great. Be there!

remixing-the-news_smu_hamon

“Remixing the News”

Presented by the G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, in collaboration with KERA and VideoFest

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

O’Donnell Hall, room 2130, Owen Arts Center (see map below)

FREE to the public

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Resources & Notes

More on this event can be found on the SMU website here and on the Hamon Arts Library blog here; the Facebook event page is here.

The event is free, and parking on the SMU campus after 7:00 p.m. is also free. Parking at SMU scares me, but here is what Jeremy advises: “The closest parking is in the meters in front of the Meadows building (they are not active after 7:00), the ‘U’ lot just south of the building, and, if those are full, the Meadows Museum parking garage is open — it is just down Bishop Blvd. and about a 5-minute walk.”

His map is below, with the parking areas highlighted in red. (Click to see larger image.)

SMUCampusMapNamesBLK

More on the WFAA Newsfilm archive can be found in a Flashback Dallas post “How the News Got Made.”

One of the filmmakers who has contributed a film to this event is Blaine Dunlap — I have posted links to two of his films, both of which I really enjoyed: Sunset High School on Film — 1970″ (which he made while he was a Sunset student) and “‘Sometimes I Run’: Dallas Noir — 1973” (about a philosophizing downtown street cleaner).

More on “Frame of Mind” here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

State Fair of Texas Midway — 2017

midway-entrance_sfot_night_100417The State Fair of Texas midway never gets old… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I haven’t been to the State Fair of Texas for several years, so I took a trip out to Fair Park this past Wednesday to see what’s new.

Food. The only thing I ever really want is the traditional Fletcher’s corny dog, and I’m happy to report they’re as good as ever.

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I also tried the Fried Texas Sheet Cake which was — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — too sweet, and just … too much. A bite would have been plenty. The topping of chocolate syrup and pecans was the best part. Maybe someone should offer a bowl of just that. …And then fry the whole thing — bowl and all. I’d probably try it.

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When I saw the sign for “Fried Chicken Skin” I had to try it. I guess it’s something you either really want, or it’s something that makes you recoil in horror. I really wanted it. I was expecting more of a battered-Church’s-fried-chicken experience, but I don’t think there was any batter at all. I still liked it, but it could have been a lot more mouthwatering. It needed a bit more heft. (Speaking of fried skin — there’s a phrase I’ve never uttered — why aren’t there chicharrones at the fair? Done right, those things are incredible. Isn’t pork belly still a thing?) (And someone really should do battered fried chicken skin.)

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It might have been healthier had I just swallowed the cute Big Tex earrings ($10, zero fat grams), which I almost went back for. It takes a special kind of person to be able to pull those off, and I’m afraid I’m not that whimsical. But I bet they make a great conversation-starter and help break the ice at parties.

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Everything was remarkably clean. I mean really clean. …Freakishly clean. This is not the grimy, dirty, cigarette-butt-laden fair I remember as a kid, and I have to admit, I kind of missed the grime and trash. Also, I don’t remember the plush toys being so remarkably colorful. My retinas will never be the same. Click the photo below to get the full neon blast of color.

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Speaking of things I miss, I also miss the seediness of the fairs from my childhood in the ’70s (certainly the seediest decade in modern times): the unkempt carnival barkers who never sounded like they were from Texas, the bored ride operators going about their repetitive jobs with a cigarette hanging from their mouth, the half-eaten candy apple stuck to the asphalt, and, yes the side shows. Without doubt, I think my favorite thing about the annual fair was seeing the huge banners emblazoned with vivid images of freaks and oddities — those banners were works of art and sheer advertising genius. I never wanted to see the shows, but I loved those banners, and I loved listening to the raspy voices of the going-through-the-motions barkers. Now? I saw a teeny booth along the midway wherein was what was purported to be the world’s smallest horse (yawn), and then there was the exhibit below featuring what appeared to be nothing more than a two-headed rattlesnake and a couple of two-headed turtles inside a little building about the size of a portable garden shed. But a kid will always be fascinated by anything with two heads. I realize my interest in two-headed creatures isn’t what it used to be, and I also realize that the day of the brilliant freak show banner art has come and gone.

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When I was a kid, my favorite “ride” was always the German Funhouse. I did see one funhouse, which did not seem to be specific as to country of origin. These haunted houses get high marks for decorative impact. This is what you want to see at a state fair!

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Incidentally, it will cost you 6 coupons to experience the full gory glory of “Scary Park” — that’s HALF the price of one order of fried chicken skin! Seems like a pretty good deal. There are some “extreme” rides that will cost you 150 coupons. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY COUPONS. That’s $75. I watched one of these rides, which began with two teenagers being strapped into some sort of horizontal harness. The second step was the signing of the waivers. Then the boys were raised way, way up and then dropped and flung across the sky from a height which makes me queasy just thinking about it. They swung back and forth a few times and were then lowered to terra firma, no doubt thrilled and nauseous. That makes a whirl on the quaint Kamikaze seem like a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood after a light meal.

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The Texas Star ferris wheel is pretty impressive and deserves a better photo than this, but look at the ground — you could eat off that!

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In case you ever find yourself on Jeopardy and the category is “Amusement Park Rides,” this might be helpful.

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I don’t know how many Fletcher’s stands there are at the fair, but this one on the midway is certainly the brightest. (And if you say “corn dog” in my presence I will be forced to correct you….)

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My favorite sign at the fair was this one, at the beautiful entrance to the beautiful Hall of State: “NO FOOD, NO DRINK, NO BALLOONS.” Don’t even think about it.

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And look at Hall of State at night. Nary a balloon in sight.

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I was actually working in the Hall of State the day I took these photos, so I had a short walk around the park right after it opened (that corny dog was my breakfast!) and a longer walk around the midway at night. A few thoughts:

  • I’m the only person who wishes it weren’t quite so clean.
  • Neon Big Tex is way better than “new” post-flambé Big Tex. Everyone complains about the new Big Tex, and I’m one of them. There’s a new kid in town, Tex, and my allegiance is now firmly with Neon Big Tex, the old Centennial Liquor sign featuring a neon-outlined Big Tex recently planted in Fair Park.
  • I never liked the nightly parade as a kid, but I really enjoyed it this year. The floats were attractive, the cowboy on stilts and the unicyclist on a stuffed pony were fun and goofy, and the Carter High School band was really, really good (and brought memories of my high school marching band days back with a vengeance). Also in the parade were several policemen on horses. I wondered what happened when a horse would leave its … um … byproducts behind them in the (meticulously clean) street, and then I saw a policeman riding behind in a golf cart, with a shovel strapped to the side and a large receptacle in the back. I wonder if the officers draw straws before the parade to see who gets stuck with shovel-duty?
  • I did not visit any buildings. I saw no canned peaches, no automobiles, no butter sculptures, no livestock, no miracle mops, no pig races. I’ll have to leave those for next time.

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The best thing about the fair is that everyone is happy — especially the children, who are often over-stimulated and beside themselves with excitement — and it reminds me how much I used to look forward to my annual visit.

Seeing the fair in the daytime and at nighttime are two completely different experiences. Daytime in general is overrated. Always choose nighttime!

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Sources & Notes

All photos by Paula Bosse. Most are pretty big — click ’em!

The 2017 State Fair of Texas runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 22. There’s plenty of time left!

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Film Footage: “The State Fair of Texas in the 1960s”

sfot_1960s_jones-collection_smu_men-in-suits_ice-creamEveryone likes ice cream…. (G. William Jones Collection, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

Thanks to Twitter, I discovered this cool video of film clips of the State Fair of Texas, shot throughout the 1960s, courtesy of SMU’s WFAA Newsfilm Collection/G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, put together by Moving Image Curator Jeremy Spracklen. There are 15 or so clips, some in black and white, some in color, some silent, some with sound. This compilation runs about 24 minutes. Watch it. You’ll enjoy it — especially the montage of fair food at the end! (Make sure you watch in fullscreen.)

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Here are a few screengrabs I took, to give you an idea of the content (images are much cleaner in the video!).

Getting ready for the fair.

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Fair Park entrance.

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Crowd, baby, binoculars.

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Neuhoff hot dog stand.

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The monorail (with a cameo by Big Tex).

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I don’ t know who this guy is, but he’s in several shots and I love him! Here he is losing out to the woman who correctly guessed his weight.

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Kids eating … Pink Things! “Made famous at Six Flags.”

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Aqua Net and Moët. (I have to say, I’ve never seen champagne at the fair, but perhaps those are circles I don’t travel in.)

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Everyone needs a corny dog fix.

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Everyone.

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Have a groovy time at this year’s State Fair of Texas!

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Sources & Notes

Film clips from Southern Methodist University’s WFAA Newsfilm Collection/G. William Jones Film and Video Collection; the video has been edited by SMU’s Moving Image Curator, Jeremy Spracklen. The direct link to the video on Vimeo is here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Howdy, Folks! Welcome to the 1959 State Fair of Texas”

big-tex_1959Big Tex and his people… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Big Tex and a crowd of serious-looking adults watch something in the distance at the 1959 State Fair of Texas.

The 2017 State Fair of Texas starts in one week!

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Sources & Notes

Source of photo: unknown!

See a whole passel of Flashback Dallas’ State Fair of Texas posts here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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