Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Local Personalities

“Political Paranoia” and the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club, feat. Future Governor Ann Richards

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by Paula Bosse

Ann Richards drove my carpool. She and my mother swapped out driving kids to the First Unitarian Church Cooperative Preschool on Preston and Normandy in University Park. I’m not sure anyone in either family was an actual member of the church, but that preschool was one of the only co-ops in Dallas (it might have been the first), and it was a magnet for the more progressive parents in the city. The Unitarian Church was also a major gathering place in the 1960s and 1970s for those involved in women’s issues, liberal activism, and Democratic politics, including my mother and the future governor of Texas, Ann Richards. I remember hearing about Ann (she was always referred to as just “Ann”) throughout my entire childhood. My parents weren’t close friends with the slightly older Richardses, but my mother was a keen admirer of Ann and my father described her as “the funniest woman I’ve ever known.” I remember their home on Lovers Lane which always seemed to be crammed full of kids.

When Ann Richards lived in Dallas she was a self-described “housewife,” who, when she wasn’t busy raising her four children, was volunteering for Democratic candidates and causes. She was an active member of the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club, a group which, in 1963, gained instant attention for the fundraiser show they wrote and performed called “Political Paranoia,” a satirical revue of politics, complete with sharp satire, broad comedy, song parodies, and ridiculous wigs and costumes. The show was such a huge success that follow-up standing-room-only shows were performed in 1964, 1965, 1966, and 1968. The shows were written and directed by Carolyn Choate, Ruthe Winegarten, and Ann Richards, and the cast consisted of the members of the NDDW. Ann’s portrayal of LBJ seems to have made lasting impressions on those who saw it.

I have recently begun working on a project for the G. William Jones Film and Video Archive at SMU, and a reel of 16mm black-and-white film — with sound! — was discovered in the vault recently with no identifying information. Nothing. Nobody knows where it came from or how it ended up at SMU. But there it was: a lightly edited filmed document of the second installment of “Political Paranoia,” presented by the North Dallas Democratic Women in the auditorium of Hillcrest High School on May 16, 1964. I was sure Ann Richards would be in there somewhere — and she was! I was pretty excited by this “discovery” because this show has become something of a legendary touchstone in local Democratic politics. As far as I know, there is no other film footage of any of these shows. Not only that, this may well be the earliest footage of Ann Richards, the woman who would go on to become the governor of Texas (1991-1995) and one of the most celebrated women in politics and Texas culture. This is an amazing heretofore unknown historical document.

The show is full of smart sarcasm and “hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show” enthusiasm. The humor is more amusing than cutting, and these Democratic women were certainly not afraid of making fun of members of their own party. A lot of the hot topics of the day addressed in this show are lost to the mists of time, but that doesn’t take away from its entertainment value. This was a time when women had very little voice, impact, or power in politics, and the women here have firmly taken control of the reins and perform with an exuberance that crackles. 

The 34-minute film — complete with odd jumps and abrupt cuts — has been uploaded by SMU in its entirety here:

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Here are a bunch of screenshots. I don’t know who all of the performers are — I would love feedback and corrections from the public. At the bottom is a list of names of women who were involved with the NDDW, but as they were invariably identified as “Mrs. Husband’s Name,” I have no idea what most of their first names are! I am especially interested in identifying Ruthe Winegarten, one of the prime movers behind these shows (and also a Texas and women’s historian of note).

First, 30-year-old Ann Richards (or as she was identified in newspaper accounts, “Mrs. David Richards”) appearing as Gordon McLendon, Dallas media magnate, owner of KLIF, and one-time wannabe politician — “The Old Scotchman.” That voice is unmistakable.

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And here she is as LBJ:

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Carolyn Choate, one of the writers and directors of “Political Paranoia,” wrote the music and performed many of the song parodies (she was also a contributor to the annual Dallas Press Club Gridiron Show).

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I was really interested to see Betty McKool, Ann’s longtime friend with whom she issued a famous series of annual jokey Christmas cards — I think this is Betty, seen as Nelson Rockefeller at the 1964 Republican National Convention in what I thought was a great, incredibly confident performance.

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I’m not sure who the blonde with the glasses and ruffled shirt is, but she gives a spirited performance as Barry Goldwater at the Republican Convention. (Mrs. Ray Pearce portrayed Goldwater in the first “Political Paranoia,” so perhaps this is her revisiting the role.)

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My preschool teacher (and, I believe, the founder of the Unitarian co-op school), Millie Seltzer, is seen below as Lady Bird Johnson. (There’s also a photo of her and Ann as Lady Bird and Lyndon from 1965’s “Political Paranoia III,” which is posted on the blog of Millie’s daughter’s here.)

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Speaking of Lady Bird, here’s Lyndon and Ralph Yarborough (I’m not sure who these women are, but “Lyndon” might be Mary Vogel).

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Possibly Mary Vogel again as “Mrs. GOP.”

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An unknown performer singing about John Connally.

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More unknown performers in “I Dreamed I Dedicated a Federal Center in 1994….”

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…dedicated by Republican congressman Bruce Alger.

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Again, possibly Betty McKool in the straw hat in the center (with someone else playing her husband, Mike McKool).

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The cast, with leggy Joyce Schiff at the microphone (and Ann Richards behind her to the left, holding the cowboy hat).

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“Political Paranoia II”
May 16, 1964
Hillcrest High School auditorium

“Poop and patter from the Pedernales to the Potomac…”
“The most talked-about show from Euless to Balch Springs…”

$1.50 for Democrats
$7.67 for independents
$25.00 for Republicans

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Below is a list of women who were members of the North Dallas Democratic Women who were known to have participated in the 1963 and/or 1964 productions of “Political Paranoia,” either on stage or behind the scenes. If you recognize any of these women in the SMU film footage, please make note of a time-marker and let me know where you see them and I will update the info.

Written and directed by:
Mrs. Alvin Winegarten (RUTHE WINEGARTEN)
Mrs. David Richards (ANN RICHARDS)
Mrs. Jim Choate (CAROLYN CHOATE)

Mrs. Mike McKool (BETTY McKOOL)
Mrs. Holbrook Seltzer (MILLIE SELTZER)
Mrs. Harry Weisbrod (BEA WEISBROD)
Mrs. Herbert Schiff Jr. (JOYCE SCHIFF)
Mrs. Philip Vogel (MARY VOGEL)
Mrs. Frederick Sparks (MERLENE SPARKS)
Mrs. Sam Whitten (VIRGINIA WHITTEN)
Mrs. Harry Hoffman
Mrs. Thomas L. Ford
Mrs. Harold Polunsky
Mrs. Kenneth Parker
Mrs. Charles Webster
Mrs. J. T. Mullenix
Mrs. Forrest West
Mrs. C. A. Hurst
Mrs. Jack Cohan
Mrs. Donald Fielding
Mrs. Don Kise
Mrs. Stanley Kaufman
Mrs. Richard Sandow
Mrs. Irwin Kaim
Mrs. James Taylor
Mrs. Ray Pearce
Mrs. Daniel Rosenthal
Mrs. Oscar M. Wilson Jr.
Mrs. Earl Granberry
Mrs. Jerome Meltzer 

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Sources & Notes

Screenshots are from “Political Paranoia II,” a filmed chronicle of the 1964 political revue written and performed by the North Dallas Democratic Women’s Club at Hillcrest High School on May 16, 1964; the origins of the film are unknown, but this copy is held by the G. William Jones Film and Video Archive, Hamon Library, Southern Methodist University. All thanks to Jeremy Spracklen and Scott Martin of the Jones Archive. The direct YouTube link is here.

Thanks also to Margaret Werry and Jean Ball for their help in identifying participants and for taking the time to share their memories of Dallas’ political past.

A good account of Ann Richards’ time in Dallas can be found in her autobiography, Straight from the Heart, My Life in Politics & Other Places (Simon & Schuster, 1989).

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Michael G. Owen Jr., Dallas Artist

owen-michael_painting_david-dike-fine-artUntitled painting by Michael G. Owen Jr. (David Dike Fine Art)

by Paula Bosse

I’ve written about Michael G. Owen Jr. previously (see links at the bottom of this page for the three Flashback Dallas posts about Owen) but only in terms of his artistic achievements as a sculptor. I knew he had been a student of painters Jerry Bywaters and Olin Travis, and I had seen a couple of prints by him, but I was surprised to see the painting above which is currently offered at auction by David Dike Fine Art here in Dallas. Dike himself was surprised to see this large painting with stylistic echoes of the Dallas Nine group, of which Owen was a peripheral figure.

The untitled painting, estimated to have been painted around 1943, shows a man playing a guitar who resembles blues legend Lead Belly (whom Owen sculpted in 1943) surrounded by a black woman and child, by a white woman and child, and by a white man, presumed to be a self-portrait of Michael Owen. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that if the male figure standing at the right is Michael Owen, then the white woman and child are his wife Lois Schwarzwaelder Owen and his oldest son Michael Gordon Owen III (born in November, 1940).

This is quite an accomplished painting for an artist known primarily as a sculptor, and its discovery will surely boost Owen’s importance as a Texas regionalist artist.

Mike Owen was born in Oak Cliff in 1915 but lived in the 3500 block of Normandy Avenue in Highland Park for most of his life in Dallas, from at least 1923. His birth certificate has his father’s occupation as “lawyer,” but something must have happened between then and 1920 when census reports and city directories had his occupation listed variously as a farmer, an automobile painter with the Ford Motor Co., a sand and gravel merchant, a “laborer” with the Town of Highland Park, a roustabout, and when he and his wife (and most of their family, including the young, married Mike) moved to El Paso around 1941, his occupation was listed as “pipe-fitter.” Mike attended Highland Park High School, but the large family (there were at least six children) was not well-to-do. Olin Travis, the noted Dallas artist who was one of Mike’s art teachers, described Mike as “very poor” — he was able to take art lessons by winning scholarships, and he often scrounged for materials wherever he could (including a discarded block of red granite from an old Maple Avenue home which he used for an early sculpture).

Owen was something of a prodigy in Dallas art circles (he received a scholarship to the Dallas Art Institute when he was 14), and he was certainly a known figure in the exploding local art scene of the 1930s which was led by fellow artists such as Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue.

Mike Owen seems to have left Dallas sometime in 1936 for New York (see the photo below), but he was back in town in 1937 when he was commissioned to do the wonderful Peruna memorial which still stands on the SMU campus.

owen_peruna_monument_flickrphoto by David Steele

He continued to work and exhibit in Dallas until about 1939, when he seems to have left the city for good.

After having lived in El Paso and the Washington, DC suburbs of Maryland for a time in the 1940s, he and his wife and their two young sons moved to the Pacific Northwest where Mike paid the bills by working as a draftsman at an engineering firm in Corvallis, Oregon while continuing to create art.

Mike Owen suffered what must have been a debilitating series of setbacks, particularly in his later years. In 1942 in El Paso, his 16-year-old sister Sue was killed when a car she was riding in was hit by a train; in 1960 his wife sued him for divorce; in 1964 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; in 1965 his 18-year-old son William was killed in a motorcycle accident; in 1970 his father died; and in 1971 he had to abandon his artistic pursuits because the progression of the MS has made it impossible to shape clay with his numb hands.

Mike Owen died in Kennewick, Washington in April, 1976 after a twelve-year battle with MS. Even though he was not widely known, his obituary ran in newspapers around the country, possibly because of the lurid circumstances. The first two sentences read: “Noted artist and sculptor Michael Owen, 60, lost a 12-year battle with multiple sclerosis last week and, it was reported, died in a filthy trailer. He was buried at his own request without services in an unmarked grave at Desert Lawn Memorial Park with only his 90-year-old mother and a friend to mourn him” (UPI wire story May 5, 1976).

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UPI wire story, May 5, 1976 (click for larger image)

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April 29, 1976

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In a 1969 interview, Olin Travis, Mike’s childhood art teacher, said (possibly with some exaggeration) that Mike was “as good as Rodin…. Yet Dallas has never recognized this man” (DMN, Aug. 23, 1969).

The painting at the top of this post will be offered in Dallas at auction on November 9, 2019. It has an estimate of $80,000-$150,000.

UPDATE, Nov. 9, 2019: Dallas has recognized Mike Owen now — the painting at the top of the page sold at auction for $228,000.

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Highland Park High School senior photo, 1933

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From an application for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate, 1936

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ca. 1938

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Sources & Notes

See the auction listing in the David Dike Fine Art Fall 2019 catalog here — the painting is Lot 128 on page 37. The auction will be held Saturday, November 9, 2019 in Dallas at noon. UPDATE: The painting sold at auction for $228,000 (including the buyer’s premium).

Read about the painting and how it was brought to Mr. Dike’s attention in a Sept. 25, 2019 article from The Dallas Morning News here.

Read the previous Flashback Dallas posts on Michael G. Owen Jr.:

More Flashback Dallas posts on the local art scene can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Super-Cool Roger Miller in Dallas — 1960s

roger-miller_venetian-room_oct-1969_wfaa_jones-film_SMURoger Miller on the Venetian Room stage, October, 1969

by Paula Bosse

Who doesn’t love Roger Miller? He was always one of the most effortlessly “cool” entertainers, celebrated as much for his songwriting and singing as he was for his humor and storytelling.

Roger Miller was born in Fort Worth in 1936 but spent most of his childhood in Oklahoma following the death of his father. He launched an entertainment career after a stint in the U.S. Army came to an end. (See an extensive timeline at Wikipedia, here.)

After years of struggling, he finally hit the big-time in 1964 with the hit “Dang Me” and, a few months later, with his biggest hit, the classic “King of the Road.” He won a huge number of Grammys (11 in 1964 and 1965 alone) and was a bona fide star who had incredible crossover appeal for fans of both country music and traditional popular music.

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When he came to Dallas in October, 1969 it was for a 3-week run at the Fairmont Hotel’s swanky Venetian Room, and he apparently packed them in every night. Below is a snippet of an interview with WFAA-Channel 8 News in which Roger answers the burning question of whether he was “serious” when he wrote his hit novelty song “You Can’t Rollerskate In a Buffalo Herd” (listen to the song here). His quipped response (which cracked up the Jerry Gray Orchestra behind him) probably didn’t make it to the local airwaves in 1969:

 

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(As an interesting sidelight, in an interview with Philip Wuntch of The Dallas Morning News (Oct. 19, 1969), Miller said that he and his wife had been in Texas for a few days prior to his Venetian Room engagement looking at houses in both Dallas (his mother was then residing in Fort Worth) and San Antonio (his wife’s hometown). Nothing apparently came of this, but it certainly would have been nice to have been able to claim Roger Miller as a Dallas resident!)

He was in town a couple of years earlier, in 1967, and sat down for a Channel 8 interview which was a bit more sedate — it took place in the American Airlines “Celebrity Room” at Love Field as he was passing through Dallas on his way to San Antonio with his wife and young son, Dean Miller:

 

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On this trip, newspapers reported that he was shuttled about in private Lear Jets and Rolls Royces — a big change from his early days when he picked cotton, hitchhiked, slept in cars, and stole milk off front porches.

Roger Miller died in 1992 at the age of 56 from complications of lung cancer.

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Below are a few ads from Roger Miller’s DFW appearances. He played large venues like the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and Panther Hall and Northside Coliseum in Fort Worth, but he also played a lot of little clubs as he worked his way up to becoming a major recording artist and television personality.

miller-roger_FWST_041259_rosas-western-clubRosa’s Western Club, Fort Worth with Donny Young (aka Johnny Paycheck), April 12, 1959

miller-roger_060863_hi-ho-western-club_grand-prairieHi-Ho Western Club, Grand Prairie, TX, June 8, 1963

miller-roger_FWST_081364_panther-hallPanther Hall, Aug. 13, 1964

miller-roger_101669_fairmont-hotelVenetian Room, Dallas, Oct. 16, 1969

miller-roger_101769_fairmont-hotel_smash-recordsSmash Records ad, Oct. 17, 1969

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Sources & Notes

Film footage of Roger Miller in Dallas (on YouTube here and here) is from the WFAA Collection, G. William Jones Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

The official Roger Miller website is here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Rip Torn and Ann Wedgeworth’s Dallas Wedding — 1955

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E. R. “Rip” Torn, the pride of Taylor High School

by Paula Bosse

One of my favorite actors — Rip Torn — has died. My favorite performance of his was as Larry Sanders’ producer, Artie, on The Larry Sanders Show. He was PERFECT in that role. And I loved a little-seen movie he did in the ’70s called Payday in which he played a hard-living country-music singer (watch the trailer here; the full movie is currently on YouTube). But, really, I liked him in everything I saw him in.

A couple of years ago I wrote about Dallas-reared actress Ann Wedgeworth and was surprised to discover that she had been married to fellow Texan Rip Torn (born Elmore Rual Torn) and their wedding had been in Dallas. They had probably met in Austin in 1952 or 1953 when both were members of the University of Texas Curtain Club acting group. They were married in downtown Dallas on Saturday, January 15, 1955 at First Methodist Church on Ross and Harwood, with Rev. Calvin W. Froehner officiating. The 20-year-old bride wore rose-hued lace and satin; the 23-year-old groom probably wore a military uniform as he was then serving in the U.S. Army Military Police.

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Austin American, Jan. 25, 1955

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Taylor (TX) Daily Press, Jan. 23, 1955

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Ann and Rip (who was called “Skip” as a child, which is nowhere near as good as “Rip”) moved to New York later in 1955 when Rip’s army hitch was finished, and both began working in New York theater fairly soon after their arrival. They had a daughter Danae and were married until their divorce in 1961.

Below are a few photos of Rip Torn from high school and college yearbooks. (Most images are larger when clicked.)

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1946, Longview (TX) High School, sophomore

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1947, Longview High School, junior

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1947, Longview High School, Chemistry Club president

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1947, Longview High School, sports editor of the school paper

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1947, Longview High School, Junior Class treasurer

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1948, Taylor (TX) High School, senior

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1948, Taylor High School, yearbook staff, business manager

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1950, Texas A & M, Sophomore Class parliamentarian

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1951, University of Texas, junior, Radio Guild

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1952, University of Texas, senior, Sigma Chi fraternity

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Hollywood glamour shot

RIP, Rip (1931-2019).

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Sources & Notes

Rip Torn had a famous first-cousin, Sissy Spacek — Rip’s mother and Sissy’s father were brother and sister. I checked the Quitman High School yearbook (Sissy’s alma mater) and found her mod and groovy 1968 senior photos. Here’s one, showing her as a class favorite, voted “Cutest Couple” with Jerry Blalock. (And, yes, that really is her.)

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And, since I’m on a roll, here’s a photo of Rip Torn’s mother, Thelma Spacek, when she was a student at Southwestern College (Georgetown, TX) in 1927. Rip had that same profile.

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RIP

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Gloria Vanderbilt’s 4 Husbands… and Their Dallas Connections

cooper-wyatt_gloria-vanderbilt_1970_w-magMr. & Mrs. Wyatt Cooper, 2 months after their royal reign in Dallas

by Paula Bosse

Gloria Vanderbilt died June 17, 2019 at the age of 95. Despite being the subject of one of the most headline-grabbing child-custody trials in 20th-century history, “poor little rich girl” Gloria Vanderbilt grew up to live what appears to have been a full and mostly happy life. There were several Dallas connections in her life, especially regarding each of the four men she married.

One of Gloria’s aunts (her mother’s sister-in-law, or, more confusingly, the ex-wife of Gloria’s mother’s brother) was Ivor O’Connor Morgan, something of a bon vivant socialite who lived primarily in Europe but kept Dallas as her residence of record. She was born in Dallas, the eldest daughter of prominent banker J. C. O’Connor and niece of Mayor J. Waddy Tate. She testified in Gloria’s custody trial in support of Gloria’s mother (who ultimately lost custody).

And now to Gloria’s husbands.

1. PASQUALE (“PAT”) DiCICCO was Gloria’s first husband. He was a Hollywood agent and the ex-husband of film star Thelma Todd (who died under mysterious circumstances, with many wondering if Pat might have been involved in what many suspected had been a murder). They married in 1941 when Gloria was only 17 (Pat was 32). Gloria described the marriage as an unhappy and abusive one. They divorced in 1945. 

di-cicco_dec-1941_APDiCicco and Gloria in 1941

Their honeymoon road trip brought them to Dallas for a day where they took a breather from their motoring to be entertained at a luncheon held in their honor in the Mural Room of the Baker Hotel.

In 1947 — a couple of years after their divorce — DiCicco moved to Dallas to assume a vice-president position with the Dallas-based Robb & Rowley theater chain. He appears to have returned to Hollywood at the beginning of 1949.

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2. LEOPOLD STOKOWKSI, the noted classical music conductor, was Gloria’s second husband. They married one day after her divorce with DiCicco was finalized; Gloria was 21, Stokowski was 63. They were married for 10 years and had two sons.

stokowski_vanderbilt_1950_pinterestThe Stokowskis, with their first son, 1950, via Pinterest

In December, 1950 (about the time of the photo above), Leopold Stokowski appeared in Dallas as a guest conductor with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He and Gloria drove up from Houston and spent their time here at the Stoneleigh Hotel. Stokowski had been invited by DSO conductor Walter Hendl, with whom he had worked at the New York Philharmonic Symphony.

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Dec., 1950

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3. SIDNEY LUMET, the TV and movie director, was husband #3. They married in 1956 and divorced seven years later. He was known for critically acclaimed films such as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and Serpico.

lumet-sidney_vanderbilt_wedding_w-mag Mr. and Mrs. Lumet, 1956

Sidney Lumet’s father, Baruch Lumet, was a Warsaw-born actor who was had started in Yiddish theater. Somehow he ended up in Dallas, where he founded an acting school and was the director of the Dallas Institute of Performing Arts, whose home-base was the Knox Street Theatre. Baruch plied his craft in Big D for about ten years, beginning in 1952. Among his students was then-Dallas resident Vera Jane Palmer, better known as Hollywood glam-star Jayne Mansfield.

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Speaking of the theater world, it’s interesting to note that while Gloria was married to Sidney Lumet, she had written a play (untitled) which had been sent by her agent to Paul Baker at the Dallas Theater Center for consideration. The play was described as “a dance drama, written partly in poetic style” (Dallas Morning News, Sept. 24, 1959).

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4. WYATT COOPER was Gloria’s last husband; they were married from 1963 until his death in 1988, and together they had two sons, one of which is journalist Anderson Cooper. From most accounts, the years with Cooper were among her happiest.

gloria-vanderbilt_wyatt-cooper_wikipedia_ebay-photo_101170The Coopers, dressed in matching Adolfo, 1970, via WikiMedia

In 1970, it was announced that Neiman-Marcus’ annual extravagant Fortnight festivities would celebrate the culture and commerce of Australia, but at the last minute, the country pulled out, leaving Neiman’s in the lurch. It was too late to get another country on board, but the show must go on – and Stanley Marcus made the executive decision to feature a fictional country: “Ruritania.”

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The store created the country’s history, designed its money and postage stamps, and even commissioned a national anthem. There was even a king and queen of the principality: King Rudolph and Queen Flavia, embodied by the striking couple of Wyatt Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt, who presided over a grand ball in formal-wear designed by Gloria’s favorite designer, Adolfo. The photo at the top of this post (and directly below) was taken in December, 1970, just a few weeks after the Neiman’s Fortnight — the Coopers were attending the high-society Winter Ball at the Plaza Hotel in New York, with Gloria in another Adolfo creation. It gives you an idea of the royal costumes they wore in Dallas as the faux monarchs of Ruritania. It also shows what a game, happy couple they were and why Stanley Marcus chose them to be the king and queen of his mythical kingdom .

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RIP, Gloria. We should all be lucky enough to have a life as full as yours.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of Gloria Vanderbilt and husband Wyatt Cooper shows the couple in December, 1970, attending the Imperial Russia-themed Winter Ball in New York City, with Gloria in a costume designed by Adolfo; that photo (as well as the photo of her and Sidney Lumet on their wedding day) appeared in a well-worth-clicking-through W magazine slideshow.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Birdseye View of Greater Dallas” by Ashley Bond — 1925

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Spot your neighborhood? (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This great drawing from 1925 features several of Dallas’ then-new (and new-ish) neighborhoods.

The “birdseye view” appeared in a Dallas Chamber of Commerce publication and was drawn (with a few large dollops of artistic license) by Dallas commercial artist Ashley R. Bond.

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I couldn’t find much about Mr. Bond except that he had a son who became a child actor in Hollywood — his son was Tommy Bond, who was best known as “Butch,” the bully in the Our Gang/Little Rascals comedies (which featured another Dallasite, Spanky McFarland). Little Tommy was walking down a Dallas street with his mother when a talent scout saw him, thought he had a great face for the silver screen, and told his mother that if she got the boy to Hollywood, he would guarantee a meeting with the famous Hal Roach. A short time later, 6-year-old Tommy Bond signed with the Hal Roach Studios.

Here’s a great clip of Master Bond (who briefly attended Bradfield Elementary School and lived in the 4400 block of Potomac in University Park…) admirably belting out the song “Just Friends” from a short which appeared not long after he had been plucked from obscurity on the streets of Big D:



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It’s a good day when an obscure Dallas Chamber of Commerce illustration leads directly to the Little Rascals.

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Sources & Notes

Map by Ashley Bond from the June, 1925 issue of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce magazine.

More on Tommy “Butch” Bond can be found at Wikipedia here. I’m not sure about the dates in that entry. The Dallas Morning News reported on Dec. 3, 1932 that Tommy’s parents had received word the previous day that Hal Roach had offered the boy a 5-year contract and that the youngster had been in Hollywood for two-and-a-half months.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Esquire Theater — 1969

esquire-theater_1969_portal“Midnight Cowboy” at the Esquire, 1969… (click for  larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This is a really great photo of the still-missed Esquire Theater in Oak Lawn. Here we see it in 1969, showing the X-rated film Midnight Cowboy, which went on to win several Academy Awards, including Best Picture (the only X-rated film to receive the Best Picture Oscar), Best Director (John Schlesinger), and Best Adapted Screenplay (by Waldo Salt, based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy).

Midnight Cowboy opened at the Esquire in July, 1969 and ran for several months. One of the featured actors in this American classic is Dallas’ own Brenda Vaccaro (Thomas Jefferson High School Class of 1958, daughter of Mario Vaccaro who owned Mario’s Italian restaurant) — I’ve loved her in everything I’ve ever seen her in. (Here’s one of her scenes from Midnight Cowboy.)

vaccaro-brenda_thomas-jefferson_1958_seniorThomas Jefferson High School, 1958

“Whatever you hear about Midnight Cowboy is true!” … “A reeking masterpiece. It will kick you all over town.” … “A nasty but unforgettable screen experience.”

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Opening day, July 23, 1969

It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie. I had forgotten how much I liked the opening in which Joe Buck leaves Texas to head to New York. Here it is, overflowing with small-town Texas flavor (filmed in Big Spring). Cameo by an evocative Mrs. Baird’s paper hat.

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Sources & Notes

Photo titled “[‘Midnight Cowboy’ at Esquire Theatre]” is from the Spotlight on North Texas collection, provided by UNT Media Library to The Portal to Texas History; more on this photo can be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Henry Russells Take Possession of Their Rolls Royce Silver Wraith — 1948

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The car, the couple, the driver … Preston Hollow, 1948

by Paula Bosse

People seem to expect stories about painfully wealthy Texans to have larger-than-life outrageous elements. The April 5, 1948 issue of Life magazine devoted several pages to the Southwest’s “New Crop of Super Rich.” The photo showing Col. and Mrs. H. E. Russell at their Preston Hollow home appeared with the following caption:

New Rolls-Royce (price $19,500) was bought by Colonel Henry Russell of Dallas as a birthday present for his wife. She liked it because “it goes with my blue hat.” The Russells claim they are just “camping out” in their house, plan to turn it over to the servants and build a bigger one for themselves as soon as they get around to it.

One can only hope this was just gross exaggeration. Or a misinterpreted joke. Or just amusing fiction. Because if not … yikes. 

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Henry and Alla Russell had not been in Dallas very long when they took possession of their fabulous Rolls Royce — a Silver Wraith. When production of this model was announced in 1946, it was described as “the world’s most expensive automobile.” The Russell’s purchase made local news, with this blurb appearing in The Dallas Morning News on Feb. 12, 1948:

Col. and Mrs. H. E. Russell, 4606 Park Lane, have taken delivery on their new Rolls-Royce. Known as the Silver Wraith model, the silver and blue car features a bar, vanity and other luxuries. The price? $19,274. Dealers S. H. Lynch & Co. said the car was the first Rolls-Royce sold in the Southwest.

That postwar price would be the equivalent in today’s money of about $200,000. In a 1956 Dallas Morning News article, Frank X. Tolbert wrote that Col. Russell “is still driving his ’48 model, and it’s the only one we ever see around town although there may be one or two more” (DMN, “Rolls-Royce Hard To Find in State,” Nov. 15, 1956).

There had been Rolls Royces in Dallas before 1948, but according to S. H. Lynch — the Dallas dealer of imported British vehicles including Jaguars, Bentleys, MGs, Morris Minors, and James motorcycles (as well as other high-ticket British items such as English china) — he had sold only five or six of the prestigious automobiles while he had the dealership, and that only that first one bought by the Russells had stayed in Dallas.

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S. H. Lynch & Co. ad, Feb. 1, 1948 (click for larger image)

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March, 1948

In 1948, S. H. Lynch (located at 2106 Pacific, at Olive) was one of only three Rolls dealerships in the county, the others being in New York and Los Angeles. In postwar Britain, American dollars were in such demand that a Rolls spokesman said that at least 75% of his company’s production was earmarked for the U.S. — American orders would take priority over their U.K. counterparts.

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Even though a Roller’s always going to wow the hoi polloi, it wasn’t always easy to find a trained mechanic, as Roy Lee discovered:

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Abilene, TX Reporter News, July 20, 1946

We all have our bad days, I suppose.

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Sources & Notes

The two photos of the Russells are from the Life magazine article “Southwest Has a New Crop of Super Rich” (the top photo was not published).

Col. Russell, an Army veteran of both world wars, appears to have been retired by the time he got to Dallas. The only clue to the source of what must have been fabulous wealth was the final line in the obituary of Mrs. Russell, which noted that he was the son (or possibly the grandson) of the founder of the Russwin Lock Co. Mrs. Russell died in a massive fire which destroyed the large Park Lane house in January, 1976; the colonel died about 15 years earlier, in New York.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Jane Asher in Dallas — 1967

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by Paula Bosse

English actress Jane Asher — who has acted since the age of 5 — will probably forever be referred to somewhere (like here) as “Paul McCartney’s former girlfriend.” They dated from 1963 to 1968, and Jane always asserted that her acting career was what was important to her, not being a celebrity (or the girlfriend of a celebrity). But if you were dating a Beatle, that was probably an impossible thing to escape.

In 1967, Jane toured the United States for several months as part of the Bristol Old Vic company. One of their longest stays was in Dallas (April 10-15, at the State Fair Music Hall), where the company performed Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet (in which Jane appeared as Juliet). The Dallas performances (“The theatrical event of the season!” “Only Southwestern engagement…”) were co-sponsored by Neiman-Marcus.

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It appears that Jane popped into Dallas early — on April 4 and April 5 — in order to do some publicity, catch a Dallas Theater Center production of Julius Caesar (as the guest of Richard Marcus who, afterwards, hosted a small dinner party), and, the next day, celebrate her 21st birthday at a noon luncheon in Neiman’s Zodiac Room.

Her arrival at Love Field was captured by Channel 8 news cameras (sadly, without sound).

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asher-jane_ap-wire-photo_040567_dtcAP wire photo, taken in Dallas on April 4, 1967

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AP wire photo, taken in Dallas at Neiman-Marcus on April 5, 1967

After cake at the Zodiac Room on her birthday — April 5, 1967 — she left for Denver, the next stop on the tour. That night her famous boyfriend joined her there for even more cake.

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Denver, April 5, 1967

After the run in Denver, the Bristol Old Vic company came to Dallas for six days (and seven performances). A reviewer complained about the Music Hall’s poor acoustics and thought that the productions of the three plays were a bit “mod” for his taste (“considerable stage movement and fast-paced dialogue caused many of the lines to be lost”), but he thought Jane acquitted herself well as Juliet in a good, if somewhat undistinguished production.

In an interview with Maryln Schwartz of The Dallas Morning News, Jane — probably for the thousandth time — had to steer the conversation back to her acting and away from her famous boyfriend. When Schwartz asked who her favorite “singing group” was she told her it was the Grateful Dead.

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Austin American-Statesman, Jan. 15, 1967 (click to see larger image)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo by Harry Benson, Daily Express, Hulton Archive, Getty Images. The Getty caption has the date as April 25, 1967, which is incorrect — the photo was most likely taken on April 5, 1967 (Jane is wearing the same outfit seen in the Zodiac Room photo, and on April 25th, the theatrical company had been in Illinois for over a week). I have to admit, I love seeing celebrities awkwardly wearing Texas cowboy hats. But Jane looks pretty cute.

The WFAA-Ch. 8 news footage is from the G. William Jones Film Collection at SMU. The short, 49-second clip shows her arriving on a Delta flight at Love Field, met by a no doubt Stanley Marcus-approved be-costumed young man with a trumpet and a woman bearing some sort of official proclamation of “welcome.” The two color photos are my screen captures.

The birthday cake photo is from a blog post teeming with fantastic photos of Jane Asher and her stunning red hair, here.

More on Jane Asher’s career at Wikipedia, here.

More on the Beatles and Dallas can be found in the Flashback Dallas post “The Fab Four in Big D — 1964,” here. (It’s interesting to note that two important people in the orbit of the Beatles celebrated milestone birthdays in Dallas: Jane Asher turned 21 here, and manager Brian Epstein turned 30 while here with “the boys” in 1964.)

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Pat Boone, Host of Channel 5’s “Teen Times” — 1954

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“Handsome teen-ager” Pat Boone, host of WBAP’s “Teen Times”

by Paula Bosse

In January, 1954, soon-to-be pop-star Pat Boone transferred from a college in Nashville to North Texas State College (now the University of North Texas) in Denton — he was 19 years old and recently married with a baby on the way. An entertainer since childhood, he had recently appeared on (and won) Ted Mack’s nationally televised “Amateur Hour” and had a few minor recordings under his  belt. He entered the Denton college in the middle of the school year, majoring in speech and minoring in music.

In an interview with the college newspaper, The Campus Chat, student reporter Bill Moyers (yes, that Bill Moyers) asked the scrupulously clean-cut Boone what career he saw for himself. His answer: “I want to preach on Sundays at churches that can’t afford pastors, and perhaps I’ll even become a full-time pastor.” He said that even though he had devoted years to being an entertainer and his father-in-law was a bona fide star, he did not envision a career as a professional singer because, for one reason, he did not approve of night clubs, on moral grounds: “I don’t want to sing at night clubs, and that’s where most of the singers do much of their work” (Campus Chat, Feb. 24, 1954).

The reason he was being interviewed in the first place — after only a couple of months in town — was because he had been named as the host of a Dallas-Fort Worth television show called “Teen Times,” sponsored by Foremost Dairies and broadcast on Saturday afternoons on WBAP-Ch. 5; the show premiered in February, 1954. Boone acted as host, dressed as a soda jerk behind a drugstore soda fountain, with teenaged guests who represented one Dallas school and one Fort Worth school (the schools changed each week), competing in a sort of talent show. Boone kept things moving, performed a few songs, and, in between, sang the praises of Foremost milk and ice cream.

Boone hosted the show through the spring of 1955. During the run of this local show, his popularity grew quickly on a national level, the result of several national TV appearances and ever-increasing record sales. After his year-and-a-half time in Denton, he moved to New York in the summer of 1955 and enrolled at Columbia University; before the end of the year, Pat Boone’s fame exploded: he had a huge hit with a cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and was appearing regularly on national TV. By the late ’50s his record sales were reportedly second only to Elvis Presley’s, even though Boone’s squeaky-clean and sincere wholesomeness was the polar opposite of the suggestive, hep-cat abandon of Elvis’ earthier style.

Even though Pat Boone was a North Texas student for only a short time, whenever he has returned to Denton over the years he has always received something of a hero’s welcome. With formative years spent here, and with his star-turn in the 1962 filmed-at-Fair-Park movie State Fair, Pat Boone has every right to be considered an honorary Texan.

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During his time in Denton, Pat Boone hosted two television shows for WBAP-Channel 5: the Foremost Dairies-sponsored “Teen Times” (often referred to as “Teen Time”) on Saturday afternoons, and the Bewley Mills-sponsored “Barn Dance” on Friday nights. (It looks like “Teen Times” was revamped a few years later and returned to Channel 5 in a somewhat similar format as “Teen-Age Downbeat” in January, 1958.)

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1954

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Feb. 7, 1954 (click to read)

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Feb. 13, 1954

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FWST, Feb. 12, 1954

Below, a super-blurry excerpt from Bill Moyers’ article in The Campus Chat (read the full interview here):

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Campus Chat (North Texas State College newspaper), Feb. 24, 1954

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FWST, June 20, 1954

In June, 1955, Les Handy — a voice teacher at Texas Wesleyan College — took over as emcee at “Teen Times.” 

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1955

And in September, 1955, Pat and Shirley and their new baby moved from Denton to New York City.

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Denton Record-Chronicle, Sept. 11, 1955

Pat Boone photos from the 1955 NTSC yearbook, The Yucca:

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Junior class photo, 1955

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Kappa Alpha fraternity photo

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Student Religious Council (detail from group photo)

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Sources & Notes

Top photo of Pat Boone behind a soda fountain holding a microphone appeared in the Feb. 24, 1954 edition of Campus Chat, the college paper of what was then North Texas State College; it is from the UNT Libraries Special Collections, and may be accessed on UNT’s Portal to Texas History, here.

Pat Boone’s wife, Shirley, was the daughter of the legendary Nashville “hillbilly” singer, Red Foley. Here’s a video of a nervous Boone and his father-in-law on Foley’s “Ozark Jubilee” TV show, two weeks after Pat and Shirley had left Denton for New York. They are singing “Tennessee Saturday Night,” Red Foley’s big hit from 1949 (hear his great original hillbilly boogie version here).

Because it involves Pat Boone and UNT, check out the 20-minute informational film all about the college, made for students by students in 1963, available to watch on the Portal to Texas History, here — Pat Boone offers a few enthusiastic bits of narration.

And, why not, here’s a photo of journalist Bill Moyers from the 1953 North Texas yearbook.

moyers-bill_UNT_1953-yucca_yearbook

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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