Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Local Personalities

The Fountain: “A Resort for Gentlemen” — ca. 1911

by Paula Bosse

This postcard (which has a 1911 postmark) shows The Fountain, a well-appointed drinking establishment (not lacking in ceiling fans). The caption reads:

Meet me at the Fountain, a Resort for Gentlemen, 1518 Main Street, Dallas, Texas.
John H. Senchal, Propr.
Don’t fail to see the Greatest Fair on Earth at Dallas, Texas.

This bar-with-food was located on the south side of Main, steps away from the present location of Neiman Marcus. It was in the block seen in the picture below (it is just out of frame at the bottom right, next door to the Colonial Theater):

Main Street looking east from Akard

Its address was originally 350 Main — after the city-wide address change in 1911, it became 1518 Main. It appears to have opened in 1907 and was in business until at least 1918 (after Dallas voted to go “dry,” the former saloon became The Fountain Cafe). Here are a few early ads for the “High-Class Stags’ Cafe” in its early go-go “gentlemen’s resort” days: 

Dallas Morning News, Oct. 1907

Dallas directory, 1909

Dallas Police annual, 1910

A few years later, the owner, John Henry Senchal, opened Senchal’s Buffet and Senchal’s Restaurant and Rathskeller at 1614-1618 Main.

Dallas directory, 1915

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Johnnie Senchal — born in Galveston in 1875 to a French father and American mother — appears to have been a popular, civic-minded man’s-man. He frequently traveled with Dallas businessmen to other cities and states to act as a booster for the city. He also indulged in sporty activities such as being a regular wrestling referee and sponsoring horse races at the State Fair of Texas (in 1914 a $2,000 “Fountain Purse” was offered — in today’s money, more than $56,000!). One 1915 newspaper report said he was “probably the best known saloon man in the city.” He was very successful and was not hurting for money.

He also seems to have had a cozy relationship with members of the Dallas police department — a situation which is probably commonplace between saloon-owners and cops. One news story described how he had leapt to the defense of a policeman who was waylaid by a large group of men while he was walking prisoners to jail — a huge brawl broke out, and Senchal and the cop emerged victorious. Also — in a story which wasn’t fully explained — Senchal and another man ponied up $5,000 in bond money ($140,000 in today’s money!) for a Dallas policeman who was charged in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old, Those are some strong ties between a saloonkeeper and the local constabulary, man.

In 1912 there was another confusing story concerning a man who had been arrested and convicted for being the owner/lessee/tenant of an establishment which was “knowingly permitted to be used as a place in which prostitutes resorted and resided for the purpose of plying their vocation. […] The house was a ‘disorderly house.’ Prostitutes resorted there and displayed themselves in almost a nude condition.” The man who was charged was seen there on a number of occasions “dancing with the prostitutes.” The man appealed his conviction because he had been charged with being the owner/lessee/tenant of this “bawdy house” — but the lessee/tenant was none other than Johnnie Senchal and another man. As far as I can tell, Senchal was not charged with anything regarding this case. 

But a couple of years later, in 1914, he was charged with running a “disorderly house” (a term often meaning a bordello or gambling den, but also meaning a place which is frequently the site of disturbances and is generally considered to be a public nuisance). It seems Johnnie and other were offering “cabaret” entertainment which might gotten out of hand. From The Dallas Morning News:

Alleging that the cabarets are conducted as “disorderly houses,” [charges were filed] on behalf of the State of Texas against owners of three restaurants in the downtown section. Affidavits accompanying the petitions alleged that women were allowed to drink at the places and to act in an unbecoming manner. (DMN, March 12, 1915)

I’m not sure exactly what constituted “an unbecoming manner,” but Johnnie Senchal was one of the men charged. At the very same time he was fighting this violation of the cabaret ordinance, it was reported that “an involuntary petition in bankruptcy has been filed in the United States court here against John Senchal and J. O. Walker, partners in the saloon business on Main Street. The petition was filed by local brewery agents and whisky houses” (DMN, June 20, 1915). Bankrupt! Even though he was apparently rolling in dough for years, he was rather ironically pushed to bankruptcy because he couldn’t pay his own bar tab.

And so Johnnie put the barkeeper’s life behind him. And I mean he REALLY put it behind him: he became a fervent speaker at Anti-Saloon League events, saying that having been forced out of the saloon game was actually a godsend — he was quoted as saying that his profits increased 75-80% when he stopped selling alcohol and became a full-time restaurateur. That seems unlikely, but that’s where he was in 1918, an improbable evangelist for Prohibition. 

Soon after, he and his family moved to Houston, where he opened a small cafe. On Oct. 9, 1929, after closing-time, Johnnie Senchal died in his cafe from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 54 years old.

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Sources & Notes

Postcard of The Fountain found on eBay.

Postcard of Main Street found on Flickr.

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Claes Oldenburg in Dallas — 1962

oldenburg-claes_dallas-museum-for-conteporary-arts_april-1962_WFAA_jones-film_SMU_postersClaes Oldenburg at the DMCA, April, 1962 (WFAA Collection, SMU)

by Paula Bosse

Claes Oldenburg, the Swedish-born American sculptor, died this week at the age of 93. Among his connections to Texas are two of my favorite Oldenburg pieces: the fabulous “Monument to the Last Horse,” a permanent fixture of Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation in Marfa which he created with his wife Coosje van Bruggen, and the much-missed “Stake Hitch,” a site-specific work commissioned by the Dallas Museum of Art (installed in the brand-new DMA in 1984, and, sadly, de-installed in 2002 after a nasty contretemps between Oldenburg and the museum).

Oldenburg’s first visit to Dallas was in April, 1962, at a time when he was known mainly to NYC art-world hipsters — well before he had achieved anything approaching his later international acclaim. He came to Dallas to present “The Store,” a pop art installation which was part of the group show “1961” at the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts (the DMCA, was merged with/absorbed by what is now the Dallas Museum of Art in 1963). While Oldenburg was in Dallas exhibiting “The Store” (comprised of 45 individual works, the placement of which he re-created from the original December, 1961 run in Manhattan), he also presented “Injun,” the first-ever “happening” held outside New York or Los Angeles and the first such interactive event commissioned by a museum (Oldenburg’s Ray Gun Theater performance-art “happenings” were much talked about and had gained a cult following in New York, and having him in Dallas to present a “happening” was a definite “get” for the DMCA).

“The Store” and “Injun” — and Claes Oldenburg himself — were very un-Dallas. The reception Oldenburg received from Dallas’ followers of edgier contemporary art appears to have been positive, but his work was handily dismissed by Dallas Morning News art critic Rual Askew, who, invoking the “royal we,” wrote this rather laborious sentence:

Claes Oldenburg’s ‘The Store,’ a painted-plaster waste of time in our view, has interest as assembled pattern with carnival colors at a considerable distance perhaps, but displaces space out of all proportion to aesthetic experience. (DMN, April 15, 1962)

As I work with the WFAA Collection (held by the G. William Jones Collection at SMU’s Hamon Arts Library), I was pretty excited when film footage popped up a couple of years ago showing Oldenburg and his first wife, Patty Mucha (who collaborated with Oldenburg and helped with the making of many of the art pieces), at the DMCA on Cedar Springs, a place I’d heard about for several years but had never seen an image of. The Oldenburgs are seen walking into the DMCA, tinkering with the installation before the show opened, inspecting the store’s “foods” and other “merchandise,” and playfully “playing store” and exchanging imaginary cash at his “cash register.” Sadly, there is no sound for the one-minute-45-second film, but — being an art history major (that always sounds pretentious…) — I really, really love this. A young, happy Claes Oldenburg and his moth-eaten sweater, here in Dallas, in the early years of his what would become an artistically important career.

I have been meaning to write this post since I first saw the WFAA footage two years ago. I’m sorry that it’s taken the death of the artist to finally get me to do it. RIP, Claes.

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UPDATE: Morgan Gieringer, Head of UNT Special Collections, alerted me to a WBAP-Channel 5 news script they have in their collection which describes much the same sort of thing that is going on in the WFAA-Channel 8 film above. In the script, Oldenburg discusses some of the pieces — read the two pages here. (The Ch. 5 report was filmed on March 29, 1962, which could be the same date at the Ch. 8 footage.)

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“The Store” at the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, 1962 — in vivid color:

oldenburg-claes_the-store_DMCA_1962_DMAvia Dallas Museum of Art

via Dallas Museum of Art

1961_claes-oldenburg_catalog_DMCA_1962_injun“1961” catalogue, via DMA/Portal to Texas History

Screenshots from the WFAA footage, showing Oldenburg and his wife, Patty (who worked alongside her husband and was a frequent participant in the “happenings”) preparing “The Store” for its opening at the DMCA.

oldenburg-claes_dallas-museum-for-conteporary-arts_april-1962_WFAA_jones-film_SMU_ext

oldenburg-claes_dallas-museum-for-conteporary-arts_april-1962_WFAA_jones-film_SMU_1

oldenburg-claes_dallas-museum-for-conteporary-arts_april-1962_WFAA_jones-film_SMU_2

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oldenburg-claes_dallas-museum-for-conteporary-arts_april-1962_WFAA_jones-film_SMU_7

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Sources & Notes

Top image (and all other black-and-white images) are screenshots from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, G. William Jones Film and Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University; the footage was filmed in early April, 1962; the clip may be viewed on YouTube, here.

The color photograph of “The Store” and the poster for “Injun” are both from a publication of the Dallas Museum of Art, here.

Other Oldenburg-related sources:

  • The “1961” exhibition catalogue — this group show featured heavy-hitting up-and-comers such as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, James Rosenquist, Joseph Albers, Morris Louis, Jasper Johns, Jim Dine, and Richard Diebenkorn — see the fully scanned Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts catalogue here, via the Dallas Museum of Art Exhibition Records, Portal to Texas History
  • Candid photos from the “Injun” performance can be seen here
  • See several great photos of Oldenburg taken during the installation of “Stake Hitch” in 1984, in a DMA Bulletin here, here, here, and here
  • Watch a short video about “The Store” when it was restaged at the Museum of Modern Art in 2013, with comments on the pieces by Oldenburg; see what the pieces shown in the 1962 black-and-white film made in Dallas looked like 51 years later, in color, in the MoMA video, here

oldenburg-claes_dallas-museum-for-conteporary-arts_april-1962_WFAA_jones-film_SMU_posters_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The DALLASOUND — 1971

dallasound_1971_amazon
Staight outta Big D…

by Paula Bosse

The Boston Symphony Orchestra had Arthur Fiedler and its popular-music offshoot, The Boston Pops. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra had Anshel Brusilow and The Dallasound. 

Brusilow, a Philadelphia native, came to Dallas in 1970 as the resident conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The DSO was in financial straits at the time, so in a bid to increase the orchestra’s demographic reach, Brusilow borrowed Fiedler’s idea and formed his own “pops” orchestra, which played jazzy arrangements of pop songs and light classical music. He named this sideline project “The Dallasound.” It was very popular, but it didn’t improve the financial problems of the DSO, and Brusilow was gone after only 3 years. He then went on to accept a teaching a position at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas). After 9 years at UNT, he began teaching at SMU’s Meadow School of the Arts in 1983. Brusilow died in 2018 — he spent the last 48 years of his life in Dallas.

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Here are the liner notes for the Dallasound album (1971):

THE DALLAS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

One of America’s oldest orchestras, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1900. Through the years, it has served its community and the entire North Texas area with the finest in music from the greatest composers the world has known. From a modest beginning — with 35 members giving a handful of concerts a season — the Dallas Symphony Orchestra currently has 85 members and performs more than 160 concerts each season. Its membership would comprise a “Who’s Who” of some of the finest artists in the world.

With its reputation for the classics well-established, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra now adds another brilliant facet to its already illustrious history — the DALLASOUND — a new sound and a new concept in music making. A big band sound incorporating the latest and most exciting modern-day pop sounds – special arrangements of tunes by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Jim Webb and many others.

Featured as special guest artists on the first recording on the DALLASOUND Label are three outstanding jazz musicians from the Dallas area — Paul Guerrero on drums, Jack Petersen on guitar and Al “Little Al” Wesar on Fender bass. Arrangements are by one of the most gifted arrangers in the business — Wilfred Holcombe of Trenton, New Jersey. Not just stock orchestral arrangements, but the swingingest, rockingest big band arrangements around! Settle back and listen to some of the most exciting music you will ever hear made by a symphony orchestra!

ANSHEL BRUSILOW

Like many of the world’s great violinist/conductors, Anshel Brusilow laid aside his Stradivarius several years ago and took baton in hand in earnest. His extensive performing and conducting experience with three of the world’s greatest conductors — Eugene Ormandy, George Szell and Pierre Monteux — placed him in good stead on the podium. He came to Dallas after two extremely busy years and more than 300 concerts with the Chamber Symphony of Philadelphia, including five recordings with RCA Victor.

With him he brought the DALLASOUND and a new era for Dallas’s symphony orchestra. Completely at home with the standard symphonic fare, he is equally proficient when ” swinging” with the DALLASOUND. Thousands of Dallasites have been converted to the new sound a symphony orchestra can make, a fact which substantiates Anshel Brusilow’s theory that the Dallas Symphony Orchestra belongs to all the people of a community and must therefore serve them in as many ways as it can. Thanks to Anshel Brusilow, the Dallas Symphony embarks on a new direction in music — the DALLASOUND!

The album’s musical offerings included arrangements of George Harrison’s “Something” and “My Sweet Lord,” The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun,” The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” and “Delilah,” and everyone’s favorite ubiquitous weird song from the late ’60s, “MacArthur Park.”

dallasound_back-cover_amazon_brusilowAnshel Brusilow

dallasound_back-cover_amazon_det

dallasound_back-cover_amazon_logo

dallasound_030771_adTitche’s ad, March, 1971

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Sources & Notes

Images from the front and back cover of the DALLASOUND album were found on Amazon, here.

A really good interview with Anshel Brusilow can be found in the “High Profile” article by Marty Primeau (Dallas Morning News, July 17, 1983).

dallasound_1971_amazon_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, 1926-1942

baker-hotel-book-shop_1934Eula Wolcott: bookseller, librarian (Publishers Weekly, 1934)

by Paula Bosse

Today is the birthday of my late father, Dick Bosse, owner of the Aldredge Book Store. I always try to post something bookstore-related on his birthday. This year: Miss Eula Wolcott’s Baker Hotel Book Shop & Rental Library, located inside the Baker Hotel.

Eula Wolcott (1881-1962) was born in Waxahachie and had moved to Dallas by 1910. She appears to have had theatrical ambitions and studied voice and expression (she was billed as an “Experienced Concert Reader and Story Teller”). She opened a little book store and library in the early 1920s — the Booklovers Shop and Library was first on West Jefferson and later on Swiss Avenue. In 1926, she opened a similar shop inside the glamorous Baker Hotel, an enterprise she ran successfully until at least 1942 when another owner took over (she also apparently had a book shop inside the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells). In 1931 she opened the rather confusingly-named “Baker Hotel Book Shop and Rental Library” in Highland Park — in the new “Spanish Village” (the original name for Highland Park Village). Below is a very enthusiastic profile from Publishers Weekly (click to see a larger image).

baker-hotel-book-shop_publishers-weekly_032434_eula-wolcott_textPublishers Weekly, March 24, 1934

I wish the photo at the top had been better, because I’d love to get a good look at the decor. And Eula. I managed to find a photo of her.

wolcott-eula_ancestryEula Wolcott, via Ancestry.com

Here are a few ads:

booklovers_0420241924

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-24-1926Two shops, one owner — 1926

baker-hotel_book-shop_1009271927

baker-hotel-book-shop_19371937

baker-hotel_book-shop_DMN_oct-25-19401940

She was active as a bookseller for many years and was also a familiar voice to radio listeners who tuned in to hear her book reviews on WFAA. 

One interesting piece of trivia about Eula’s hotel bookshop, shared with me by a former bookstore client of mine: the Baker Hotel Book Shop was the very first American bookstore that British author H. G. Wells ever visited. A lecture tour brought him to Dallas in 1940 — like many of the celebs of the day, he stayed at the Baker. I’m sure Eula was very happy to have Mr. Wells, a literary powerhouse, in her shop. Let’s hope he exhibited proper bookstore etiquette and purchased something!

baker-hotel_mural-room_dallas-directory_1942Baker Hotel, circa 1940

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Sources & Notes

Top photo and article from the trade magazine Publishers Weekly, March 24, 1934.

Read more Flashback Dallas articles on the Dallas bookstore scene here.

baker-hotel-book-shop_1934_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Response to “Leak” from the Dallas Attorney Who Took Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court

coffee-linda_dmn-headline_050422Dallas Morning News headline, May 4, 2022/photo: Tom Fox

by Paula Bosse

Great work by BeLynn Hollers of The Dallas Morning News for getting comments from Linda Coffee — the Dallas attorney who took her case, Roe v. Wade, to the U.S. Supreme Court (along with her co-counsel, Sarah Weddington) — on the leaked Supreme Court draft decision which appears to signal the overturning of her landmark court case. The story, “Roe v. Wade Lawyer Linda Coffee Laments Potential Supreme Court Ruling to Overturn Dallas Case” (Dallas Morning News, May 4, 2022) can be found here (paywall). Below is the video interview with Coffee, posted on YouTube, here.

The previous DMN interview of Linda Coffee by BeLynn Hollers — “Dallas Lawyer Linda Coffee Launched Landmark Roe vs. Wade Abortion Rights Case with a $15 Filing Fee” (Dallas Morning News, Dec. 16, 2021) — can be found here (paywall). The video interview from that article is posted on YouTube here.

And, from 1970, what may be Linda Coffee’s first-ever television interview about the Dallas case (which was just beginning its long trek to the Supreme Court) has recently been found in the WFAA Newsfilm Collection at SMU (G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University). She was, incredibly, only 27 years old. It is posted on YouTube here. (Read the YouTube notes for background info on this interview.)

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I wrote about Linda Coffee’s Dallas days in the Flashback Dallas post “Linda Coffee, The Dallas Attorney Who Took Roe v. Wade to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

And, again, thank you, Linda.

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Entertainment Awards — 1961

dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_cover_SMUAnd the winner is…

by Paula Bosse

Here’s an interesting piece of Dallas entertainment history: a program for the 1961 Dallas Entertainment Awards, held in the Century Room, the swanky nightclub in the Adolphus Hotel. The awards were nicknamed “the Billy award,” or “the Billys.” Dresscode: “semi-formal.” Here are a few highlights.

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BEST RADIO PERSONALITY

Nominees are: Nick Ramsey (KVIL), Ted Cassidy (“Profile of an Orchestra,” WFAA), Meg Healy (KIXL), Hugh Lampman (“Music ’til Dawn,” KRLD — the previous year’s winner), Irving Harrigan & Tom Murphy (“Murphy and Harrigan Show,” KLIF), Jim Lowe (WRR), and Chem Terry (KRLD). 

So – Ted Cassidy? Yes, that is the same Ted Cassidy who later played “Lurch” on TV in The Addams Family (he also played “Thing”). He worked for WFAA radio for a few years and is a trivia answer in JFK-related quizzes regarding Dallas media coverage of the assassination.

cassidy-ted_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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BEST MALE VOCALIST

Nominees are: Mark Carroll, Marty Ross, Earl Humphreys (the previous year’s winner), Skip Fletcher, Charlie Applewhite, Ron Shipman, and Trini Lopez.

Skip Fletcher? Yes, a member of those Fletchers. When he wasn’t frying up corny dogs he did a little singing, and even released at least one 45.

fletcher-skip_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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R. J. O’DONNELL MEMORIAL AWARD FOR SHOWMAN OF THE YEAR

Nominees are: Tom Hughes, Paul Baker, Raiberto Comini, Lanham Deal, Norma Young, Pearl Chappell, and Lawrence Kelly. (The previous year’s winner was Charles R. Meeker Jr.) A few names there which should be familiar to aficionados of Dallas live theater.

hughes-tom_paul-baker_raiberto-comini_lanham-deal_norma-young_charles-meeker_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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Producers of the event were Breck Wall and Joe Peterson, creators of the naughty “Bottoms Up” revue, which is probably still running somewhere. Some biographical information on the pair (click for larger image):

wall-breck_joe-peterson_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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Master of Ceremonies was Tony Zoppi, who wrote a column about the local nightclub scene for The Dallas Morning News. Whenever I read his old columns, I think that he must have had the BEST job in town — writing about the Dallas nightlife scene when it was at its sophisticated and sometimes seedy Mad Men-era apex.

zoppi-tony_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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And — a bit of a change of pace — a little bio of real estate titan Leo Corrigan, who owned the Adolphus, where the show was being held — he was, unsurprisingly, receiving an “Appreciation Award.”

corrigan-leo_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

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And a couple of drawings of Dallas entertainment notables: Pappy Dolson, owner of Pappy’s Showland and legendary agent of strippers, and Joe Reichman, the leader of the Century Room orchestra who was billed as “the Pagliacci of the piano.”

pappy_pappys_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU

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A few interesting ads include a little “howdy” from Jack Ruby (who was well known to several of the people mentioned above, some of whom testified to the Warren Commission about their relationships with him). 

ruby-jack_new-carousel_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU

An ad for Villa Fontana, a gay club, formerly known as Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit (The Bull on the Roof), then managed by Bob Strange. Gay clubs were illegal at the time, so you didn’t see a lot of ads for them. (I wrote an article for Central Track about some of the gay clubs in Dallas in the early ’70s — with photos — here.)

villa-fontana_gay-cllub_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU

And, the 24-hour greasy spoon known to generations of Dallasites, Oak Lawn’s Lucas B & B.

lucas-b-and-b_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_bw

Here’s the photo enlarged. Unless something earth-shattering has happened that I don’t know about, that great sign is still standing on Oak Lawn near Lemmon, long after the restaurant closed.

lucas-b-and-b_dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_SMU_det

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See the rest of the 44-page program — lots more photos, lots more nominees — in a PDF from the DeGolyer Library at SMU, here.

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Sources & Notes

All images are from “Dallas Entertainment Awards — 1961,” from the Diane Wisdom Papers, Archives of Women of the Southwest, DeGolyer Library, SMU Libraries; more information and a link to the fully-scanned program is here.

dallas-entertainment-awards_1961_cover_SMU_sm

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Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Bob Lilly, Chap Stick User — 1968

cowboys_bob-lilly_chapstick_1968-ad_2

by Paula Bosse

Must’ve been the Moistutane®.

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Sources & Notes

Ads found on eBay.

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Gene de Jean Lifts a Curse on Dallas — 1970

gene-de-jean_WFAA_090470Curse lifted — all in a day’s work…

by Paula Bosse

On Sept. 4, 1970, at the corner of Commerce and Ervay, a “white-magic warlock” named Gene de Jean conducted a ceremony to lift a heinous curse placed on Dallas in 1963 by a somewhat vague “malevolent black-magic coven” — this curse, which, uncoincidentally, preceded the JFK assassination, had apparently hung over the city for 7 long years. Fortunately, the media had been alerted, and we have film footage of the historic occasion in which a mysterious warlock lifted a nasty curse which no one in Dallas knew had been cast in the first place.

Do-gooding warlock Gene de Jean arrived in a “velvetized Cadillac” (a Cadillac COVERED IN BLACK VELVET!) with a be-robed bell-ringing acolyte, and, with Neiman-Marcus in the background, he uttered a few incantations and proclaimed the curse lifted. He also “blessed” a few random people in the crowd for good measure before walking back to the waiting velvetized warlock-mobile, his job done. In his wake there was much rejoicing and/or confused looks exchanged on Commerce Street. Thank you Mr. de Jean!

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In something of a kill-joy article, the Associated Press revealed that “Gene de Jean” was a warlock stage-name. In non-warlock life he was Gene McIntosh, mild-mannered Houston psychologist. When pressed by the reporter, Gene said that it was “pure coincidence” that the Texas Association of Magicians was wrapping up its 25th annual convention 2 blocks away at the Statler Hilton (which can be seen in the background of the footage). So, yes, Gene McIntosh and Lee Thompson (the bell-ringing “acolyte”) were well-known Houston magicians/illusionists in town for a magicians’ convention. And — why not? — a friendly curse-lifting.

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Here’s the footage — at the 12:19 mark — captured by a WFAA-Channel 8 News cameraman for posterity.

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And a few screenshots of the warlock in action.

gene-de-jean_WFAA_090470_1

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gene-de-jean_dallas_090470-shutterstock_ferd-kaufmanAssociated Press photo by Ferd Kaufman

gene-de-jean_WFAA_090470_velvetized-caddySeriously — how do you cover a car with velvet?

Voilà! Curse lifted!

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Doing a little research, I have to say, when I came across the photo below, I felt a twinge of betrayal. Or at least disappointment. It shows Gene de Jean on the streets of Milwaukee (Milwaukee?!!) in June, 1970. The guy in the sunglasses is also seen with him in Dallas. The caption of this photo: “A self-described warlock (male witch) in black flowing cape bestowed a blessing right here in Old Milwaukee Tuesday. Gene De Jean blessed the city and a number of passersby at N. 3rd St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. He was in town for a magician’s convention.” Was it all just a schtick, Gene? And I thought we had something special.

gene-de- jean_milwaukee_june-1970via Wisconsin Historical Society

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Sources & Notes

Video and screenshots are from the WFAA NewsFilm Collection, G. William Jones Film Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University; the footage is from Sept. 4, 1970 and can be found on YouTube here (clip begins as the 12:19 mark).

When I posted a version of this on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, David B. commented with a couple of informative links about Gene McIntosh (who died in 2006): this overview of his career as a magician, and this tale of a stunt he performed while driving from Houston to Dallas in 1959, blindfolded the whole way. RIP, Gene.

gene-de-jean_WFAA_090470 sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Linda Coffee, The Dallas Attorney Who Took Roe v. Wade to the U.S. Supreme Court

coffee-linda_WFAA_SMU_june-1970Linda Coffee, 27 years old, on her way to the Supreme Court to make history

by Paula Bosse

UPDATE 5/4/22: See a brand-new video interview with Linda Coffee — recorded yesterday in Lakewood — in which she responds to the leaked Supreme Court draft, here. Also, the companion Dallas Morning News article (paywall) is here.

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The most important woman in the abortion rights fight is someone you’ve never heard of: LINDA COFFEE, the Dallas attorney who took the local case of Roe v. Wade from Dallas all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in a successful battle to have the ban on abortion in Texas declared unconstitutional. She began the case when she was only 26 years old and less than two years out of UT Law School.

Coffee was the driving force of this landmark legal case from the very beginning but preferred to leave the limelight to her co-counsel, Sarah Weddington, who joined the team a short time after the case was underway. (Weddington, an Austin lawyer, was *also* only in her 20s!)

The image above is a screenshot of a 1970 television interview with Coffee in news footage from the WFAA archive, a treasure trove of historical film clips housed at SMU as part of the Hamon Arts Library’s G. William Jones Film & Video Collection (the WFAA archive is viewable on YouTube here, with additions being made all the time).

This rare, recently unearthed Channel 8 interview from June, 1970 has Coffee discussing the ramifications of her first win in the long legal journey which would ultimately end in victory in the U.S. Supreme Court. It is almost certainly her first TV interview. (Read the notes of the YouTube clip for the full description.)

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My mother was involved in all sorts of women’s political groups in Dallas in the 1970s (and beyond). Meetings of various progressive political organizations and committees were often held at the First Unitarian Church on Preston Road in University Park (yes, University Park was an unlikely hotbed of activism!), and my mother knew Linda Coffee through these women’s groups. I had heard Linda’s name over the years but didn’t really know much about her until I came across this short Channel 8 interview. I’ve been working in these archives for SMU and wasn’t able to identify this unidentified woman but felt sure my mother would know who she was. I was talking to my mother on the phone trying to describe her: “I’m not sure who she is. She appears to be a lawyer, but she just looks too young and too… disheveled to be a lawyer. A little scroungy.” “Oh!” my mother said instantly, “Linda Coffee.” And she was right! She hadn’t even seen the footage.

I immediately loved Linda from my introduction to her in this footage. She’s earnest, confident, smart, pixie-ish, and she looks a little like a “real-person” version of Linda Ronstadt. I wonder if she ever imagined she would be responsible for one of the most famous legal cases of the 20th century?

I decided to look into her background in Dallas, and I was pretty surprised to see that she grew up one street over from where I grew up (she lived in the 5700  block of Anita) and went to my East Dallas alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High School (she and musician Steve Miller were there at the same time, Class of 1961 — she was in the band, he was on the football team — wonder if they ever met?).

linda_1961_band-detLinda Coffee, Woodrow band, 1961

miller-steve_WWHS_1961_srSteve Miller, senior photo, 1961

While we’re at it, here a few more photos of Linda Coffee in high school.

coffee_1959_high-school_WWHS-1959-yrbk_p92_sophLinda Coffee, Woodrow sophomore, 1959

coffee_1960_high-school_WWHS-1960-yrbk_p85_jrLinda Coffee, Woodrow junior, 1960

coffee_1960_high-school_latin-club_WWHS-1960-yrbk_jrLinda (dark robe) with the Latin club, attending “Ben Hur” screening downtown, 1960

coffee_1961_high-school_science-club_WWHS-1961-yrbk_srLinda and other officers of the Woodrow Science Club, 1961

coffee_1961_high-school_new-zealand_WWHS-1961-yrbk_p268-det_srLinda pointing to New Zealand, 1961

coffee_1961_high-school_sr-photo-bio_WWHS-1961-yrbk_p57_srLinda Coffee, Woodrow Wilson High School, senior photo, 1961

She apparently excelled at everything and had a wide range of interests.

After graduating from Woodrow, she went to RIce University where she majored in German, then went on to law school at the University of Texas where she passed the Texas bar exam with the second highest score in the class. After becoming a lawyer, she was a law clerk in Dallas for District Judge Sarah T. Hughes (she and another female clerk were profiled in a 1968 Dallas Morning News article which carried the unfortunate headline, “The Law Clerks Are Girls”). It wasn’t long after this that she began working on a case to challenge the constitutionality of a vague Texas law which banned abortions. In January, 1973, Linda Coffee and co-counsel Sarah Weddington won their case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Linda had just turned 30.

linda-coffee_getty-images
Linda Coffee, 1972, via Getty Images

weddington-sarah_1972Sarah Weddington, 1972, via Glamour magazine

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I would highly recommend (and I mean HIGHLY RECOMMEND) the Vanity Fair profile of Linda Coffee written by Joshua Prager titled “Roe v. Wade’s Secret Heroine Tells Her Story.” Reading this when I knew virtually nothing about Linda made me want to know more about her and made me want to share her story with as many people as possible. How is it that this lawyer who has had such a massively important impact on modern life (especially women’s lives) isn’t a household name? Prager’s article tells you why. Joshua Prager has expanded this article to a full book concerning the Roe case which will be published in a couple of weeks: The Family Roe, An American Story. With the current news of the newly implemented controversial legislation by the State of Texas, this book could not possibly be more timely.

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Thank you, Linda. Thank you, Sarah.

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UPDATE, Dec. 16, 2021: Watch the interview with Linda Coffee by The Dallas Morning News, conducted on Dec. 9, 2021 at Linda’s home in Mineola. Read the companion DMN article here (article may require a subscription to view).

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Update, Dec. 17, 2021: Watch another newly unearthed WFAA-Channel 8 clip of Linda Coffee being interviewed during the initial Supreme Court appearance of Roe v. Wade in December, 1971 (begins at the 13:44 mark):


coffee-linda_supreme-court_WFAA_SMU_dec-1971

Update, June 25, 2022: Another short snippet (silent) of Linda Coffee has popped up in the WFAA archives. She is seen walking through the Dallas County Courthouse on Jan. 20, 1972, talking to WFAA reporter Phil Reynolds (she was working as an attorney on a case unrelated to Roe v. Wade). A screenshot is below — the pertinent footage begins at 21:21 here.

coffee-linda_jan-20-1972_WFAA_jones-film_SMUJan. 20, 1972

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Sources & Notes

Top image is a screenshot of a June, 1970 interview of Linda Coffee conducted by Channel 8 reporter Phil Reynolds; this interview can be seen on YouTube here (from the WFAA archive, G. William Jones Film & Video Collection, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University). Bottom image is from a WFAA clip from December, 1971 here.

All high school-era photos of Linda Coffee are from various editions of The Crusader, the yearbook of Woodrow Wilson High School.

coffee-linda_WFAA_SMU_june-1970_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dusty Hill, 1949-2021

zz-top_dusty-hill_woodrow-wilson_1965-yrbkDusty Hill on bass, Richard Harris on drums, 1965

by Paula Bosse

Dusty Hill, the legendary bassist of the legendary ZZ Top, died today. Born Joe Michael Hill in Dallas, Dusty lived in East Dallas and attended Woodrow Wilson High School. He dropped out before graduating and pursued a career as a musician, a decision which seems to have worked out pretty well for him. 

Above is a photo from the 1965 Woodrow yearbook when Dusty would have been 15 years old. The caption reads “The disappointment of the Bryan Adams loss was lessened by the lively music of Richard Harris and Dusty Hill.”

At the time of these photos, Dusty and Richard were playing around town in a band called The Dead Beats, a trio which also included Dusty’s older brother, Rocky Hill, who is seen below in a photo from the same yearbook, with the caption “At the homecoming dance, Rocky Hill and his date prove their skill at a modern dance called ‘The Dog.” Dusty, Rocky, and Richard would go on to form the band American Blues.

rocky-hill_woodrow-wilson_1965-yrbkRocky Hill, 1965

Dusty played cello in the Woodrow orchestra, so I went looking through the yearbook to see if I could find him. I think I might have — could this be him in an awkwardly cropped photo?

zz-top_dusty-hill_woodrow-wilson_1965-yrbk-celloYoung man with cello, 1965

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RIP, Dusty. Thanks for the great music.

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UPDATE: Thanks to reader Steve Roe who sent me an Oct. 29, 1964 clipping of “Dallas After Dark” (the Tony Zoppi column in The Dallas Morning News devoted to the city’s nightclub scene) which mentioned all three of the Woodrow boys seen above in photos which were taken at the time they were playing around town with their band The Dead Beats:

There’s a swinging new group in town billed as The Dead Beats, and they’ll be appearing through Sunday at the Jungle Dream on North Henderson. Rocky Hill plays lead guitar and Dusty Hill is the bassist. Little Richard Harris is a torrid drummer. The trio recently returned from Nashville and appeared at Louanns. The youngsters say they are America’s answer to The Beatles. How about that?  (Dallas Morning News, Oct. 29, 1964)

How about that?! Talented and apparently aggressively confident teenagers! (Jungle Dream was located at 1823 N. Henderson, just north of Ross — a couple of doors from the old Louie’s — managed by Pat Carpenter.) 

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Sources & Notes

Photos from the 1965 edition of The Crusader, the yearbook of Woodrow Wilson High School.

Obit from The Dallas Morning News is here.

Obit from Rolling Stone is here.

zz-top_dusty-hill_woodrow-wilson_1965-yrbk_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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