Better than fiction: Neighbors whose lives could be a movie

Leslie Porterfield: Danny Fulgencio
Leslie Porterfield: Danny Fulgencio

Post-awards season is a notoriously rotten period for movies. Sure, you can find quality television this time of year, but only after wading through an excess of options that actually might cause a loss of brain cells. May we humbly suggest an alternative? Turn away from the tube and read on for the real-life stories of Lakewood’s action heroes, speed racers and criminal minds.

Leslie Porterfield: Danny Fulgencio
Leslie Porterfield: Danny Fulgencio

The Fast and the Furious featuring Leslie Porterfield
Although motorcycle racer Leslie Porterfield’s life doesn’t directly mirror any specific cinematic storyline, the ballsy blonde bombshell easily could fit in with the cast of characters from the “Fast and Furious” movies. Actually, come to think of it, we’re not sure why no one has made a movie about her life. For starters, Porterfield learned to ride a motorcycle at age 16 because everyone told her she couldn’t — which could make for an ideal hazy-edged flashback scene. Fast-forward to the ripe ol’ age of 19, when she started racing. She was determined to go to the Bonneville Salt Flats, an area of densely packed salt pan in Utah — a place she calls “paradise for gearheads” — to break the record for the Fastest Woman in the World on a Motorcycle. In 2007 she made it to Bonneville, but crashed at 110 mph and broke seven ribs. Someone else might’ve called it quits, but in a dramatic twist, Porterfield defied all odds and went back to Bonneville in 2008, where she became the first female member in the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. Then, by going 232 mph at Bonneville, she set the record for Fastest Woman in the World on a Motorcycle. (Racers must maintain a speed for one mile both ways, and the speeds are averaged. Her highest speed was 246 mph.) Today, she owns High Five Cycles in Dallas and is the proud mother of 19-month-old twins. “I always get asked if I plan to go back and go faster, but having twins has definitely changed that,” she says. So for now, she’s sticking to mentoring other young female riders. “Who knows — I may just end up helping out the next person who will break my record,” she says. “But that’s all right. Records are just on loan; they’re made to be broken,” she says, as the credits roll. —Brittany Nunn

Orville Rogers: David Leeson
Orville Rogers: David Leeson

Unbroken, featuring Orville Rogers
Last year’s book “Unbroken” mesmerized readers, spent 125 weeks in the New York Times best-seller list and was named nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Laura Hillenbrand penned the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner and heroic airman who fought in World War II and was shot down over the Pacific, where he survived several grueling months before being captured by Japanese soldiers. Then he endured several more years in brutal prisoner-of-war camps. Lakewood’s Orville Rogers’ luck was a little better. When the Hiroshima bomb dropped and Zamperini was still sitting in a Japanese prison camp, Rogers was training to fly a B-17; Rogers never faced life-threatening combat. Unlike Zamperini — whose flying experience led to man-eating sharks and unimaginable loss of basic freedoms, among other horrors — Rogers loves planes and relished his time learning to pilot them. He even has a model of a B-36 at home, which he showed the Advocate in 2010. “It could fly higher than any fighter,” he said then. Like his contemporary, Rogers’ running prowess has enhanced his legendary status. Last year Rogers broke the world record for seven indoor and outdoor track events in distances from 60 to 3,000 meters. Last March at the National Indoor Championships in Landover, Maryland, 11 world records were broken among some 1,200 competitors, and Rogers broke six of those. “I think I have some of that built-in stubbornness, perseverance, whatever you want to call it,” Rogers told Runner’s World magazine last year. “I’m going to finish the job I started.” Zamperini, who, like Rogers, is now 96, is living the good life these days, too. He most recently was spotted on the pages of Entertainment Weekly, arms locked with Angelina Jolie, who is directing the movie version of “Unbroken.” —Christina Hughes Babb

Amtgard players: Benjamin Hager
Amtgard players: Benjamin Hager

Game of Thrones, featuring Jorge Rodas
The battle for supremacy once was waged at Artus Pass. Never heard of Artus Pass? Ah, yes, you probably know the place by its common name, Norbuck Park. Many a Sunday afternoon, men, women and children have gathered there to eat, drink, socialize and clobber one another with well-padded swords. The participants belonged to Amtgard, a non-profit organization dedicated to recreational medieval and ancient-culture role-play. As in the HBO saga “Game of Thrones,” Amtgard players don 15th-century garb, and most speak with what sounds to the layperson like barbaric Scottish brogue. However, this cast gets along with far less actual dismemberment, gore and other R-rated content. Years ago, neighborhood resident Jorge Rodas was waiting tables at Chili’s in Casa Linda when a co-worker introduced him to Amtgard. It was magical, he says. “Another waiter took me to Garland’s Midnight Sun Park, and I was immediately hooked,” says Rodas, known at the park as “Duke Lord Squire Protector Sutra Bahuas.” Eventually, with the help of others, Rodas started the Artus Pass “shire,” a subgroup of the citywide Kingdom of the Emerald Hills (which most of us call Dallas), but it was short-lived. Now Rodas is a working actor, and the remaining Artus Pass players have re-integrated with the Midnight Sun crew. For current-day live-action role play in the White Rock area, check out the Barony of the Steppes branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism, (steppes.ansteorra.org), which meets regularly at Tietze Park on Skillman at Vanderbilt. —Christina Hughes Babb

The late Rita Greenfield who worked in the office at a nearby high school fell victim to a marijuana muffin prank: Can Türkyilmaz
The late Rita Greenfield who worked in the office at a nearby high school fell victim to a marijuana muffin prank: Can Türkyilmaz

Breaking Bad, featuring Ian Walker and Joseph Tellini, co-starring “Miss Rita”
While East Dallas’ answer to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are hardly Heisenberg level, there will live on in neighborhood lore a TV-worthy tale of a duo whose dabblings in the drug world left them in deep trouble. All hell broke loose on May 16, 2006, when White Rock-area residents and Bishop Lynch seniors Ian Walker and Joseph Tellini, in an ill-advised prank, delivered marijuana-laced muffins to the teacher’s lounge of rival Lake Highlands High School. By all accounts the pastries were lovely and delicious, but within minutes of consuming them, staffers were feeling woozy. By day’s end, soon after LHHS administrator Karen Clardy caught on that the muffins were at fault, the high school’s conference room was wall-to-wall with representatives from the Dallas Police, the North Texas Regional Drug Enforcement Task Force, Dallas Fire-Rescue, the Food and Drug Administration, Dallas County Health and Human Services and even the FBI, which showed up because of fears that someone had tampered with commercially prepared food. Over the next several days, the prank became a national story and the butt of many a late-night-television joke. Everyone from the victims — including a beloved 80-something office worker, Rita Greenfield — to the LHHS principal, to the city at large was laughing. Everyone, that is, except the pranksters, who were facing serious criminal charges, and their parents. Eventually the young men received probation, and both went on to graduate with honors from the University of Texas. Ian’s mom, Caroline Walker, published an Amazon e-book in 2006 titled “Epiphany in Ordinary Time” about the family’s struggle with the consequences of the, ahem, Baking Bad incident. —Christina Hughes Babb

Rogelio Martinez: Danny Fulgencio
Rogelio Martinez: Danny Fulgencio

Footloose, featuring Rogelio Martinez
Plot: Troubled teen finds hope and healing through dance. Sound familiar? Like every dance movie known to mankind? “Footloose,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Step Up,” “Take the Lead,” “Save the Last Dance,” “Honey” … we told you, there are a lot. Somewhere in there is the real-life tale of Woodrow Wilson High School graduate Rogelio Martinez, who came to East Dallas while hopping around from one abusive situation to the next. When Martinez discovered Lisa Moya King’s dance class during his sophomore year, something changed, even though the situation with his home life stayed the same. “I started staying after school to practice, and I liked it a lot because I wasn’t at home. I was away from home. I was here doing something that caught my attention. I would forget about everything,” he says. Dance anchored him; finally, he had found something that he not only enjoyed but also excelled in. Dance opened up a new world of possibilities, and he threw himself headlong into it. “I danced everything, and I was a really fast learner. I put all my mind into it,” he says. “People always see me as a quiet person, and when I would dance, I would be different. I just love performing, just the way it feels. It’s like freedom.” —Brittany Nunn

 

 

 

 

 

Slew Devil: Can Türkyilmaz
Slew Devil: Can Türkyilmaz

Seabiscuit, featuring Slew Devil
There is something about a horse with a personality that thrills an audience to no end. The racehorse Seabiscuit, for example, so inspired the nation in the 1930s that his life was the subject of a book and at least two movies. In the 1970s a similarly captivating Seattle Slew took the world by storm and won the Triple Crown. And while Slew has no direct Lakewood connection, one of the thoroughbred’s (more than 200) sires is living a life of relative anonymity right here in the neighborhood. White Rock Stables resident Slew Devil is a descendent of the champion and biological sibling of more than 100 stakes winners. Slew Devil raced as a young-un before moving to a show barn in Florida where, following a jumping accident that ended his professional dressage career, Karly Kilroy bought him. Like his silver screen counterparts, Slew Devil has a charismatic personality. When our photographer showed up for a shoot, Slew was a total ham — obediently and repeatedly running, posing and pausing for a treat. “He loves people and wants to be near people all the time,” Kilroy says. “He follows me around, neighs at me when I walk into the barn, puts his face close to mine. He is very patient with children, very calm.” He also loves watermelon. —Christina Hughes Babb


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