An unsuspecting passerby probably wouldn’t think much of the dancing frog statues on top of the Taco Cabana on Lowest Greenville.
He might not even notice the statues at all, with all the other things there are to see on the avenue these days.
But believe it or not, those carefree frogs are well accustomed to fascination and are no strangers to controversy. Today they’re back at the scene of the crime, where they once became the focal point of local and national intrigue.
Entrepreneur Shannon Wynne opened Tango nightclub on Greenville Avenue in the early ’80s. Although it was open only for a little over a year, many East Dallasites who lived near Lowest Greenville at the time remember the club fondly.
At the time, most of Lowest Greenville’s real estate was inhabited by pawnshops and second-hand clothing stores, but Tango nightclub was hip and glamorous. It catered to the young people who were moving in and rebuilding the homes in the Lower Greenville area.
East Dallas Realtor Ken Lampton remembers the club well, although he says he never actually patronized it. Rather, it was what the club represented that made it so significant.
“Me and my wife were real, certifiable card-carrying yuppies then,” Lampton says. “And we were so pleased when Tango opened up, because we felt like Greenville was finally going to be a place for people like us. Because it was real rough down there.”
However, when Wynne put six 10-foot-tall dancing frog sculptures by Austin-based artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade on the rooftop, Dallas City Hall wasn’t pleased.
The city claimed the dancing frogs violated the sign ordinance.
Neighbors argued the frogs were art.
Even The New York Times jumped in on the “ribbiting” controversy, questioning in a 1983 article: “Are the frogs signs or are the frogs art?”
But the city didn’t care. The frogs had to go.
Wade went to court over the issue and won, but by the time he won his lawsuit, Tango nightclub had closed.
Lampton recalls feeling like the defeat was a setback for the young people in the area, but they pioneered ahead, continuing to pour money and effort into revitalizing Lower Greenville.
This year, Taco Cabana, which occupies the corner where Tango nightclub once stood, decided to bring the dancing frogs back to Lowest Greenville as part of the recent revitalization of the avenue.
Taco Cabana purchased three of the six frogs, which had been at the Carl’s Corner truck stop on I-35, and in June Wade’s frogs danced their way back to the avenue.
So far, at least, there has been no talk of sign-ordinance violations.
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