We’ve all done it. We’re in line at the grocery store when our eyes drift to the magazine rack. We scan the flashy print for news of the latest starlet tantrum or red carpet romance. We roll our eyes or have a little chuckle, but whatever the reaction, the rich and famous seem a constant source of curiosity for many. But that salacious and sensational an soap opera that is Hollywood tends to feel like a place that’s very, very far removed from our own little neck of the woods. But the glitzy limelight of Hollywood might not shine that far from our neighborhood after all. Some of our neighbors actually knew these familiar faces before the big break, others have rubbed elbows with A-listers in their line of work, and still others just happened to encounter a star in passing — proving that, in the end, this is indeed a small world. Here are some of our neighborhood’s claims to fame — something we call East Dallas’ very own …
SIX DEGREES TO CELEBRITY
Just dining around Dallas has led to a few celeb sightings for Hillside resident Elaine Bartlett. Once grabbing a bite at barbecue joint Red, Hot and Blue with her husband and parents, her family found themselves sitting across from NFL great Earl Campbell. “I vaguely remembered his name from when I was younger,” Bartlett says, “but of course both my husband and my dad said, ‘That’s Earl Campbell!’” Another time when dining at the Hotel Crescent Court’s Beau Nash with a friend, she glanced over and saw actress Jamie Lee Curtis. “We figured she was in town because she was doing a commercial for Sprint. She was eating lunch, and I never bother them [celebrities]. I just think, ‘Oh, that’s cool — there’s Jamie Lee Curtis,’” Bartlett says. “And of course she looked great. She was totally in shape — we did take note of that.”
THE NEO-SOUL OF WHITE ROCK
She grew up in South Dallas, but it’s no secret that Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Erykah Badu now lives on the shores of White Rock Lake overlooking the Bath House. Neighbors say that toys can often be spotted in her yard (she has a young daughter, Puma, and a son, Seven, whose father is André Benjamin of OutKast), and though Badu has a demanding schedule, when she’s home, she doesn’t make herself scarce — joggers and cyclists see her on their route, and when they wave, she kindly waves back.
ROLLIN‘ WITH ROCKERS
Through years of working in record stores and as a buyer for Sound Warehouse, a division of Sony, Lochwood resident Paula Brown hung out with dozens of “hair band” rockers during the late ’70s and all through the ’80s and met everyone from David Cassidy to the Sex Pistols to David Bowie. Lucky for us, she kept a journal:
I went to Mother Blues last night. … Two of the Ramones were in there. I introduced myself to DeeDee, and he seemed not to give a s—, but that didn’t stop him from bumming cigarettes all night.
The Ramones were real good. Bobette and I went backstage … I stayed and had a long talk with Joey, mostly about music. We talked over Cheap Trick. I was particularly happy to find out Joey was a big fan since I’d been catching a lot of flack for it lately. Dee Dee borrowed cigarettes periodically, and Johnny sat next to me on the couch being interviewed.
I arranged to work Saturday night so I could escort Black Sabbath and Van Halen during the day. Another motorcycle escort and I went to DFW Airport. There were four limos, plus the KZEW bus. The drivers didn’t know where to go, so I led. It was a heavy drizzle, not the best riding conditions on a bike. At the tollgate, I discovered I was almost out of gas because the prior rider forgot to set back the gauge, and it read like it was pretty full. So on 183, I passed the motorcade and drove ahead more than 100 miles per hour to gas up, hydroplaning on the wet pavement. Then I drove like a demon to catch them.
Van Halen was hanging out of the limo to see if I’d catch up. They have motorcycles, you know, so they knew what I was going through. They cheered when I slowed by their fender, and then kept hanging out of the limo talking to me most of the way into Oak Lawn, mostly about bikes.
I talked to Iggy [Pop] at the Hard Rock last night. He was so easygoing that I felt no tension whatsoever talking to him. … I told him that “Some Weird Sin” and “Sweet Sixteen” were two of my all-time anthems, and he rewarded me by telling me a great story. He said he was in Bowie’s bedroom one day hanging out, and there were crumpled up pieces of paper around the floor. He got one out from under the bed and found “Some Weird Sin” and said he liked it, and asked why he was throwing it away. Bowie said he didn’t like it, so Iggy asked if he could use it, and he worked on it and completed it. It is, of course, a period masterpiece. He was very nice. Everyone I know was dying to meet him.
I just got back from Guns N’ Roses at the Bronco Bowl. They’re all I listen to now. … Supposedly three of them are junkies. I didn’t see any marks when I met them backstage. The singer seems nice — really. There’s something hopeful about his face. The bass player is gorgeous and bad looking for a blonde, always a big plus when you can pull it off. The guitar player, Slash, seemed genuinely grateful when I told him he was a killer guitar player. … Slash stretched out on top of me and the rest of the band on the couch backstage and grabbed my head. I like him.
I went back out and watched Alice Cooper. His intro music had been the soundtrack from Frank Langella’s “Dracula,” one of my favorites. I was thrilled about it. He was great, as usual, nice corpse-y stage set. We went to his bus, like last year. His assistant remembers people and remembered me. … After introductions, I told him I liked that he used the “Dracula” theme. His assistant said, “Not many people would have known that.” Alice concurred.
TO TOP IT OFF
Neighbor Nicole LeBlanc’s designer hats have graced the crowns of celebrities such as weight guru Jenny Craig and soap actress Cady McClain. During her 24 years of commuting to New Orleans as head milliner for Fleur de Paris, an upscale boutique in the French Quarter, LeBlanc interacted with stars like Delta Burke, who has purchased several of her hats, most recently a vintage wedding crown to renew her vows to Gerald McRaney. “She’s just delightful,” LeBlanc says. “She loves that whole southern feminine aesthetic.” Another frequent customer is Nicolas Cage, who comes in with “whomever he happens to be involved with at the moment, to put it delicately,” she says. While dating Laura Dern, Cage brought her to the store and purchased a fur hat, and LeBlanc says he has come in with his current wife, Alice Kim, several times. “He’s crazy for the hats on the ladies,” she says, then laughingly adds, “I’m not sure if his darling little wife loves the hats as much as does.” When Cyndi Lauper came to town during her “She’s So Unusual” tour more than 20 years ago, she stopped by the store late in the day and asked LeBlanc to make her a hat for that night’s concert, so she quickly assembled a Tuscan straw hat topped with fruit for the pop singer. “Somebody told me that she wore the hat in a music video, but I don’t know because I’ve never had cable,” LeBlanc says. Dozens of other notable names have shopped in the store, she says, adding: “We’re still waiting for our new French Quarter neighbors, Brangelina, to come by!”
THEY HAD THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES
Lakewood resident Suzanne Collins doesn’t know how, but when the USA Film Festival board selected one of its members to play host to Patrick Swayze, she wound up with the job. The movie star recently came to town to promote his new film, “Jump,” and Collins figured her duties would simply entail picking him up from the airport and delivering him from point A to point B all weekend. “Well it didn’t turn out like that,” Collins says, laughing. “We ended up going out to dinner and staying out until all hours of the night for three days straight.” She and her husband, Lang, introduced Swayze to places like Vino 100 and Javier’s as well as Lakewood hotspots. “He loved Campisi’s. We couldn’t get him out of there,” Collins says. “And they loved him. In fact, at 11 o’clock when the restaurant closed, they locked the doors and wouldn’t let him go.” The Collinses tried to take Swayze to not-so-crowded places so he wouldn’t be mobbed, but since he still has such a huge following, “he didn’t get a minute to himself,” Collins says, “but he was so accommodating.” Swayze joked with gawkers and autograph-seekers, often responding to their comments as his most famous characters like Julie Newmar of “212” — “which means he was acting like a drag queen,” says Lang Collins. Though Swayze enjoyed the urban nightlife during his stay, the Collinses learned that he is happiest at home in Las Vegas, N.M. “He’s a cowboy at heart,” says Lang Collins. “If he had his druthers, he would spend all his time at his ranch.” And like any good cowboy, Swayze was a gentleman. “A day or two later,” says Lang Collins, “he called Suzanne and thanked her for being a good host.”
PAMELA ANDERSON AT HOTEL ZAZA?
He had heard rumors that his rock star hero, Kid Rock, would be attending the 2005 Kentucky Derby, but neighborhood resident Greg Gardner hadn’t spotted him yet. He was entertaining clients in the main grandstand, and outside on the patio he watched as famous people mingled — George Steinbrenner, Rick Pitino, Travis Tritt “and a bunch of misfits from shows such as Dawson’s Creek and a few reality shows that I just don’t care for.” All of a sudden, Gardner says, “shazam! Like the parting of the Red Sea, he made his grand entrance.” Gardner pushed his way to the front to get a picture taken with Kid Rock, and even chatted with him on the patio for about 15 minutes. Gardner told him he had seen him in concert, twice in Dallas and once in Fort Worth. “Kid shakes my hand and blurts out, ‘Fort Worth! Last time I was in Fort Worth I bought a f@#$#@& giraffe!,’” Gardner recalls. “Of course, that somewhat stumped me. He then looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Ahhhh, Dallas …’ There was a long pause, then, ‘Hotel ZaZa.’ He winked at me with a devilish grin and walked to his luxury box. I was left only imagining what Kid Rock did or had done to him at Hotel ZaZa.”
THE SCENT OF FAME
It was a celebrity who changed Casa Linda resident Susan Owens’ life overnight, she says. In an InStyle magazine interview, Jennie Garth was the first to rave about Owens’ Child perfume. “It branded Child as ‘the fragrance that drives men wild,’” Owens says. “If I would have said that, it never would have worked.” Actor Vince Vaughn is “nuts for Child,” says Owens, which she learned from an MSNBC producer who interviewed him about the movie “Wedding Crashers.” “She had on Child, and he went gaga for it, and she got his reaction on tape,” Owens says. “Oddly enough, Jennifer Aniston has ordered many limited editions, so my only hope is that sometime Brad Pitt’s nose whiffed Child!” Other famous wearers of Child are Madonna and Goldie Hawn, who regularly purchases it from Henri Bendel in New York. Even before she created her fragrance line, Owens lived in L.A. as a Playboy playmate in the late ’80s and ’90s and was a high-end groupie to rock stars like Gene Simmons and Brett Michaels of Poison. “So, I have indeed had close encounters with celebs, but for some reason, my perfume was destined for Stardom more than myself,” Owens says. “Thank God for that.”
“Don Meredith was the quarterback when I started, and Roger Staubach was the quarterback when I quit. My last game was Superbowl XII, and we beat Denver,” says Lakewood resident Ralph Neely of his 1965-77 career as an offensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. At the time, Neely focused on simply playing the game and didn’t get too caught up in all the “hoopla,” he says. But in retrospect, he’s amazed at the effect that “America’s team” had on people coast-to-coast and even worldwide. “I was able to participate in a field and accomplish more than what 1/10 of 1 percent of the people do,” Neely reflects. “I’m glad I did it and proud I did it, but I don’t dwell on it. Life goes on.” He’s on his sixth Lakewood home, and only once left the neighborhood to live in Highland Park. “I hated it,” he says. “It’s not as friendly.” Neely isn’t the only Cowboy to call our neighborhood home — Mike Connelly, who preceded him on the team, lives near White Rock Lake, and Jethro Pugh, one of Neely’s co-rookies, had a house on Swiss for years. Another neighborhood resident is Andy Frederick, a tackle who played for the Cowboys until ’81 then moved to Cleveland and Chicago to finish his career. But when Frederick left, he didn’t sell his Lakewood home. “We’d bought the house in August of ’80, and rented it out to people while we were gone,” says Frederick. “We liked Dallas a lot so we came back.” These days he does a lot of bike riding around the lake, and though he’s still 6’6”, he’s dropped from his offensive line build of 285 pounds to 217, “so most people don’t look at me and think football.” It’s a different story for Neely. Though it’s been four decades, he says people still occasionally stop him to talk about the glory years. “I’m 6’5” and weigh 270, so I can’t hide,” Neely jokes.
It was on East Grand Avenue’s Tenison course that legendary golfer Lee Trevino earned his reputation as a hustler. According to Time magazine’s July 19, 1971 story, “Lee Trevino: Catinflas of the Country Clubs,” he challenged any takers to a duel in which he would play with only his No. 3 iron and give his opponent a handicap. Winner took all, and Trevino averaged about $200 a week, even moving into an apartment across from the course so he could get an early start.
BIGGER THAN OATMEAL
If you’ve seen previews for ABC’s new show “Notes from the Underbelly,” you may recognize Rachael Harris, the blonde with the glasses, as one of the Daily Show’s witty correspondents or as the quirky girl from the Quaker Oats commercials. And if you look closely enough, you may remember that she used to perform at the now defunct improv theater at the corner of Lower Greenville and Ross.
After growing up with her cousin, Catherine Dent, and even rooming with her during their freshman year of college, Forest Hills resident Ashley Parkinson finds it strange to watch her play Officer Danny Sofer opposite Golden Globe-award winner Michael Chiklis.” “It is kind of weird to look on the TV and see her that way, when the dorm days weren’t that glamorous,” Parkinson says, laughing. Dent began pursuing her acting career right out of college in 1985, and after years of playing smaller parts, like Paul Newman’s daughter in “Nobody’s Fool” and Ana in “21 Grams,” she finally landed her first regular role on FX’s “The Shield,” Parkinson says. The cousins kept in touch over the years, getting together every time Dent came to town to do a commercial, and even though she has worked in Hollywood with big names like Ashley Judd and Jim Carrey, Parkinson has a hard time thinking of her any differently than she did while they were in high school and Dent was voted Miss Mischievous. “I’m not star struck by it. It’s a job like anything else,” Parkinsons says. “But I swear I’m happy for her. She put in a lot of years to get where she is.” Parkinson admits, however, that she’s not a regular viewer of her cousin’s show. “I watch it occasionally, but it’s a little violent and gritty and we’ve got five children,” she explains, “so I spend most of my time watching National Geographic, which can also get violent and gritty but in a more parental acceptable kind of way.”
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