Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 7: Pete Delkus

So there we were, Kim and I, having a nice evening together, going to our favorite Tex-Mex haunt, Mattito’s, and it’s pretty crowded, but the weather outside is nice, not too warm, not too cool, and so Kim asks if there is any immediate seating outside, and there was, so we were led out to our table, and who is sitting at a table for 6 across from us but WFAA weather man Pete Delkus.

I have a strange history with members of the WFAA news team. Way back, when I was about 17 or so there was a guy on WFAA that did the news named Quin Mathews. One day I saw him at a CD shop, so, being the curious sort, I followed him around and would casually try to see what he was going to buy. I think it was jazz. Then I would see him at Blockbuster with a female. They both picked a video, his pick lost that night.

Then Gary Cogill and I exchanged some emails about film criticism and we even saw each other at a press screening for a Kevin Kline film that was pretty terrible. And I saw Troy Dungan in college at a Parent’s Weekend function at Baylor. But it had been a loooooooooong time since I’d seen any current WFAA team players…until Friday evening.

White shirt, pink tie. Hair looking perfect, as usual. Looked like an iced tea in a beer mug. In fact, the whole family had drinks in mugs. Three kids, two other women. The strange thing? There wasn’t a lot of talking at the table for so many people being there. Seemed kind of strange for a party of six.

The other thing that I noticed almost immediately is that the waiter that everyone else on the patio had was not attending to Delkus, party of six. They had Martin, who is one of the old timers there. He’s good. He paid attention to the Delkus party while we were waiting for refills, Delkus, party of six had refills immediately, thanks to Martin.

I guess it pays to be weather royalty in this town. Now if only us little people could get our refills in a timely manner, too.

Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 6 : Charo

Kim and I met Charo at the Dallas Museum of Art several years ago when she came there to hock some new salsa or something for Pace. They had a car outside decorated up by some artist or something and she spoke and played her guitar for a few minutes before a crowd of about one hundred people. Afterwards she took questions, of all things, doing that “Cuchi-cuchi” thing she says every once in awhile. It was goofy and surreal at the same time, knowing that this was that strange unintelligible Spanish woman I’d seen on The Love Boat when I was a kid.

Kim, never one to shirk from making a comment, had the guts to pipe up when she said that she lived on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

“We had our honeymoon there!”

It kind of threw Charo 1Yes, I know Charo does not live in Dallas, but she was there, and we talked to her. So there. off, but hen became excited. She was bonding with the audience, you know. “Oh, did you love it? Where did you stay?”

“South side of the island at a B&B.”

“The B&B’s on Kauai are wonderful, aren’t they?”

“Yes!!!” Kim was so excited.

What was even cooler was she even took a picture with us. She was wearing a red sequined minidress and was completely falling out the thing. We were going to use the picture for our Christmas card (“Merry Christmas from Kim, Glenn and Charo”) but Kim was laughing when the picture was taken and her smile was Joker-esque, so we didn’t use it, but, you know, it’s still a great story.

Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 5 : Troy Dungan

It was Parent’s Weekend at Baylor, probably around 1993. The big hullabaloo was going on over at Founders Mall – parents meeting teachers, kids introducing their moms and dads to Professor So-And-So, and there I was just ambling through without my parents, who hadn’t come this time around. If you’d seen me then on that warm early October day, you’d probably have said, “Why is that dirty hippie walking through here?” I was not the clean cut person I became later. That’s the trouble with people; they change.

And so that dirty hippie was loping through the hordes, probably going somewhere in a slow and “keep on truckin'” kinda way, when I saw him. He was the weatherman that I’d grown up with, and I knew his daughter was attending his alma mater at the same time that I was. His trademark bow ties were legendary around Dallas from the first time I remember him and he wore them every newscast, no matter what. He’d always been short, you could tell that by comparing him to the other news anchors on the channel 8 sound stage, but I didn’t know he’d be that short. I’m talking like Danny Devito height, no kidding, the man was SHORT. Like 5′ 2″ or something.

As I brushed by him (literally) he seemed startled. I mumbled, “Hi there.” He didn’t say anything, just sorta glared.

I thought, “Man, what a jerk.”

And that was my close encounter of the weather kind with Troy Dungan. He’d started working for WFAA on July 19, 1976, and he’s retiring tomorrow, July 18, 2007. From what his collegues say he’s a swell guy. I’m sure he is and was just probably scared of that dirty hippie kid way back when. So long, Troy. Happy trails.

Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 4 : Don Henley

About a year ago me and the family were at a local catfish joint here in Dallas when, lo and behold, in walked an honest-to-God living musical legend – Don Henley, drummer for The Eagles. He was with some other guy, no idea who, and looked really old. Don, not the other guy. Anyway, I immediately thought, “That’s what being famous in the 70’s will do to you.” He looked terrible – craggy face, almost completely bald. Nothing like the long flowing hair I remembered him having from pics in Rolling Stone.

He ordered his food and he and his compatriot sat down at a booth, chatting and waiting for their food. When his buzzer/coaster went off he sauntered up, not a care in the world and, upon receiving his food, returned to his booth and ate. No one really paid much attention to him since he really didn’t look like The Don Henley that you see pictures of and remember from The Eagles and his illustrious solo career.

But my history with the Donster went back even further than that.

Don was born in Gilmer, Texas, which is about 20 miles northwest of Longview. From what I know about the man, he lives out at Caddo Lake along the Texas/Louisiana border and is a big environmentalist out there. I guess I would be too, given the fact that Caddo Lake is one of the few natural lakes our state has. Anyway, his Texan credentials are true and up to date.

I’d also heard, back in the time when the Internet was young, that he also has a house in Dallas, somewhere…out in the hinterlands. Which brings us to my first brush with Don Henley.

It was 1995 and I was working at the Bookstop near the Inwood theater (Where, it seems, I meet almost everyone famous that I know) and in strolls Don Henley. He wanted to know where Mary Karr’s bestselling memoir, The Liar’s Club, was shelved. Per our training, I looked it up and walked to where the book was kept. Most of Ms. Karr’s other books were kept in the Poetry section, and since the Bookstop gods had not deigned for us to have a dedicated Memoir section, her latest, and all other memoirs, were kept in Poetry. This troubled Don greatly.

“Why is this in Poetry?”
“We keep all memoirs in the Poetry section.”
“But this isn’t a poetry book.”
“…Right.”
He fumed a few moments, looking at the hardback.
“Well that’s stupid.”
“Couldn’t agree more.”
He looked at me, taken aback a tad by my comment, then back to the book, then to me again. “Ok…thanks.”

And that was it. He was a pretty big jerk with me so I didn’t say “You’re welcome,” or anything like that, I just walked away without checking to see if he needed more help.

Hey Don, I didn’t run the company at the time, so I didn’t make the rules up, okay?

Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 3 : Jerry Haynes

I saw Jerry Haynes, aka for local Dallas kids in the 1970’s, Mr. Peppermint, in the parking lot of the Albertson’s talking to an older man. At first I thought, “Hey, it’s Mr. Peppermint.” Secondly, I thought, “Wait a minute – he must live around here.”

Mr. Peppermint was the host of Peppermint Place, a local kids show in Dallas that showed in the area from 1975 to 1995. Mr. Peppermint, wearing his trademark white and red striped blazer, and his sidekick Muffin the Bear entertained me daily when I was a kid. Think of it as a local version of Captain Kangaroo, if you will.

Years ago when I worked at a bookstore (where I met Bizarro creator Dan Piraro) Haynes would drop by and browse the shelves. He was fairly hippie-ish, often with longish hair. Always quiet, he hardly ever spoke to anybody, which I never took as a sign of arrogance but more of shyness. He was just a very unassuming, very tall guy.

He’s also is the father of Gibby Haynes, the lead singer of the Butthole Surfers. I remember at the time that I learned this (from the newspaper, no less!) and they called his group the ‘B Surfers’. Ah…the naive quaint 1980’s. How we miss your censorious ways.

But back to my story.

So as I’m getting the grocerys in the car and getting one of the kids into the car, I see him walking behind the car. Where was he going? To his car, a green Ford Taurus. How un-pepperminty of him.

He gets in, I start heading home, he leaves and I get it into my head to follow him. I thought if he was going in the direction of my house I’d follow along, but if he diverted from my pre-determined course and deviated, I’d break off the chase, resolved to never know where he lived. But when he started driving I saw that he was going the way that I had intended to go in the first place. Very interesting.

So I gunned it and caught up with him. He drove really slow. And strangely, on the wrong side of the street.

But he kept going the same way I would have gone home. And he turned right where I would have turned right, and then he turned left onto a street near mine. Not wanting him to become alarmed, I broke off the chase at this point. But I picked it up again when I realized that the street he was going down existed for only one block, and if he turned there he probably lived on that block.

And he did. Driving down that street slowly, I saw him park the car and get out and go into a house not 3 blocks from mine. Six tenths of a mile. How crazy is that?

Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 2 : Ken Bethea of the Old 97’s

When I got to Ken Bethea’s house, I didn’t know where I was. My son had gotten invited to a birthday party for a little girl in his Mother’s Day Out program and all I saw was her first name, sans last. The house, located near ours, is probably 40 years old and is homey, but it was the little things that I started to notice. Old 97’s posters, framed over an old piano, were the first clue. A guitar in the corner, pictures of a guy that I recognized from CD inserts. But the dad of the little girl in the MDO program looked older, a lot older, and I surmised that his brother was Ken Bethea, the guitarist for one of the few musical acts to break out of the Dallas club scene, the Old 97’s.

My wife, the ballsy one, asked the dad if his brother was in the Old 97’s.

“I don’t have a brother,” he said, sort of standoffishly. “And I’m in the Old 97’s.”

So that was it. The pictures were of Ken and his wife, but before the graying hair. Case solved!

He was genial enough. While we both chomped pizza and cake we talked about “Heroes” and a group watching party that a local comic book shop puts on at the Magnolia every Monday night. He talked about a Chili’s ad that they had done (a lot of money for one day’s work) and were happy with and how they were going to tour the following week. Maybe it’s just the way he talks, but he kind of had that “bask in my glow” way of speaking, and some of the other dads who were there were giving him those puppy dog eyes, which I thought was kinda gay, but, thinking about it, Ken has attained a dream that all men at some point in their lives dream – he plays guitar in a band that tours and puts out albums that you can buy on Amazon. And the band is marginally famous.

I wasn’t going to tell Ken that I had all of their albums up until Fight Songs (which bordered on being too poppy for my tastes) and sing their songs loudly as I drive because I didn’t want to be one of those people that slobbers all over celebrities. He’s not flashy like lead singer Rhett Miller, who I remember from high school when he went to ESD and dated a girl in my class. It looks like Ken leads a pretty simple life, with his wife and 2 kids. We just chatted and it was alright. Pretty nice guy.

It ended kind of weird though. I have one other tangential link to Ken – he dated a friend of mine’s wife. Not when they were married, of course, but before all of the matrimony stuff. When he found out that we knew him through our friend, he started telling a story to us about when he dated her. Ken said it was difficult going out with her, since he had the band and would be back in Dallas for a week before heading out on the road again for another month or so and he didn’t really know if he should call her his girlfriend or not. It all ended badly and he felt more than a little responsible for the whole mess, which, according to our friend, he did create. He said to say hi to her when we saw her.

When you know these people as people the high sheen of what they do seems to come off a little bit and you realize that the people that Entertainment Tonight and gossip rags hold up as famous are just people who want to have lives also, and they screw up relationships and stuff like that too.

But he does play a pretty mean guitar. And I like the pillow that says “Buenos Dias” on it in their house. Where can I get one of those?

Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 1 : Dan Piraro

About 12 years ago I was working at the Bookstop near the Inwood theater in Dallas and it was my first real job out of college. I was a supervisor there, and one of the things we would do, and if you’ve been into any Barnes & Noble you’ll know this, was put out staff recommendations. I had recommended some Bizarro comic strip books in the past, and one night while working the cash register a woman came and paid for her books with a check that said it was from Dan and (Somebody) Piraro. Don’t remember her name.

Dan Piraro was the creator of the Bizarro comic strip, and I knew that the name wasn’t very common, so I carefully asked, “Is this the Dan Piraro we all know and love?” And she answered that yes it was. Dan’s wife called him over and I said how much I liked his comic and he thanked me. They left, but later I put out another staff recommendation of “Best of Bizarro, Volume 1”. The card that I put with the book said, “If Dan Piraro is cool he will sign these.” And he obviously was cool, because he did sign them, all of them. I of course snatched one of the autographed copies up. Still have it, too.

He didn’t look like the picture I’ve included at the time, he looked much more eccentric, with long curly hair and a goatee. The picture next to this makes him almost look Dad-like.

The next time I saw him in our store he was buying a “Do Your Own Divorce in Texas” book. I hope that wasn’t concerning the woman who’d called him over to say hi to me.

UPDATE :

On April 9 of this year I got up the gumption and wrote Dan from the email address given off of his website –

Dan,
About 12 years ago I was working at the Bookstop near the Inwood theater in Dallas and knew that you occasionally came into our store. I had set out a staff recommendation of your Best of Bizarro (the first one) and my card underneath it read “If Dan Piraro is cool he will sign these.”

Suffice to say, you were very cool and signed all of them. I still have one, even though my wife wonders why I keep it around.

Just wanted to say thanks for that.


– Glenn Vance

I had no idea if he would write me back…but three days later he did.

Thanks for the note, Glenn. It was awfully nice of you to thank me after so many years. Hope all is well with you and yours and that you are finding life to be grand and groovy. I lived in Dallas then and live in NYC now. You still in Dallas?
Dan

Holy moly. He was engaging me in conversation. So I told him about my wish to get my masters and PhD in History and then teach. I thanked him for writing me back and told him to have a good one.

And he wrote back again!

Good luck with your professorship. Sounds like a good career and one that hardly ever includes being paged in the middle of the night. As long as you stay away from the co-eds. : )
d

How freaking cool is that?