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Garth Brooks, Just Being Himself, Stars at ACM Fundraising Gala

The Academy of Country Music’s first Lifting Lives Gala, held Friday night at the Omni Dallas Hotel, was all about Garth Brooks, the monster-selling country singer/songwriter who once “retired” from the business to be a stay-at-home dad. The Oklahoma native returned to recording and touring worldwide in 2014, many years after scoring big hits with well-crafted, hard-country tunes like “Friends in Low Places,” “Beaches of Cheyenne,” and “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old).” In recognition of his return he’s a nominee for Entertainer of the Year at Sunday’s 50th anniversary ACM Awards at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

The Omni bash, which benefited Brooks’ Teammates for Kids Foundation and so-called Child Life Zones at two local hospitals, at times seemed more like a tribute to Brooks, who’s rejoined the music game at a time when the generic “bro-country” sound dominates mainstream country radio. In contrast to those mindless, pop/electronic paeans to beer, tailgates, and girls in cut-off jeans, Brooks’ songs sound downright epic, dealing with time-honored country themes like rodeo and don’t-give-a-s*** mavericks with the cojones to confront an ex at a pretentious black-tie soiree.

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Reaction to Art Ball Video is Over-the-Top and Ridiculous

Can you say s-t-r-e-t-c-h? Yesterday, our colleague Peter posted Saturday night’s Art Ball video, a knock-off spoof of the song “Uptown Funk” starring the likes of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, DMA director Maxwell Anderson, Deedie Rose, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, and other art-crowd bigwigs. Peter also recalled a previous (admittedly tone-deaf) ball video spoofing “Downton Abbey.” Then he proceeded to rip Rawlings, throw a bouquet to mayoral contender Marcus Ronquillo, and somehow relate it all to the Trinity River tollroad debate. That opened the floodgates for commenters (here and elsewhere), who variously accused the video cast of elitism, racism, ripping off taxpayers, and making a “mockery” of … something or other.

Give me a break. Please. This blowback is so over-the-top and ridiculous, it’s embarrassing. First off, the “Funk” takeoff was a sponsor video, intended to thank the sponsors of Saturday’s fundraiser in a light-hearted and creative manner. (The sponsors are those who help pay for the event.) Second, the video was actually entertaining, imagined and edited with a deft touch. Third, the people in the video were making fun of themselves as much as anything (Rawlings in hair curlers? The usually buttoned-down Anderson looking like Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage”?) Last, the racism charge is offensive. Leaving aside that the video cast was not all-white, the fact is that it’s people with money—regardless of the color of their skin—who bankroll institutions like the DMA, which has been able to offer free admission and free membership to all comers precisely because of events like Saturday night’s. Welcome to the real world, people.

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Glenn Greenwald in North Texas: NSA Surveillance Program is ‘Antithesis’ of Fourth Amendment

Glenn Greenwald, the lawyer and journalist who became a left-wing celebrity for his articles helping whistle-blower Edward Snowden expose the NSA’s mass-surveillance program, admits enjoying the reaction when critics discovered he would be in North Texas to appear on Glenn Beck’s right-wing radio show—and then to address the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis.

Talking Friday to about 250 people at a luncheon meeting of the NCPA, a Dallas think tank that’s headed now by tea party hero Allen West, Greenwald said of the kerfuffle that was particularly created by his Beck appearance: “I love it.” He recalled trading barbs with “people on Twitter who thought it was a terrible thing to do.” But, he added, “I’ve made it a point to find common ground. I find that’s a healthy thing to do.”

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In Dallas, Comedian Dana Carvey Recalls Barbara Bush Calling H. Ross Perot and Bill Clinton Clowns

Actor and stand-up comedian Dana Carvey took a few shots at Dallas and Dallasites while headlining a charity event at the Meyerson Symphony Center Thursday. Chief among the targets was businessman/former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, whom Carvey often lampooned when he was a regular on TV’s Saturday Night Live.

Doing a dead-on impression of the dimunitive billionaire, Carvey said Perot showed real promise as a candidate with his, “We’re gonna study it … we’ll get some charts” schtick, before going off the deep end with nonsensical statements like this: “You can’t put a porcupine in a bar and light it on fire and expect it to make licorice!”

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Shopping for Dallas Investors for a Texas-Set Western

With its fast-growing population of wealthy people, Dallas has been a magnet for filmmakers looking for investment cash for awhile. Movies financed by North Texans include the 2008 Ben Stein documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Rob Allyn’s “Java Heat” starring Mickey Rourke, and several from Gary Cogill’s (now-shuttered) Lascaux Films, a company that was basically bankrolled by local doctors.

The latest moviemaker to come knocking seeking Dallas dough is Chris Ekstein, an award-winning cinematographer from Venice, Calif., who’s shopping a Western project set in Texas called “The Last Duane.” Inspired by the writings of author Zane (“Riders of the Purple Sage”) Grey, the flick’s a straight-up oater about a gunfighter and outlaw who eventually sees the light and “gives himself over to service in the Texas Rangers.”

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How Mike Ullman is Trying to Fix the ‘Stupid Mistakes’ That Were Made at JCPenney

By most accounts, Myron “Mike” Ullman has done a good job stopping the bleeding since returning to the CEO’s office at JCPenney in 2013, following the disastrous, short-lived tenure of former chief executive Ron Johnson. How exactly has he done it, though? That’s what we wanted to know during a recent interview and audience Q&A with Ullman at the Dallas Friday Group, a luncheon forum for businesspeople. Although Ullman graciously avoided mentioning Johnson by name during our conversation, he wasn’t shy about assessing the problems caused by the one-time Apple savant. Ullman, who led Plano-based Penney from 2004 to 2012 before making way for Johnson in 2012, was asked whether coming back to the company wasn’t hard and stressful. “No! Hard and stressful is when you’re building something that people don’t like,” he replied. “Satisfying is when you’re fixing some stupid mistakes that somebody else made. So that’s what we’re doing.”

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Bill O’Reilly Needs to Either Prove His Dallas-era Suicide Tale or ‘Fess Up—Or Step Aside

Wrapping up a guest appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor” program last night, Fox News host/political commentator Megyn Kelly joked that he had become a real “sweetheart” during the last week, and she wryly wondered why. Kelly was right: the usually combative, right-leaning cable news host has appeared more subdued than usual lately, chastened even. The reason, I believe, is the still-unresolved, ticking time bomb over a story O’Reilly seems to have made up involving his work as a reporter in the 1970s at Dallas’ WFAA Channel 8, about the suicide of a figure in the JFK assassination probe. It’s a tale he needs to come clean about publicly—or else relinquish his top-rated news commentary show.

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Tracy Rowlett, Byron Harris Rip Bill O’Reilly’s Claim in 1970s Suicide Story

A disputed tale about his reporting days in Dallas could turn into a big problem for Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, who has the most-watched program on cable news. The story, as the host of “The O’Reilly Factor” has told it in his books including Killing Kennedy and Kennedy’s Last Days and on the Fox News Channel, occurred during his stint as a reporter for WFAA Channel 8 in the 1970s. Reporting on a figure in the investigation into the John F. Kennedy assassination named George de Mohrenschildt—a Russian emigre who’d befriended Lee Harvey Oswald—O’Reilly claimed that he was standing outside the house in Palm Beach, Florida, where, and when, de Mohrenschildt apparently killed himself with a shotgun blast one day in March of 1977. Wrote O’Reilly: “As I knocked on the door, I heard a shotgun blast. He had killed himself.”

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Japan Meets Texas at Toyota Groundbreaking

At Toyota’s unconventional groundbreaking for its new HQ in Plano yesterday, six so-called “wish trees” were placed behind CEO Jim Lentz inside a big white installation spelling out the word “TOYOTA.” Each tree in the display—they were actually native Texan Yaupon Holly trees—was festooned with little red tags on which students from Plano ISD Academy High School had written their wishes, hopes and dreams. The tags, apparently part of a Japanese cultural tradition, said things like “I hope to be a better artist,” “I want to go to a good college,” and “My dream would be a cure for cancer.” Lentz said the notes would be placed in a time capsule and the holly trees would be planted permanently once the HQ opens in late 2016 or early ’17. “It’s clear,” he said, “that this is the right place to begin the next chapter in Toyota’s history.”

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Pickens: Oil to Hit $90 Again, But Not Before Some Pain in Texas

Here’s an explanation by T. Boone Pickens of the current crude-oil market, in four sentences: Prices are down from their $100-plus highs not because of OPEC but because, thanks to advances in fracking and horizontal drilling, the U.S. has oversupplied the market. However, the price will bounce back from below $50 per barrel into the $90-$100 range again in 12 to 18 months. The reason: excess oil inventories will hit all-time highs in 2015’s first quarter, leading many of the country’s 1,500 oil-drilling rigs to shut down. That in turn will crimp production, spurring the price turnaround by the third quarter.

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Clay and Mike: Bryan Burrough’s Tale of Two Dallas Leaders

As Tim alluded to yesterday, Dallas’ handling of the Ebola crisis has just been put into perspective for a national audience, thanks to Bryan Burrough’s thoroughly reported piece in the new Vanity Fair. Burrough’s lengthy story puts a generally heroic shine on the response by local officials. And it offers a refreshingly frank, behind-the-scenes look at the actions of two powerful local politicians, both Democrats, who someday may aspire to higher office. My initial impression was that the piece portrays County Judge Clay Jenkins as some sort of steely Superman, while Mayor Mike Rawlings comes off as, well, considerably less effective.

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Peppard Project Tells How North Texas Oilmen Became Political Kingmakers

If you’re into history, and Texas history in particular, you’re apt to enjoy a new three-part, multi-media project by Alan Peppard of the Dallas Morning News. In the stories, titled “Islands of the Oil Kings,” Peppard tells how two remote islands off the coast of South Texas became “unlikely centers of power and influence” nearly eight decades ago, thanks to a couple of multimillionaire oilmen from Dallas-Fort Worth. In 1937, Peppard recalls, President Franklin Roosevelt and his 165-foot yacht, the USS Potomac, visited the San Jose and Matagorda islands, which were owned by Sid Richardson of Fort Worth and Dallas’ Clint Murchison Sr., respectively.

That first presidential visit represented nothing less than a “cosmic shuffle,” effectively putting Lyndon Johnson and Dwight Eisenhower en route to the White House, and fashioning Richardson and Murchison as “the first oilmen kingmakers,” Peppard writes. The DMN scribe also dug up some old, black-and-white home movies of FDR fishing and palling around with the Texans, then put together an online mini-documentary in three parts. Peppard says he spent a year working on the “Kings” project, traveling to the islands and dodging a “scary number of rattlesnakes, alligators, mosquitoes, and killer bees.” The first installment runs this Sunday, but it’s available online now. Part two will run Sunday Dec. 14, and part three the Sunday after that.

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Million-dollar Lawsuit Rips Winstead Advice in NCPA Sex Scandal

In recent months, the National Center for Policy Analysis has worked hard to put a sex scandal involving its founder behind it. The free-market think tank fired the founder, John C. Goodman, hired a new leader (tea party star Allen B. West), and scheduled several high-profile speakers for its events. Now, however, the Dallas-based NCPA has filed a lawsuit against a prominent law firm and the firm’s chairman emeritus that revisits the sex scandal in detail. Among other things, the suit asserts that l’affaire Goodman caused the nonprofit organization to lose at least $2 million in fundraising—and nearly put it out of business.

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Luxury Real Estate Experts Had a Lot On Their Minds This Morning

For example: Toyota execs don’t mind lengthy commutes here because they’re coming from California and New York, where the commutes make ours look short by comparison. Echo boomer and baby boomer luxury buyers aren’t nearly as unlike as you might think. There’s an evolution in upper-end home style occurring, with members of the “HGTV Generation” eschewing turrets and columns for a “clean-line aesthetic.” And, sales of new homes in DFW priced at $400K or more are up a whopping 56 percent, year over year. Those were just a few of the nuggets dropped by luxury market experts at this morning’s Residential Real Estate Breakfast Briefing, hosted by D CEO and D Real Estate Daily at the Warwick Melrose Hotel. While more details will follow on D Real Estate Daily, click here now to check out who showed up.

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