D Magazine Frontburner (April 21, 2008): My Weekend with the Mayor


Mayor Tom Leppert Has a Stalker.


I followed Mayor Tom Leppert around town this weekend as research for an upcoming installment of Souvenir of Dallas. My journalistic integrity was high, and my sense of respect for his personal space was at a minimum. I’m proud to say I was an enduring presence in his weekend. Metaphorically speaking, I became that friend who is always the last person to leave the party. You enjoyed his company about an hour ago; now it’s time for him to go, but he just won’t take the hint.

On Friday night, Shakespeare Dallas hosted the Bard’s Birthday Bash to celebrate their upcoming 37th season, and obviously, to wish Shakespeare a happy birthday. The event was held at Times Ten Cellars Too. While waiting for the mayor to arrive, I talked with Meredith Quirin and Raphael Parry about their summer season. Shakespeare in the Park will be presenting Othello and All’s Well That Ends Well. Raphael commented that this year has “a social justice theme for the season.” I was particularly interested in his concept to give Othello a 1920s spin. They hadn’t performed the play in twelve years, and Ralphael felt it was time.

The Mayor arrived, and Raphael got to him first. Afterward, I met Mayor Leppert and shook his hand. I had heard stories, but I didn’t know whether or not to believe them. People have agendas. They tend to exaggerate. However, I can safely verify: The mayor’s hands are huge! I had to comment. “Your hands are huge.” I proceeded to ask him more questions about his hands. His response was modest, “I had never thought about it before” holding his enormous paws out in front of himself. To quote Othello, Act III, Scene 4: “Our new heraldry is hands, not hearts.”

The Mayor was invited to say a few words, “Cities are known by their arts and the way they reach out to the community.” Well, not all cities. Some cities are known by their high crime rate. But you know, whatever. Let’s be glad we have Shakespeare Dallas. Then Raphael Parry gave some additional remarks. While he was speaking, I noticed Mayor Leppert was standing off to the side with his arms folded. Was he now self-conscious about his hands? Was he trying to conceal them? Raphael then invited everyone to sing happy birthday to Shakespeare. We all goofed the last line. One half of the audience decided to sing “Happy birthday dear … Shakespeare” whereas the people on a first name basis with the playwright sang “William.” After the song, the Mayor blew out the candles.

On Saturday, I went to another birthday party. Good Records on Greenville Avenue was celebrating eight years with live bands, free food, cheap beer, and sno-cones. The mayor wasn’t there, but he should have been. Zac Crain was there. I told Zac about my weekend plans with Mayor Leppert. Somehow the topic of Leppert’s sasquatch-like hands came up. How could it not? Zac told me the mayor once patted him on the back, and he was nearly knocked over. I could believe it.

Afterward, I went to the Damien Hirst exhibit at the Goss-Michael Foundation. Once again, I didn’t see the mayor, but I did see a cow preserved in formaldehyde, bound to a steel girder and pierced with numerous arrows. While interesting, this was not the strangest thing I saw that day. (I’ll get to that soon enough.)

That evening, my girlfriend April and I attended the Celebrity Waiter Gala at Hotel Palomar, an annual benefit for the Child Abuse Prevention Center. One minute into the event, I found the Mayor. I approached him and tried my best to make small talk. Although, all I really wanted to do was talk about his hands. I held mine up, hoping he’d take the cue to compare hands. (Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene 5: “And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.”) But the mayor was preoccupied, and had to leave. I turned around, and there was Shakespeare! Actually, Robert Clover-Brown aka Shakespeare Man, he was one of the participating celebrities. While oddly coincidental, still not the strangest thing I saw that day.

Before dinner, I spoke with Margaret Patterson about the Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Center. Apparently, all their funds for the year are raised through this one event. The previous year, the Center served over 2,600 people at risk for child abuse and neglect. It’s an incredible organization that has programs, among other things, about teaching teen parents coping methods and alternatives to shaking their babies. I know this is an important cause, because I kept overhearing people saying, “It’s for such a good cause.” I kept a running tally. By the end of the evening, I overheard the phrase “It’s for such a good cause” exactly seven times.

April and I sat down at our table. The press was given a table at the far back of the room. A bit problematic, because the speakers were at the front, and this crowd was hard to keep quiet. Thus, the people reporting on the event had the hardest time hearing everything. People around me tried the whole tapping on their glass with a fork or spoon. Yeah. Right. After the speakers said … stuff, dinner arrived. I witnessed Miss Texas Molly Hazlett, wearing her crown and an apron, serve me my dinner salad. For the record, that was the strangest thing I saw all day.

It should be noted the Mayor was working like crazy. He was all over the place, getting into the whole celebrity waiter role. At one point in the evening, he had a bottle of wine in each hand, running around filling glasses. I was impressed. Council member Angela Hunt was also there as a celebrity waiter. She did not look as happy as Mayor Leppert — possibly because she was surrounded by people who voted for the toll road, and would probably vote for a convention center hotel. Stay strong, Angela!

The silent auction began immediately after dinner. Tom Leppert’s wife had the winning bid on item #2, a print on canvas of an oversized plant by Shanny Lott. I will reserve my opinion of Shanny Lott’s art for another time. After all, I went to see a cow in formaldehyde, and thought that was pretty cool. Towards the end of the evening, the Mayor snuck up and patted me on the back. Zac Crain was right. Ten minutes later, I could still feel Leppert’s hand on my back. I forgot to bring cash to the Gala, so I couldn’t tip a valet. Instead, I parked in front of Jason’s Deli, and we walked it. On the way back, my girlfriend’s high heels were killing her, and my back still hurt.

Then on Sunday, Oak Cliff celebrated Earth Day at Lake Cliff Park. Hippies were everywhere — hackie sacks, drum circles, people waving tie-dyed flags, others trying to sell carbon offsets like they were Girl Scout cookies. The Mayor was easy to spot in this crowd. Look for the Republican holding a shovel. He had to stand there with his shovel for about twenty minutes while everyone took pictures. I didn’t quite understand what was going on. How many pictures do you need of a guy with a shovel? By the time he was done holding the shovel, I approach him again. We talked about Saturday night’s fundraiser. He asked if I had a good time. I said yes. The steak and salmon rocked, and I avoided valet. The event was cool. He added, “And it’s for such a good cause.” That’s eight times I’ve heard the phrase. I mentioned how hard he worked. I told him if the mayor-thing didn’t work out he could always get a job as a waiter. He laughed, but I couldn’t tell if he was amused.

I guess our weekend together was over. We shook hands, mine completely lost in his, and parted ways. (Henry VI Part 3 Act IV, Scene 6: “Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts.”

(Originally published in D Magazine’s Frontburner.)