Kultur: Wednesday, May 10, 2006

They come in all types, notably Metroplexual and -gnomic.


As most loyal Weekly readers know, we columnists get a kick out of spleening the Star-Telegram. Our favorite part of the daily paper is definitely the arts and entertainment section, where Fort Worth-based artists get to read, not about themselves or fellow Cowtowners, but about the personalities and goings-on in Dallas, Denton, and the rest of the country. HearSay, my esteemed colleague in the Music section, has entirely too much fun calling out the Star-T’s “local” music columnist for giving as much ink to Dallas as Fort Worth. But if a recent convo with a Star-T insider is to be believed, the paper of record’s fascination with parts east isn’t accidental. It may actually be ... company policy.

Here’s the deal. For a couple of months a while back, the Star-T’s weekly entertainment tabloid featured a column called Mr./Mrs. Metroplexual, written anonymously by staffers Andrew Marton and Stephanie Allmon. (The sex of the column was determined by the sex of the week’s writer.) Light years more enjoyable and illuminating than Perry Stewart’s space-wasting Skincrawler — um, I mean, Nightcrawler — which is nothing more than a compilation of press releases, Metroplexual looked like a good way for the Star-T to start tapping some of that much-desired 18-35 demographic. A big, glorified diary entry about looking for love in all the wrong social situations, the column was a blatant rip-off of Sex in the City. But unlike Carrie Bradshaw’s putrid fictional romps, Metroplexual didn’t suck for the most part and avoided cutesiness by retaining a little bit of bite. (Allow me a tangent: Sex in the City turned back the clock on both Women’s Lib and smart episodic entertainment about 30 years. Worst. Tv show. Ever.)

As decently written as it was, the column nonetheless had little to do with Fort Worth. Even though Metroplexual could have been catnip to young Fort Worthians, it was actually geared by Star-T brass toward older readers in the Mid-Cities, where the paper has been making unabashed attempts over the past year to increase readership. Here’s the problem: What writer in his or her right mind would want to drive 30 miles east at least once a week to have drinks with stone-cold strangers, especially snobby Dallasites? Marton and Allmon, according to my insider, did not, which is the most likely explanation for the column’s demise. Being a stranger in a club is fun when you’re on a business trip in Las Vegas, not when you’re a long, cop-infested drive away from both home and the company of friends.


The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association is the governing body that oversees all female roller derbies in the country. One of WFTD’s properties is the Dallas Derby Devils, a league that formed two years ago and whose teams include the Slaughterers, the High Seas Hotties, the Suicide Shifters, and the Wrecking Crew. About six months ago, a couple of Fort Worth gals caught the roller-derby bug and decided they wanted to start their own league here in Cowtown. They approached the WFTD and were summarily told to ask Dallas’ permission — the WFTD doesn’t want to step on any of their fledging operations’ toes, especially in a market as potentially lucrative as North Texas. Has Dallas been accomodating? Hell no. They’ve got total control of the market, and, as shrewd businesspeople, they naturally don’t want to share any pie. The Fort Worth Pistol Whips are now busy creating awareness by selling all prospective sponsors and able-bodied women in the 817 on the novel idea that Fort Worth and Dallas are two different friggin cities! And that Fort Worth deserves its own league.

Early next month, as part of the Whips’ awareness-building campaign, the two co-founders, Nicky Callahan and Stefani Sims, and their 10 teammates will take over the Black Dog Tavern (2933 Crockett St., 817-332-8190). The Whips will be looking to sign up newcomers to the delightful sounds of Fort Worth’s Eaton Lake Tonics and San Antonio’s Drugist. I just can’t wait ’til the Whips get big enough to take on Big D: We’ll show those uppity Greenville-Avenue-hanging-out-at art chicks! Visit www.myspace.com/pistolwhips.

The ’Gnome Dips Into Celluloid

For Fort Worthians who care about nurturing artists, the recent arrival of the Metro-gnome Collective has to be a welcome sight. From ad hoc beginnings about four years ago in the hipster enclave of Arlington (that was sarcasm), Metrognome is fast becoming a bona fide arts group (that was not). Helmed by 31-year-old co-founder James Watkins, the collective is now based out of a 11,000-square-foot space on East Lancaster Avenue and has been doing it all: exhibiting visual art, hosting progressive and experimental music acts, and simply creating an environment in which arrivistes can safely turn off their tv’s and recognize the legitimacy of North Texas’ fantastic grassroots art. Future Metrognome projects include a book club, run by UTA creative writing instructor Jennifer Cooper, and stuff to do with film.

On Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Spiral Diner (1314 W. Magnolia Ave.), Watkins and local cinephiles are meeting to discuss ways in which Metrognome can contribute to the scene here.

“There is this one room that we’re hoping we could get together for a studio,” said Metrognome supporter and Fort Worth-based filmmaker James M. Johnston. “People could shoot short films there, have meetings and screenings there. ... Hopefully, we can keep it interesting, not just a bunch of schlock from people who are like, ‘Hey, let’s just go out in the woods and throw a bunch of blood on each other.’ ”

Don’t get the wrong idea: Metrognome isn’t dismissing horror. But since horror seems to be the predominant genre to spill out of Cowtown (courtesy of Jon Keeyes and Christopher Abram and Michael Brown), the collective wants to encourage the development of more cerebral, less gore-tastic content.

Then again, Metrognome’s film endeavors won’t necessarily be for beginners. Though Watkins says he’s undoubtedly open to new ideas and new faces, his ideal filmmaker is an artist who hasn’t made his breakthrough yet but is on the verge.

“The intent is that we’ll have enough equipment to do music videos and small documentary productions — cameras, sound equipment, editing equipment, everything you would need to go from start to finish on a project,” Watkins said. “We’re not the final destination for filmmakers. We want to be a support system.”

Along with Johnston, who just wrapped up filming on his short GDMF, a couple of other regional filmic heavy-hitters are pitching in, including Paul Baker from the dub-rock band Sub Oslo and Germaine James, head of the North Texas-based Counterculture Production Company.

The purpose of the Spiral Diner meeting is basically to help Watkins gauge interest. “We need to find out who’s in town and who’s interested,” he said. “We’ll build our business plan off that.” The forum is open to film veterans and newbies. For more information, visit www.metrognomecollective.org.

The Dude and You

OK, The Big Lebowski was decent, but I’m not sure I’d build a festival around it.

But whadda I know. Not long after the Coen Brothers’ yarn about a small social bowling team led by a bathrobe-clad stoner simply named The Dude (Jeff Bridges) came out in 1998, two dudes from the thriving metropolis of Louisville, Ky., began holding an annual Lebowski Fest in their hometown. Over the past four years, Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt have expanded operations to include satellite events in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and now ... Austin.

I’m sure the boys are excited to eat the worst pizza in the world, pay $5 per domestic beer, and be threatened or worse by drunk and ornery UT jocks. But what Russell and Shuffitt are really psyched about is simply being in the same part of the country as Fort Worth’s Elliot Goodwin — not because the Fort Worthian’s a fun time (which he is), but because the CEO of Larry’s Shoes owns a precious Lebowski artifact: The Dude’s bowling shoes. Estimated value? “Priceless,” Russell said. “I don’t know how to put a dollar amount on something like that.” (The festival co-chair claims he once got to try on one of Jeff Bridges’ jelly sandals. “He made me take my sock off to do it.”)

Actually, Goodwin bought the pair for about $300 from a celebrity shoe auction to use as a marketing tool/gimmick for the re-opening of one of his Houston stores. At the time, about a year after the movie was released, Lebowski fever had yet to sweep the nation. What Russell and Shuffitt would be dismayed to learn is that Goodwin has no earthly idea where the shoes are. “If I find ’em,” he said, “I may just start wearing ’em around town.”

And if he ends up in Austin next weekend, May 19 and 20, he may find himself on the business end of either a spiked White Russian or a serious swirly — after which he will undoubtedly awaken shoeless. Visit www.lebowskifest.com.

Contact Kultur at kultur@fwweekly.com.

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