Denton Dammit

This week, we look back at what made us go “dammit” in 2019.

January

Texas playwright Del Shores has a lively Instagram account. He loves to see photos of his characters on stages everywhere. On Jan. 3, Shores posted a photo of Elsie Barrow as Juanita and Sharon Barnhill as Sissie in Denton Community Theatre’s 2018 staging of Shores’ Sordid Lives.

Local attorney Adam Whitten unlocked his Twitter account this year to get an answer to one very important question: Can Jason Momoa of Aquaman eat 50 hard boiled eggs in an hour? Diligently every day this year, Whitten tags a new account daily that’s connected to Momoa. So far, no answers, but we respect the journey. Oh, and Mr. Whitten, where is this curiosity coming from? Did Momoa mention an admiration for Cool Hand Luke, or are you hoping to put the beefy actor’s apparent strength to the test? (Whitten got an answer, sort of, from wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista, eventually).

Denton’s music and arts community suffered an enormous loss in January when Andy Knapik died. Knapik, who threw his shoulder behind the wheel in co-founding the Denton Music and Art Collaborative, suffered several heart attacks and had a heart transplant late in 2018. Knapik — described as a “super mensch” by one of his many friends — died on Jan. 21. He did much unsung work in the local creative community, and the loss of his efforts and his indomitable spirit are much missed.

February

Enquiring minds wanted to know: What happened to the flying rubber chickens at University of North Texas basketball games. Over the years, during halftime at Mean Green home game, a group would launch a rubber chicken in the air, and people in the stands would try to catch it with a basket attached to their heads.

Denton Record-Chronicle sports reporter Brett Vito isn’t sure what happened to the stunt. Here’s hoping the rubber chickens fly once more.

Facebook user Lauren Campbell posted to the Record-Chronicle’s Facebook page recently hoping amplify her message and get people on the lookout for her partner’s stolen black Ford Focus, swiped from a supermarket parking lot. “Make this car to[o] hot to handle and please share this post,” she implored. We told her we were sorry but we couldn’t be much help — the car was taken from a Tesco car park in Failsworth, 5 miles north of Denton, England. (She replied with the crying/laughing emoji.)

March

How badly does Denton want a Trader Joe’s? Bad enough for several locals to head over to Change.org and draw up a petition to show the powers that be that we are so, so serious about the desire for the retailer. Denton resident and actor Chance Gibb shared the link to a petition with a short message: “I need every single one of you to sign this!” More than 1,700 people have put their signatures behind the movement. Petition creator M. Bryce Olson said it is high time for a grocery store that isn’t casually called “Murder Kroger.”

A number of Denton Record-Chronicle employees wish they didn’t have to drive out of the city to pick up Trader Joe’s Two-Buck Chuck wine. Business writer Jenna Duncan (who is on #TeamTraderJoes) asked the late Denton Economic Development Director Caroline Booth about whether the popular grocery store might come to Denton. Booth said her office reached out to Trader Joe’s in the past. But she said she wished the petition the best. “I too, like Trader Joe’s,” she said, laughing. (Sadly, Booth died in March at the age of 42.)

The Rev. Christy Thomas, a retired minister who pastored Krum First United Methodist Church before she retired, was recently a guest on two episodes of the podcast Crackers and Grape Juice. (We love the podcast subtitle: “Talking Faith Without Stained Glass Language.”) The podcast’s lead pastors, the Revs. Jason Micheli and Teer Hardy, discovered Thomas through her Record-Chronicle column (which publishes on Patheos as The Thoughtful Pastor).

Thomas joined the podcast during the denomination’s special called General Conference. She deconstructed the One Church Plan, which would have allowed the denomination to include LGBT-affirming congregations and pastors as well as fundamentalist Methodists who don’t want LGBT clergy or to officiate same-sex unions. The Traditional Plan won and doubled down on language in the denomination’s Book of Order & Discipline regarding homosexuality and upheld prohibitions on ordaining LGBT clergy or officiating same-sex weddings. Thomas also grieved that the United Methodist Church could be moving toward obsolescence. Listen to the podcast at crackersandgrapejuice.com.

We think we discovered why Denton has had such an overcast, rainy 2019. News editor Mariel Tam-Ray discovered that Seattle, Washington, somehow relocated to the middle of Hickory Creek — at least that’s what Google Maps told us this spring (http://bit.ly/2FodPUP).

April

DentonRadio.com asked for some feedback from focus groups not so long ago. They got two messages loud and clear: Some listeners want some Top 40 and mainstream music mixed in with their local music. And some people just want to hear Denton music. The internet radio station blends its online format, and now, each Monday and Thursday, DentonRadio will post a new local playlist on Spotify. Just look for “This Week in Denton, Texas.”

How’s this for a truly Denton phenomenon? Bruce Burns, a Denton resident and a board member of Denton Music and Arts Collaborative, came by a log that fell off of a truck carrying firewood at the Dallas Drive/Bell Avenue and Eagle Drive intersection. He got Denton artist Melody Little Smith to paint a figure on the log — which he named Myles Loggin. Smith painted a man (with a Denton-appropriate beard and mustache) sitting with his knees drawn up and bare feet showing. The 170-year-old log and members of his wise-cracking Facebook group (http://bit.ly/2GaMTY6) raised money for local nonprofits through the spring and summer.

May

Say it isn’t so! The Dentonite announced the arts and culture blog would be shutting down after about three and a half years, effective June 1. “The past three years have been wonderful, but we did not anticipate the energy it would take to keep this sustainable and ethical,” a post on the site said. The good news is the blog’s Denton Arts & Music Awards were set to continue for at least another year.

Unitarian Universalist minister Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, a UNT graduate, was arrested after protesting at the Kansas Statehouse as the state Senate worked to kill a Medicaid expansion bill. Oglesby-Dunegan shouted at the officials to expand Medicaid, prayed at the top of her lungs and sang the hymn “There Is More Love Somewhere” until she was taken into custody. Since she’s served the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, Ogelsby-Dunegan has agitated for economic justice and equality as part of a public ministry to the poor and marginalized. When an usher towered over her insisting she pipe down and take a seat, the minister said, “This isn’t about you,” eyeballed him, and continued to call out legislators.

June

Photographer and professor Daniel Rodrigue spotted something when he was out and about on the downtown Square one day. At the Confederate veterans memorial, a veteran who served with the U.S. Marines had scrawled a message — “Happy Juneteenth” — on a piece of cardboard and placed it on one of the water fountain spaces on the memorial. The vet had also labeled another cardboard sign that he leaned against the memorial.

July

Keldrick Scott was out walking when he saw something that we all used to see at the Downtown Mini Mall before it burned down: a sword. The sword was just sticking out of the ground. Scott said he thought about pulling it out of the ground to see if the gesture would give him superpowers.

August

Former Denton resident Rob Stadt observed something that gave us pause. You know the show Family Guy? Stadt said that, other than the kitchen table, the series doesn’t have many tables in the Griffin household. “No coffee table. No end tables. Occasionally there is a sofa table behind the couch,” Stadt said. “Now I can’t see anything else.” Well, now we can’t stop noticing it either.

When we asked the cast and crew of Denton Community Theatre’s production of Cats if they felt any kind of way about the trailer for the film adaptation due out in December, we got a response: a unified shout of dismay.

“It’s an A-list cast,” said Zach Judah, who played Munkustrap. “I don’t understand what’s going on with the effects.”

Other players said part of the appeal of the musical is to see how the design team uses Spandex, faux fur, paint, tails and jazz shoes. The filmmakers animated the actors instead, and when the trailer dropped this summer, it was met with a collective freakout over the strange animation.

“Don’t get them started, please,” pleaded director Ash Robbins.

We noticed a certain Denton high school student who got a shout-out from Christopher Reid, the “Kid” from Kid ’n Play of House Party fame. It was Jalen Butler, a freshman at Denton High School, whose high-top fade got a “fresh to death” sign of approval from Reid. And if you recall House Party, Kid’s fade was so tall that his movie dad grumbled it was “like a tree trunk walking around here.”

September

Denton music teacher and biographer Randy Schmidt is directing a documentary about musician Karen Carpenter (he wrote Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter). While in California, Schmidt got to meet musician and songwriter Linda Perry. And he posted on social media that singer Macy Gray stopped by.

October

Hawk-eyed followers of the Amber Guyger murder trial might have caught glimpses of somebody familiar to Denton County. William B. Travis, the county’s most former sheriff, showed up on the many livestreams of what will surely be remembered as a landmark trial for American policing and race relations. Travis works part-time as a bailiff for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, the county’s human resources office said. He started in 2017, probably sometime after he got run out of the Denton County Sheriff’s Office and replaced by Sheriff Tracy Murphree.

Remember that time when a customer on the rooftop of Lone Star Attitude Burger Co. took a rubber duck to the head when someone pitched it from the Yankee Doodle Parade? Well, a customer had really fast reflexes as the Twilight Lantern & Costume Parade went around the Square to cap off Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival. Someone on a float threw candy — hard — at the rooftop bar. An onlooker caught it and gave a cheerful fist pump. Color us impressed with the thrower and the catcher.

November

At a fall meeting of Denton County Commissioners Court, officials from Lewisville presented the court with the latest and greatest updates about the goings-on in Lewisville. James Kunke, the community relations and tourism director for the city, described the 23-acre Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area in a peculiar way: “I tell people it’s like Deliverance but without the banjos. It’s really a great place to visit.”

Does Kunke realize that the banjos are the least horrifying part of the classic film? Because the inbred predators stalking the campers through the gorgeous wilderness are way, way scarier than the banjos.

Wendy McGee, the executive director of Our Daily Bread, mentioned an ongoing need for the people who come through the local soup kitchen: men’s work boots. The next time you’re wondering what to donate to the Denton nonprofit, a new pair of work boots will quickly be given to a local man who needs them for construction work.

December

The chart-topping hip-hop artist 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) came to Lewisville — and Denton. The rapper debuted his new luxury Champagne, Le Chemin du Roi, and added Lewisville and Denton to his list of meet-and-greets at a dozen of Texas Spec’s locations to kick off the new label. Jackson also plugged his line of cognac.

Congratulations are in order for Ben and Haley Lytle, founders of Cryptozoology, the coffee shop inside Armadillo Ale Works. Food & Wine numbered Cryptozoology among the Best Coffee Shops in America. Ben Lytle was a finalist for the U.S. Coffee Championships Brewers Cup in 2016, and Haley Lytle was a barista at Denton’s Shift Coffee, which recently closed.

Denton Dammit is an old-fashioned gossip column about people, places and things in and around Denton. Send your submissions to Lucinda Breeding at cbreeding@dentonrc.com.

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