Sara Mosle

Sara Mosle

A weeklong electronic journal.
Feb. 12 1997 3:30 AM

Sara Mosle

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       "The least-known fact about Dallas," Molly Ivins once wrote, "is that it's wildly funny." Would-be presidential candidate Ross Perot, oilman Bunkie Hunt, the televangelist Bob Tilson, Mary Kay (of Mary Kay cosmetics, who's known for dressing, traveling, THINKING in pink)--you can't make these people up. When I was home over Christmas, my family and I were driving around the fancy, old-money part of town, Highland Park, to look at the Christmas lights. One house had an oil derrick rigged up on the front yard with white Christmas lights and a giant sign that read: "Peace on Earth, Good Wells Toward Men!"
       Dallas businessmen are not hicks in cowboy hats and boots making evil back-room deals out on some ranch, though that is how they are invariably portrayed, as Oliver Stone showed us in Nixon. The typical Dallas businessman is far more likely to have bought his shoes at Neiman Marcus (or the Dallas branch of Barney's) than from some cowboy-boot outlet store. Dallas prides itself on being sophisticated, like New York, and disdains its poorer relatives (which is one reason that the rest of Texas hates Dallas, too). The TV show Dallas was really about Houston, a true oil town, not the Big D.
       When I was in Dallas more recently, I saw Tom Luce, a one-time gubernatorial candidate of Texas and the former campaign manager for Perot's first presidential bid. (Luce recently started a foundation called Just for the Kids, which is trying to find ways to create a community among parents, school officials, and business leaders to support public education.) When Luce ran for governor, he ended up in a Republican primary against millionaire Clayton Williams, the flamboyant cowman who nearly beat Ann Richards in a self-financed campaign. He's the guy who joked that a rape victim should just sit back and enjoy it. It must have been discouraging to Luce, who is widely respected in Texas and was endorsed by several papers, to see this boot- and hat-wearing buffoon, Claytie (as he was called), beat him in the primary. In the final days of the campaign, Luce's political team put out a bumper sticker that I still have pinned over my desk. It shows a cowboy hat with a circle and line through it and reads: "No thanks: I'm thinking!" This didn't win Luce any last-minute votes, but you can't help sympathizing with the guy.

Sara Mosle is a contributing editor for the New York Times Magazine.