The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 February 2005

Vice precedent

I've written before on the general decline of convention business, but some places seem to have it worse than others: while nationally the drop is around 16 percent, it's off 52 percent in Dallas.

What in the world is going on down there? The Fat Guy suspects it's a Laura Miller problem:

Call me a fool, but I suspect it might have to do with a frustrated Mommy in the Mayor's Office, who has banned late-night dancing, public smoking, and lap dances at strip clubs and who, if the grapevine is right (and it usually is), is now coming after "vice", for which you can read whores and poker, for her strong-mayor push in the next city election. Once upon a time, this used to be a really fun, wide-open town where adults (particularly out-of-town adults) could have a rocking good time. Now it's an uptight bunch of pricks who think another Italian purse store or French dress store or Noo Yawk god-knows-what store will keep bringing the dentists and insurance guys to town. Face it, Laura — you've made the town safe for your hausfrau friends from Oak Cliff and Uptown and HP at the expense of the wahoo out-of-towners.

I'd say that TFG is no fool. One reason everyone (well, except me) wants to go to Las Vegas is that almost anything can happen in Vegas, and if it does, no big deal. Cities which hope to boost their convention traffic in an era when the whole idea of conventions is being seriously rethought will either have to find some way to emulate the Vegas model or come up with something comparably (and probably uniquely) compelling of their own. This leaves New Orleans, maybe, and — who? Not New York, which has nanny issues of its own. And none of your second-tier convention cities are going to rise just because Dallas is in free fall.

Still, nobody's Convention and Visitors Bureau — not even the one in Las Vegas — is likely to make a "Whores and Poker!" pitch. There are going to be a lot of shiny new convention centers with a lot of empty rooms in the next few years. And semi-squeaky-clean Oklahoma City has had a lot of Laura Millers in its past: local historian Roy Stewart once quipped that "Recurrent pleas of reform and cleanup of vice... in Oklahoma City have been more easy to plot than cycles in the economy."

Posted at 2:15 PM to Dyssynergy

In a discussion on a similar topic recently, a friend made the following observation: "Dallas has no soul." And, when I think about it, he's right.

And I don't say that merely as a Fort Worth native, for I lived within Dallas' sphere of influence at times as well - most notably my college years. But, I never saw Dallas as much of a destination, and any time spent in the city was mostly in the northern hinterlands, where it didn't really matter if you were in Plano, Irving, Richardson, or Dallas-proper: it all looked the same. I could count the number of times I visited the West End or Deep Ellum on one hand. And I lived there for 22 years! On the other hand, my friends and I DID pay quite a few visits to the various "entertainment" establishments along Northwest Highway. That was our Dallas.

Posted by: Jeff Lawson at 4:35 PM on 20 February 2005

Dallas used to have a few soul molecules, but they've slowly been leached out with every new mall. The nightlife was always great, but the aging of us boomers has effectively killed it deader than a doornail. All the Mommy Mayor biz has just put a bigger wet blanket on it.

"Whores and Poker!" -- sounds like a franchise opportunity.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at 8:43 AM on 21 February 2005

Still, nobody's Convention and Visitors Bureau not even the one in Las Vegas is likely to make a "Whores and Poker!" pitch.

Oh, I imagine Diamond Joe Quimby might give it a try...

As for Dallas as apparently the new Oakland (no there there), it sure does sound like the people who own the rights to the TV show might want to re-brand it "Fort Worth" for future syndication on TV Land...

Posted by: McGehee at 9:35 AM on 21 February 2005