These famous neighborhood residents have left their mark on our community

Our neighborhood is full of big names. George W. Bush, Mark Cuban and Ross Perot come to mind, but there are other residents whose impacts are felt every time we go for a morning run, listen to a Rangers game or look at a portrait. These neighbors don’t have to wear a cap and sunglasses in public to avoid the inevitable gawking from star-struck passersby. But they have, no doubt, made their mark on popular culture.

Laura Wilson, as photographed in her Preston Hollow home. Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Laura Wilson

Acclaimed photographer of the famous and the complete unknowns

Laura Wilson lives on one of the few Strait Lane properties not barred by iron gates and towering bushes that conceal the unreachable mansions of the Preston Hollow elite. By comparison, her pale yellow, one-story, ranch-style home is modest, inviting and filled with light.

It’s where she raised her sons Andrew, Luke and Owen, her most inspiring subjects.

“They were so much fun to photograph,” Wilson says with a smile, staring off to the side as if recreating the moments in her mind. “In a sense, it was a way capture their childhood, a childhood so fleeting.”

No wonder the boys chose careers in front of the camera.

Wilson, an award-winning photographer, has documented the well known and unknown — from the famous movie stars who crop up again and again in Wes Anderson films to the hidden Hutterite colonies in the plains of Montana. Whether they have been photographed thousands of times or not at all, Wilson manages to capture a side of her subjects the public rarely sees.

“I can’t say how I do it. It’s like asking someone who has a facility for mathematics. They may not know how, they just are able to do it.”

Recently, though, in Mexico City, Wilson came across a challenge while photographing Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” He’s part of her current series on 15 of the world’s most important writers.

Marquez doesn’t speak English, and Wilson doesn’t speak Spanish.

“I found I do rely more on language than I realized. One has to make a connection, and often the connection is made through words as well as the energy and mood of the session.”

Wilson grew up on the South Shore of Massachusetts. She speaks of her hometown with pride, noting that the region bred some of America’s transcendental poets. Louisa May Alcott had a summerhouse there.

Even as a little girl, Wilson was taking pictures, toting around a Kodak Brownie — the first version of a snapshot camera. The inexpensive, boxy device made photography accessible to everyone, much like the cell phone does today.

“I’ve always loved the magic of photography — that you could stop time, or attempt to stop time, and stave off the sense of loss.”

What makes a person worth photographing has nothing to do with good looks.

“It’s a face that is surprising, complex, unusual or rare. It’s not about beauty or handsomeness. It’s about the emotion that they’re able to call up within themselves.”

Wilson surrounds herself with other people’s work as well as her own. Her home is essentially a gallery. The foyer is an entrance to her inspiration. It is lined with black and white portraits, including her favorite work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, known as the father of modern photojournalism.

Wilson’s big break came in 1979 when the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth hired her to assist Richard Avedon during the six-year gallery project, “In the American West.” She had landed possibly the most coveted apprenticeship for any budding photographer.

“It catapulted me up. No photographer was more famous than he was at that time. I learned what issues concerned him. It wasn’t about f-stops and shutter speeds. It was about the content, the elements that make a portrait unforgettable.”

Avedon was known for his minimalist approach and stark imagery, photographing the most famous faces of the 20th century. In contrast, “In the American West” portrayed working people whom Avedon treated with the same care, dignity and respect. He encouraged Wilson to document the process and write a book about it one day, and she did.

“Avedon at Work in the American West” released in 2003 and was celebrated as perhaps the most insightful and complete documentation of an extensive creative process.

As evidenced by so much of her work (“Hutterites of Montana,” “Watt Matthews of Lambshed” and “Grit and Glory”), Wilson has always been drawn to the history and romanticism of the West, and those views are in conflict with the environmental, economic and social impacts of today, Wilson says. The idea of the open West contradicts the reality that new development is turning small, rural towns into large, urban cities.

But there are people and places that remain unscathed by the forces of reality. In her 2000 book, Wilson documented the Hutterites in rural Montana, who are more isolated than the Amish or the Mennonites.

“From the moment I saw them, I knew they were extraordinary. It was a group of young men and women walking over the field at sunset. The women were wearing long, brightly patterned dresses with black and white, polka dot kerchiefs, and the men were in black jackets and pants. It’s a community that is removed from the world, and yet it’s flourishing.”

Wilson followed the Hutterites off-and-on for 14 years.

Now, she is compiling her life’s work into a book. She says she can’t choose a favorite image that she has taken, but if the house was burning down, and she could grab only one set of negatives, it would be her family photos.

Wilson never takes a day off work because to her, it’s not work at all.

“When I don’t do it, I feel a bit discombobulated and uncomfortable. It’s a great pleasure for me to work in photography.”

Of course, there are times when she’s not “working.” What does she do then?

“I’m looking and listening.”

 

Dr. Cooper, photographed by Can Türkyilmaz

Dr. Kenneth Cooper

Father of aerobics and world-famous champion for public health

People often recognize health and fitness icon Dr. Kenneth Cooper, which means he has to be careful when he goes out to eat. Someone recently spotted him at Liberty Burger.

“I ordered the veggie burger,” he says. “I limit my red meat intake.”

He’s often stopped for what he calls “curbside consultations” at his Prestonwood Baptist Church, but he doesn’t mind. Cooper has a Type A personality, so he loves to talk.

“My wife is a Type A+. I’m always trying to finish a sentence before she does.”

After 50 years of research in exercise science, Cooper still has a lot to say. Mainly: Get your head out of the sand, America.

“We don’t have a choice,” he says. “We’re facing a terrible future.”

The idea of exercise as a health benefit has never been an easy sell.

Cooper introduced the concept of aerobics, publishing the first groundbreaking book on the subject in 1968. He built his fitness empire, The Cooper Institute, in Preston Hollow and just marked its 42nd anniversary. The research drew criticism as late as 1984. During a debate on “Nightline,” New York cardiologist Henry Solomon spoke about his own book “The Exercise Myth.” He challenged Cooper, saying there is no data to prove that exercise really works.

By 1989, though, The Cooper Institute released a landmark study in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirming that physical fitness reduces the risk of death by all causes by 58 percent.

Cooper can recite statistics like they’re the alphabet and seems to enjoy it, despite that he has probably repeated them hundreds of times over the years — but it has paid off. In 2002 he convinced PepsiCo, owner of Frito-Lay, to remove all trans fat from Frito-Lay snack products.

Still, he says he’s disappointed at how rapidly the obesity rate has risen in the United States even while health awareness grows. Cooper himself almost went “the typical American way.” He grew up in a suburb near Oklahoma City and walked — often ran — to school every day. He played basketball and ran track and cross-country.

Then, he grew up, and life happened. Succumbing to the stress of medical school, Cooper packed on 44 pounds, reaching his highest weight, 204, by age 29. One day, while water skiing, he thought he was having a heart attack. Turned out, he was just incredibly out of shape. Cooper dropped the weight in six months and ran the Boston Marathon the following year.

“You can get addicted to exercise just like you can get addicted to drugs or alcohol,” he says.

That’s when he chose to enter the field of preventive medicine, an area that he believed needed more attention. His research changed the way the world exercises.

Over the past several years, however, he has turned his focus to children.

“I’ve given up on the adults,” he says.

Legislation was passed in 2007 to provide mandatory physical education testing in Texas schools but only after Cooper raised the money himself through private funds. His program, FitnessGram, draws a direct correlation between exercise and students’ academic performance. That caught the attention of the Chinese government, which is using Cooper’s expertise to create better fitness programs in its schools.

“It’s frustrating to see the success I’ve had in China but don’t have in this country,” Cooper says.

They’re singing his praises in Brazil, too, where he may expand the institute. Cooper made a name for himself after the Brazilian soccer team trained with his aerobics program and went on to win the World Cup in 1970. Down there, they call running “doing the Cooper.”

His proudest moments, though, have nothing to do with revolutionizing the health and fitness field.

“People ask me what my greatest accomplishment is. I say it’s having two amazing kids and five amazing grandkids. That’s what lives on. Fame is so short-lived.”

 

 

Eric Nadel, as photographed by Danny Fulgencio

Eric Nadel

Voice of the Rangers

Whenever the Rangers fall into a slump like they did in early June, losing to the Oakland A’s 12-1 during a nearly no-hitter, legendary broadcaster Eric Nadel shrugs it off.

“It happens. You can’t get too emotional about it this early in the season,” he says during a phone interview from San Francisco, Calif. “If I did, I’d never survive.”

The Preston Hollow resident’s voice has accompanied Rangers fans for 34 years, longer than any other broadcaster in the history of the franchise. Nadel will become the 15th member inducted into the Rangers Baseball Hall of Fame in August.

“Baseball on the radio is something special, I think. It’s such an important part of people’s lives during the summer.”

Nadel grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a Mets fan.

“I always had the feeling that [the broadcasters] were my buddies who would talk to me about the Mets every night. I hope that’s how people feel about me.”

The slow pace of a baseball game helps build a relationship between the announcer and the audience. During three hours, the ball is in play for only about 20 or 30 minutes, so broadcasters have to find plenty else to talk about.

Before the internet became the essential tool for just about everything, Nadel would spend hours before each game interviewing players and coaches to gather enough information. Now, he can research everything from his laptop and follow real-time reactions during the game via social media.

However, none of it replaces the traditional medium of radio, he says.

Nadel remembers the moment he decided to be a sports broadcaster. He was 8 years old, riding in the car with his father, listening to a Yankees game on the radio. He asked, “Do the announcers get paid?” His father said, “Yes, they get paid. That’s their job.”

“I said, ‘They get paid to go to Yankee Stadium and watch a baseball game?’ From that point on, that’s what I wanted to do.”

During his junior year of high school, he participated in a sports broadcasting program at Northwestern University, which solidified his interest. He attended Brown University and gained experience working for its radio station. He landed his first job out of college announcing minor league hockey in Muskegon, Mich. Nadel moved to Dallas in 1976 to broadcast for the Dallas Blackhawks minor league hockey team. In 1979, the opportunity arose to audition for the Rangers.

“Somehow, I got it,” he says.

Ever since, Nadel has been a part of Rangers history, making some of the most memorable calls — from Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strikeout in 1989 to the team’s record-setting 30 runs against the Baltimore Orioles in 2007.

Then, of course, there was the historic win against the Yankees during Game 6 of the American League Championship Series in 2010 that sent the Rangers to their first World Series. After pitcher Neftali Feliz struck out Alex Rodriguez, Nadel made the call, “The Rangers are going to the World Series!” Then, he shut up.

“The stadium just exploded, and I was overcome by emotion. I just let the crowd tell the story. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life and certainly the most emotional moment of my broadcast career. I’ll never forget it.

“Last year, it was just the opposite. I was ready to call the final out twice, and it didn’t happen. That was devastating. I was broken hearted.”

For the most part, though, Nadel keeps his emotions under control.

“I’m honest and objective, but people know I’m rooting for the Rangers just by the tone of my voice.”

Nadel has called Preston Hollow home since 1989, after moving from Oak Lawn. He lives with his wife, Jeannie, and lab/Husky mix, Nemo.

“People ask us all the time why we don’t have kids. People think it’s automatic. We just never had the urge.”

When he’s not at the mic, Nadel likes to just “chill out” and swim or play with his dog. He’s a member of the Town North YMCA and often hangs out at Neighborhood Services restaurant.

For the past 20 years, he has been involved with Reading and Radio Resource, a local nonprofit that records books for people with vision or learning disabilities.

It’s safe to say the voice of the Rangers won’t be going anywhere.

“I’ve been really lucky. I don’t aspire to be a network announcer or a TV announcer. I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do. I’m living my childhood dream.”


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