Post-awards season is a notoriously rotten period for movies. Sure, you can find quality television this time of year, but only after wading through an excess of options that actually might cause a loss of brain cells. May we humbly suggest an alternative? Turn away from the tube and read on for the real-life stories of Preston Hollow’s pop stars, life-savers and criminal minds.
Dr. Mini DeLaShaw’s life as an emergency room doctor doesn’t entirely mirror hit medical dramas such as “ER,” but it comes pretty close. “That is exactly what drew me to this field,” DeLaShaw says, referring to the fast-paced environment and variety of patients depicted on the TV show. “For me, emergency medicine is the most exciting. Every day is different. There’s no way to predict what you’re going to see.” The Disney Streets resident and married mother of three works the night shift 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. at Medical City Hospital. The Preston Hollow native graduated from W.T. White High School. She finished her residency seven years ago, but there is one thing that no one taught her in medical school and rarely is depicted in popular media: how becoming a parent affects your job as a doctor. “After training, I had a child,” DeLaShaw says. “I’ve treated lots of children, but it’s completely different when you’re a parent yourself. It took me forever to recover from that. It’s interesting. I’ve seen it change in my partners when they have a child. You can tell. There’s a difference in the way they interact.” It makes it that much harder to deal with a tragedy such as a pediatric drowning. “There is nothing you can tell those parents,” she says. DeLaShaw recalls the first time she lost a patient in the ER, and it was not one of those distraught moments of rigorous CPR that often characterizes a climactic scene of “ER.” Quite the opposite, actually. While DeLaShaw worked at another North Texas hospital, before arriving at Medical City, she received a female patient in her 40s who had a chronic lung disease. The woman knew she was dying and made it clear that she didn’t want to be intubated and hooked up to breathing tubes. DeLaShaw and the family allowed the woman to have a natural and peaceful death. “She knew that was going to happen,” DeLaShaw says. “The majority of the time, the family wants to do things that wouldn’t contribute to the quality of life, and it can be hard to explain to them why. I was impressed. I respected that. The whole thing was a warm experience for me.” —Emily Toman
A Few Good Men
He can handle the truth. It’s all he wants, really. Even if he makes a few people mad in the process of trying to wrest it — kind of like when Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) had to call Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) to the stand during the criminal trial of two rookie Marines. Colby Vokey is known for handling controversial cases as a military lawyer. He built a national reputation by demanding fair representation for U.S. soldiers accused of war crimes. The world took notice (he appeared on “60 Minutes,” on National Public Radio and in the Wall Street Journal) when he spoke out against the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay when he was the defense attorney for 15-year-old prisoner Omar Khadr. “Colby Vokey is a guy who always did the right thing, even if it upset everybody,” retired Col. Jane Siegel told the Advocate in 2010. He resigned from the Marine Corps in 2007. Today he practices at a Dallas firm and still specializes in military law. Among the Preston Hollow resident’s high-profile clients was Frank Wuterich, a staff sergeant accused in 2005 of leading Marines in a deadly attack on civilians in Haditha, Iraq, an incident widely referred to as the “Haditha Massacre.” Vokey might defend military personnel accused of murder, manslaughter or major offenses, but he also fights for the rights of those whose crimes, such as drug possession, might have been a result of the mental trauma of war. “If they are dishonorably discharged, they can lose their [military] benefits. We owe it to them to get them a good defense.” To anyone who questions his efforts, he says it is all about implementing the law fairly. “The bottom line is that I support the U.S. Constitution, and justice is not for certain people but everyone.” —Christina Hughes Babb
Clarice Tinsley embarked on her broadcast journalism career in the mid-1970s, the age of big hair and wide ties. Everyone smoked and swore in the newsroom and kept a bottle of scotch in a desk drawer.
However, unlike Veronica Corningstone — the fictional character who had to fight her way around chauvinistic men to gain respect as a reporter in “Anchorman” — Tinsley benefited from a range of experiences at her first job at WITI-TV in Milwaukee, which ranked 35th in the market at the time. As a 20-something fresh out of college (internships didn’t exist back then), she soaked up all the knowledge she could from her colleagues.
“These were people who had worked their whole lives to get to Milwaukee, and that’s where I started,” she says. “They could see that I was very open to learning. It was a special station to begin my career.”
The Detroit native came on the scene toward the end of the “man’s world” mentality often associated with early broadcast news. No one tried to keep her from covering gritty crime stories and other heavy subjects. Her first assignment involved a trip to the Milwaukee airport for an inside look at the weapons being confiscated from commercial airplanes in 1975, including machetes, brass knuckles, different types of knives, you name it.
About three years later, Tinsley landed a job with what is now KDFW FOX 4, where she has stayed for more than 35 years, making her the longest-serving network anchor in the Dallas-Fort Worth market — the reigning dean, some might say, of Ron Burgundy stature, although humbler. You won’t find the Preston Hollow resident strolling around parties in a silk robe informing everyone that she’s “kind of a big deal.” But if she were, she’d have plenty to tout.
In 1985, Tinsley won the George Foster Peabody Award for her investigative piece, “A Call for Help.” Every other news organization in town ignored Larry Boff when he came forward with a claim that a 911 operator argued with him over the phone instead of sending an ambulance — all while his elderly stepmother suffocated to death.
“There was something about him that seemed compelling,” Tinsley says. “I told him, ‘I can’t promise I’ll do the story, but I promise I’ll look into it.’ ”
That glimmer of hope was enough to bring Boff to tears, she says, because no one believed him. An open records request for the 911 tape more than confirmed Boff’s claim, and Tinsley’s weak lead became a national story.
“Everything that he told me was on that tape verbatim. It was emblazoned in Larry’s brain. It went from the story that nobody cared about and nobody wanted to the story that everyone cared about and everybody wanted.”
Most importantly, it resulted in major 911 emergency reforms that year.
From the Berlin Wall to Desert Storm, Tinsley’s assignments have made her a witness to history all over the world. While covering the Fort Hood troops in Kuwait City, Tinsley and her colleagues Tim Ryan and Max Stacy had to focus on every single step to avoid booby traps as they traversed the war zone. They ended up sleeping in a burned-out Holiday Inn — but that was better than sleeping out in the desert.
“That was the most dangerous assignment I had,” Tinsley says.
But the troops were grateful to see a familiar face. Upon meeting them, she could hear soldiers shouting, “Clarice! Clarice! I’m from Oak Cliff … I’m from Waxahachie …”
“It was like a reunion, but we had never met.”
When she’s not anchoring the 10 p.m. newscast on FOX 4, Tinsley enjoys time with her husband, Stephen Giles, who is executive producer of “America Up Close.” They’ve been married 26 years. Tinsley works out at Cooper Aerobics Center and sings Alto II in the sanctuary choir at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church. Although she and Giles have not had children of their own — after two miscarriages, Tinsley learned that in order to have children, she’d have to spend her entire pregnancy on bed rest — she does have a stepson, Steve, 36, and two godchildren, Brandon, 30, and Kennedy, 13. They also have a very chatty Manx cat, Serenity.
Decade after decade, the broadcast news industry has evolved — beyond just the hair and fashion. The advent of CNN’s 24-hour news cycle in the 1980s prompted local outlets to add more time slots. That’s why we now have evening news at 4, 5, 5:30, 6, 6:30 … Newsrooms became much busier.
“I have seen a lot of change in my career,” Tinsley says. “I’ve always been able to accept change as a part of life.”
Especially when it comes to social media. She was an early adopter of Twitter and Facebook and regularly uses them to report the news and interact with her audience.
“I have so much more access to my viewers.”
FOX 4 won a Lone Star Emmy Award in 2010 for its social media parody video in which Tinsley anchors a newscast about a shooting at City Hall — but the reporters are too distracted by their smartphones to actually report the news.
While Tinsley has some serious reporting accolades, the veteran broadcast journalist still can poke some fun at her own profession. She’s an “Anchorman” fan — so much so that she rented out a local movie theater and invited 80 of her friends and colleagues to screen “Anchorman 2,” while wearing signature Ron Burgundy mustaches. Uncontrollable laugher ensued. —Emily Toman
Sam Horowitz sang and danced his way into YouTube fame last summer at his bar mitzvah after-party, turning a traditional religious celebration into a spontaneous musical that could have come straight out of a scene from popular teen shows “Glee” or “Smash.” Dressed in a sparkling white suit, the Parish Episcopal School eighth-grader took to the stage inside a room at the Omni Hotel and belted out Christina Aguilera’s “Show Me How You Burlesque” along with back-up dancers courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks — all in front of giant, electric letters that spelled “Sam.” The glitzy display raised a few eyebrows in the Jewish community, as some thought it was just a little over-the-top. But those in the realm of pop culture embraced the young performer. His YouTube video — a poppy and emotional montage of his journey to the bar mitzvah a la “American Idol” — went viral, and he landed spots on “Ellen” and “Good Morning America.” None of this is out of character for “the bar mitzvah boy,” who’s used to the spotlight, having appeared in shows at the Jewish Community Center and the Dallas Children’s Theater. And who knows? He might end up in a future TV hit that his life already seems to emulate. —Emily Toman
Orange is the New Black
The Netflix show (based on the book by the same name) about a young woman’s 365-day drug-related prison sentence was the critics’ darling last year. While the show garners some laughs, it also captures the general icky-ness that is institutionalization. Neighborhood resident Holly Hunter (no relation to the actor) knows the inside of a women’s prison. She already was into drugs when she got kicked out of The Hockaday School for swearing at a staff member, she told the Advocate in 2011. At 16 she hooked up with an older boy and started selling. “I was trapped in the money game,” she says. “I could make $1,000 for 20 minutes of work.” Despite the constant rush of adrenaline, steady flow of money and feeling of power, she knew deep down that things were all wrong. “I thought I had it good, but I was living in fear. Constant fear.” Then one day she woke up feeling miserable and prayed for help. Be careful what you wish for, she warns. “Less than 72 hours later, I was sitting in jail.” She couldn’t shake the addiction, and she ultimately revisited prison multiple times. “Let’s just say — all told — about a third of my life was spent in prison.” It was during that last stint that she sobered up. She could have taken drugs while behind bars. Her cellmates regularly did, she says, but instead she asked for rehabilitation. “I began requesting substance-abuse counseling immediately when I got to prison [in the 1990s]. It took two years for me to get into classes and treatment.” After release, she embarked on an education in chemical-dependency treatment that included becoming certified as a licensed chemical-dependency counselor. Now she works with Dallas attorneys and courts and runs A Court Class, which specializes in drug counseling and education, especially for those in legal trouble because of drug abuse. —Christina Hughes Babb
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