A Q&A with local celebrities

You see them on TV and listen to them on the radio. Their faces and voices are recognized, respected, criticized and even adored, but out of the studio, these neighborhood stars are not so different from us — they exercise, stuff their faces, idolize heroes, love their kiddos, and dream of faraway places. And despite their high-profile jobs, they don’t take themselves too seriously.

 

Shelly Slater: WFAA-Ch. 8 weekend anchor

On living in Oak Cliff:
This is the prettiest part of Dallas. I would never have known this was here growing up in Plano, the land of the cookie-cutter homes. We were looking for something where each home has its own character and where things are not chains; this fits the bill, and it’s five minutes from work. I will be on the Zang bridge cruising and look to my left and see I-30 packed and just laugh.

Favorite neighborhood restaurants:
I am obsessed with Kavala and Bolsa right now, and then the very best place when you’re trying to get something quick is the little taqueria right across from Bolsa [El Si Hay]. They have a milkshake thing with rice in it that’s so good.

Grocery shopping spot:
Minyard’s, mostly, and then I go to Tom Thumb for some stuff and Wal-Mart for my canned goods. Then we go to the super-duper cheap place next to Wendy’s. I am a frugal, frugal shopper. I remember that we walked into Fiesta for the first time and saw they were selling pig heads and turned around, and I’ve never been back. It was a little too authentic for me.

On getting into the business:
WFAA rejected me as an intern, which is so funny now. Kids will email me and say, “I didn’t get the internship; I’m not going to make it,” and I say, “They didn’t even look at my résumé.” I went to visit Gloria Campos when I was 14, and she told me that it’s not glamorous, that it’s hard frickin’ work. And when I got the job, she told me, “You’re the first one to ever come back.” I remember anchoring with John McCaa the first time, and I could not concentrate on anything except that John McCaa was sitting right next to me. He was this icon.

A typical Saturday:
At work, unfortunately. I go in at 2 and I’m done at 10:30. But on Saturday morning-ish, we’re usually doing a house project. We’re always doing something on the house — it’s chronic.
Books on her nightstand:
Girl, I read a teleprompter day and night. And I work alone, so it’s 30 minutes of reading a teleprompter alone. I do not read when I get home — period, the end. Architectural Digest is on my nightstand; that’s it.

Something people would be surprised to learn about her:
I break out in dance at any given moment if I like the song  — in the newsroom, in the house, on the street … I love to dance. I still go to Power House [studio] and dance, and I’m the old woman in the room full of 16-year-olds. I dance in my car. You might look over and think, “Who is that chick?” I mean, I really think I’ll be going to Power House at 50.

Best day on the job:
When you do stories that get such a huge reaction that you know you are doing something extremely positive for the community. I just did a story called the birthday blessing — all these kids who have never had birthday parties or whose parents cannot afford to throw them birthday parties. For the next week and a half, I was flooded with people offering their facilities, professional cake makers making cakes, people offering bouncy houses, people who sell all this Nintendo Wii stuff on eBay … and then the number of people who emailed in and said my child has never had a birthday party. The first story I ever lost sleep on was this woman who emailed me and said she would take her daughter to the park [for her birthday], and her daughter would say, “When are my friends going to show up?” I know that girl is going to have a party now because of the story.

Worst day on the job:
When you go through five, six, seven stories, and you start in Collin County, go to Tarrant County, and end up in Waxahachie, and you end up with nothing. You’re beating your head against the wall, and you have nothing to show for it. And putting makeup on and taking it off. I hate getting ready. I’m actually a very low-maintenance, get-ready-in-five-minutes kind of girl. On my days off, I wear sweatpants, a sweatshirt and a red hat.

On being a public figure:
Sometimes it’s really fun because you can call attention to things you think are important, but then sometimes it’s also really tough because people will tell you what they really think. They do not think you are a real human on the other end of the tube. I got one email the other day that was: “Dear Sherri” — I’m Shelly — “Don’t you think it’s time for a haircut?”

On how living in our neighborhood affects coverage:
I keep total tabs on what’s going on. Anytime there’s a story where they’re looking for an entrepreneur, we’ll come to Epiphany, that cute clothing store. I’ve done live shots outside of Tillman’s Roadhouse … and [stories on] why this area is the only area with all the crap on the streets left over from the ice storm. I do look out for this area when I pitch my stories. [Councilman] David Neumann lives right behind me, so I can shout from my back yard to his: “What’s up, Neumann? Don’t talk too loud — I can hear your phone conversations with the mayor.”

If she wasn’t a reporter:
I would start an interview school. I meet more young kids who are only able to Twitter, to be on Facebook … they only know how to communicate through writing, and we all know that having a 4.0 and being the head of student council doesn’t cut it for college anymore. I find that a lot of people don’t know how to engage with other people, don’t know how to walk up to people and start a conversation and make it last, and make them remember you.And I really feel like there’s a huge need for that.

Jay Gormley: CBS-Ch. 11 reporter

On living in Oak Cliff:
I knew I wanted something similar to the M Streets, but I wanted something more reasonable in price. I had seen the Kessler Park and Stevens Park Golf Course area, and I could get 1,600 square feet for thousands of dollars cheaper than what I could get in the M Streets.

Favorite neighborhood restaurants:
Right now, Bolsa is my pick of the week. My fiancée and I, we’ll just go grab dessert there and some wine and chill out on a Friday or Saturday night. And when I want a nice glass of beer, I’ll go down to the Quinn.

Books on his nightstand:
I’ve got Fred McCourt’s “’Tis A Memoir” (he also wrote “Angela’s Ashes”) and you’ll find the occasional spy novel. I have to tell you, though, because I read every day, whether it be newspapers, Internet articles … I’m pretty much tapped out on reading. I’m such a film fanatic, I’d rather watch a good movie.

A typical Saturday afternoon:
Honestly, I’m in front of my computer writing screenplays. I have written three feature screenplays (well, let’s just go with two — they always say you write your first one and throw it out, and I did) and occasionally directed a short film here and there, like “$30,000 Millionaires” and “Bachelor 37”, which came out in ’05 and made it into half-a-dozen film festivals.

A typical Saturday night:
If it’s a Friday night, it’s usually [Bar] Belmont and Bolsa. I don’t get out of work until 10 or 10:30, so when I get off of work, I’m freakin’ beat, but if I get off of work early, I’m already in a suit. And then Saturday’s a little more low-key — probably the Quinn. And on Saturday, it’s my jeans and Chuck Taylors. They’re trendy now, but they were only $12 when I was a kid. They’re cheap sneakers, and they feel good. I wear a suit Monday through Friday, and the last thing I want to do on Saturday is get dressed up.

One word that describes our neighborhood:
Eclectic.

On getting into the business:
I was pretty athletic, and I had this pipe dream that I was going to be some sort of athlete, and then at 17 I realized it’s not going to happen. There were people bigger, faster, stronger, so hey, I’ll do the next best thing — be a sports writer. I covered sports at Temple University in Philadelphia, and slowly I started really falling in love with news. One of the things about sports is you can’t enjoy the game — can’t cheer, can’t grab a beer or a hot dog, just quietly sit there and take notes, and what fun is that? Senior year, I decided I wanted to do news … my first TV market was the NBC station in Palm Springs — not a bad place if you’re going to be making $14,000 a year.

Best and worst days on the job:
You could argue it was both — the best day was the day I drove to NYC to cover the World Trade Center. It’s probably the biggest event that I will ever cover in my entire career, and the fact that I was chosen from my station to go … but at the same time, it was a horrible, horrible day. I went from this incredible high of, “go, Jay — you are the man,” to “it doesn’t get any worse than this.” Everyone watches like it’s a car crash, and in our business, we want to get in the middle of the car crash.

On being a public figure:
To me, the anchors are far more high-profile. Occasionally, people will stop me — I’m always that “you look familiar” guy — but I have to be honest with you, I rarely get recognized, and I kind of like it. People say, “Would you rather be an anchor or a reporter?” and there are days when my bills are due I would rather be an anchor. But when a big story hits, I want to be there.

On how living in Oak Cliff affects news coverage:
Sometimes I take ribbing from my work saying, “Is this another Oak Cliff story?” But it’s what you know. I know that Fort Worth Avenue has been trying to clean up all the auto salvage places — there’s like 25 of them on one street — and the reason I know that is because I know people who live around here, so I pitched it as a story and we did it.

If he wasn’t a reporter:
Write and direct films. You always hear the stories of actors, directors, writers who were in a dead-end job, and thank god, their dreams came true. But I like my job. I have a great job. So I kind of want to have my cake, and eat it, too.

Jason Whitely: WFAA-Ch. 8 reporter

On living in Oak Cliff:
We lived in Sugarland, [a suburb] in Houston, and didn’t want to live in Plano here. Oak Cliff is a neighborhood with character — so many of them don’t have it.

Favorite neighborhood restaurants:
I ate at Gloria’s yesterday. Veracruz Café — we just discovered that recently, and really like that. Bolsa is a favorite, and the little taco place right across from Bolsa [El Si Hay].

Books on his nightstand:
You will find magazines, and they’re mainly travel magazines — Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel is a big one for us. I think I subscribe to all of the National Geographic series. We try to take one big trip every year — went to Egypt last year, hiked Mount Sinai and got up there at 2 a.m. to watch the sunrise. You have to hike in the middle of the night because it gets so hot in the desert. We could see only two feet in front of us.

One word that describes our neighborhood:
Eccentric.

Something people would be surprised to learn about him:
My neighbors are all surprised I mow my own lawn. I’m the only one on the block who does, I think.

On getting into the business:
I always thought TV news and journalism itself was kind of a front-row seat to life. I’m a current affairs guy and have a short attention span — perfect for TV. I met a guy covering the “DARE to stay off drugs” thing at my high school, graduated, and he let me come over and shadow him one day at the TV station. I started working there, and worked there for eight years.

Best and worst days on the job:
There are so few best days. The worst day on the job, in my opinion, is either not having a story that managers like, or covering crime or a disaster — knocking on the door of that loved one who just lost somebody. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. I usually shy away from those things. The best is a story that I like and I want to do, and travel is involved.

On being a public figure:
One neighbor didn’t know what I did until we lived here for about nine months, which is perfectly fine with me. I don’t go around and brag about what I do. People give me story ideas, give me feedback, and ask about how certain people are to work with — Pete [Delkus], Dale Hansen, John [McCaa] and Gloria [Campos]. I think people are surprised that they’re all real people, they’re all nice guys, and Gloria’s a nice woman.

How living in Oak Cliff affects news coverage:
Nobody covers south of I-30, whether it’s Oak Cliff or South Dallas, so for me it’s kind of a gold mine. Nobody else taps that resource, which is good on the slow story days. I read the Advocate, too, and pluck stories from that.

If he wasn’t a reporter:
I’d like to be a travel writer. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain of “No Reservations”. I’m very envious of the passport stamps in his book and all the great places he gets to eat.

Grant Stinchfield: NBC-Ch. 5 reporter
Amy Vanderoef: WFAA-Ch. 8 “Good Morning Texas” co-host

On living in Oak Cliff:
Amy Vanderoef: Grant’s boss lives across the street and told us about the house.
Grant Stinchfield: It’s true — the managing editor of Channel 5 lives across the street. And when we moved here, the deals were better. Being the reporter that I am and the analytic, we could get so much more house than in the M Streets, and there was less crime in Kessler Park than in the M Streets.

Favorite neighborhood restaurants:
AV: We go to Cliff Café on Sundays.
GS: I think our ultimate favorite is Norma’s.
AV:  We love Norma’s. We keep saying we’re going to save room for those pies at the end.
GS: What’s the other place we like? Veracruz. I don’t really like Mexican food, but I like to go to Veracruz, so that says something.
AV: Their margaritas are really strong. One of those, and you’ll fall asleep.

Grocery shopping spot:
AV: The bulk of the shopping is at Tom Thumb because it’s very convenient for us.
GS: The bottom line is when I have to pick up food, I still pick up food at Eatzi’s, and if I want good bread and good produce, I go to Central Market, but for the paper towels and chicken, I go to Tom Thumb. I think something like [Central Market] will come.
AV: Just like it did to Lakewood, once an area gets enough of a demand.
GS: The amazing thing is I run a lot, and I run pretty far south on Windomere, and every few weeks I can tell the next block is getting better — people moving in and fixing up the homes.

A typical Saturday:
GS: I golf every Saturday, and when I’m not golfing, we love to be outside.
AV: We take Bella [their Labrador] to the dog park. That’s what Oak Cliff needs — a dog park.
GS: If we’re going out on a Saturday night, we’re going down to either Hattie’s …
AV: For the fried catfish — yum.
GS: … or we go into Eno’s and sit at the bar and eat.

Books on their nightstand:
AV: Thirty-seven pregnancy books. [Vanderoef was seven months pregnant at the time of the interview.] I’m not even kidding. They keep falling off the nightstand because there’s so many of them. I have everything from infant to toddler to diet and exercising. My latest is Jenny McCarthy’s book about autism.
GS: And I haven’t read one of them.
AV: He might pick one up and see something that grosses him out and put it back down.
GS: I have a million poker strategy books, almost anything by James Patterson, and the latest one I’m reading is Joe Torre’s about his time spent with the Yankees.

How they met:
AV: On a story.
GS: I had exposed one of those scam artist modeling agencies that charges kids a million dollars, and Amy called me up and said, “I used to work for them. I just quit in disgust. I’ll give you the whole scoop.”
AV: So the next day, I went on camera and told all.
GS: And brought down a mob-run company that the attorney general shut down the next day. Five years went by …
AV: Three.
GS: Three years went by, and Amy saw me and was screaming my name across the bar.
AV: Wait, there’s his version and my version.
GS: And she was with this whole group of hot chicks. I thought I was the luckiest guy in town.
AV: And we started dating and got married nine months later.
GS: And she wasn’t even pregnant.

One word that describes our neighborhood:
AV: Home. GS: Comfortable.

Something people would be surprised to learn about them:
GS: I’m a professional boxing judge; I judged fights at the Foxwoods Casino and Resort — the largest in the world — in Connecticut, and I judge in Texas, but the fight game in Texas is really dying and becoming less and less.
AV: I was Miss Connecticut and a contestant at Miss USA in 2001. I was also a U.S. performer overseas for troops in the ’90s in Bosnia and 15 other countries.

On getting into the business:
GS: I was a floor trader on the commodities exchange, and I was watching TV and thought I could do it. About 150 résumé tapes later, I got a job in Missoula, Mont., and left everything in New York City to make $15,000 year.
AV: We weren’t married then. I got him when he was making more money. This is my first TV job.
GS: Amy has a history in drama and acting — Ms. Frizzle.
AV: I was Ms. Frizzle on “The Magic School Bus” book series that became a show. I had done a little bit of hosting and stuff through my agency, and my agent said — even Grant said, ‘Honey, you’ll never get that job [at “Good Morning Texas”].            
GS: I did, but then I saw her demo reel, and what did I say?
AV: You said, “That’s the best demo reel I’ve seen.” They called me and I auditioned, and I got the job.
GS: Nobody’s been more proud. I’m their biggest fan, that’s for sure.
AV: It’s true. He watches me in the morning, and I watch him in the evening, so I’ve only watched Channel 5. When I got the audition, I said, “Gloria who?”

Best and worst days on the job:
GS: In our business, oftentimes your best day on the job is also your worst day because you’re covering these horrible tragedies that everybody’s watching and glued to the TV set, so you can do a great job covering a tragedy, but you come home thinking that was a horrible day because of everything you witnessed and saw. I was working for WNBC in New York on Sept. 11, and I’m from New York, so I was dealing with trying to cover the news but also trying to figure out if my friends were OK. I remember I was at the victim center, and they needed supplies, and I said that on TV, and some of my friends from college were watching and raised $10,000 for office supplies. AV: My job is the best every single day. I am often told by everyone that I do have the sweetest job in the market — I get to interview celebrities and do cooking segments … it’s a fun set and really a good atmosphere.

On how living in our neighborhood affects coverage:
GS: You know what, I try to do stories that raise awareness of issues about this area. And sometimes the stories aren’t good, but it’s like any stories in Dallas where we’re trying to get action for the people who live there — like burglaries, and you want to get police on it.

On being a public figure:
GS: She gets [recognized] much more than I do.
AV: People in Dallas have an allegiance to what station they watch. If they recognize Grant, they have no idea who I am, and if they recognize me, they have no idea who Grant is.
GS: I usually get, “Did I go to high school with you?”
AV: They recognize you but don’t know where from. Or I hear, “Oh my gosh, you’re so much prettier in person.” Or “better looking in person”’ to Grant. And he always responds …
GS: “That’s funny because you look a lot better through the television set.”
AV: A guy can get away with that.
GS: [Country singer] Charlie Pride recognized me at Foxwoods Casino and Resort in Connecticut. I had just moved to Dallas, and had gone back to play in a tournament. I was putting on the green, and I hear, “Hey, you’re my news guy!” Now I see him all the time. We golf a lot of the same places.

If they weren’t in the biz:
AV: Grant would play third base for the New York Yankees. I guess I would still be a full-time actor. I do a lot of voiceover work on the side, a lot of commercials for a lot of big companies, but I won’t be working this summer. I’ll be spending the summer in Oak Cliff with baby.

Brett Shipp: WFAA-Ch. 8 investigative reporter

On why he lives in Oak Cliff:
Because my mom told me never to move to Oak Cliff. I grew up in Highland Park, and my mom told me, “I’m never going to come see you if you live in Oak Cliff.” Like any Highland Park mom, she was concerned for me moving over to the other side of the river. The other reason? Hills and trees, baby. Hills and trees — and a five-minute drive to work.

Favorite neighborhood restaurants:
La Calle Doce is my favorite. I love the Oak Cliff Pizzeria. Eno’s is good; Hattie’s is awesome. I eat out, like, once a week. I love all the neighborhood eateries, and I support neighborhood restaurants.
Grocery shopping spot:
I go to Tom Thumb on Hampton. You can find me there on Sunday afternoons. I run into so many people there and spend so much time in the aisles chatting with the locals.

Books on his nightstand:
There’s about 20, and they’ve all got dust on them. At night, I like to read “An Abridged History of the United States”. A couple pages, and I’m dead to the world. It’s great reading, and those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.

One word that describes our neighborhood:
The obvious one is eclectic, but it’s too cliché. It’s more than eclectic. It’s progressive.

Something we’d be surprised to learn about him:
I’m a pretty good housekeeper. I’m recently divorced, and what I didn’t realize about myself and what I have in me is that I keep a clean house. It’s a Zen-like experience to wash dishes and wash clothes and vacuum and sweep and mop and keep a clean house.

On getting into the business:
My dad [Bert Shipp] worked at Channel 8 for 40-plus years. I grew up here, and it was a natural fit. Bert Shipp is kind of a legend in the news business here — a reporter back in the ’60s, then news director and assignments editor. He’s very, very well-respected in the news business in this town. It’s hard to get more TV time than he gets. People go to him all the time for historical perspective. He’s made it easy for me to do my job. If I didn’t hear 4,000 times, “Oh you’re Bert Shipp’s son” … and that opens amazing doors because of his reputation in the community.

On being a public figure:
People want to know what you’re working on. My reputation is exposing injustice and righting wrongs, and people like to see that and like to know what’s coming up next. “Who you going after next, Shipp?” They like seeing that brand of journalism, and there are very few people who do it anymore. We’re one of the few TV stations in the country still committed to investigative journalism. I’ve never had anybody say anything ugly to me out in public. Emails, yeah, where people can hide, but I don’t care. I set myself up for all kinds of criticisms. Cops may be mad at me one day, teachers may be mad at me one day, and that’s OK. I understand why people get upset with me, but everybody knows that I’m fair. I am an equal opportunity offender. There are a lot of people who like me one day and hate me the next, and that’s OK.

Best day on the job:
I don’t want to sound pretentious, but when you save somebody’s life, which people credit me with a lot. People come to me in despondency and life-threatening problems, and when you’re able to have someone say, thanks for saving my life or saving my house or saving my job, that’s the best day.

Worst day on the job:
There isn’t one. I have the best job of anyone in town, and as far as local TV reporters, I’ve got the best job in the country.

If he wasn’t a reporter:
I would run for Congress. I would need to transition into something where I could affect people’s lives some more. There are not that many jobs where you can make that big of a difference.

Bennett Cunningham: CBS-Ch. 11 investigative reporter

Favorite neighborhood restaurants:
I take my kids to Hunky’s every single Sunday because I love it. I get a turkey burger with tater tots.

Grocery shopping spot:
I love to go grocery shopping; it’s one of my favorite, favorite things, and the Tom Thumb on Hampton is just fantastic since they revamped it. I find things that I can’t find over the river, like oyster mushrooms. I had a recipe that called for them and couldn’t find them anywhere, and they had them at the Tom Thumb right down the block.

A typical Saturday night:
Any night I’m with my children [6-month-old twins] because they’re young, so they’re sleeping. We usually take a walk in the neighborhood right before bed.

Books on his nightstand:
[Laughs] I haven’t been able to read a book since I had children. My bookshelf is cleared. On my computer, I read CNN, BBC, the New York Times, the Drudge Report and all the competing stations’ websites.

One word that describes our neighborhood:
Gem, because I really feel it’s an undiscovered jewel.

Something people would be surprised to learn about him:
I can imitate Ronald Reagan really well. I love to cook. I make a Provencal bouillabaisse — a French chicken stew made with Pernod, a French liqueur. It’s really good.

On getting into the biz:
When I was really young, I used to stutter up until about 13, and used to watch the news all the time and would mimic the news and talk along with the anchors. I grew out of it, and because the news helped me grow out of it, I kind of got bitten by the bug. I thought, “How cool it would be to know what’s going on in the world before everyone else does, and tell them about it?”

Best and worst day on the job:
The best day is when you get it right, and you’ve made a change. The worst day is when you don’t get it right and nothing happens — but it happens to you because you get in trouble. But when you do a story, and you’re fighting the other side that doesn’t want you to tell it, and you get it right and something positive happens for your viewers, that’s the best day.

On being a public figure:
It has its pros and cons. The huge consideration is that you have to be extremely careful what you say and gauge your reaction to things. When I worked for Channel 3, I went to get milk and took it the counter and said, “This is expired.” The cashier told me to grab another one, and I said, “They’re all expired — I don’t understand,” and I got hotheaded about it. Then he said, “You’re that guy from Channel 3,” and I thought, “You know what, I gotta be careful here because you go into people’s living rooms every night (or once a week as we do in the investigative unit). That’s all they know of you, and the last thing you want is a reputation for being a jerk. The good part is that people come to you with stories because you’re out there, and they see you, and they know they can trust you. Viewers are very smart — anybody who underestimates viewers is a fool.

If he wasn’t a reporter:
I would either be a lawyer (I am a licensed attorney in Texas) or an airline pilot. I’ve been flying since I was so little, and I just think it’s really cool.

 


 

 


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  • rich

    I live in Oak Cliff and, like Wiedemer (author of the first comment) I love the sense of pride, culture and individuality I feel in relation to where I live. I LOVE that my neighbors are independent-minded intelligent folks, and that they don’t take themselves too seriously (aforementioned commenter evidently excluded). The Cliff Dweller was a nice magazine, but one of the things that makes the Advocate so above and beyond is that it offers up not only stories about the rich neighborhood history, municipal and cultural issues and such, but it also introduces readers to all the interesting characters in the neighborhood, including the TV personalities, journalists, “celebrities” living in our neighborhood. I LOVE getting to know my neighbors via the Advocate each month. And the treatment of this particular story was ingenious. It was funny and I think anyone who didn’t like it, simply didn’t quite catch the humor in it. Thank you for injecting even more life, creativity, wit and information into our lively, creative, witty and smart neighborhood.

  • Mike Wiedemer

    June’s Oak Cliff Advocate “cover” story made me once again pine for the days of the Cliff Dweller, and its well thought out articles on interesting events and items of importance to the members of our community. I’m happy that Channel 11’s investigative reporter has found a grocery store in the area, however, I don’t consider it useful, interesting, or newsworthy to the Oak Cliff community. I am amazed that someone determined such tripe was worthy of 1/3 of the magazine’s June issue.

    Among the many things that makes me proud of Oak Cliff is the fact that we do not tend to be a bunch of easily impressed sheep. We do tend to care about ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to improve the quality of life on our side of the river. We care about the many local issues and are suspicious of a city government that frequently spends foolishly or funnels benefits to the north. We also care about the rich history of our neighborhood. With so much unique, interesting, important things to write about that are specific to Oak Cliff, the Local Celebrities revealed article left me with an overwehlming sense of “who cares?”.