In the beginning Deep Ellum, Dallas Texas

Since I have been getting nostalgic on the business side, I thought i would bring back some alcoflashes from a party from long ago and give credit where credit is due.

Its coming up on the 20 year anniversary of Deep Ellum reinventing itself as a party scene in Dallas. In the past 20 years, its been through a lot of ups and downs, lately more downs, but how it got rolling was nothing but an up.

My buddies, Scott Susens, Jeff Swaney, Greg Schipper and I used to throw parties all the time. As the parties got bigger and bigger, we need bigger and bigger places to throw them. We went from our apartment, to a bar on Greenville Avenue called Cheers, to deciding we needed a bigger boat to hold all the people and really make some money from the parties.

We had originally decided on a chinese restaurant on royal and greenville that was having problems back then, but Swaney found an old warehouse, The Clearview Blind building that had a little office up front, and stored a bunch of old , freaky Chuckee Cheese characters in the back. He locked up the warehouse for $300 bucks or the month, and the Deep Ellum revival was underway.

<insert picture of 3 guys and poster>

For Scott and I, we worked together at MicroSolutions, so this was just a way to have fun and make some money. For Jeff, he worked at HP, and we thought it was just a way to make some extra money, but being the madman that he was and is, he had bigger ideas.

We titled the first party Life in a Warehouse. Swaney wanted to make it all hip and cool with local artists, the rest of us just wanted to make money, get drunk and meet women. He put together the artwork, which was just some paint thrown on the wall and called art with a blacklight to make it look cool. Scott and I made the tough decisions, that we would charge 20 bucks at the door and hand out a bottle of the cheapest champagne we could find to everyone who walked in the door. No glasses. You had to drink out of the bottle (Eat your heart out Puffy, this was way before you !). We also kegs of beer. No hard liquor. Beer and Champagne.

We knew the girls wouldnt drink the beer, and cheap champagne… is just that 🙂

As was our custom at the time, we printed up invitations on business cards. Of course the best part of throwing any party when you are single isnt the party itself, its the promotion of the party. Going to every bar in town and having a great excuse to walk up to any girl that you wouldnt haver the guts to walk up to otherwise, and inviting them to the party…. Problem with this party, was that no one knew were Elm Street in Dallas was . So we had to put maps on the other side of the business cards and we had to pay for those huge BeamSpotLights that clubs use to help people find them.

find us they did. By the team morning had rolled around, and we had finished using the kegs as bowling balls to the champagne bottles as bowling pins, more than 2k people had paid 20 bucks a piece. I remember shippy and I counting the money (We always let shipperstein count the money. He could sober up in a nanosecond when money was involved), and the 6 or so of us involved had netted more than 20k in profits.

All of us went back to work a little richer and a little hungover, but with great stories on that monday. Jeff Swaney started his own little empire. With the remaining days on the lease, he threw smaller parties every week. Renewed the lease over and over, and the next thing you knew, that warehouse where we threw a party was called Club Clearview.

Club Clearview wasnt the first bar on Elm Street, The Video Bar was there first, but it was the first to really market topeople to come to Elm Street . Swaney was the first that i had heard that started calling the area Deep Ellum, a name that had been dormant for many years.

It was Jeff that had to deal with a group who bought the building he was leasing, forcing him to move the club up the street and evolve Clearview into the Art Bar, Blind Lemon and the Club Clearview Reincarnation.

Deep Ellum has been through a lot of ups and downs since then, and Im sure there are lots of pieces of the story that Im missing, but its nice to know that I had some great friends who loved to party, a whole party scene was born in Dallas

PS. Hopefully, I will get my stupid pictures to upload here to add to the fun. If any of you have any pics or comments from back then, feel free to add them !

41 thoughts on “In the beginning Deep Ellum, Dallas Texas

  1. This reminds me a lot of my early 20s. Myself, my friends and my brothers all somehow fell into the warehouse party lifestyle. We threw lots of parties ourselves, but some of the coolest parties were the ones I went to in Deep Ellum in giant warehouses. My time was really just from 95 til 2001, so not as old school, but still lots of great memories. I was always the one who would decorate the places and design the flyers, etc. because I just loved the idea of setting the theme. Just wish I was actually able to make some good money doing it. In any case, that part of my life totally shaped the outcome of everything afterward. Glad to say it has lead me to a great creative career in multimedia design.

    Comment by jdlindallas -

  2. Hmmm, I worked at Video Bar for years…the Deep Ellum one, not on
    Greenville Ave. I found this blog as I Googled around trying to find
    Les Wright, we were joined at the hip then and I want to reconnect.
    Does anybody know how to contact him? Anyway, I always
    worked the door with Fred Livingston, big guy, and I had absurd blond Texas hair, as was required at the time…. and I know I will have to come back three or four times as a leper just to make up for all the bad karma I accrued working the door there.

    I am just thrilled I made it out alive and with no police record!
    WHEW! So, if anyone knows where Les is…let me know! Kathy

    Comment by kathydv218 -

  3. Im 39 years of age now, but my first memories of deep ellum is going out with my
    freind Sam from Video Bar that I met thru Matt Bailey.

    Comment by uzibee -

  4. My cousin Hunter turned me on to the video bar and I will never forget it.

    Comment by chet -

  5. Wow! I remember the first time I went to Deep Ellum (2 weeks before my 17th birthday). After the initial shock and awe of the scene, all I could think was…look at all these kindred spirits. My first time in the blacklight room at Clearview, I walked in and saw the cubby holes stacked on the wall with arms and legs coming out of them. I freaking loved that place. I will always love Deep Ellum, we had some great times.

    Comment by MoonDancer -

  6. Hey Fishbowl – miss you! We had some great times though didn\’t we? The Prophet and Theatre Gallery, State Bar and Bar of Soap, Clearview. Gringos and Daylights! Oh Yeah those were amazing times.

    Comment by Berta -

  7. Just reading some of these comments from last year; I know some of y\’all. I have trouble believing anybody who remembers Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville etc. from the early 80s still lives. Me, I didn\’t really understand that I was part of a scene until much later, long after it was history. Oh well, WALSTIB 🙂

    Comment by Fishbowl -

  8. On the downer side, the former art gallery Turner and Runyon, with its pristine cinderblock and glass exterior, and stable of blue chip artists (including me) is now a condom sense. This transformation a few years ago begs the question, “what is art?” Is it timeless? or does it last two minutes max?

    Comment by Steven -

  9. Lemonade stands are productive..Check out [Alex’s Lemonade Stand] on the net…This little girl would have given Bill Gates a run had she not passed away from cancer this August…Check it out everyone…Please…(She was the little 8 yr. old girl on Oprah)..Mark I have a simple invention that can raise Millions for this type of research, I need horsepower, though..Will be in touch…The River Kid…

    Comment by ShadNet -

  10. Ginger.. You’re scaring every guy who ever went to college.

    Comment by Crofoot -

  11. Thanks Mark gave me some good ideas on ways to make money and also have alot of fun doing it. I am currently enrolled at the University of Oregon and know of a few good locations to start my own business. I will keep you posted but I doubt I will have the success you had.

    Comment by Jay -

  12. Ah,yes! I remember all of those BIG parties like those of your Indiana buddies the “Boola Boys.”!

    Comment by Rob Rothe -

  13. Brings back memories for me. I was a New Bohemians groupie, starting at Tango (remember the Frogs on the roof?, last seen at Carl’s Corner) then down at Theater Gallery, Club Dada, etc., working part time at the Granada, all while working on my MIT masters thesis at Texas Instruments doing natural language processing research. Those were the days…

    Comment by Steve -

  14. Now I remeber you guys!!! You tell Scott Susens that I would like to introduce him to his 19 year old son!!!

    Comment by Ginger -

  15. Not everything has to make a million dollars. Or be free. And thats the joy in it.

    Comment by AP -

  16. I think Mark wants to throw us a free party at the AAC. PARTY DUDE!

    Comment by Dave -

  17. A younger, more rebellious Mark Cuban? That is quite an impressive feat though. If only lemonade stands were that productive.

    Comment by Al -

  18. The old Clearview had that great deco lobby. We would go see the “Killer Bees” and dance like crazy with Ecstasy or Eve as it was called.

    Comment by runescape money -

  19. Back in the day, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before someone ‘sold out’ the hood. When I say ‘everyone’ I mean the few involved w/ hosting events.

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  20. Wow, I quess my favorite (of many) moments of the old clearview was stumbling out the front door around mid-something and hitting the ground after hearing and feeling very large explosions. We ran a whole half block to witness the filming of robocop. I pretty sure that everyone on this blog was in the club scene filmed at the stark club…where is my oversized t shirt…anyways thanks for memories and mamories…were grateful…and to the July 11, 2005 blog…whatever your name was my name is Alex.
    Alex Clarke

    Comment by Alex Clarke -

  21. theatre gallery, clearview..what great memories..

    Comment by kj -

  22. Will the real John Garrett please stand up! alive and well a filmmaker in New York, The Video Bar, What a blast, Angela, Andy, Hutch, Lori, Kelly, Mark RIP, Susan, Scott dad, This was at 2610 Elm in Dallas, Texas, what became a great dark place for every one cool, straight, gay, goth, Industrial, huge part of my life and my vice. my ghosts are there….

    Comment by John Garrett -

  23. On The Air really changed my young life and warped my mind forever. I loved to go during the afternoon when no one was there and watch Planet of the Apes footage with great music blaring over it. I remember toward the end when the SMU crowd moved in and started to overcrowd and ruin it, in the bathroom there was grafitti that said, “GUYS WITH MOUSTACHES AND GIRLS IN KHAKI SHORTS: GO HOME!”. Twenty years later and that’s still etched in my brain. Best bar ever.

    Comment by Julie Jackson -

  24. Wow, Helen Stark. Are you using an alias? I worked at both On the Air and The Video Bar. I remember Kramer, Wes, Les, John, Bart, Susie, Justine, Janie, Kevin, Ed and so many others. I was even in a band with Paul Quigg but I don’t recall a Helen. Tell me more.

    Comment by J. Romig -

  25. Originally I was an asst. manager at On The Air to managing the Video Bar, until it closed at the second Elm St. location. Credit must be given to the rightful heirs and visionaries of Deep Ellum, Charlie Gilder of Twilight Room, Frank Campagna, Studio D, Paul Quigg, and myself, booking acts at 500 X.

    The real first warehouse party in Deep Ellum was thrown by Frank, Mark Ridlen with Rote Biologic, Lithium X-mas and other underground bands playing on Commerce, hoping to go undetected by the police.

    Jeff did throw a great party on Elm. I sat on this old so called sofa and much to my chagrin sat on 500 tabs of sheer joy, which supported my bohemian lifestyle for many many months.

    I worked for Jeff S. at “Tommy’s Head’s Up Saloon” aka Deep Ellum Live as manager and the most beneficial experience gained from Jeff’s leadership, was never to comp tickets to all your friends, like Jeff did when the Pixies played to a full capacity crowd. Jeff had 45 minutes to pay the tour manager, Ben Marts. I think Jeff learned really fast about ticket comps which is not to be confused with alcohol comps.

    He held up so admirably when threatened. Like the champ he is, why wasn’t Jeff selected to compete on “The Benefactor”?

    Comment by Helen Stark -

  26. Wow Those were the daze, anyone remember a few years latter, the Grotto? lower down like Main & Exposition. Just 20 UD students living in a warehouse and thew wild parties? pink flamingos on the roof and cool stuff like that? oh and Barbra worked at the video bar back then I still remember her.

    Comment by Randy -

  27. We are thinking about doing the same thing in Oklahom and I used your story to get it started lol

    Comment by Chaz -

  28. mark has a foggy memorry or was not really that envoled. he missed the whole on-the-air/ video bar move thing. “tg” promaoted deep ellum long before clearview; ask “the door” owner russell. what concept nouveau party (just a rave) did mark work on: the pay cover drink free one in the warehouse complex now part of the curtin club, or the next one at the davis loft june,29,1985, the high rise one that was poorly attened. the fact is that jeff settled on the clearview louvered blind building becouse he could leagaly live in the loft (office) on the second floor. and what about steve???

    Comment by josh -

  29. I’m not sure what year or years you all are writing about, but I was there in 1993 or 1994. Had the time of my life.. met who I thought could have been the love of my life. All I really remember is that I kept telling him “I think I love you!” Long story short, I lost his phone number and could not remember his last name. Al ???? He is either the lost love of my life or maybe it was the “E”! So laughing out loud! Good times~!

    Comment by Tai -

  30. I was right there with you, Mark. Sue & Scott Finlinson – we went to high school with Swaney – and we had one of those first parties at our house in Oak Cliff. Two cases of champagne and four kegs of beer were gone in just under two hours. I remember when the Christians that owned the Clearview Blinds building kicked Jeff out and he was quoted in the Dallas Morning News as saying “it wasn’t very Christian of them.” We actually had several warehouse parties before setteling into the Clearview building. About one a month. Each time the city would come and shut us down on some techicicality – no dance hall license, fire hazard. We were literally changing the Dallas city laws as we went along. In those days “E” or exctasy was legal. We just provided the venue, the “art” and the beer, champagne and music. Sunday afternoon cleanup was hell – particularly with all those Port-A-Potties and the hot Dallas summers … and a hangover.

    Comment by Sue -

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  32. Man, I never forget a face and wondered where I knew you from! I used to work over at Video bar and saw loads of bands at Theater Gallery and remember the keggers over at Clearview-at the very start of it all! What’s wierd is there was a bar in No.Va. where William Kennedy Smith got into a fight and it reminded me of those early days-except they were selling over-priced soap flavoured micro-brews! Now I know where your ascension started and there you have the rest of the story… I used to love catching 3 on a Hill there as they played there frequently before the move.

    Comment by ChILLINIed -

  33. Ahhh, Deep Ellum…I think I spent my entire high school life there. I loved that you didn’t have to be 21 to get into some of the bars there to see bands. Sure, it felt wierd to order a Pepsi when everyone else was getting trashed, but the early/mid-90s was a golden age for local Dallas music; perfect for a high school kid…

    Comment by Matt from Vegas -

  34. I do not remember if drinks were sold or if the price at the door covered the drinks. I remember we would bring our own as well.
    I just remember the costumes, bands and crowds.
    Those were the days.
    Glad I was a part of that.
    Now back to work

    Comment by Cheri -

  35. With 2,000 people there, I can’t believe the cops didn’t bust you for selling alcohol without a liquor license.

    Comment by Justin K -

  36. Hell yeah, I remember those Life in a Warehouse parties and the original Clearview too! Very few actually do… I booked quite a few shows at Twilite Room and Theater Gallery and before that in my art studio on Main Street, Studio D, way back in 1982.

    Back in the day, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before someone ‘sold out’ the hood. When I say ‘everyone’ I mean the few involved w/ hosting events. I knew it, Hobbs knew it, Gilder knew it, Blanton knew it, but Swaney did it… To this day, I can’t think of better guy to pull it off w/ such class and integrity.

    In 86 Swaney asked me if I wanted to take on booking the original Clearview but I had a kid on the way and had to refocus my life on either Art or Music. Now I create art primarily for the music industry, and my son & his band play Deep Ellum at least once a month. (Funny thing this deal called life!)

    Over all, the Deep Ellum area has been a blessing to this city. Now if the city itself would embrace this fact, and the landlords would think long term, we might discover our very own cultural pride.

    Comment by Frank Campagna -

  37. The Good ol’ days!!!!!!!

    The Video Bar was first on Greenville Ave., Then moved to Elm in Early ’86. I was always told that the owners of Clearview was a church and they got upset at what was going on at Clearview. It was never the same after the move.
    The old Clearview had that great deco lobby. We would go see the “Killer Bees” and dance like crazy with Ecstasy or Eve as it was called.
    The Video bars Restroom always had a line and we would go out to the rough parking area “July Alley”. We had a ton of fun and we thought we were so cool.
    I wonder if Mark was part host of the “Rites of Spring” warehouse parties too.!!!???

    Comment by Cheri -

  38. I go back to the early days also. Now you’re simply taking your life into your hands by venturing to the quickly dying Deep Elum. As a band member and fan, we hardly want to play there anymore. Too many $$ to literally risk your life going to Deep Ellum. Deep Ellum = R.I.P.

    Comment by Joey G -

  39. ??? I give! (sorry about mis-spelling “Bula”!

    Comment by Rob Rothe -

  40. ??? I give! (sorry about mis-spelling “Bula”!

    Comment by Rob Rothe -

  41. Correction to post #6. “The Bula Boys” had one co-founder from the University of Wisconsin. Can anybody guess who that was?

    Comment by T.P. -

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