Defining Homes • cougar’s DEN

‘Big Rich Texas’ star Leslie Birkland found house shopping in Dallas easy — with some high-end help, of course

Cameras follow Leslie Birkland, right, and goddaughter Kalyn Braun in ‘Big Rich Texas’ which also features Birkland’s new Dallas-area estate.

By Rich Lopez

 

Being blonde and beautiful never hurts — especially in Dallas. Blonde, beautiful and rich is even better. Leslie Birkland dealt with some hefty drama in the just-finished season of Big Rich Texas, but maybe the biggest drama was finding a new home in the area to partake in Dallas society, men and the pageant scene. Birkland calls Big D home, for now, and becoming a denizen wasn’t so difficult.

“My house was pretty easy to find and prices are just right now,” Birkland says. “I kept hearing Dallas hadn’t been hit really in the [economic] crisis.”

She was a bit overwhelmed upon coming to the city to join her cousin (and castmate) Connie and to oversee her goddaughter Kalyn’s pageant career.

Thinking the idea was to settle in Dallas proper, she found that wasn’t reasonable to live a certain lifestyle and be comfortable. She found she didn’t have to live in Highland Park.

“Everyone was so willing and a lot of Realtors were coming out of the woodwork quickly to help out,” she says. “But it was Connie’s husband John that pointed me elsewhere to look.”

For anyone looking to buy another home, she says once you’ve done it, you know how to negotiate what you need and it goes far easier the second time. Although she won’t divulge exactly where she lives, she describes it as about 45 minutes northwest of Dallas. As for the house — well let’s just say she’s kept up with the Joneses just fine, if not blowing them out of the water.

“It’s about the same 6,000 square feet as my house in Washington with eight bedrooms and three kitchens,” she says. “It’s pretty grand! It’s so elegant and beautiful with these big columns. That’s new to me. And sometimes when you want a bit more land, you have to go out to where it’s spread out. I love it.”

But Birkland’s celebrity going to be an issue with the neighborhood? She says no. As the cameras are rolling for Big Rich Texas, the Style Network has stayed out of sight of the neighbors or respected their privacy as well. In turn, Birkland says the people around her seem not to care all that much about the little piece of TV reality happening right next door.

“They see what’s going on and they may ask, but it’s no thing for them,” she laughs.

For the average person, that amount of square feet seems like a daunting task to move in to. But rich folks do it differently. Birkland has no projects for the house per se. Updating a room with paint or doling pieces of furniture among eight rooms isn’t necessary. Higher end homes with specific interiors come as an entire package. Basically, this is not a fixer-upper.

“Yeah, I’m not doing anything,” she chuckles. “With homes like these, there are furnishings specifically designed for the house, so there’s nothing I’m doing in that regard.”

As for getting used to Dallas, Birkland is dealing with learning a new city, navigating high society and handling some real-life drama all in front of a camera. Before she moved here, she researched maps, but found it difficult to gauge distance from the heart of the city.  Initially, she leased a house just a couple of miles from her cousin in Highland Park.

“People would ask me where I lived and I didn’t know,” she says. “Then I’d just say Highland Park, but where I was wasn’t Highland Park and that was a whole thing!”

She takes it all with a sense of humor. Especially since she’s been labeled the cougar of the show. Romancing the likes of Anthony Dorsett Jr. (son of the former Dallas Cowboy) and a young golf pro known only as A.J., she’s definitely a connoisseur of the younger man, but for her cougar-dom, she seems to roll her eyes at her cougar-dom.

“I do like men that are younger. but I didn’t realize I was a cougar,” she says. “It’s funny, but definitely not icky. There’s a line not to cross. I never want to be old enough to be their mother. I already have three sons! But the men I date are just about 10 years younger. If it was 15 or 20 years difference, then I could see that.”

The next season hasn’t started filming yet and Birkland is just fine with that right now. She has enough on her plate to keep her busy supporting her lavish lifestyle, whether it’s business or fun.

“Through my property investments and CDs, I have a comfortable lifestyle,” she says. “Plus, I’m very conservative with money and do some modeling on the side. As for being here, well, it’s only been six months and I’m not used to the roads, but I’m learning the neighborhoods and getting familiar with them.” DH

For more about the show, visit MyStyle.com/BigRichTexas

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Owner says city, Crow Holdings blocked opening of new gay bar on Maple after he invested $150K

Owner Keith Lackie stands behind the bar on Friday holding a plaque he received to commemorate the opening of Klub Wet.

It was Keith Lackie and Andy Primm’s dream to open a gay bar together.

When Primm died last year at 44, Lackie was left with a life insurance policy.

Lackie decided to use the money to fulfill the couple’s dream, and three months ago, he signed a lease for the building that housed Illusions, at 4100 Maple Ave., which had recently closed.

Since then, Lackie said he’s spent $150,000 remodeling the building. He was scheduled to open Klub Wet Piano & Music Video Lounge at 11 a.m. today.

But on Wednesday, Lackie found out the city of Dallas won’t issue a certificate of occupancy — the final permit needed before he opens — because he doesn’t have sufficient parking.

“I don’t even have the money to pay my house payment next month,” Lackie said Friday afternoon as he stood inside Klub Wet. “I was counting on being able to open this week.”

Lackie explained that the owner of the building that houses Klub Wet, Victor Ballas, has a Remote Parking Agreement for 46 spaces on property that sits just across Throckmorton Street. Lackie signed a one-year lease with Ballas with a four-year extension option.

But the parking for Klub Wet sits on property that’s now owned by Crow Holdings, which plans to redevelop much of the neighborhood. Lackie said Crow Holdings has convinced city officials that the Remote Parking Agreement is invalid, because it doesn’t list an accurate square footage for the bar.

The parking agreement, from 1996, lists the square footage of the building at about 1,400 square feet, while Klub Wet actually occupies about 2,500 square feet. But even with the larger square footage, the 46 spaces would be more than sufficient. Lackie said the square footage discrepancy is probably due to the fact that the bar occupied only part of the building in 1996.

Lackie said the term of the Remote Parking Agreement is as long as the building is occupied by a bar. But he said Crow Holdings has seized upon the square-footage technicality because it wants the parking for its own development.

“If Trammell Crow can keep me from opening up and it can’t be a bar, these parking agreements will go away and they’ll get their property back,” Lackie said.

Lackie said he’s been working with a licensing consultant to try to obtain a certificate of occupancy from the city, but now that the effort has proven unsuccessful, he plans to consult with his attorney.

Lackie said he’s already hired about 10 employees, some of whom have quit their old jobs. Among other things, he’s furnished Klub Wet with a grand piano and was poised to make it the only gay piano bar in Dallas.

On Thursday night, Klub Wet hosted a private party attended by 40-50 people, and one of Lackie’s new employees presented him with a plaque that reads “A Dream Come True, Alan Primm and Keith Lackie.”

For now, though, it’s a dream on hold.

“It was our dream to do it,” Lackie said. “I can’t give up.”

—  John Wright