The Met Turned 21 and Dallas Rejoiced!

The Met, a free alternative newspaper celebrated its 21st anniversary back in April 2015.
The Met, a free alternative newspaper celebrated its 21st anniversary back in April 2015.

By Kelly G. Reed

Back in April of this year, a publication that several old timers in the media world thought was dead and gone suddenly reappeared. The Met and all it stood for had made its way back onto news stands. In its contents it was mentioned to be a farewell issue but also a reminder had it remained in publication to this day would have been old enough to consume adult beverages by turning 21.

I believe that The Blitz readership would want to know more about The Met due to the simple fact that most of our readers probably have no idea what The Met was about or even existed. The Met was the “alternative to the alternative” free publication that apparently competed with the Dallas Observer for readership, advertising dollars and prominence. Sounds like a familiar concept right?

I reached out to Tim Rogers (currently Editor of D Magazine), a founding father of The Met for answers to these burning questions (read: questions The Blitz staff discussed during happy hour). He was polite and gracious enough to shine some light on a variety of topics concerning The Met and its place in Dallas history. Now on to the man who helped make the magic happen…

How and why did The Met come into existence back in 1994?
An SMU graduate by the name of Randy Stagen started it. Founding editor was Eric Celeste. Why did they do it? I guess to make money. Randy was a recent grad. He had started and ran a paper while as a student. The Met was the next evolution of that. Eric had been an editor at D Magazine, which had just folded (it started back up less than a year later, under different ownership), so he needed a job, too. Randy’s idea was to counterprogram the Dallas Observer. No crime and politics. The Met was supposed to be for people who partied and like to laugh (to oversimplify).

What was the media landscape like back then compared to today?
Um, different? There really wasn’t an internet in 1994. No blogs. No Twitter. No Facebook. It wasn’t just a different landscape; it was a different planet in a different galaxy far, far away.

Based on the wet loaf of bread throwing incident and nearly decapitating Harvey Martin story, The Met was banned from future Greenville Ave. St. Patrick’s Day Parades. At the time how did you and the staff feel?
We felt proud. I was the guy operating the slingshot. Of course, I wrote an apology letter to the organizers of the parade. But at the same time, I was like, “How amazing is it that we got kicked out of the parade for throwing dinner rolls?”

How often was The Met introduced to cease-and-desist orders?
Oh, I don’t know. You’re not talking about getting kicked out of places now. You’re talking about lawyers sending letters about content we published? I’m sure it happened, but I can’t recall when or why.

Be honest here, how bad was the blood between the Dallas Observer and The Met? Does it continue to this day?
We were the upstart, the underdog. So we definitely saw it as a competition. I remember when Joe Bob Briggs’ syndication contract with the DO came up and we stole him away. That was a big deal to us. And the two weeklies competed for talent. They stole our art editor from us. I once wrote some jokes about how their editor wore his pants sideways (which he did, and which jokes he didn’t appreciate). But “bad blood” makes it sound worse than it was.

And, no, it doesn’t continue to this day. In later years, I did freelance work for the DO. Eric Celeste wound up working there. I’ve hired people from the DO to work at D Magazine. And, hell, we are all in our mid-40s now. The competition between the two papers happened 20 years ago.

After reading the 21st Anniversary edition of The Met, the stories of founder and publisher Randy Stagen gave me the feeling that The Met operated similarly to that of the members of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity in Animal House. Was it really that crazy on a day-to-day basis?
It really was that crazy. Maybe not on a daily basis, but certainly on a weekly basis. It was a frighteningly fun place to work. Of course, you have to remember that I am old now and am probably nostalgic about the thing in ways that cloud my memory and burnish its edges, making it look more crazy than it really was.

What do you think was going on in Joe Tone’s (currently Editor of the Dallas Observer) mind when he saw a copy of the current issue of The Met? Has there been any correspondence between the two of you?
You’d have to ask Joe what was going through his mind. But here’s what I HOPE was going through it: “Tim Rogers and all those guys who once worked at The Met are the funniest, smartest, most handsome people in Dallas. I can’t believe they bothered to print an anniversary issue of The Met. Those scamps!” Yes, Joe and I exchanged emails. He was bemoaning the fact that he was at Luscher’s Red Hots for lunch, and the only paper he could find was The Met.

If The Met had not been purchased by New Times in 2000 and put out to pasture, do you believe that it would be a major player in the Dallas media market today? Become more corporate in its approach and company line?
No. 9/11 and the recession that followed would have killed The Met. No question. That’s one of the funny things about it. New Times paid something like $2 million to shut down the paper down. If they’d just waited a year, they could have saved themselves some time and effort.

Any last words?
We printed the magapaper at the same plant where The Met printed back in the day, Midway Press. When we went to pick it up, our old account rep was there. He came out from the back of the shop with this wild look in his eyes. He said, “The guys from The Met! I can’t believe you’re back!” He and some of the pressmen had read the entire issue. They were always fans of ours those many years ago. It was pathetically gratifying to see how happy they were to hold another issue in their hands.

How fucking stupid are WE? To take such joy in making pressmen happy? The whole project didn’t make much sense. It was perfect.