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Remembering Darryl Beeson

Darryl Beeson with Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson. (Jim White photos)
Darryl Beeson with Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson. (Jim White photos)

Many of us in and around the restaurant business have vivid stories to tell about Darryl Beeson. He was an easy going and friendly guy. Besides wine, he loved jokes. Almost every conversation started with one. Good or bad, you always laughed at Darryl’s jokes. Darryl Beeson died late yesterday after complications from a car accident. He was only 54. Details on Darryl’s funeral are still pending.

Savor Dallas co-founder Jim White had a long personal and professional history with Darryl. Below, Jim remembers Darryl Beeson.

UPDATE: Memorial service for Darryl Beeson is Friday February 5 at 3:30 p.m. at Restland in Dallas.

Darryl Beeson’s Class–and a class act.
by Jim White

The first time I ever met Darryl Beeson he seemed very professorial.  Maybe it was his tweed jacket, vest, bow tie, horn rimmed glasses and Adolphe Menjou mustache.  Or, perhaps it was his thorough awareness of “things” and his tendency to conduct “mini-seminars” on them.  He could talk about everything from sports and current events to broadcasting or social-scene gossip.  But it was his encyclopedic knowledge of wine that impressed me as I got to know him.  He was producing Jody Dean’s midday talk show in the winter of 1994 when I returned to Dallas to become KRLD’s morning news anchor.  I was also charged with developing a “Restaurant Show.”  Something operations director Michael Spears had been quite keen on while we were still in Chicago plotting our return to Big D.  Darryl was to be my producer for the program, slated to start in the spring of 1995.  I was quite intimidated by the prospect of hosting a program devoted to cooking and wine.  I did very little of the former, although I could hold my own with the latter.  But since Spears knew I had a love of these things and travel, cultivated by radio stints in San Francisco, numerous forays to Europe, and about a year of being in the dining circle of a Chicago restaurant critic, he insisted I could do it.  It was Darryl who helped smooth what seemed like a rocky road ahead to me.  And a damn steep learning curve–it was a daunting assignment just getting to know who the players were in the Dallas and Texas restaurant biz after several years out of town.

Darryl was the sommelier at the beautiful French Room in the Adolphus Hotel at the time and was moonlighting part-time at Newsradio 1080.  He seemed to know everyone in town.  And, boy did he do a great job of making a fine wine program come alive.  He was a service master and had a natural talent for regaling his wine customers with stories and anecdotes about the widest range of wines, vineyards, and winery personalities I have ever heard.  Always upbeat.  Always entertaining.  He was a showman with a tastevin.  When he moved his “act” to the Mansion on Turtle Creek–kind of a Jay Leno moves to prime time, but with better results transition–he also became increasingly adept at keeping the staff on their toes about VIP customers who were joining them in the storied dining room.  After checking the guest list one evening and seeing “Francis Ford requests special wine,” he asked a fresh-faced hostess,  “Do you mean Francis Ford Coppola?”

Darryl’s job on the “KRLD Restaurant Show with Jim White” was producer and “Wine Guy.” He handled both roles with panache.  More “absent minded professor” as a producer–sometimes keeping program rundowns and guest phone numbers on crumpled notebook paper, the backs of napkins, or matchbook covers.  He still managed to get outstanding guests like Julia Child and Wolfgang Puck booked and on the air.  When wine royalty like Robert Mondavi and his wife Margrit were in-studio the proverbial red carpet was always apparent.  He catered lunch for Fess Parker’s appearance with us and made sure we had the theme from Davy Crockett to play during the show.  He loved his time to shine on the air during his “Wine Guy” segments, which often featured luminaries like Robert Parker, Hugh Johnson, or Clive Coates.  His efforts helped us get a nomination for a James Beard Award in 1999 as “Best Radio Show on Food.”

In almost nine years of working together on the radio show and online projects, Darryl introduced me to so many wonderful and talented people (many of whom became friends):   wine legend Tony LaBarba,  favorite son restaurateur Matt Martinez, Jr., cheese maker extraordinaire Paula Lambert, Gus Kasitgris, who founded the El Centro culinary program, culinarian Renie Steves, a chef you may have heard of, Dean Fearing, and the list goes on.  Darryl even helped me orchestrate a most unorthodox proposal to my dearly beloved Vicki at the French Room with a cigar band for a ring and a bottle of Thunderbird for the toast.  It worked!  (But I had to deliver the real goods before any vows were exchanged).

Through ups and downs, “technical difficulties”, and road shows from divergent destinations like the State Fair of Texas, a cruise ship in Alaska and Dijon, France, trusted producer and friend Darryl was always there to hold down the fort, and keep those guests coming.  He often told me he was content to play the “second banana” role on the program (in the spirit of Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon).  Somehow he turned it into Bananas Foster (or Beeson).

For the last several years Darryl taught a rigorously academic wine program, and I’m told, before his untimely departure,  he was ready to return to teaching these classes and a weekly commute between Dallas and Houston to conduct them.  Always the professor.  Always the people person.  A gentle soul and a gifted spirit.  The wine service in Heaven is now 5-star.  Look out, Mr. LaBarba and Mr. Mondavi.  Darryl’s coming with a bottle of ’59 Lafite and a joke he wants to tell you.

Jim White
Founder, Savor Dallas

32 comments on “Remembering Darryl Beeson

  1. What a lovely article. I really appreciate such kind and heartfelt words from someone who knew him well. He was just as wonderful and spirited as a father as was a friend and colleague.

  2. Jim,
    Thank you for those great memories. I will never forget getting to be on the radio show with both of you. I know he really enjoyed working with you. It is nice to know that my dad was so respected by many.

  3. Allie and Vanessa–Our thoughts and prayers are with you. I forgot to say, Darryl was a wonderful father, and he (and your mom) did a wonderful job of rearing two beautiful daughters. Love, Jim

  4. What a fabulous salute to a fabulous personality. I feel lucky to have known him for so many years.

  5. Darryl was always smiling and unassuming. Despite his obvious intelligence and sophistication, he came across as just a regular guy. I was blessed to have known him. My prayers are with his family and many, many friends. He will be greatly missed.

  6. What a shock! I knew Darryl from many, many years ago. I think he was still in high school then. He would come hang out at WRR Radio in Fair Park and I visited him at his home in Garland when he only dreamed about being on radio. We kept in touch only infrequently in recent years. He was unfailingly warm, polite, intelligent and always cheerful. Sitting here in utter silence and sorrow for his friends and family.

  7. I am stunned. Darryl was as gracious and forgiving a man as I ever met. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones.

  8. Darryl has helped me so much in the last year and has proved to be an amazing uncles and a great person. This article was wonderfully written and a true representation of an awesome guy. He will be missed terribly but it is wonderful to see how many other people were touched by his spirit and of course the one of a kind since of humor of Darryl.

  9. Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace RIP Darryl, when they made you they should have kept the casting (wine people hate mold of any kind).

  10. My condolences to the Beeson Family. Darryl was a great Friend and a Wine Personality always full of Live and Jokes.

  11. Darryl was an amazing man who always urged me to learn more about wine. He was an inspiration and a gracious man who will be missed.

  12. Darryl and I did a lot of radio together and it was always a good time. We’d meet before or after shows at the Stoneleigh P and share stories. He was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known and would call just to say hi and see how you were doing. That’s becoming a lost art but Darryl still embraced it. Jim, your words are lovely and fitting.

  13. In the mid 90′s, I’d occasionally speak to a journalism/PR class at UTA. One time, this guy kept asking tons of questions (good ones, too) and guess who it was? He loved to learn about things. We would talk every few months and I’d see him at food and wine events and always had something nice to say.

  14. I first met Darryl while handling public relations for Kendall-Jackson, and that professional relationship quickly morphed into a personal friendship as well. He was an interesting combination of curiousity and deep and abiding knowledge, which, of course, goes hand in hand. We shared many a laugh and many a glass over the years, and this news is simply terrible and heart wrenching.

  15. Darryl was my husband’s first cousin. I first met his mother at my bridal shower and fell in love with an amazing, articulate and very fun woman. It’s no doubt some of that rubbed off on Darryl. I met Darryl that following Christmas and stood in my in-laws kitchen talking with him endlessly and laughling. He was a grand personality, a very sweet man and a loving son and father. He will be sorely missed.

  16. Darryl and I worked together at the Four Seasons Mandalay back in the 80′s. He was a always pleasant to work with and be around. Through out the years we would run into each other at various food and wine gatherings and it was always a joy to see an old friend. So sad to hear he is not with us anymore. Great tribute Jim!

  17. Darryl was one of those cousins that you looked forward to seeing at family events. My mother was his biggest fan. Anytime we would go to a Holiday get together, she always hoped Darryl would be there. I could her laugh across the room and look over and see Darryl’s broad, engaging smile beaming over her shoulder. He had obviously just told her the joke of the day. I will now have to hold onto these memories of both of them. Darryl has influenced every chapter in my life. He is and will continue to be missed. There is an empty spot is in my heart that was robustly filled by him. Aunt Noralene,Vanessa, Allie, Don and David(and families)- you are all in our thoughts and prayers.

  18. My deepest condolences to the Beeson family. Darryl was a dear sweet friend for over 25 years who I adored so much. I will miss him terribly, I know where you are and I look forward to seeing you again one day ! :)

  19. I’m sad to hear that Darryl has died. I worked with him at the Adolphus and just loved him! He was always professional, always a gentleman and soooo funny. May light perpetual shine upon him.

  20. I was stunned earlier today to hear Darryl was gone. We both taught classes for the International Sommelier Guild. I can speak for the entire faculty when I say our Annual Teacher’s Conference will never be the same.

    Arlington, Va.

  21. A page is turned and a good friend has left us. I have known Darryl longer than I have known Anne. Darryl and I met at Oz: he was the DJ and I was the sommelier and wine buyer…back in 1975! While he started as a DJ, Darryl’s keen attraction was to wine and he developed quite an interest for the product which kept our friendship close and Anne and I made the trip to Waxahachie many times in the days to share a bottle or two with the “Wine Guy”. He even dug his own cellar in his backyard.
    Darryl was always prepared with a few jokes and a sense of humor. Every so often he would call me to check on the proper French pronunciation of certain words (wine related or not!) and he would then practice his French with me…
    Darryl was resourceful and always willing to help. He touched so many people in the wine community. It’s hard for us to accept the dire reality that he is no longer with us. Our hearts go out to Allie, Vanessa & Roberta.
    Francois & Anne Chandou

  22. Thanks to all of you for your eloquent and gracious comments. The girls and I appreciate them more than you can know. Although Darryl and I were no longer married, we always remained very close friends. He was a wonderful and loving father and son, a brilliant mind, a very kind and compassionate man, clever beyond belief, and a true romantic in every sense of the word. I will miss him terribly as I know many will. Poor Saint Peter – he’s probably being subjected to a terrible pun at this very moment…

  23. Our condolences to the family and loved ones. Darryl was a gentle giant and as huggable as a panda-bear. All conversations started with a joke (mostly terrible) but you just had to laugh because he told them with such gusto! I worked with Darryl on the Food Wine Travel & More radio show. We didn’t get great ratings but had GREAT times. Would run into him at tastings and such, and whether it had been only days or many months since our last meet-up, his great smile, shining eyes, and belly laugh were ready to greet you. He will be missed.
    Kevin & David

  24. I only had the opportunity to know Darrly for a short time, but he will always be in my heart. I was a student in his class a few years ago and his class cultivated not only my wine knowledge but also my love for wine. He brougt such spirit and life to the class and everyone always had a smile on their face when Darryl was there.

    After I finished school with Darryl he continued to be there. He always remembered his students and kept up with what we were doing. He was everywhere in the wine industry, so you were always sure to run into Darryl somewhere and catch up on not only life but also his latest jokes and fun stories.

    I thank Darryl for not only the knowledge he imparted on me but also his light hearted nature that I will always remember. Thanks Darryl for all that you shared. You will be missed.

  25. Darryl and I worked together in Dallas for years. I even had the opportunity to travel to Spain with him on a wine trip and to share some good times with him in Aspen at the Food & Wine Classic. Darryl inspired many with his love of wine, and we will miss him greatly.

  26. Darryl came to The Oakley Company as an intern to check out the PR business…he quickly and wisely turned to radio and wine! He will be missed by many!

  27. I am so sad to hear about Darryl’s passing. I’ve also known him for years through many wine luncheons and dinners we attended together. I also had the pleasure of taking the sommelier program he taught. He was a wonderful teacher who made a class drinking wine even more fun with his sense of humor and encyclopeic knowledge. I will never forget his little memory tricks for the test. “Imagine a pig on a stick punching down a big vat of grapes.” His way of remembering pigeage. Another one of my favorites — how to remember the grapes in Amarone. “In high school, I drove my date Rondinella to prom in my Corvina and we ate pasta with Molinara sauce.” Thanks, Darryl. I promise to never forget.

  28. Pretty interesting post. Couldn’t be written any better. Browsing this post reminds me of my old friend. He always kept talking about this. I will send this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing! :)