Kirk Dooley: Booms, Busts His Way Through Businesses
Mar. 05, 1985
DALLAS (AP) _ Here's one for ardent pursuers of trivia.
Name the Texan who has dreamed up, started, quit, lost, litigated or been duped out of the following careers and enterprises: Texas Taxi limousines, a newspaper, screenwriting, playwrighting, a video movie center, one of Texas' biggest Moped dealerships and the Texas Trivia game.
The answer is Kirk Dooley, a fast-talking, slap-'em-on-the-back, gee-whiz, 30-year-old whose colorful career, if recited, might confound even the deftest of auctioneers.
''I've never had a nine-to-five job, and I don't know if I ever will,'' Dooley said recently as he reclined in his latest office.
Since July 1984, he says, his company has sold more than 30,000 editions of his Texas Trivia game, a regionalized take-off on the parlor passion of Trivial Pursuit. Texas Trivia is sold in 600 stores in 10 states.
The questions run the usual gamut of obscure facts and lore. Examples:
-''Where was Conrad Hilton's first hotel?'' (Cisco, Texas).
-''Who holds the record for the most points scored in a basketball game in Dallas' high school Dr Pepper Tournament?'' (Don Meredith, who later went on to be a professional football player and TV actor and announcer).
The game's self-proclaimed object, of course, ''is to win.'' And that, in the finest Texas tradition, means wresting control of everybody else's scoring disks and becoming a millionaire.
Dooley insists he is not really interested in becoming a millionaire himself. He says he just wants enough cash to live on and be able to continue working on his business enterprises.
First it was Mopeds, mini-motorcycles with pedals. ''I'd seen them in California and thought I could be the first one in Dallas to sell Mopeds,'' Dooley said.
That business went bust after changing federal regulations closed a loophole that exempted Mopeds from the safety and licensing requirements imposed on motorcycle owners.
In the meantime, Dooley started another business - ''The first video specialty shop in Dallas,'' he said. That one died when his partner piled all the inventory and cash into a truck one night and drove off.
He recalls saying to himself: ''We've had the good ideas, there's no question. Now we've just got to make the business end of it work out. If I could come up with something that had no competition ....''
Then came Texas Taxis, a fleet of Cadillac Eldorados with longhorns on the hoods and horns under them that played ''The Eyes of Texas.'' There were big cigars and Lone Star beer for the male customers and yellow roses for women.
Among his most famed customers were the stars of the television hit show ''Dallas.'' ''You can't get a taxi like that in New York or Los Angeles,'' actor Larry Hagman, who plays the devious J.R. on ''Dallas,'' said in 1982. ''It's Texas all the way.''
Dooley later sold the limousine company to get back into his first love of writing.
He already had done internships at the Dallas Morning News and D Magazine, and he set off for Hollywood to write for television. That ambition petered out after only 10 days, Dooley said, when he learned that ''ratings decide shows, not great writers.''
So it was off to San Francisco to try writing plays, but he still has not finished his first.
Dooley returned to Dallas, rounded up a partner and founded a newspaper called Park Cities People in the ritzy Dallas suburb of Highland Park.
The paper turned out to be successful, but Dooley was forced out in a disagreement that landed in court.
It was during litigation of that dispute - which he eventually settled out of court - that Dooley seized on the idea of regionalizing Trivial Pursuit.
''I'm a Texas buff, a history buff and a trivia buff,'' he said. ''At first I thought there's really no way to make a living on being that kind of buff.''
But then he read that the Canadians who designed Trivial Pursuit were making a million games a month and were meeting only half the demand. Dooley sought out investors and compiled trivia questions from authorities all over Texas, and the game went on sale last July.
That apparently still is not enough to keep him occupied.
Dooley said he also is working on a history of Highland Park and neighboring University Park and has gotten a job offer from his brother to sell houses and an invitation to become majority owner of magazine.
''Mercy,'' he said, smiling, ''I've got a lot to think about, huh?''