A Stark Contrast
by Steve Blow for the Dallas Morning News
Imagine that we could transport ourselves back for one night to the Starck Club, in all its epic ’80s success and excess.
If it were a Saturday night, 1,500 people might be packed inside — far beyond code capacity. Hundreds more would be lined up outside.
Now let’s conduct a poll among all those people, asking them to predict the future of Starck Club owner, creator and partymeister Blake Woodall.
The most common answers would surely be variations on “fame and fortune.” Next would probably come darker guesses along the lines of “drugs and death.”
But I’m betting not a single prediction would hit the true keys of his life today: “Christianity and kitchen appliances.”
Then as now, Woodall talks 90 miles an hour and laughs easily. “A guy said to me recently, ‘You know, you used to be a really cool guy.’” He laughed again. “I get it. ‘You’re not now.’ And I’m OK with that. Let’s just say my water runs a little deeper now.”
Thirty years after its opening, the Starck Club is a hot topic again. A documentary recently premiered. And that has led to plans for a reality-based movie or television series.
Woodall, 62, liked the documentary well enough. He had some say in it. But a movie or series? “No, absolutely not!” he said, laughing nervously this time. “It does scare me that the portrayal will be something I’m not proud of.”
His feelings about the Starck Club are now profoundly mixed. “On the one hand, I’m really proud that we did what we set out to do — create one of the premier nightclubs in the world,” he said.
“On the other hand, wow, that was a real path to destruction I was on.”
The club boomed from 1984 to 1988. Its name became synonymous with high-tone debauchery. “We just did whatever we wanted to do,” Woodall said.
Drugs eventually became a big part of that. Not for everyone in the club, but for too many. Hassles with drug agents became common. That’s what finally prompted Woodall to close the club.
“Instead of being a young entrepreneur, I was a nightclub owner of a drug haven. I didn’t want that,” he said.
He launched a new venture as an international music promoter — particularly of Russian rock bands, believe it or not. But that never amounted to much.
Along the way, he began to explore the spiritual. And he wasn’t choosy. “You know the people in robes handing out books at the airport? I think I’m the only person in America who actually read one of those books,” he said.
But the book that eventually changed his life was Josh McDowell’s More Than a Carpenter. “I sat back and went, ‘Oh, my. I’m a Christian!’ It’s true. It’s all true. Jesus is who he said he was.
“The next thing I knew, the things I had valued started changing,” he said.
Among the changes was that the family business he had haughtily rejected in his 20s seemed dear to him as a man in his 40s. That business is Vent-a-Hood Inc., the Richardson-based enterprise his father had pioneered from the 1930s.
“I humbly came back and began to earn my way up the ladder,” he said. Today, he and his four brothers all work in the business, which has flourished as part of the trend toward high-end kitchen appliances.
Other changes followed. “I married for the first time at 48. Imagine that,” he said. “And I had a daughter at 50.”
Woodall said part of the success of the Starck Club was that no one was too different, too outside the norm to be welcomed. And he’d like to see the church become just as wildly welcoming.
“God really, really, really likes us. Really, really,” he said. “There should be great peace in that.
“The moralists have it all wrong. There’s no finger-pointing. There’s no ‘I’m good and you’re bad.’ The Bible says we’re all sinners. We’re all in it together,” he said.
Now, even with discomfort about what a movie or TV series might show, Woodall has embraced his past.
“Maybe there’s a ministry in it,” he said. “I’m grateful that God gave me a story — and a remarkable story.”