Our 1990s sports dynasty also starred Michael. An intense, clutch, trash-talking, ring-winning playmaker named – not Jordan – but Irvin.
There was a cocksure, master motivating Phil Jackson of a coach (Jimmy Johnson). A theirs-became-ours madman of a defender in the unique, colorful mold of Dennis Rodman (Charles Haley). Two superstar Scottie Pippen sidekicks (Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman). Even perfectly cast foils like Larry Bird (Brett Favre), Isiah Thomas (Jerry Rice) and the “Bad Boys” Pistons (“Filthadelphia” Eagles).
Alas, those Dallas Cowboys also had their Jerry’s Reinsdorf and Krause – Jerry Jones.
As ESPN’s riveting The Last Dance documentary concludes this Sunday, it’s impossible not to nauseatingly compare what the Cowboys and Chicago Bulls did. And didn’t.
Led by Jordan and a fascinating, talented cast of characters. the Bulls won six NBA championships, including two three-peats. Only obstacles from potentially eight consecutive titles: baseball and a Bozo. The Cowboys won back-to-back Super Bowls and three in four years. Could’ve been four straight and maybe more if not for: egos, that controversial non-call on Deion Sanders against Irvin in the 1994 NFC Championship, and, oh yeah, Barry Switzer.
Both franchises were essentially castrated by fragile front offices.
In Chicago, it was general manager Jerry Krause’s irrational yearning for “organizational credit” that buried the Bulls. At Valley Ranch, the reign of America’s Team was short-circuited by owner/GM Jones’ tug-of-war for praise with Johnson.
Said Jordan in Episode II of The Last Dance, “We’re entitled to defend what we have until we lose it.”
Said Irvin recently on 105.3 The Fan, “We should’ve been right there, running our dynasty right alongside the Bulls.”
As our Bri Amaranthus has noted (see Bri and Fish above), the documentary of the 90's Cowboys – The Final Fling? – would be equally as intriguing as The Last Dance. (Emmitt Smith hints that the idea has occurred to him, too.) Multiple stars. Jaw-dropping athleticism. Mesmerizing personas. Management meddling. A crazed, international fan base. Boffo TV ratings. Almost unprecedented winning.
With the cameras rolling in the middle of a championship season, the Bulls gave us Rodman in a Las Vegas hotel bed with Carmen Electra (and only God knows who else).
If there were cameras rolling in the middle of their championship season(s), the Cowboys could give us … The “White House.”
That’s right. There’s an entire generation that finds this hard to believe, but there was a time when the Cowboys frequently visited The White House. The one on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to toast titles; the one at 115 Dorsett Drive to blow off unimaginable steam.
“They obviously took care of business on the field,” says Anthony “Paco” Montoya, Irvin’s former long-time personal assistant. “But, man, nobody partied like them. Fights. Women. Drinking. Orgies. I’ll just say this: If there would have been smartphones and social media back then, the Cowboys wouldn’t have been able to field a team come Sunday.”
Montoya, a long-time fan who grew up in the Lakewood neighborhood of east Dallas and attended games in the Cotton Bowl for 50 cents in the 1960s, got his start with the organization in 1985. He was an employee at Athletic Supply sporting goods on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas when into the store happened Cowboys safety Michael Downs.
“I was a big Cowboys fan, we had the same birthday, and we just sort of hit it off,” Montoya said recently. “Next thing you know, he offered me a part-time job at Valley Ranch. I told him they didn’t even have to pay me.”
Downs, a homegrown star who attended South Oak Cliff High School, was a Cowboys’ captain and all-NFC safety in 1984-85. He had also recently taken de facto ownership of the Cowboys’ traveling basketball team – the Dallas Hoopsters.
Ring-of-Honor receiver Drew Pearson founded the troupe in the 1970s. Downs, a favorite of legendary coach Tom Landry, showed Montoya the ropes and integrated him into the Cowboys’ inner circle. Paco was soon attending the legendary barbecues thrown by behemoth defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones at his home in North Dallas. Attendees included the likes of Hall-of-Fame running back Tony Dorsett.
“I learned pretty quick how it all went down,” Montoya said. “Before 7 p.m., anyone was welcome. Kids. Grandmothers. Whatever. But at ‘sundark’, Ed was like ‘Thanks for coming, but you gotta go’.”
And after 7?
“It was unbelievable,” said Montoya. “He had a spa inside his house. He had company in the spa with him and … It’s the first time I’d ever seen women sucking on a man’s toes. Of course, there was a lot more going on than just that.”
By 1988, Paco was entrenched as a trusted member of the Cowboys and manager of the Hoopsters. (In the 1980s, a $1,200 fee would fetch an organizer 10 players; after two Super Bowls in the 1990s the amount inflated to $125,000 for only five players). But when Downs left to play with the Cardinals, there was a fight – literally – for “leadership” of the squad.
Eugene Lockhart was a poor man’s Mike Singletary. A sixth-round draft choice out of Houston, the self-anointed “Hittin’ Machine” started at middle linebacker in 1984, led the Cowboys in tackles and was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie team. In 1988, Irvin was a brash rookie No. 1 draft pick with a hardscrabble background (as one of 17 children) and a megawatt ego.
Torch, meet kerosene.
“Eugene was running the Hoopsters and, like he’d done his whole life, he was bullying people,” Montoya remembers. “He considered me an outsider, so I got picked on. I got tired of it. But more importantly, so did Mike.”
On a road trip in Odessa, Irvin told Lockhart to “chill out” and stop tormenting Paco.
“Gene said ‘I’m the Machine and you’re just a rookie. I’ll beat your black ass’,” Montoya said. “Mike told him, ‘I’m from the projects, bro, and this ain’t gonna cut it’. It was on.”
When the dust settled in the hotel room, there were two broken beds, a busted dresser, one shattered mirror … and a new captain of the Hoopsters. Playmaker 1, Hittin’ Machine 0.
“The ghetto just came out in Mike and he kicked his ass,” Montoya said. “After that, Gene stopped playing for the Hoopsters and Mike said, ‘From now on, you work for me’.”
Irvin paved Paco’s path to new owner Jones in 1989. Montoya became the receiver’s right-hand man. Drove him to run errands. Picked up food. Served as chauffeur for his wife, Sandy.
“I was driving around with Michael Irvin in his BMW M3, the one the University of Miami gave him,” says Paco “I was in hog heaven.”
Montoya’s job description was framed by two mandates: 1. “Bring me the finest girls you can find.”; 2. “Always get me to practice on time.”
“I did what I was told to do, even if it meant interrupting him at 6 in the morning for a 7 o’clock team meeting,” Montoya said. “He’d get upset at me in the moment. He’d say, ‘Leave me alone. Just one more time!’ But later he’d thank me. Mike’s addiction was never drugs or alcohol, it was plain and simple – women.”
By the early 1990s, Paco answered to only two men. Two of the most powerful figures in DFW and, for that matter, the NFL. Irvin and Jones.
That power – he was a “made man” respected, even protected, from high above – emboldened Montoya a be the perfect caretaker for a place right out of a Hugh Hefner dream.
The “White House” was actually brown brick. It was a two-story home with five bedrooms, 3.5 baths and a two-car garage, in a cul-de-sac just a couple of Mike Saxon punts from the Cowboys’ then-Valley Ranch practice fields.
“You could see the house from the monkey bars at the facility,” says Paco.
The idea – a secret, safe space to “play,'' like the namesake residence in Washington, D.C. – was hatched by Nate Newton. The monthly lease on the house was in the name of naïve receiver Alvin Harper. It was paid for – via “kitty” – by players sprinkled throughout a roster that won Super Bowls in 1992, 1993 and 1995. There were no permanent residents. On call was a cleaning crew, hopefully outfitted in HazMat uniforms. And a handyman, likely adept at repairing dented headboards and smashed doors authored by the angry foot of an oft-impatient Haley.
The Bunny Ranch in Las Vegas had Dennis Hof. The White House in Valley Ranch had Paco.
“It was my job to keep it stocked,” says Montoya. “With beer. Wine. Liquor. Batteries. Toys. Boxes of condoms. Entertainment. You name it.”
Typically, on Fridays after practice, Irvin and Montoya would survey multiple topless bars on a scouting mission complete with visual combine (think “measurables”). They’d pick out 10 girls and “invite” them to the White House for a couple days. A wild weekend.
In no time, Paco didn’t have to go to the women. The women came to him.
“They loved it, and no one in that house knew the word ‘no’,” Montoya said. “It was just a non-stop party, non-stop orgy. Everything you can imagine, then triple it.”
It was the Cowboys’ frat house hangout when they wanted to be out of town, but still in town. Staycation, indeed.
Said Nate Newton, infamously, “What did we need prostitutes for? Women laid down for us.”
Despite the constant hum of Sodom and Gomorrah and the parade of limousines and Ferraris, Montoya said Irving police never once knocked on the front door. And, to his knowledge, illegal drugs weren’t present.
“I’m just saying I never personally saw it,” Paco clarified. “I didn’t wanna see it, because I never wanted to end up in a courtroom having to testify to this or that. When I turned my back, I assumed there were drugs. But I didn’t play that game. Never got involved in that part of it.”
There are persistent rumors that the house was equipped with hidden cameras, but Paco said, if true, the footage was long ago destroyed.
The White House eventually imploded in 1996 not because of loose morals, but rather a dangerously relaxed “membership” policy. Established to exclusively entertain players and their guests, it branched out into strangers with little or no investment in the goodwill of the team or the anonymity of the utopia.
“We had friends of a player bringing in their brother, who was a second-string receiver in college but wanted to be first-string, so he brought in his quarterback to be taken care of,” explains Paco, now 57 and a successful boxing promoter in Dallas. “It was just too much. It got too hot.”
The house still stands. By all accounts, it’s occupied.
“I’m hoping the people living there don’t know,” Montoya chuckles. “Because if those walls could talk … shiiiiiiiit.”