By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"The Praise and Worship Team was doing very well before they came to us," he says. "But now, many people walk through the doors just to hear the band. There's no getting around the fact that [Jackson and Simmons] have made substantial contributions to what it has become."
What it may soon become is a nationally known act. Matt Crouch, son of Trinity Broadcasting Network head Paul Crouch--who pioneered 24-hour-a-day religious programming--became smitten with Eagle's Nest on a recent trip to the Valley. He arranged for the Praise and Worship Team to film a 13-part cable series of performances, set to air on TBN in January.
The series has a slick feel, complete with tight, fast, music-video editing and camera angles. The idea, Jackson says, is to appeal to a younger set of potential Christians; the kind of fans who used to pack Chuy's on a Saturday night.
"It's become obvious that churches need to find a new way to reach young adults," Jackson says. "And this is certainly a new way."
The series will be unlike anything else airing on TBN--a network known more for endless appeals for cash than inspiration--and if successful, could propel the Christian music careers of band members like Houghton into overdrive.
"That would be nice," Houghton smiles. "But it is important to remember--what really matters is serving God. He's the player, I'm just using the gift He's given me."
@body:Ironically, shutting down Chuy's was the best business decision Jackson could have made. As soon as Chuy's closed its doors, Jackson was deluged with offers from entrepreneurs seeking to buy the club. The outpouring seemed to awaken Met's interest, too.
"Suddenly, they seemed to realize it was hot property," Jackson says, "and worth keeping around because the club would be a good, solid-paying tenant." Magolino's term as court-appointed receiver ended on December 31, 1992, and he disappeared. Met Life official Halperin assumed control of the development, and promptly informed Jackson he would be happy to negotiate a new lease with any qualified buyer who wanted to purchase the Chuy's name and equipment.
Jackson and Simmons were ecstatic. They had sunk more than $840,000 in improvements--including high-dollar sound and lighting systems--into Chuy's, and they had a buyer willing to pay $500,000. They wouldn't get all their money out, but they would substantially cut their losses.
But their happiness was short-lived. According to Jackson--and letters she saved from Met documenting their negotiations--Halperin began waffling on providing the buyer with a lease.
At first he questioned the buyer's financial stability--only to be provided with proof that he owned more than $20 million in publicly traded stock. Then Halperin began expressing doubts that the new owners had the experience to run a nightclub the size of Chuy's. So to appease him, Jackson and Simmons offered to stay on for a few months as advisers.
But then Halperin raised a new objection--religion.
According to Goliac, who was present at a meeting in early 1993 between Jackson, Simmons and Halperin, the Met official wondered aloud how Jackson's beliefs could be squared with operating a nightclub.
"It was very offensive, I thought," Goliac says. "He was saying that because she was a Christian, she couldn't give good advice to the new owners."
Jackson was enraged.
"He seemed to think I was some kind of freak just because I believed in God," she says. "I explained to him that, yes, I credit God for making me happy and giving me my daughter, but that doesn't mean I'm some kind of lunatic, unable to function."
Desperate to close the deal, Jackson asked Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell for help. He wrote a letter on Jackson's behalf, praising her business acumen and saying that Chuy's was a vital part of the Tempe community. Halperin shrugged it off.
Halperin wouldn't comment on his negotiations with Jackson. But it seems obvious that he had no intention of reaching a serious agreement. Although he repeatedly promised that a lease would be forthcoming, he dawdled for ten months--by which time the buyer had moved on.
"We had a perfectly good deal set up," Jackson says, "one that would have benefited us, the buyer and Met--who, by the way, wasn't getting paid any rent on Chuy's space during all of 1993. But [Halperin] insisted on screwing it up."
Why? The most simple, and perhaps the most plausible, explanation is provided by Goliac. Unlike Magolino--who was motivated by his own self-interest--Halperin, Goliac says, was simply incompetent.
"He is a young kid who thought he was playing the role of the tough executive, making us jump through hoops," Goliac says. "He thought he had a gold mine in Hayden Square and could afford to wait and shop the property around to a higher bidder while keeping us on a string.
"But he found out Hayden Square is no gold mine."
The record seems to support Goliac's charge that Halperin and Met made major miscalculations about the marketability of the long-troubled development. Nearly 15 months after Chuy's locked its doors, the nightclub is still vacant.
"That little jerk has mismanaged the hell out of the property," Goliac scoffs. "And [Jackson] paid the price."
Weary of the protracted negotiations with Met, Jackson and Simmons gave up.
Last October 15, they gathered a few friends from Eagle's Nest and cleaned all their possessions out of Chuy's, stripping the place down to the bare walls.