Six Degrees of Dr. ESP

This week I was reminded the parlor game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” also works in reverse. To prove it, I will demonstrate there are six or less connections by which Kevin Bacon is linked to me.

This memory was triggered by news of Thursday’s passing of actor Lenny Von Dohlen at the age of 63. Von Dohlen was best know for his portrayal of the agoraphobic horticulturist in Twin Peaks. In 1988, I was hired by his father Leonard Von Dohlen to prepare an enterprise zone application for a business he and his brother Tim planned for their home town of Goliad, Texas. The project would convert La Bahia, the quarter horse oval at the Goliad County fairgrounds, into a pari-mutuel racetrack.

My contract with the Von Dohlens was the by-product of two intersecting pieces of legislation enacted in 1987. The first, the Texas Enterprise Zone Act, authorized tax breaks for new businesses created in lower income regions of the state. While serving as deputy director of the Texas Economic Development Commission, I helped state senator Hector Uribe (D-Brownsville) draft the legislation. That same year the state legislature passed authorization for pari-mutuel betting and creation of the Texas Racing Commission.

Goliad had a long tradition of quarter horse breeding which included annual sweepstake races at the county fair. Leonard and brother Tim immediately applied for a pari-mutuel license and contacted Senator Uribe about taking advantage of the enterprise zone incentives. I got involved when Senator Uribe referred them to me as someone who knew the requirements having worked on the draft bill.

Sadly the project was never completed largely because the only racing dates the Commission offered the Von Dohlens were Friday nights in September and October. If you have ever spent a Friday night in any Texas city or town, you know horse racing is not the first thing any true Lone Star resident thinks about on an autumn Friday evening. That honor goes to high school football. Despite repeated efforts, the Von Dohlens were unable to convince the Racing Commissioners those dates were economically unfeasible.

So what does this have to do with Kevin Bacon and me? To find out, simply play the new parlor game “Six Degrees of Dr. ESP.”

  • Kevin Bacon and Laura Dern appeared together in the 2001 movie Novacaine.
  • Laura Dern appeared with Kyle MacLachlin, Sherlyn Fenn and others in the 2017 reboot of Twin Peaks.
  • All of whom costarred with Lenny Von Dohlen in the original 1990-91 Twin Peaks.
  • Lenny’s father was Leonard Von Dohlen III and his uncle was Tim Von Dohlen of Goliad, Texas.
  • Who contracted with Dr. ESP to figure out how to make their pari-mutuel quarter horse racetrack eligible for state enterprise zone benefits.

And no, you do not get extra credit for needing only five degrees of separation to make the connection. After all, this was just one more trip down memory lane, as so often occurs, when a news story brings back a long-forgotten recollection of a moment in time.


If you have ever watched the 1988 remake of DOA with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, there is a scene when Daniel Stern’s character falls from a third story window. The scene was shot in Senator Uribe’s office in the Texas State Capitol after replacing the real window with panes made of candy glass.

For what it’s worth.

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