Roger Gray

November 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

In Your Face

by Roger Gray

It Could be the World’s Largest Self-storage Facility –

In the wake of the Olympic diversion, and that’s all it was, we now are faced with what to do with the Dome. And since I am not risking my media pass by not using the corporately correct moniker, the “Reliant Astrodome,” I can call it whatever I like. And I call it gone. I have no inside information on this and may well be wrong. But let’s be honest about the town we love, folks. Houston doesn’t do history. I’ll bet you a round of drinks at the Shamrock Hotel bar that the Dome will become a very large collection of commemorative pieces of plastic and steel within five years. Hell, we’re lucky Old Market Square still exists, for all we care about our past. As the saying goes, if it has a second coat of paint on it in Houston, it’s historic. Out of some misguided, talk show-fed idea about property rights, we just knock it down, pave it over and put up something twice as big and half as attractive. That’s how West U. has increasingly become a repetitive collection of zero-lot-line-brain-dead-red-brick-Georgians with all the predictability of a Houston Press “best-of” issue. I hope I’m wrong. My late father and I spent many a sweaty evening at Buff and then Colt Stadium swatting mosquitoes the size of yorkies, and the Dome was Roy Hofheinz’ answer to our collective prayers. I’ll miss it.

He’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Understand –

Not content with trying to kneecap our Metro rail system and speed up the pouring of more concrete to take folks out to his district, it seems our own political Tony Soprano, Tom “The Bugman” DeLay, has it in for all forms of rail transit. Amtrak was in the crosshairs of his committee recently and will be put on a starvation diet, which will no doubt curtail some Houston service. Never mind that airlines are suckling at the federal hog or that airports are taxpayer funded and staffed. Never mind that the highway system is underwritten with state and federal money, Amtrak, by gosh, has to make a profit. That this hack has risen to his current party position is enough to make Barry Goldwater weep.

“We Can’t Stop for an Interview – We’re Late for a Meeting of the Harper Valley PTA “

Then we have the Republican Leadership Council in Montgomery County, which forced the placement of a strategic fig leaf on a replica of Michelangelo’s “David,” which stands strangely atop an Oshman’s sporting goods store. Well, Dave is pretty buff, I guess. And that’s the issue with David and the pictures of naked statues in a nearby Italian restaurant also being boycotted by the group. Any nudity, however famous, classical or artistic, is dirty and ought to go. And if you’re a fan of that renaissance Hugh Hefner, well that’s just tough garbanzos. We have children to protect! They can wait until marriage to discover their naughty bits just like we did.

Come Here You Little ‘Ole Cretaceous Snuggle Bunny!

A skeleton rumored to be 11,000 years old has been found in the wildlife refuge in Brazoria County. We hear that Anna Nicole Smith is investigating his bank account, but plans for the nuptials are still up in the air.

You Can’t Treat our Shara Like Gingrich’s First Wife!

I know nothing lasts forever, but it’s still tough to watch as my former colleagues in Houston media are swept away one by one by the corporate winds of war. First, the finest sportscaster in recent memory in our town, Craig Roberts, is dumped in favor of a blow-dried Ken doll. Then Shara Fryer, who perennially sits atop our drool-inducing “Babe with Brains” list, is demoted after a bout with cancer, proving ABC-Disney has all the sensitivity of Donald Duck on angel dust. And now the favorite escort of divorced River Oakies and all-around utility infielder on the air, Bob Boudreaux, is banished to the island of lost anchors. I hope there’s no truth to the rumor that Dave Ward found a horse head in his bed. Just in case, though, I understand Zindler has some hurry-up surgery scheduled. I haven’t seen the market research, but I’m sure the snare-drum-tight-skin look hits that female demo dead center.

Beyoncé and Mathew Knowles

November 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

It’s been gr-eight!

by Jessica Rossman and Phaedra Friend

H Texas magazine turns 8 years old this year. It has been a wild and crazy ride for our city since 1995, the year the magazine was launched, with plenty of wild twists and not just a few hairpin turns. Both the city and its magazine have expanded by leaps and bounds.

In 1995, Houstonians celebrated as the Rockets won their second straight National Basketball Association championship. It was also the year that Houstonians stepped on the gas, as highway speed limits reverted from the previously federally mandated 55 mph to the pre-1974 limit of 70. The Houston Post closed its doors after 94 years of publication and then-Mayor Bob Lanier easily won his third and final term in office with 83 percent of the vote. Farther away from home, O.J. Simpson and his slow-moving white Bronco kicked off a year of courtroom antics that culminated in his being acquitted of murder charges. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated following a Tel Aviv peace rally, and President Clinton sent 20,000 U.S. troops to Bosnia.

Here, some famous Houstonians reflect on their city and themselves, then and now, and how they both have changed in nearly a decade.

George Foreman
Retired boxing champion

George Foreman is a world-class champ, both in and out of the ring. According to the champ, though, he started out life as a world-class “juvenile delinquent.” As a teen-ager in 1960s Houston, Foreman admits that he was “heading toward a career in shoplifting.” Then one day, for no particular reason, he took seriously a question posed by a television commercial for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s then-new employment program: “If you want a second chance in life, then the Job Corps is for you.” He’d never heard of President Johnson?’s “job corps” before and frankly didn’t think too highly of jobs in general. But inexplicably, he joined the group. Almost instantly, he redirected his life from alley fighting to world championship boxing. A few years later, he came home from the 1968 Olympics with a gold medal in the heavyweight division.

Over the next five years, he punched his way to a challenge for the world heavyweight title. “Big George” knocked “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier to the canvas six times before a second-round knockout punch made him the world’s newest heavyweight boxing champion. Although his reign only lasted a year, he had made it. He retired from boxing at the ripe old age of 26, after losing the “Rumble in the Jungle” to boxing great Muhammad Ali. But he quickly acquired a new title: ordained minister. The former “juvenile delinquent” started a ministry in North Houston in order to help a new generation of kids who basically reminded him of himself at that age. The only problem was that the “troubled kids” weren’t in church listening to him. They were out on the streets causing trouble. So, he joined them. The boxer-turned-preacher spread the gospel to the sidewalks, preached from street corners and walked door to door. Finally, he realized that he could merge his two devotions. In 1984, with his brother, Roy, Foreman opened the George Foreman Youth; Community Center to help kids work on their right hook as well as their values. Eventually, Foreman went on to capture the heavyweight boxing title again, this time at age 46.

These days, Foreman dedicates his time to the Youth Center’s young athletes, his retail adventures with the tremendously successful George Foreman Grill, his 300-acre ranch in East Texas and his family. And yes, all five Foreman boys really are named George. – J.R.M.

Dusty Hill

We all know the words to “Legs” and “Sharp Dressed Man,” we recognize the beards and sunglasses and respect the love for blues and devotion to Elvis. Dusty Hill of ZZ Top has remained a rock ‘n roll icon for three decades, surviving years of life on the road and plenty of ups and downs.

Many of you have caught a glimpse of the illustrious Hill courtside at Rockets games. He and his Little Ol’ Band from Texas have been heating up the worldwide music scene for years, giving Texas and Houston a permanent residence in the high-energy world of rock ‘n roll.

Hill has unvaryingly supported Houston. His first return to the big stage after a two-year hiatus was at our very own Rodeo Houston 2002. Commenting on Houston fans, Hill says, “Like the Wizard of Oz – “there’s no place like home.” The fans are the best.”

Houstonians turn out by the thousands to cheer on Hill, his long-bearded comrades and their bluesy style of music. And in return, Hill can be spotted around town returning the favor. He is a huge Houston professional sports fan, cheering on the city’s teams to the end. Hill says, “Witnessing the NBA championships of the Houston Rockets” will forever stay in his mind as his fondest memory of Houston. And he is thrilled by the return of the NFL to Houston. Hill also is thrilled to see what he calls “the resurrection of the downtown area.”

Meanwhile, Hill is experiencing some big changes, as well. “I got married last March, and so many great things are happening with the band,” he says. “Life is good.” – P.F.

Bill Hobby
Former Texas lieutenant governor

To walk into former Texas Lt. Gov. William P. Hobby’s office is to step right smack into the midst of Texas history. The walls are covered with mementos from our state’s political past, and Hobby can tell you (and he will) exactly what each one means and how it got there.

Hobby, along with his famous family, represents some of the most engaging aspects of our city and state’s political tradition. In fact, three generations of Hobby men have governed Texas in some form. Both his father and grandfather served in the state Legislature, and his father was governor, signing the resolution in 1919 that gave Texas women the right to vote. In 1939, the family acquired a regional newspaper, at which Hobby Sr. had worked in 1895 as a circulation clerk, and called it the Houston Post.

It is this legacy of Houston business and Texas politics that Hobby grew up in and, one could argue, outgrew. He is one of Texas’ larger-than-life characters. He served his country for four years as a naval officer and then served his family’s communications business for 21 years as president of the Post. He was elected to his first term as lieutenant governor in 1972 and was re-elected not fewer than four times.

One need only glance at the walls of Hobby’s office to know that one is in the presence of a real-live Texas legend with a 10-gallon personality to match. Take the almost innocuous looking strip of paper hanging in a plain black frame on one wall. Browned from more than three decades of wear, this is a piece of ticker tape that came off the Associated Press wire at 12:39 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963. “President Kennedy Shot Today” was all it said or needed to. Hobby recalls standing at the printer in silent disbelief, surrounded by his staff. As managing editor of the paper at the time, Hobby was in charge. All eyes looked to him for guidance in this terrible moment. “I was the boss. I was supposed to know what to do,” he says. “I had no friggin’ idea what to do.” Fortunately, his right-hand man with more than 50 years in the news business did. The man nudged him. “You’re going to run an “Extra,” aren’t you?” the man said, and Hobby’s light bulb went on. “Of course, we’re gonna run an “Extra!” Let’s move!” And so, the last Houston Post Extra hit the streets. – J.R.M.

Beyoncé and Mathew Knowles
Singer and manager/father

Could Houston’s Beyonce Knowles of Destiny’s Child be any hotter?

Just like her hometown, Beyonce is scorching hot and shows no signs off cooling off. With her father and manager, Mathew Knowles, she has launched one of the music industry’s most successful female rhythm and blues groups and is on the verge of becoming a full-blown movie star.

Their company, Music World Entertainment, part of the Columbia Records/Sony Music family of companies, grossed more than $30 million last year, and 2002 promises to be even bigger. Already this year, Beyonce has donned a disco-era afro and become CIA Agent Foxy Cleopatra for her silver screen debut opposite Mike Myers as Austin Powers in “Goldmember.” Mathew, in addition to managing one of the best-selling female vocal groups of all time, manages his own record label, Music World Music, with three artists on the Billboard charts: Destiny’s Child, Michelle Williams and the up-and-coming R&B group, Play.

Most of this whirlwind of success has happened recently. The Knowles, like their hometown, have changed dramatically over the past eight years. 1995 was “a tough, tough year,” says Mathew. Electra Records dropped Destiny’s Child, leaving the aspiring band without a record label. To help the family stay afloat, Mathew was forced to sell their home. But before year’s end, it had all turned around for the family, and the rest is music history.

Mathew says they love Houston and have never thought of leaving the city, even when times were tough. He is optimistic, and says he sees Houston “improving and growing, becoming a more sophisticated, cosmopolitan city.” The Bayou City, he boasts, is “definitely on the right path.” But what has to happen for Houston to become a “real contender, a true international city,” he adds, “is major growth, major cultural growth.” Although the city has come a long way since 1995 when “downtown was the last place you wanted to be at night,” he says Houston needs that “Manhattan feel, the atmosphere of Chicago’s Rush Street.” According to Mathew, it will happen, and it will happen in downtown Houston and nearby midtown. Ultimately, he predicts, “Downtown Houston will be the Mecca for Texas’ cultural nightlife.” – J.R.M.

Dan Rather
Broadcast journalist

When Dan Rather reflects upon his former city and how it has changed over the past eight years, he does so from a stunningly global perspective – the perspective of a journalist who has covered the biggest news events in the world during the past several decades.

But he also is able to assess Houston from the perspective of a former Wharton, Texas, resident who moved up U.S. Highway 59 to Houston to go to school and launched what would be an award-winning career in broadcast journalism.

Most of the country recognizes Rather’s familiar face on the “CBS Evening News,” but many Houstonians still do not know that he began his famous career in nearby Huntsville as an Associated Press reporter, later becoming a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in the mid-1950s and news director for KHOU-TV, the CBS affiliate in Houston, prior to joining CBS News. During his 35 years with CBS News, he covered the death of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, every U.S. president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bill Clinton and virtually every major international leader of the past three decades. Rather has co-edited “60 Minutes,” anchored and reported for “48 Hours” and, since 1981, served as anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News.”

From a professional perspective, Rather believes that, over the past near-decade, Houston has become “more, much more, of an international center – more diverse in its people and its appeal, more global in its outlook than ever before.” Part of the reason for this, he suggests, is “Houston’s move away from its great dependence (some might say over-dependence) on oil, aerospace and agriculture.” According to Rather, the “hallmark of its character, its signature, has remained a civic and business attitude that says: “Can do.”” Houston’s “can do” attitude remains an almost stubborn constant, through boom or bust.

And Rather remains a true Texan at heart. A Saturday afternoon might find him having lunch at his niece’s café and bakery, Rather Sweet, on Main Street just behind a little garden in Fredericksburg. – J.R.M.

Mary Lou Retton
Olympic gold-medal gymnast

If you were a little girl in the ’80s, chances are you idolized Mary Lou Retton. She was the quintessential “sweetheart” of gymnastics, a fireball of a little girl from Houston who won gold in the 1984 Olympics and, along the way, the hearts of millions throughout the world.

Retton, now 34, came to our city when she was 14 to train with famed women’s gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and never left. After stealing our hearts at the Los Angeles games, she returned to Houston to find that she had lost hers. She had fallen in love. Retton married Shannon Kelley, and the couple settled here in her adopted city. “I had to stay here, and I just love it,” she says. “I really call Houston home.”

She recalls returning to Houston following her triumph at the Olympics. Fans came out from all over to welcome the champion home. “The city pretty much adopted me,” she says.

Retton is proud to be a Houstonian. She staunchly supports the city’s “commitment to downtown revitalization and the arts” and is pleased to see “great strides in improving our transportation through HOV lanes and rail.”

Quick and witty, nothing gets past this little lady, especially her four little girls. “It’s crazy! They’re so much fun, with so much energy,” she says. Shayla, 7, McKenna, 5, Skyla, 2, and Emma, 4 months, give Retton a true sense of worth. “I love my girls. As a mother, it is the most important job to raise strong, independent ladies, and I feel so blessed to have them.”

Beyond being active in her church and with her children, as well as volunteering as a host for the Children’s Miracle Network, Retton has launched a children’s television program on PBS. “Mary Lou’s Flip-Flop Shop” offers children a live role model on the Saturday morning lineup as an alternative to the multitude of animated characters. “As a mother, I was concerned with what is out there,” she says. Her mission is to “encourage children to make healthy lifestyle choices, both physically and emotionally.” She says it was extremely important to her that the program be produced in Houston, drawing all of its talent for the show from the Bayou City.

A true ambassador to the world, Retton continues to strive for gold, and Houston is the better for it.

Best Bartenders

November 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

2002 Houston’s Best Bartenders

by Phaedra Friend and Rob Folk

When Houstonians want to step out for a night on the town, chances are they?ll be stepping into one of the many fine bars, clubs, lounges and taverns scattered throughout the city. On the following pages, we have assembled five individuals who take bartending to a new level. Stop in and see them, and you?ll be glad you did.

pete mattocks
spill lounge

signature drink: flaming dr. pepper (beer, Amaretto and 151)
favorite night spot: gatsby
favorite pastime: breathing fire
timmy todd moore
outback pub

signature drink: snow cone (shot of Tuaca, Malibu rum, orange juice and pineapple juice)
favorite night spot: Cabo
favorite quote: ?If you?re not part of the staff or sleeping with the staff, it?s time to get the hell out.?
kelley andrews
little woodrows – village

signature drink: snakebite (ace pear cider and Guinness)
favorite night spot: gingerman
favorite quote: ?Beauty is only a light switch away.?
tl thompson
big texas dance hall & saloon

signature drink: bend me over (shot of Crown, Amaretto and sweet & sour)
favorite night spot: Sherlock?s Pub, Clear Lake
worst thing to say to a bartender: hook me up
anthony orlando
boaka bar/mercury room

signature drink: swedish monk (martini with Frangelica and Absolut with a sugared rim)
favorite night spot: Gatsby
favorite quote: ?I?d like to buy those two blondes at the end of the bar drinks.?

About the Author:

Tail Gunner Lynn is at it Again

November 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

When I am elected emperor of Houston, which is only a matter of time, my first act will be to abolish the City Council. Those positions continue to attract bickering, small-minded people who are simply using the job as a stepping stone to something bigger, like becoming a rodeo clown.

Next, I will clean up this city! Have you noticed how downright filthy Houston has become? Look out your car window at any intersection. On the street are cigarette butts, paper cups, used TV sportscasters, and every bit of it has come from one of our neighbors’ vehicles. Well, I say, enough of this. It is time to clean up Houston. I thought of having a janitor come by every Wednesday, but that did not seem sufficient. One final solution to this problem: Every square inch of Houston is owned by some person, company or government. Whoever the owner may be, it/they will be responsible for keeping their real estate spiffy, or there will be severe punishment. The offenders will have to spend every Saturday night in Waco (which, come to think of it, is probably cleaner than Houston).

My next program will be to institute better driving manners. Many motorists in this town are downright rude. To teach some folks how to behave, police will be given a daily quota of tickets to write for inconsiderate drivers, especially those who run red lights. Maybe we could have an Adopt-A-Jerk program whereby rude people are assigned nagging back-seat drivers who constantly correct the motorist’s bad habits. If that fails, I have my ultimate plan to ensure more courteous driving: tail gunners.

There are several other changes I shall make: No one will be allowed to host a radio talk show who doesn’t have a basic knowledge of the King’s English, the U.S. Constitution and Roget’s Thesaurus (and, no, it is not pronounced Rogg-jet, and “thesaurus” is not a dinosaur). Billboards will be limited to a one-block stretch along the Ship Channel. Personal ads in the Houston Press shall be kept from children and any adult who needs leather discipline.

Factories which pollute will be given a warning by the U.N. and, if no inspection is allowed, well, hee-hee, you get the picture. Speaking of dirty air, vehicles entering from neighboring counties will be stopped and checked for efficient anti-pollution devices. Any drivers stinking up our air will be eligible for flogging – in Waco.

A few months ago, I asked the Houston Public Library for a book, “The Man Who Never Was.” The library system had two copies, one of which was missing. A month later, having heard nothing, I inquired about my book. It finally arrived a month after that. There will be a big change in our libraries. No multi-million-dollar sports facility will charge the owners an admission. That way we all get in free. Emperors don’t need speechwriters or spin doctors. The term “world-class city” will be banned. If we are, indeed, a “world-class city” like Paris, others will call us that. If we are not, under me we shall be. (Did you ever notice that the Eiffel Tower looks like an oil derrick in drag?)

As emperor of Houston, I shall decree that any street paving project will have written in the wet concrete, “Inspected and approved by Public Works Inspector (name) on (date). He/she lives at (address) and can be reached at home anytime at (phone number).” That might prevent our streets from growing potholes while the white stripe is still drying.

As you can see, some of these changes will be fought by the vast middle-wing conspiracy, but someone has to step in and run Houston, now that we’ve lost Ken Lay. And yes, there will be the usual whiners complaining about “freedoms” and “rights.” Picky, picky, picky. You want an efficient city government, clean air and safe streets or the chaos of a democracy? To put it another way, which has the smoothest operation, Singapore or Mexico City? Well, you get my drift. You mess with Houston, and I’ll run you over with my chariot. If I miss, there is always the tail gunner. ih

Roseann Rogers

October 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

1. The 2002 National Cancer Survivors Day Luncheon celebration was hosted by the Friends of CanCare. The annual luncheon is more of a spirit raiser than a fund-raiser for those who’ve been affected by cancer. The event raised more than $10,000 for the cancer support network. This year’s guest speaker was actress and cancer survivor Barbara Barrie, who starred in the NBC sitcom “Suddenly Susan.” Pictured (l to r) are: CanCare board member Jane Lehto, CanCare president Nancy Tucker, Barbara Barrie and luncheon chair Cathy Harris.

2. The Covenant House Texas Guild put on another record-breaking event at the Westin Galleria Ballroom with this year’s spring gala, “Mosaics and Mirrors.” A crowd of more than 700 attended the big event, which brought in more than $420,000 for Covenant House Texas, an emergency crisis shelter for homeless and runaway teens. Pictured (l to r) are: Dana Strake, CHT board chairman George W. “Trey” Strake III and CHT executive director Ronda G. Robinson.

3. She’s making her way to the top of the charts and all over the country. Latin singing sensation Shakira sported a ripped “Led Zepplin” T-shirt when she stopped by the 104 KRBE studios to visit the morning show. She chatted about fame, fortune, her new single, as well as her U.S. tour that included a concert in Houston. Pictured (l to r) are: KRBE’s Lesley Brotamante, Tracy Austin, Shakira, Leslie Whittle, Epic Records’ Mark Neiderhouser and promotions coordinator Tony Bracy.

4. Close to 500 guests gathered in the garden at Sally and Nathan Avery’s home to honor Josephine Powell Smith and to help raise money for Teach For America. Smith has worked hard to help children growing up in low-income communities get a good education. Teach For America founder and president Wendy Knopp came in from New York to recognize Smith’s contributions in the Houston area. Pictured (l to r) are: Kara and Ray Childress. Photo by: Jeff Fitlow
5. It was an action-packed grand opening for Community National Bank in Bellaire. Highlights included performances by cheerleading squads, a flag ceremony and dance routines by the Bellaire Belles. Bellaire City Council member Cynthia Siegel presented a proclamation declaring “Community National Bank Day.” Pictured (l to r) are: bank president Randy Dobbs, Channel 13 consumer reporter Marvin Zindler and CNB CEO Frank G. Cook.

6. The National Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners awarded Houston’s own Page Parkes-Eveleth from the Page Parkes Corp. with its highest honor. Parkes-Eveleth was named 2002 Business Owner of the Year. For 21 years, the Page Parkes Center of Modeling and Acting has been a household name both locally and nationally in the fashion and commercial industry. Pictured (l to r) are: Todd Ramos, Shannon Fergason, Tabitha Pagel, Page Parkes-Eveleth, Michelle Rogers, Myrna Phillips and Rachel Duran.

Pam Grier

October 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

In Your Face

by Roger Gray

As Comebacks Go, We Prefer Pam Grier’s –

Like failed baseball managers who keep inexplicably finding work, defeated candidates keep reappearing on the Houston political scene like electoral Freddy Kruegers to remind us how thin the statesman herd is. The latest: Orlando Sanchez, whose work ethic is on a par with your average highway department employee, has announced his second kamikaze mission for mayor. And Sylvester Turner, for crying out loud, is in as well! Presuming he has settled on a home address and gender selection, there is still that voice and demeanor that resemble your 10-year-old son copping a plea after feeding the neighbor’s cat an M-80. Hell, let’s throw in Kathy, Fred and Louie. If it’s going to be a reunion, let’s make it a truly bizarre one.

I Did Try a Tax Dodge Once, but Never Inhaled –

As I write this, we are knee-deep in the mid-summer political mud fest, and it is certainly time to ask, what the hell were Democrats thinking with Tony Sanchez? I know, no one is perfect, but his running battles with the IRS over questionable banking practices couldn’t have shown worse timing. In an era where the public is showing disgust with the kind of financial game of twister that we’re seeing among CEOs, here’s Tony S. speaking out for the little guy while, according to the Feds, keeping more sets of books than the Publisher’s Clearing House. Add to that an explanation for his Vietnam deferment that makes Bill Clinton sound like honest Abe. Rick Perry may have all the political substance of meringue, but he’s on cruise control for now.

And to Present the Political Integrity Award to James Traficant – Tony Soprano!

I mentioned a while back that our own political superfund site, Tom DeLay, was given the “Distinguished Christian Statesman” award by some nutlog group. Well, the other night I watched the James Madison Award ceremonies on C-Span, and sharing the award for defense of free speech were Tommy-boy and Sen. Mitch McConnell, whose passionate arguments in defense of legalized corporate-political bribery were enough to make John McCain miss the Hanoi Hilton. Thank heaven Madison is long gone. Watching these two walking definitions of the term “political hack” wax eloquent on how the founding fathers would oppose campaign finance reform would have resulted in a flintlock-related Vince Foster situation. My jaw returned to its normal position when I saw the head of this free-speech group. Former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese was the presenter, which makes this group the equivalent of the Ted Kennedy Driving School.

If We Move to Rail, it Means the Terrorists Have Won –

In a DeLay-related matter, it’s worth noting that Dallas has just expanded its light-rail system into the suburbs. While still limited, the system up in Big-D (and on this subject they grudgingly deserve the sobriquet) is expanding and serving more and more riders. And more to the point, they seem to understand that, metaphorically, you walk before you run. I have to wonder out loud, who is on the take here? Some of our leading political and business lights can’t be that dumb!

Pulitzer Wept –

I took the Chronicle’s Shelby Hodge to task last month for her role as toady-in-chief to the Enron gang. Well, in July, Bill Murphy took up the mantle as he wasted Lord knows how many trees explaining how tough life is for the disgraced execs at that steaming pile left on Houston’s doorstep. His opening line? “Taking the kids fishing, attending civic club meetings, relaxing at the beach house. Such are the mundane activities that now occupy the days of the three men who ran one of the country’s most high-flying companies, Enron Corp., before it imploded last year.” What followed was the most embarrassing piece of PR since Pat Buchanan went to bat for an ex-Nazi. Perhaps Bill might consider a look at the lives of the employees who were shafted in this debacle. “Taking the kids to day care she can’t afford, collecting unemployment, relaxing at her computer posting her resume on Such are the mundane activities that now occupy the days of hundreds who once worked at one of the country’s most high-flying?” This was one more nail in the journalistic coffin of what once was a decent paper. Seems there have been too many lunches at La Griglia for Chron execs and not enough reflection on what is important.

Kim France

October 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

Kim France Got Lucky – Magazine, That Is

Former Houstonian writes her way into unique women’s fashion mag

by Jessica Rossman

Admit it. Lucky magazine is your favorite new women’s fashion magazine. Just admit it. It’s OK. It’s everyone’s favorite. Launched last year to widespread skepticism and even a scoff or two, Lucky is a magazine darling. And it has become so without any of the standard bells and whistles on which its competitors rely. The magazine covers, for instance, don’t feature the model du jour or the hottest new starlet. It doesn’t feature articles with saucy suggestions for your love life or secrets to a flat tummy. Nor does it explore the issues of today’s young modern woman or offer advice on improving your relationships. In fact, it doesn’t really have, well, articles.

But it does have straightforward, no-bones-about-it shopping and lots of it. Lucky has done what no other magazine has had the guts to do: It ‘fesses up. This magazine acknowledges that its purpose – its very reason for existence – is to sell stuff, plain and simple. This, of course, is the purpose of all of its competitors, as well. What sets Lucky so brilliantly apart from the rest is that its competitors aren’t being as upfront about it with readers. Traditional fashion magazines dress themselves up as magazines about issues, such as improving your love life or how to be a better boss at the office, when deep down inside, all they really want to do is get readers to go buy what they see. Lucky is honest about it. It sheds the disguise of being about issues and stands naked as a tool to help you spend your money, laying out for its readers pages of would-be must-haves with the contact information for where to buy them right next to each item, not buried in tiny print in the last few pages of the magazine. It even unabashedly includes a page of “Yes!” and “Maybe” sticky-tabs to mark your potential acquisitions as you browse. It is fiendishly, brilliantly, preposterously materialistic.

So who is the devilish mastermind behind this bold concept? Who, in other words, do we all have to thank for this? Kim France, a Houstonian turned New Yorker, is the shopping guru and media revolutionary behind the magazine that Adweek recently named the “Launch of the Year.” As editor-in-chief, France finds herself at the helm of a national magazine with a circulation of 800,000. And the best part is that she didn’t even really plan it.

What France had planned to do was to become a writer. And she did. And even though the idea of moving to New York City at first “terrified” the young Texan, she took the Big Apple by storm. She soon was writing for the Village Voice, interviewing rock stars for Spin and Rolling Stone and reviewing books for The New York Times. In 1990, she started her climb through the ranks of some of the hottest national and regional magazines. As a staff writer for Sassy, she became an expert on a new music phenomenon we know today as rap. At Elle, she solidified her expertise as an entertainment writer by heading up the entertainment section of the magazine. As a senior editor and then deputy editor of New York magazine, she reinvented Cue, the weekly magazine’s popular guide to New York nightlife, dining and fashion. She wrote about fashion and nightlife and got paid for it. Life was good.

But life would get even better. After a two-year stint as editor-at-large for Spin, France was hankering for an inspiration. She was in her 30s, and covering concerts “where everybody there was 18” had grown old. France had matured as a person and felt that her writing should keep up. It was time for a change. As she sums it up, “I basically didn’t know what I wanted to do.” She also didn’t know that New York’s fashion director, Jade Hobson Charnin, an “impossibly glamorous creature,” according to France, was talking about her to Conde Naste Publishing. Conde Naste, it turned out, was looking for someone to launch a new fashion magazine. Out of the blue, Conde Naste called. Would she be interested in conceiving of, launching and running a brand-new fashion magazine?

“No” was her first response. France thought the proposal was near ridiculous. She was a writer, after all, not an entrepreneur. She skeptically agreed to think about it. The result is Lucky.

She launched it, she runs it and she enjoys the hullabaloo it stirs up. Lucky has been both heralded as the most honest fashion magazine in the industry and criticized for being a shallow, glorified catalog. France’s philosophy is straightforward, “Lucky isn’t about trying to, say, find the cure for cancer. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about that. It just means that we are about something else.” And that something else is shopping.

That’s one big “Yes!” sticky-tab for Lucky.

Tri Star Productions

October 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

Marketing Sports Memories For Worthy Causes

Tri Star takes sports memorabilia to next step

One of the best things about attending the Astros’ Wives Gala is that it offers an opportunity to rub shoulders with our boys of summer. It’s always fun to recognize the big players and to try to determine who everyone else is. Another super-cool feature of the event is the one-of-a-kind baseball memorabilia that is available in both silent and live auctions. Last year, I picked up an autographed pair of spikes. They are held prominently on display at my home.

But really cool sports memorabilia isn’t exclusive to Astros fund-raising events. In fact, more and more select items are popping up on the auction block of social soirees all over town. Now you can purchase an autographed jersey of your favorite player and help your favorite charity. What a great combination.

Just Another Day at the Office

At the forefront of this creative fund-raising wave is the local company, Tri Star Productions. The folks at Tri Star have the jobs that the sports fans in all of us wish we had. They hobnob day and night with sports stars most of us never have access to. Well, at least this is my take. They say it isn’t so, but the day I visited them, David Carr, the rockin’ quarterback for the Texans, was at the office signing autographs.

In an unassuming way, he sauntered into the office, sat down and signed several hundred pieces of memorabilia. It was all very methodical and surreal, like a factory. He signed pictures, hats and, of course, footballs. Although he signed nearly 500 items, he was out of the office in less than 30 minutes.

This type of signing event is really no big deal for Tri Star Productions President Jeff Rosenberg. Rosenberg, who founded the company in 1987, has contracts with athletes all over the country to distribute autographed memorabilia. When the business began, the main focus was producing collectible shows nationwide. There’s a big one at the George R. Brown each year. Now, Tri Star’s business has expanded to representing players, booking them for corporate events and distributing memorabilia.

All This – and in Houston?

“We started regionally and grew to develop a national presence. Houston is a nice launching point,” says Rosenberg. “The population of Houston is pretty representative of what’s going on in the country. Sports is a very regional industry. David Carr, who was in the office today, is the thing in Houston, Texas, but he doesn’t resonate nationally like he does here.

“On the other hand, we have stars with national appeal that come from Houston. Stars such as Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwan are names we all recognize.”

So how does a person know how much to bid at a charity auction? “If you’re bidding for charity, you really have to do what your heart tells you,” says Rosenberg.

“There aren’t really any price guides for signed memorabilia. Some people have tried, but it’s really difficult to pin down prices. You can go to our Web site to find what true retail is. The truth is, at an auction, items go for a lot higher than retail price because people are buying with their hearts. They want to help this charitable organization, and it would be great to take something home. My wife and I always make it a point to take something home. One, we want to have a memory of the event, and we want to help that charity. It’s a win-win situation.”

Rosenberg says they try to create some unique things in the auction that you can’t buy anywhere else. For example, several items might be grouped together, perhaps an autographed item from every starter on the championship Rockets team. The message here is pay attention, he says.

Rosenberg and his crew are just doing what many have been doing for years. “People were buying memorabilia (at our shows) and donating the items to auctions. Now, we make it easy for the charity because the charity can contact us directly.”

All This and Motivation, Too?

Corporations have also found creative uses for memorabilia. Items can be used as incentives to give to salespeople and customers. “People are always trying to do something different,” says Rosenberg.

So, instead of winning a set of golf clubs, the top salesperson just might win Astros tickets and a personalized, autographed picture of Jeff Bagwell. Imagine what that is worth to a sports fan.

“You can’t put a price on it as a gift. And most people don’t know what the value is. The perceived value of the signed item is typically much more than the cost to the corporation,” says Rosenberg. Besides, it can be a very personal gift, and the recipient will always remember who gave it to them. ih

To learn more about Tri Star Productions visit For more information on David Carr memorabilia visit

Chief Exploitation Officer

October 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

To our stockholders:

I call you “stockholders” since, as residents and taxpayers in Houston, you, in effect, own stock in this corporation, the City of Houston, Inc. In the same vein, as mayor, I am the city’s “CEO.” Perhaps it is this similarity that has prompted a few of you, well, more than a few – by actual count, almost everyone – to ask whether I would follow the lead of major U.S. corporate executives and sign a form affirming the honesty of the city’s accounting methods and findings.

Let me state unequivocally that only wild horses could drag me away from signing such a letter. But first let me explain a few items in the attached financial statement for this fiscal year that may cause confusion. The item “mayor’s travel,” which so far this year comes to less than $750,000, was for city-connected business. Studying solid landfills in Napa Valley proved most constructive as did investigating mass transit around Monaco. In a related matter, because of our bid to land the Olympics within the 21st century, I am checking out the competition in western Europe, Palm Springs and several Caribbean islands.

The item “fender bender” for $889.50 was also a city expense in that the accident occurred when I was out, on my own time, looking for “bandit signs,” which we see around town advertising everything from aluminum siding to computer lessons. As you will recall, I made the cornerstone of my last campaign ridding Houston of such visual blights. Those signs stuck in the medians are so distracting we can hardly see the billboards.

There is no point in going over “elocution lessons” since that expense has been thoroughly explained that it helped me speak good. The cost of the mayor’s police escort and bodyguards is not to be made public for security reasons. The item “resume writers” is being revised since the spell check broke. Under “mayor’s office expenses” you will notice that we have accounted for every order for pencils ($32.10), paper clips ($11.88) and erasers ($17.00). The item “miscellaneous supplies ($2.3 million)” is proper under usually accepted accounting principles, which are followed by several major corporations, according to federal subpoenas.

Other items are self-explanatory, such as “fixing potholes – $45.60,” “water pipe maintenance – $89.33” and “the really big picture of the mayor at Bush Intercontinental – $58,500.” The item, “Christmas party – $97,000” is being looked into as is “Kmart Raid – $11,500 with 20 percent off.” All in all, our expenses seem to be somewhat higher than expected, perhaps doubled.

By amortizing the overall under capitalization of the misaccounting factor, I have just learned that a few of our financial statements may be leaning more toward AOL than IBM and could involve the FBI.

As for income, it appears to be slightly below our predictions, roughly by $400 million, but how were we to know Minute Maid’s naming rights would go to the baseball park instead of the Main Library? It was not included in our $40,000 study. Also, our projections on coin-operated police sirens proved overly optimistic. This income shortfall is because the city budget was passed while I was at a conference in Aspen. Had I been here, such smoke and mirrors would not have been used.

As with many other Fortune 500 companies, the city has recently discovered some slight accounting errors. For example, we counted the tax collections from 2004 to 2008 as current income. Also, we may have to re-state earnings for the last 15 quarters. If this happens again, I am going to reduce the annual bonuses in the City Finance Department.

The gap between the city’s income and outgo is still being tallied, although my budget office says the amount will be “stupefying,” which must be an accounting term. Still, we have to put these problems in their proper perspective and realize that we are not alone, as I was telling a grand jury only last week.

But back to the question of whether I will sign a statement attesting to the honesty and accuracy of the city budget. My answer is an emphatic “Probably!”

Your CEO

Lee P. Brown

P.S. Late expense – $490 for wild horses ih

Kate Spade

September 6, 2002 by  
Filed under Blogs

When Kate Spade came through town, we had a chance to meet with her.  It was like getting together with your best girl friend.

Randall and Heather Davis

September 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

At Home with Randall and Heather Davis

by Sharon Brier

Randall Davis is often given credit for single-handedly revitalizing downtown Houston. He certainly has changed the landscape of the million-dollar home market and has had a major impact on Houston as the first loft developer in the Bayou City. The Dakota Lofts were the beginning of a series of projects for Davis that included the renovation of the Hogg Palace and Rice Hotel. One of his early projects, the Metropolis, was the first high-rise built in Houston in 12 years. It was followed by Gotham and Renoir and now the Manhattan, a partnership with Gerald Hines in the Galleria area.

Randall and Heather Davis, publicly and privately, exemplify the bold color red that is found throughout their home. They are passionate about their hobbies and do everything in style. They love to cook gourmet food, dine in the best restaurants, travel often, read mysteries, host gatherings and participate in various sports. Their location near Rice University is perfect for their lifestyle. Heather runs at the Rice University stadium and Randall, whose office is only minutes away, plays tennis at the City Club. On pleasant evenings, they ride their bikes into the village for dinner.

Randall describes himself as a man who has one foot in the past and one foot forward – who always looks for new and fresh ideas. He designed his current house, a contemporary floor plan with flourishes of a bygone era, on a scrap piece of paper before he took it to the architect. As a decisive person, he knew exactly what he wanted when he built his home – well, sort of.

The “loft king” designed his home to be a red brick traditional. After the foundation with a brick ledge was poured, he made a dramatic change to use stone and stucco instead. The outcome is an exterior that blends the style of a grand New York bank and a Mediterranean villa.

One of his priorities was to have a foyer that reflects a sense of arrival. And indeed it does, with six towering Ionic columns stretching to reach the 12-foot ceilings. One day, as Randall looked for antique doors to put in one of his projects, he saw columns from a St. Louis courthouse. He instantly knew he had to have them for a future house. He used them in the model of the Tribeca lofts for 1 1/2 years before he started construction on his home. Little did he know then that he would later be married amid the columns in the foyer of his own home.

True to the character of a Renaissance man, he selected limestone seconds for the flawed effect to use around the fireplace and entertainment center in their great room. Spaces were cut out for surround sound speakers and a big screen television, ever ready for Super Bowls, prizefights and holiday parties.

These newlyweds of three years are still getting to know each other’s friends. Their formal dining room gets plenty of use for these casual gatherings. Ten or 12 friends dine comfortably under an antique chandelier, against the Chinese red walls. Some of the Davis’ favorite dinners include Galveston imported stone crabs or an orgy of Randall’s homemade clam and pasta specialty. The grand finale is when Heather’s masterpieces, chocolate tollhouse pie, strawberry and cream cake, and magic chocolate and coconut bars, appear on the table.

Although Randall, the decorator at heart, designed the home when he was a bachelor, he gave Heather the liberty to make changes once they were married. She rules supreme now as the official “re-decorator.”

The kitchen, which opens to the great room, went from contemporary stainless to warm ambience with dark rich wood and glass cabinets. Heather also whisked away the funeral drapes and twisted metal bed in the master bedroom, which she called the “den of inequity.” To create a cozy and charming “French apartment” atmosphere in the boudoir, she added an antique mirror they bought on a shopping spree at the Paul Behr market in Paris.

The master bathroom originally had a whirlpool tub in the middle of the room, but Randall wanted an unobstructed view of the television so he could escape and watch sports from the oversize shower. But Heather found just the right couch to put in front of the shower, making herself the view. As director of their social calendar, she likes to discuss their schedules from her couch. She definitely has his full attention when he is in the shower.

Often the plans they discuss include charities they support such as Casa de Esperanza and Baylor Breast Center. When they lent their home for a March of Dimes dinner, they added a surprise to the Moulin Rouge-themed event. A Nicole Kidman look-alike singer entertained guests from the raised marble foyer.

Although they say they don’t keep secrets from each other, they do have a secret room. The hidden study, which connects to Heather’s bathroom, is behind a mirrored door. Randall jokes, “I lost the study when Heather moved in. It was to be my refuge if I ever had to hide from lenders.”

One of the rooms Randall admits that Heather did not change was the master bedroom closet. But she filled it up. Since there are not less than 50 built-in drawers, it was no easy task. With both of them being neat-niks, their closet is always perfectly organized and color coordinated, and nothing is out of place. Heather admits her bookcase of treasured books is like that as well.

Keeping with past and present, Randall had four paintings by old masters re-created for him by licensed master painters at the Louvre, and together, he and Heather commissioned whimsical French artist Ernesto to paint a vivid party scene to hang over the fireplace. In the bend of the stairway, he had an artist combine and hand rub two old master paintings to cast a feel of what one might find in a castle. But Heather admits the best combination of “master” and “original” in the house is Randall, himself.

A sense of history and character continues with a photomontage of both their families in their upstairs game room. The memorabilia includes photos and original 1920s love letters from Randall’s father, Ocky, to his mother, famed bridge player Pigeon Davis. An empty frame near photos of his two daughters, Natalie and Samantha, awaits a photo of a future child. Randall touts that he has a child and a hole-in-one about every 10 years and that he will be due for one of each in about a year. Another Davis masterpiece.

Terrorism Preparation

September 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

One Year After 9/11: Is Houston Ready?

How is Houston equipped to deal with the threat of future terrorist attacks?

by Rob Folk

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, Houston and the entire country has been on heightened awareness for terrorist activity. But how has Houston’s raised awareness really prepared our city for such an attack, and how well are we equipped to deal with one?

Many local government officials feel that dealing with terrorism here would be very similar to dealing with industrial accidents – something with which Houston is all too familiar. Common characteristics of these two catastrophes include explosions and hazardous chemicals resulting in mass casualties. David White, publisher of Industrial Fire World magazine, defines a terrorist attack as a “hazardous materials incident with attitude.” But White also stresses that the risk and potential size of multiple, simultaneous incidents present a challenge. Houston continually faces the possibility for some kind of major industrial accident with refineries, ships and cargo in the Port of Houston and hazardous materials traveling through our city. In recognizing this, city leaders have made numerous preparations for industrial disasters, including those associated with terrorist attacks, some dating back nearly 50 years.

Some may remember the Texas City disaster of 1947. The Grand Camp, a ship loaded with fertilizer, exploded and caused the Monsanto Chemical Plant, among others, to burst into flames. More than 600 people were killed and thousands injured. The disaster was one of the largest ever to happen at an American port.

To respond to future events, the Channel Industries Mutual Aid was formed in 1955. CIMA is a nonprofit organization that combines firefighting, rescue, hazardous material handling and emergency medical capabilities. Its goal is to protect the refining and petrochemical industry in the Houston Ship Channel area. CIMA members include industrial companies, municipalities and government agencies. Maintaining a corps of highly trained emergency personnel, CIMA manages a pool of more than 200 pieces of specialized equipment, including rescue trucks, high-volume foam pumpers and fully equipped ambulances.

For the past 17 years, Industrial Fire World magazine has hosted a conference each April in Houston. The past two conferences have focused on the issue of terrorism. White feels that Houston would be a poor target for terrorism because Houston has such good security and such a well-trained emergency community.

The Houston Police Department has provided anti-terrorism training for its officers for the past five years. And since 9-11, HPD has conducted refresher courses for officers and required this training for all civilians working for the department. HPD also has increased its presence at large events, such as the Fourth of July Freedom Festival. According to John Leggio, HPD spokesperson, the main difference since 9-11 is that ?the HPD is on higher alert and more vigilant for this type of threat.?

The Houston Fire Department has been preparing and training for a terrorist attack response for years. In March 1998 and again in January 2002, the department conducted field training exercises that simulated an explosion and chemical weapon attack at Reliant Arena. These exercises included training not only for HFD but also for HPD, EMS, the city and county offices of emergency management and the Houston medical response system. Assistant Fire Chief Jack Williams says, “Nine-eleven made us more aware of what can happen. Nine-eleven has been a jolt of awareness to the entire emergency response community.”

The Houston area has an organization called Houston TranStar. This group is made up of the Texas Department of Transportation, Metro, the City of Houston and Harris County. Besides managing and maintaining the Houston-area roads and highways, TranStar houses and supports our region’s emergency management. In April 1996, the TranStar Emergency Operations Center (EOC) became operational. Houston was the first metropolitan area to bring all of the city, county, and regional emergency management offices together. TranStar takes action against any emergency, weather-related or man-made. The EOC coordinates all emergency response for our area. “September 11th and our most recent disaster, tropical storm Allison, have fostered greater agency cooperation and provided a new enthusiasm in training,” says TranStar Public Information Officer Artee Jones. For more information go to

If it Bleeds, it Leads 4 Play News, Don’t you snooze, Car wrecks, fires, plus sex and booze –

September 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

– And here with your 10 o’clock news for Houston and all of greater Galena Park is (drum roll with bugles amid flashing lights) Chip O’Hair! And co-host, Twinkie Cleavage (wild applause), with (sounds of thunder) weather warrior Rainer Shine, and finally, (crowd) sports reporter and winner of the Houston Press Club award for best sportscaster on a 10 p.m. newscast on Channel 4, Homer Fields!

Good evening, I’m Chip O’Hair. Our lead story – the “Big Story” – exclusive on 4 Play News (sirens, blinking lights and screams) is a fire in Sharpstown. You can see from the exclusive 4 Play SkyEyeCamShot high above the scene, there is a fire. Come in, Zero.

Yes, Chip, this is Zero Surabachi above a huge fire – a really big fire.

Thanks, Zero, for that exclusive report. Our other big story involves an old faith with new deciphers. Twinkie?

I think that’s “disciples,” Chip. Anyway, botulism is a growing religion in the Houston area. More and more young people are turning to botulism as a way of expressing themselves. We interviewed Rancid, a 16-year-old who has turned to this far Southern, or maybe it’s Eastern, faith. Let’s hear from Rancid.

I find Buddhism a way to the inner me. The secret to finding the inner –

Thank you for that in-depth report, Twinkie. Speaking of holy water, Rainer, it looks like we might get some more perspiration.

Right, Chip. “Rain,” as we call it in meteorogically circles, can be seen here on the weather map, which – seems to be showing downtown Detroit. OK, now we’ve got it. Here in Texas, there is snow over the Peedernals, the Perdernails, that river, and Nacog – Nacogdose. Nacog – a town up in East Texas near Lupskin. Hey, I’m new here, OK?

Snow when it’s 102 outside?

Maybe it’s my radar. The boss caught me intercepting porno channels so I had to retune everything. Would you like to see outtakes from “Debbie Does El Campo?”

Let’s switch to consumer affairs reporter Gaggie Retch. So how many roaches have we found in the salad bar?

Chip and Twinkie, it was awful. I mean, awful. The trash, the slime, the utter lack of regard for the customers.

What restaurant, Gaggie?

Restaurant? I mean the fall TV lineup.

Thanks, Gaggie. We’ll be right back after this.

Hello, I’m Tony Sanchez, and I want to be your governor. In this campaign I will stick to the issues and not indulge in character assassinations. Yes, the issues, like what a dirty, rotten guy Rick Perry is. He’s a liar, cheat, bank robber twice convicted, and I won’t even tell you what he does to small dogs. Vote Sanchez.

Twinkie, is my hair parted correctly? Maybe if I used a bit more mousse. Oh, sorry. We’re back on the air. It’s time now for sports with Homer Fields.

Thanks, Chip. Houston faces a terrible calamity if the city does not underwrite a new curling arena. We may lose our franchise to Marfa if voters do not agree to a $90 million bond issue. Otherwise, we’ll never be a world-class city. As you can see by the map, all we have to do is tear down this emergency clinic and an elementary school. Now let’s go to the scores. 8-4, 6-3 and 2-2 in overtime.

Thanks, Homer. We?ll be right back after this.

Hi, I’m Governor Rick Perry. George Bush loves me. Did I ever tell you about the time – three times, actually – that I saved the life of George Bush? From Tony Sanchez? Vote Perry and get Bush.

We’re back with 4 Play News. There is a gory murder in the Heights (screams while showing yellow police tape) and a tragic truck accident on the Katy Freeway (sirens and flashing lights). But now to international news. There was a gory murder in Holland and a tragic truck accident in Hong Kong. We’ll be back with news about the unexpected beginning of World War III after this word from our sponsors. ih

We love Linda Lay

August 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

In Your Face

by Roger Gray

Hey, She Loves Animals, but You Have to Draw the Line Somewhere –

Short Alpha Male Alert! Houston Rockets owner Les “build me an arena or I dump Hakeem” Alexander is single and on the prowl. It seems his PETA-lovin’ better half, (and in his case that is not metaphorical) Nanci, has had enough. Whatever the tawdry details, it seems they are calling it a marriage. It appears that Nanci, unlike Lee Brown, would like to escape the stigma of having willingly been in bed with Les.

They’re Clearing Out Pulitzer Shelf Space For –

– the Houston Chronicle’s Shelby Hodge, who apparently has a completely tin ear to the sensibilities of the public. The fact that this journalistic equivalent of a White House intern continues to shamelessly plug Linda Lay’s “resale shop” with a devotion usually reserved for live-in pool boys is mind-boggling. Disgraced (and if there is divine justice, soon to be dressed in orange) former Enron CEO and head weasel Ken Lay’s wife has been treated to a front page story and periodic updates about her pawn shop to the stars. Why no one in Chronicle management has said, “Hey, maybe this isn’t in very good taste,” will perhaps only be revealed to us in the hereafter. Whatever the cause, it is one more reason to lament the late Houston Post.

I am a Lineman for the County – and I Just Screwed L.A, –

Before we leave the “energy sector scandal” topic, Dynegy jefe Chuck Watson has said “basta,” grabbed a bag of money and left his post just ahead of a pack of shareholders resembling nothing so much as the mob in “Frankenstein.” This in the wake of the Enron/Andersen fallout that has shaken confidence in everything energy-related. And while we’re on the subject, remember when we all wrote the paper and called talk shows in a state of high dudgeon over charges that Texas was the cause of the California energy crisis? “Whiney brie-eaters!” we charged. “How dare they blame our corporate sons and daughters for their own dereg-Chernobyl.” Well – it appears they were right. We played those granola-chomping tree smoochers for a bunch of rubes and damn near got away with it. Now the feds are sniffing around. Is this what we paid good campaign protection money for?

Forgive Me Father – I Have Uttered a Bad Word –

The D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship, whoever they are, has announced their annual “Distinguished Christian Statesman” award winner for 2002. This apparent inheritor of the mantle of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln is described by a Center mouthpiece named Frank Wright as – “a man who, while having a reputation for being passionate about issues, is respectful of other people and attempts to love his neighbor just as Christ has loved us.” Quickly, Frank, we’re palpitating with anticipation. Tell us who this paragon of virtue might be that we may heave accolades upon his brow. OK – drum roll please – and the winner is – Tom DeLay! Well, all right – we are heaving, but it could just be ozone.

To Run a Surplus Would Mean the Terrorists Have Won –

My illusions have been stripped cleaner than a Boston altar boy. Let me get this straight. In fiscal year 2000, the United States had a budget surplus of $236 billion. Social Security was going to be OK, we were paying down a national debt that had quintupled since Ronald Reagan took office, and we boomers could relax a bit. One tax bill, one short recession and one war on terror later and we are looking at a $150 billion deficit. I thought tax cuts stimulated the economy. I thought they increased government revenue. Of course, they didn?t really in the ’80s – that’s a standard political myth, but the only administration we have says they haven’t cost us, either. They say it’s the war (and don’t you dare criticize any of it, you Benedict Arnolds!) that is to blame. The total so far on the war is nearly $20 billion. And the rest? Do we remember that Spanish temptress of the 1980s, Rosy Scenario? She has worked her wiles again and conned us into cutting revenues. And it won’t improve anytime soon. In fact, it will get worse. Your assignment – read Paul Krugman in The New York Times. Read him regularly. He is the only person making sense on economics. And he apparently is not distributed on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Jack Ingram

August 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

Taking Texas Music to the Next Level

Houston native Jack Ingram makes a name for himself – and the Texas music genre – in the recording industry

Like a true Texas gentleman, Jack Ingram looks you in the eye when he shakes your hand and says hello. He exudes confidence yet is very humble and genuine. The day Inside Houston talked to him, he was scheduled to rock the house at Garden in the Heights as part of their homegrown series that focuses on Texas musicians.

When Jack Ingram takes the stage, the crowd goes wild for this local favorite. Part of the new music revolution made popular by such stars as Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green, Ingram lets the audience know he appreciates them. “All I can do is keep on putting out my music – what I consider to be quality music. Whether it is or not, it’s not my place to judge.” Judging from the audience’s response, Ingram’s stuff is right on target.

The type of crowd that loyally follows Ingram varies from young college coeds to cowboys and businessmen. Most of all, his music touches them. It transcends age groups and classes. They know the words to every song – they’re dancing, clapping, begging for more. Jack Ingram fans do more than appreciate his work; they revel in it.

So, who does Ingram see when he looks out at the audience? “People who give a s— about music – who want to hear music and want to connect on a level about songs and emotions,” he says.

Although you may not recognize Ingram’s name from mainstream radio, there is a movement to change that, a constant gurgle from the people that gets louder with every new fan. “There is always opposition to change, and this kind of stuff is different from what radio stations are used to seeing on their desks. I look at it as a dam with a bunch of pressure on it. At some point the dam is going to break, and it’s all going to flow through.” His fans eagerly await that moment.

Speaking of the lack of air time that Texas music encounters, Ingram responded earnestly, “All I can do is what I do: make records and go out and tour. I do my best to get my songs on the radio.”

Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, Charlie Robison and many others “weren’t making records 10 years ago because there was no place for them to be heard. Well, now there’s a place to be heard, it’s just not necessarily on the radio yet. It’s like a snowball thing we’ll get through. It’s up to all of us to keep the pressure on.” And Texas music has found its nook. It is infiltrating college campuses and local bars; it’s on people’s lips and in their car stereos.

There is a whirlwind circling Texas music these days, and many are struggling to define it. Ingram shed some light on the muddy subject. “I guess you could call it a clash of folk, country and rock. You might call it Americana,” he laughs. “Put those types of music together and throw it back out and see what you can call it. As long as they think it’s good.”

A graduate of McCullough High School in The Woodlands, Ingram says he feels like he has two hometowns. “This is my hometown, but I live in Dallas. We always make certain to stop in Houston. My whole family is here. My nieces and nephews are here. We like to be around our family.” Of course, he loves to play to his Houston fans, but the musician in him concedes, “There’s really no place I dislike playing.”

“I play every show like it’s my last. I can’t really choose who’s going to follow me and try and garner that audience or cater to them. I just do what I do and do it as well as I can.”

Top Spots for Singles

August 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

Single in the City

by Jessica Rossman

Best Patio to Mix and Mingle
Taco Milagro

The standing-room-only crowds say it all – the patio at Taco Milagro is Houston’s outdoor hot spot. On most weekday evenings, and virtually all weekend long, Milagro is ideal for Tex-Mex-infused patio lounging. The dress code is – well – there is no dress code. There are loosened ties and tight slacks straight from the office basking next to T-shirts, shorts and the always-sexy flip-flops. After a few Milagro margaritas, nobody notices the difference. 2555 Kirby, (713) 522-1999

Best Sunday Parties
Ruggles, Café Adobe, The Social and Prive

Yes, it’s true. Our lives are a big, black hole of emptiness since the Montrose La Strada burned down. But while Houston’s Sunday partiers eagerly await the reopening of the Mother Ship, a few other spots have stepped up to the plate. Your choices are not few, but they ensure a rockin’ Sunday and difficult Monday. You can brunch at Ruggles at Westheimer and Montrose, sip margaritas in the sun on Café Adobe’s patio, people watch at The Social and stay up late at Prive. Good luck at the office on Monday! Ruggles Grill, 903 Westheimer, (713) 524-3839; Café Adobe, 2111 Westheimer, (713) 528-1468; The Social, 3730 Washington, (713) 426-5585; Prive, 910 Westheimer, (713) 522-2542

Best Singles Group
Arts Symposium of Houston

The Art Symposium’s motto says it all: “The Arts Have Never Been So Much Fun.” Even macho men enjoy the creative events this newly revived organization offers – including festivals, wine tastings, gallery openings, theater, music and more – giving singles a colorful twist to meeting new friends and exploring Houston’s diverse entertainment scene.

Best Professional Singles Group
Professionally Speaking Singles Toastmasters

Are you terrified each time you are called on to speak in a meeting? Do you mutter, “uhmm”? and “ahh?” Take heart, so do millions of people, and toastmasters has helped them improve their public speaking skills. Why not improve your communication skills and scope out a potential date?

Best Club to Latin Dance
Club 511

Nothing is steamier than a Latin dance beat and a spicy dance partner. There are plenty of both at Club 511 downtown. Open until 4 a.m. Thursday through Sunday nights, Club 511 consistently draws a saucy dance crowd. Plan on sore feet the next day. 511 Main Street, (713) 224-8855

Best Place to Break Up

This Italian restaurant has great Tuscan cooking in an old manor house. If you choose to break up here, you can head next door to the cigar and martini bar to look for your next romance. 1515 S. Post Oak Lane, (713) 840-0303

Best Place to Find a Prospective Date – Downtown
Boaka Bar

This grandiose downtown hot spot is the place to see and be seen. From the gilded frames on all the walls to the marble and gold staircase, everything about Boaka is first class. When you want to get dressed up for a night on the town, it must include the Boaka Bar. 1010 Prairie, (713) 225-6372,

Best Place to Find a Prospective Date – Kirby
Stag’s Head Pub

From the owners of The Ale House comes the Stag’s Head, a British pub with attitude. The relaxing atmosphere is welcoming and comforting. It’s a quiet, low-key bar with lots of great beers. If you want a place to just sit and talk with friends or clients and not be bothered by blaring music and pushy waitresses, Stag’s Head Pub is the perfect spot. On the weekends, it’s packed with 20- and 30-something patrons. 2128 Portsmouth, (713) 533-1199

Best Texas Hoedown

Let’s face it. We live in Texas. A little dose of our state’s culture now and then is good for all cowboys and cowgirls. So, pull on your boots and ‘git’ on down to Blanco’s on a Thursday night. Blanco’s is authentic, unpretentious Texas fun with live music, two-stepping and service with a smile. And get ready to dance – a spin or two around the dance floor is required. 3406 W. Alabama, (713) 439-0072

Houston Texans

August 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Edit

New Team New Dream

Houston Texans set to kick off inaugural NFL season

by Kenny Hand

In Houston’s first dance with professional football, K.S. (Bud) Adams ponied up $25,000 for the rights to buy one of eight teams in the new American Football League. It has cost Bob McNair $699,975,000 more for the right to cut in and join the exclusive NFL fraternity of the new century. That’s a bit more than a cost of living increase in 42 years.

Adams’ first two entries in 1960 and 1961 won league championships and would have made it a three-peat in 1962 if not for a team named, interestingly enough, the Texans. The Dallas Texans, owned by Lamar Hunt, beat Adams’ Oilers 20-17 in two overtimes. McNair’s $700 million Houston Texans won’t win the next two Super Bowls, or he’ll be recognized as the smartest and luckiest man who ever lived.

McNair’s team, however, may reverse the path that Adams took. Other than Bum Phillips’ brief but glorious “Luv Ya Blue” era that included two American Football Conference championship games in the late 70s and Jerry Glanville’s helmet-rattling but eventually disappointing 1987-89 playoff run, the Oilers after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger were known mostly for losing an unprecedented 32-point post-season lead in Buffalo and for leaving town. McNair’s Texans should start slowly by the 1960-61 Oiler comparison, due to the difference in the modern-day NFL and parity. But the Texans should be far from a first-year expansion joke and should enjoy remarkable staying power.

“I see no reason why they can’t be real competitive right off the bat,” Phillips said during an early May trip to Houston. “They’ve got a great owner, a great front office, some good players, and they’re building things the right way. I’m already a big Texans fan.”

McNair already has a leg up on Adams in the category of perception. McNair has persistance, power, persuasiveness and no paucity of pennies. Adams was called “Bottom Line Bud” for the notion that he hoarded every nickel. He also changed coaches sometimes on a whim – Pop Ivy or Sammy Baugh one day, someone named Bones Taylor the next. Ed Hughes. Bill Peterson, master of the malaprop. Chuck Studley. Hugh Campbell. What a revolving door of coaches in the powder blue house of errors. Adams sounds and even looks a little like Edgar Buchanan, the former actor. In 37 years in Houston, the Oilers won only 46 percent of their games (251-291-6), yet Adams fired 1960 AFL Coach of the Year Lou Rymkus (11-7-1) after the franchise’s first 19 games. Edgar Buchanan probably wouldn’t have gone through as many coaches.

McNair, a South Carolina native in love with horse racing, doesn’t yet have a nickname. But it’s not “Cheapskate.” The feeling to date, real or imagined, is that if it’s relative to critical business, McNair might send a limousine just so you can join him for brunch.

In the Oilers’ first year, they played at a dreary, downtrodden Jeppesen Stadium near the University of Houston campus. You wouldn’t recognize it now, revamped and renamed Robertson Stadium, sculpted especially for the Houston Cougars. Back then, though, even with Adams agreeing to finance the Jeppesen expansion to 36,000 seats, it was cramped, uncomfortable and smelly. The prices were right, though. You could buy a season ticket package for $31.50. That’s 31 dollars and 50 cents. For all the home games, no PSL (personal seat license) was required.

And the Oilers in the early years had some rather unique training camp follies. The first-year sites, plural, were Buff Stadium – the minor league baseball park – and a hard vacant lot by the UH campus. There was no air conditioning, cockroaches galore and, of course, mosquitos larger than Lufkin.

The next year, they moved to Hawaii. Talk about landscape swings. But in 1962, they were back here, training at Ellington Air Force Base outside Houston, on a shrapnel field. The following year, they moved to Colorado Springs, which sounded like a neat idea, but Colorado was going through its worst drought in 36 years. No fresh water meant the practice field was irrigated with sewer water. Scratches became infected. Nice camp.

On to 2002. The Texans’ $9 million, 17-acre training facility off Kirby is state-of-the-art, the envy of the 31 other lodge brothers. The field house is fit for River Oaks. It’s a 4,500-square-foot gem that includes a small locker room, training room, emergency medical area, four offices and one conference room, just in case Texans executives want to convene and gloat over these advantages to the previous owner’s digs. Oh, and there are three outdoor fields and an air-supported indoor field, believed to be the largest of its kind in North America, plus a 4,000-square-foot maintenance facility. None of the aforementioned practice fields, to our knowledge, is irrigated with sewer water.

The larger locker room, weight room and rehab facilities are across Kirby at the 69,500-seat Reliant Stadium, site of the 2004 Super Bowl. Reliant is, in fact, the only retractable-roof yard in the NFL. “Spectacular,” said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue upon inspecting it this spring, when NFL owners and general managers gathered in Houston. “I saw the concept and heard the plan when they were just a gleam in Bob’s eye, and I knew this place was going to be something special. I’m so impressed.”

Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner, said he wished he could haul the Texans’ stadium back to Irving, where the hole in the Texas Stadium roof is archaic and looks dumber by the decade. Adams, too, has been bowled over by Reliant’s world-class looks. His Tennessee Titans play in Houston this season as part of the new AFC South, and, since he still makes Houston his home, Adams won’t have to travel far for that trip. Also, he bought 12 season tickets (plus PSLs) to the Texans games, 20-yard line, eight rows up.

Unlike Adams, McNair seems to exhibit more stability and pure common sense. Everything he’s done has a long-range plan attached. He chose, for instance, one of football’s top general managers, Charley Casserly, who picked a defensive-minded coach in Dom Capers, a believer in the 3-4 defense and ball-possession offense.

Adams kick-started the Oilers with George Blanda, a quarterback-place kicker in his early 30s who’d been dumped on in Chicago by Bears owner-coach George Halas. McNair, conversely, is counting sooner rather than later on rookie gunslinger David Carr, who led the nation in passing yards (4,839) and touchdowns (46) last season and completed almost 63 percent of his career passes at Fresno State. Blanda grew to dislike the way Adams conducted business with the Oilers. Carr already has to love McNair for making him the No. 1 pick in the draft and signing him for a small fortune.

The Oilers’ first-ever college choice in 1960 was Billy Cannon, everybody’s All-American running back from LSU. In fact, with the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL thinking they had him under contract, Adams flat stole Billy away from a familiar name, then-Rams GM Pete Rozelle, who would eventually become NFL commish. Adams’ lawyer signed Cannon under the goal posts in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl. It was a great lick for the Oilers and put them and the AFL on the map.

Carr won’t be handing off to a Heisman Trophy winner like Cannon – veteran James Allen is the best-known Carr teammate in the backfield coming from the expansion draft. But Carr has a cannon for an arm and could have a Cannon-like impact on the fans, who’ll surely agree to a two- or three-year honeymoon with the Texans. Casserly loaded up with an experienced offensive line in the expansion pool and came out with the likes of Tony Boselli; Steve McKinney, the former Texas Aggie; and Ryan Young, an ex-New York Jet. The college draft yielded the likes of Florida wideout Jabar Gaffney to pair with Carr.

The Texans put an emphasis on special teams and the kick return speed that Jermaine Lewis, formerly of the Super Bowl champ Baltimore Ravens, represents. They’re hoping Kris Brown’s field goal accuracy is better than it was last year in Pittsburgh, but they like his leg. They don’t have a true pass-rushing stud, but the tackles and ends are interchangeable in the 3-4 scheme. They’re not loaded with greatness at safety, but expansion additions Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman should be quite steady at cornerback. Jamie Sharper and Kailee Wong are talented veteran linebackers.

The point at which Carr is declared the starter is a key issue. You don’t want to get him killed, particularly if left tackle Boselli – who is trying to recover from shoulder surgery – is reinjured or doesn’t come around fully and Carr’s blind side is exposed. McNair’s quandary is this: He paid David Carr a ton of money to be the franchise quarterback, $46 million over seven years plus another possible $14 million in incentives, so Carr must produce results. But when? If Carr gets whacked around physically and affected mentally because he’s thrown to the wolves prematurely, that’s not being shrewd with your investment. Veteran Kent Graham is around to take the early bullets, if necessary.

But these are good problems to have: debates on personnel, when to leave the roof open or closed, what type of mustard you like on your dogs, how much parking costs, when Carr should start. The old Jeppesen season ticket package of $31.50 might barely cover food and drink for a family of four at a Texans game. But one thing hasn’t changed. On Dec. 29, Adams’ Titans visit, so he will have to worry about another team named the Texans beating his transplanted Oilers again.

Even if McNair’s Texans lose that one, I’ll call the season 5-11, allowing for the predictable assortment of embryonic downers: injuries, inconsistencies and interceptions. Defensive end Gary Walker, a former Oiler, for instance, had to have groin and hernia surgery in late May. But there always will be a pleasant surprise or two to offset the injuries. The nucleus of players is exceptional for a first-year club, uniforms look manly and there’s a roof over your head in case of an advancing monsoon.

The blocks of granite – McNair, Casserly and Capers – are in place for a marvelous future.

The NFL has returned. Houston, you have a team, not a problem.

In Plain View 64 Lanes but Expect DeLays

August 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Years ago, Katy Road was a blacktop going from Houston to – where else? – Katy. In the 1950s, a study indicated the need for an intrastate freeway system, and in the 1960s, work began on I-10 West. Later, following a study by the Texas Highway Department, the road was widened. After another study, it was expanded again.

Then, in a few years, the Houston Department For Handling the Road Construction Lobby did a study, and an HOV lane was put in. But each time more cement was poured and more lanes were added, the traffic only got worse. This is due to Parkinson’s Law of Gridlock: “Traffic expands to meet the lanes available.”

If this is the case, Houston can never build enough freeway lanes to handle its vehicles. This, however, does not mean we don’t keep trying. There is now a movement to widen Katy Freeway once more, but by how much? Between downtown and Katy there are up to 12 lanes, counting the service roads. The HOV lane makes it 13. Some would like to add two lanes in each direction, four-lane service lanes and a two-lane toll road HOV lane in the middle. A study has been ordered to see if this is feasible.

There are, of course, some anti-growth folks who worry about the increase in air and noise pollution. “We don’t want our children to wear gas masks and earplugs,” one parent said. These are the same people who think paying for public schools is more important than landing the Olympics.

Working on the theory that if one is good then two are twice as good, there is now an additional proposal that a double deck be built from the West Loop to Sealy. As U.S. Rep. John Culberson explained, “If 18 lanes are good, 32 lanes are three times as good.” U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay agreed so long as no federal funds went to the project, preferring to see the money go to Dallas.

The Harris County Commissioners Court suggested that a special “super lane” be added but limited to those who have the title “county judge” or “commissioner.” Members of the school board, the city council and the sports authority demanded to be included, one of the latter group explaining, “If we’re important enough to have free luxury suites at all the stadiums, we should have our own freeway lane as well.”

By shifting funds from flood control and the county hospital district (“bells and whistles” as one MTA board member put it), money was made available to buy all the land between Memorial Drive and Long Point. Soon, contracts will be let for Phase One of the Katy Freeway Expansion & Campaign Donors Appreciation Project. This construction may create some temporary traffic congestion, although it is scheduled for completion in 2110. When finished, the Katy Freeway will be wider than most freeways are long.

As outlined by Citizens Opposed to Non-Creative Responsible Entities in Texas Expressways, or CONCRETE, “Phase One means one car, one lane.” However, a $20 million study by the Orange Barrel Manufacturers Society shows that by the time this new super expressway would be completed, it will be obsolete and may need a major expansion. Phase Two is still under discussion but contains plans for a lane for card-carrying Friends of the District Attorney Who Do Not Like to Drive 55.

There has been some talk of putting a light rail line alongside the Katy Freeway to ease traffic while helping the environment. Such a proposal was put before the Texas Department of Corduroy Roads but died for lack of a second.

When the U.S. Department of Transportation offered to pay for half the cost of light rail, the plan was rejected. When the offer was increased to paying the entire cost, Houston refused to even answer the letter. When the federal government said it would pay twice the cost of a light rail line and cover health costs, house payments and two-week vacations for all Houston citizens, Rep. DeLay branded it “typical Washington interference in local affairs.” However, there is a proposal to provide children with gas masks and earplugs. It’s being studied. ih

New Orleans

June 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

36 Hours in New Orleans

Come along for a weekend in the big easy

One of the nicest things about living in Houston is the close proximity to the Big Easy. That’s right: It’s easy to get to, easy to have fun in and easy to get home. So, pack your bags and head east down I-10 as soon as the five o’clock whistle blows. Drive for about five hours, and you’re there. Believe me, it doesn’t matter what time you get to NOLA – it’s always open. Now, let’s make the most of our 36 hours.

10 p.m. – Check In

The Château Sonesta Hotel New Orleans is the sister property to the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street. You can save money by staying at the Château, and we’ve heard they have the biggest rooms in town. Once you check in, just head one block to the infamous thoroughfare, and the party has begun.

11 p.m. – How to Have Fun

Razzoo Bar and Patio. If we lived here, we wouldn’t become regulars, but this concept combined with Bourbon Street really works. Bachelorette parties, businessmen and revelers let down their hair and jam to the pop tunes blasting from the speakers. At first, you might think it’s karaoke night, but no, those guys on stage actually work there. Their job is to make sure you have a good time and experience the truly trashy feeling you can achieve only in the French Quarter. Any girl can jump on stage and dance with the staff, but guys better not try it.

Tropical Isle. This bar pays homage to one of the Crescent City’s biggest cheerleaders: Jimmy Buffet. The live band belts out his cover tunes that every Parrot Head knows by heart, such as: “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Margaritaville.” With a signature drink like the legendary “Hand Grenade,” we were smart to end our night after this bar.

12 p.m. – Day Two

Start off the day with some grub. We tried to eat at Petunia’s, but the more than two-hour wait detoured us. We ended up at Deja Vu, which serves breakfast 24 hours a day. One friend commented that he had never seen Deja Vu in the daylight. Good hearty omelets provide staying power for the day or night.

2 p.m. – Let the Shopping Begin

No matter what you are looking for, you can find it here. New Orleans is full of fabulous antique shops, souvenir stores and clothing boutiques. There are simply so many cute, eclectic shops to rummage through. Of course, we could have spent hours searching for the perfect beads, a necessity for Bourbon Street.

2:30 p.m. – Jackson Square

Perhaps the most romantic and picturesque square in the South, Jackson Square is home to numerous artisans, a glorious fountain and landscaped scenery. The historic St. Louis Cathedral smiles down upon the square and its patrons and is one of the most beautiful European-style churches in the country. Surrounding Jackson Square are many local artists displaying their wares. Here you can have your portrait drawn or your fortune read.

The most commercially noted location in Jackson Square is Café du Monde. You must pop in to check out the home of the world-famous beignets. This original coffee shop is always packed with tourists listening to local musicians and coughing on powdered sugar.

4 p.m. – More Shopping

A trip to NOLA would never be complete without a stroll through the infamous French Market, located at Decatur Street and St. Peter. Check out the Farmer’s Market, filled with tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. You’ll also uncover every spice imaginable to help you try to re-create the wonderful flavor of New Orleans at home. Keep shopping, and you’ll end up in the Flea Market section. And it is just what you’d expect: jewelry, purses, T-shirts and knick-knacks. We bought sunglasses, a cell phone carrier, a wooden pen and a hammock. Where could you get such a great mixture with such ease?

Nellies. We were beckoned by a sign that read, “Best Bloody Mary in New Orleans,” and we seek the truth. Nellie does have the best. We tried to persuade her to come to Houston and teach us how to make them, but she said she’s had much better offers than ours.

At Sole Starr the jeans lured us in, but the shoes knocked our socks off. There were Mary Janes of every design imaginable (stars and flames, even). But it was the too-cool western boots that made their way back to Houston.

6:30 p.m. – Let-s Eat

Court of Two Sisters takes up a city block in the cramped Quarter, providing a beautiful courtyard and many distinct dining areas. Don’t miss the fixed meal called the Table D Hotel, for only $38, you get hors d’oeuvres, salad, entree and dessert. We had the baked onion soup, Creole seafood gumbo and Court of Two Sisters Salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. The entrees we devoured included Trout Wellington, an original Court of Two Sisters dish. This fish is surrounded by a dressing of shrimp, crawfish and crabmeat and encased in a flaky pastry. The Duck a L’Orange, which was glazed in a brandy orange sauce, and the Pork Tenderloin, which was stuffed with Cajun blanc and marinated in Louisiana cane syrup and balsamic vinegar, were also delicious.

If you’re not pressed for time, you might try Dick and Jenny’s in the Garden District west of the Quarter. Locals swear by the French-Creole cuisine offered by Richard Benz and wife Jenny in this unassuming building festooned with Christmas lights year-round. But be prepared for at least a one- to two-hour wait on any given night.

10 p.m. – Night life

You haven’t been to New Orleans if you don’t make the obligatory stop at Pat O’ Brien’s. The celebrated hurricanes have been the topic of many divorce proceedings, we’re certain. There is always a line to get into the piano bar, but the sports bar and the patio are just as much fun without the wait. The bright flaming fountain on the patio serves as a centerpiece, meeting place and a source of heat when it is cold. So many people run through this establishment, you might even stumble into someone you know. The best thing about Pat O’s is that everyone is instantly your friend.


At midnight, the doors of the Dungeon open for business. A little hard to find but easy to appreciate, this Gothic bar has a unique appeal. With heavy metal music blasting on the dance floor and a dangerously long wait to have the chance to sit in the “cage,” the Dungeon is definitely an adventure. The history of this bar is that at the turn of the century, it was a working dungeon where women were kept as they awaited the chance to join the Turkish prince’s harem. And you can’t miss the restroom, or at least try not to miss it. The powder rooms are actually hidden behind a wall of books. Choose the right book, and voila.

2:30 a.m.

It must be the throbbing crowds that drew us back to Razzoo. This place really packs them in and provides a good time for all.

10 a.m.

Pack up the car and head home. You’ll be back in Houston by 3 p.m. – just enough time to plan your next New Orleans getaway.

In Plain View Summer in the City

May 1, 2002 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Sumer is icumen in ?? an ancient poem begins. Although it is only May, ?sumer? is, indeed, ?icumen in? to this sleepy fishing village on the bayou. That?s because, in Houston, winter falls on a Thursday. And we must not confuse the official start of summer with the formal beginning of hurricane season, June 1, which is signified by the head of the Red Cross tossing out the first doughnut.

Thus, no matter what the calendar says, summer in Houston begins when we turn the air conditioning from ?cool? to ?frostbite? and we can hang meat in the hallway. The warmer it gets outside, the colder it gets inside. Do you notice how many secretaries and receptionists in our office buildings, in the hot glare of July, are wearing sweaters?

I carry a jacket in the back seat of my car from April till October because our theaters and restaurants tend to get colder as the temperature in the parking lot rises. This is because the thermostats in the theaters are set by the people cooking the popcorn, while the temperatures in the restaurants are controlled by chefs sweating over a bubbling cauldron. The waiter tells you the soup of the day and the wind chill factor. Mark Twain once noted that the coldest winter he ever spent was one summer in San Francisco. He might have written that about Houston.

Besides our heat, every now and again we have some moisture in the air. During the summer, Houston?s average low is 71 degrees, the average high is 91 degrees, and the average humidity is 120 percent. Houston is the only city in America where you really can grow moss on a rolling stone and tie a knot in a Frito. Yet it is only fair to compare. Having experienced both, I will take an August afternoon in Houston over a January morning in Manhattan any time. (Like they say, you don?t have to shovel heat.) Come to think of it, Manhattan is an island at sea level, and an August afternoon there isn?t much fun either, especially when they?ve never heard of air conditioning.

Which brings us to the a/c. It has been noted that Houston is the most air-conditioned city in the world. There is no way to quantify that fact, but we have 50 Yellow Pages listings under ?air conditioning,? while churches have 20. There has long been an urban legend that the British Foreign Office considered Houston a hardship post for its diplomats stationed here. This is not quite accurate. We were not a hardship post, but, because of our weather, three years here counted as four years towards retirement. I once broached this subject with the British counsel at the time, and he said, ?I wrote back to White Hall, ?My God, haven?t you people ever heard of air conditioning??? So that perk was dropped.

ýo be honest, we do have our limp hair days. But we must look at the bright side, as Andersen told Enron. Dermatologists say our humidity is good for the skin. That is why we have nine super large humidifiers strategically placed around town to pump moisture into the air. We also have some rain, but most of the time it is only heavy dew, like Allison. Houston is a great town at low tide. Remember that only in Houston do Realtors use glass bottom boats. And we must also remember that a good flood every now and again cuts down on the crop of roaches. Do not attempt to defend our hot flashes. When visitors and new arrivals ask, ?How do you stand your summers?? explain that we don?t. We go from our air-conditioned house to our car with a/c on to the cooled-down office building to the frozen tennis court then to the Arctic baseball park. Advise them to take along a sweater. Also explain that a city ordinance requires all newcomers to put in swimming pools. You don?t want a pool yourself. They are trouble and expensive. What you want is for your neighbors to have a pool you can use.

Finally, remain humble when speaking to others about our weather. To win them over, it ain?t the heat, it?s the humility. ih

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