The Year of Living Anxiously

Are We Having Fun Yet? Or is it just the jangly buzz of advanced urban stress syndrome?

Those Pesky City Contracts
The lucrative briar patch of city contracts was especially thorny for public figures -- whether they accepted contracts themselves or were perceived to have influenced the process. Among the Houstonians who may think twice (but don't count on it) before jumping in again are fire Chief Eddie Corral; port commissioner Betti Maldonado; school trustee Paula Arnold; state Representative Ron Wilson; former city attorney Ben Hall; Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz; and Councilwoman Martha Wong.

Really Weird Auctions
The long-ago thrills of the John Connally bankruptcy auction seem eminently tasteful compared to the circus-like sell-off of Teresa Rodriguez's gilded-and-glittered worldly goods, which she obtained through an investment scheme that allegedly bilked scores of prominent Houstonians. No less eyebrow-raising was the sale of the late Jewell Diane "Lady" Walker's flamboyant wardrobe (envied by no less a clotheshorse than Liberace), which she obtained through the largesse of sugar daddy supreme J. Howard Marshall.


* The federal Department of Transportation ruled that union-buster Frank Lorenzo, who drove Eastern Airlines out of business and Continental to the brink, was unfit to run a new airline.

* After city officials proposed an ordinance to control rates on police-ordered towings, Houston wrecker drivers staged a City Hall park-in to fight for their right to gouge the public.

* Channel 13's mad-dog investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino revealed why goldfish are his pets of choice: "Fish are perfect. They don't bark ... or need walking. If you don't feed them for a few days, they can eat each other."

* The Better Business Bureau kicked out Gallery Furniture's "Mattress Mac" McIngvale for badmouthing competitors through deceptive in-store displays and running an ad for a "solid oak" entertainment center that had plywood shelves and sides. "We didn't say it was solid oak all the way through," said McIngvale.

* Federal marshals and customs agents raided discount stores along Harwin Drive's mind-boggling cut-rate strip, hauling off truckloads of counterfeit Chanel jackets, Mighty Morphin Power Ranger toys, Dooney & Burke handbags, Rolex watches and much, much more.

* Marvin Zindler's wife disclosed that the overwrought Channel 13 consumer reporter tracks birdseed through the house and leaves his socks everywhere.

* Police Chief Sam Nuchia, after the standard initial denials that anything was amiss, conceded that a wild-and-woolly police chase that led from Houston to Huntsville had involved not three, but up to 30 squad cars.

* Julie Farb, the L.A. Realtor who was twice married to and divorced from Harold Farb, celebrated the birth of twins delivered by a surrogate mother and named the girl Kelli, after the daughter of Houston chums Vince and Mary K. Kickerillo. The eggs were Julie's; no word on the provenance of the sperm.

* Whitney Neuhaus-Broach, the woman who advertised her "Womb for Rent" on a Houston billboard last fall, was arrested when she failed to show up in New Orleans for her trial on mail fraud and money-laundering charges.

* The Center for Science in the Public Interest announced that most Mexican-restaurant dishes load diners with a full day's fat and salt at a single sitting. Sample stat: beef and cheese nachos with sour cream and guacamole equal 1,362 calories, 89 grams of fat and 2,426 grams of sodium.

* Any lingering doubt that golf addles the brain was dispelled by news that 1) Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole spent up to $43,000 in campaign funds on golf-related expenses including clubs, clothing, greens fees and memberships; 2) county Criminal Court Judge Jim Barkley, who used to operate a golf boutique out of his chambers, has spent thousands in campaign funds on golf dues; and 3) Lake Jackson officials had to be dissuaded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from building a golf course in the middle of rare mature bottomland forest near protected wetlands.

Houstonians have won a certain reputation in Texas for our, um, unfettered revels, and 1994 showed why. Sure, it was hard to top last year's benefit at which a noted plastic surgeon and an Oilers place-kicker used a silicon breast implant as a football -- now that's entertainment! -- but from the ineffably titled "Mystique d'Elegance" ball to the society bingo party at Anthony's restaurant, our fellow citizens gave it their all.

Next Year They'll Just Have A Whooping Crane Shoot
The warden at Sugar Land's Jester prison unit canceled a "Live Celebrity Slave Auction" fundraiser after prison employees and state Representative Ron Wilson protested.

Too Bad, Because The Door Prize Was A Date With Kato Kaelin
On the Richmond strip, Peter's Wildlife canceled plans for an O.J. Simpson-themed "Slash N' Dash" soiree -- complete with Simpson masks, free valet parking for Ford Broncos and a gift certificate for a hunting knife -- after women's and victims' rights groups objected.

Gee, You Don't Act A Day Older
The Texas City High School Class of 1975 ended up in court when feuding classmates couldn't agree on which hotel to use for their 20th reunion or whether to hire professional party planners with $2,800 left over from their 10th reunion.

After All, They've Got Rhythm
At the annual Star Serve celebrity waiter dinner, pajama-clad partiers challenged four prominent African-Americans taking part -- Rodney Ellis, El Franco Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee and Judge John Peavy -- to raise charity dollars by singing James Brown's "I Feel Good."

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