The Year of Living Anxiously

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

From the bouncing Bud Dome -- first here, then there, then nowhere -- to October's Great Flood and Biblical Ship Channel fire, 1994 yielded exciting new sources of anxiety. Rabid bats were sighted in The Woodlands. NASA scientists discovered the existence of an insatiable black hole. We confronted the awful prospect of new city area codes and $3-an-hour parking meters. We faced a political future saddled with los dos dorky Steves -- Mansfield and Stockman. When we weren't worrying about the bad guys (as in teens toting guns) we were worrying about the good guys (as in cops ripping into high-speed chases). Even the staid 'burb of Southside Place had their constabulary running amok. What could go wrong next?

Plenty. Bad pennies we'd forgotten about for years turned up: former Oilers general manager Ladd Herzeg, in hiding since a court awarded his ex-lover $100,000-plus in child support, phoned home to say he wasn't a deadbeat dad. And President's First Lady founder Richard Minns -- on the run from either (he says) bad publicity or (she says) a judgment won by a former lover paralyzed in a botched hit attempt -- landed in our downtown jail after being nabbed on passport fraud charges during a plane stopover in Dallas. The Minns case put federal Judge Lynn Hughes in a famously bad temper. But then, tempers wore thin at our courthouses in general, where a move to let crime victims have their say resulted in courtroom scream therapy and the Republican tide that swept away dozens of sitting judges left fear and loathing in its wake.

Small wonder that a civic identity crisis seemed constantly brewing. Were we MVP City or the Execution Capital of the Western World? Could we fight back the barely suppressed hysteria engendered by the demise of Tony's restaurant and the news that our beloved Tex-Mex food was even worse for us than we'd always suspected? More to the point, could we recover from the emotional roller coaster of Rockets Manic Depression? In the wake of the famous "Choke City" headlines, it was as if the city believed its fate was inextricably linked to that of its athletic teams, and doomed, like them, to labor under the curse of last-second disappointments. Then came the Rockets' revival, complete with florid resurrection imagery, and suddenly it was "NBA Title Leaves City All Aglow," and our 19th nervous breakdown evaporated in a feel-good haze.

In the end, when we're lying on the couch picking over the carcass of '94, we'll no doubt discover what Houstonians always do -- that we were having fun, albeit in our own peculiar way.

By Alison Cook

YOUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK

If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You A Congressman?
When asked why Sheila Jackson Lee trounced him so handily in the Democratic primary, then-U. S. Representative Craig Washington snapped, "Ask me a more intelligent question. I have an IQ of 200."

He Would Have Voted, But He Was Too Busy Thinking Lame-duck
Craig Washington missed so many U.S. House votes after his primary defeat that when he finally deigned to appear, the Houston Post headlined: "Rep. Washington shows up for vote."

Le Boss, C'est Moi
Harris County District Clerk Katherine Tyra, who requires those on her payroll to resign if they run for office, herself ran for county judge this spring -- without resigning. Said Tyra, "It is just a decision that I made."

Chicken Coop Seeks Fox
At the behest of state Senator (and firemen's fund lobbyist) John Whitmire, the fire department hired Gene Mooney -- a parolee whose rap sheet includes theft, burglary, auto theft and drug possession -- to handle $5.8 million in paychecks, plus thousands of bucks daily in travel and expense checks.

And Mattress Mac Will Be Our Next Senator
When a fire department personnel worker fired parolee Mooney on his first day for failing to disclose his eight felony convictions, assistant chief Dennis Holder warned the hatchet person to "watch out, because Senator Whitmire is going to become mayor one day."

Year Of The Pseudo-Woman
During the Democratic primary, Lynn Thrower, a male judicial hopeful, campaigned against opponent Dinah Bailey with hot pink yard signs.

The Cows Are Considering A Class Action Suit
At one of Spring Valley's City Council meetings, semi-professional mayoral hecklers forsook their usual booing and hissing for the pleasure of mooing like cows.

Candy-Apple Red They Could Have Lived With
Citing a junk-car nuisance ordinance, Baytown officials threatened to tow off a 1975 Mustang that Martha Barnett had painted iridescent purple and filled with flowers to draw attention to her body shop.

Unclear On The Concept
County Commissioner El Franco Lee urged a written code of ethics for county employees, then got his commissioner colleagues to hire Mayor, Day, Caldwell & Keeton -- the prominent law firm that has contributed to his political campaigns for 15 years -- to help with the project.

The Joy Of Self-Interest
A committee appointed by Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Charlton disqualified a potential Charlton opponent for using the term "party chair" instead of "county chair" on his application. Charlton then refused to reveal the names of the helpful committee members.

Next Time He'll Run As "Law And Order" Eide
Republican businessman and failed congressional candidate Harold Eide got himself listed on the ballot as Harold (Oilman) Eide.

But He Doesn't Do Windows
Republican County Commissioner Steve Radack was caught red-handed by Channel 11 news cameras ripping down the campaign signs of the Democratic candidate for county judge, Vince Ryan. Ryan labeled Radack a "whacked out whacker"; Radack said he was just keeping the public right of way clean.

Standards Are Standards
Lake Jackson's City Council -- facing a shortage of the plant-and-flower names for which the community's streets traditionally are named -- nevertheless ruled that adjectives to describe the flora would not be allowed. Okay: Oak. Not okay: Bending Oaks, River Oak, Harvard Oak.

Creative Resume Writing 101
Newly elected court of criminal appeals Judge Steve Mansfield and U.S. Congressman Steve Stockman proved once again that Houston is the home of the self-made man -- the more self-made the better, as Mansfield managed to redefine almost everything about himself during his campaign, from his state of birth to his legal experience, and Stockman embroidered both his credentials and his outsider status in defeating Democratic warhorse Jack Brooks.

l994 DUD-O-RAMA

* Oilers owner Bud Adams wanted it, but scarcely anyone else did: a $235 million downtown sports dome that would have required $150 million in taxpayer support. Adams said he'd pick up his toys and play elsewhere if Houston wouldn't go along; perhaps the Oilers' abysmal season is his reward.

* Morticians Brian Dooley and Virginia Lynch asked Commissioners Court to create a morgue gift store selling personalized toe tags, beach towels adorned with chalk body outlines, coffee mugs, T-shirts and related morgue memorabilia.

* Galveston's foundering Star of Texas gambling ship finally sailed into the sunset, leaving behind $140,000 in unpaid dockage fees and disgruntled Filipino crewmen who claimed the ship's owners wouldn't send them back home as promised.

* Metro's 100-plus Hungarian-made Ikarus buses proved unequal to the Houston heat and spent most of their time in the shop. (Maybe the name was a clue.)

* After three days, space shuttle astronauts gave up on releasing U of H's Wake Shield Facility satellite, designed to create an ultra-pure vacuum, which clung to the shuttle arm instead of floating free.

* Former Secretary of State James Baker kept his presidential trial balloons in the air -- even when it meant publicly endorsing Oliver North's Virginia Senate ambitions.

* All the hype and cappuccino and picture hats in the world couldn't save the Sam Houston Race Park from having to cut purses drastically and pare the race schedule when attendance and wagering lagged far behind projections, causing a $5 million loss during one three-month period. Even Mayor Bob doesn't want to annex it anymore.

* On October 25, to much fanfare, KIKK/ 95.7 FM disc jockey Country Jones ascended the roof of the Texas Longhorn Saloon and vowed to remain there until the Oilers won a game; only a month later he disgraced his profession by quietly slipping down to spend Thanksgiving with his family.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

Next Comes The Lovely Barbed Wire Topiary
The city of Pasadena abandoned a 12-block beautification project when thieves abducted half the new hibiscus plants. City fathers announced plans to replace them with cacti.

Pinata-Man, Spare That Tree
Park police ordered Easter Sunday picnickers to remove their volleyball nets and pinatas from city park trees, citing an obscure tree-abuse rule.

There's No Emergency Like A Dental Emergency
A 42-year-old Pasadena woman dialed 911 to report that her estranged husband was holding her top denture hostage until she agreed to drop divorce proceedings.

Laundering Done Here
Vice officers shut down a $13 million bookmaking enterprise -- the biggest in Houston's history -- that was operating out of the Best Auto Wash on Richmond.

Scoot Camp
Harris County's sieve-like new juvenile boot camp had to be abandoned for more secure quarters after ten boys escaped over its 10-foot barbed wire fence -- five of them just days after the camp had opened.

O Ye Of Little Aptitude
Eight Kingwood teenagers were arrested when a videotape they had made of themselves burning a home air conditioner and blowing up mailboxes fell into the hands of a constable.

What Large Pills You Have, Grandma
For the second time in six years, 82-year-old "Big Mama" Sally Evans Hubbard -- who has 72 grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- was delivered to jail in a wheelchair for selling marijuana and tranquilizers out of her Heights-area home.

The Case For Enchiladas
After fixing corned beef and cabbage for dinner, 30-year-old Bryant Ballentine was stabbed to death in a quarrel with his older brother, who complained the meal was too bland.

With Friends Like These...
After quadriplegic HPD officer Bill Storrs filed an EEOC complaint because he couldn't use the northeast substation bathrooms, Police Chief Sam Nuchia transferred him to the southeast station -- where his commute was 30 minutes longer and he had to be helped through five doors instead of one to get to his desk. A spokesman said Nuchia was just trying to help Storrs out.

Get Out Of Jail Free -- Hell, Make That At A Profit
At the HPD's new Southeast Command Center, nicknamed "The Emerald Palace," a man was robbed on the front plaza by a miscreant who had just been released from the center's jail.

No, "N" Is For Numskull
When a black Houston musician asked an HPD officer why he'd written "N" in the box reserved for race on her speeding ticket, she was told that it stood for "Negro."

Even Snakes Don't Like To Be Used
A Houston man trying to sell two rattlesnakes to a Pasadena pet shop owner fled the store with seven boa constrictors and pythons. When the hotly pursuing owner whacked the snake thief's truck with his van, the snakenapper was bitten by his own rattler.

What Was That "N" For Again?
Baytown police called to the San Jacinto Mall at 11 p.m. found two teenagers dressed in head-to-toe ninja regalia -- including samurai swords and throwing stars. The pair had stolen the martial arts gear at Lam's before loading shopping bags with $80,000 of Sears loot.

The Airbag Did It
State District Judge Richard Bianchi's lawyer insisted the reason the judge failed sobriety tests at the scene of a one-car accident -- dropping letters of the alphabet, not to mention registering .11 and .12 on the breathalyzer -- was that his airbag had knocked him silly when he hit the guardrail.

He Was Only In It For The Coffee
When cop groupie Timmie Griffin, who used a fake badge to arrest and then rob victims, was busted by the real police, they found among his possessions two convenience-store coffee cups that cops use for free refills.

Snoop Doggy Dogg Calling For Mr. Jackson
Seventeen-year-old Waymond Jackson, wanted for the slaying of a Houston convenience store clerk, was lying on the floor composing lyrics to a rap song that began, "On the run ... got to strap with that gun," when Eagle Lake police broke in and arrested him.

But Mr. Dogg Passed On The Rap Song
The FBI was called in to investigate the disappearance of a million catfish fingerlings -- worth about $100,000 -- from the spawning ponds of a Houston aquaculture company.

QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN DAVE

Mayor Bob's diminutive co-chief of staff Dave Walden is a hatchet man of rare verbal style: he's smart, quick and -- most important in the manufacture of memorable sound bites -- mean (even Lanier concedes that "the warm milk of human kindness runs gently through his veins"). He's the kind of guy who dotes on the movie Apocalypse Now, and when favorite target George Greanias, the city controller, predicts that an issue may blow up in the administration's face, Walden is apt to deadpan, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." A warm-and-fuzzy 1994 Walden sampler:

* On a rumored federal post for vanquished Lanier opponent Kathy Whitmire: "It's like me getting sent out to be center on an NBA basketball team."

* On Lloyd Kelley, the loose-lipped new councilman: "Lloyd came waltzing in and thought he'd be the new leader on City Council but ended up dancing by himself. He wants to do the twist, but everyone else is doing the funky chicken."

* On Greanias' criticism of city attorney Benjamin Hall: "George is so unfamiliar with the law. If you want to hide something from him, you put it in the law book or the Bible."

* On Greanias' various efforts to confound Lanier and company: "George is here so little doing his job that he has the smallest grease spot in the city hall parking garage."

FASHIONS OF '94

If They Wore The Organza, They Would Have Been Recognized
Uniformed HPD officers donned ski masks for July raids on several local gay bars.

Elyse, If You're Looking For A Downtown Theme For Spring...
For Valentine's Day, Macy's ran an ad for boxer shorts embellished with large, shine-in-the-dark bananas and the legend, "Is your underwear glowing or are you happy to see me?"

Or Maybe She Can Just Go With The Hakeem Line
Hakeem Olajuwon guested on the David Letterman show clad in a radioactive-yellow blazer and luau-style shirt from his new line of clothing, "Dream Wear."

Preventive Dressing, Part 1
Sam Houston High School required students to wear see-through backpacks made of clear plastic, the better to determine whether contraband weaponry was inside.

Preventive Dressing, Part 2
The Deer Park school district issued silent panic beepers to teachers posted to classrooms in outlying buildings or at the end of long hallways.

First Spandex Bike Shorts, Now This
The city's two police unions spatted over the propriety of a fundraising calendar for which local models posed cheesecake-style in skimpy mock-cop uniforms -- including hot pants and a bra with a gold badge attached.

Oh! We Thought That Was Horse Asses
In honor of the new race track, Houston florist Scherry Lindley created blooming "horsages" in jockey colors.

Ready, Set, Totter
Superstar photographer Annie Leibovitz shot a Pirelli tire ad featuring Houston sprinter Carl Lewis posed in a racing start position -- wearing a tank suit and spike heels.

He Drew The Line At A Wonderbra
KTRK/Channel 13 anchorman Dave Ward appeared at the Houston Chronicle's Best-Dressed List luncheon wearing high heels, red sequined gown, boa, lipstick and wig.

I Pledge To You My Holy Trout
At model Marilyn Smith's wedding to Hakeem Olajuwon's brother, Akinola, the bridesmaids wore black veils and black gowns with fishtails.

The Look That Says, "Arrest Me"
Clad in Looney Tunes shorts and a Charles Manson T-shirt, Mike Starr -- founding member of the Seattle grunge band Alice in Chains -- was nabbed at Intercontinental Airport for stealing a suitcase. Next fashion statement: a Harris County jail jumpsuit.

The Look That Says, "Convict Me"
The high school nickname that Tyrone Jerrols acquired for wearing a trench coat every day -- "Hitman" -- followed him into court, where he was tried and convicted for murdering one of his drug customers.

Or Maybe It's That Banana Thing
The Houston Astros finally ditched those cheesy orange-and-yellow stripes and started looking like a real baseball team in gray, white and midnight blue -- right down to skintight nylon stirrup pants that showed visible panty lines.

Don't Hold That Line
It was revealed that among the University of Houston's past athletic infractions, silicone spray was applied to football uniforms to make players more slippery.

Paul Bunyan Is Spinning In His Grave
A La Marque nuclear family -- mom, pop and stepdaughter -- were denied entrance to a Mall of the Mainland video arcade because they were wearing flannel shirts, which the security officer on duty deemed gang-related apparel.

DEEP THOUGHTS

* Police chief Sam Nuchia, explaining why he changed the wording of a Public Integrity Review Group letter to say that certain witnesses had been interviewed for an ethics probe, when in fact they had not: "I can't tell you why I did that. It's not accurate. It's not incorrect, but it's not accurate. To tell you the honest truth, I don't know what I was thinking when I did that."

* Unsuccessful congressional candidate Beverley Clark, after hounding opponent Ken Bentsen to take a drug test, declared that "if they were to wake me up at

2 o'clock at night and ask me to take a drug test, I would say, sleepily, 'OK, pass me a urine cup.'"

* KRBE/104 FM disc jockey Psycho Robbie on his continuing "Cool Feelings" shtick: "Everybody understands that cool feelings aren't cool feelings, but they're cool feelings -- if you understand that. Kind of like when you say, "that's pretty bad," it's not bad."

* After selling one of the Inner Loop's last remaining undeveloped land tracts for a fancy new shopping center at Holcombe and Buffalo Speedway, Betty Ann West Stedman reminisced that her late father, Wesley West, "always said when he died the Bellaire property would go to heaven with him. The day he died, I just had to look up and be sure it wasn't going to heaven with him, trailing behind like a kite."

* Boutique owner Carrie Schindewolf, wife of Mayor Lanier's co-chief of staff, said she was qualified for an appointive position on the influential planning & zoning commission "because I'm me."

* Languishing in Salt Lake City during the Rockets' NBA playoffs with the Jazz, the Rockets' Vernon Maxwell opined, "Nothing against the city [sic] of Utah, but there is no way any of us wants to go back .... That's the most boring place in the world, if you ask me." Added Mario Elie: "It's like being in Pittsfield, Mass. I think they've only got one mall in Salt Lake, and the stuff they sell isn't exactly to my taste."

FUN COUPLES
In a year when Houston's Marryin' Man, Harold Farb, got back together -- again! -- with Diane Lokey, ex-wife number four, anything could happen. And it did.

Sam Cassell & Madonna
Fresh from his Madison Square Garden exploits, the Rockets' egg-headed shootist got collected by the omnivorous Herself, who accompanied him to a Rangers' hockey game and the nightspot Rouge -- not wearing her John Starks Knicks' jersey.

Robert Horry & Tiffani Dawn Murphy
All in the family: the daughter of former Houston Rockets' star Calvin Murphy sued current Houston Rockets' star Horry for paternity of her infant son.

J. Howard Marshall & Anna Nicole Smith
When Houston does May-December, we do it big. As in excessively geriatric oilman Marshall, one of America's richest men, and Guess? Jeans poster girl Anna Nicole Smith, owner of two of America' s largest man-made breasts. Their improbable nuptials at the White Dove wedding chapel launched an international media blitz that improved Houston's economy, if not its image.

Robert Eckels & Jet Winkley
Bob & Elyse Jr.? The city's latest power couple teams the newly elected Republican county judge with Metro's director of governmental affairs. And they're mediagenic, too.

Michele Collins & Kenneth Smith
These two HPD cops ended a quarrelsome dinner date with an exchange of gunfire, sending Smith to Ben Taub for emergency abdominal surgery.

Ben Reyes & Marc Campos
Ain't love... er, expediency... grand? After feuding noisily for eons, the city councilman and the consultant finally wound up on the same side of the political bed during Reyes' failed bid for Gene Green's congressional seat.

State Representative Glenn & Helen Vickery
Nastiest divorce of the year honors go to the local pol who convinced his wife that because of a malpractice suit against him, they had to split to protect their assets. Actually he wanted to marry her best friend. Her court award: $9 million.

David B. Chalmers & Marlene Kent Cooke
Whoops! Jack Kent Cooke, the excessively geriatric billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins, suddenly claimed that his Bolivian-born wife had never been legally divorced from Chalmers, the low-profile president of Houston's Coral Petroleum. Perhaps Cooke's change of heart had something to do with the episode in which Marlene hurtled through Georgetown with a man pounding on the hood of her Jaguar and later threw a gold shoe at an arresting officer.

Gail Gross & The Dalai Lama
Richard Gere has nothing on the Houston beauty-book authoress who attended a New York symposium with His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso and took in his niece as a houseguest while sending her to the University of Houston.

PHENOMENA

The Hurwitz Trajectory
The new year began famously for the mayor's First Friend, who holidayed with the Laniers in Vegas, then won the mayor's nod to build a possible downtown casino. Next came the debut of the opulent $84 million race track developed by Hurwitz's Maxxam Inc. -- and a flood of hype hailing him as an economic savior and a latter-day prince. Oops -- soon the race track was wallowing in red ink, the downtown casino plan was on life support, Maxxam's lumber division was drawing increased fire for chopping down California redwoods and Prince Hurwitz was looking suspiciously froglike

Toxic Sea Creatures
Memo to the gals planning next year's "An Evening with King Neptune" charity gala: think again. '94 featured the usual oyster scares, plus alarms about dioxin-laden Ship Channel crabs, Lake Livingston fish and almost a ton of finny creatures killed by Dow Chemical's discharge of hazardous chemicals into the Brazos River. Icing on the aquatic cake: marauding jellyfish inflicted over 1,000 stings to Galveston beachgoers over Memorial Day.

Casino Madness
Tt was brief and giddy and semi-surreal: this spring, half of Houston -- from financier Charles Hurwitz to the Taub family to Mattress Mac -- was scrambling madly for position in the Great Casino Race, with pols and lobbyists aplenty cashing in on the push to legalize gambling. But by late fall, after legal setbacks and conspicuous lack of action on Hurwitz's proposed downtown casino site, half of Houston -- from City Council to Mayor Bob -- was scurrying to distance itself from the gaming issue.

Trunk Wrapping
Something there is that compels Houstonians to gird their tree trunks with jillions of tiny lights come the holiday season, a practice which has now spread from the public corridors (Highland Village, the park at City Hall) to the nabes, cloaking the city in what naysayers label "electrified stumps" and "trees wearing support hose."

Poison Clouds
Let us count the ways in which toxic shrouds of vapor snaked through our beleaguered, petrochemicalized realm: a Texas City cloud of ammonia gas sent more than 1,200 people to the hospital; a sulfuric acid and sulfur dioxide cloud escaped from Crosby's Elf Atochem plant; a nitrogen tetroxide leak at NASA caused respiratory problems for 46 workers; a persistent fire at a Baytown tire recycling plant (its third in eight years) spewed forth carbon monoxide and particulate matter; and a mysterious cloud perfumed with mercaptan, the natural-gas flag, brightened the holiday season for an entire day in much of the city.

Surrendering To The Inevitable
Maybe it was the Zeitgeist; maybe it was self-preservation. Whatever. The holier-than-thou Randall's grocery chain announced that after 28 teetotaling years, it would lift its ban on selling beer and wine, and the Astrodome -- after a 29-year holdout -- agreed to allow fans to tailgate in the parking lot.

The Mac Factor
What does Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale want? The excitable Gallery Furniture huckster spent the year trying to get it: hosting the warm-fuzzy Astrodome homecoming party for the Rockets; buying out Oilers' stadium tickets so TV viewers could see their team up close and losing at home; giving lavishly to charity; emceeing galas; throwing press luncheons for Bela Karolyi's gymnasts. Do we love him yet?

Ethnic Cleansing
No way around the fact that this is precisely what happened to Harris County's various courthouses in November's Republican sweep. Every minority judicial candidate who had an opponent lost.

River Oaks Concrete Creep
Don't look now, but neo-New-Brutalism is threatening to invade Houston's least minimal neighborhood. In the newly hot Baja River Oaks real-estate territory bounded by Kirby, San Felipe, Shepherd and Westheimer, defense lawyer Mike DeGeurin built a concrete mansion some call "Fort DeGeurin," while a few streets away, heiress Olive Neuhaus moved into a stucco-and-cinder-block tower on a block that also boasts a concrete box by architect Carlos Jimenez. Are Lynn and Oscar next?

The Allen Syndrome
Not since the Allen Brothers worked their seminal real-estate scam has a Houstonian confounded the public interest as efficiently as Vinson & Elkins lawyer Joe B. Allen. The Lanier buddy and lobbyist supreme got City Council to roll over and play dead by A) giving Sanus Health Plan Inc. a fat city contract despite employee groups' protests and notoriously low customer-satisfaction ratings; and B) refusing to annex three industrial plants that would have added millions to city revenues.

Post Oak Arches
Love 'em or hate 'em (it's hard to be neutral), the stainless-steel arches now spanning Post Oak are impossible to ignore -- especially in concert with those shiny silver Big Bird light fixtures and those shiny silver Christmas-tree skirts.

Oilers Jokes
With local sportswriters calling the shoulda-been-contenders "national laughingstocks" for plummeting toward the NFL's worst-ever losing streak, lampoons of our poor, pitiable pigskinners were inevitable. Most popular: "Have you heard the O.J. Simpson trial is being moved to Houston? They want to get it as far away as possible from professional football."

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.

SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED

* 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.

REGRETS ONLY
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."

Sound Smart Or Bust
The U of H Honors College threw a benefit dinner dubbed "The Great Conversation" at which professors, deans and administrators led guests at 40 tables in such discussions as "Fear of Physics" and "The History of Horror: from Dracula to Lorena Bobbitt."

Tony Vallone Was Home With A Headache That Night
Several Houston couples took over Anthony's restaurant for a private party at which 120 guests were entertained by female impersonators vamping as Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, Cher, Patsy Cline and Reba McEntire.

There's A Reason They Call It The Bounding Main
Stiff winds during the Lakewood Yacht Club's festive Harvest Moon Regatta drove five sailboats aground between Clear Lake and Corpus Christi; the Coast Guard had to tow in two more damaged boats and rescue five skippers who had lost their bearings.

If You're Black, Get Back
After the Rockets won the NBA championship, and while celebrants poured onto Richmond Avenue, police cars cruised black neighborhoods on the other side of town broadcasting the message "Stay out of the street! Stay out of the street!"

Don't Invitems
Comedian Jerry Lewis grew surly at Tony Vallone's Grotto when he couldn't get a table at a distance from other diners; early-to-bedder Bob Lanier turned down President Clinton's offer of a personal Oval Office tour, telling the leader of the free world, "I don't do tours at midnight"; and imperious visiting jeweler Nicola Bulgari declined to glad-hand the socialites who turned out to celebrate his store's grand opening at the Ritz-Carlton, irking potential clients.

QUIEN ES MAS MACHO?
As usual, the pretenders were many for membership in the city's popular testosterone club, but they couldn't lay a glove on the real paragon of local manliness: 45-year old George Foreman, whose comeback heavyweight title bout gave hope to broken-down baby boomers everywhere.

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Names Really Piss Me Off
Visiting state District Judge Jon Hughes stepped off the bench to punch out attorney Joseph Rumbaut after the two called each other liars in open court.

They're Great Wrapped In Bacon And Barbecued
During a manly dove-hunting photo op on the Hockley prairie northwest of Houston, gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush mistakenly murdered a killdeer.

Then They Both Went To The 20th Reunion Of Texas City High School's Class of 1975

During an Oilers/New York Jets game shown on national TV, then-Oilers defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan screamed that a play by his nemesis, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, was "a high school call" and proceeded to punch Gilbride out.

All That Free Coffee Takes Its Toll
Four Houston cops grew irritated when All-Star Florida Marlins baseball player Gary Sheffield banged against their International House of Pancakes booth. A struggle ensued, but charges against Sheffield (the latest in a series of dustups between Houston police and star athletes) were dropped.

She Had A Mean Right Fingernail
Houston Oilers linebacker Lamar Lathon pleaded no contest to choking a topless dancer at a local club. "I pushed her off of me when she attacked me," complained the 6-foot-4-inch, 240-pound Lathon, insisting that the dancer verbally abused him.

And Then He Showed Her His Glorious Gap-Toothed Smile
An Amarillo dancer said that Roy Stuart, suspected in a string of rapes and murders between West Texas and Houston, asked her for a date after splitting a cricket lengthwise with his pocketknife and squeezing its blood onto the table.

Have Gun, Will Whine
The Rockets' Vernon Maxwell, unsated by two previous arrests for altercations at Richmond Avenue bars, was fined $1,500 for carrying a handgun after a motorist complained someone in Maxwell's Porsche had waved a pistol at him in a cafeteria parking lot. Could it be the same someone -- in a sports car with Maxwell's license plate -- who fired a gun in the air after cutting off another area motorist? Maxwell said he was being harassed because, "I'm a black man making a lot of money in Texas."

OFFICIAL 1994 READING LIST

* Barbara Bush, A Memoir, by Barbara Bush: Our famously white-haired and stout ex-first lady tried to wrest the writerly reins away from Millie, with mixed success. She evidenced a marvelous memory for everyone who had ever supped at the Bush White House, even if the readers had to wonder who she was effusively thanking. And she also evidenced a curious bathroom fixation, pointing out that while she and Poppy lived in China their toilet had "The Victory" written in English on its side; noting that "we all remember the grim and minute details of Jimmy Carter's hemorrhoid operation"; and recounting a talk about the Kurds and the Turks with Danielle Mitterand in which she worried she would ask the French president's wife to "tell me more about the Turds."

* Done In Oil: An Autobiography, by J. Howard Marshall: Everybody's favorite bridegroom recounts his oil field triumphs (but not, alas, his amours with the late Houston stripper Lady Walker and his latest sugar baby, ex-stripper Anna Nicole).

* Dangerous Games, by Robert Bentley: The saga of transsexual and would-be Harris County Democratic chair Leslie Perez, who as a male transvestite prostitute shot a man during a three-way sexual tryst, went to prison, escaped from a mental institution, was caught while playing Bobo the Clown in a carnival, did more time, adopted the name "Perez" from a prison lover, had a sex change operation and ran for party office in the guise of a Hispanic woman.

* Ode to Harris County Jail, by Richard Minns: The heartfelt outpourings of the ex-health-spa tycoon as he languished in the county clink awaiting his trial on passport-fraud charges. A highlight from the 76-line opus: "The roaches play in my cell night and day / Though I loathe their company. / The walls are gray, there's no night or day / And only the roaches are free."

* The Cheerleader's Guide to Life, by Cindy Villareal: The director of the Derrick Dolls and former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader wrote this perky how-to tome -- including a helpful chapter called "Life after Cheerleading" -- hoping to rehabilitate cheering's image in the post Wanda Holloway era.

* Bonna Comes to America, by Francie Willis: The socialite and owner of the Urban Retreat beauty salon recounts the misadventures of a plucky Vietnamese potbellied boat pig.

THOSE INGENIOUS HOUSTONIANS

Mattress Mac Has Already Bought Space
Houston bullfighter Kirk Farrell devised a controversial plan to sell space for advertisers' logos among the pearled designs on his matador's suit of lights.

Menu: Flying Fish & Jumping Beans Seasoned With Loco Weed
Lexie Masterson, of the prominent River Oaks clan, worked on a pilot for a TV food show that would feature her parachuting from a plane and picnicking on the way down.

They Ran Out Of Elmer's
NASA confirmed that one of its contractors had used super glue as a bonding agent on a critical space shuttle part.

Tastes Great, Less Filling
The outmanned, outspent Houston Post made lemonade out of its anemic condition with an ad campaign that touted its brevity as a time-saver for busy Houstonians. Quoth the ads: "It's the only Houston paper that gives you what you want -- without wasting your time."

Jean-Paul Sartre Couldn't Have Said It Better
Houston singer Mickey Cohen developed a patented anti-auto-theft device that thrusts the driver's seat under the dashboard, explaining, "My motto is, if you can't sit in a car, you can't steal a car."

A Winning Ticket In Every Pot
The feisty La Politquera newsletter tried to boost voter turnout in an obscure HISD trustee election by conducting a $500 lottery for participants.

But George W. Says It Works Great For Killdeer
A 71-year-old Houston man and his two sons were convicted of manufacturing barbecue pits from 55-gallon drums that had contained toxic chemicals.

They Forgot The Donkey Food For Themselves
Richmond State School employees bought Hot-Shot Power Mites -- hand-held cattle prods sold at feed stores -- to use on their mentally retarded residents.

She'll Never Run Out Of Material
A Houston woman appeared on a cable channel displaying tiny vignettes she assembled from roach carcasses.

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE LAW

Let Them Eat Exhaust
Blue-chip downtown firm Fulbright & Jaworski proposed to cooperate with federal employer mandates to reduce vehicle usage by sending fax-and-computer-equipped limos to pick up top lawyers at home.

Let Them Eat Punitive Damages
Lordly downtown firm Vinson & Elkins got nailed with the biggest legal malpractice verdict in Texas history -- $35 million in actual and punitive damages, plus attorney fees and interest, for mismanaging the estate of the late oilman W.T. Moran.

Memo To Ron: Just Say No
Criticized for agreeing to defend Houston's ban on alcohol in city parks for $25,000, lawyer-legislator Ron Wilson (who had torpedoed the same ban in the House) first said he'd cut his rate from $225 an hour to $175, and then, when his rates were criticized as exorbitant for a neophyte attorney, said heÕd do the work for free.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Forget About Wanda Holloway
Cheerleader lawsuits emerged as a growth industry, as a Pasadena mom sued because her daughter was kept off the high school squad for excessive detentions and a state district judge heard injunction arguments against the Pasadena school district, where a 12-year-old straight-A student was prevented from trying out because her teachers said she lacked leadership ability.

They're Taking Over The City Morgue Boutique Instead
Hakeem Olajuwon was sued by the operators of his Hakeem the Dream Fan Team club for allegedly failing to pay them for appearances the club arranged and withholding the club's share of proceeds from sales of T-shirts, hats, jerseys and coffee mugs.

From Each According To His Ability...
Lawyer Gary Miller billed accused pyramid scamster Teresa Rodriguez $225 for discussing her case with a Houston Chronicle reporter for an hour. He didn't charge anything for his conversations with the Post.

He Thought The Bow Tie Was Loaded
In the anal-retentive mini-suburb of Southside Place, officer James McBeth was accused of pummeling a motorist he'd stopped for an expired inspection sticker. The official explanation was that the motorist had appeared threatening. Unfortunately for McBeth, that motorist was a frail, 65-year-old cardiologist given to bow ties and braces.

No, But His Accountant Understands
After defending U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison against charges she abused her public office for political advantage, well-paid attorney Dick DeGuerin told a Republican group he was voting for Hutchison and said he thought his late father, a lifelong Democrat and friend of Lyndon Johnson's, would understand.

The Good News Is He's Been Retained To Help Steve Mansfield And Steve Stockman Re-Draft Their Resumes

An Arizona law school refused to grant a diploma to parolee Michael Lee Davis, who participated in the notorious 1979 murders of Houston's Wanstrath family, on the grounds that he failed to disclose he had attended South Texas College of Law years before.

Guess What He Has On His Powerbook
An attorney who kept a log of droning laser-printer noises he heard accused state District Judge Scott Brister of using his computer and printer to prepare campaign literature while he presided over a trial. Asked a day later if he had been working on his campaign while on the bench, Brister claimed not to remember.

But He Granted The "Motion To Exclude Mean Adult"
Attorney Norman Riedmuller, annoyed by the presence of opposing counsel's four-month-old, breast-fed baby during a deposition, made a "Motion to Exclude Gurgling Infant" that was denied by the judge, who said, "I wasn't going to rule against the child having breakfast."

DEPARTMENT OF LAST LAUGHS

Guaranteed to have a happy New Year:
* Warren Moon, who had the quiet pleasure of watching the playoff-caliber football team from which he was so unceremoniously dumped slide straight into the cellar. What made it even sweeter was that his new team, the Minnesota Vikings, won its division.

* Exiled coach Buddy Ryan, whose new team, the Arizona Cardinals, whomped the hapless Oilers 30-12; afterward, Ryan took a few more shots at the run-and-shoot offense he loves to hate and called the Oilers "a team that never had any discipline."

* Wayne Dolcefino, who, though reviled by many, sued by a few and considered the scariest face on local TV, wound up winning a regional Emmy.

* Socialites Snubbed By Nicola Bulgari during his Houston visit, who savored a recent New York magazine expose of allegations that the tony jeweler overcharged assorted celebrities for their gems.

In the spirit of Bob Lanier -- whose sacred mayoral mantra is "Just look at the math" -- we invite you to match the numbers of '94 with the people, places and things that spawned them. (Answers upside-down below)

____1. Number of Jehovah's Witnesses who scrubbed the Astrodome clean for the Astros' opening day.

___2. Pennzoil's nasty-surprise, IRS-adjusted tax bill for its megabucks lawsuit settlement from Texaco.

___3. Weight of the Greco-Roman frieze looming above the hottest tables at the hot new Anthony's restaurant.

___ 4. Estate-tax dollars Houston oilman John W. Mecom finally had to fork over to keep the IRS from entering his mother's River Oaks mansion and seizing her furniture.

___ 5. Dollars coughed up per vote by Gene Fontenot, the conspicuously Christian doc who poured more than $2.1 million of his own money on his futile congressional campaign.

___ 6. Bucks paid by businessman Mike Anzilotti for the one-month residential electric charges that won him "highest bill" honors in a local contest.

___ 7. Parking-fine dollars paid by state District Judge (and City Council hopeful) John W. Peavy Jr. after word leaked that he had 47 tickets outstanding on three cars.

___ 8. Number of wayward industrial barrels recovered from the San Jacinto River after October's great flood.

a.542,366
b.50
c.3,528
d.950
e.1,200
f.956,500,000
g.3,000
h.2,170

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