The Insider

Some of those who actually got a free lunch at Mos-bacher's expense didn't stick around for the candidate's announcement speech. A group of secretaries tagged with Mosbacher stickers and carrying plates of food had the effrontery to start back to work before Mosbacher took the stage.

"Remember," one alerted her co-workers as they exited the tent, "get rid of the Mosbacher stuff before we go in the office."

They must work for Bob Lanier.

Higher than a Kite?
It's a safe bet that socialite Jan Becker didn't pass on birthday greetings to Richard "Racehorse" Haynes when the legendary defense attorney turned 70 last week. A few evenings before celebrating his entry into his eighth decade, Haynes distinguished himself in Becker's eyes while taking his turn as an auctioneer for a University of Houston art student scholarship benefit at Bistro Vino. Various celebrities, including Hakeem Olajuwon, Carl Lewis and Denton Cooley, had designed kites to be auctioned off, and the normally bourbon-smooth Haynes had started to introduce Becker's creation.

According to witnesses, Haynes referred to the "gorgeous and trim" Jan Becker, and then added the qualifier, "or at least she used to be." The crowd hushed while Racehorse, whose face suddenly matched his bright red UH blazer, labored to extract his hoof from his mouth, an effort that apparently did not assuage Becker's bruised feelings. She began circulating through the crowd, huffing to guests that Haynes was "drunk" and "an asshole." A short time later, Haynes did little to disprove Becker's first characterization when he fell off the raised platform in the Bistro Vino courtyard and landed on his duff. He regained his perch and completed the auction.

At least one witness says Haynes did not appear inebriated, but the lawyer himself did not return a phone inquiry on the subject from The Insider. It was quite the party week for Haynes, who two nights later was up late celebrating his birthday at Patrenella's in the Heights, where he was gifted with a 1965 Corvette Stingray by family and friends.

Becker is a close friend of Chronicle fluffmistress Maxine Mesinger and is a buyer of costume jewelry for the haute clothing emporium Tootsie's in Highland Village, where Mesinger's husband Emil also toils as a jewelry salesman. And Becker got a measure of revenge on Haynes a few days after the auction, thanks to her buddy Miss Moonlight, who gently flexed her claws by writing: "Neither the rain nor auctioneer Richard 'Racehorse' Haynes's topple off the makeshift raised platform during the auction dampened the crowd -- after, of course, we learned that Haynes was O.K." (Mad Max also reported that Becker's kite, plus a $1,000 shopping spree at Tootsie's, had fetched $1,600 from the same buyer who had purchased Mesinger's creation.)

Becker didn't return a call from The Insider, but we did manage to speak to the long-suffering Emil. "I hope you don't put that in your paper -- it was ridiculous," volunteered Emil, who then confided, "I think he was a little drunk, but don't put that in the paper, either." During a later conversation, Emil asked that we not use his name, but allowed that "you probably will, because it's that paper."

Sorry, Emil, but it's like your wife always says: If we know, we tell.

The Truth? We're Out. Sorry.
Randalls truly is your remarkable store: If you happen to be a journalist checking out reports of its impending purchase, you can get most anything there but the truth.

Three weeks back The Insider queried Randalls flack Cindy Garbs about reports that a New York investment firm was negotiating to purchase a majority interest in the Houston-based grocery chain. Absolutely not, declared Garbs, who went on to explain that the report was just one more in a cyclical series of rumors pushed by Randalls competitors. "I'm glad you called us first," gushed Garbs.

We won't make that mistake again.
Garbs was unrepentant last week after the announcement that Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. had purchased a majority interest in Randalls.

"Hindsight's 20/20," explains the publicist. "I was doing what I thought was appropriate at the time. I did not know definitively what was going on, except that I had heard the same rumors you had heard ... and I am not going to court your favor by answering something that is only a rumor to me."

Garbs neatly sidestepped the fact that she had indeed answered the question -- with a lie. According to her way of thinking, the sale really hadn't happened until Randalls issued a press release.

That tactic might net Garbs a bonus from her employer, but it shouldn't get her the time of day with reporters in the future.

Wedge Issue
Guests at a downtown reception for "investment guru" author Peter Tanous got an extra scrap of news last week when Texas Democratic Party chairman Bill White, a former Energy Department undersecretary for Bill Clinton, took a bow before the crowd wearing his new corporate mantle.

White launched Frontera Energy last year after leaving the Clinton administration to seek the state party chairmanship. Now he's the new CEO of Wedge Group, a Houston-based holding company housed in that green-light-trimmed downtown skyscraper and controlled by Lebanese billionaire Issam Fares. Wedge Group, according to White, is involved in several U.S. businesses in the areas of energy services, real estate and engineering.

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