Burying the Past

A farewell slap to a Chronicle columnist

The symbolism was hardly subtle on the front section of the August 6 Houston Chronicle's metropolitan section.

There -- on what columnist Thom Marshall used to call "this edge of the page" -- was a long photo of a shovel. It turns out the Chron, in what is the first-ever "house ad" in memory on the metro front, came to bury Thom as deep as they could. (The ad said the paper's new columnist would dig deep for stories, apparently in pointed contrast to Marshall.)

Marshall's days were numbered since May, when editor Jeff Cohen announced he was bringing in Rick Casey of the San Antonio Express-News to be the paper's flagship columnist. Marshall, who has a high opinion of his column-writing abilities (it's a minority view), was not happy.

Oceanfront (and back) Property
If you can wade a bit and climb a rope, get your par-taying ass down to Galveston! Hurricane Claudette did what opponents of beachfront housing developments predicted: It changed the address of a lot of vacation homes from 123 Cute Beach Name St. to Somewhere in the Gulf, U.S.A. Homes such as this one — featuring 360-degree ocean views!! — aren’t much good for anything now (except generating attorney fees). Just be sure to take along plenty of batteries; we’re pretty sure the electricity will be spotty. And you should probably watch out for cops.
Since Claudette was a minor hurricane that didn’t hit Galveston head on, the future’s looking great in terms of party houses. Wealthy Texans insist on ignoring the hurricane threat and are building ever-more-ostentatious homes right on the beach. The good times are just starting!!                                                                                            — R.C.
Texas General Land Office
Oceanfront (and back) Property
If you can wade a bit and climb a rope, get your par-taying ass down to Galveston! Hurricane Claudette did what opponents of beachfront housing developments predicted: It changed the address of a lot of vacation homes from 123 Cute Beach Name St. to Somewhere in the Gulf, U.S.A. Homes such as this one — featuring 360-degree ocean views!! — aren’t much good for anything now (except generating attorney fees). Just be sure to take along plenty of batteries; we’re pretty sure the electricity will be spotty. And you should probably watch out for cops. Since Claudette was a minor hurricane that didn’t hit Galveston head on, the future’s looking great in terms of party houses. Wealthy Texans insist on ignoring the hurricane threat and are building ever-more-ostentatious homes right on the beach. The good times are just starting!! — R.C.
Scott Gilbert

He'll stay on with the paper as a reporter, so it's not like he's on the street or anything. Therefore it won't be unseemly to look back on 13 years of Thom's Greatest Hits.

But we'll just go back to 1997, when Marshall filled up an entire column on how nice the recently departed Princess Diana was. We like it not because of its Marshall-esque conclusion ("So I'm thinking one way of saying good-bye to this Princess I never met could be by looking for some way to be a bit nicer, myself.").

We like it because of the sheer I-can't-stand-this-shit-anymore attitude of whatever copy editor got stuck writing the headline that day. "Princess Diana's Niceness Admired" it says, helplessly.

It's been tough recently for wives of axed Chron columnists. Food editor Jane P. Marshall (Thom's wife) has left the paper; deputy managing editor Susan Bischoff (married to former business columnist Jim Barlow) is being moved upstairs away from the news side.

No house ads with shovels were run with either move. -- Richard Connelly

Body Counts

Long ago, city leaders once touted our hometown as "Baghdad on the Bayou." While world events during the last ten years have rendered that moniker somewhat unfashionable, maybe, at least as far as the blood-soaked streets of the Richmond Strip are concerned, they were on to something.

To wit: Since May 1 to the end of July, about 18 U.S. soldiers have been killed in combat in Baghdad. In that same period, seven people have been wounded and five killed in and around the Richmond Strip.

Granted, we still lag behind the Iraqi capital in sheer numbers, but if we extrapolate the Strip's raw data to accord with the population of greater Baghdad, we're.... Well, we're pretty sure that we're comfortably ahead. Baghdad on the Bayou indeed. -- John Nova Lomax

Abreast of the News

For those worried that conglomerate Clear Channel's radio station takeovers might compromise the news, take heart. In the case of KKRW's Suzi Hanks, take even more.

As Sue Hanks, she had more than five years in news at CC's KTRH radio when she transferred about five months ago to head up the news operation of its CC sister, The Arrow classic rock station.

Now she injects news reports amid the banter of the morning drive-time Dean & Rog Show, but Hanks managed to put on a show of her own. Call it Clear Channel's brand of medical journalism -- Hanks hooked up with a friend, the noted plastic surgeon Franklin Rose, for what may be a radio first -- a live-broadcast boob job. Sidekick Tony Guzman took over for the play-by-play after Hanks went under. When she came back up, Dean & Rog had more melon jokes than a misogynist gone amok at a farmer's market.

Hanks scoffs at any notion that it has compromised her journalistic integrity. She concedes that her news is strictly rip-'n-read, and her new role is that of an on-air personality. "One of the reasons I came over here was because I was kind of losing my sense of humor after so many years of just doing straight news," she says. "There's only so many dead babies in Dumpsters you can cover without going crazy."

Rose, of course, reaped ample publicity about his practice. Hanks conceded she got a discounted rate. As for the significant problem of radio listeners trying to hear the sound of larger breasts, there are after pictures on the Web site -- as well as the station's own live "Suzicam." -- George Flynn

Sea of Change

In the June 5 Racket column, we attacked the musical taste of the Friendswood community savagely. In fact, we said it had "the worst taste of any community from the Sabine to the Brazos." We based that criticism on Amazon sales figures, which revealed that the typical Friendswooder was into Toby Keith and Josh Groban and that hideous Rod Stewart standards record.

Evidently a few down there took us to heart. Don't worry -- Josh and Toby are both still on Amazon's new list, but they have some heavy hipster company this time around. Checking in at number five is Beck's Sea Change -- by consensus, the most critically acclaimed album of 2002. Nice try, kids, but it was also the most overrated album of the year. Keep trying, though. -- J.N.L.

Cool Front

As if we weren't already known for being fat and polluted, Houston is seen as a lousy place to look for love, at least according to Forbes. The city took 18th in the magazine's annual ranking of best cities for singles. Houston not only dropped ten spots from last year, we had to watch as Austin got crowned Number One. According to Forbes reporter Davide Dukcevich, what's killing Houston is the city's lack of "coolness."

In a struggle to understand this absence of hipness, those at the Chron responded by interviewing the ubercool (and married) Jordy Tollett, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said plenty of singles would be very excited to attend such exciting upcoming Houston events as the Masters Tennis Cup. (Why, because hot chicks dig tennis? Or is it because this is the only game where love's a score?)

The Chron interviewed several single folks who mostly disagreed with Forbes, including a 50-year-old man whose friends described him as "the ultimate single guy."

A 50-year-old dude described as "the ultimate single guy"? No wonder Houston's not hip. -- Jennifer Mathieu

Oceanfront (and back) Property

If you can wade a bit and climb a rope, get your par-taying ass down to Galveston! Hurricane Claudette did what opponents of beachfront housing developments predicted: It changed the address of a lot of vacation homes from 123 Cute Beach Name St. to Somewhere in the Gulf, U.S.A. Homes such as this one -- featuring 360-degree ocean views!! -- aren't much good for anything now (except generating attorney fees). Just be sure to take along plenty of batteries; we're pretty sure the electricity will be spotty. And you should probably watch out for cops.

Since Claudette was a minor hurricane that didn't hit Galveston head on, the future's looking great in terms of party houses. Wealthy Texans insist on ignoring the hurricane threat and are building ever-more-ostentatious homes right on the beach. The good times are just starting!! -- R.C.

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