Turkeys of the Year

The worst flock-ups of 2003, starting with Big Tom himself

And now the trio is embarking on yet another blitz of Houston-centric publicity. They have a new album out called Mescalero and a four-disc boxed set, and they are scheduled to play the last concert at Compaq Center before the arena gets transformed into a church.

So we should expect to hear a lot about ZZ Top as the year draws to a close. We're betting someone will, when writing about the last concert, juxtapose the words "church" and "roadhouse." Because you can get your rock critic's license revoked if you write about ZZ Top without constantly using the word "roadhouse" or other Texana clichés.

And what about Mescalero? Is it just another rehash of the same tired formula? Not according to our Houston Chronicle.

Judge Roxane Martinez's idea of judicial activism 
includes pool-game disputes at icehouses.
Chad Crowe
Judge Roxane Martinez's idea of judicial activism includes pool-game disputes at icehouses.
Jimy Williams made sure this year's flop was 
extra-annoying to Astros fans.
Chad Crowe
Jimy Williams made sure this year's flop was extra-annoying to Astros fans.

"Bordering On Their Best," read the headline on last month's review. "The guitar licks were born on the bayou and on the porches of shotgun tracks," Michael D. Clark wrote. (What, no roadhouse reference? You're on probation, Clark.) He also noted that "the slick electric chords of 'Alley-Gator' are a slight tease at past hits, such as 'Legs' and 'Sharp-Dressed Man,' " which he apparently counts as a good thing.

The album didn't fare so well with other big-time papers, though. Here are some pullquotes you're not likely to see in any ads:

The Chicago Tribune: "Theirs is a formula that is now two decades old... 'Mescalero' is a mostly de rigueur affair, with its mechanized rhythms, heavily processed guitars and weak single entendres."

The Boston Herald: "Despite some cool nuggets, 'Mescalero' smacks of stadium rock: big but meaningless."

The New York Times: " 'Mescalero' updates the sound, filtering it though electronic effects. Why not? Taco Bell has a Web site, but the food's the same."

Ouch. Looks like Billy Gibbons will have to stoke the publicity machine by taking some other "hot" star to an Astros game. Is Loretta Swit busy these days?

Turkey Couple

The Turkey Couple of the Year is easy enough to determine: none other than those giddy go-getters, Andrew and Lea Fastow. They set the world on fire at Enron, but now are facing separate trials for all kinds of nefarious things. Andrew faces 100 counts of fraud-related charges; Lea, who faces a mere six counts, is expected to testify she didn't know what her husband might or might not have been doing at Enron.


A One-Act Play

An elegant River Oaks dining room is set with pricey china, some pieces of which still feature the price tags from Jus' Stuff. At either end of the table sit LEA and ANDREW FASTOW, dressed to the nines. Behind each, along the wall, sits a group of expensively dressed men and women.

Andrew: Pass the salt, dear, please.

Lea: (Turns and briefly confers with the group behind her.) I was unaware we had any salt, dear.

A: It's the white stuff in that crystal shaker in front of you.

L: (Again huddles with the group behind her, then turns to face ANDREW.) Oh, that stuff? I had no idea. (She examines the shaker.) Live and learn, I guess.

A: Darling, we've been using salt for years.

L: (Confers again with attorneys.) I knew, of course, that there was indeed some granular substance that we occasionally applied to our food when the cook was having a bad day, but to be honest with you that's about as far as I went in terms of my understanding. I didn't ask a lot of questions.

A: Didn't you wonder whether you were about to put sugar or salt on your Kobe steak?

L:Well, you know, I pretty much assumed that you wouldn't do anything out of line. Like putting sugar in a salt shaker, or setting up fraudulent partnerships to enrich our family. It just didn't sound like something you'd do. That's not the Andy Fastow I know! At least in terms of the salt.

A: At any rate, now that you have learned the truth about the salt, could you pass it?

L: (Confers. Starts to turn back to address ANDREW, then confers again.) Of course, dear. Here is what I have recently -- very recently -- been led to believe is the salt.

A: Thank you.

L: My passing of it does not, however, indicate in any manner that--

A: Yes, yes, yes, dear; I get it. I would ask for the pepper, but frankly I don't think we can afford the legal fees.

L: Whatever you say, dear. (Pauses.) What a dreary year it's been. Whatever happened to that nice place you used to work at, the one that flew me all around the world buying art? Now that was fun.

A: It collapsed, darling. And the government is saying we ripped off investors, who lost their life savings. They say there's no possible way you could not have been aware of it all, having worked at Enron for seven years.

L: Oh, heavens to betsy. I just don't have that kind of mind. Numbers and everything get me all confused, you know.

A: Now come on, darling. After all, you did get an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

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