Turkeys Fly

Houston actually pulls off one crazy week

Big excitement of the night: wondering if singer Shelby Lynne will actually make it down the red carpet. We're sure Shelby was just having an adverse reaction to some flu medicine, the same kind of reaction that led Joe Namath to slobber all over a sideline reporter on live TV a few weeks earlier.

Salaciousness, such as it was, was provided by the Coors Light twins, dressed in panties, fishnets and whips. Things presumably got hotter inside, at the actual party.

On the way out, revelers passed by the church sign that said, "Thank you for worshipping with us."

If you're still considering a career in journalism, this is known as Easy Irony.

Saturday: This Is Houston, Right?

A downtown go-kart race brings yet another event where the first question to ask a "celebrity" is "What is it you're [allegedly] famous for?"

Even one of the PR people is momentarily baffled when asked who Petra Nemcova is. (She's the cover girl for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.) There's a lot of Leeann Tweeden at these events; a lengthy investigation determines that she hosted an "extreme sports" cable show that was recently canceled.

Actual celebrities are on hand, though: Saturday Night Live's Jimmy Fallon says he ate at a Houston Wings 'n' Things "and I enjoyed the wings as well as the things." (Later, however -- in another Press exclusive! -- he sounds a bit unclear about Space City cuisine: "Isn't Texas like -- Houston's like, what -- beef, or ribs, or chili or something?")

Near the race, light rail trains passing by are already close to full. Soon downtown becomes a raucous, packed, boozy, boob-flashing, howling mass of happy, ethnically mixed humanity.

There's no telling how many people attend The Main Event this night; the official count is 100,000, although official counts are not known for accuracy. The parking lot where Molly & the Ringwalds played to maybe 100 on Thursday is now jammed with ten or 12 times that number. On Thursday, the elaborate Charmin porta-potties didn't have a line even with the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders signing autographs at them; now 60 people are waiting to pee, cheerleader-less. (We're guessing the line in the cheerleaders' résumé doesn't exactly read "January 2004 -- signed autographs at urinals.")

As the night goes on, Main Street becomes utterly impassable at times; a block away outside Cabo's balcony, girls flash for beads.

"This is a shit-show of a street party, man; this is a real good street party," says Tim Swain of Boston, who goes to college in New Orleans. "This is pretty ridiculous; this is what it was like in New Orleans [in 2002] when the Pats were there."

And don't think Swain's opinion is tainted by luxurious lodging -- he and his friends are staying at a Motel 6 in Baytown. They're trying to get the full Houston experience, though: One asks for directions to "where all the strip clubs are."

As bizarre as it may seem, downtown's Main Street -- in the city perpetually straining all too uncomfortably to not be seen as a poseur -- actually feels like the French Quarter. And sure, the French Quarter doesn't involve a whole lot more than walking around and drinking, so it's not all that difficult to duplicate the setting.

But getting the feel right is a lot harder. And Houston's pulled it off. There's enough of a chill in the air to let you know there's weather; there's beer on the streets, crazy hats, shouting drunks and laissez-faire cops; there's loud cheers from in front of clubs when a celebrity walks in.

And yeah, the light rail system quickly becomes overloaded, the streets outside The Main Event are choked with traffic, and some people are walking 16 or 20 blocks from their parking spaces.

It doesn't matter. On at least this night, downtown Houston is the best place in the country to be.

Sunday: Breasts, Buns and an Actual Football Game

Two hours before the big game, and the scene outside Reliant Stadium is strangely subdued. Anyone who's walked around the State Fair on Texas-OU Day in Dallas has heard a lot more shouting and good-natured yelling, not to mention downright taunting.

Maybe it's because the crowds have been sobered up by waiting in line for up to two hours to pass through security. "I don't think they were really ready for this many people," says Darin Little from Raleigh, North Carolina. (In fact, as game time nears, the metal detectors are turned off and fans are passed through with only a quick pat-down search.)

One New England fan waited an hour and 20 minutes; his friends joined him in line and waited only 15 minutes.

"Hey, we're New England fans, we know what to do," one says as they rush for the nearest beer seller. (Typical comment as Patriots fan walks through the gate: "First t'ings first -- I see a beah stand.")

In a situation that seems expressly made for the word "finally," it's time to hit the stadium for the actual game. The chilly nights practicing at TSU pay off as both Mary Mata and Natalie Cruz dance flawlessly, as far as we can tell from the press box looking at 600 identically dressed dancers. (The idea of spontaneous inspiration for "Dream On" has apparently been ditched; the waving begins on a preset cue.)

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