He Won't Back Down

The mayor was threatened -- or maybe he wasn't

Mayor Bill White's battle with the city's Wild West tow-truck drivers has been inspiring, at least to those people who get deeply immersed in tow-truck policy.

But White's crusade has not been without drama, if you listen to him.

"I've been besieged by tow-truck companies," he said in a May 25 luncheon speech. "I've been physically threatened by tow-truck companies…If we want to take our government back from special interests, citizens have to get involved."

Dave Stovall
Dave Stovall
Stovall's skin art
Stovall's skin art

He asked listeners to help him "stop the madness" of the current policy.

Physically threatened? It's easy enough to picture the scene -- the mayor strolling out of City Hall to his car after a long day of madness-stopping, jauntily whistling "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Parked beside his ride is a flag-festooned tow truck, leaned upon by a driver idly cleaning his nails with a switchblade.

The driver sullenly looks up and menacingly says, "We know where you park." With a meaningful look, he closes the blade and drives away.

Or maybe not. White wasn't available after the speech, but spokesman Frank Michel was. And if White is ever looking for someone to cover his back when it's Go Time, we're guessing Michel's not the guy.

The mayor, Michel says, actually hasn't been…you know…threatened…per se.

"I think he was using hyperbole," Michel said. "If he was threatened, he didn't mention it to anyone around here. He has a driver who's a policeman -- if anyone really threatened him, I'm sure they'd be wrestled to the ground, or we'd at least have an investigation."

Okay, we got it -- it was just hyperbole, not any outright lie.

Or was it…madness?

The Party's Over

For almost 40 years the Shamrock Hotel was a piece of Vegas in Houston -- stars like Sinatra, publicity stunts like waterskiing in the pool, money tossed around like confetti by partying big shots.

The glamour had faded by the time it was torn down in 1987 for an expansion of the Texas Medical Center, but at least the bourbon-soaked history was honored by keeping alive the Shamrock Drive street name.

Now that's going, too. Instead the street will be named after a lawyer.

TMC spokeswoman Mary Shiflett says the center is extending Herman Pressler Boulevard to Galen, which is what Shamrock Drive becomes once it crosses Main. "We're connecting three streets that are about a block each and which all have a different name," Shiflett says. "And since Herman Pressler was one of the leaders of the Texas Medical Center, we're using his name."

Yeah, but did Herman Pressler ever double up on some beehived chorus girls when his oil well came in? (Probably not, since his son Paul is famous for leading the ultraconservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

The Medical Center's move doesn't sit well with Tom Horan, the former Shamrock Hotel publicity specialist who, from 1987 to the 50th anniversary of the opening five years ago, gathered 100 or so folks at the site for a whiskey toast each St. Patrick's Day.

"They refused to let us put up a plaque," he says of TMC. "And now they're taking away the last vestige of it."

In lieu of flowers, mourners are encouraged to bang a cocktail waitress.

The Spirit of Giving

Today's youths are go-getters striving to make the world a better place, whether they're rockin' the vote or tryin' to get Dave Stovall's tattoo removed.

Stovall, 17, attends a Christian high school we've agreed not to name; he got a tat and was told he couldn't get back in school until it was removed. (The edict was later amended to requiring Stovall to wear long-sleeved shirts.)

But removal costs $3,000, and Stovall's parents balked. (The geezers.) So www.savedave.net was created to take donations and sell T-shirts.

Behold the energy, the vim, the enthusiastic, detail-driven entrepreneurship of today's Youth in Action:

Q. I had some trouble actually figuring out what the tattoo was.

A. It's just, like, a flame design. Like, it's sorta…it's just some design.

Q. Why'd you get it if you knew you weren't allowed to have them in school?

A. Um, basically 'cause I really didn't think I was going to get caught. 'Cause I had planned it for about five months by just drawing it every single day [Hair Balls note: Five months? If only they'd planned post-war Iraq as thoroughly.]…I'm sorta in a band right now, and like, a lot of guitarists have tattoos on their forearms.

Q. What was your parents' reaction?

A. Oh, they were pretty pissed.

Q. How many shirts have you sold so far?

A. We've sold about, ummm…I think 50 so far.

Q. You've still got a long way to go, then.

A. I'm going to be getting a job over the summer…I wouldn't think of trying to raise money like that. That'd be insane…I might be checking out Randalls in a week or so…but I mean, like, anywhere, basically. Like, just somewhere close by where I can get to, 'cause my parents aren't going to want to drive me around.

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