Talking Turkey

Time again to honor the best in Houston

In an annual rite that goes back to the Truman administration, President Bush recently spared two turkeys from the ax and sent them to a petting zoo. If ever there was going to be a year when the White House decided to buck tradition and offer up some kind of turkey-beheading video, this certainly wasn't going to be it.

No turkeys are spared here, however. The last 12 months have brought a flock of unpalatable birds to Space City, and we now take time to honor them in all their glory:

Turkey of the Year: Janet Jackson

After 30 years of being treated like the dorkiest guy at the dance, Houston finally got another Super Bowl in 2004. And the city delivered with a weeklong celebration, a dizzying moment in the bright sun of celebrity-watching (who can forget the Galleria riot over some B-list rappers?) and, not least of all, a thrilling game that was decided at the last moment.

And what will we be remembered for? A nipple.

Not just any nipple, though. This was a Super Nipple. A nipple that unleashed a new wave of Calvinistic thunder from self-appointed moral guardians, who grabbed that nipple and wrung it for all it was worth, who used that nipple as a bludgeon against Howard Stern, who brandished that nipple to get seven-second delays on everything but Blue's Clues, who flaunted that nipple as a way to protect America from seeing youth-warping movies such as Saving Private Ryan.

That, obviously, is one helluva nipple. And it belongs, just as obviously, to Janet Jackson, our Houston Turkey of the Year.

Here's the NFL's apparent thought process for the halftime show: 1) Get an aging rock diva, one whose fast-fading star needs to be propped up fast with lots of edgy publicity; 2) Make sure she's plugging her second sex-drenched album in a row; 3) If possible, have her be part of the country's strangest family (non-Manson division); and 4) Sit back and watch as she performs a show that would make Anita Bryant and the Up With People folks proud!

Somehow Al Qaeda smuggled an operative into Jackson's wardrobe department, and the ensuing sabotage plunged this nation into a new onslaught of religious fervor that ultimately ended up re-electing George W. Bush.

As we said, it was one amazing nipple. And Houston was proud to do its part.

International Turkey: Talmadge Heflin

Face it: If you're a Texas legislator with a name like Talmadge Heflin, you're pretty much expected to be wearing a seersucker suit and floppy tie, fanning yourself with a panama hat as you boom out with a Foghorn Leghorn voice about the dangers of communism in the schools. Or Janet Jackson on the TV.

But Heflin, chair of the influential House Appropriations Committee, is actually a subtle geopolitical thinker whose interests range all over the globe.

His vast knowledge of Africa led him to take bold action earlier this year, getting a judge to send out a constable to seize custody of his maid's son in order to adopt the kid. (And we use the word "maid" in the sense that Heflin uses it for any illegal immigrant who lives in his house and performs occasional chores, which is to say "a guest.")

Why would he want to adopt the baby? "We all know the terrible problem that black male children have growing up into manhood without being in prison," he told the court.

He also noted that the birth mother might have trouble providing proper health care for her son; Heflin is something of an expert on the subject, having led the fight to cut state health programs for kids of low-income parents.

Unfortunately, a family court judge, utterly blind to the inevitable disaster of black parents raising a black son, refused to give the Heflins custody.

Despite his powerful position, he was then defeated for re-election by Hubert Vo, a Vietnamese immigrant.

Heflin's district apparently didn't appreciate his grasp of immigration issues, ably displayed when a Houston Press reporter asked him about government crackdowns and personal attacks on local Arabs and Middle East natives.

He replied by telling of a Middle Eastern family in his district whose tire store had been burned to the ground. "It turned out the family…burned the store for insurance purposes," he said. "So, you know, there's always people who are trying to point something out about how we are discriminating, when in fact we are not."

And this man couldn't get re-elected? Or be declared World's Best Dad of Adopted Negroes?

It's a strange world we live in, man.

Movie Turkey: The Alamo

Take one notable military defeat, surround it with pompous dialogue and pseudo-heroic speeches, throw in a nice amount of historical inaccuracy, and what have you got? Movie magic! Hey, it worked with Pearl Harbor, how could it fail with The Alamo?

That, apparently, was the thinking at Disney, which somehow convinced itself the world was waiting for yet another long, long movie about that battle in San Antonio. Teens the world over were just desperate to hand over money to watch Dennis Quaid's interpretation of Sam Houston, a historical figure who has as much fame outside Texas as Rick Perry.

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