Turkeys of the Year

The 2006 Collectors Edition

A Houston Thanksgiving conjures up many time-honored traditions. These include:

1) Throwing a football around and saying, "Kinda hot out for November, isn't it?";

2) Seeing how far down the D-list the sponsors of the Thanksgiving parade have to go to find a celebrity (This year's report: Pretty damn low, as the "stars" are LeToya Luckett -- the Pete Best of Destiny's Child -- and Jeff Timmons and Will Makar, whose celebrity status is classified as "Need to be Googled";

Chad Crowe
Jeff Skilling: When the Keith Moon of Enron goes down, he goes down partying.
Chad Crowe
Jeff Skilling: When the Keith Moon of Enron goes down, he goes down partying.

3) Watching A&M get whipped once again by Texas; and

4) Waiting with bated breath to see who gets honored as a Houston Press Turkey of the Year.

This year we opened up the nominating process to you, the reading public, and dozens responded. Many argued passionately for naming George W. Bush as Turkey of the Year, but although W did his share of draft-dodgin' and substance-abusin' here in Houston, we can't really claim him as one of our own. He is yours, America, for better or worse.

Usually there's not a lot of discussion that needs to take place about who will be Turkey of the Year -- you see if Tom DeLay's still in office, and that's about it. But that no-brainer method was cruelly taken away in 2006, when The Hammer decided to spend more time with his family, or his lawyers.

There was no shortage of worthy candidates, of course. There was the city's convention bureau, which hosted New Orleans's large Essence Festival in the wake of Katrina, and decided it would provide a great opportunity to show 200,000 visitors how Houston is dull and impossible to get around when the convention bureau doesn't really do anything to help. The Festival is back in New Orleans next year, and will return to Houston as soon as New Orleans, Atlanta, Miami and every other American city over 500,000 population gets hit by a hurricane in the same year.

There was the brain trust of the Houston Texans, who bravely ignored the pleadings of every fan in the city and chose a defensive lineman with the first pick of the NFL Draft. We think there was some discussion of this on local sports-talk radio, but we can't be sure since we began to involuntarily reach frantically to change the station whenever we heard the names Vince Young or Reggie Bush. (The carpal tunnel should heal soon, we're told.)

And, of course, there was Ken Lay, ripping off the public one last time. It truly speaks to a man's character that, when the news breaks that he has died suddenly, the reaction of fully 95 percent of the public is a simple "bullshit." As always, the New York Post captured the vibe, sporting this front-page headline: "Before they put Cheato Lay's coffin in the grave, check he's in it."

Lay's death also prompted a classic exchange at a White House press briefing. Spokesman Tony Snow was asked for the president's reaction to the news and answered with "I don't know, what do you think would be the appropriate thing to say?"

"I don't know," the reporter replied. "I don't know him. The president was his friend, not me."

"No," said Snow, "the president has described Ken Lay as an acquaintance, and many of the president's acquaintances have passed on during his time in office."

Lay? Short guy, bald? It's kinda ringing a bell, but I can't be sure. He used to wear a halo, didn't he?

Lay's timely death deprived us all of the chance to imagine Ol' What's-His-Name shaking in fear after he dropped the soap in the shower; on the other hand, it also spared us the inevitable campaign to win his reputation back via well-publicized charity efforts.

No, there was no shortage of viable candidates this year. But perhaps the rule we were following wasn't right -- it wasn't a matter of checking to see if Tom DeLay was still in office, it was a matter of checking to see who was running for Congress in the 22nd District. In the past, sure, that was the same thing. But this year the 22nd showed it wasn't a one-trick pony; even without DeLay, it gave us our Turkey of the Year. And for that we are thankful, as always.


Turkey of the Year: Shelley Sekula-Gibbs

Whatever happened to that bright-eyed, noble widow of a beloved Houston anchorman who we first met as Shelley Sekula Rodriguez?

She's now Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, leading the fight to "secure our borders without amnesty," running the nation's goofiest write-in campaign and promising to solve a whole slew of problems in the two weeks she will serve in Congress.

The "slew of problems" she promised to fix didn't, at the time, include massive heaps of mocking national publicity following a staff walkout on her first day of work, but we're sure she can adjust. Her decision to demand an investigation into the departed staffers showed a keen ability to keep the story in front of the public when it otherwise would have died. It's nice to know she's keeping up the 22nd District's worldwide rep for nuttiness.

When Sekula-Gibbs first got elected to the city council in 2001 -- running on a platform that wasn't so much "Get rid of the Mexicans!" as it was "You used to watch my husband on TV!" -- no one expected a whole lot. She seemed to be in the quiet, go-along mode of most city council members.

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