Best Of :: People & Places
For someone who has 3.6 million constituents, County Judge Robert Eckels has kept somewhat of a low profile -- which, considering the colorful, if not entirely legal, activities of some county court predecessors (like, ummm, his father), is a good thing. All that changed in 2005, when Eckels teamed with Mayor Bill White to handle the wave of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. While FEMA flopped helplessly around, Eckels opened up the county's Astrodome and other facilities and slashed through calcified layers of bureaucracy to get relief efforts in gear. Esquire magazine named him "Citizen of the Year" and said Harris County was "an island of competence in the face of catastrophe." (That sound you hear could be White gnashing his teeth and asking "What about me?!") Eckels, a UH graduate who was first elected to the state legislature at 24, is only 49, and we're guessing that the Harris County judgeship won't be his ultimate political destination.
There was a certain inevitability to it. All observers, whether they wore burnt orange or crimson, knew that once the Texas defense stuffed LenDale White on fourth and two at the Texas 45-yard line with two minutes left on the clock, the ball game was over and the Longhorns would seize their first national championship in 35 years. Vince Young, the Madison High School star, would find a way to erase the Trojans' five-point lead. After all, he had done something just like that the previous year in the Rose Bowl against Michigan, and in the two gigantic comebacks against Oklahoma State in 2004 and 2005, and in the Shoe at Night, where he ruined the weekends of 105,000 drunken Ohio State fans with a laser-guided pass to Limas Sweed in the front corner of the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Why would this game be any different? And even though this was the grandest stage in college football, he would go about it looking as calm and collected as a guy mowing his lawn. Sure, he needed all four downs, but on fourth and five from the Trojans' nine-yard line, he did it: He coasted past the outstretched arms of the Trojans' Frostee Rucker and into Texas immortality.
"Wrestling in the present to fight for the future!" is the slogan greeting visitors to Dyk-A-Tron's page. The so-called cybernetic lesbian from the future -- shown in full costume and holding her title belt/trophy -- is known around Houston for her Doomsday parody wrestling matches, and the page is a tribute to the doppelganger. Dyk-A-Tron's "friends" list consists of her sworn enemies -- robots Slut Bot, Karate Bot and PartyBot 5000, to name a few -- and her blogs describe her mission to stop the metallic perps from infiltrating the future. "Those evil-natured robots, they're programmed to destroy us. Dyk-A-Tron must be strong to fight them, so Dyk-A-Tron is taking lots of vitamins," reads a blog titled "Tribulations of the future as of yet unsettled." Whom would she like to meet? "Svelte lipstick lesbians made shiny with a top coat of hot oil" and "the she-bot from Metropolis." But keep this in mind, ladies: She's here for "serious relationships," so log on only if you're a one-dykebot kind of gal.
Other places have the same ingredients: buffet, birthday cake and Skee-Ball. But at this '50s-themed place, birthday kids are made to feel truly special. A hostess keeps the pace of food, games and celebration going strong, often in a private room. Party packages and add-ons such as cakes, goodie bags and well-filled piatas are surprisingly affordable. The buffet rivals any adult cafeteria, offering more than a dozen kinds of pizza, plus pasta, soup, salads and desserts. The "Fairgrounds" may be an assault on the senses, but it has dozens of video and skill games (most only 30 cents to play), putt-putt, bumper cars, a go-kart track, a bowling alley and even an area for the little kids.
One part egomaniac, one part friendly next-door neighbor, Joel Osteen preaches a positive-vibes-only brand of nondenominational Christianity that's helped his membership grow exponentially in the past few years. Although we don't appreciate the unholy amount of traffic Lakewood's services bring to Highway 59 every weekend, we do appreciate the lack of fire, brimstone and sexual scandal that tends to accompany most other people looking to save your soul. Besides, it's only fitting that the largest church in the United States would reside in the most Texas-sized, morality-be-damned city in the state.
Co-designed by architectural legend Philip Johnson, the 901-foot-tall Williams Tower has the kind of power and grace that impresses people who aren't normally impressed by buildings. Completed in 1983 and originally known as the Transco Tower, the edifice was built as two separate structures, one atop the other. The building has separate elevator banks and lobbies for the two parts, but even if you've never stepped inside the tower, you can appreciate its majesty. It's the fourth-tallest building in Texas and the 20th in the country, but as a Houston landmark, we're giving it No. 1. (When you drive by, be sure to check out the gorgeous water wall.)
Dominique's got personality to spare. Whether she's sharing the joys of her pregnancy with viewers or talking about her bulldog, Butkus, she's hypnotizing. Mostly, it's the lips; just look at those things. When she first announced she had a "secret," we feared the worst. Was she leaving us? Was she really a man? So when she revealed that she was expecting a baby, we cheered. And now there's a 243-picture slideshow (as of this writing, anyway) of her lovely boy, Styles, on her company's Web site. It's all a part of a wonderful exchange: We let her into our living rooms, she lets us into her heart.
For more than a year now, a self-described nympho identifying herself only as "Vix" has been telling us about her need for constant sex. Up until a few months ago, that need was met by her boyfriend, although not as often as she wanted. They split, so she started a new blog to chart her activity as a single nympho on the town. Just the other night she was about to bang some ugly dude in a parking garage until he confessed he had a girlfriend. This is good stuff. You could waste hours of valuable work time here, which is the hallmark of any good blog. Vix, we eagerly wait to see what adventures unfold.
Though this mysterious fellow's real name is a secret, regular readers of his blog know that Slampo is an ex-employee of the defunct Houston Post, a native of southwest Louisiana now living in the Westbury area, a fan of both baseball Hall of Famer Enos "Country" Slaughter and primordial swamp-bluesman Slim Harpo, and a guy who can, on occasion, be tart as a, um, persimmon. Slampo's high-tension prose positively crackles with electricity, whether he's taking on immigration, the Enron trial, City Hall or Tom DeLay, or lamenting the deaths of music heroes such as Buck Owens or Wilson Pickett. (The latter's demise prompted one of Slampo's most Proustian posts.) And just when you think you've seen every mojo in his trick bag, he pulls out something like a very good original poem or a dialogue with his daughter and her schoolmate that rivals the best work of Mike Royko.
Earlier this year, we submitted public information requests to 63 Houston-area school districts, just to see how they'd respond (see "Needling the Haystack," by Keith Plocek, May 18). We wanted to measure how each district would treat a taxpayer who'd walked in the door and demanded to know what was what, so we didn't out ourselves as reporters. What we got were tons of quizzical looks and a good helping of "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?" But we also got to meet Beth Rickert, the finest PIO in the land. Rickert walked out, shook hands and got down to business, looking up most of the information we requested on the spot. She even let us dig through a stack of papers to make sure we got everything we needed. Now that's a PIO with no shame in her game.
When we were kids, we loved to ride in or underneath the shopping cart while Mom propelled it along. Now that we're older, we shop at Fiesta -- not just for the value, but because their carts can easily be wheeled off the premises and used for a little extracurricular activity. Here's what you do: Gather three friends, retrieve two carts, and mosey on over to a quiet, straight street for a head-to-head race. The rules are simple: Each cart has a rider and a pusher. As the riders brace themselves, the pushers take off at full speed for ten seconds and then let go. The winner is determined by whoever makes it the farthest (basically, whoever doesn't hit a curb and crash to the ground). If only Mom knew what we were up to.
Of all the places one could wish to spend one's FEMA relief money, The Penthouse Club is the place where one can drop some serious cash in a seriously quick amount of time for a seriously not-so-cheap thrill. Whether you're scoring some champagne for your party, getting some VIP treatment from an exotic dancer or doing both at the same time, adrenaline does not come cheap in this Galleria-area monument to Texan debauchery. Don't let the fake stone columns outside fool you -- this place is all class.