Morris the Cad

What do disgraced Presidential adviser Dick Morris, Everest-climbing filmmaker David Breashears and Polish hero Lech Walesa have in common?

Nothing that comes to mind, really.
But that unlikely trio will be kicking off a lecture series this fall, a private venture apparently designed to epitomize the word "eclectic." International Celebrity Series is the brainchild of Carol Berman, a Houstonian who got out of the oil business, earned an MBA at the University of Texas and decided to create a company that brings lecturers to town.

First up is noted prostitute-customer Dick Morris, whose love of publicity since he lost his White House job made him perhaps the only person who seemed exceedingly happy to be called before the Monica Lewinsky grand jury (and all the television cameras waiting outside). His career as an electoral Merlin came to a crashing halt in 1996 when a supermarket tabloid revealed that, in the category of bodily extremities, the only thing he liked more than bending the president's ear was sucking the toes of a high-priced hooker.

Morris speaks September 3 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where all the lectures will be presented.

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Breashears gets his turn on November 2. He's the guy who made the gripping IMAX film (currently at the Museum of Natural Science) that details an arduous climb to the top of Mt. Everest. Breashear's group was on the mountain at the same time as the ill-fated climbers who are profiled in Jon Krakauer's bestseller Into Thin Air, and got involved in attempts to rescue those struggling hopefuls. Joining Breashears will be Jamling Tenzing Norgay, the guide featured in the IMAX film, who's the son of the man who joined Sir Edmund Hillary in first conquering the world's highest mountain.

On December 9, Walesa will discuss his inspiring rise from shipyard worker to Nobel Prize winner. The former president of Poland now heads the Lech Walesa Institute, which champions democracy and free-market reform throughout Eastern Europe and the Third World. Walesa is one of the true heroes of the last half of this century, taking on communism back when that meant something more than providing the coup de gráce to an already defeated regime.

Each lecture begins at 7:30 p.m., with the speakers talking for about an hour, followed by 20 minutes or so of answering audience questions.

International Celebrity's original plan was to sell tickets only for all three shows combined, but now -- "due to popular demand," Berman actually says -- you can buy tickets for individual lectures, and that includes walkup sales at the Convention Center on the night of the event.

Berman insists the change was not triggered by the fact that people who would find edifying Walesa's translated-from-Polish discourse on European economics might balk at also having to pay to hear the two-faced Morris expound gleefully on how adept he is at getting anyone elected. Or that fans of the adrenaline-rush IMAX film Everest may have no interest in political matters, whether inside the Beltway or in Europe.

"We got so much feedback on selling as a series -- not so much that it was price-sensitive, but that people couldn't know in advance that they'd be able to commit to all three dates," she says.

Berman plans another series of four lectures in the spring. If demand is good, she'll eventually bring in eight speakers a year, using this initial series to gauge what type of speakers will draw a crowd in Houston.

-- Richard Connelly

Dick Morris will speak September 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Convention Center Boulevard. Morris seats are $20; other speakers, $35. Series tickets to see Morris, David Breashears (November 2) and Lech Walesa (December 9) can be purchased for $114 for reserved seats and $84 for general admission. For information, call International Celebrity Series at 268-2547 or go to www.celebseries. com.

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