Alison Cook looks back at 1996: Year of the Rat

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, it was 4694 -- the Year of the Rat. Our own fair city's rodents celebrated with inventively rattish behavior as we slouched toward the millennium: Between Thelma and Louise, Warren and Felicia, Bud and Drayton, Wayne and Sylvester, Betti 'n' Benny, there was entertainment and outrage aplenty.

Thanks to the FBI sting, City Hall took on all the mystique of a rats' nest (will the last clean councilmember please turn out the lights?). Thanks to federal

judges, who threw out our tortured electoral districts, we were treated to a campaign season with all the elegance of a rat ... er, calf scramble. And just when it seemed we could finally kiss the interminable Allen Parkway Village squabble good-bye, along came a new infestation of monumental civic bores. The Kingwood Annexation Wars turned into our own little Boston Tea Party. The Battle of the Burge turned Commissioners Court into a fair approximation of the Hatfields and McCoys. And we pray that we may never again hear the word "stadium," although we might reconsider if they called it the MacArena.

Mother Nature acted like a bit of a rat, transforming us first into a tinderbox and then a giant, mildewed sponge. So did the fates, sending plagues of red measles, encephalitis, cyclospora and carcinogenic corn our way, not to mention stinging jellyfish, spiny dead catfish and that eight-mile flotilla of tarballs. Perhaps we might be forgiven for thinking reality was treacherous, especially since iced tea was found to be toxic, Ninfa's parent company went bankrupt and Tony's dumped its chef.

Then there was the disquieting spectacle of various rats scuttling off the ship -- had we sprung a leak? Marshall Field's threw in the towel. The Oilers and the Astros kept trying to find the door. The NBA crown took itself elsewhere. Nouveau-riche watchers grieved that they wouldn't have the departing Sapersteins to kick around anymore. UH poet Richard Howard, Houston society's intellectual dinner guest of choice, packed up his bags shortly after receiving his $375,000 MacArthur "genius grant." The NFL dissed us, and Newsweek had some fun with that scale model of the Forbidden City on the Katy prairie: "Last month the Houston area finally got a little culture," the mag sniped, "albeit that of Imperial China." Cancel our subscription, you rats! No wonder Mayor Bob decided we needed a million bucks to spiff up our image.

All was not ratty. Glad tidings appeared in the form of quintuplets -- and Marvin Zindler's 75th birthday, feted with all the pomp of a Royal Jubilee. We got to feel all warm and fuzzy about the exploits of our fellow citizens Carl Lewis, Kerri Strug, Evander Holyfield and Michael DeBakey, emissary extraordinaire to Boris Yeltsin's ticker. Life on Mars? Ice on the moon? The protein that could end death as we know it? We got it, along with our first-ever Nobel Prize winners, Rice profs Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. But all else pales beside that quintessential moment during the Olympics when a bandaged Kerri Strug was borne into her network news conference, like some valiant Cleopatra on her barge, atop a Mattress Mac recliner. Our hearts swelled with perverse pride, and we remembered -- as we do every year when the time comes to take stock -- that Houston is our kind of town.

Rats of the Year
A rat caught on the Fort Crockett campus of Texas A&M at Galveston -- and nine collected in nearby Jefferson County -- tested positive for the killer hantavirus.

Hurwitz, spare that tree
While the government tried to protect America's largest privately owned grove of old-growth redwoods from the lumbering unit of Charles Hurwitz's Maxxam Corporation, demonstrators including actor Woody Harrelson scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to hang a banner reading, "Hurwitz, aren't redwoods more precious than gold?"

Hurwitz sent a note of support
After Thai entrepreneur Boon Suwanakorte bought the old-line Vargo's restaurant, he decided to chop down the 100-year-old cedar growing through the ceiling -- a tree around which the restaurant was specially designed.

Well, they do say He moves in
mysterious ways
Saying he believed God wanted him to take control of the financial affairs of an elderly Angleton couple, "Brother Bill" Hill, a Baptist associate pastor, got himself declared their guardian; when the husband died and the wife entered a nursing home, he spent thousands to refurbish their house, where he allowed his son to live rent-free, doled out the couple's trust-fund money for Houston Rockets memorabilia and a new bicycle and spent almost $2,500 on a new computer system for his church.

Thou shalt not covet thy late ex-son-in-law's goods
After the ex-son-in-law of Pentecostal pastor J.J. Bourn was killed in a traffic accident that sent his fiancee to the hospital, the minister and several relatives were charged with looting the couple's vacant home, removing everything from bathroom articles to the air-conditioning compressor.

O.J. sent him a note of support
Augustin Diaz Zamora lured a 17-year-old honor student out on a date, where she was raped by seven suspected gang members; afterward, Zamora asked her if she was mad and suggested they could still go eat and catch a movie.

Just call her Dirty Harriet
Court testimony showed that HPD officer Lisa Allen warned a hysterical woman, who had just been freed from a gunpoint abduction, "You don't want to fuck with me, you don't know what kind of day I had," then choked the woman and hit her 15 times in the head with a flashlight.

She didn't know what kind of day he'd had
Ron Ducote, an Alief ISD police officer, was reassigned after complaints he roughed up a teenage track athlete who was leaning on a railing after completing her race, and who did not move quickly enough when he ordered the area cleared of spectators.

Heads we win, tails you lose
The Stop N Go convenience store chain took out life insurance policies on its workers without letting them know, then collected $250,000 whenever a worker was killed on company business -- money that sometimes funded legal battles against claims filed by the survivors.

Now he's interviewing for president of the Republic of Texas
Leon Excalibur Hooten III lured businessmen to pay him for letters of credit by claiming to be the ex-president of the Dominion of Melchizedek (a nonexistent island supposedly located in the South Pacific), with $25 million in assets from Melchizedek bonds and banks.

He didn't do anything they wouldn't have done in Melchizedek
After a jury found developer Kenneth Schnitzer guilty of bank fraud involving a property swap in the '80s by his failed savings and loan, eight prominent Houston businessmen filed a brief protesting the conviction, and Judge David Hittner decided to overrule the jury and acquit him.

Who says justice is dead?
Those cat-bashing teens from East Bernard -- the ones who clubbed a ballfield mascot to death with baseball bats -- were given probation for their crime, only to be summoned back to court when two of them were arrested for shoplifting snuff at Wal-mart.

(Please Mess with My) Toot Toot
Record producer Huey P. Meaux, whose last national hit was "(Don't Mess with My) Toot Toot," fled to Mexico after a raid on his Houston studio yielded more than 1,000 Polaroids showing Meaux in sexual encounters with girls as young as eight.

That's because he's never stayed at the EconoLodge
When Metro chairman Billy Burge was criticized for his lavish spending -- including stays at the Ritz-Carlton and traveling into the Virginia countryside to dine at L'Auberge Chez Francois and The Inn at Little Washington, the area's two top-rated restaurants -- he said in his defense that he was "not aware" that staying at the Ritz-Carlton might cost more than other hotels.

As may your expense account
Criticized for Metro's $630,000 buyout of its staff attorney's contract, Burge conceded that "it may be viewed as generous."

How can we miss you when you won't go away?
Although state law mandates that Burge's term as Metro chairman expired in May 1995, he refused -- with the collusion of county commissioners whose precincts had benefited from his reign -- to be dislodged from the post when County Judge Robert Eckels wanted to replace him.

Boss of the year
Robert Salazar claimed that his subordinate, Sandra Orellana, fell to her death from a hotel balcony where they were having sex on a California business trip. Salazar, who went to bed without reporting her fall, was questioned by L.A. police after simulations using a mannequin indicated her body should not have landed where it was found.

He shoots! He scores!
Ex-Rocket Vernon Maxwell, already appealing a jail sentence for flouting his court-ordered drug rehab program, was ordered to pay $1,350 a month to support an illegitimate child by one Houston woman and was sued by another for giving her genital herpes.

Crime & Punishment

I see a cast-iron pan ... I hear a sizzling noise ....
A west-side animal shelter asked a psychic to help recover ten purloined pot-bellied pigs.

He'd planned on hitting Sam Nuchia's house next
Jose Morales was allegedly helping himself to construction materials from an unfinished house just before dawn, only to be greeted by the shotgun-wielding next-door neighbor -- District Attorney Johnny Holmes.

High mileage
Houstonian Jesus Rodriguez was arrested in Roma after police found 30 packages of marijuana floating in the gas tank of his Ford Ranger.

He knew he should have chosen the "less dry" setting
Lynn Cardell Holland, dressed only in his underpants, was accosted by police while he waited for his clothes to cycle through the washer and dryer of the Montrose house he was burglarizing.

Mr. Holland, Calvin Klein for you on line one
The nearly naked Holland jumped through a window, barreled through a daycare playground full of three-year-olds, broke his elbow climbing a fence and was nabbed hiding under a deck; at Ben Taub's emergency room, still wearing only underpants, he fled into Hermann Park, where he was nabbed again.

After which imagemeistress Elyse Lanier chastised him for skewing our crime statistics

When Julio Martinez was spotted knocking out a window with a shovel, he fled to a nearby home, knocked down an 83-year-old woman and stole her car, went to his employer's house and stole a Camaro, wrecked that car, drove it into a Taco Cabana parking lot and was captured by customers and employees when he tried to steal a woman's van.

He would have used his voter's registration card, but he had mislaid it
Derek Calkins was arrested at his girlfriend's mother's house after he robbed a Pasadena bank by passing tellers a note written on one of the mother's checks.

Hi-Yo, Silver, away!
Two trustees working at the Ramsey II unit's horse barn escaped the prison on horses.

But Maxwell and Cassell didn't bite
Police arrested 108 suspects wanted on outstanding warrants by inviting them to show up to claim free tickets to a Rockets game.

He thought someone was calling to offer him Rockets tickets
After a burglar stole Rick Davis's golf clubs, cell phone and pager, Davis -- who has caller ID -- dialed his pager, left his telephone number and got a return call from the thief, who was arrested.

My answering machine can kick your answering machine's butt
Houston gangs obtained their own unlisted numbers and equipped them with answering machines, the better to swap insults, threats and obscenities with rival gangs.

Next time she'll call the Better Business Bureau
Linda Marie Davis was so mad at the inferior cocaine she bought from a dealer that she dialed 911 to complain about him, then waited at a pay phone for police to arrive.

Linda Marie Davis told him it couldn't fail
Todd Warren Fisher backed his truck up to a credit union's automated teller machine, chained it to his ball hitch and dragged the cash machine away -- all of which, including his license plate number, was filmed by the location's security cameras.

Plus an "Arrest Me" tattoo on his forehead
Police asked citizens to be on the lookout for burglary suspect Jeffrey John Manibusan, who has tattoos of a peacock, octopus and Mickey Mouse on his left arm, a picture of Jesus and a tribal marking on his right arm, a dragon on his back and a teddy bear with the name "Susan" on his chest.

If it can find another NFL team, all is forgiven
Two Houston federal prosecutors got in Dutch for distributing the dubious Quadro Tracker device, which the FBI has declared bogus; proponents claim it can be used to find anything from lost golf balls to contraband to hidden treasure.

Of thee I sing
James Edward Tyson shot a bald eagle, had himself photographed holding it trophy-style and took the film to be processed at Wal-mart, where an employee notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fine: $20,000.

He was on the Ken Hoffman Diet
An HISD investigation into its cafeteria operations led to the arrest of an employee for pilfering Twinkies and cereal.

Her plans to impersonate an IRS auditor, a bail bondsman or Dan Patrick didn't work out

Elizabeth Prantil got probation for posing as an attorney and taking on a personal injury case.

And if that doesn't do the trick, they'll bring in Fuhrman and Vannater
The family of a teenager who was fatally shot while handcuffed in a police car asked a judge to delay the HPD's internal investigation until the family could bring in Dennis Fung, the hapless LAPD criminalist from the O.J. Simpson case, to evaluate evidence.

The Easter Bunny barely escaped being flattened by the same guy
John Lienhard, the erudite host of public radio's "The Engines of Our Ingenuity," was walking his dogs when a motorist followed him onto a lawn and ran him down, breaking both his legs.

Then they interrogated him about the John Lienhard case
After Chris Hawkins plowed his 1985 Cadillac halfway through a southeast Houston home, injuring three children and two adult residents, he was cited for failure to drive in a single lane.

They were doing a slow burn
Three women who had just torched the car of a romantic rival were stopped by a Baytown cop who noticed that two of them had smoking hair.

Quentin Tarantino asked if he could come, too
Judge W.R. Voight ordered a teenager convicted of a drive-by shooting to attend an autopsy so he could appreciate the effects of violent crime.

Smile and the world smiles with you; smirk and you smirk alone
Visiting judge Allen Stilley tacked another three years onto Tony Lanell Moore's 12-year sentence when he noticed him smirking during a statement by the aunt of the youth he helped murder.

It was worse when they hauled Mother Teresa in on littering charges and booked her as Teresa Rodriguez

Seventy-nine-year-old Lucille White was jailed for a month on kidnapping charges after she took her husband of 59 years, a ward of Harris County, from a Houston nursing home and drove him to Longview in hopes of admitting him to a better facility. Upon her transfer to the Harris County Jail, she was denied bail when authorities mistook her for Lucille Davis, a woman with a rap sheet; Marvin Zindler had to spring her.

Somewhere, Lee Strasberg is smiling
Kevin Kyle Pever was charged with impersonating a police officer after he stopped a motorist, using a light blue car equipped with flashing lights and siren, and wrote a parking ticket. Police who arrested him at home found assorted weaponry, police shoulder patches, four pairs of handcuffs and a two-way police radio, which they used to call HPD dispatchers. They drove Pever to the police station, where he recommended a parking spot where he said the car would not be towed.

Our roving cultural ambassadors
The Houston-based Bandidos biker gang was suspected when anti-tank grenades damaged two Hells' Angels clubhouses in Denmark, part of a Scandinavian turf war that included a shootout at the Copenhagen airport, followed by a funeral at which attendees wore armbands reading, "God Forgives, Bandidos Don't."

Good thing they didn't have anti-tank grenades
Six Aeros players were arrested after a bar fight at Sam's Boat, during which they flung food at each other, progressed to baskets and chairs, then kicked, hit, punched and threw headlocks on policemen who tried to escort them from the club.

Somewhere, Lee Strasberg is laughing
Two nude Fort Bend teenagers told Houston police they were carjacking victims who had been robbed, stripped and stuffed in a car trunk; they turned out to be inept robbers who had abandoned their loot, gun and Jeep when convenience store employees gave chase.

Situation Normal, All Fouled Up

Good thing he didn't name it "Apocalypse Now"
Evangelist Loren Davis's DC-3 cargo plane, the "Chariot of Fire," belly-flopped onto the lawn of a Conroe residence and burned up; nobody was hurt.

Lucky her
Margareta Luna won a free visit from an exterminator and an entomologist when she wrote a letter to Combat, the roach bait manufacturers, claiming that "I have the worst roach problem in America." The experts estimated that there were 25,000 to 30,000 roaches in her house.

They're keeping mum about the open bag of Chee-tos
NASA inspectors found that the shuttle Atlantis had launched with two loose wrenches aboard: one inside a solid rocket booster and another on the floor of an engine compartment.

Either that, or very small Chee-tos
Unveiling photographs of microscopic segmented, tubelike shapes found in a meteorite, NASA scientists announced the squiggles might be evidence that there once was life on Mars.

They're flooding over a four-leaf clover
After the Sierra Club complained that clover was flourishing in the new wetlands the state had created to compensate for Grand Parkway construction, the Department of Transportation agreed to re-grade the area so it could retain rainwater.

Where are those $500 hammers when you need them?
Astronauts on the shuttle Columbia had to cancel two high-priority space walks when the airlock door jammed.

And you should see their fire ant bites
Twenty-two members of the Hollywood crew filming Locusts in Fort Bend County came down with poison ivy after a night shoot in a weedy field.

Next on Channel 2: Rob Johnson shows you how to escape ...
Truck driver Jesse Martinez was almost buried alive when a ruptured grain silo poured a mountain of winter wheat onto his 18-wheeler.

They thought polynomials were what Marvin Zindler's suits are made of
Ninety-two percent of the Houston high school students who took a new state algebra exam flunked it.

Prime suspect: David Adickes
Vandals tipped a 1,000-pound metal globe sculpture from its pedestal in
Jones Plaza and rolled it across Smith Street.

Walking on water doesn't count
Because of problems getting the ice to freeze, Southwestern Bell had to postpone the opening of its outdoor skating rink, "Miracle on Main Street."

Our Distinguished Visitors

Four Seasons fatwa
Ralph the Swimming Pig had his reservations canceled abruptly by the Four Seasons Hotel out of deference to a Muslim dignitary. The swine was taken in by the Crowne Plaza, where he was housed on the executive level, provided with a limo and given a red carpet to walk on each time he entered or exited the lobby.

If you've seen one country club, you've seen them all
At a charity benefit, iconic New York cabaret pianist Bobby Short repeatedly referred to the River Oaks Country Club as the Riverdale Country Club.

Actually, it's closer to Riverdale
The cable food show Dining Around, in a segment on Houston restaurants, gave the address of Tony's as 1801 Post Oak in Seabrook.

Including the entire membership of Weasels Anonymous
A party for book-touring O.J. Simpson lawyer Robert Shapiro, thrown by oilman Johnny Mitchell, was beset by numerous gatecrashers.

He left out the last line: "You 12 nitwits."
In front of cheering parishioners at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran gave a 20-minute sermon in which he quoted James Baldwin, Charles Dickens, the Book of Jeremiah and himself ("If it doesn't fit, you must acquit").

Vernon Maxwell and the entire Aeros hockey squad pitched in for bail
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Donovan Osborne was handcuffed and charged with public intoxication and trespassing when he refused to leave the Roxy nightclub at 2:05 a.m.

The runners-up were Warren Moon and Huey Meaux
Much-married Houston native Kenny Rogers, nearly as famous for talking dirty on the telephone as he is for his singing career, was honored by the city as an Outstanding Houstonian after a Jones Hall concert.

Would they take Ken Hoffman, too?
The wayward manatee rescued from Buffalo Bayou after spitting up a plastic-wrapped head of lettuce was flown to a Florida wildlife park, where she was welcomed by seven other manatees and dined on cabbage.

But they were really surprised when he spit up a plastic-wrapped head of lettuce

When customs officers at Houston Intercontinental x-rayed the stomach of a nervous, heavily sweating passenger, they discovered he had swallowed 3.4 pounds of heroin divided into two-inch pellets as thick as a finger.

They paid him in plastic-wrapped heads of lettuce
Richard Long, a British artist who began his career by trampling a path in grass, came to Houston to paint several monumental mud works -- using his hands -- on the walls of the Contemporary Art Museum.

We'll send Huey Meaux to Portland and call it even
A private north Houston jail, designed for immigration detainees, was discovered to be housing 244 sex offenders from Oregon after two of the felons escaped.

Party Down, Houston!

The Marie Antoinette doll came with its own little cake
At a silver tea for the Salvation Army, socialites auctioned off dolls they had dressed in such getups as ball gowns, bejeweled slippers and a Cinderella outfit of tulle, taffeta, gilded braid and tiny beads.

Coming in '97: The Magic of Betti Maldonado
Robin Leach, annoying cockney host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, served as emcee for a charity roast-n-toast dubbed "The Magic of Carolyn Farb."

The winner got two tickets to "The Magic of Carolyn Farb"
At a Room Attendant Rodeo to raise money for a local women's center, Houston hotel maids competed in a Bed-Busting Contest, a Waste-Basket Round-Up and an event that required them to thread toilet paper through an obstacle course.

For entertainment, they competed in a millionaire-roping contest and a Rolex Round-Up

Blond socialite Suzanne Saperstein, departing River Oaks for Malibu, was feted with an all-girl "Swedish wake" at which her friends dressed in white and decorated with a coffin-like box containing a blond, bejeweled mannequin, 12 Perrier-Jouet champagne bottles and an empty tin of caviar. Guests of honor: Saperstein's plastic surgeon and Saperstein's new pair of collagen-inflated lips.

Annals of Passive-Aggression
Never-married Alicia von Greisman was birthdayed by pals who all dressed in bridal regalia, dined on wedding cake to the strains of "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" and asked for the card of "best man" John Moritz, a private investigator who counted several divorcee clients among the guests.

Dear Elvis: Help, I'm being held prisoner at a really dumb party!
The Houston Chronicle's "Entertaining" section featured a monkey-themed soiree with a menu including parsley trees with carrot trunks, plus a table setting anchored by a ceramic monkey whose purse, suspended on a golden chain, opened to reveal "an intimate note to Elvis."

Can we substitute AstroTurf?
The Chronicle's "Entertaining" section also spotlighted a festive table setting by the Comtesse Sheila de Rochambeau, who served her guests quail egg nests on a "tablecloth" of live grass.

Those gender-bending Houston weathermen, Chapter 512
Former Channel 2 weatherman Doug Johnson attended a charity roast wearing a sequined blouse, long black skirt and black hat with netting and a feather.

Unfortunately, Doug Johnson was home with a bout of PMS
Male and female guests turned up at PR woman Molly Smyth's birthday party wearing blond wigs.

"Puerile Petrochemical Party" was too hard to spell
Members of Mensa, the self-styled high-IQ group, met in Houston at a national convention they officially named the "Bodacious Black Gold Blowout."

Spike Lee is thinking screenplay
Texas City cops busted up a peaceful block party and arrested seven attendees in a black neighborhood full of NASA workers, medical professionals, firefighters and teachers -- the same neighborhood where cops were ordered by a judge to cease erecting roadblocks that kept residents from getting home after church.

Salman Rushdie and Susan Sontag were busy that night
At a benefit for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, among the authors who read from their works were Sidney Sheldon, Michael Crichton, Mary Tyler Moore and Richard North Patterson.

You are growing sleepy ... sleepy ... very, very sleepy
The Heart Ball's silent auction featured a "Couch Potato Package" that included a recliner, a TV set, a year's supply of potato chips, Dr. Pepper and Blue Bell ice cream, plus a year's subscription to the Houston Chronicle.

Prozac consumption went through the roof
The DiverseWorks alternative art space banned the wearing of black at its annual fundraiser.

Our Esteemed Neighbors

Alvin in their rear-view mirror
After three people were bitten, the Alvin City Council evicted the handful of prairie dogs from the city's Prairie Dog Park and sent them back to Lubbock. Quoth parks director Don Cramer: "It's just a doggone shame because there's nothing wrong with these prairie dogs, for gosh sakes."

We hear the Alvin parks director has sent out feelers
Escaped and abandoned emus, the world's second-tallest bird, were spotted running wild in Liberty County, where they stomped several dogs and exhibited no fear of automobiles.

But the reward for spotting wild emus stands
KLOL disc jockeys Stevens & Pruett announced on April Fools' Day that wild monkeys were running loose in West University Place and offered a $100 reward to anybody who spotted one -- a bounty they withdrew, in a rare display of good taste, after the Ebola virus surfaced in two monkeys at an Alice, Texas, primate center.

Followed shortly by a parade celebrating Uncle Hilty's death sentence
Conroe staged a parade and homecoming rally in honor of Michael New, who was booted out of the Army for refusing to wear United Nations insignia on a peacekeeping mission.

If they had thrown in a date with Michael New, she might have done it
A Dallas stripper hired by Montgomery County investigators to seduce a confession from a murder suspect quit because she was unhappy with her pay of $450 a week, plus expenses and free use of an apartment in Conroe.

And a partridge in a pear tree
Among the junk routinely buried in Galveston County parks by county employees were a refrigerator, a mimeograph machine, three cars, two oil-filled barrels and assorted roof shingles.

Why do you think they call it the trauma unit?
Nurses and former patients complained that the UTMB trauma unit subjected unwilling patients with no serious signs of injury to such expensive, painful procedures as insertion of urinary catheters, IV lines and nasogastric tubes, often placing them in restraints and cutting their clothes off first.

Peevish in Pearland
Confronted with a 16-page ballot too long to fit on a computer punch card--- the longest one in Texas history -- Pearland voters rejected all 77 proposed city charter amendments, including the one to change charter numerals from Arabic to Roman.

And the Alexander Haig Award goes to ...
A drill instructor for Conroe's school-district boot camp was fired after he seized control of the school cafeteria, ordering 250 fifth-graders to hit the floor and do pushups because they were being noisy.

Fifth grade is hell, but sixth grade is worse
A substitute teacher in Galveston roughed up five sixth-graders during a math class, choking one 11-year-old and knocking another down when she failed to solve a problem on the blackboard.

... And wait'll you get to high school
A former New Waverly High School student sued two of his ex-football coaches for threatening to hang him with an extension cord and holding a starter pistol to his head; the two, who were fired after the incident, claimed it was mutually agreeable horseplay designed to get him to improve his grades.

The exotic folkways of Kingwood
Kingwood physician George Stokes, under court orders to pay $300,000 to three ex-employees who had accused him of sexual harassment, printed legal notices declaring himself a "freeman," renouncing his citizenship and declaring the judgment a fraud because he was not tried under his proper Christian name, which he argued omitted the title "Dr." and included a comma between his middle and last names.

Then again, it could have been big and beige
A woman who reported seeing a tiger east of Tomball later told constables she only knew the animal was big and yellow, whereupon they called off the search.

Is that a gavel in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?
After his first City Council meeting, newly elected Galveston mayor Henry Freudenburg decided he needed a gavel bigger than the small mallet wielded by his predecessor of 12 years, a woman.

Kingwood's been wooing him ever since
Arcola City Council members ousted the mayor for refusing to hook his home up to the city sewer system.

That took care of OUR Christmas list!
"The Game of La Porte," a Monopoly-style board game produced by that city's Noon Optimist Club, allows players to use play money to purchase such local businesses as the Kroger Food Store, La Porte Vision Center and La Car Porte.

Those Inventive Houstonians

The glorious legacy of the Allen Brothers lives on
After a NASA funded team turned up possible fossil evidence of life on Mars, Houston businessman John Styles Jr., a speculator in meteorites, locked his Mars nuggets in a River Oaks bank vault while he decided whether to cut them up for resale.

Could they tackle Pasadena pro bono?
Houston-based Drypers Corp., which had been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, revived its fortunes by introducing a disposable baking-soda diaper.

So THAT'S what happened to Dave Ward!
Rice graduate James Mischka and partner Mark Badgley, designers of high-ticket evening wear, launched a fall line that achieved its vintage effect by soaking beads in Drano.

Oh, Regis!
Houstonian Wayne Story invented the TooT TrappeR, a charcoal-filled seat cushion that traps flatulent emissions. When he appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, the perky hostess said her family uses the contraption.

The kids had to teach them how to use it
The Precinct 4 constable's office developed a software program called Peek-A-Boo, which allows parents to search for pornographic images on home computers used by their children.

Don't ever change
Houston's York Group introduced "Expressions," a coffin model of white ash wood with a special finish that lets friends and family write permanent messages right on the casket; it comes furnished with a box of markers.

Don't ever change, Part II
After LSD guru Timothy Leary died of cancer, it was announced that the Celestis of Houston firm would launch his ashes into space orbit inside a gold-plated capsule the size of a lipstick.

Hi, I'm Kevin, and I'll be your yell leader tonight
Bucky Richardson, a former quarterback for the Oilers and Texas A&M, announced plans to open a Bryan steak house that will replicate the Aggies' stadium, with tables on a green floor painted with yard markers, murals of crowded grandstands and big-screen TVs in the bar "so that when you sit in there it'll be just like watching a game at Kyle Field."

Bucky Richardson is ordering them by the gross
Jason Frankel's company, The Tooth Fairy, began producing elaborate novelty teeth, including such models as the misshapen, best-selling "Bubba," widely gapped and generously endowed with stains, cavities and cracks.

Stop him before he sculpts again
David Adickes, sculptor of downtown's cello man and Huntsville's super-gigantic Sam Houston, revealed his next project: an American Presidents Theme Park populated by 16-foot busts of all 41 presidents, crowning eight-foot bases that will double as presidential mini-museums.

And thence to the human brain that thinks up weird ties
Rice University celebrated its new computer science building with a special edition necktie depicting the hall's mosaic ceiling mural, "The Birth of Consciousness," a black spot of nothingness flowing to a flower representing the primordial Big Bang and thence to the universe that forms around it.

Lynn Wyatt passed
James Russell Paugh, now doing 30 years, bilked 2,000 investors by showing them a dilapidated grocery he said would become a members-only store, "The Shopping Adventure," where valets would greet customers at the door and wholesale prices on everything from a can of corn to a Lexus would prevail.

We were pulling for "The Rice Adventure"
Developer Randall Davis ran a contest to rename the renovated Rice Hotel and received such suggestions as The Ricestonian, Rice Royale, The Rice Experience, Rice Twice Lofts and The 1913 House of Rice.

Till death do us part
Pawnbroker Ted Kipperman, a licensed minister, converted a tiny guard shack into a drive-thru wedding chapel for customers who buy a wedding ring or a gun at his store.

The cutouts booed, too
When crowds at Oilers games shrank drastically after the team announced they'd be leaving town, some lonely fans in the mezzanine filled vacant seats with 17 humanoid cardboard cutouts.

Now he's perfecting the seat belts
Former rodeo cowboy Morris Futch, whose head was once stepped on by a bull at a San Antonio rodeo, designed the "BullTough" safety helmet for bull riders.

That's how ValuJet got its start
Doug O'Connor flew from Galveston to Ontario in his homemade gyroplane (think Road Warrior), which he describes as "a lawn chair attached to a ceiling fan."

The Rich Are Different from You and Me

But did it get mints on its pillow?
When Barney and Ellen Kogen set sail on a 114-day cruise around the world, they rented a big truck to transport their belongings to the ship and booked an extra cabin for their Stairmaster.

Why Santa's reindeer won't fly over River Oaks without their little Kevlar vests

Socialite Pepe Anderson told the Chronicle's "Entertaining" section about her family's traditional sportsman's Christmas tree, which began when her grandchildren festooned an evergreen with red and green fishing worms, then garlanded it with empty shotgun shells strung on fishing line.

Eat your heart out, Tim Leary
Vicki Criezis, widow of former Houston restaurateur Ernie Criezis -- he of Harlow's and The Great Caruso -- found him a plot next to Marilyn Monroe's crypt in Hollywood's Forest Lawn cemetery.

After decades of research
Houston's Ladies Who Lunch, reluctant to mess up their lipstick or leave unsightly smears on their drinking glasses, decided en masse to sip their iced tea through straws.

2-2, exc. condition, wtr vu
The Neiman Marcus holiday catalog offered a $5,000 fully furnished fish condominium.

Including Envy Green, Ostentation Orange and Mercenary Mauve
At a party where the female guests were asked to come in exercise clothes, socialite Margaret Williams arrived in a Chanel spandex halter, Chanel spandex short shorts over Chanel leggings, and a floaty Chanel wrap -- a workout ensemble which she owns in several colors.

When they sang "and many more," they meant it
Don Sanders -- the business executive, not the folk singer -- celebrated his 60th birthday by flying 178 friends to the Phoenician resort in Phoenix, where he treated them to golf and tennis tournaments, spa treatments and massages, an outdoor barbecue with fireworks and a seated dinner-dance.

We're afraid to ask about Pussy Galore
Businessman Russell Bentley's 007-themed birthday festivities featured his staged "abduction" from a golf course and a private plane ride home, where gold-painted female legs sprouted from his lawn, casino gambling equipment had been installed in his house and his wife's hairdresser sported a diamond-and-emerald necklace twined in his locks.

That's Entertainment

The prosecution rests
A Channel 11 report on whether Houston TV stations devote too much time to crime news was preceded by a lengthy segment on the death of two La Porte teenagers and a piece on the discovery of two corpses along Texas 288.

Thus setting back Houston's new image campaign ten years
Rumors spread that a Planet Hollywood would open next year in the Pavilion on Post Oak's defunct movie theater.

The nabobs at Newsweek were suitably impressed
Promoter N. Durr announced plans to bring the Three Tenors to play the Astrodome for what she billed as their final concert anywhere; pricing tickets at $1,000$2,500 for floor seating, she promised to cut the show's set into small pieces, curtains and all, and sell it to audience members.

But there was so much pond scum, all they hooked were bottom-feeders
The Summer Boat Show featured a "Media Fishing Frenzy" at which such luminaries as Roseann Rogers, Dayna Steele, Tom Koch and Lanny Griffith cast their lines into a trout-filled swimming pool to see who could catch the biggest fish.

Make mine static
Channel 13, airing nothing but static and fuzz after its transmitter went out for 20 minutes, still beat Channel 51's news and Channel 8's documentary, The Joy of Stress, in that time period.

But only if Clyde Wilson plays Percy Foreman
Donna Mills, the aging Knots Landing babe, announced that she'd like to play the late Houston socialite/presumptive murderess Candace Mossler in a TV miniseries.

Suspicions confirmed
Chronicle columnist Thom Marshall confessed that the few times he had attempted to keep a journal, he gave it up "because it seemed like there wasn't much to say. Nothing exciting happened to write about."

Make mine static, Part II
Channel 51's Thanksgiving morning special, filmed in anchorwoman Donna Rusch's small house, featured the culinarily clueless hostess fixing dinner, co-host Doug Johnson jumping out of an airplane, an indigestion expert and a sports report on how to watch football all day undisturbed.

But if he'd accused the guy's mom of wearing army boots, that would have been another matter

A jury ruled that disc jockey Lanny Griffith was wrongfully fired by KLOL after he did a live commercial with an advertiser during which he kidded the man about his wife sleeping around and having loose morals.

Your Government at Work

He has more in common with LBJ than he knows
Novice candidate Michael Bunch, labeling incumbent state Representative Diana Davila "a wild liberal," sent out fliers exhorting his would-be constituents to "Vote a Bunch."

Michael Bunch wishes he'd thought of that
Democratic state Representative Kenneth Yarbrough's two-bedroom home in the Heights was listed in county records as home to 14 other registered voters, including his three adult children, his companion's two adult children, her former son-in-law, her mother and six miscellaneous adults -- most of whom voted regularly in Democratic primaries, although they received mail at addresses in other districts.

Try asking Kathy Whitmire and Sylvester Turner
After Mayor Bob Lanier got lost in his notes while trying to persuade NFL owners to promise Houston another football team, one owner wondered aloud, "How did that guy get elected?"

He's hoping we won't find out what he said about Lady Bird
Foes unearthed evidence that Republican congressional candidate Ron Paul had called Jack Kemp "a malicious jerk," George Bush a "bum" and the late Barbara Jordan "a fraud."

Kenneth Starr, call your office
Jack Cherry, a Democrat who wanted to succeed Steve Stockman, complained that the congressman had improperly spent about $48 in campaign contributions on haircuts and dry-cleaning.

She had to cancel her joint trapeze act with the mayor of Moscow
City councilwoman Helen Huey broke her leg while serving as a target at a
dunking contest.

It was her Zen-like calm that fooled them
Huey, who is of Lebanese, Native American and European extraction, was mistakenly listed in a national directory of Asian elected officials.

Her colleagues are just opting for "Bubba" teeth
After a Council study team decided to visit topless clubs, adult book stores and peep shows incognito, Huey, mulling possible disguises, told a reporter, "You've just never seen me in leather, have you?"

As if Helen Huey in leather weren't enough to discourage patrons
Among the measures suggested to Council for cracking down on topless clubs were requiring dancers to remain six feet away from the nearest customer, eliminating tall chairs that obscure lewd conduct and requiring dancers to perform behind Plexiglas barriers.

The NRA loved him
Tom Kelley, Republican nominee for the state Senate, was discovered to be an ex-con who served time for two 1960 armed holdups.

Get thee behind me, Clinton
Roland Elledge, Republican candidate for Harris County tax assessor-collector, said he had emerged from bankruptcy in the '80s with two good things: "First, I found my Lord Jesus Christ, and second, I pledged to work as hard as I could for the rest of my life to defeat Democrats."

On Saturdays, they attend Temple Emanu El
Dwayne Bohac, a Republican candidate for state representative, solicited Catholic votes with a campaign letter identifying him as a "pioneer member" of St. Ambrose Catholic Church, even though another piece of his campaign literature identified him and his wife as "active members of Second Baptist Church."

Calling Dr. Freud
After city Controller Lloyd Kelley called Councilman Joe Roach "a little hypocrite," Roach, who is a dwarf, called Kelley "not man enough" to fill his office in a professional manner.

He thought everyone's working conditions were like his own
An unflattering profile of his boss prompted Congressman Steve Stockman's spokesman, Corey Birenbaum, to write to the author, Houstonian Mimi Swartz, telling her she got her job at Texas Monthly "for reasons I would refuse to speculate upon in polite society. (Hope your knees have healed up nicely.)"

They don't call him "Honest Phil" for nothing
After Phil Gramm touted his IRA plan at a kitchen-table meeting crowded with three Bellaire couples, six photographers and two reporters, the senator's spokeswoman claimed the get-together was totally unrelated to his re-election campaign.

And nix the beard
Visiting judge Pat Lykos told an Orthodox Jew to remove his skullcap or he wouldn't be allowed to testify as an expert witness.

And they got all the questions on polynomials wrong, too
More than 29,000 Harris County voters in the November elections had their ballots thrown out because their ballots were marked for two or more congressional candidates.

Wise Guy
Montgomery County Sheriff Guy Williams was challenged in the Republican primary by David Van Williams, a police captain who appeared on the ballot as D.V. "Guy" Williams, claiming he got the nickname when people began calling him on the phone and asking, "Hey, guy, what's up?"

His friends used to ask, "Hey, Jack, what's up?"
Gary A. Brooks, a heavy-equipment operator from Uvalde, tried to run for Congress in the 240-mile-distant Gulf Coast district once represented by Jack Brooks, applying for a ballot listing as G. Jack Brooks. After an Austin judge decided he should be listed as G.A. Brooks, he withdrew from the race.

Who says legislative oratory died with Barbara Jordan?
State senator and handgun proponent Jerry Patterson, incensed that Metro banned concealed handguns on its buses, said he might carry a hidden gun aboard and "then I'll go to Metro and say, 'Nah, nah, nah nah nah! Rode your bus, rode your bus!'"

World o' Lawsuits

The bus driver thought she was Jerry Patterson
Alicea Zickert, who tried to board a Metro bus on the way to the vet with her cat Payawaacket, sued when the driver ejected the cat and carrier after a struggle; Zickert stood in front of the bus until a passenger got off and yanked her aside.

He used his special Pablo Casals grip
A mother and son sued HISD after a music teacher paddled him with a broken cello for being tardy.

Do injuries to our aesthetic sensibilities count?
Lawyer Bernie Strauss solicited clients with a newspaper ad that inquired, "Have You Been Injured Due to the Collapse of a $5 White Plastic Stack Chair?"

See, doctor, when I was five ...
A family sued Continental Airlines after their five-year-old daughter was terrorized in flight by a six-foot python, which escaped from a passenger who used the snake as therapy for a past episode of sexual harassment.

Look at it this way: It could have been a python, or one of your boss's movies

Claiming she was traumatized when a plane's engine shut down after ingesting lavatory fluid in flight, an employee of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino's production company sued Continental Airlines.

Fred has retained Johnny Cochran
A Spring couple sued the animal dealer who sold them Fred, a chimp that knocked one of his new owners to the ground, pinned and mauled her legs and shredded her jeans. According to the dealer's lawyer, the chimp had assaulted his previous owner's wife, "but otherwise the guy couldn't say enough good things about Fred."

They've replaced it with a large velvet painting of Wayne Dolcefino
The Elvis Presley estate sued Houston's proudly cheesy Velvet Elvis bar for trademark infringement and unfair competition, demanding that it change its name and remove a large velvet painting of Elvis in a white jumpsuit and oversize belt buckle.

After the settlement, they all went to the Velvet Elvis for a drink
A lawsuit by dining demigod/Anthony's proprietor Tony Vallone forced Anthony Russo to switch the name of his two-year-old Cafe Anthony to Russo's Cafe Anthony; during proceedings, Vallone admitted he had legally changed his own name from Joseph to Tony, not Anthony.

The Angst of Sex

Anna Nicole's Very Big Adventures, Continued
Pneumatic widow Anna Nicole Smith filed for bankruptcy, lost her legal bid for the fortune of late hubby J. Howard Marshall, modeled large-size jeans for Lane Bryant, suffered tissue damage from her breast implants and was the subject of a Globe cover story headlined "Anna Nicole Smith's Boobs Explode."

Even that Anna Nicole headline didn't slow traffic
Houston became a major distribution hub for the smuggling of silicone gel breast implants from abroad, a thriving black market business since their safety was questioned in an epidemic of lawsuits.

Proud member of the Texas Bra Association
Paul Looney, the lawyer who briefly claimed to be representing Oklahoma City bombing defendant Timothy McVeigh, was sued for legal malpractice by a client who accused him of demanding sexual favors and declaring to her in a recorded phone call, "You got too nice of tits to go to jail. I can't let those tits go to jail."

His lawyer is Paul Looney
Gino Barone sued the city for $105,000 after the police department destroyed about 480 rubber dildos, vibrators and sex toys confiscated from his two adult video stores.

Her new job: pilot on a Liberian freighter
The Men's Club had to fork over $30,000 to a ship captain who ruptured his Achilles tendon at the club's well- lubricated golf tournament, when

stripper Lindsay Pepin flipped over the pair's golf cart, landing the captain in a drainage canal.

Wrong side of the tracts
Webster city fathers fended off an attempt to open the region's first all-nude restaurant on Bay Area Boulevard, ruling that it would be too close to a Christian Science reading room.

The thought of Stevens & Pruett naked scares us, too
Shock jocks Stevens & Pruett were denied permission to hold their charity biker rally in Montgomery County after their producer asked if the sheriff would have a problem with nudity at the event.

Where are those Plexiglas barriers when you need them?
Bentley Nettles, a primary candidate for Fort Bend county attorney, sent out fliers accusing incumbent "Bud" Childers of disrobing to his underwear in front of 250 people -- an episode that occurred as part of a live auction-style show at which Childers sold off his tennis shoes, warm-up suit, Olympic shorts and Special Olympics T-shirt to benefit the Richmond State School.

Bentley Nettles went home in a huff
At the University of Houston's "Great Conversations" benefit, the table assigned to discuss lesbian feminist Camille Paglia was arrayed with jockey shorts and bikini panties as place mats. Some guests wore the underwear as party hats.

Vernon Maxwell had been giving him pointers
Former Houston Rocket Sam Cassell was no-billed by a grand jury after a woman alleged she was forced to have sex with him at a Fort Bend County party.

We have a floral delivery for you from a Mr. Bobbitt
Patricia Lopez was charged with aggravated assault for nearly slicing off her estranged husband's penis with a knife while she performed oral sex on the blindfolded man.

We Are What We Eat

And they made everyone swear not to season with dry rub
During the spring drought, wildfire-minded state foresters asked participants in the Montgomery County Barbecue Cook-off not to haul their lit pits to and from the fairgrounds.

The passengers were extra cheesed
Smoke from an overcooked pizza forced a Boston-bound Continental jet to return to Houston.

They were determined to get lit
A bar patron unsuccessfully sued the Club Crystal after he got first- and second-degree burns from a flaming "La Cucaracha" cocktail, a mixture of creme de menthe, tequila and rum that he and his friends ignited themselves.

It'll be called the Ken Hoffman 12-Step Program
Gary Canion, a concerned citizen, wrote the Chronicle suggesting that the government should initiate counseling for people addicted to such fat- and sodium-besotted fast foods as burgers and French fries.

But River Oaks socialites figured their straws made them immune
A Toxic Tea scare gripped the city after Channel 13 reported that half of restaurant iced-tea samples contained fecal coliform bacteria.

Recidivism plummeted
State officials disclosed that Andy Collins, the former prison system chief implicated in the VitaPro scandal, had ordered prison menus rewritten to provide VitaPro's dehydrated soy protein once a day.

Up next: the lo-cal forecast
To illustrate how hot it was, Channel 2 weatherman Frank Billingsley heated a Lean Cuisine on the hood of his car.

And you should see his refried beans
A cook from Leipzig, Germany, in Houston to train for the new Ninfa's scheduled to open there, conceded that "the hardest thing to learn has been the tortillas. My tortillas are German tortillas. They are square."

Those German tortillas are sounding better all the time
High levels of the carcinogen aflatoxin, a drought-induced fungus, were found in most of the corn harvested along the Texas Gulf Coast.

John O'Quinn cried for days
Houstonians in droves quit eating strawberries when they were suspected in an outbreak of cyclospora, a virulent parasitic disease; after suspicion shifted to raspberries and then to causes unknown, California strawberry growers promised they wouldn't sue Houston health authorities under the Texas "veggie libel law."

Absolutely no polynomials allowed
During a bias suit brought by minorities against the ubiquitous Pappas restaurant chain, workers said that the image-obsessed company required employees to wear starched, 100 percent cotton shirts and memorize the list of ingredients and cooking times for every dish.

Deep Thots

Fortunately she avoided the colon
Lynn Wyatt on the anatomical exhibits in the Museum of Health & Medical Science's Amazing Body Pavilion: "I want to hang out with all those brain neurons. Maybe something will rub off."

The King said, "Go home"
Magician Paul Driscoll on a power blackout at Magic Island, just as he began his Elvis Presley routine: "It was like Elvis was telling me something."

Eckhard is working on it
Carolyn Farb on celebrating the millennial New Year's Eve 1999: "Who knows? Maybe we'll spend it on the moon. With virtual reality, we could be in some computerized fantasy that has yet to be revealed."

Hell, Doug Johnson does that
Nayland Blake, a San Francisco artist who makes bunny sculptures of chocolate and strychnine, and his CAM all-bunny show: "What is Bugs Bunny actually doing. He's dressing in women's clothes ... he flouts convention .... The reason why everyone accepts that from that character is because it's a rabbit, and that's partially what's going on with the exhibit."

Katha Pollitt sent her regrets
KLOL DJ Jim Pruett, after Montgomery County rejected his charity biker rally for fear of nudity: "This is the 1990s, and women in the '90s do take off their tops at times."

Good thing, because Wayne promised him anonymity
Channel 13 attorney Chip Babcock on the source for Wayne Dolcefino's disputed Sylvester Turner scam story: "It probably doesn't matter if the devil himself gave Wayne that story."

Dallas explained
Lisa Loeb, speaking before her first Houston concert: "I was raised in
Dallas, so my first instinct is not to discuss my rage and pain, but just to say, 'Hi, how are you?' "

Just ask Anne Boleyn
Elyse Lanier, on how to have a happy marriage: "Treat him like a king, and if you're lucky, he'll treat you like a queen."

Not to mention Wayne Dolcefino
Arthur Andersen's Ken Kuhl, on why Houston didn't make it onto his company's Fortune list of 15 best cities in which to work and raise a family: "You just need to get rid of the heat, the humidity and those summer thunderstorms."

It was the bathroom breaks that tipped the scales
Anonymous juror in 178th district court, presided over by Judge Bill Harmon, on how she chose her winning Pick 3 lotto ticket: "I thought about all the judges I've seen, and how this particular one has better court order and he's been lenient to jurors and treated us to wonderful meals. He excuses us to go to the bathroom, and he's always real nice to us. That's why I chose 1, 7 and 8."

We'll drink to that
Dr. Michael DeBakey, after consulting on the quintuple bypass of the perennially well-lubricated Boris Yeltsin: "He's not an alcoholic."

A double feature of Big and Rear Window would be nice
Former Houston Oiler John Schuhmacher, on why he and a buddy are promoting their new cigar company as the Butt Brothers: "We both weigh around 350 pounds. You could show movies on our rear ends."

Preferably like Ronald Reagan's
Woodville dentist Brian Babin, on Donna Peterson, his congressional opponent in the Republican primary: "I have been married 23 years and have five children and my opponent has never been married, has no children .... If you are going to run on family values, you should have a family."

And really, when you get to know him, so's the Unabomber
Soon-to-be ex-Congressman Steve Stockman, on his persona: "Really, when you get to know me, I'm normal."

But can she still read Maxine's column?
Gossip columnist Maxine Mesinger on Barbara Jordan's funeral: "I often think when someone as beloved as Jordan dies, it's a shame she can't see and hear her accolades. But then, maybe she can."

If the Buddha had had a tummy tuck and some liposuction
Beauty queen Victoria Phuoc, on her husband Dr. Ho Tan Phuoc, a malpractice-suit-plagued plastic surgeon who specializes in Anglicizing the faces and figures of clients: "In the Vietnamese community, they say my husband is a living Buddha."

Fun Couples

Keep that breathless charm
Radio gossipeuse/naked DJ Lucy Lipps ratted to Hard Copy -- and Jerry Jones's biographer -- about the tipsy moves the Dallas Cowboys owner put on her when she interviewed him at an Austin restaurant.

Surprise! They settled out of court!
After three children, six years of marriage -- and 12 of living together part-time while he was still married to his first wife -- Linda Sarofim, the onetime secretary of billionaire investor Fayez, alleged in a $100 million divorce petition that he had assaulted, raped and falsely imprisoned her; then there was the question of child number three's parentage.

Business before pleasure
When former secretary of commerce Robert Mosbacher suddenly filed for divorce, entrepreneur/mega-babe Georgette hastily flew to his side and used all her formidable powers of persuasion to get him to withdraw the petition.

It's always nice when superstars take an interest in our young people
Hakeem Olajuwon, 33, who has an eight-year-old daughter by his long-banished former fiancee, entered into an arranged marriage with Dalia Asafi, the 18-year-old daughter of an Islamic businessman he met at his mosque -- and a recent winner of one of his Dream Foundation college scholarships.

We already feel better about fudging our business mileage
After IRS agent Terrance Catalina's lawyer called him "a patsy who was duped and blinded by love," jurors acquitted him of running a scam in which he and fellow IRS agent Emma Tanner charged thousands of dollars in clothing at Marshall Field's Galleria store, removed the price tags, placed them on clothes of lesser value, then turned them in for credit at the store's Town & Country location.

As long as thee both shall shop
Lori Flores and Sam Kircus, who as two kids from Pasadena wandered the romantic corridors of Gulfgate Mall, got married there -- in front of a crowd of holiday shoppers -- after marrying and divorcing other people.

Wayne's Bad Date, Part I
A misdemeanor charge against Wayne Dolcefino was dismissed after Donna Michelle Kresch, who alleged that he had assaulted her after she went home with him from a nightclub, failed to appear in court.

Wayne's Bad Date, Part II
After Dolcefino dined with Candace Caminati, a paralegal accused of
pilfering documents from John O'Quinn's law firm, they repaired to his townhouse -- where they were mugged in the driveway by two men who struck them repeatedly with a pistol.

You say toh-may-to, I say toh-mah-to
The Houston Police Patrolmen's Union (HPPU) sued its perennial spatting partner, the former Houston Police Officer's Association (HPOA), to block it from using its newly adopted name -- the Houston Police Officer's Union (HPOU) -- charging it was deceptively similar to the HPPU name and that the HPOU wasn't a recognized union.

Metro declined to offer them a free honeymoon trip
State Senator Jerry Patterson of Pasadena, author of the law that allows Texans the right to carry concealed handguns, married tax lawyer Jennifer Kowalik in the senate chamber, joking that his bride might wear a garter belt with a concealed handgun holster.

Gee, now we feel a lot better about him
State Representative Kevin Bailey was cleared of charges he threatened his girlfriend, Linda G. Adams, with a gun given to him by fellow legislator Jerry Patterson; the prosecutor said grand jurors felt the contretemps, in which Adams was at some point armed with a knife, "was a mutual combat situation."

But then, she hasn't met Wayne Dolcefino
That excessively irrepressible Sarah Ferguson was reported in her psychic's tell-all, The Duchess of York: Uncensored, as having had sex with Steve Wyatt in the bushes of her Highgrove estate while she was five months pregnant; and a phone hotline offered tapes of Fergie rating Wyatt as the best of her lovers.

The Year's Scariest Headlines!!!!!!!

All brought to you courtesy of the redoubtable Chronicle:

"Parent Firms of HL&P, Entex to Merge"

"Pierce Elevated Reconstruction Site"

"Man Shot and Wounded by Carload of Girls"

"Fungus Among Us"

"Trouble in the Stubble"

"Elucidation Sought in Fish Excrement


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