Alison Cook looks back at 1997: The Year That Bit
To bite or be bitten: The classic Darwinian drama raged throughout our fair city in 1997, a year in which strange eating behaviors -- just ask Evander Holyfield -- made for an entertaining (if slightly indigestible) feast. Even our beloved new boom underscored the point, as humongous malls threatened to eat Katy, Landry's King Tilman Fertitta gobbled up Kemah and Godzilla-sized multicinemas tried to swallow us all. The Rockets -- and their many, many co-dependents -- dined on humble pie. The Astros, having finally made the playoffs, just plain ate it. And the Incredible Shrinking Convention Center Hotel Deal (please, Lord, send us a 1998 in which we don't have to think about this anymore) came down with a bad case of anorexia.
We should have known to assume fight-or-flight posture way back in January, when a cosmic "heads up!" message in the form of countless tiny ice bomblets unleashed itself from every tree limb and overhang. A parade of nasty little twisters visited our suburban shores, and incessant rain turned the landscape into one immense, sodden sponge. Our floods would have taxed Noah. Our ozone counts made it dangerous to breathe. The entire city sprang leak after noxious leak: flammable petroleum gas here, a quarter-million gallons of smelly crude there, a geyser of gas and water over yonder. Toxic-chemical clouds swam through the air -- hydrofluoric acid, nickel carbonyl, Diketene, nitrous dioxide, chlorine. Pity our poor neighbors between Alvin and Santa Fe, whose very garden hoses spewed water you could light with a match -- and pray it's not a metaphor.
What wasn't leaking was exploding, from a vinegar-plant alcohol tank to a quartet of Liberty County oil tanks to Shell Chemical's Deer Park plant, which went boom with a window-shattering blast. Two tanker trucks burst like bombs on two different freeways. Indeed, the transportation gods had it in for us. Dump trucks and school buses and Metro buses ran amuck at every turn, trains insisted on derailing or colliding and (naturally) exploding, not to mention the 225-ton rolling construction crane that mysteriously chose to self-combust. Two different Continental crews managed to land at two wrong airports. Norwegian Cruise Lines' Thanksgiving-week voyage turned into the un-air-conditioned Cruise from Hell, as waiters sweated onto the entrees and passengers hauled mattresses out to sleep on deck. Travel by ambulance proved to be even less pleasant than we thought -- an occasion on which the unsuspecting Houstonian might be molested by a paramedic or have his or her confidential data sold to predatory law firms. Can we just stay home in '98?
Not that there weren't things to feel good about amid the mayhem. Taramania, Deep Gulf drilling fever, a shiny new consumer temple in the form of Saks -- even last year's dreaded Pierce Elevated rehab had a happy, on-target ending. The WNBA Comets and MVP Cynthia Cooper ruled. We had the best fall color ever. The heart swelled with pride at all the Houston connections to world-class events, from the Heaven's Gate apocalypse to the demise of Biggie Smalls to the attempted Republican coup against Gingrich in the U.S. House with our own Tom DeLay playing (choose one) Larry, Moe or Curly. For every stinky golf deal, there was a silver lining: another Charles Barkley outburst to paste into our memory books, another mesmerizing episode in the bizarre spectacle of Lloyd Kelley self-destructing, another weird facet of the Expect the Unexpected image campaign. Hovering over all of it is the lingering image burned onto our retinas by the Power of Houston extravaganza, one of those epic civic feel-good events we feel obliged to stage for ourselves now and again, can-do pep rallies writ very, very large. No surprise that the 1997 version culminated in a hyperbolic fireworks-and-laser battle that made it seem as though all of downtown Houston was -- what else? -- exploding. Just as our skies will this week, with the now-traditional barrage of New Year's gunfire. Put on your Kevlar vests, whip up a few Chupacabra cocktails and toast the year that was.
To be followed by a festive Jonestown Tea and Last Brunch at Waco
The Omni Houston Hotel's new chef, Denis Meurgue, re-created the "Last Dinner on the Titanic," following the first-class menu and music from the night the great ship went down.
Rob Johnson was busy that night
Channel 2 reporter Jeannie Ohm appeared on camera with one of those ravening Cabbage Patch Snack Time Kids attached to her tresses, whereupon colleague Susan Lennon produced scissors and cut the little monster off.
Thus making the Snack Time Kid look minor-league
Mike Tyson took two infamous bites out of Houstonian Evander Holyfield's ear during their heavyweight championship bout in Las Vegas -- the second a "wolflike" chomp that carved out a one-inch chunk of cartilage recovered by an MGM Grand employee, who said it looked like a piece of sausage.
It really ruined that ethereal wheatgrass flavor
Whole Foods Market settled a suit in which a Houston customer claimed a shift manager had spiked his wheatgrass smoothie with Visine as a practical joke.
Marvin Zindler chose not to attend
Alligators at the Houston Zoo broke their long wintertime fast with a public feast of raw chicken and dead rats.
Mike Tyson loves them
The Mr. Raspada Refresqueria offered the Chupacabra, a $3 fresh-fruit ice cone named after the legendary flying beast that sucks goats' blood.
It was his version of a "Two-for-One" special
Samir Hannoush, proprietor of Renata's Restaurant, was accused of giving his customers' credit-card account numbers to counterfeiters in exchange for wine, beer and food.
Why Houston trial lawyers make Tyson look like an amateur
The Chronicle's Maxine Mesinger reported that bigtime Houston trial lawyer Earle Lilly was "the first person I've ever watched devour a five-pound lobster all by himself. It was awesome...."
Earle Lilly ordered a dozen
Russian chef Boris Bugerenko turned out burger-shaped birthday cakes layered with fake tomato, cheese and lettuce in the downtown-tunnel Kolache Shoppe.
They tried Visine, but it didn't have that je ne sais quoi
The Houston-based Minute Maid Co. recalled 6,500 cases of its Berry Punch because there might have been a cleaning product in the drink.
Jeez, George Bush was right
Coupon ads in the Chronicle touted "Mann's Broccamole, a great-tasting, fat-free dip or spread."
And you should try her pumpernickel
Continental Airlines sued a pilot's ex-wife for spiking her homemade rye bread with marijuana, which caused the pilot to fail a random drug test.
Tony Vallone is taking a wait-and-see attitude
Brown & Root signed an exclusive agreement to engineer, manufacture, install, operate and maintain equipment designed to tenderize beef by blowing it up in a dynamite-like explosion.
But they were really, really big French fries
Two Aeros hockey players -- indicted for assaulting police in a drunken bar brawl in which food, food baskets and chairs were alleged to have sailed through the air -- griped that only a few French fries had been thrown.
It made pretty good Chupacabras, too
Four NASA volunteers in a Clear Lake City test chamber shared 30 gallons of water a day, recycling every drop -- including their own urine -- into showers, drinking water and clothes-washing water.
We were with you until the broccoli cole slaw
Chronicle columnist Ken Hoffman ran the following recipe for "Aunt Joycie's Doggie Birthday Cake": Mix together 2 large cans of dog food, 2 cups of cooked rice and one-half cup of oatmeal. Place mixture in a springform pan placed directly on a serving tray. Chill in refrigerator 2 to 3 hours. To decorate the top of the cake: Place one fried egg in the center. Use one can of sardines and 4 ounces of cheese, cut into matchsticks, to form spokes radiating from the egg. Place 5 hot dogs, sliced into coins, to fill the spaces between the spokes. Finally, use one package of broccoli cole slaw to garnish around the platter. Keep chilled. Serves 8 to 10 dogs.
Politics as Usual
It's not nice to fool Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa's lawyer asked perennial candidate Sam "Texas" Fayad to stop implying that she endorsed him by running her photo in his campaign flier under the headline "Good People Think This Man Should Be Your City Councilman."
Sam "Texas" Fayad only wished he'd thought of it
City Council candidate Herschel Smith distributed 50,000 "prayer rocks" along with his campaign fliers.
Not to mention brutishly uncomprehending
At a Chinese New Year festival celebrating the Year of the Ox, Harris County Republicans distributed pamphlets asserting that "Republicans have a strong connection to the ox, which symbolizes perseverance and hard work in all endeavors in the field. Like an ox, Republicans have a great sense of responsibility, are likely to be thrifty and tend to be stubborn."
That's exactly what scares us, Jerry
Declaring himself a candidate for land commissioner, state Senator Jerry Patterson suggested his authorship of the state's concealed handgun law made him a front-runner, saying, "I suspect that of 145,000 concealed handgun licenses, most of them are voters in the Republican primary."
When faced with an ignorant Yankee, I rely on: A) my shotgun; B) the closest jug of moonshine; C) the self-esteem bestowed by claiming a proud ethnic heritage
After a Yankee Senate aide referred to backers of a Tom DeLay plan to overhaul federal highway funding as "hillbillies," the majority whip from Sugar Land proudly urged colleagues to take a "hillbilly test" to see if their states had reached "hillbilly-hood."
Hillbillies vs. Cheeseheads
During congressional debate over finance reform, Tom DeLay and Democratic Representative David Obey of Wisconsin cursed and shoved each other, appearing ready to trade blows until an aide stepped in to separate them.
Don't worry, we will
City Council candidate Dave Wilson's web site contained a link to the web page he had previously set up to fight affirmative action, because, he explained, "I want people to identify me as that same yahoo."
Et tu, Lupe?
In April, at Rob Mosbacher's mayoral kickoff, civic activist Lupe Fraga introduced him as "the next mayor ... my friend and compadre"; but several months later he switched his endorsement to Lee Brown, saying, "I really didn't know who was running."
It was Lupe Fraga's idea
Rob Mosbacher invited City Council members to his campaign kickoff in Sam Houston Park, just across the street from their City Hall offices, and offered them free transportation.
Memo to Joe: Think Hugh Grant
After state Senator Drew Nixon of Carthage was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover cop, Houston state Representative Joe Nixon worked the floor of the House telling folks it was that other guy, lamenting, "It would be terrible if people thought I did it."
Gee, she would have fit right in
City Council candidate Karen Kay Christopher, a nonlawyer who represented herself on charges of refusing to return a rental car, was repeatedly held in contempt of court for making improper statements before being convicted, ordered to jail for six months, slapped with another 380 days for contempt, fined $250 for filing frivolous lawsuits against prosecutors and police, then hit with another 30 days for contempt at a sanctions hearing.
There's a reason the story broke on April 1
Channel 13 TV news anchor Bob Boudreaux announced he is thinking about running against County Commissioner Steve Radack in 2000.
Well, at least he got his adjectives right
City Council members complained that John P. Trotter, creator of an Internet site opposing the city's new restrictions on sexually oriented businesses, had misrepresented their voting records while posting their home phone numbers and describing them variously as "silly Gracie Saenz," "wicked Martha Wong," "ridiculous Judson Robinson" and "catatonic John Kelley."
You can take the boy out of the Washburn Tunnel, but....
Robert Lee Nichols, the former small-town mayor who was nominated by Governor Bush to the Texas Transportation Commission, defended his knowledge of urban traffic issues by citing the first ten years of his life spent living near the Washburn Tunnel in Pasadena, plus the semesters he once spent in Texas City and South Houston for an engineering program.
When bribery and conspiracy indictments in last year's City Hall sting finally came down, secret FBI tapes showed pivotal figure Ben Reyes, the former councilman and state representative, bragging to two cash-flashing undercover feds, "We're going to go and purchase us some leaders, 'cause that's what it takes, I mean, I never did it for nothing."
Is this what they mean by "the banality of evil"?
Those indictments asserted that Reyes passed $1,500 in sting cash to Councilman Michael Yarbrough in the men's room at Carrabba's, and $2,500 to former councilman John Peavy in the urinal of the restaurant at the Wyndham Warwick.
He was all out of toilet paper
After City Councilman Rob Todd sneaked into the Council chamber and wrapped Mayor Lanier's chair with yellow "Free Kingwood" banners left over from an anti-annexation rally, Lanier staffers canceled Todd's electronic access card to City Hall.
It takes a hot dog to know one
The ever-verbose and obstreperous Rob Todd, during one Council meeting, displayed on the rail in front of his seat a tiny replica of the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.
City Council members, two of whom are under indictment and who, as a body, gave city workers a 3 percent pay raise this year, said they would accept an automatically calculated 8.4 percent pay raise for themselves.
Somewhere, Lurleen Wallace and Ma Ferguson are smiling
At the very last minute, Olympics-obsessed Councilman John Kelley withdrew as a candidate, leaving a clear field for his totally inexperienced wife, Jean, an art teacher, to run for his seat.
Somewhere, Machiavelli is smiling
After John Kelley's son Shaun failed a drug test while imprisoned on cocaine charges -- having violated his deferred adjudication by accumulating misdemeanor charges of failure to stop and render aid, marijuana possession and fleeing the scene of an accident -- the following occurred: His dad hired Racehorse Haynes as his attorney; his dad had an aide fetch the campaign-finance report of the presiding judge; the judge sent him to a lock-down drug treatment facility instead of prison; his dad queried a Fort Bend County judge about the misdemeanor charges; that judge spoke to the judge who was supposed to hear the case; and -- that judge took himself off the case.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the thinnest-skinned of all?
When conservative activist Steve Hotze threatened to sue a Republican women's club if they mocked him in a musical skit, the women jettisoned the lyrics they had written to be sung to "It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To)," instead just humming along while a trio of dancers hid their faces behind signs bearing question marks.
Judges Behaving Badly
Get along, little jurors
Justice of the Peace Mark Fury, short of jurors to try a minor speeding case one evening, sent constables to a nearby Kroger parking lot to rope 19 unsuspecting grocery shoppers into service.
He's a close friend of Wicked Martha Wong and Catatonic John Kelley
Judge Mark Davidson, ticked over an appellate court decision, fired off an e-mail to several fellow judges in which he referred to Appeals Judge Maurice Amidei as "Alzeimer's [sic] Amidei."
A little Darwin is a dangerous thing
Presiding over the lawsuit in which a group of black Kennedy Heights homeowners claim Chevron is responsible for pollution-related health problems, Judge Kenneth Hoyt, who is black, pooh-poohed a medical pamphlet "because white people wrote it," and opined thusly on race and ethnicity: "Why do you think Chinese people are short? Because there's so much damn wind over there, they need to be short. Why are they so tall in Africa? Because they need to be tall. It's environmental. I mean, you don't jump up and get a banana off the tree if you're only four feet. If you're seven foot tall and you're standing in China, then you're going to get blown away when that Siberian wind comes through."
What a friend we have in the Commission on Judicial Conduct
Judge William Bell resigned after he got in hot water over 45 charges of ethical misconduct, including telling an outside attorney that the defendant in a high-profile case of his "has a friend in me," and perjuring himself when he denied the comment -- which the lawyer had taped -- before the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
After which he dropped to the floor and did the alligator
Judge Jim Barr faced suspension for, among other things, engaging in a tug-of-war over a prisoner with a deputy and making crude remarks and gestures to the three female prosecutors he called his "all-babe" court, including curling his index finger to summon one, then joking, "I wanted to see if I could make you come with one finger."
Diamond cut diamond
Talking to a New Yorker writer about the "Jewels of the Romanovs" exhibit, Lynn Wyatt said, "Peter the Great would fit right in here in Texas. He's my kind of man. In fact, he's just like my husband [oilman Oscar Wyatt]: He could do anything."
Plus an itty-bitty piece of cakeJudith Leiber, designer of $5,000 jeweled evening bags much loved by Houston socialites, told a local audience that their itty-bitty size was sufficient for a lady's basic necessities -- a hankie, a compact, lipstick and a $100 bill.
There goes her shot at the Chronicle's Best-Dressed List
Socialite and major clotheshorse Margaret Williams, whose luggage was lost for four days on a jaunt to Russia, told columnist Maxine Mesinger, "Well, it wasn't too bad, because we were in St. Petersburg, and we didn't know anyone there. So it was okay to wear the same suit for four days."
So was Hernando Cortes
During the mayoral runoff, a Rob Mosbacher Spanish-language radio commercial concluded with the line, "Mosbacher is our friend -- and he's so handsome!"
And the Sigmund Freud Memorial Award goes to...
The Wall Street Journal's right-wing editorialists referred to Houston affirmative-action critic Elizabeth Spates, who is black, as "Elizabeth Spades."
He'd just been reading his Wall Street Journal
When a student locked her keys in her car, Dickinson High band director Greg Goodman turned to a Hispanic colleague and asked, "Can you break into her car and get her keys out? You know, with your heritage and all."
Yeah, and inane politicians, too
On the topic of a smoking ban in Houston restaurants, City Councilman Rob Todd huffed, "The task of going after every carcinogen and every bit of poison in the air -- what are we going to do, ban mold spores?"
And if that doesn't work, we're turning him over to Charles Barkley
After a jury hit Robert Coulson with $25.6 million in damages for killing his family for insurance money, estate attorney Larry Doherty said, "We are ecstatic.... He's going to die broke and in the box. We're going to get his DNA out of the gene pool and have him thrown from the face of the Earth forever."
But telemarketing looked attractive, too
Houston-born movie star Randy Quaid told David Letterman that as a high schooler, hearing that John Wayne was in town shooting Hellfighters, "I called the hotel where he was staying. I said, 'This is John Wayne. Got any messages for me?' And they gave me his messages. That gave me a lot of confidence, and I started performing."
Judge Jim Barr sent a sympathy card
State Representative Al Edwards filed suit against a fired employee who had complained to the EEOC that he suggested she wear shorter skirts and called her "an ignorant heifer."
Al Edwards sent a sympathy card
Ardith Jackson charged that she was fired from a constable's office for calling a hearing-impaired colleague "a deaf bitch."
Richard Jewell has retained Joe Jamail and is suing for libel
Houston radio news anchor Chuck Shramek, linked by news wires to the Heaven's Gate cult suicides after he posted an Internet photo of a "Saturn-like thing" following the Hale-Bopp Comet, complained that "I can identify with how Richard Jewell felt."
Hook 'em, Ron
Urging Texas universities to set the same admission standards for athletes as for other students, state Representative Ron Wilson said, "I'm more concerned about educating students than I am about seeing folks with pompons and eating popcorn and throwing up all over themselves because they are drunk in a stadium."
To arms, Surfside!
Congressman Ron Paul told C-SPAN that he lived in fear of being "bombed by the federal government in another Waco."
Give me topless bars or give me death
During the battle over Houston's tightened ordinance for sexually oriented businesses, David Wasserman, a Florida lawyer for adult bookstores, opined that a "national cultural war is about to be fought in Houston, paid for by the citizens of Houston."
And as a prelude to any sexually oriented cultural wars, too
Due to a typo, January's referendum ballot said that City Council must hold "pubic hearings" before elections on certain tax matters.
And herself as "our resident bimbo"
During a bit of morning-news happy talk, Channel 2 anchor Dominique Sachse, who is white, referred to black weathercaster Orelon Sidney as "our resident monkey."
No, but it got some great shots of those little green men
On a subcommittee trip to California, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee asked a NASA scientist if the Pathfinder probe had managed to photograph the flag that astronaut Neil Armstrong had left behind.
The All-Too-Lively Arts
He's planning to call Sheila Jackson Lee as a witness
Bill Kaysing, author of the 1976 book We Never Went to the Moon, sued astronaut James Lovell for calling his moon theory "wacky."
But first he has to brief Sheila Jackson Lee
Bruce Willis came to the Johnson Space Center to shoot the movie Armageddon, in which he plays a space pilot who must destroy an asteroid before it can hit Earth.
Lee Brown is thinking of offering him the convention center hotel contract
For a show at Rice University's art gallery, minimalist Sol LeWitt had masons mortar together an eight-foot-high, 4,400-pound tower of cinder blocks.
Billy Burge was just too damn hard
At a Rockets vs. Portland game in the (then) Summit, Rich Little sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" in the voices of George Bush, Ross Perot, Jack Nicholson and John Wayne.
Bring me the head of David Gockley
The Houston Grand Opera's multimedia production of Salome featured a "Dance of the Seven Veils" in which a screen of silk fabric split and fell apart, a scene in which Salome contemplated a severed head inside a large glass salad bowl, and an audience rush for the exits.
We're holding out for Anna Nicole Smith's breasts
For $1,750, interested parties could buy one of 75 signed and numbered bronze "life impressions" of heart surgeon Denton Cooley's hands, forceps and scalpel at-the-ready, made by Houston-based Bronze Memories Co.
Next show: the West Texas earthworks of Ted Kaczynski
The Hyde Park Gallery in Montrose mounted a one-man show of paintings by color-blind prisoner Elmer Wayne Henley, mass murderer Dean Corll's accomplice.
Thank god everyone was over at the Elmer Wayne Henley show
Denton's Good/Bad Art Collective failed to levitate an occupied lawn chair above a Montrose gallery using 30-plus helium balloons, thus ruining plans for a rooftop camera to beam images of the sitter's tennis shoes into the gallery, where Jimmy Buffett's "blew out my flip-flop, stepped on a pop top" looped endlessly.
She looks so cute when she's throwing up
Favorite son Kenny Rogers, the singer and naughty phone caller, proposed to his girlfriend with a poem that included the lines, "I wondered when I'd do this / I wondered what you'd say / I thought at first the perfect time / Might be on Christmas Day. / With lots of friends and family / to help us celebrate. / I slowly watched you catch the flu / then knew I'd have to wait."
He owes it all to the Kenny Rogers Poetry Workshop
Texas Democratic Chairman Bill White of Houston wrote an ode to Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, the gubernatorial candidate, that went in part: "Who's that young man walking toward us? / Along that beach with kids? / He gets closer and closer to our sight / Though he's always been in reach. / Closer still I see the man; / Garry Mauro is his name. / He's served this state in ideals well. / Texas will never be the same."
She was inspired by this year's mayoral race
Choreographer Nia Love staged a Buffalo Bayou Park performance in which dancers rolled in the mud while others unrolled mannequins from plastic wrap and simulated mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
After which Ben Stevenson had to be given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
The Fly Guys, a troupe of 60-foot-tall inflatable Gumby-like figures, "danced" to the Houston Symphony's performance at the much-hyped Power of Houston festival.
Plus The Collected Works of Bill White
At the sandcastle contest sponsored by the Houston chapter of the American Institute of Architects, entries included "The Bill Clinton Presidential Library" -- a large toilet bowl accessorized with a six-foot-long Playboy magazine and books titled Whitewater Rafting and Bedroom Flowers.
There's a reason for that, Doug
Channel 51 owner Doug Johnson announced that he'd dump his all-news format in favor of such old, off-network shows as Kojak, Quincy, Airwolf and Simon & Simon, saying, "It's stuff you can't get on cable."
Proving that pond water seeks its own level
Houston's D'Eva and Eric Redding, who got Anna Nicole Smith into Playboy and then wrote about it in Great Big Beautiful Doll, planned a book on topless clubs with Allen Starkie, the British genius behind Fergie: Her Secret Life.
Now George Strait is in therapy
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was reported to be talking to Jerry Seinfeld about performing there next year.
Our Distinguished Visitors
Sheila Jackson Lee is sorry, too
At the Juneteenth Blues Festival, R&B singer Bobby "Blue" Bland lamented the Rockets' failure to reach the Super Bowl this year.
Let's see, red for China, black for Bosnia...
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright liked Stelzig's Stetson hats so much that she bought three -- in red, brown and black.
He had reservations at the Redwood Grill
Actor Woody Harrelson, in town to demonstrate against Maxxam's razing old-growth forests, spent two hours in the Houston jail "on principle" when he was nabbed for not wearing a seat belt, then ponied up his fine "so I could have a Friday night."
Having already cornered the market in bullshit
Former Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith, whose opposition to black voting rights led to a decade-long civil war, complained during a Houston visit to purchase bull semen that he has been unfairly characterized as a racist.
That's what we mean by "zero tolerance," Yankee!
The Allen House apartment rented by New York actor Tim Williams during a stint at the Alley was raided by the HPD, who discovered a spirited game of musical chairs in progress.
But they were really disappointed when he sang "Horse with No Name"
Channel 13 staffers excitedly donned Hawaiian shirts to commemorate a visit by Don Ho, but were crestfallen when the balladeer showed up in a dark blue blazer and turtleneck.
At least they hadn't worn their Hawaiian shirts
Goldie Hawn, shooting a TV movie in League City, disappointed a houseful of invited guests at Solero, downtown's trendiest of the trendy, when she failed to show for her dinner reservation.
Where the flavor du jour was Frozen Nut Brittle
Over 1,200 nudists descended on the Live Oak Resort northwest of Houston for a convention that included an ice-skating party and a trip to the Blue Bell ice cream factory.
Sorta like Houston City Council
Mexico's former attorney general, Mario Ruiz Massieu, left town $7.9 million poorer after a Houston jury decided the U.S. government could confiscate most of the $9 million he kept in a Houston bank -- although Massieu claimed the money came from political payoffs, not drug payoffs, saying "Mexico has a very unique system."
Those Inventive Houstonians
He thinks he can; he thinks he can't...
Woodlands-based Zonagen's shares leaped 40 percent in value after the biotech company released tests showing its Vasomax product was effective in treating male impotence -- then tumbled after a short-seller predicted it would never gain federal approval.
If Eckhard Pfeiffer answers, hang up
After Aerial Communications, a wireless phone company, bought naming rights to the new concert venue at Bayou Place, they planned to install mobile phones hanging from the ceiling in place of the usual pay phones.
Coming next year: a giant Aerial wireless phone
Houstonians Ginny Galtney and Diane Marks appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show modeling their respective coiffures from the Hair Ball -- a six-foot-wide replica of the Astrodome and a four-foot-high Prince's Hamburgers sign.
Just get me past Joe Jamail
An enterprising attorney and accountant launched a concierge service at the downtown court complex -- offering valet parking, office space and services, mediation, escorts for befuddled or intimidated clients and witnesses, plus catered meals and entertainment.
Fine, but can we use them along White Oak Bayou?
Two Rice University archaeologists placed giant, concrete-hard termite mounds built of saliva-soaked particles around a West African dig site threatened by torrential rains and flooding.
The Elmer Wayne Henley model is forthcoming
Houston fashion design student Vanessa Meades won a scholarship for her ecru shantung ball gown featuring zippered, roll-down panels of old master paintings reproduced on cotton Lycra stretch fabric.
And "Proud Mary" looping endlessly on the sound system
Houston artist Dean Ruck announced plans for a Sesquicentennial Park project that will regale visitors with steamboat whistles, thrashing paddle-wheel effects and a big bubble in the bayou that will release large volumes of compressed air, simulating riverboat turbulence.
Their Dean Ruck special effects were really convincing
During the Houston mayoral race, it was revealed that Rob Mosbacher's barge company, Hollywood Marine, once avoided city property taxes by claiming the landlocked west Texas town of Ozona as its home port.
But they nixed Aerial as the official state telephone
A Texas House committee named buckminsterfullerene, the so-called "buckyballs" discovered by Rice University's Nobel prizewinners, the official state molecule.
They left out a "chip-your-own Chupacabra party"
A Chronicle story on "101 Things to Do When It Hits 101 Degrees" suggested keeping your underwear in the freezer; floating flowers frozen in ice cubes in your bath water; wearing only diamonds or jewelry in white, pale blue and frosted tones; and having a huge block of ice delivered to your home, then inviting neighbors in for a chip-your-own daiquiri party.
Out, damned spot
Metro came up with a flashy fare card covered in designer leopard spots -- which obscured two crucial white spaces, preventing the fare box from reading the magnetic code.
Who says the gods don't have a sense of humor?
Longtime morals activist Geneva Kirk Brooks proposed that the city create a red light district.
Begging the question, superior to what?
After mayoral chief of staff Jimmie Schindewolf had a brainstorm while at the supermarket, his Public Works Department floated a plan to bottle Houston city water and market it nationally under the name "Superior Water."
Along with a microcassette eulogy by Sheila Jackson Lee
The ashes of LSD guru Timothy Leary and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry were shot into space aboard a Pegasus rocket on the "founder's flight" of a commercial funeral service offered by Houston-based Celestis Inc.
Crime and Punishment
Well, possession is nine-tenths of the law
When a cop asked Kerri V. Goode, who had been stopped for speeding just after a holdup at Texas Commerce Gulfgate, what the big envelope stuffed with cash was doing on her front seat, she replied, "It's mine. I just robbed a bank."
Kerri V. Goode taught him everything he knew
A man who robbed Resource One Federal Credit Union walked across the street, in full view of a teller, and proceeded to have lunch at Ryan's Steak House, where he was arrested.
At Kerri V. Goode's suggestion
An unemployed carnival worker fleeing Maryland assault charges was nabbed in Brookshire after he went to a police station to borrow gas money.
They think Kerri V. Goode may have been involved
When two armed robbers jumped an armored car guard picking up money at the Atrium 10 Tower, officers from Harris County's Organized Crime Task Force poured from their same-floor classroom, exchanged shots with the pair and arrested one of them as the other fled.
When you've got to go, you've got to go
After a brief chase, police arrested a trio of teenagers who had been spotted along a freeway feeder as one boy relieved himself beside a stolen gray Ford Taurus.
But he nailed them for embezzling the take from the Christmas bake sale
Six years after discrepancies were discovered in the bingo books of VFW Post 2427, two elderly ladies finally were acquitted by a judge of stealing $10,000 from the Ladies' Auxiliary bingo proceeds.
Four men who robbed a flower shop and shot the owner, wounding her, stopped on their way out to pick up four white Valentine's Day teddy bears.
Don't fire until you see the whites of their toenails
Wayne Bateman, 76, a retired Houston cop, told a jury that when he shot his 35-year-old girlfriend in the hip -- after ramming her with his motorized wheelchair -- he was only aiming for her big toe.
Gimme that hard-time religion
Rocky Bert Cozzens escaped from the Liberty County Jail by scaling a fence after hiding under a water tank used for prison-yard baptism services.
He had run out of his special homemade jerky
James Hand, a skilled outdoorsman who had been jailed for butchering a 1,500-pound buffalo and slaughtering a prize breeding bull, escaped from a Brazoria County prison and hid out in nearby woods for two days, blackening his face and clothes with shoe polish and subsisting on peanut-butter crackers.
Then he gave him an enema
A Houston pharmacist thwarted a would-be robber by sitting on him and wrapping him up with medical tape.
The law west of Dow Chemical
Lake Jackson bank president Buddy Baker -- who last year followed a bank robber to her mobile home, where she was arrested -- tackled this year's robber and wrestled him to the floor while the suspect's wife and three children waited in the getaway car.
That's exactly how we feel about our HMO
David Jefferson Jennings, disgruntled over Social Security benefits and bad teeth, was arrested in an alleged plot to take hostages from a dental office and plant bombs in daycare centers, after which eight homemade pipe bombs were recovered from his Baytown mobile home and his pickup.
Mr. Jennings just wanted to know his goddamn balance
Police called to an automatic teller machine in southwest Houston found it had been damaged by an explosive device.
And you thought junior high was bad
Port Lavaca resident Betty Louise Marek, 55, wired money from Houston to an undercover FBI agent she thought was a hit man, hoping he would off her 70-year-old ex-boyfriend and his new 66-year-old girlfriend.
Even Jenny Jones nixed him as a guest
A Tanglewood man sentenced to jail for indecency with children would persuade boys to wear diapers by taking them to a La Porte bay house and telling them a tall tale about a man decapitated during a boating accident, whose headless body swam in search of his son and would kill anyone who got in his way -- except for kids dressed as infants.
Yeah, the well-known Dracula phase
When Stephen James, who slept in a coffin and posed as a vampire, was tried for having sex with an underage girlfriend, he bragged in a taped phone call about sucking women's blood and complained that paying for an abortion would deprive him of Christmas money. His mother testified that he had gone through a phase.
Works every time
Male teacher's aide Paulino Martinez got probation for tricking a 15-year-old boy into having sex with him dozens of times by persuading him to don a blindfold, then posing as a pregnant college cheerleader named Martha.
She claimed Martha did it
Teenager Joynetta Blaine was charged with trying to cut off her 34-year-old boyfriend's penis while they were having sex.
At least he didn't tell her his name was Martha
Faith healer Raul "Brujo" Castillo was arrested on charges of convincing a 16-year-old girl that she could escape a curse on her spirit by having sex with him.
All in the family
Rap musician Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys, whose girlfriend once shot him in the eye at his request, was indicted in Fort Bend County on charges he tried to shoot his brother.
He had always considered Bushwick Bill a role model
Houston rap artist Shawn Adams, known as "Black Capone," was sentenced to six life sentences for taking part in a Pearland home invasion in which a woman was shot in the face.
Now Clarence Brandley won't get to do that special guest spot
Ricardo Aldape Guerra, released from death row after his conviction for slaying a Houston cop was overturned, returned to his native Mexico and signed a contract to act in a soap opera -- then was killed in a car wreck.
But he's got a real future as a Houston City Councilman
Seventeen-year-old Brandon Sample, described by prosecutors as "a shopping fool," was charged with theft for opening four accounts at two banks, then writing checks from one account to another to bankroll a Corvette, a BMW and a three-month tour of Ireland.
Just call them information highwaymen
Gunmen in The Woodlands hijacked an 18-wheeler loaded with Compaq laptop computers.
What they didn't know: That was just her daytime stuff
When Elyse Lanier was robbed of her carry-on bag at the Newark Airport, the New York Times reported that it contained jewelry worth $590,000.
And the growers had planned such a nice harvest festival
In a year in which marijuana seizures tripled, authorities uprooted 2,400 pot plants growing in a wooded area adjacent to Bear Creek Park.
This cell's for you
After ramming his pickup head-on into an oncoming car and killing two people, Todd Arland Mitchell, whose blood alcohol tested more than three times the legal limit, walked over to a third car, got a can of beer and began drinking it.
He put the "urban" in "urban scouting"
Freddie Lee Oliver, the district executive for urban scouting for the Boy Scouts of America, was charged with pointing a gun at his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend on Valentine's Day, then hitting him twice in the mouth, all in the parking lot of the daycare center where the erstwhile couple's child was tended.
Randy Quaid has set up a legal defense fund
David Wayne Fletcher, arrested for posing as a Houston cop to get free rent -- he actually had a friend pretend to be a burglar so he could handcuff him in front of apartment employees -- was stopped for speeding the very next week and claimed to be an officer again to avoid a citation. When a woman recognized him on TV, he was once more arrested (this time for aggravated robbery) as he attended law-enforcement classes.
Contrary to rumor, Ben Reyes was not among them
Houston police mounted a sting to nab more than 20 infant-formula thieves, who stole the pricey powder from local supermarkets for resale on the black market.
Timothy McVeigh sez: Just add 2,000 pounds of fertilizer and ignite
A bomb scare near the Israeli consulate at Greenway Plaza ended when police bomb experts used fiber optics to look inside a car's suspiciously sagging trunk, where they found bags of potting soil.
Buy us some peanuts and Cracker Jack
At the gala groundbreaking for the new ballpark, the Sports Authority gave out free peanuts and popcorn but charged a buck for soft drinks and hot dogs to discourage homeless people from crashing the party.
We don't care if we ever get back
County Commissioners Jerry Eversole and Steve Radack boycotted the ballpark party after Astros owner Drayton McLane threatened not to attend unless his lease deal was finalized in advance.
Plus ragged vagrants sleeping on strategically placed grates
The Thyroid Society gala, dubbed "A Saturday Night with Joe Piscopo," boasted Manhattan-style decor of "street people," in-line skaters, pretzel vendors and panhandlers.
Don't try substituting Astroturf!
The Chronicle's ever-entertaining "Entertaining" section featured a festive headband and muff fashioned of moss.
If only they had remembered their moss muffs
At a very chilly Hard Hat & Tails gala outside the under-construction Bayou Place, Lyn Robertson wore a bronzed and jeweled hardhat that matched her full-length gown and sable wrap, while her friend Grace Milligan wore a yellow hardhat studded with real turquoise and yellow feathers, along with a shawl trailing 50 black foxtails.
The bloodied field mice looked so colorful, littered on the lawn
The Nature Conservancy of Texas outdoor benefit, staged in a River Oaks garden, featured a special "birds of prey" cocktail-hour presentation in which live falcons, owls and an eagle were displayed and their hunting abilities demonstrated.
The world's first Jean-Paul Sartre twirling routine
At socialite Patsy Fourticq's birthday party, Maxine reported, "Myra Wil-son did her famous baton dance. The baton was in her car, so she faked the twirling part."
Honoring the late French existentialist
The Friends of Hermann Park held their annual Picnic in the Park luncheon benefit inside an air-conditioned tent.
Organizers cried fowl
At a birthday party, socialite Hershey Grace presented the honoree with a live Thanksgiving turkey, which proceeded to run amuck through the Colombe d'Or's French-paneled ballroom.
At the S&L Corner, guests could flip property and get an unsecured loan
At the grand opening of the new Saks Fifth Avenue, each floor of the store was designed to reflect a decade of Saks's history in Houston: disco '70s, go-go '80s and contemporary '90s.
Gidget was home with a headache
The annual "Kappa Weekend" beach party organized by alumni of a black fraternity plunged Galveston into gridlock and shocked townsfolk with drunken, lewd behavior -- including public urination and women stripping off their clothes.
Our Roving Ambassadors
Your next assignment, should you choose to accept it: Neutralize Drayton McLane
Heart surgeon Michael DeBakey interceded with the Kremlin to help liberate the Romanov jewels -- held hostage in a van hemmed in by Russian diplomatic vehicles -- in time for an MFA exhibit.
Dear Lee: Feeling a little homesick....
HPD alumnus Tom Koby did not exactly distinguish himself as Boulder police chief, thanks to the bungled investigation of Jon Benet Ramsey's murder, still unsolved after more than a year.
Tom Koby offered her a shoulder to cry on
Nude video artiste Farrah Fawcett posed for Playboy wearing bubble wrap; turned 50; broke up with longtime housemate Ryan O'Neal, who had taken up with a 24-year-old; was accused of destroying another actress's clothes in a squabble over a new man; made a bizarrely addled appearance on David Letterman; and was reported to have created a disturbance on a cross-country airplane flight.
The one on her butt read "Free Kingwood"
Jennifer Miriam of Kingwood made history by becoming the first Playboy centerfold to sport three tattoos.
Calling all unemployed special projects coordinators
Alex Kanakis resigned as special projects coordinator for the Harris County Attorney's office shortly after his nude photo was published in a Playgirl pictorial titled "Calling All Real Men."
Hey, good idea!
After a judge briefly granted a mistrial in the marathon New Orleans breast-implant case, citing a Houston attorney's courtroom eyeball-rolling and gestures of exasperation and disbelief, John O'Quinn defended his colleague by saying that to prevent such common conduct, "you'd have to practically put everybody in a straitjacket."
John O'Quinn on the line for Ms. Smith
Houston's favorite widow was the subject of tabloid headlines that screamed "Anna Nicole's Boobs Explode -- Again!"
Unemployed store clerk Roy Eugene Porter told the Sally Jessy Raphael show he'd use his $10 million Texas lottery jackpot to help a troubled Canadian boy he had seen on the show -- then, when his claim proved false, Porter said, "I found Sally Jessy Raphael to be a snob. I'm switching back to Oprah."
We're shocked, shocked!
Houston IRS agent Jennifer Long caused a national furor when she testified before a Senate committee that she knew of five cases in which people being investigated by the IRS had committed suicide; that she had been directed to meet collections quotas even if it meant fabricating evidence; and that low-income people -- some too poor to afford air conditioning -- were targeted for audits.
Drayton McLane & Bud Adams know the feeling
Rockets owner Les Alexander expressed puzzlement over the firestorm of hostility that erupted over his ill-fated plan to buy the Edmonton Oilers hockey team, saying, "I've never walked into a meeting where I felt people hated me who haven't even met me yet."
Our money is not on those poor elks
In a campaign to extend his cattle operation onto Utah state land where environmentalists would prefer elks to graze, oilman Oscar Wyatt accused the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Bureau of Land Management of "nefarious activity" and "conspiracy," and urged supporters to help "put a few in jail."
Chupacabras would have been better
Marshall Herff Applewhite, onetime University of St. Thomas music teacher, persuaded 39 followers of his Heaven's Gate cult to down a lethal cocktail of barbiturates and vodka in the belief that they would be whisked to a higher plane by a UFO arriving in the wake of the Hale-Bopp Comet.
He was angling for Rob Johnson's job
Channel 11 reporter Jeff McShan wound up in a body brace during a Lake Tahoe skiing trip -- when he broke his neck sliding down a hill on a garbage-can lid.
Our Esteemed Neighbors
But can we slide down it on garbage-can lids?
A proposed landfill in Beach City would create a 15-story mountain of industrial waste, making it the highest point in Chambers County.
And if that doesn't work out, we'll consider a 15-story mountain of industrial waste
Noting that numerous pro basketballers already live in Fort Bend County, Missouri City offered the Houston Rockets a 300-acre site on which to build a new arena.
Maybe the kids could just leave town entirely
The Splendora City Council, which previously imposed a nighttime curfew on minors under 16, added a daytime curfew as well.
Penny wise, pow! foolish
Conroe convenience-store owner Attique "Ed" Ahmad got a year in federal prison for pumping 4,690 gallons of bad gasoline into the city's sewer system, thus saving $5,000 -- and creating the equivalent of an eight-mile pipe bomb.
And you can't even slide down it on garbage-can lids
Residents of the Brazoria County town of Guy had to give up barbecuing and other outdoor activities because of a stench from biosolid municipal waste -- otherwise known as sludge from human excrement -- that was spread on nearby fields by a Hockley company.
Instead she'll take over the Houston Image Campaign sweepstakes
A Cut and Shoot woman gave up her scheme to award her school-supply stores to the winner of an essay contest, because only 150 people paid the $100 entry fee.
Bob Lanier sez: Why the hell not?
Mayor Ollie Burdett of Patton Village said she quit her post, along with the court clerk, the deputy court clerk and the city secretary, because "We couldn't go on working with City Council members who'd tell you one minute they wanted one thing and then turn right around and say they'd wanted something different or they meant something different. You can't work like that."
It was either that or have Houston's Superior Water delivered door to door
Surfside Beach finally arranged to provide its residents with tap water that wasn't yellow, salty and grainy-textured from sand -- but to get it, they have to bring their water jugs to a faucet outside City Hall.
Galveston port manager Ernest Connor admitted grabbing a female employee's leg in the Holiday Inn bar and a VFW club, and kissing her uninvited, but he said he was high on 12 vodka drinks and diet pills the night it happened.
World o' Lawsuits
Rob Todd served as celebrity judge
A woman sued Peter's Wildlife on the Richmond strip, claiming she almost choked to death during the club's hot-dog-eating contest.
"T" for two
Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich sued Rudy Teichman of Galveston -- a former city councilman known to his friends as Rudy T -- to get him to take the "T" out of his new Rudy T. & Paco's restaurant.
Good thing Ann didn't mention Rudy T.
Houston's Bed-Wetting Revolution, a nonprofit that fights bed-wetting, was sued by Tulsa's American Enuresis Foundation -- which claimed it had rights to the Bed-Wetting Revolution name, and that it deserved a cut of fees from new clients generated when Ann Landers ran a letter from the Houston group's president.
She wanted Coke, not Pepsi
Ramesh L. Sheladia Patel sued Gujarati Samaj, the Hindu group of which he had been treasurer, claiming its leaders had slandered and libeled him and removed him from office after he got involved in a club picnic dispute between his wife and a volunteer dispensing soft drinks.
But they got the go-ahead to drill in the City Hall reflecting pool
An appeals court rejected a suit by Wilson Oil Co., which wanted to overturn a longtime ban on drilling in Lake Houston.
Shirley MacLaine complained it gave her bad vibes
Attorney John Tavormina, who now owns the River Oaks house featured in Terms of Endearment, sued the makers of the Evening Star sequel when instead of using his home for exterior shots, they constructed an exact replica in Houston.
The fur flew
Two former partners in a pet-grooming business spent a total of $25,000 suing each other for custody of the shop's mascot, a four-year-old Persian cat named Oscar.
Yeah, but the insulation was terrific
A group of 244 homeowners sued HL&P and Kimball Hill Homes, claiming their energy-efficient "Good Cents Homes," certified and inspected by the Light Company, were afflicted with chronic leaks, sagging roofs, bad foundations and faulty brick exteriors.
So where was she when Time ran that Expect the Unexpected sweepstakes?
A Houston woman sued the Texas lottery, among others, claiming that her life and banking career were ruined when she was accused of tampering with a scratch-off ticket to make herself appear to be a $10,000 winner.
Reading, Writing and Rain-forest Algebra
What's the matter, he never heard of chili pie are squared?
State Board of Education member David Bradley, from down the road in Beaumont, ripped the cover off a textbook when other members refused to reject the so-called "rain-forest algebra" text -- which mixed math with chili recipes, photos of Bill Clinton and Maya Angelou and discussions of the environment and the Vietnam War.
But in rain-forest algebra terms, that's a good response
The Houston Image Group's scheme to bring attention to Houston by running a sweepstakes ad in Time magazine, offering 33 prizes such as tea with Charles Barkley or a conducting class from Christoph Eschenbach, drew one lonely instant scratch-off winner from the mag's 4.8 million subscribers.
Picky, pickyMetro officials admitted that -- contrary to previous boasting -- their buses were not really punctual 96 percent of the time (try 80), nor did they average 9,000 miles between breakdowns (more like 6,700).
A tape measure is a driver's best friend
When Metro's new minibuses arrived, union drivers discovered they were seven and a half inches longer than the 30-foot length specified in their contracts. So to avoid paying the steeper wage that drivers of full-size buses earn, Metro (before a truce was called) removed the front and rear bumper guards to produce a 29-foot, 11 1/2 inch bus.
Le Chronk, c'est moi
Chronicle publisher Richard J.V. Johnson reportedly overruled his 13-member editorial board's vote to endorse George Greanias in the mayoral race (the pre-Dick tally was 5 Greanias, 4 Brown, 4 Mosbacher), throwing the paper's support to Mosbacher.
After which he wrestled his entire editorial board to the ground
At the Houston Chronicle's Book & Author Dinner, upon a challenge from literary personage "Body by Jake" Steinfeld, the paper's publisher, Richard J.V. Johnson, dropped to the floor and did five pushups.
First step: Purge all projects that allude to "world-class"
Rice University and the University of Houston announced they would mount a joint study to identify what Houston must do to be a world-class city in the 21st century.
Fast times at Cougar High
U of H grad students charged that the school routinely required them to pay for sham "dummy classes" -- a stratagem to secure more tax dollars -- in order to keep their jobs as teaching assistants.
Aw, it was just a "Tribes of the Amazon" social studies project
An eighth-grader in Cleveland was expelled for shooting a middle-school principal with a needle-sharp dart he had made.
Somewhere, Janis is smiling
Students at Port Arthur's Thomas Jefferson High School -- alma mater of Janis Joplin -- celebrated the next-to-last day of school with a cafeteria food fight in which they overturned tables and chairs, smashed windows, tore down ceiling tiles and sent buns and red-colored drinks whizzing through the air.
Sheila Jackson Lee went down in milliseconds
Deep Blue Junior, a smaller version of the famous IBM chess-playing computer that vanquished Garry Kasparov, defeated Rice University chess champ Nathan Doughty in less than an hour.
Deep Blue doesn't understand it, either
Mayor Bob "I love numbers" Lanier floated an argument purporting to demonstrate that a revised Fourth Ward housing plan by which Houston Renaissance would subsidize 150 affordable units, instead of the 350 originally promised, actually worked out to more units, since added to the 250 units planned separately by the city, the total would be 400, 50 more than the 350 figure, even though both projects together would have added 600 units, and ... oh, forget it.
They've heard he's offered her that Princess Di part
The tabloids have offered a fat bounty to anyone who can produce a photograph of recently divorced movie star (and noted philanderer) Kevin Costner together with the recently divorced Laura Sakowitz, Bobby's glamorous blond ex.
So that's why she never dates Democrats!
Bob Mosbacher's about-to-be ex, Georgette, was spotted with disgraced Republican political consultant Ed Rollins out and about in New York City, although Rollins pleaded "just friends," saying, "Georgette likes billionaires, and I'm just a thousandaire."
But only after she outfitted all their phones with star 69 and caller ID
Singer Kenny Rogers, who was divorced by his last wife after three women accused him of having phone sex with them, took wife number five, the 29-years-younger Wanda Miller.
My Christmas present or your life
Vicky Renee Menard stalked Tim Chapman and shot him at a north Houston service station in an attempt to get back a coat he had given her for Christmas.
She was inspired by Marv Albert
Jacqueline Boykin was charged with attempted capital murder after she bit her husband, Charles, a Kountze alderman, and then claimed she had AIDS.
No, money walks and something else talks
Olympics-obsessed Councilman John Kelley kept right on feuding with Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale over who was best qualified to snag the games for Houston, a tussle in which Kelley called Mac "a furniture salesman" and Mac said of Kelley, "Money talks and something else walks."
Little Bo Peep has hired Rudy T's lawyer to sue for trademark infringement
In the wake of the Heaven's Gate cult suicides, reports showed that onetime Houstonian Marshall Herff Applewhite had taken his mystical turn after meeting astrology-obsessed Houston nurse Bonnie Lu Trousdale Nettles -- after which the couple, known to their followers as "The Two" or "Bo and Peep," spread the gospel that they were aliens in human bodies awaiting retrieval by a spaceship.
Our Friends The Animals
They're worried about the ozone levels
Experts reported that as killer bees make their way north in Texas, for some reason they turn left just shy of Houston.
Just a colder version of Channelview
A new species of pink, frilly-legged worms was discovered living in mounds of methane-rich ice on the Gulf of Mexico's floor -- a hostile environment with no light, little oxygen and a constant presence of sulfides, gas and concentrated brine.
No, he mistook his reflection for Lloyd Kelley
Police responding to a burglary call at a Stafford store found the front door smashed and a billy goat ramming the window. Said one cop: "He probably thought he was butting another male goat."
Does Ken Hoffman have an alibi?
After the first black bear in a generation was spotted in Montgomery County, local ranchers blamed it for devouring calves and leaving just the rib cages.
First the mayor's race, now this
One of the worst infestations of forest tent caterpillars in years sent a thick rain of caterpillar excrement onto the decks, patios, sidewalks and lawns of Missouri City.
With some nice forest tent caterpillars for dessert
Rice University administrators, staff, maintenance workers and students lured a three-foot iguana down from a campus tree by laying out a vegetable buffet.
With practice, they hoped to become Houston voters
A flock of wayward Muscovy ducks kept loitering on the Southwest Freeway in Sugar Land, resisting attempts to relocate them to a safer home, even after a motorist mowed down ten of them.
Now the manager knows what "deep shit" means
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission investigated Rowdy's nightclub on I-45 near Spring after a customer reported that she had discovered a video camera -- which was connected to a monitor in the manager's office -- hidden behind an air-conditioning vent over the women's toilet.
The manager of Rowdy's wanted a copy
Former HISD teacher Michael Madison filed suit claiming he was fired after a videotape he made at Attucks Middle School -- which showed one student urinating on a row of lockers and others fighting and racing down hallways -- was shown on a local news broadcast and later on CNN.
The good news: Guatemala, China and Peru have ordered copies
After a training video shot during a disturbance at the Brazoria County Detention Center showed prostrate, unresisting inmates being kicked in the groin, prodded with stun guns and struck with batons by guards and sheriff's deputies -- not to mention bitten by German shepherds -- the state of Missouri withdrew the 415 prisoners it was paying to house there.
Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson made their nude video for similar reasons
Houston product Farrah Fawcett made a pay-per-view video in which she writhed nude across a screen, using her paint-splattered body as a brush, explaining, "I wanted to combine my art and stay true to my artistic conviction. This reminded me how much I love art."
Now Ben Reyes wants one, too
After Channel 13 aired video of Controller Lloyd Kelley cavorting at an amusement park and gardening at home during work hours, he tried unsuccessfully to get the station to sign what he called a "fair reporting agreement."
Disregarding Satan's advice to use a pitchfork
Retired Coast Guard lieutenant Joseph Sybille got a year's probation for beating his neighbor 11 times with a shovel -- an attack graphically recorded by a surveillance camera the victim had installed during the pair's long-simmering feud over a fence.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.