Nikki Dowdy, a 23-year-old public relations executive who lives in Houston, thought her e-mail system had gone haywire. January 2 should have been a slow day, being the official holiday for New Year's, but instead her mailbox was exploding, with more than 100 messages pouring in.
They were all notifications telling her someone out there in cyberworld had asked to be added as a "friend" to her Facebook or MySpace page.
Why the sudden popularity? Blame college football.
With the major networks showing the big bowl games, ESPN decided give up any pretense of getting the usual sports fan and instead ran a marathon of replays of the National Spelling Bee. Included in it was Dowdy's 1996 appearance, where as a 13-year-old she finished in second place to a girl named Wendy Guey.
And looked good doing it, if the entries on her Web pages are any indication.
"I watched the spelling B with these two kids [who already posted], fuck spelling, u were the hottest 13 year old the espn spelling b had ever seen," said a student from Brown University, obviously majoring in Internet Grammar.
"Nikki Dowdy, hottest 1996 spelling bee contestant hands down," wrote a Lehigh student.
Apparently the idea of finding a 13-year-old girl "hot" didn't faze the kind of folks who would spend a holiday afternoon watching a spelling-bee replay. Although at least some fessed up to a certain wariness.
"I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw and added Nikki [to my Facebook list] after seeing ESPN2's reshowing of the 1996 National Spelling Bee," wrote a Georgia Southern guy. "I don't quite feel so creepy now. Nikki rocks!"
Dowdy doesn't seem too taken aback by the infatuation.
"A lot of them were like, 'You seemed like one of the normal ones,' " she says. She sent a reply to everyone.
Good news for those lonely college guys: Even though she's past the age of consent and is an elderly 23, Dowdy is a good-looking brunette. Bad news: She's getting married in June.
Also she will never, ever forget how to spell "cervicorn."
Private Family Matters
Everybody knows parents of a new baby are likely to take a lot of pictures. Everybody knows TV news stations like to humanize their anchors for viewers.
Put those two factors together and you can get a dangerous combination. But KPRC's Dominique Sachse is taking things to new heights.
Sachse's been posting pictures of her son, Styles, on the station's Web page. Not unusual -- fellow Channel 2 anchor Sara Allen has 24 pictures of her new baby on the page.
But how many photos of Dominque's kid does the world need to see? Take a guess. Then double it. You're still probably short.
The answer: 174 photos. And counting.
Styles in the crib. Styles with Santa. Dressed as a pumpkin for Halloween. "Cheering on" the Astros from his playpen. All accompanied by cute captions like "Whassup?" and "Hey, I'm a rock star. Who has my guitar?" (Be sure to check out picture No. 27, where Dominique and Styles are facing the camera, with her holding him to her chest by, basically, using his crotch like an E-Z Grab handle. "This is so cool," the caption reads.)
The kid's as cute as all babies are, but hey -- Angelina and Brad don't get photographed this much.
Sachse didn't return a call seeking to discuss the Web obsession. But maybe one of the captions, accompanying a glamour-studio shot featuring his naked butt, sums things up: "Now this is a picture that Styles will regret later in life!"
Better post it on the Web, then, ASAP.
Rated R --For "Really Cool!"
The Houston Chronicle's Yo! section is a valiant attempt to get kids aged 12 to 18 or so to put down the PSPs and pick up some dead-tree media. It usually features a story on a pop or movie star and columns by teen writers.
A recent edition featured the top ten films of the year, as picked by Yo!'s teen critic Jake Hamilton, a Clear Lake High student.
If you're a young Yo! reader, you better like your movies with plenty of gore and sex -- eight of the ten are rated R. Including such over-the-top films as Sin City (tabbed best film of the year), A History of Violence, Domino and Wedding Crashers ("this film was not afraid to take an R rating and provides the kind of risqué humor that audiences have been deprived of for so long," Hamilton writes).
What, no Inside Deep Throat?
Break out the fake IDs or brush up on your sneakin'-in skillz, Yo! readers!! Mama Chron -- the same paper that runs op-eds deploring girls who show their belly buttons -- says PG-13 is for pussies!!
We have to admit, this doesn't really redline our outrage-o-meter, but it does seem a bit out of place for the usually more straitlaced daily.
"I understand why some people wouldn't like his list, but he's our teen reviewer and it's his list," says Chronicle deputy managing editor Kyrie O'Connor, who heads the features section. "You have to admit that 'Ten Best PG-13-or-Under Movies' would be pretty thin gruel. No teen would take it seriously, either."
O'Connor says parents need to talk to their kids about "all forms of culture."
"There's R and there's R," she adds. "I'm sure I'm in a minority, but I'd rather have had one of my kids see a movie that depicted love in its many forms than some hideous slasher flick."
"Love in its many forms" -- that's Sin City, baby.
Art Isn't Easy
A cultural war is brewing over the annual Asian Festival at Miller Outdoor Theatre.
One version: The theater's board rescinded its $24,000 grant to the Asian American Festival Association, says AAFA spokesperson Glenda Joe, because the AAFA complained about the board's dumping unnecessary paperwork on ethnic festivals.
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The other version: The board took back its tentative grant, says performing arts director Paul Beutel, because the AAFA was putting on "children's dance recitals and things like that" instead of "professional-caliber entertainment."
(Joe says her group puts on performances from "every Asian ethnic group and some of them are professional and some of them are not.")
How different are the two viewpoints? Joe is claiming the move is "pure and simple retaliation," and the theater's press release on taking back the grant is headlined "Miller Theatre Re-Affirms Commitment to Asian-American Community." Talk about Rashomon.
The AAFA's show isn't the only Asian festival staged at Miller each year, so Joe may have a tough case to make. But we guess we'll see how effective the AAFA is, performance-wise -- if you see plenty of news stories featuring sad Asian kids denied the chance to celebrate their ethnic heritage because of mean ol' white bureaucrats, we think she's got a winner.