Blowing Away the Competition

You've got to hand it to Channel 13, the local ABC affiliate. They have been racking up scoops that have left the city's other TV stations gasping in the dust.

Absolutely no other station came close to breaking the stories that Channel 13 did on Barbara Walters's interview with Monica Lewinsky on 20/20, coincidentally also an ABC show.

There was the incredibly important piece on March 3, the night before the thong-exposing presidential paramour's interview, which they promoted thus: "A major controversy over the Monica Lewinsky interview! [Video of Monica shedding a tear] One newspaper says it has the story -- but how did it get it? Find out tonight!"

Only 13, as far as we can tell, had that story's startling revelation that Walters "said she was disappointed" that someone leaked details of the interview to the New York Daily News.

That same evening the station ran an absorbing, insightful interview with a guy who, ummm, used to go out with Monica. They hyped the piece throughout the six o'clock show, and it more than lived up to its billing when we finally got a chance to see "former Beverly Hills Little Leaguer" Adam Dave reminisce thoughtfully about how Lewinsky "was a full-grown woman in a 14-year-old's body" when they dated way back when.

Dave hadn't talked to his former girlfriend since "before she left for Washington on her internship," but, trust us, that didn't take anything away from the newsworthiness of this scoop, which no other station in town had.

Channel 13's aggressive coverage of this important story didn't end there, believe it or not. We somehow managed to miss the next night's early-evening preview hype, but at 10 p.m., after Barbara had dragged the last tear from the former intern, 13's intrepid Minerva Perez went LIVE! to provide the stunningly fascinating and trenchant views of five wine-sipping women who had watched the show in a West U living room.

Again, no other station had the story. We assume heads will roll.

The Views Expressed Are Sophomoric
The Lewinsky story, by the way, has apparently caused the Clinton-haters at KPRC radio to lose that last, oh-so-tenuous fingertip grasp they had with professionalism. Barring Rockets games and a few hours of drive-time sports talk, the station's only relief from a barrage of frothing right-wing blather usually comes during the network and local news. On the morning after the Lewinsky interview, even that refuge was gone.

As the CBS network news feed was playing, host Jon Matthews took it upon himself to provide a running commentary: While CBS reported how Lewinsky says she had momentarily considered suicide, Matthews chimed in with a "Booo-Hooo" that had all the maturity of a bratty third-grader. As the report continued describing Lewinsky's emotional state, listeners heard Matthews offer a sarcastic pseudosympathetic "ohhhhh."

Compelling logic, eloquently stated. And still America refuses to throw Clinton in jail.

This Old Thing?
Our heart leapt, kind of, last week when we saw that it was time once again for the Chronicle Fashion section's annual Best Dressed issue. Each year the experts name ten women as their exemplars of style, and those who are named three times over the years are entered into the Hall of Fame.

Each winner gets a miniprofile in the section, a gushy recap of how she manages to look so stunning despite the hours spent volunteering for the opera or local charities. The women helpfully offer us readers tips on the very best designers to buy, such as Thierry Mugler, Armani, Christian Dior.

But what's best about this annual exercise in extolling conspicuous consumption is the pathetic attempt to show that these plucky gals, who just happen to spend more on clothes each year than the typical Houston family of four spends on food, are really just like you and me.

Karen Johnson, for instance, likes to wear Escada, Armani, Bill Blass and Valentino; she chairs subcommittees for the Houston Grand Opera and ballet, and she likes to host dinner parties for 50 or 60 friends, "usually catered by her favorite, Jackson Hicks."

But don't get the wrong idea: "Really, though, she likes nothing better than whipping up hot dogs and nachos for big groups, as she did during January's Super Bowl game." And, "it's strictly Gap khakis and T-shirts for her" when she's spending ten weeks a year at her second home in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Likewise, Eliza Stedman (of the River Oaks Stedmans) "dons khaki to deer- and quail-hunt at the couple's ranch in South Texas." Pam Thorne prefers Armani and Ferre, but says, "I can just as easily go to Banana Republic and get some jeans or cotton pants and a white shirt and be just as happy."

And then there's Linda Lyons Brown. She "admits a weakness for Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Richard Tyler and Chloe," which sounds like a pretty luxurious set of weaknesses, but again the folks at the Chronicle will have you know she's jes' folks.

When they called her on her car phone to tell her she had made the list, "she couldn't believe her ears" the story says. "She was trundling over a rocky road in Pearsall, Texas, in a pickup truck, dressed in torn jeans and an old T-shirt, with a bag of spilled groceries rolling around behind her.

"I said, 'Are you sure you're calling the right person?' she says, collapsing in laughter."

Note the detail the oh-so-self-deprecating honoree provides: It's a declasse pick-up truck, for gosh sakes; the jeans are torn, and -- best of all -- it's an old t-shirt. What's not mentioned, of course, is that she's probably heading for her expansive second-home ranch.

Yeah, we think they were calling the right person.

He's Only Kinda Dead
Parade, the magazine that's a Sunday insert to the Chronicle and hundreds of other papers around the country, is printed far enough in advance that it sometimes gets tripped up by events.

On March 7 Parade ran an interview with film critic Roger Ebert that was obviously written and printed well before the February 20 death of his partner, Gene Siskel. The headline read: "With his partner, Gene Siskel, taking a break and the Academy Awards coming along...." Inside the story itself, it said: "After brain surgery in 1998, Siskel is taking it easy."

Pretty damn easy, one would think. But while the goof is understandable, the Chronicle's lame clarification on the news pages that day is less so: The article about Ebert, the paper wrote, "gives the impression that film critic Gene Siskel is alive."

"Gives the impression"? Hey, I guess the sports page that day only "gave the impression" that the Rockets beat Vancouver by 15 the night before.

Are you an avid media watcher? Troubled or amused by your media choices in Houston? Unload with us. E-mail Richard Connelly at or write him at the Houston Press, 1621 Milam, Suite 100, Houston,


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