In many cities, police officers have badgered their bosses to get as many bulletproof vests as possible. But those cities aren't like Houston.
Houston, you may know, is freaking hot. And humid. Ever try to wear a bulletproof vest in August while directing traffic on Louisiana?
Earlier this summer, HPD chief Harold Hurtt attempted to implement a policy mandating that officers wear the protective gear anytime they are in uniform. Some of the rank-and-file balked, so Hurtt has backed off for the moment.
Hans Marticiuc, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, did not return a phone call by press time, but in a memo to his members he said that he has met with Hurtt and expressed concerns.
"Safety equipment is a very difficult position for us to argue against," he noted, but then again...it's a goddamn sauna out there.
Marticiuc is pushing for HPD to waive the vest requirement for "bicycle patrol, and mounted...[and] officers working some type of traffic-control assignment."
Marticiuc also wants to exclude officers behind desks and those working extra jobs, such as holding up entire lanes of traffic so that a single car can slowly exit the parking garage of the business where the cop's moonlighting.
Complicating matters is Hurtt's move to make sure that tattoos on officers can't be seen.
"The vest and long-sleeve shirts in the summer to cover up tattoos will obviously cause some serious health problems," Marticiuc wrote.
There's been no word yet on Marticiuc's proposal that all officers' hats be outfitted with those novelty solar propellers or colorful mini-umbrellas. His corollary to that proposal -- drink-holder earflaps and long straws -- seems to be stalled in committee.
Get Up, Stand Up
The lengthy flap over Houston's public-access cable station has continued to lumber on.
Ever since Councilwoman Addie Wiseman caught a late-night stand-up routine on the channel, a routine she said was shockingly riddled with obscenities, the bluenoses and the free-speech fanatics have been hurling platitudes at each other whenever the subject comes up.
In many of the media stories on the controversy, passing reference has been made to the fact that Wiseman herself used to be a stand-up comic. Wiseman, who now owns a landscaping company, likes to point to that résumé item as a way of showing she's no prude and likes a good joke as much as the next fella.
It seems a curious thing to just mention, though. Especially since the councilwoman from Kingwood doesn't...well, to be blunt...seem that funny.
"If you saw her back then, you wouldn't have thought she was that funny either," says a Houston comic who worked the same clubs.
Wiseman used to take the stage at the old (and legendary) Comedy Workshop at the corner of San Felipe and Shepherd from about 1988 to 1990, the comic said. (Wiseman didn't return calls seeking an interview on her stand-up career.)
"She wasn't very good, is the basic brief answer," says the comic, who prefers anonymity. "Three or four of us guys who used to work there talked after you first called me, and we couldn't remember one joke she told."
Andy Huggins of the Laff Stop can't remember her act either. He notes that "Republicans as a group are genetically unfunny" and Wiseman -- although "she's a real nice woman" -- didn't do much to disprove the stereotype.
As in most clubs of the time, comics signed up for open slots, with the more experienced and funny stand-ups getting prime time, and lesser lights being forced to the fringes.
"Addie had a lot of late-night spots," said the anonymity-preferring comic. "I would put her in the 'no material' category. She had a decent enough stage presence, and was likable enough -- the audience would be rooting for her -- but the jokes just weren't there."
Even though they don't remember any of her material, the two vets are sure they would remember if she had been squeaky-clean. She wasn't. "It was typical stuff -- I'm sure there were tampon jokes, stuff like that," the comic said.
Wiseman gave it up after three years. But she's getting her revenge now.
No Beer Here
When the blue-collar suburb of Baytown throws something called the Long Neck Festival and the city actually allows beer to be sold at the event, you can expect things to get wild.
And you can expect people to rise up against the wildness. Which they did August 11, appearing en masse before the City Council to demand the city reverse an earlier ruling that allowed beer sales at the festival.
Which the council did, unanimously.
So how wild did the Long Neck Festival get? Not too wild, actually. It was named for a bird, not a beer. And Baytown police reported exactly one arrest at the May event, when a guy refused a BPD request to find a ride home or get one from them.
Still, the prospect of beer in the park was too much for some folks.
"Baytown's a pretty conservative place," says Scott Johnson, director of the city's Parks & Recreation Department. "Maybe it wasn't time for all that."
Organizers of the planned Bong Night Out Festival are reportedly now pessimistic about their chances for council approval.
Never, ever let it be said that we here at Hair Balls ain't highbrow. When his latest fund-raising scandal revealed that House Speaker Tom DeLay is an opera buff, we knew what to do. We contacted our Opera Correspondent.
He's an aide to a politician who has to work with DeLay occasionally, so he doesn't want his name used, but he jumped at our offer to figure out what opera role would best suit the Sugar Land congressman.
DeLay "should audition for La Bohème this fall," he writes. "He'd be a fantastic Rodolfo. Poor starving artist, bleeding-heart idealist to the end, sacrificing everything for his little family of compatriots, sheltering them in his PAC, ahem, shack."
Our correspondent then references the time DeLay lit up a cigar in a D.C. restaurant and the waiter told him the government had banned smoking in the establishment. ("I am the government," DeLay roared.)
"What a love story! That beautiful meet-cute aria, 'Che gelida manina,' Tom could really pull that off. Mimi whispers 'chi sono?' and the congressman bellows 'Sono il government!' Then, if the production has the balls to be any kind of avant-garde, he could strip her of her health care benefits."
He continues: "Which brings us to that gorgeous finale. The majority leader, clutching the terminally mezzomorte Mimi in his arms as the life slips inevitably out of her winnowing bones, wailing away though the night about how he's a poet, dammit, and if we allow her to die, we all die a little bit and HOW COULD WE? SHAME ON US! It's just like Terri Schiavo. If I know Tom, that'd make for some good fucking opera, man."
We'll have to take the correspondent's word for all this. A Punk'd repeat is about to come on.
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A Lotto Luck with That
The Texas Lottery is struggling to attract customers, who've apparently finally learned that the Lotto is, as comedian Steven Wright said, "a tax on people who are bad at math."
Their latest attempt involves putting famous Texas people on the scratch-off tickets. Bob Wills, the king of country swing, is the current smiling face that taunts gamblers after they've scratched another loser.
Wills was an alcoholic womanizer, so it's obvious the Lottery doesn't care much for just who they put on their tickets. That opens the field for a whole lot of other possibilities.