In the wake of September 11, television stations across the country began earnestly parading their patriotism. Anchors sported flag pins on their lapels and blouses; red, white and blue ribbons bedecked station logos, phone banks were set up to handle donations to victims' funds.
KRIV, the Fox station here in Houston, has gone them all one better.
Keep your ribbons and pins, you halfhearted wimps. Channel 26 reporter Ned Hibberd has you beat -- he's proudly and publicly singing backup vocals on a just-released CD single called "Bend Over Bin Laden."
Hibberd -- who's a straight-news guy, not a Fox equivalent of KPRC's Buzz Lady -- did a piece October 18 on the new promotional single being released through KSEV-AM, the harshest right-wing talk-radio station in the city, if not the state.
KSEV wants to raise funds by selling the single -- but in the station's typically loony style, the funds will go not to the victims, or even to help out the families of servicemen and women sent overseas; instead the money will go to buy a bomb for the United States to drop on Afghanistan.
The so-called JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) bombs being used in the campaign go for about $18,000 each; KSEV host Edd Hendee had the brainstorm to donate the equivalent amount to the government. One lucky winner will receive two tickets donated by Continental Airlines to fly to Boeing's JDAM factory in Seattle, present the check and sign his or her name on the bomb. ("Of course," Hendee said on his show October 24, "there might be some security concerns at the factory that would prevent us from doing that." Gee, you think?)
To raise the funds Hendee enlisted a friend, musician/ orthodontist Tom Pearson, to record "Bend Over Bin Laden" to the tune of (of course) "Roll Over Beethoven." (Yes, you have to endure a sample lyric: "We're gonna give you the red, white and blues Bend over bin Laden, and tell Gadhafi the news." Gadhafi?)
Hibberd, who plays drums and once sang in a barbershop quartet, is also friends with Pearson, so he did a story on the recording session. And got caught up in the spirit.
"They talked me into singing -- at first I said, 'No, no, no, no,' " Hibberd says. "Eventually I sang all the backup parts."
The allegedly reluctant performer says he doesn't feel he crossed a line by singing the obviously political song, one being distributed by the foaming Clinton-haters at KSEV.
"The guys who did it aren't intimately wed with KSEV so I didn't feel I was aligning with the station, or I wouldn't have done it," Hibberd says. "As for the politics, if it was anything else -- for instance, these guys have done a song about the Main Street light-rail line -- I wouldn't have done it. To me, this is like wearing a flag pin in your lapel."
He's heard no complaints from management, although that may be because management is in flux (news director Denise Bishop left effective October 19; no replacement has been named yet).
Hibberd admits he "went back and forth" about whether to mention in his news piece that he had participated in the recording, but decided to "put it in because I thought it was kind of funny."
He says he doesn't know if he will be a part of Pearson's next effort, of which we are giving you fair warning: "They're doing a song to the tune of 'Elvira' that's called 'Al Qaeda,' so that should be pretty good," Hibberd says.
Let the chuckling begin.
Jekyll and Hyde
Six months ago Craig Biggio was presented with a statue in honor of getting his 2,000th hit, an event that sent Houston Chronicle columnist Fran Blinebury into full adoration mode.
"Biggio the Person Is Real Masterpiece," the column's headline read.
Biggio, Blinebury wrote, is "remarkably unremarkable. He is, by the numbers and according to his peers and any other yardstick you use to measure, a star. Yet there is so little of the aura, because that's the way he likes it He is, as they say, an old-school player, which means that he has too much respect for the game to try to make himself stand out above it He is an open book upon whose pages are written very few complicated words."
Blinebury wrote that "There isn't much about him that we don't know," although one secret that manager Larry Dierker let slip to the columnist was that Biggio goes to Mass every Sunday, even on road trips.
But that was all six months ago. Before the Astros performed their annual playoff collapse, before Dierker was fired amongst lots of vague reporting about how the manager wasn't respected in the clubhouse.
On October 24 Blinebury did a postmortem on the season and Dierker's sacking.
He said, "there is little reason to doubt the sincerity of Biggio's on-the-record farewell bouquet to Dierker. Only that for most of his career Biggio has been the baseball version of Clyde Drexler -- a wonderfully gifted, hard-nosed, driven competitor whose talent is exceeded only by his ego and his penchant for spouting platitudes while doing more clubhouse lawyering than Racehorse Haynes."
Wait a minute -- "for most of his career"? What about six months ago?
Does this mean Biggio doesn't really go to Mass? We'll wait for Fran's next 180-degree turn to find out.
The Chronicle's 100th anniversary edition, which featured a history of the paper that left the impression the Chron had single-handedly defeated the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow while pushing Houston to grow exponentially without despoiling the environment, left at least one disgruntled reader.
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Bill Schadewald, editor of the Houston Business Journal, wasn't happy that his publication was somehow excluded from the anniversary section's listing of "Other Houston Publications," and he let it rip in a October 19 column.
"It was a bit surprising to read that the Chron business desk now has 'a total of 22 editors and reporters' compared to one person in 1901," Schadewald wrote. "Given the fact that much of the business content today consists of wire copy culled from outside media services, I pictured a somewhat smaller staff."
He noted that even though HBJ was omitted from the list, the Chron's marketing department managed to send him "a full-blown media kit" touting the special section, with confetti, balloons, a mayoral proclamation and reprints of past Chronicle editions.
Schadewald should be happy -- we at the Press made the list, but somehow we never got the goody bag. We think he got the better part of the deal.