People Get Ready
There was one sentence in the article on the RTC program ["Between Friends," by Brian Wallstin, June 5] that really said it all: "The shadowy figures and irregular transactions outlined in the HUD audit of the RTC program underscore the lack of regard the Lanier administration has for laws designed to protect the public from conflicts of interest and wasteful spending."
In other words, if you like what Lanier and Duddlesten did with the RTC program, and if you were impressed with the convention center hotel sting, you're gonna love what they've got in mind for new sports facilities in Houston. There's a Woodward and Bernstein story just waiting to be written about that fiasco.
Regarding "Dead on the Street" [by Jim Simmon, June 12]:
1) I did not follow Ronnie Tucker for six blocks. I followed him for half a block. The misapprehension arose because Tucker knocked Vidal Ramirez down some blocks away. When Ramirez picked himself up, he followed Tucker at a safe distance while trying to get help. When I saw Ramirez and Tucker, they were half a block from Prairie and La Branch. Tucker was walking on the sidewalk with the briefcase, while Ramirez was walking down the middle of the street, waving his arms over his head in an effort to get help. Had your writer checked the facts, he might not have wondered about my "judicial temperament."
2) Tucker did not hit me in the face with the briefcase. I would have preferred that to what he did, which was to punch me in the face with his fists. When I stopped my car I was careful to keep it between me and Tucker. I alighted on the driver's side while he was on the passenger side. He slammed the briefcase on the hood in a rage and bounded around the car in an instant to attack me.
3) Ramirez is not a lawyer but a banker. He had just closed on a house.
I am the only person during Ramirez's journey down the street who stopped to inquire what was amiss while Ramirez signaled for help. I am the fourth known person Tucker attacked that morning.
Judge, 248th Criminal Judicial District
Jim Simmon replies: As Werner Voigt knows, my efforts to "check the facts" included a request to interview the person most knowledgeable about the events immediately preceding Ronnie Tucker's death -- Werner Voigt himself. When Voigt responded to a message I left at his court, I explained to him precisely what I was doing: that I intended to write a story focusing more on Ronnie Tucker's life than on his death, but that I felt like I needed to talk with Voigt. He declined to discuss the incident with me, as is his right, although there is no legal or ethical stricture I am aware of that would have prevented him from doing so.
Unable to speak with the primary actors in the episode -- I was unsuccessful in my attempts to contact Vidal Ramirez Jr., and Ronnie Tucker was, of course, unavailable for comment -- I relied on the news release issued by HPD's public information office on the shooting and the accounts in the Chronicle of April 30 and May 1. The Chronicle, a not obscure publication, reported on April 30 that Voigt had driven six blocks the wrong way down La Branch in pursuit of a lawyer's briefcase, and even published a locator map of the street that characterized his action in a similar fashion. (If I mischaracterized the nature of Tucker's assault on the judge, that was due to my own befoggery.) Yet as Voigt acknowledged to me in a June 17 phone conversation subsequent to my receipt of his letter, he had never requested a clarification or correction by the Chronicle in the almost eight weeks since Tucker's death. It is true that had he consented to be interviewed by me, I, and perhaps others, might not have had occasion to "wonder" about his judicial temperament.
"Teddy Jack Eddie": A Pseudonym for Jimmy Raycraft?
Great, great article on the local rocker trying to make it ["Never Too Old to Rock and Roll," by Hobart Rowland, June 5]. For his next piece on local rock and roll history, could Mr. Rowland track down the guy who used to lead the Dishes (Jim something-or-other)? He played a mean guitar. My wildest memory (or is it a dream?) is his performance of the John Lennon/George Harrison guitar duel on "The End" (from Abbey Road), trading leads with himself. Another time he floored me by doing "I Am the Walrus" from Magical Mystery Tour at a Cody's show. I can't remember any band, local or national, ever tackling these tunes live.
His mixture of surf guitar, pop, modern rock, originals and on-stage humor (Remember the lava lamps? The constant grooming of a bald head?) is missed. I believe the bassist went on to manage the Fabulous Satellite Lounge and marriage to Miss Molly, and cheesy organist Barbara Donoho went on to some national touring band. But for me, that lead guitarist was the heart and soul of the band. Where is he? Why'd he give it up?
It is time for a Dishes reunion.
Teddy Jack Eddie
Bob Kelly Supplies the Answer Sought by Teddy Jack Eddie
Great article on Herschel Berry -- he is a Houston legend. One thing glaringly missing, though, was guitarist Jimmy Raycraft. In several parts of the article, I kept wondering -- where's Mr. Raycraft? Whoops! I hope others notice this omission in the story. Perhaps you weren't here back then, otherwise you wouldn't have left out one of the other finest entertainers this city has ever seen. I guess you haven't met Jimmy yet. You can't miss him, though: He's now playing with Beans Barton and has his new trio, the Roaring Calhouns. This is the most amusing guy in the world, and one hell of a guitarist. Otherwise, great article. Glad to see Herschel get the attention he deserves. Don't forget Jimmy.
Editor's note: Okay, okay -- next month we're starting a three-part series on Jimmy Raycraft: "Young and Unstrung," "The Hair Years" and "The Post-Hair Years." Reserve your copies now.
The Hand of Fate
Hobart Rowland's bayou bio on Herschel Berry allows us to draw our own conclusions, so this is mine: Life is how you play the hand you're dealt. I hope Herschel draws a few more aces in his current round.
Attention, Bill Balleza: Leave the Building Now!
Congratulations to Jim Simmon on that excellent piece ["Big Story," June 5] on Channel 2's trashing of its newscast. Not only is it a "big embarrassment" to Houston, but is has to be the worst newscast in any major city. I always considered Bill Balleza to be the cream of the crop of local anchormen, but he has to be seriously thinking about moving elsewhere. Or else he should.
Granted, NBC was covering the Rockets games, which meant we had to endure even more hype and tripe than usual, but 2's coverage was so biased that it only endorsed the view that Rockets fans could win a championship of their own for whining.
News You Can Lose
Jim Simmon's article on the "Big Story" was right on target. How long must we continue to suffer this trend of our local news stations providing us with this "news lite" crap? What next -- a three-eyed alien having Rob Johnson's love child?
Ezra's (Annual) Lament
I was disappointed not to see the name Ezra Charles on your Readers' Poll ballot for best keyboardist. At least this year I won't have to read your lame excuses for why I always win when I'm nominated, like last year when you attributed my victory to "paranormal activity or to (more likely) a remarkably effective ability to get out the vote." Did the concept of "appreciation of talent" ever cross your mind? I didn't ask a single person to vote for me because I don't have to. How many musicians do you see fronting a band, playing piano and simultaneously laying down all the bass lines on the keyboards? Any "Houston's best keyboardist" poll without my name on the ballot is a joke.
While I have the floor, I'd like to point out to your nominating committee that I have based my career on performing about 40-50 songs, 30 of which are on my CDs, all of which I wrote. This makes me a songwriter. When we sent a questionnaire to our fan base last year and asked them to name their favorite Ezra Charles song, 19 of my compositions were submitted as somebody's favorite. I challenge any of your songwriter nominees to duplicate that feat.
My suggestion with regard to the flaws in your nominating process is to abolish the committee. Publish a blank ballot that forces the readers to write in their favorite in each category, voting for people they've actually seen and enjoyed instead of blindly circling names they recognize from reading them in the press. They've been doing this for years in the Austin Chronicle. But I guess we wouldn't want to copy what they do in Austin -- they're a music town.
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Ezra's Second Thoughts
I would sincerely appreciate it if you did not publish my letter faxed to you on June 5 concerning the Readers' Poll. After further reflection, I have decided that the misconceptions about me held by part of the Houston music community will only be exacerbated by public statements. In addition, I do not want it to be taken as an attempt to influence the write-in vote.
Life After Lindsay
Craig D. Lindsay [Rotation, June 5] reminds me of the politicians in Washington: He is seriously out of touch with most of society. Although I was not a B.I.G. fan before his last album, I am now. He has sold over 1.5 million copies of his new CD since March 1997. Craig, if you want to be a "Notoriously B.I.G." writer someday, start by telling the truth.
Michael A. White