News Hostage

Oldies But Oldies
It's always nice to come back from vacation and be greeted with two pieces of welcome news.

The first piece of good news was that -- finally, finally -- brave and visionary men had succeeded in their noble quest to ... go around the world in a hot-air balloon.

This was wonderful news for humankind in general, not only because the feat proved once and for all that our species could indeed travel around the world in a balloon -- a miracle of engineering that no doubt will result in technological advances that will make the space race's introduction of Tang seem minor -- but also because the feat meant that we, the human population, will never, ever be subjected to yet another goddamned story about priority-challenged millionaires trying to be the first to circle the globe in a balloon.

Now that they can no longer toss their fortunes away on pointless hot-air flights, we can only wait with dread as they head in droves to the Bonneville Salt Flats to aim for the land-speed record using multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art stagecoaches. With a flock of reporters in tow.

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Continuing the theme of pointless anachronisms, the second piece of good news is that Chronicle sports columnist Mickey Herskowitz is back.

How overjoyed we were to see the Mick back after a six-week absence. We were especially pleased to see that he hadn't lost the inimitable Herskowitz touch: a genetic inability to write a column without mentioning someone who's long since dead or retired.

The first postsabbatical column we saw was nothing more than a report from a run-of-the-mill Rockets game, but it included a Wilt Chamberlain reference. The month of March has included three other columns, mentioning such luminaries as Howard Cosell, Nellie Fox and Yogi Berra. (The tally doesn't include a Joe DiMaggio obit.)

Herskowitz simply cannot write about, say, a UT football game without bringing in some "possibly apocryphal" anecdote by Branch Rickey or Don Meredith or Slingin' Sammy Baugh.

A little of this is understandable; the degree to which Herskowitz is obsessed with the past makes Bob Dole seem like a forward-looking visionary. We all enjoy the Chron's Leon Hale writing about his Great Depression past, but even Leon once in a while can put together 800 words focusing strictly on the present.

In the months from September until his Super Bowl wrap-up in January, a quick search of the Chronicle archives shows, Herskowitz wrote 39 columns. In just four of them, as far as we can tell, did he limit himself to talking about only people who are actually playing the game now.

The other 35 columns mentioned, among others, Parnelli Jones, Otto Graham, "All-American fullback Flyin' Jack McCloud," Bob Gibson, The Fearsome Foursome, The Four Horsemen, Wahoo McDaniel, Darrell Royal (frequently) and Nolan Ryan (almost weekly). FDR was mentioned twice, just to show Mickey keeps his pulse on the political scene, too.

How would Herskowitz himself sum up the Herskowitz ouevre? He'd probably begin by writing something like this: "It was the noted philosopher and sage Yogi Berra who, perhaps after seeing one too many Bob Feller fastballs, once opined that 'It was dejà vu all over again.' "

Then he'd move on to a couple of killer Tom Landry anecdotes, a Bear Bryant tale, a Fran Tarkenton quote and then, maybe -- just maybe -- his point.

This Just In
KPRC head Dan Patrick, who fills his highly rated station with a steady stream of right-wing rants against gays, pro-choicers and Democrats, broke a startling exclusive March 23 that called into doubt the existence of a benevolent Supreme Being.

In a discussion about Islam, Patrick informed his listeners that he won't always be surrounded by such evil-doers as lesbians and single teens who have abortions. "I am totally confident that I am going to heaven," Patrick declared. "I have full and complete confidence in that."

God could not be reached for comment.

Trees Are Dying for This
If any proof were necessary that times are relatively flush in Houston these days, you'd need look no further than the magazine racks of restaurants and bookstores. This city is crawling with newborn glossy magazines aimed at the yuppie hip.

There's Cover, the latest incarnation of publisher Shel Emmons's inept Y2K-based magazine that apparently lasted all of one issue. There's 002 ("The Downtown Magazine"); there's CV -- Controversy Magazine, and there's ME -- Male Ego magazine.

Besides silly names, all feature lots of ads for high-end fashion stores, plastic surgeons and supposedly happening clubs. There's also, of course, pages of smiling friends of the publisher at bar openings and charity events.

There's also a soupion of editorial content. Both 002 and CV feature cover stories on Astro first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who's apparently starved for attention. The Q&As reveal such insights as "My wife and I frequent quite a few restaurants throughout the city," but they also happily include his take on the Chronicle and local TV and radio stations.

Asked if he has ever felt the media has gone after him personally, Bagwell says, "Our media in Houston is very mild.... It makes it very easy for an athlete to play here. It makes it very comfortable."

Hey, they're just doing their job, Jeff.
The award for Least Editorial Content Possible among these publications goes to Male Ego, which somehow bills itself in a press release as offering "Verbage with Style," providing "the only unique citywide magazine serving the interest of fashionable men to the fullest." (Unlike all those other unique citywide magazines.)

The award for Most Editorial Content Possible, Although We Wish They'd Cut Back goes to Controversy Magazine. There are health tips and fashion layouts and photos of luxury cars, but there's a slightly strange tilt to the whole thing.

It's owned by two former NFL players, Patrick Bates and Derrick "L.A." Frazier. Together they bring all the sensitivity and taste that you'd expect from a pair of A&M jocks. The March-April issue included this letter, allegedly sent to the magazine's sex columnist, "Dr. Wendy Westheimer": "I am a thirtysomething professional woman. I am told that I am very attractive and I am slightly overweight. I have noticed a foul smell coming from my vagina for a while now and hope that you might have some tips on how to alleviate that." (It was signed "Stinky in Downtown Houston.")

Just to drive home the point, the same edition's "Inner Thoughts of a Man" asked men what their biggest turnoffs were. Number One, from "Paul, 27, an engineer": bad breath. "If a woman lets her breath stink, you wonder what else may smell on her."

Oh well. Joseph Pulitzer used his newspapers to start the Spanish-American War. CV has obviously picked a different cause.

We Won!
The March 23 Chronicle ran an Associated Press story headlined "Chronicle Among Honorees at Annual TDNA Meeting." The lead noted that "Two publishers and four Texas newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, were honored at the annual meeting of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association on Monday."

A Lubbock publisher won for service to the community, and a couple of Dallas Morning News staffers won awards.

But Houston's Leading Information Source was not to be denied. "The Chronicle and three other daily newspapers," the story proudly noted, "won Bright Idea awards ... for the best self-promotions appearing during the previous calendar year."

News Hostage is back and writing. Do you keep up with media reports? Do some of them make you choke on your Wheaties? Do others make you laugh and snort? Tell us. E-mail Richard Connelly at, or write him at the Houston Press, 1621 Milam, Suite 100, Houston,

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