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Party On, Dan

Sheila! (A Continuing Series): Even an easy re-election hasn't stopped Houston's Sheila Jackson Lee from getting in front of any camera available.

The announcement that Dan Rather will be stepping down from the CBS anchor desk has left us feeling as antsy as a crack whore's fetus, as Dan himself might say.

Watching the ticking time bomb of Rather was always entertaining; we can only hope there's one last blow-up to come before he finishes.

The retirement brought many postmortems on Rather's career, tracing the son of a ditchdigger and a waitress (that would be two different people) from his early days in the Houston Heights through the beginnings of his journalistic career here at radio station KTRH and television's KHOU.

Everyone mentioned his groundbreaking performance hanging onto a tree during Hurricane Carla. Not many mentioned the time he had the Houston Police Department shoot him up with heroin.

Rather talked about the incident 24 years ago in an interview in the Ladies' Home Journal, of all places. "As a reporter -- and I don't want to say that that's the only context -- I've tried everything. I can say to you with confidence, I know a fair amount about LSD," he said. "I've never been a social user of any of these things, but my curiosity has carried me into a lot of interesting areas."

Wow. What is the frequency, Kenneth?

Rather continued on, rambling away like any stoner who won't shut up about that great shit he did that one time: "As an example, in 1955 or '56, I had someone at the Houston police station shoot me with heroin so I could do a story about it."

Free drugs for reporters? What's that HPD media relations number again?

"I don't think we have that program anymore, if we ever did," says spokesman Captain Dwayne Ready. "Why, do you want to sign up?"

Ready checked and couldn't find any old-timers with firsthand knowledge of Rather's claim. "I'm sure they did a lot of things back then that we don't do today," he says.

Damn. We feel as out of luck as Liberace at Lilith Fair. Although we guess if there actually were a guy at a Lilith Fair concert, he'd be kinda inclined to… dang, this metaphor stuff is tough.

Tougher than a two-dollar steak. At a Lilith Fair concert. Cooked by a crack whore.

Dress for Success

Nestled between the East Texas towns of Jasper and Vidor -- the Sodom and Gomorrah of Lone Star racism -- is the tiny town of Spurger.

Spurger's schools have had the odd (even for East Texas) tradition of something called TWIRP Day, which stands for "The Woman Is Requested to Pay," a kind of Sadie Hawkins spin-off where young boys go to school dressed as young girls.

Preteen cross-dressing has flourished in Spurger for many years, but not anymore. Parents who, we're guessing, voted Republican contacted the right-wing Liberty Legal Institute to make some lawyer noise, and the district immediately caved.

As well it should have, for, as one parent told a reporter: "If it's okay to dress like a girl today, then why is it not okay in the future?"

Instead, the school instituted "Camouflage Day," where kids came dressed to kill, so to speak.

Hey, if the right-wingers can be offended by a little transvestism, we can surely find a left-winger to offer some outrage on Camo Day.

Step right up, Ken Freeland of the Houston Coalition for Justice Not War. "It obviously has a paramilitary connotation," he says. "That's unavoidable…[W]hat they're actually asking the children to do is tacitly support that military activity [in Iraq], which of course our organization considers patently unjust and unwarranted."

We're sure Freeland soon will be getting an education on what Texas hunters wear when they're out there protecting animals from being overpopulated. And we're guessing Camo Day won't be shut down anytime soon.

One Man's Meat...

The boosters of Houston's new Midtown section think of themselves as hip, happening urban warriors. Living in Midtown is just like living in Greenwich Village or something.

Unless you're gay. Or at least the type of gay who likes anonymous sex at places with in-your-face names like the Meatrack.

The Meatrack offers one-stop shopping for the gay guy who doesn't need to hear someone's life story before getting it on. There's a dungeon, a "wet room" for "yellow hanky action" (which we assume involves the use of something other than hankies) and a maze with holes in the walls. The holes, the club's Web site states, are there so that patrons can "ask directions." On their knees, we presume.

The establishment got the Midtown Coalition in a tizzy, if not an actual dither. Media outlets were contacted, and television stations gleefully participated. Unlike most nightclubs, the Meatrack would rather not have klieg-light TV coverage, so it shut its doors.

Meatrack operator Tom Jones had no comment, but the Web site noted the club had received "disturbing phone calls."

The big victory for the Midtown Coalition, however, appears to be short-lived. The Meatrack had planned to be open only until the end of November anyway, when it begins its transition to a new Midtown spot a few blocks away.

The future site, Coalition chair Noel Cowart says, "is directly across from the 'Superblock,' the largest contiguous block of developer land in Midtown. Surely, anyone wishing to develop this property would have second thoughts if they had to deal with a sexually oriented business in such proximity."

Superblock vs. the Meatrack! It sounds like something Marvel Comics put out in the '60s, but it's a battle that appears to be only warming up.

Jones isn't above playing the homophobe card. "We urge everyone to be extra-cautious when visiting any of the other gay businesses in the Midtown area," the Meatrack Web site states. "Be aware of your surroundings, park in well-lighted areas and, when possible, do not walk alone."

They forgot to mention one other thing: Don't ask for directions.

Daddy Day Care, Part Two

When we first reported on Houston's sudden concern with day-care centers nestled against bars, we spoke mostly about the kind of strip shopping centers that would also feature a nail salon and a Stop 'n' Rob. It turns out we needed to think more upscale.

As we noted earlier, the city is proposing to finally adopt a state law that prevents businesses with liquor licenses from being established within 300 feet of a day-care center. It sounds simple enough, but complications have emerged.

There's Steve Wood, the lawyer for Uptown Houston, an area of town the rest of us refer to as "over by the Galleria." Among the businesses there is the chic Post Oak Central complex, those three horizontally striped skyscrapers on Post Oak Boulevard.

The buildings feature the usual collection of law firms and investment outfits -- and, to service them, two day-care centers and five restaurants with liquor licenses. If that 300-foot distance can be measured in height as well as along the ground, it might spell trouble for leasing future day-care centers or restaurants.

Jim Wilson of Crescent Real Estate has an even more pressing problem. His company owns Greenway Plaza. Not only are there day-care centers in those skyscrapers too, there is the former Compaq Center, former home to the Houston Rockets and soon-to-be-home to Lakewood Church.

Once Lakewood Church finishes expanding the Compaq Center -- because Lord knows an NBA arena isn't big enough for a church -- it will be within 300 feet of just about everything in Greenway Plaza. And it will include a day-care center.

Which doesn't affect pre-existing tenants like the Houston City Club, but Wilson is worried about what might happen if the club moves and he wants to replace it with a similar establishment.

City Councilmembers were sympathetic to the pleas and asked Mayor Bill White to reword the proposed ordinance to address some of the concerns.

We're sure things would have been the same if it had been only folks from Gulfton strip centers raising questions, as opposed to Galleria executives. Right?


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