BY RICHARD CONNELLY
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is in town this week, the sign that spring can't be far behind.
We've promised ourselves for weeks that we would never, ever succumb to the "25 Random Things" meme, or phenomenon, or whatever it is, but we have received in the mail a notice from the federal government that all media outlets must publish at least one such list (Damn you, Obama!!)
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
So here are 25 Random Facts About the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo:
1. It's not only a livestock show, it's a rodeo.
2. Horses are involved. Also, other kinds of livestock.
3. PETA doesn't like it much.
4. The rodeo people don't like PETA much.
5. Dominique de Menil won the first celebrity goat-milking contest back in 1965.
6. She narrowly defeated UN Ambassador Ralph Bunche.
7. Our fact-checking department is still trying to verify numbers 5 and 6.
8. What with the economy for media outlets these days, fact-checking departments ain't what they used to be.
9. Which is why we're holding off on proposed Random Fact Number 9: Shortly after his rodeo appearance, Elvis Presley eschewed hookers and instead had sexual congress with a very fetching prize sheep.
10. We do know for a fact, because we heard it straight from Rodeo impresario Leroy Shaffer, that Sonny & Cher came within inches of breaking up onstage during their rodeo performance.
11. If they had, it perhaps would not have been the greatest calamity ever to strike the American public.
12. You would never know it from the media coverage of the rodeo, but concession stands on the Midway sell some weird fried stuff.
13. Mayor Bill White actually pronounces the event the "ro-day-o" and has to be trained each February on the proper version.
14. Again, Number 13 might need some additional sourcing.
15. It's a shame the Hideout won't be in the Astrodome this year, because nothing is more exciting than a couple hundred people spread out across the vast spaces of the Dome as the music wafts echo-ey into the far reaches of the dusty, dingy venue.
16. Contrary to popular belief, Mendelssohn did not compose a work called "Etude to the Houston Rodeo in C."
17. We once saw Cheap Trick play at the rodeo. It was very, very difficult not to think of Spinal Tap. We half-expected Rick Nielsen to break into "Jazz Odyssey."
18. Perhaps the rodeo's worst choice of performer: Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam in 1990. The bloom was off what little rose they had by then.
19. Jimmy Buffett hated his time onstage at the rodeo in 1988 — too far away from the fans, and in the round. He never appeared again.
20. Since 1988, it has been safe to attend the rodeo without the chance of being surrounded by old guys in Hawaiian shirts wearing Mardi Gras beads and carrying oversized margaritas as they desperately try to show everyone how crazy and off-the-wall they are.
21. Yo-Yo Ma has never played the rodeo. Neither has Iggy Pop.
22. All those prize cows lovingly raised by towheaded youngsters for the big contest? Someone's dinner within a couple of weeks.
23. In 1997, a threatened strike by the fast-talking-people-who-sell-you-crap-you-don't-need threatened to shut down the rodeo. Luckily for all the people who still had a few spare inches in their closet for stuff they never use, the strike was averted.
24. We're still checking on Number 23, but it sounds right to us.
25. The HLS&R is the largest rodeo in southern Harris County.
Strange incident makes owner consider shutdown
By John Nova Lomax
As usual for one of Jim Pirtle's parties above NoTsuOh on Main near Allen's Landing, this one extended beyond the night and into the morning. Local musician Greg Wood was there, upstairs near one of the windows. Sometime between five and six a.m. February 22, he heard a commotion coming from the street.
"It sounded like the usual bum stuff," he tells Hair Balls. "I just thought it was some homeless dude yelling."
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Sadly, it was anything but. One of the party's guests lay on the street in a puddle of blood. Police believe the man fell or jumped from the building, either out of a window or off the roof. Wood said the man looked more like the victim of a mugging than a man who had fallen from a great height. "He was bleeding from his side, and he was kind of talking for a little while," he said. "But he wasn't saying anything when they put him in the ambulance." Wood added that he was standing near one of Pirtle's windows and that there was little chance the man could have snuck around him to jump.
And in fact, nobody can say exactly what happened, least of all the victim (described as a man in his forties), who survived but has no recollection of the event.
For his part, Jim Pirtle is absolutely shattered. When Hair Balls visited him, Pirtle's sound system was playing "Ghost Town" by the Specials, one of the bleakest songs of all time, and Pirtle's mood matched the song perfectly. While the guests at his downstairs bar were as merry as ever, Pirtle doesn't know right now if he wants to keep his long-running downtown "social sculpture" running. "I hate this attention," he said. Asked if this was the end of an era, he said it might very well be.
Or as he put it on a Myspace blog post that has since been taken down, "I don't want to do this anymore...I just want to wear a jumpsuit and have a metal detector and walk along the beach mumbling to myself and getting excited about finding a lost Timex watch that keeps on ticking."