The Insider

Rolando Gathers No Moss
The FBI's reputation for clinch-jawed circumspection has been restored with the transfer of talkative G-Man Rolando Moss from his post as the chief spokesman for the agency's Houston office to community affairs duties. As detailed in the February 15 Press, Moss was the victim of a reverse sting engineered by Vince Maleche, who served prison time after being snared in the FBI's Operation Lightning Strike probe of alleged corruption at the Johnson Space Center and in related aerospace businesses. Upon learning that Moss was to be the guest speaker at the January meeting of the local MENSA chapter, Maleche and his wife went to the gathering at the Rock Bottom Brewery armed with a tape recorder. They found Moss in a loquacious mood following his talk, and caught him on tape spouting off like he never did at news conferences on Lightning Strike, NASA's astronaut corps and other subjects. Moss, who's out of the office through mid-month, was unavailable for comment, and his boss, Mike Wilson, did not respond to an Insider query. Agent Jim Coneway, not nearly so talkative as Moss, will now be handling all the press inquiries for the local FBI office. Coneway was not available for comment, either.

Bruised Ego, Bruised Pocketbook
If losing a December runoff for the District D seat on City Council wasn't enough, lawyer Saundria Chase Gray discovered after the election that her campaign had bounced a $10,000 check to political consultant Dan McClung's Campaign Strategies. Gray says the imbalance occurred because several key contributors had last-minute changes of heart and put stops on their checks to her campaign. "It was very upsetting to me," says Gray, who refuses to name the welshers. "It not only hurt financially, but it also hurt my feelings." Gray says she's raised $8,000 to pay McClung back and has an agreement to repay the balance over time. The experience taught her a valuable lesson, however: "If I ever seek office again, for the larger checks, I would wait or maybe call the bank to see if they clear." Always good advice.

Paranoia Won't Employ Ya
Job seekers considering employment with state Senator John Whitmire after laboring for a political foe might first consider the fate of 27-year-old lawyer Jay Aiyer, who at the start of the year was an enthusiastic new staff counsel for the north Houston lawmaker. But that was before Senator "Boogie" suddenly decided his new pet issue was going to be education, rather than criminal justice, and found a former teacher in Austin better qualified for assisting him in that field. So Whitmire called in a stunned Aiyer, a South Texas College of Law graduate who only recently had passed the bar, and pulled the job out from under his feet. "After working and talking for two weeks, it was not goin' to be the direction I needed to go," explains Whitmire.

Lawyer David Jones, who is challenging Whitmire ally Ken Yarbrough in the Democratic primary for Yarbrough's state House seat, believes his own previous relationship with Aiyer might have contributed to the young lawyer's discharge from Whitmire's employ. Until a few months ago, Aiyer clerked in Jones' office, and according to Jones, helped him map out his future campaign against Yarbrough. For that, Jones suspects, Whitmire retaliated against Aiyer -- an accusation that the senator denies.

Maybe Aiyer is better off gone. Our sources say Whitmire's office on Yale at 8th Street is Paranoia Central, with the beleaguered senator monitoring staffers' phone calls and always on the lookout for lurking enemies in the media or the political realm. Whitmire denies he has the capability to listen in on calls of employees, and he rejects the notion that reporters are out to get him. "In fact, I have a good relationship with most media," he says.

Space Is the Place
Space has been very, very good to Houston journalist and scriptwriter Al Reinert, who's made a career out of chronicling NASA in both the print and celluloid realms. Reinert and partner William Broyles Jr. are Oscar nominees this year for their Apollo 13 screenplay, and they've also snagged a nomination in the screenwriting category of the Writers' Guild of America awards, scheduled a week before the March 25 Oscars ceremony.

Meanwhile, Reinert has inked another contract with Apollo 13 director Ron Howard's Imagine Studios for a space action-adventure epic, this one featuring mayhem and madness aboard the Space Station of the future. He's also talking to HBO about writing and directing one episode in a cable series highlighting all the Apollo flights, an undertaking that seems guaranteed to tax the attention span of the public as much as the actual missions did.

As novice screenwriters, Reinert and Broyles worked for relative peanuts on Apollo 13, while bigger-name writers John Sayles and Eric Roth (the Forrest Gump wordsmith) received much larger fees for penning eventually discarded rewrites of Reinert and Broyles' original script. Win or lose, the Oscar nomination virtually guarantees Reinert that his next space mission will carry a much larger payload than the last. His For All Mankind, a film he made on a shoestring budget using NASA footage thawed out of cryogenic storage, previously was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary, but lost to an Elizabeth Taylor-financed documentary on stories from the AIDS quilt.

Spring is in the air, so it's time to plant those early blooming items by calling The Insider at 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax).


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