Up in the Air

With a sharply contested election less than three months away, there's nothing an incumbent mayor likes more than a glowing profile in a nationally read magazine.

So there's good reason for Mayor Lee Brown to be smiling as broadly as he is on the cover of Continental Airline's current in-flight magazine.

"Staying the Course: Mayor Lee Brown Is Determined to Build on His Successes in Houston," the headline on the piece reads. (The line on the cover is "Front and Center: Houston Mayor Lee Brown Is Realizing His Downtown Dreams.")

In-flight magazines are not in business to do probing, critical assessments of politicians, and the Continental piece doesn't break the mold.

We learn that "The Houston Public Library's once-quiet branches are high-traffic areas these days" thanks to Brown; we learn that the mayor became "the first African-American in the world with a doctorate in criminology," that "When Mayor Brown first took office, he says, he dedicated his administration to the children," and in the grand finale we learn that Brown says, "I want people to be able to say 'Our town came back under Lee Brown,' " which must please former mayor Bob Lanier to no end.

Not to mention the two main guys running against Brown this November, City Councilmembers Chris Bell and Orlando Sanchez.

What's not in the Continental magazine piece is any mention of the strange relationship between Continental and Brown.

Two years ago Brown famously tried to handpick a team of architects and engineers for a $400 million expansion of Bush Intercontinental Airport, Continental's home here. The airline balked at the inexperience of Brown's pro-posed team.

There was a standoff only as long as it took Continental chairman Gordon Bethune to bluster about leaving the city; the mayor caved to Houston's largest employer and has since made clear that he understands who's boss.

Last year, when the airline wanted to overturn a city ordinance and a 30-year informal agreement banning advertising from Houston skyscrapers, Brown eagerly pushed the change through.

The August cover piece, it seems, is just further evidence that Brown is Continental's kinda mayor.

Localize It

On July 29, The New York Times's Sunday magazine had a cover story on OxyContin, the prescription pain reliever that's becoming known as Hillbilly Heroin because rural abusers are illegally snorting and injecting it for a cheap high.

A little over a week later, the banner front-page story in the Chronicle was "Hillbilly Heroin: Houston Officials Brace for Nation's Newest Drug Abuse Fad, OxyContin."

The fifth paragraph of that story: "But OxyContin abuse has yet to make a significant impact in Houston. Police lab technicians come across only a handful of tablets per month…and narcotics officers have made no major seizures of the painkiller."

The rest of the story went on to detail how abusing OxyContin is real bad, and how it's not yet being done in Houston.

We look forward to more stories that strain to localize nonlocal news, facts be damned:

Houston Area Not Yet Focus of Condit Probe

The search for missing intern Chandra Levy has so far bypassed Harris County, but law enforcement officials say the area could become the subject of an intensive manhunt if any evidence surfaces.

"There's nothing yet that links Levy to Houston, but if there were we would send people to check it out," an FBI spokesman said Friday. "I mean, that's a pretty big if, but if it did happen we wouldn't ignore it or anything."

Arafat Denies Blame in Rock-Throwing Incident

The head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization denied any part in a rock-throwing incident in Houston Friday. Several youths tossed rocks at each other in a minutes-long disturbance at a westside playground, reports said, but Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat denied any responsibility for the incident.

Authorities eventually restored order and gave the offenders a "time-out," a punishment long recognized by the World Court.

Westheimer Not on Route of 2002 Boston Marathon

Organizers of the Boston Marathon said Tuesday that the 2002 race will not include any stretches of Westheimer Road…

Apple Scruffs

In its never-ending effort to attract young, hip readers, the Chronicle is keeping things fresh on their daily page-two "Newsmaker" column, where celebrity doings are discussed.

That "rock and roll" music might be too loud and boisterous for squares, but the kwazy kidz at Houston's Leading Information Source don't care. They know what bands are hot.

Especially if those bands broke up 30 years ago. For some reason, page two in the Chron has turned into a Beatle fan-club newsletter.

Columnist Ken Hoffman has long been subjecting readers to his Beatles obsession, of course, but apparently some focus group somewhere -- maybe one picked from a Ringo and His All-Starr Band concert -- has demanded that the Chronicle write even more about the group.

Thirteen times in the last three months Beatle items have been on the second page of the news section, usually with prominent play. (That count doesn't include the many times Fab Four stories appeared in the entertainment portions of the paper.) George was sick, then he wasn't. On July 27 the news was that Paul McCartney is engaged. The very next day featured a picture of McCartney and his fiancée, both of them still engaged. (Two months previously, a page-two item reported that McCartney "hinted…that marriage is a possibility.")

We also learned May 25 that McCartney "revealed Thursday that he is producing a book about his group Wings and illustrating it with photos by his late wife"; five days before that we found out that he said that "for the first time in eight years he's planning to travel and perform a string of impromptu shows around the world"; four days before that we learned that at one point years ago he asked Yoko Ono if he could be listed as the main writer of "Yesterday" but she refused.

It's just a guess, but somehow, whenever that book comes out and McCartney has a book signing, whenever those "impromptu" concerts take place, whenever that wedding happens, we feel sure we'll know where to read all about it.

And those old fogies can just go to hell. Or to page two.


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