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Keep Houston Press Free
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Back Door to History

Gay rights supporters hailed the U.S. Supreme Court's June 26 decision in Lawrence v. Texas as a watershed that will forever change gay and lesbian life in America. Many of the players in the drama have gotten their 15 minutes of fame, from the eagerly sound-biting lawyers to the publicity-shy defendants.

But what about Harris County Sheriff's Deputy J.R. Quinn? He's the Frank Wills of this new day for gays ('70s trivia time: Wills was the security guard who discovered the Watergate break-in).

In 1998 Quinn arrested John Lawrence and another man for having anal sex in a Pasadena apartment. He'd been responding to a bogus call about a gun-toting intruder.

"Why on that date law officers decided to enforce a law that was almost never enforced, I'll never know," says attorney Mitchell Katine. He's glad they did -- the arrest of two consenting adults in their bedroom made the perfect case to take on Texas' sodomy law.

Quinn, an 18-year veteran, now works the overnight shift at the jail and is well aware what his actions led to. "As soon as they pled no contest, I knew where they were going with this," he says.

So why the arrest? "It was pretty blatant -- it wasn't 'oops,' where they just got caught doing it," he says. "We had a weapons call, the door was unsecured and we announced our presence and went in and they still refused to stop what they were doing."

He says he predicted the court decision: "It's not illegal for a man and woman to do that, so under the equal protection laws I figured they'd rule like they did," he says.

Quinn also has no big thoughts on being at least a footnote to a landmark decision. "It's just the way it happened, and I was there," he says. -- Richard Connelly

Miles Per Ganja

The gauge showed the black Ford Ranger's gas tank was full, but it could hold only two gallons of gas instead of 20. So last month, mechanics at Helfman Ford in Sugar Land lifted the truck up and dropped the gas tank.

Five bricks of marijuana fell out.

"Everybody, step away," ordered the dealership's general manager, Jeff Smith. He said later that "everybody was afraid to touch it."

The Fort Bend County sheriff's narcotics task force found 17 bricks wrapped in clear cellophane and sealed in vacuum-packed freezer bags. There was a total of 43 pounds of ganja.

Another Ford dealership had purchased the truck from a wholesaler, who'd bought it from a guy in Florida. The car had been sold about ten times, says sheriff's Captain Jerry Clements. There was no way to trace the original owner of the weed. "It'll just be destroyed," Clements said.

What a shame. -- Wendy Grossman

Tress Tests

People seem to get progressively less pretty the closer you get to the ocean. Maybe it's not just heavier humidity wreaking havoc on hair -- perhaps it could be the fact that Galveston school district cosmetology students are consistently flunking their biggest final, the state accreditation test. (The little license that even Supercuts stylists frame next to their stations.)

From 2000 to 2002, ten Ball High students took the exam. Only one passed.

Meanwhile, every La Marque High student who has taken the test in the past decade has passed with flying scissors.

La Marque cosmetology teacher Nancy VanDuyn-DeTorre explains that she has seniors spend their final year of the two-year program in a real-life, open-to-the-public salon. She drills them every week on the state board skills: curling, coloring and cutting.

So this fall the Galveston district will pay $550 per person for five seniors to be bused down I-45 to be taught by VanDuyn-DeTorre.

But the future for Ball High juniors is still up in the hair, so to speak: Galveston administrators say they'll evaluate the new program at the end of the year. The students may end up doomed to a future of nothing more than giving friends home permanents. -- W.G.

Strange Bedfellows

Opponents of the Port of Houston's massive Bayport project have enlisted a strange new ally: Osama bin Laden.

Osama hasn't denounced the billion-dollar port expansion, but opponents say there are 5,000 folks living within a mile of the site who question why a prime target for terrorists would be built near residential subdivisions.

President Bush "was slamming Iraq for putting government infrastructure near neighborhoods so there would be sure to be civilian casualties, and here they are doing the same thing," says anti-Bayport activist Karen Laake. Attorney Jim Blackburn says the project's environmental impact statement merely says an attack could happen anywhere.

Bayport also includes a proposed cruise terminal next to the container docks -- which, security-wise, "is kind of nuts," Blackburn says. The opponents' three alternative sites are more isolated and therefore safer, they say. -- R.C.

The Gray and the Fey

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The romance between Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher has had pop-culture watchers blabbing a lot lately, in part because Moore is 15 years older than Kutcher.

The Houston Chronicle apparently found this story important enough to devote 1,100 words to the topic of Hollywood's "older" women and their younger male love interests. The article included a handy chart that laid out the age differences in several Hollywood partnerships.

May Hair Balls take a moment to remind readers of the countless celebrity couples in which the male half is considerably older than the female? (Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, etc., etc., etc. ).

It seems older male stars can date young women and no one blinks. But in 2003, Courteney Cox-Arquette's eight measly years of seniority over husband David Arquette gets a Chron write-up. Sexist much? -- Jennifer Mathieu

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