Michael Berry vs. Bill White

Political Animals

Berry V. White
The Death match! No politeness allowed!!

The folks at bloghouston listen to Michael Berry's talk show on KTRH, so they've become aware of the recent run-in between Berry and Mayor Bill White.


Michael Berry

They provide mp3s of two recent Berry segments: one, a somewhat contentious interview between Berry and White over the city's "sanctuary policy," which conservatives feel is responsible for crime, cop-­killings, general unpleasantness and the ultimate collapse of the American Empire, and two, a recap of the ensuing phone call Berry got from one of White's press secretaries.

Berry says the press secretary was "extremely heavy-handed...highly disrespectful and highly unprofessional."

He doesn't provide any specifics (we have a message in to him), and what he described on the air sounded pretty much like the standard give-and-take between a reporter and a press secretary who's pissed off about a story.

In any case, the Berry ­Monster is now unleashed.

"This little fit they threw today," he said on the air, means Berry will no longer be respectful of the mayor when (and if, big if) he ever comes on the show again.

"I will no longer hold my tongue," he says. "So for all of you who get very angry that I'm so polite to the mayor when he comes on, you will be delighted to know...I will rip him wide open on these airwaves and give him a chance to respond. I will not be respectful and courteous and give him a chance to talk throughout the interview."

Good luck lining up that next Whiteinterview, dude.

(Bonus point: In admitting that maybe he took the slights too personally, Berry mentioned that "I've been overly ­reactionary at times." Well, yes, he has, if you look up the definition of reactionary.)

Update: We've heard from Berry. He saysthe problem was more of tone than with whatwas said.

"It strikes me as extreme hubris toassume they can browbeat me, and it strikes me as ­stupid that they would do so when he's running for a statewide office,"he says.

More interestingly, he says mayoral spokesman Patrick Trahan told a KTRH reporter the mayor would no longer do phone interviews with reporters from the station.

A ban that lasted less than one day, Berry says, as the mayor was on the phone with a reporter the following morning.

(We've got a message in to Trahan to get his version of events, so check back.)

And here's Trahan! He says he did, indeed, tell a KTRH reporter "no more phoners," but he had yet to reach Berry to talk things out, and after he did he rescinded the order.

"It is my job to ensure that the public gets a fair hearing of the facts," he says. "I felt Mr. Berry's tone [on the radio] minimized the hard work done by the mayor and the police force on this issue and I challenged whether, given that so many of the station's opinion leaders are on one side of the political spectrum, that its news organization could, after Mr. Berry's railing, give us a fair airing on the issue. Mr. Berry answered that portion of the question to our satisfaction and we made the mayor available."

He added: "Mr. Berry accused us of ­bullying. He has a 50,000-kilowatt radio station and listeners. We had a man-to-man conversation on a 455-volt phone. The only thing he could have found imposing about that conversation was my question about what did he see as the way to start in finding a solution to the problem [of illegal immigration]." — Richard Connelly


Working with A God
Pixies' leader has a Houston project

We told you recently about how Pixies founder Black Francis is collaborating with Houston's Catastrophic Theatre on a new musical play. Now we have the details of how the ­seemingly improbable event came about.

Jason Nodler, formerly of Infernal Bridegroom but now the heart (or, at least, one of them) of Catastrophic, is a hardcore Pixies fan. "Working with Black Francis is, to me, one step removed from working with Bob Dylan," he says. "It turns out he's an incredibly gracious dude, but he's a rock god to me."

Nodler's longtime friend Josh Frank is the author of Fool the World: An Oral History of a Band Called Pixies, a book that came out of an aborted attempt to write a Pixies musical.

Frank, who lives in Austin, met Nodler for drinks after seeing Catastrophic's Speeding Motorcycle, and talk turned to the failed effort. Nodler said he'd long hoped to do something similar.

A month later, Frank called to say he'd lunched with Black Francis, and that he was "interested in seeing a pitch" from Nodler.

Which Nodler promptly put together, although it can be difficult to write to a god. "It was hard to hit 'send' on that one," he says.

But Francis was pleased, and the projectwas born.

It's based on Francis's album ­Bluefinger,which is itself based on the life and legend of Dutch musician Herman Brood and Francis's reaction to it.

Brood was notorious in the Netherlands, where he actually lived up to the Dutch word for "cuddly junkie." (You know, every language should have a word like that.) He committed suicide in 2001 by leaping from the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton, where John and Yoko had had their "bed-in." Before dying, he got the keys to the bed-in room and left his suicide note there.

The new project, Nodler says, will likely consist of a first act using mainly Brood's songs to tell the story of his life, and then a second act that would be "a radical retelling of it by Black Francis." It will use Bluefinger songs and, probably, new compositions, he says.

Workshopping will begin in December, and it should open at DiverseWorks in fall 2010. — Richard Connelly

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