In the end, Cynthia Sinatra never posed much of a threat to the bizarre reign of U.S. Representative Ron Paul in District 14, getting beaten pretty handily in the GOP primary March 7.

But she didn't go down without providing one of the stranger finales to any recent congressional campaign.

The campaign sent out a media invite announcing a March 3 press conference with the candidate "and her husband Frank Sinatra, Jr." at a public park in Wharton.

The chance to meet the guy that Tony Soprano famously dubbed "The Chairboy of the Board" attracted...two reporters.

One of them was there, at least partly, to get to the bottom of the Sinatra marriage. Media reports had the two filing for divorce in 2000; the candidate had been identified as the singer's "ex-wife" since then. So did the invite indicate they had married again?

"Who knows?" said Cynthia's mom, while waiting for the event to start. "They say they are."

Actually, the pair later said they weren't. But getting divorced was the best thing ever, apparently.

"Cynthia and I are closer now than we've ever been," said Sinatra, who looks and sounds eerily like his dad. "It's been a very good relationship, a very strong relationship."

The press conference was not, according to the invite and the ensuing statements, intended to provide insight into Cynthia Sinatra's positions on the issues. Instead it was to outline the admittedly sad series of family events that have affected the candidate since she filed in December: Her mom had a stroke, Frank Jr. was diagnosed with prostate cancer, her father died suddenly.

All of which is terrible, but perhaps not the most relevant platform for a politician to run on.

One other tidbit: 62-year-old Frankie -- who says he divides his time between Wharton and Los Angeles -- says he spent the final week of the campaign driving around in his former father-in-law's old pickup truck, putting up yard signs for his ex-wife.

Somehow, we just don't see Ol' Blue Eyes doing that.

Cynthia, by the way, says she plans to run again in '08. So get ready to swing again, Wharton.

Life Is (Almost) Like Hollywood

It's like a scene from some Grisham thriller, if John Grisham decided to forgo best-seller-dom by writing about education bureaucrats instead of lawyers. (Potential titles: "One Child Left Behind," "Early Dismissal" or "Zero Tolerance...For Terror.")

A low-level janitor stumbles across tapes that will blow the cover of the district superintendent. He demands a huge payoff from the supe or he'll go public. Events soon spin out of control.

That's (kinda) what happened in Texas City the week of March 6. Janitor Byron Ray Williams was arrested for trying to extort cash from La Marque school superintendent Adrain Johnson.

Williams delivered a letter to Johnson asking for cash "or he would deliver incriminating tapes to the district attorney's office pertaining to the superintendent," says Sergeant Curtiss Pope of the Texas City police. "The next day he left a voice message on the superintendent's cell phone advising him to deposit the money into his account...and alluded to physical harm if he didn't."

From there, however, things get very un-Grisham-like. Williams asked for the rather pedestrian, and odd, figure of $7,000. And he doesn't even work for La Marque ISD, thereby blowing any images of him quietly waxing the halls and then stumbling across evidence of a vast criminal enterprise.

Instead he works for the College of the Mainland, and he's been a longtime vociferous critic of Johnson.

Damn. There goes another novel.

Right-Wing Conspiracy

The Baylor College of Medicine, like many research institutes, is constantly on the lookout for test subjects. So they run ads like this one, from the March 9 Houston Press: "Do you have mood swings? Do you fear abandonment by those you trust most? Do you do things on impulse that get you into trouble? Do you often feel empty inside? Are you female? Are you right-handed?"

Are you right-handed? Is this base discrimination against lefties, or are right-handers just more prone to mood swings and abandonment issues?

God, we feel bad for any left-handed women with issues out there. Their hope starts to build as they read on through the increasingly depressing symptoms, thinking a cure might be in store -- "Mood swings? That's me. Abandonment? Oh, yeah. Impulsive? Empty? Female? Christ, yes. Right-handed? Arghhhhhh!!"

Brooks King-Casas, a researcher on the project, says using lefties would confuse matters. He and others will be using MRIs to chart blood flow through the brain as subjects attempt different interpersonal tasks with partners. Lefties and righties use different parts of the brain for some functions.

"We don't want to make the data any noisier" he says. "It's not out of any prejudice against left-handers."

It may not be prejudice, but all you suffering female lefties -- you're on your own.

Hot for Teacher

Bored with Dead White Male Literature or Geology 101? If you're attending UH-Downtown, you have another option.

Holly Lewis is a professor of psychology and social sciences there, and her human sexuality class regularly packs 'em in.

Why? Maybe it's because she tells students she'll make them better in bed: "I'm gonna teach you where to go and how to do it," she says.

Maybe it's Vibrator Day, when she brings in a Hello Kitty happy-machine. She tells the class she doesn't use that model, however, since it's a weak -- some might even say a "pussy" -- AA battery job. "For me that's child's play," she says. "And also the part that really vibrates is Hello Kitty's face, and that disturbs me. I just can't diss Hello Kitty like that."

Or perhaps some students get off on having to call her "Mistress" instead of "Professor." (Do accounting professors say to students, "You shall call me Number God?") "I tell them, 'You can call me anything...I think probably the best thing to call me is Mistress, because that's the kind of relationship we're gonna have. I'm gonna give pain, you're gonna like it, and you paid for it.' "

Now, why don't we see this woman in one of those ads and billboards UH buys all over town? It would have to be more effective than touting whatever obscure Nobel winner you've managed to lasso temporarily. Some schools never learn.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly