Houston 101

The 10 Most Embarrassing Houstonians

In general I love my city and defend it often. We have some really awesome people who live here advancing arts and science and just life in general, and believe me, they are the norm. That said, there are more than a few individuals straight out of H-Town that we tend not to celebrate as much because they are embarrassing to share city real estate with. Today, we take a look at some of them.

(Note: Deceased embarrassments were not considered for this article.) 

10. Paul Elam
The founder of A Voice for Men and the de facto head of the Men’s Rights Movement, Paul Elam spends the majority of his time trying ineffectually to beat back gender equality and claiming that it is men, not women, who most often face sexism. Some of his more interesting and recent screeds include referring to the village-sized group of women accusing Bill Cosby of rape as “drug whoring star fuckers”, offering men counseling sessions via Skype for $90 because of “feminist bias against men in modern psychotherapy” and starting a fake version of the White Ribbon Campaign as an attempt to subvert donations to the Canadian nonprofit that addresses intimate partner violence. Elam makes no secret that his “movement” does not build shelters for male domestic violence victims, address underfunded men’s health concerns, seek federally mandated paternity leave or basically any other cause that might actually better men. Yelling on the Internet is literally the point of the whole thing.

9. Tila Tequila
Thien Thanh Thi Nguyen, better known as Tila Tequila, lived for about seven years in Houston as a child. She actually started off doing some pretty awesome things, such as affirming her faith in God passionately while denouncing churches that were upset over her groundbreaking bisexual reality dating show, the first of its kind. But then, well, she started dressing like a Nazi and talking about all the good things Hitler did and even claimed to be the reincarnated Führer himself. It was bad enough that Facebook shut down her account, and when Facebook is embarrassed by having you around, you’ve definitely crossed the line. She’s back on, though, claiming that Jedi actually stands for JEsus DIsciple and posing near-naked with lightsabers.

8. Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski
I’m not going to break any new ground that our own Craig Malisow didn’t cover seven years ago when he investigated Burzynski. For decades, Burzynski has conducted clinical trials involving treatment of cancers with antineoplastons that no one else has ever shown to be effective for that purpose and for which no peer-reviewed randomized trials have ever been published. If you want to feel bad for the rest of the day, you can read accounts of families that have committed financial suicide to rally the thousands of dollars needed to get their sick loved ones into the Burzynski Clinic, only to watch them die. Truly an embarrassment to such a medical city where some of the best cancer medicine in the world is performed.

7. Dave Wilson
Dave Wilson sailed into a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees on antigay rhetoric and by sort of implying he was black. From there he’s waged an unending (and expensive) war against gay and trans Houstonians by seeking to repeal HERO, the city ordinance that extended civil protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation, even saying that Mayor Annise Parker should be recalled for supporting it. In 2015, when similar protections are now national federal policy, we’re still arguing over this in a city with an openly gay mayor, and all because Dave Wilson has some hang-up over trans people peeing in the bathroom for the gender they identify with. 

6. Randy Quaid
The last thing the world needs is a new conspiracy theory, but we’ve got one thanks to Independence Day actor Randy Quaid. The actor and his wife decided to pursue asylum status in Canada, claiming that “Hollywood star whackers” were seeking to kill Quaid. This conspiracy of murderous film industry insiders was also behind the deaths of Heath Ledger and David Carradine, claimed Quaid’s wife, Evi. At the time the Quaids made this pitch for Canadian residency, they were due back in court in the United States to face felony vandalism charges of $5,000 worth of damage to a guesthouse they had stayed in. The star whackers theory has since escaped and reproduced in the wild, making the Internet that much stupider in the process.

5. Semir Osmanagic
Speaking of theories that are hard to believe, Semir Osmanagic brings them to the table like an overenthusiastic potluck participant. His book, The World of the Maya, has some truly out-there ideas. Among them are the claim the Mayans were descended from Atlantis, coming here from the Pleiades star cluster, and disappeared in the tenth century when the Lords of the Galaxy finally picked them back up. Oh, and he’s convinced some pointy hills in Bosnia are the largest human pyramids ever constructed despite the fact that Bosnian geologists say such hills are as common as landmines.

4. Rich Kent
After the video of a white cop manhandling a teenage black girl at a pool party in McKinney went viral, Rich Kent knew he had to do something. That something was starting a campaign to raise $1 million in order to keep Al Sharpton out of Texas. As he announced in a Facebook video, a rally was needed so that Sharpton couldn’t bring the Black Panthers and turn McKinney into another “Hands up don’t shoot.” He has since changed his appeal for cash into teasing running for president, finding Donald Trump an unacceptable candidate because he “wants to have Oprah as his vice and this is totally unacceptable.” So if anyone wonders why I didn’t put Ted Cruz on this list, it’s because he’s not the most embarrassing person from Houston fundraising to be president this cycle.

3. Dr. Steve Hotze
Steve Hotze combines two noxious smells into one giant fart for Houston. The first is a strict adherence to a bizarre conservative Christian theology, and the other is medical quackery. For instance, Hotze says that all diseases are the fault of Adam and Eve’s sins, that malpractice lawsuits are unbiblical, that taking birth control makes women less attractive, and that gay rights leads to child molestation. He also assures us that men who lose their testicles can no longer read maps, and once told the head of the Texas Medical Board she should be taken over a knee and spanked because the board was investigating a friend of his who the board thought was treating allergy patients with homeopathic injections derived from, among other things, jet fuel. 

2. Cynthia Dunbar
How do you serve on the Texas State Board of Education when you hate secular schools? Ask Cynthia Dunbar. During her tenure on the board, she published a book that said public schools were unconstitutional, tyrannical and a “subtly deceptive tool for perversion.” Which are all odd statements for a woman in her position until you realize that she also wants the government to be guided by a “Biblical litmus test.” There’s also that time she was certain that if Barack Obama was elected president, we’d see a terrorist attack on America “by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is a threat to tyranny." Was she also one of the folks who wanted to downplay slavery and the Civil Rights Movement in our textbooks? What do you think?

1. Michael Berry
The Czar of Texas Radio is just…ugh. When a Muslim community center containing a mosque was planned near the site of the 9/11 attacks, he said he hoped someone would blow it up. He was an unapologetic birther. He has a long history of referring to black people he doesn’t like as “jungle animals,” “pack animals" and “thugs.” He promoted a commercial for a concealed carry class that asked “socialist liberals,” or people who “voted for the current campaigner in chief,” not to take the class and refused students who were non-Christian Arabs. According to Berry, it was the best gun commercial ever. Whenever he opens his mouth, another reason people think Texas is full of crazy people falls out. It’s just endlessly embarrassing.  

Jef has a new story about robot sharks out now in Lurking in the Deep. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner