Houston is not a big town for sex scandals. Whether it's because we have a sophisticated European laissez-faire attitude to such things, or because bigfoot Houstonians are better at hiding things, we don't know. Although we guess it's the latter.
Juicy stuff has been rumored throughout the years, but it happened in the pre-Internet days, when reporters weren't interested in rushing everything online (or the powers-that-be were more easily able to squelch stuff). Even those legendarily randy early astronauts did most of their playing at Cape Canaveral; Houston was for families.
Sure, those supposedly in the know here are familiar with tales of the nationally hated local business magnate caught in his car with a Montrose rentboy, or the mayoral candidate in drag at a coke party, or the news anchor interrupted in flagrante dilecto in the dressing room of a naughty clothing store. But they all remain simply rumors, either because evidence was hushed up or they weren't true in the first place.
Here are Houston's top five sex scandals, for better or worse. Let us know if we missed any.
1. Ed Brandon
Ed Brandon was the low-key, avuncular nice-guy weatherman for Channel 13 forever, it seemed. Everyone loved him; he was the guy next door.
Except for the part where he was a coke addict and someone who allegedly liked to videotape himself having sex. For a while, it seemed every cop reporter in town was offered a chance to look at HPD's collection of Brandon sex tapes. The weatherman denied a claim by a man who said he had been sexually assaulted by Brandon, and no charges were ever filed.
Brandon didn't talk about the sex, but he did talk about the drugs when he retired awhile back.
I went to the University of Texas. At the University of Texas in the '60s in Austin, you drank and you smoked grass. That's the way you lived. It was normal; that was life, especially in the circles I was in. And I did that, too; and I did it socially, just like everybody else. And then I came to Houston, and I started using cocaine. And I was one of the people who are not able to stop doing it once they start doing it. And I developed a really serious addiction to cocaine.
Or his alleged addiction to taping himself having sex, it seems.
2. Huey Meaux
Huey Meaux was a legendary music producer at Houston's Sugar Hill Studios; he's the guy at least partly responsible for hits by Freddie Fender and Archie Bell.
In 1996, when Meaux was 66, it all came crumbling down. Police, acting on a tip, got a search warrant for a private space at Sugar Hill that Meaux called his "playroom."
Houston Press reporter Steve McVicker described what they found:
Among the items police say they found in the playroom were a physician's examining table, complete with gynecological stirrups, and just under 15 grams of cocaine in one of the drawers. There were also a king-size bed and a dozen or so sex toys nearby. And strewn about the room and stuffed inside a large chest were hundreds of photographs and dozens of videos that police say Meaux had produced himself at Sugar Hill over the past 20 years. According to investigators, some of the photos were of nude girls as young as seven. Some of the videos showed Meaux having sex with girls ranging in age from 12 to 16, among them the two daughters of Meaux's former live-in girlfriend.
Meaux was convicted of having sex with underage girls; he was sentenced under looser federal guidelines than today's, and is now out of prison and living a secluded life.
3. James Worthy
Here's where Houston's sex scandals began to peter out. An NBA player cheating on his wife? Who knew?
James Worthy was a key part of the Showtime LA Lakers, a team that bedeviled the Houston Rockets. The Lakers were in town for an early-season game in 1990 when Worthy decided to call up for some entertainment in his Greenway Plaza hotel, in the form of two hookers. (Because if you're gonna be entertained, you might as well go for the two-for-one package.)
Unfortunately, the service he called was a front for HPD, which promptly arrested him. He was kept in jail until right before tip-off of that night's game; he did hustle to the arena and made it into the game.
His wife (ex-wife by that point) later went on CNN to describe how she learned of her husband's arrest:
I had been out shopping for furniture for a new home we had just purchased and came home and in my living room were two of my dearest friends. I immediately assumed that there had been a death in my family. But the television was playing in the background and at the top of the hour "Headline News" broke and his arrest was the lead story. So that's the way I found out, just like millions of other people through "Headline News."
So hey, at least she got a Headline News plug in.
4. Chuck Rosenthal
Is it a sex scandal when there might have been only awkward, pathetic flirting? It is in Houston.
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal was assumed, like all Harris County DAs, to have the job for life. Until his idiocy emerged.
As part of a lawsuit, Rosenthal was ordered by a federal judge to hand over tons of internal e-mails. He didn't hand them all over, pissing off the judge tremendously, which is not something you generally want to do.
When the rest were handed over, they included flirty e-mails to his secretary, telling her how he wanted to kiss her behind her ear and just painfully earnest stuff like that.
It was the end of the road for the married Rosenthal. Something for which every defendant eligible for the death penalty was very, very happy about, since Chuck was extremely enthusiastic about the death penalty.
5. Anna Nicole Smith
Is it a sex scandal when not only there might not have been sex, but you hope to Christ there wasn't? It is in Houston.
Unless the thought of picturing some blonde bimbo trying desperately to at least semi-engorge the 90some-year-old penis of a wheelchair-bound billionaire appeals to you, you don't want to think of the sex angle of the Anna Nicole Smith and oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall.
Let's just imagine it was an entirely platonic sort of love, or gold-digging, whatever the case may be.