1999 Bum Steer Awards

January 1999By Comments

Some years make you see red, but 1998 was the year for the color purple. You couldn’t turn on the television without being bombarded by the purple dinosaur named Barney or the purple prose of Kenneth Starr’s report. Barney gave a whole new meaning to the term “purple dinosaur suit” when his Richardson-based handlers went to court to stop some seven hundred costume shops in twenty states from renting out generic purple dinosaur costumes. They also sued the Famous San Diego Chicken for bashing a hapless Barney look-alike in one of his skits; Barney was ordered to pay the chicken’s attorneys’ fees of $179,665.92. But that was chicken feed compared with the $40 million cost of independent counsel Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton. The controversy over the Vernon native’s sexually explicit report almost cost the Republicans their majority in Congress and made Newt Gingrich extinct. If only Barney were too. Till then, he and Ken Starr share the distinction of being our Bum Steer of the Year, an award of the purple, by the purple, and for the purple.

Après Crédit Foncier de France, le Déluge
Gaullist members of the Paris, France, city council protested upon hearing reports that state-owned Crédit Foncier de France, which has a large stake in the company that operates the Eiffel Tower, was being considered for purchase by a group including Fort Worth’s Bass brothers.

Would the Bass Brothers Care to Make an Offer?
The City of Paris, Texas, topped its 65-foot model of the Eiffel Tower with a giant red cowboy hat.

What We Want to Know Is, Did He Leave a Forwarding Address?
At an April lecture Fort Worth painter Glenda Green told an Austin audience that Jesus posed for her for almost four months in 1992.

It Was an Embalmy Mourning. A Thief Had Ignored the “Do Not Inter” Sign and Committed a Grave Offense. Every Body Was a Suspect. The Owner Was Ready to R.I.P. His Hair Out. “Don’t Blow a Casket,” Said the Investigating Officer. “This Is a Stiff Challenge. I’ll Leave No Tombstone Unturned and Go Over Every Clue With a Fine-Toothed Catacomb. You Gotta Bereave.” But the Truth Hearse. This Crime Was Worthy Of Professor Mortuary. There Was No Corpse Delicti. At Last the Cops Found Footprints In the Rosary Garden. When the Suspect Was Confronted, He Said, “I Want My Mummy.” The Cops Read Him His Rites. “You Can Run,” They Told Him, “But You Can’t Formaldehyde.” Then They Celebrated With a Bier.
Michael Brock of Lubbock was arrested and charged with burglary after three empty caskets disappeared from a funeral home where he had once been employed.

Mad-Cowman’s Disease Can Be Even Worse
Paul Engler of Amarillo and other cattlemen lost their case against talk show host Oprah Winfrey, whom they sued under a state law prohibiting libelous remarks about agricultural products after she declared that she had stopped eating hamburgers because of fear of mad-cow disease.

The Bible Doesn’t Say Honor Thy Mother And Thy Mother
Baptist pastor Roger Jeffress of Wichita Falls wrote a $54 check to the city’s library to cover the cost of not returning two children’s books about gay and lesbian parents, Daddy’s Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies.

Heather Has 230 Readers
After Baptist pastor Roger Jeffress caused two books about gay and lesbian parents to be taken out of circulation at the Wichita Falls public library, library patrons donated 23 new copies of each book, each of which soon had a waiting list of at least ten readers.

Would That Be “Stephen N. Hale?”
Two weeks before the November election, Stephen Hale, the Democratic candidate for Denton County district attorney, pleaded guilty to felony delivery of marijuana.

The Deal Fell Through Without an Endorsement From Rin-Tin-10
Magnolia Media Group of Fort Worth sued actress Bo Derek for breaking a promise to use the company to promote a new line of pet-care products.

Today Odessa, Tomorrow the World
The German Luftwaffe, whose pilots receive low-level flight training from the U.S. Air Force over the Permian Basin area of West Texas, responded to a lawsuit by area ranchers, who claimed that the missions endangered people and livestock, by asserting that the United States has no jurisdiction over it.

They Should Have Sent It Via Federal Espresso
Attendants forAmerican Air-lines, after makingcoffee on a Colombia-to-Miamirun, noticed that thebrew didn’t look right and discoveredthat smugglers had concealed fifteen pounds of heroin in coffee packets.

How About a Monument To the Know-nothings?
Some 650 citizens signed a petition objecting to plans to install in a Comfort park a historical marker honoring the freethinkers who founded the town before the Civil War, protesting that the marker was essentially a “monument to atheism.”

Don’t Let the Red River Bridge Hit You on The Way Out
After the Dallas Cowboys chose Wichita Falls as the new location for their training camp, Ronald J. Mertens, the head of the Wichita Falls Board of Commerce and Industry, observed, “If we were twenty-five or thirty miles north of here, we would be the third-biggest city in Oklahoma.”

He Left His Heart In Mi Tierra
The New York–based publisher for Texas mystery novelist Jay Brandon noted in itscatalog that the writer “lives in San Antonio, CA.”

They Were Working on a Social Studies Project About Impeachment
While their English teacher was out of the room taking a phone call, a fifteen-year-old girl and sixteen-year-old boy at Moody High School demonstrated oral sex to their classmates.

The Prickly Pear Emissions Are Off the Chart
A headline in the Midland Reporter-Telegram about pollution in Big Bend read “Vegetation Responsible for Smog in Big Bend National Park, Study Says.” The only “vegetation” mentioned in the story was coal-fired electricity plants.

All the Patrons Want to Inspect Her Identification
A federal judge upheld a Houston ordinance that requires nude dancers at adult nightclubs to wear an official city license tag.

You Must Be Looking For Toby Badman
The Texas attorney general’s office, which has frequently been pressured by State Representative Toby Goodman of Arlington to find deadbeat parents and force them to pay up, mistakenly sued Goodman and erroneously informed him that he owed thousands of dollars in overdue child support.

That’s Because He Demanded That The Money Be Sent Special Delivery
A bank robber entered Dallas’ Federal Reserve Bank and handed an armed security guard a note that demanded money and was signed “Thank you, Ronnie Darnell Bell.” Bell then confided, “I tried to rob the post office, but they threw me out.”

A Chip Off the Old Cellblock
While incarcerated in the Kerr County jail for violating parole on a burglary conviction, Bill Wells discovered that a fellow inmate, also being held on burglary charges, was the son he hadn’t seen in 22 years.

Call It “Harlingen” and No One Will Notice
Fearing violence, the Manhattan Theatre Club of New York set up metal detectors and x-ray machines to check patrons attending Corpus Christi, a drama named after playwright Terrence McNally’s hometown and featuring a homosexual Christ figure.

Everybody’s Entitled to His Own Opinion
U.S. district judge Paul Friedman of Washington, D.C., ruled that Texas is legally a state, not an independent nation.

You Mean the Best Self-Impressed City
Rowenta, Inc., a manufacturer of steam irons, conducted a study of ironing habits and, after discovering that 60 percent of the respondents in Dallas ironed their jeans and 43 percent ironed their T-shirts, awarded Dallas the title of “best-pressed city.”

Here Today, Hers Tomorrow
A Houston jury found that William James Stewart had prevented his estranged wife from claiming her share of his $3.5 million lottery jackpot in 1993 by pretending the ticket belonged to his girlfriend. By the time his wife prevailed in court, winning $1.78 million, he had squandered half of the money.

Here’s the Plan. When Monica Hands Him the Cigar, We Offer Him a Light
Three men were indicted by a Brownsville grand jury for plotting to assassinate President Clinton and other government officials with Bic lighters designed to shoot cactus needles poisoned with botulism, anthrax, rabies, or the AIDS virus.

Circulation Has Never Risen Faster
A Texas Monthly ad soliciting subscriptions listed an 800 number that actually belonged to a phone sex line.

Jerry Alan Whittredge of Galveston was charged with impersonating a federal employee and lying to federal agents after he used bogus credentials to dupe officials at NASA’s Huntsville, Alabama, space center into thinking that he was an astronaut. They allowed Whittredge to sit at a Mission Control console during a shuttle mission and even trained him on a flight simulator before his odd behavior led to a more thorough investigation of his background and the discovery that he had set up his fake biography, describing himself as a former CIA agent turned astronaut, on a Web page.

Now Show Us the Bathroom
Sugar, a Maltese owned by Lanny Cawthon of Temple, wears perfume and a silver-and-crystal necklace and has her own miniature living room.

You May Already Be a Loser
Six Tyler-area residents, clutching sweepstakes letters promising prizes such as jet-skis and motorcycles, showed up at the city convention center to claim their winnings, only to find themselves arrested in a sting operation when their lucky claim numbers turned out to be the numbers on their outstanding felony warrants.

His Campaign Was in Voir Dire Straits
In Llano, during his unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination for attorney general, Barry Williamson barged in on a panel of 280 prospective jurors for a capital murder trial to introduce himself and shake hands.

All Those F-Words Sound Alike
Arlington Toy Enterprises pulled the Teletubbies doll Po off its shelves in case customers misunderstood the doll’s muttering. Shoppers elsewhere had heard not “fidit, fidit” but “fatty, fatty” and “faggot, faggot.”

He Was Just Lying Back and Enjoying It
Oilman Clayton Williams donned boxing gloves and a black eye for a state-of-the-industry meeting of the Texas Railroad Commission, into which he was carried on a stretcher.

The Killeen Fields
Militia member Michael Dorsett of Fort Worth was sentenced to federal prison for plotting with a friend to attack Fort Hood with pipe bombs and guns because they believed that foreign troops were being allowed to train there.

My Euphonium Can Whip Your Euphonium
The rival marching bands of Prairie View A&M and Baton Rouge’s Southern University accused each other of starting a twenty-minute fight that broke out during a halftime performance in Beaumont.

Soon to Be Known as “Walker, Utah Wimp”
Chuck Norris, who plays the tough-guy title character in Walker, Texas Ranger, which is filmed in Dallas, moved the production to Utah for the month of August to escape the Texas heat.

Actually, a Depressed Armey Had Told Stump, “Bob, Hope Is Dead.”
Arizona congressman Bob Stump announced on the floor of the House of Representatives that legendary comedian Bob Hope had died. Informed later that the 95-year-old Hope was alive and well in Toluca Lake, California, Stump explained that he had been asked to make the announcement by majority leader Dick Armey of Texas.

Where’s “Bo Gus?”
After state district judge Sue Pirtle of Rockwall County was criticized for threatening a county maintenance man with contempt of court if he didn’t issue her an extra key to the courthouse to give to her husband, the Friends of Judge Sue Pirtle took out an ad in a local paper listing the names of numerous supporters, including “Tal E. Wacker” and “Pat McCroch.”

Both Books in the Library Are Always Checked Out
An analysis by Atlanta–based publisher Longstreet Press determined that College Station, the home of Texas A&M University, is the most literate community in the U.S.

Both Books in the Library Are Always Checked Out
An analysis by Atlanta–based publisher Longstreet Press determined that College Station, the home of Texas A&M University, is the most literate community in the U.S.

Hereafter to Be Known as Dance Sandbag
Heavy rains flooded the office of an Austin dance organization called Dance Umbrella.

We’re Holding Out for the Kenneth McDuff Commemorative Gold Coin
To protest capital punishment, a group of Danish artists designed two commemorative stamps in honor of pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker, who died by lethal injection in February. One stamp depicts a smiling Tucker, an American flag, and a gurney.

You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hit Man
William Keen Perry of Spring, an Elvis Presley impersonator, was arrested in Houston and charged with solicitation of capital murder after he allegedly tried to hire an undercover cop to kill his wife.

Are You Stupid Tonight?
Robert Louis Rodgers of Travis County was charged with stealing Elvis Presley’s black leather jacket from the Elvis Auto Museum in Memphis. He was arrested after he offered to sell it to an undercover Dallas police officer for $100,000 (pictured: Sergeant Rector McCollum).

The Grass Gets Very High This Time of Year
Cameron County drug enforcement officials raided a house in San Benito and arrested four men after being tipped off by neighbors because the summer heat had intensified the smell of 1,184 pounds of marijuana.

Not Your Fault, Eddie—He Couldn’t Harmonize With Carmen Electra Either
A shirtless, shoeless Dennis Rodman jumped onto the stage during a Pearl Jam concert in Dallas, danced around wildly, swigged wine from a bottle, and tried to harmonize with lead vocalist Eddie Vedder.

And Miffed That Her Wedding Dress Was Much Fancier Than His
Nine days after he married Baywatch actress Carmen Electra in a spur-of-the-moment Las Vegas wedding, Dennis Rodman filed for an annulment, alleging that during the ceremony he was drunk.

I Think, Therefore I Scam, Part I
Steven Jay Russell, who had escaped from Texas penitentiaries on previous occasions by impersonating a judge and a medical worker, was paroled to a nursing home after medical records provided by prison doctors indicated that he had the virus that causes AIDS.

But They Can Have Gummi Worms And Bubble Gum for Their Last Meal
State Representative Jim Pitts of Waxahachie proposed a bill allowing Texas to impose the death penalty on children as young as eleven.

Neither Rottweilers, Nor Poodles, Nor Chihuahuas, Nor Chows Stays These Couriers From the Swift Completion of Their Appointed Rounds
The U.S. Humane Society reported that in the 1997 fiscal year, Houston ranked first in the nation in the number of dog bites reported by mail carriers with 65 attacks.

Exactly Why It Needs the Money
The State of Texas awarded a grant of $1,721.38 to train police officers in the North Texas hamlet of Krugerville, which has no police officers.

I Think, Therefore I Scam, Part II
The Texas Council on Offenders with Mental Impairments arranged for Russell to receive a fourteen-day pass to travel from the nursing home to Houston for experimental AIDS treatment.

Who Squealed?
Washington County authorities filed criminal charges against four men who helped high school senior Cammy Jean Cornelius of Agua Dulce abduct her own pet pig after it had been eliminated during preliminary competition at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and, along with about 2,900 other losing entrants, purchased by a slaughterhouse. The abduction was discovered two weeks later when her pig was named grand champion and received a $4,000 prize at a livestock show in San Angelo.

The Charge Should Be Mannequinslaughter
In Austin, off-duty University of Texas police officer Chris Myers spotted a foot protruding from the back of Jim Rankin’s Dodge minivan, handcuffed him, and called 911 for backup, although the foot was made of plastic and was not connected to a body.

I Think, Therefore I Scam, Part III
Several days after Russell left the nursing home, a man claiming to be a doctor notified the nursing home that Steven Russell had died during treatment in Houston. The nursing home later received a death certificate.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Trademark Man!
DC Comics, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., asked Schulenburg High School to remove the Superman-style S from its football helmets and uniforms, class rings, and letterhead.

I Think, Therefore I Scam, Part IV
Russell, who had escaped to Dallas, posed as an attorney so that he could visit his former lover in jail, then pretended to be a millionaire from Virginia in an effort to get a $75,000 loan from a bank.

P.S. Send Me Your Picture
The American Civil Liberties Union suggested that sick children could be cheered up by receiving greeting cards from Texas prison inmates.

Vita Brevis, Ars No Longa
Harris County constables seized fifteen paintings and drawings by Robert Rauschenberg from Houston’s Menil Collection the day after the opening of a major retrospective of his work because the artist had failed to respond to a $5.5 million lawsuit filed by an Austin art dealer over unpaid fees.

But It Was a Deluxe Cardboard Box
The family of a Pasadena man sued Budget Funeral Home after an exhumation of his remains confirmed that he had been interred not in the casket they had requested but in a cardboard box.

Finally, Somebody Got It Right
The name of the state conservation agency was printed on the envelopes of its official stationery as the “Texas Natural Resource Conversation Commission.”

I Think, Therefore I Scam, Part V
Bank officials indicated that they wanted to check with law enforcement authorities, whereupon Russell faked a heart attack and was rushed to a hospital.

Hi, Cipriana. Can I Have an Advance on My Next Paycheck?
A masked robber who held up an El Pollo Loco in San Antonio wore the restaurant’s uniform shirt and called manager Cipriana Garcia by her first name. Thirty minutes later, police officers arrested him when he showed up for work.

I Think, Therefore I Scam, Part VI
Russell slipped out of the hospital and made his way to South Florida, where, after six weeks of freedom, he was apprehended and returned to Texas.

I Wasn’t Born a 40C, But I Got Here as Fast as I Could
According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, breast-implant patients in Texas request the largest implants available more often than do women in any other state.

He Was a Hung Juror
Nicolas Chabarria, a Houston juror, was sentenced to six days in jail and fined $300 for oversleeping and causing a delay in a capital murder trial. After court personnel were unable to reach the juror by phone, a sheriff’s deputy drove up to his home just as he emerged with a young woman.

Take This Plane to Cuba or I’ll Purl
Fearing would-be hijackers might use steak knives as lethal weapons, the Chili’s Too restaurants at the Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport replaced their knives, which had five-inch blades, with new ones whose blades measured only four inches. Airport spokesman Joe Dealey, Jr., said of the old knives, “I think knitting needles pose a greater threat than these steak knives.”

Don’t Bogart That Stalk
Narcotics agents in East Texas pulled over an eighteen-wheeler on Interstate 30 for a drug inspection, ordered the driver to unload his cargo, and brought in a drug-sniffing dog that indicated it had found contraband—which turned out to be 41,000 pounds of frozen broccoli.

Another Case of Life Imitating Dreck
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram sponsored a party to watch the last episode of Seinfeld, in which Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were sentenced to a year in jail. The winner of the Kramer look-alike contest at the party was Dwight Welsh, who was arrested at the party for assault and taken to jail.

Make That 25 Whata-burgers, 20 Large Fries, 20 Diet Cokes, and a Salad
After a masked intruder robbed the El Paso Whataburger where George Briseno was eating, Briseno chased and caught the thief, only to be apprehended himself for stealing the $200 the thief had taken.

Who Was That Masked Mammal?
Billy Bob Peacock, a missing inmate from the state jail in Hutchins, was discovered hiding in a culvert after a corrections officers saw a raccoon start into the culvert, then back out and run away.

10 Percent Off If You Die
The Denton City Council voted to assess a $25 ambulance surcharge for sick or injured passengers weighing three hundred pounds or more.

Bummed Steer Award
Officials at Sundance Square Management Company in Fort Worth ordered surgery performed on an anatomically correct topiary sculpture of a Longhorn steer.

Love, Honor, And Oh, Boy!
One month after his second divorce, 48-year-old Mike Mullen of Dallas—who lives in a 10,000-square-foot mansion and owns a 1,500-acre ranch and vacation retreats on the Gulf of Mexico and in Snowmass, Colorado, as well a private jet, two helicopters, and a thirteen-carat diamond ring—appeared on Oprah to say that he was lonely and wanted to remarry. He received letters from 39,000 women.

He’s Calling It the Penis de Milo
After judicious pruning turned the topiary steer in Fort Worth’s Sundance Square into a topiary cow, Robert Camuto, the publisher of FW Weekly, purchased the pruned appendage for $50 and announced he would donate it to a fundraising auction for the city’s Contemporary Art Center.

Related Content