The 1990 Bum Steer Awards
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The first Bum Steer of the year was a big one—1,100 pounds, to be exact. The grand champion steer of the 1988 State Fair of Texas turned out to be bum in January 1989, when its carcass flunked a drug test. It had to be condemned. But it had lots of other Bum Steers for company.
Texas politicians were getting condemned, too. John Tower was rejected as Secretary of Defense. Jim Wright resigned as Speaker of the House. Henry Cisneros abdicated as emperor of San Antonio. The Texas Highway Commission gave up on plans to adorn Texas license plates with the slogan “The Friendship State.” How about “Freeze a Yankee”? And in the state capitol, East Texas chicken magnate Bo Pilgrim waved $10,000 checks at eight state senators during a heated fight over workers’ compensation.
A lot of Texans could have used the money. Preston Smith, for one. He followed John Connally into the Governor’s Mansion twenty years ago, and he followed Connally into bankruptcy last September. MBank followed all those other Texas banks into oblivion. The Astros wouldn’t pay Nolan Ryan, and he followed Interstate 45 to the Rangers. And don’t forget the bankrupt Hunt brothers, Herbert and Bunker. They inherited the fortune of the richest man in the world, H. L. Hunt, and squandered everything but their homesteads and personal possessions.
And the Bum Steer of the Year… who else but our newest corporate resident, Exxon? When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, causing the biggest oil spill in history, Exxon was headquartered in New York—beyond the reach of Bum Steers. Then, glory be, the company announced that it was moving into our jurisdiction. So welcome to Texas, fellas. You got here just in time.
They Put a Tiger in Their Tanker
Although Joseph Hazelwood had one DWI conviction and his driver’s license had been suspended twice, Exxon made him the captain of the Exxon Valdez.
Give or Take 240 Years
Exxon and its partners in the seven-company consortium that runs the Alaska pipeline estimated that a Valdez-size oil spill could happen only once every 241 years.
This Must Be the Place
A CBS-TV film crew, shortly after arriving in Fort Worth to report on a robbery, was robbed of a $30,000 camera.
CURIOUS COUPLES NUMBER 1
Donald Trump and Frank Lorenzo confronting each other at a Nellie Connally bash.
He Was Looking for A Short Cut
Carrollton police arrested David James White for bank robbery after he ran into a barbershop during his getaway and got a haircut—even though he is almost bald.
Didn’t You Get Suspicious When The Main Course Was Pork?
One week after Governor Bill Clements urged that agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower be impeached for charging $7,000 in meals to a federal grant program, Clements confessed that he had eaten at one of the luncheons.
Hold the Celery and the Hard-boiled Eggs
Bounty of the Sea, Inc., in Sugar Land, announced that it has developed a hot dog made of tuna.
Oh, Shut Up
After the Senate rejected John Tower’s nomination for Secretary of Defense, New York Times columnist Russell Baker wrote: “Of course it was good to see a Texan booted away from the Federal trough for once. You don’t often get Texas’s snout out of that sweet-smelling, ever-loving, money-packed trough, not with all those key Government offices in Texas custody. Why Texans are uniquely qualified to run the country when they can’t even run a savings and loan association is a mystery, but it is a rare season that doesn’t find them occupying catbird seats all over Washington….”
The Marines Are Looking For a Few Good Saguaros
Relying on a quip by Phil Gramm’s press secretary, the AP erroneously reported that the Texas National Guard had received a grant to fight drug smuggling by disguising its members as cactus plants.
Readin’, Writin’, and . . . What’s The Other One?
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Rains issued his ten-point plan to reform education. It contained only nine points.
On Second Thought, He’s Innocent
Wes Hocker of Houston, after serving as the foreman of the jury that found John Charles Zimmerman guilty of capital murder, agreed to serve as Zimmerman’s attorney in a new trial after the conviction was overturned on appeal.
You Know the Old Saying: One Writer, One Ranger
The City of Waco contributed $100,000 to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum for a wing that will recognize the work of James Michener.
Some Folks Never Learn
More than four thousand Texans attended two auctions held by the Federal Saving and Loan Insurance Corporation in Dallas, featuring art, furniture, and other assets once purchased by high-flying Texas S&L executives. Buyers paid more than $1.1 million for items valued at no more that $625,000.
They Weren’t Really Bad. There were Just Boared
A pack of about a hundred wild pigs preyed on an area around Lake Lavon, north of Dallas, attacking humans, killing dogs and chickens, destroying gardens, and knocking over barbeque grills and picnic tables.
They’re Both Right
After Bishop Rene Gracida of Corpus Christi saw a Pepsi commercial on MTV featuring Madonna singing “Like a Prayer,” he declared the commercial sacrilegious and urged Catholics not to buy Pepsico products. Madonna’s press agent responded, “He should stop watching MTV.”
CURIOUS COUPLES NUMBER 2
The Quaker Oats Company and Attorney General Jim Mattox sued each other over whether oats help fight cholesterol.
He Campaigned on a Platform Of Raising Test Scores
One month after being elected to the Joshua school board at the age of eighteen, Larry Marlar admitted that he had removed a physics test from a file cabinet and given it to another student in advance.
He Wanted Four Inches and Higher
Harris County criminal court judge Shelly Hancock canceled and rescheduled the DWI trial of Aleene Shoemaker because her skirt’s hemline ended three inches above her knee.
Then They Formed A Committee for Further Study
The Dallas City Council interrupted its normal agenda to discuss why its meetings ran so long. The ensuing debate lasted an hour and a half.
Bring a Friend for Extra Credit
Following an appearance by the Fox Tech High School Band of San Antonio at a campaign rally for Attorney General Jim Mattox, parents of band members complained that students had been warned that fifteen points would be deducted from their grades if they did not perform at the rally.
It Was Raining Bats and Dogs
Hundreds of dead and dying bats fell on pedestrians one afternoon in downtown Fort Worth.
If You Can’t Trust Your Lawyer, Who Can You Trust? Part I
Daniel Madison of Austin, after being turned down for admission to the University of Texas School of Law, filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the law school, the American Bar Association, and the Texas Supreme Court, saying he was “fed up with lawyers running the country.”
Even That Wasn’t Enough
The University of Texas at El Paso football team was penalized for having fourteen men on the field.
They Were Making the Sequel To The Great Train Robbery
An early-morning casting call for Larry McMurtry’s Texasville, the sequel to The Last Picture Show, attracted more than a thousand people in Archer City, virtually the entire adult population. While everyone in town was lined up for the casting session, two men broke into the post office and robbed it.
HAIL TO THE CHIEF A HIT-AND-MISS YEAR
On the Sixth Ballot
The school board in Midland named an elementary school for President George Bush by a 4-3 vote.
He Likes Häagen-Dazs Better Anyway
At President Bush’s request, the chief White House usher asked that Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham not run ads showing a picture of the White House with the words “The only house in Washington that can get Blue Bell ice cream.”
If You Can’t Convince ‘Em, Confuse ‘Em
Six weeks after his inauguration, President Bush was asked at a news conference whether his administration was doing anything. Said he: “A lot is happening, not all of it good, but a lot is happening.”
Just Don’t Call Them the Company
While speaking at an AFL-CIO convention, the president referred to the organization as the AFL-CIA.
Vegetable or Mineral?
While hunting quail near Beeville, the president was asked by reporters how he felt about killing animals. Bush replied, “These aren’t animals.”
First Flood the Tunnels With Boiling Water, Then Pack Them With Amdro
Following the selection of Waxahachie as the location for the underground supercollider, the U.S. Department of Energy revealed that the winning site was infested with fire ants.
Don Dixon Would Have Done It for $500,000. And He Has Experience
Ending a long search for someone to manage the insolvent First RepublicBank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation recruited former American Airlines chairman Albert Casey of Dallas and for nine months paid him a salary of $935,491, including a $400,000 signing bonus.
No Charcoal Starter Necessary!
More than a thousand people flocked to a firewood-business yard in Barrett Station, north of Houston, following reports that a brilliant light in the shapes of the Virgin Mary and Jesus was glowing amid stacks of firewood.
Don’t Take it Personally, Errol. This is Business
After Errol Morris’ documentary The Thin Blue Line resulted in the overturning of Randall Dale Adams’ conviction for capital murder and his release from prison, Adams sued Morris for the rights to his life story.
Stick Out Your Tongue And Say, “Duh”
Dr. Thomas N. James, the new president of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, took a test on Texas medical law that must be passed before a doctor can obtain a license to practice medicine in the state. He flunked.
THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE
BIG MOMENTS IN RESEARCH
Next: A Gallon of Margaritas
Three researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Society concluding that twelve subjects suffered no ill effects after an eighth of a cup of fresh jalapeño papers was injected directly into their stomachs.
Please Pass the PCB
Texas A&M chemistry professor Don Sawyer announced that he had developed a commercial process to turn toxic waste into salt.
And We Say, “So, What!”
The Public Policy Resources Laboratory at Texas A&M conducted a poll on greetings used in Texas and determined that 44 percent prefer “Hi,” 20 percent say “Hello,” and only 6 percent say “Howdy.”
Not Tonight, Dear, I’ve got an Antennache
Researchers at Texas A&M announced that they are on the verge of developing a fertility drug that will end the problem of female shrimp being unable to reproduce under shrimp-farming conditions.
Even a Broken Clock Is Right Twice a Day
Despite overwhelming criticism of claims by University of Utah scientists that they had achieved cold fusion, scientists at Texas A&M insisted that they had successfully duplicated the process.
The Other 44 Percent Were Absolutely Certain
In a nationwide call-in survey reported by a Dallas record company, 56 percent of the participants said they believe Elvis is alive.
Me Tarzan. You Screw Up
The Dallas Zoo asked the Texas Mountaineers climbing club to determine whether the zoo’s new $4 million gorilla habitat is escape-proof. The climbers identified fifteen escape routes.
He Looked Terrible in Pink
Nassau Bay police officers responding to a burglary call at a women’s clothing store arrested Chris Turnock, who was pretending to be a mannequin.
The Vice President Was Runner-up
The Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce named Gay Read the outstanding citizen of Bridgeport in its first official action after Read was installed as the chamber’s new president.
He’s Moving to Bridgeport
Port Isabel mayor Baldemar Alaniz moved to rename Second Street after himself, but his motion died because it failed to receive a second.
Do as I Say, Not as I Do
First City Bancorporation announced that former director John Connally — whom the bank had sued in 1986 for $4 million for failing to pay off a loan he had guaranteed — had been hired as a paid consultant to solicit prospects.
If You Can’t Trust Your Lawyer, Who Can You Trust? Part II
Municipal court officials in Houston, trying to clear up a backlog of 520,000 unpaid traffic tickets, discovered that 41 of the top 100 scofflaws in the city were attorneys.
Thanks for Doing Such a Great Job
Following the $2 billion failure of MCorp banks, the bank holding company said that it planned to forgive $8.8 million in loans made to top executives as part of a benefits package.
George Cerny of Dallas formed Texas’ first chapter of the National Hemlock Society to promote voluntary euthanasia and “to assist members in carrying out their plans for a dignified death.”
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Tacos
Illegal immigrants being held at a detention center in Eden staged a hunger strike to protest being served hamburgers and fried chicken. Officials ended the protest by bringing in chicken tacos.
CURIOUS COUPLES NUMBER 3
Houston city councilman Jim Westmoreland was defeated for reelection following press reports that he suggested that Intercontinental Airport, which blacks had urged be named for the late congressman Mickey Leland, be called “Nigger International” instead.
This Contest Valid Only If You Lose
Blaming a printer’s error, Kraft canceled a contest in Houston promising a 1990 Dodge Caravan Mini Van and other prizes to buyers who could match game pieces in cheese packages, because almost every package contained a winner.
It Was a Holy Terrier. “Collie Gee,” She Moaned in a Husky Voice, “It Spitz.” She Tried to Whippet, But It Had Her Dog For Chow. So She Setter Mind On Revenge. “I’m Going to Shih Tzu,” She Vowed. She Stopped to Pointer Gun, Aim With a Beagle Eye, and Cocker Trigger. Chihuahua! Right in The Schnauzer. Poodles of Blood Were Everywhere. “Whelp, Whelp!” Cried the Owner. “Call the Pulis.” And They Came to Retriever
After a neighbor’s Afghan killed her Yorkshire terrier, Janet Francis, former president of the San Antonio Conservation Society, got a twenty-gauge shotgun, walked down to the neighbor’s house, and shot the Afghan to death.
It Tasted Better Than California Condor, But Not As Good as Bald Eagle
Houston lawyer Mario Yzaguirre was charged with violating the Endangered Species Act and paid a $15,000 fine for shooting and killing a whooping crane.
They All Look Alike
The Colossus of Memphis, a 27-foot statue that highlighted the “Ramses the Great” exhibit in Dallas, was declared by Egyptian art historian Hourig Sourouzian to be a likeness not of Ramses but of a preceding pharaoh, Sesostris I.
He Only Likes Happy Endings
Herbert Reynolds, the president of Baylor University, refused to allow a motion-picture history class to watch The Last Temptation of Christ.
Reveille IV, Aggies 0
A crowd of 10,000 people turned out in the rain at Texas A&M for the funeral of Reveille IV, a collie that had been a retired school mascot.
Honest, Warden, I’m a Changed Man
Doctors at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston performed more than a hundred elective cosmetic-surgery operations on inmates at the Texas Department of Corrections at taxpayers’ expense—including nose jobs, brow-lifts, and face-lifts.
Shoot First, Answer Questions Later
Union Grove’s only police officer, Walter Knight, who had been seriously wounded in a shooting incident by an unknown assailant, was convicted of making a false alarm after sheriff’s officers determined that he had shot himself with his own gun.
He Volunteered for Night Duty
After Travis County sheriff’s deputy David Ayers lost control of his patrol car, which then flipped on its side, he was punished by having to drive in a car with no air conditioning.
If You Can’t Trust Your Lawyer, Who Can You Trust? Part III
Upon discovering that thousands of case files were missing from the Travis County courthouse, district clerk Dana DeBeauvoir declared an amnesty week so lawyers could return files without punishment.
That’s Why They Call It The Pokey
The Court of Criminal Appeals found court reporter Donna Creel of Waxahachie in contempt for failing to finish a trial transcript and had her held in the Ellis County jail until she finished transcribing eight thousand pages of notes.
It’s the Thought That Counts
Patrick King, former president of Vernon Savings, was convicted of fraud following charges that he paid $100 a night for a prostitute named Joy Love to spend nights with a S&L regulator, despite King’s defense that the regulator could not have enjoyed the gift because he was impotent.
For the Next Round, Order Brut for Ladd and Cold Duck for Fran
Houston Chronicle sports columnist Fran Blinebury and Ladd Herzeg, Houston Oilers general manager, met for lunch to discuss their differences over Blinebury’s frequent criticism of Herzeg. The two men ran up a $1,300 tab that included four bottles of Cristal champagne and one bottle of Dom Perignon, but the lunch ended when Herzeg hit Blinebury twice in the face.
Next Year They’re Moving Hanukkah to December 25
Five Texas legislators introduced bills to make Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a state holiday to be celebrated on January 19 — jointly with Confederate Heroes Day.
It’s All Part of a Good Business Climate
The Environmental Protection Agency reported that industries in Texas released almost 230 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air in 1987, more than any other state.
Thank God for Pine Bluff, Arkansas
The new addition of the Places Rated Almanac evaluated 333 cities to determine which were the most livable places in America. Odessa finished 332nd.
Here’s Our $12,500
As part of the settlement of a lawsuit, Houston defense attorney Tom Alexander agreed that in lieu of his client paying $50,000 in damages, two plaintiffs and their two attorneys could slug Alexander.
Take Your Time, Bill
In an effort to persuade Governor Bill Clements to veto a bill that prevented cities with populations under five thousand from operating speed traps, Patton Village police chief Jesse Dave Broussard went on a hunger strike.
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Nuke It
Demolition experts in Fort Worth needed four weeks, including nine unsuccessful attempts using six thousand pounds of dynamite, to bring down a grain elevator.
NOW WE UNDERSTAND
Hop a Flight, Dave, and We’ll Try to Arrange It
David Hanners of the Dallas Morning News, the winner of a Pulitzer prize for following the investigation of an airline disaster from start to finish, on how he felt with the National Transportation Safety Board called at ten-thirty on a Friday night: “I thought, ‘Why can’t these things happen at eleven-thirty a.m. on a Tuesday?’ ”
Arnold Alaniz of Azle, testifying to defend himself against charges of capital murder for firing five shots at and wounding a police officer who had pulled him over for driving erratically: “I wasn’t trying to kill anyone. I just wanted the officer to shoot me and thought this was the best way to do it.”
We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident, That All Men Are Created Equal, That They Are Endowed by Their Creator With Certain Unalienable Rights, That Among These Are Life, Liberty, And the Pursuit of Water
Janey Briscoe of Uvalde, the wife of former governor Dolph Briscoe, explaining why voters in Uvalde and Medina counties rejected a regional water-conservation plan: “Anyone who owns agricultural land should have the right to drill their own wells. To do otherwise would go against our founding fathers.”
THANKS BUT NO THANKS
A BUM STEERS CATALOG
Cowboy Chow, written by Judy Barbour and published in the shape of a boot, featuring such recipes as Jalapeño Quiche and Margarita Pie.
1,935 condominium units from the Interstate 30 condo scandal, originally developed by accused racketeer Danny Faulkner, offered by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation.
Bestsell’r, the James A. Michener game, which tests general knowledge of the world and of the characters in ten Michener novels, including Texas.
That’s the Point I’m Trying to Make, a rap video by Dallas city council members Al Lipscomb and Diane Ragsdale featuring such topics as drugs, crime, racism, rape, and the homeless, from Boss Productions in Dallas for $15
The One Hour Orgasm, written by Bob Schwartz of Houston in collaboration with his wife, Leah.
The original one-thousand-page manuscript of a phony autobiography of Howard Hughes, written by convicted author Clifford Irving, offered at auction by Simpson Galleries in Houston.
Blockaids, a computer game developed by two professors at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston that is designed to teach adolescents about the acquired-immune-deficiency syndrome, featuring Blocky and the AIDS Virus, displayed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Jack Ruby’s gun, used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, for sale for $125,000 by Jules Mayer, executor of Ruby’s estate.
Too Bad. The Cowboys Need Somebody Who Can Catch a Pass
After fourteen Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders resigned in protest, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones backed down from a plan to change cheerleaders’ uniforms to skin-tight biker pants and tank tops and said that cheerleaders would not have to fraternize with the players or make a beer commercial.
Book Him for Assault With Two Pigs in a Blanket
Cisco police chief Billy Rains was held hostage in a gas station rest room by a man claiming to be holding a derringer against his back. The gun turned out to be two sausages covered with a bread wrapper.
But It Was an Easy Mistake to Make
Radio stations KLDE and KFMK of Houston incorrectly reported that singer Glen Campbell had died.
Just Call Me Gus McCrae
A man purporting to be Pulitzer prize-winning author Larry McMurtry visited a Dallas theater, mingled with the cast, and told people that McMurtry was really a pen name.
Every Oenophile Knows the Difference
Six Lubbock-area grape growers protested that Cordier Estates in Fort Stockton was using the name High Plains Cellars to mislead wine buyers into thinking that they were getting wines made from High Plains grapes.
Security Starts at Home
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it was making foreign espionage its number one priority in Houston, where the only espionage indictment in recent years involved secrets given out by an FBI translator.
The Suspect is Shod and Considered Dangerous
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that cowboy boots are dangerous weapons.
Now Let’s Do a Chorus of “Jailhouse Rock”
After Charles Klinger and Robert Rice, both of Odessa, pleaded guilty to operating an illegal gambling business, Judge Lucius Bunton asked them to join him in singing “Happy Birthday” to deputy U. S. marshal Gail Boggs.
Better Dead Than Glasnost
After persistent protests by the John Birch Society, proponents withdrew a proposal for the City of Plano to adopt Ordzhonikidze in the Soviet Union as a sister city.
Oh, About Ten Years
A thief who broke into the apartment of Houston Rockets center Chuck Nevitt and stole a championship ring was arrested by the Houston police after he phoned the Rockets, asked how much the ring was worth, and left his telephone number.
Unfortunately, Not One Could Identify Her Face
Police in Richland Hills told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the suspect in the robbery of a gas station was a woman with a rose tattoo on her left breast. After the paper published the information, more than three hundred people called the police to say that they knew of such a person.
Dallas district court judge Catherine Crier resigned from the bench to become an anchorwoman with Cable News Network.
Save a Buck, Fire a Forester
In a photograph in Forest Farmer, Bruce Miles, the director of the Texas Forest Service, was shown wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Save a Logger, Eat an Owl.”
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry
The Austin police department and Travis Country sheriff’s officials apologized for arresting the wrong Sylvester Brown fourteen times.
It Wore Thin
The Houston Tiffany’s, which holds an annual window-design contest to benefit AIDS research, ordered a display dismantled when executives discovered that what appeared to be coins was actually two thousand packaged condoms.
We Bet Tiffany’s Doesn’t Advertise in …
The Paisano, a student newspaper at the University of Texas at San Antonio, which included a condom with each copy on Valentine’s Day.
As part of a toy display, a Stop-N-Go store in northwest Houston included crayons, jacks, Silly Putty, and Rubber Ducky condoms.
Jonny Collins of Dickinson was delayed when taking his date home at two in the morning because an alligator bit his front tire.
Where Is the Joker When You Need Him?
After Houston radio station KLOL-FM passed out too many free tickets to a special screening of Batman, angry ticket holders unable to get into the theater surrounded the station’s promotional van.