The 2000 Bum Steer Awards
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Who isn’t sick of the m-word? The approach of the you-know-what accounted for at least two thousand Texan examples of countdown craziness. Bracing for a Y2K melee, we not only hoarded precious metals and stockpiled food and guns but—in a particularly Texan twist—bought (and stole) a record number of windmills out of fear that basic services would crash. Crashes of a different sort accelerated the madness: In Dallas three intersections made the list of the nation’s ten most dangerous for traffic accidents; in Austin a truck driver narrowly missed hitting George W. Bush, who was out for a jog, and nearly ended the governor’s presidential campaign.
And speaking of ends, there was the much-ballyhooed backside of actor and sometime Austinite Matthew McConaughey. With time to kill in the wee hours of an October morning, the divine Mr. M decided to dance to the beat of his own bongos (and his own bong) while clad only in a bandanna bearing the logo of his beloved alma mater, the University of Texas. After a call from an annoyed neighbor, the cops butted in and arrested the em-bare-assed actor, who eventually paid a $50 fine for violating the city’s noise ordinance. A crack publicist couldn’t have gotten more exposure for the cheeky thespian—and we couldn’t have drummed up a better candidate for Bum Steer of the Year.
Reports of Their Death Were Only Slightly Exaggerated
Nearly all of the City of Dallas’ 13,000 employees received 1998 federal wage and tax statements listing them as deceased.
Till Fumbles Do Us Part
Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams posed for the cover of ESPN’s magazine as a bride in a white wedding gown next to his new coach, the New Orleans Saints’ Mike Ditka.
$100 for Burgers, And $42,000 for Her Legal Fees
During an online auction to benefit Oprah Winfrey’s favorite charities, James Halperin, a Dallas rare-coin dealer, paid $10,100 for two backstage passes to her TV talk show, $6,550 to go to a yoga class with her, and $42,100 to have lunch with her.
Sure. Can You Wait Until the First Debate?
Vice President Al Gore, seeking contributions for his presidential race, sent a fundraising letter to George W. Bush that said, “To win in 2000, I need you by my side.”
Watch Out for the Roman Soldier Balloon
At the Christian Hot-Air Balloon Glow near Groom, Bob Sheible of the Merit Ministry of California inflated and floated a 110-foot-high figure of Jesus.
He Was Just Parking
Neil Richmond, the principal of Midland High School, suspended senior Casey Riggan and placed him in an alternative school because Riggan refused to write a letter of apology after he and a group of friends photographed Richmond’s car while it was sitting in front of a female teacher’s house on a Saturday afternoon.
Coming Next Year: Frankenstein: The Campaigning and the Losing
San Antonio city councilman Mario Salas wrote a sequel to the horror classic by Mary Shelley, which he titled Frankenstein: The Dawning and the Passing.
But It Was a Breathtaking Billboard
Scenic Dallas, a nonprofit anti-billboard organization dedicated to the enhancement and preservation of the city’s visual environment, undertook a campaign to eliminate billboards in the city by placing its slogan—“Nothing is more beautiful than a breathtaking view”—on a billboard.
Everything Farther South Had Already Been Fixed
For the first time in the history of the Miss Texas Pageant, officials required all competitors to fix their own hair.
A story about George W. Bush’s advisers on national issues that appeared in the New York Times contained the sentence, “There may never have been a ‘serious’ candidate who needed it more.” In a subsequent issue of the paper, the Times explained that the “opinionated sentence” was really a private message between editors that had inadvertently slipped into the story.
Oliver Stone Wants One on the Grassy Knoll
Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum, housed in the former Texas School Book Depository, installed a camera in its southeast window to allow users of their Internet site to duplicate the view of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
Wait Till Next Millennium
By winning only 246 games while losing 541, for a percentage of .313, the Dallas Mavericks compiled the worst record of any professional sports team in the nineties.
A Switchblade Is Cheaper
The Texas Attorney General’s office received a $90,720 grant from the governor’s Criminal Justice Division to purchase laser surgery equipment to remove tattoos from former gang members.
Mistake? What Mistake?
The Houston Chronicle mistakenly translated into Spanish “Together We Can,” the theme of George W. Bush’s inauguration for his second term as governor, not as “Juntos Podemos,” which is correct, but as “Juntos Pedemos,” which means “Together we fart.”
You Can’t Be Too Careful About What Santa Anna Might Be Up to These Days
A Cameron County beach cleanup crew hauled away as trash what historians believe was the wreckage of the Moctezuma, a Mexican gunboat sunk off the Texas coast in 1842.
The Charge Was BigBigBigBigBigBigBigBigBigamy
Ben Villar, the police chief of Fulshear, was charged with bigamy and indicted by a Fort Bend County grand jury after officials mistakenly mailed his license from a 1998 marriage to his wife of eight years, who discovered she was one of ten women Villar had wed since 1966.
Unfortunately, Male Ocelots Prefer Brut
Researchers at the Dallas Zoo conducting an experiment in how cats react to odors reported that the zoo’s four female ocelots responded most erotically to the scent of Calvin Klein Obsession perfume.
We Want to See Their Hoses
Several Dallas firefighters appeared in national print ads for Jockey underwear with their pants around their ankles, displaying a variety of boxers and briefs.
Relatives Are Not Eligible to Win
After George W. Bush received the most votes ever—7,418— in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll, he announced that “we shattered every record” for the event. In fact, his percentage of the total vote (31 percent) and margin of victory (10.5 percentage points) fell short of the all-time records, which were set in 1979—by his father.
Sorry, We Were Looking for One (1) Male Heifer
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department published a legal notice in the Beaumont Enterprise advertising at the Winnie Livestock Sale “One (1) Female Hereford Bull.”
“Cocktails Are $4, Beer and Wine Are $2, Coffee Is Street Price”
Following a two-year investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, more than fifty baggage handlers and food-service workers for Fort Worth-based American Airlines were charged with conspiracy, importation and distribution of drugs, and weapons trafficking as the result of a scheme to smuggle heroin aboard planes in coffee containers.
The Big Salmonella
In an effort to make the Guinness Book of World Records, Laredo residents used 70,000 corn tortillas, 500 pounds of chiles, and a ton of white cheese to make a mile-long enchilada, but city health inspectors declared that because of the 103-degree heat, spectators would be allowed to eat only the part assembled in the final thirty minutes.
Pay Us a Visit, Steve, And We’ll Host a Roast Just for You
Pulitzer prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson of Phoenix’s Arizona Republic drew a cartoon captioned “Texas Bonfire Traditions,” which linked three images: a burning military-style compound, which was labeled “Waco,” KKK members flanking a burning cross, tagged “Jasper,” and a collapsed pile of logs, marked “A&M.”
And Proud of It
A spontaneous celebration by the American Ryder Cup golf team following a clutch 45-foot birdie putt by Justin Leonard of Dallas drew stiff rebukes from British journalists. Columnist Matthew Norman wrote in the London Evening Standard that Americans were “repulsive people, charmless, rude, cocky, mercenary, humorless, ugly, full of nauseating fake religiosity, and as odious in victory as they are unsporting in defeat.”
Try Calling Yourselves “Arkansas” and See Where It Gets You
Sharleen Spiteri, the lead singer of the Scottish pop group Texas, told an interviewer, “Why did we ever call ourselves that? . . . I remember the first time I went to Texas. I thought, ‘This isn’t what I imagined.’ I had such a romantic view of cowboys and big open spaces, and it wasn’t.”
Just Say “Big Red”
The U.S. Customs Service in Laredo, working on behalf of the Dr Pepper Company, seized 33,000 bottles of Squirt soda illegally imported from Mexico.
You Can Find Them at www.tienanmensquare.com
When George W. Bush learned that a Massachusetts computer consultant had already registered the Web site gwbush.com and was using it to parody his campaign, he exclaimed, “There ought to be limits to freedom.”
“Remember the Plantation!”
In honor of Black History Month, McDonald’s issued a booklet called Little Known Black History Facts, which says that the Texas state song is “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” that the Texans prevailed in battles during March 1836 (when they suffered decisive defeats at the Alamo and Goliad), and that the Texas Revolution was fought “to preserve slavery.”
Who Says You Can’t Always Get What You Want?
Despite a British judge’s ruling that Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall were never officially married, the Mesquite-born model netted a divorce settlement worth a reported $16 million, then allowed her ex-husband to move back in to a separate bedroom of their London mansion.
One Tight Thing
Katy-born actress Renée Zellweger stretched the limits of material-ism with her choice of gown for the 1999 Academy awards ceremony.
Politics Makes Strange Fellows
With two weeks to go in the two-man race for Place 5 on the Carrollton City Council, challenger Joe Johnson endorsed his opponent, incumbent Bob Doverspike.
Where Is Joe Johnson When You Need Him?
Odessa officials canceled the city’s council election because only one candidate filed for the three available seats.
Attention, George W. Bush: Read Here for the Answer to “Who is the Ruler of India?”
During the Hindu religious festival of Divali, the Second Baptist Church of Houston distributed a booklet asserting that Hindus are under the “power of Satan.”
Thus Raising That Difficult Historical Question, Was the Purpose To Keep the People of China in, or to Keep the People of Beaumont Out?
To mark the in-store arrival of its animated film Mulan, Walt Disney Home Video built a three-hundred-foot-long replica of the Great Wall of China in the Jefferson County hamlet of China.
In Case the Great Wall Catches Fire
In honor of the re-release of the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians, the studio erected a 24-foot-tall, black-and-white-spotted fire hydrant near the Fire Museum of Texas in Beaumont.
As Long As You Add Viagra to the Mayonnaise
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals funded an outside advertisement in Dallas that depicted a bikinied woman holding a string of limp sausages with the caption, “I threw a party but the cattlemen couldn’t come,” and an accompanying phone number (1-900-GET-ON-UP) answered by a recorded female voice saying, “Meat restricts blood flow not just to your heart but to all parts of your body. That’s right. Choosing a veggie burger in the kitchen may help you have a whopper in the bedroom.”
“Over Hill, Over Dale, We Have Hit the Rusty Trail”
Houston-based Stewart and Stevenson Services was cited by the General Accounting Office, which reviews federal expenditures, for failing to meet a requirement that new trucks built for the U.S. Army be designed to prevent corrosion for at least ten years. Instead, the first 4,995 trucks suffered rust-caused holes in the cabs in less than three years, and some began rusting before the vehicles left the plant.
Right Idea. Wrong Target
While on a photo shoot in New York, Anna Nicole Smith, formerly of Mexia, was bitten on the leg by the dog she had hired to guard her.
Not to Mention the Austin Police Department
Asian Americans criticized Uvalde-born actor Matthew McConaughey for saying on the Rosie O’Donnell show that in his new film, U-571, “I’m over in Rome fighting Germans and Japs from World War Two.”
After abandoning a plan to put Dallas-based Pizza Hut’s new logo on the moon with lasers because the project, to be visible from Earth, would have required an image as large as Texas and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, company officials paid $1 million to put the logo on a Russian Proton rocket to be launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
It Wasn’t Too Hard, It Wasn’t Too Soft, It Was Just Right
Martin Fulcher of New Caney was arrested and charged with attempted burglary of a residence near Cleveland after the homeowner returned to find Fulcher sleeping in his bed
At the Moment, More Like an Outhouse
Following protests and legal action by parents, the San Antonio Independent School District destroyed the responses to surveys given to six hundred Jefferson High School students that asked such questions as whether the teenagers considered themselves “more like a screened-in porch or a picture window.”
Informed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wanted further research into whether endangered cave bugs might be harmed by a proposed road and bridge below the Lake Georgetown dam, Williamson County commissioner Greg Boatright said, “You know the best way you can do research is to pour about fifty gallons of gas down there and light a match so you can see.”
He Got Waxed
A Lake Jackson car wash polled customers on their opinion of how Congress should resolve the impeachment case against Bill Clinton.
But the Cast and Crew Were Overjoyed
A film titled Happy, Texas, which was filmed in Peru, California, left the real residents of Happy unhappy
Good Thing They Don’t Call It a Horny Toad
The Canadian artist who redesigned the costume for Texas Christian University’s comic horned-frog mascot angered the school’s fans by giving the giant lizard a buff build, bulging eyes, and a greenish hue
Termites Aren’t What They Used to Be
Texas A&M research entomologist Grady Glenn discovered that termites won’t eat wood that has been laced with hot chiles.
Crook ‘em, Horns
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge Steve Mansfield was fined $300, required to perform thirty hours of community service, and sentenced to six months’ probation for trespassing after he ignored an order by UT-Austin police to leave the campus because they had caught him trying to scalp his complimentary tickets to the 1998 UT-Texas A&M football game.
Can She Do “Willie and The Hand Jive”?
The Web site of Dallas’ Gennifer Flowers, one of Bill Clinton’s former lovers, includes a “Dear Gennifer” column, a “Clinton Body Count” report, and a biography asserting that she is “a remarkable talent, who doesn’t need controversy to make her a star” and “a charismatic chanteuse and jazz/blues diva with unquestionable international appeal who can masterfully light a torch to any song!
No. Have You Found Any Brains?
After state senator J. E. “Buster” Brown of Lake Jackson apologized to a young female aide for making unwanted sexual advances, the Houston Chronicle cited another incident, in which Brown had tried to kiss a 54-year-old woman who had gone to his law office to discuss a legal matter. When she said, “I’m too fat for this,” Brown reportedly replied, “Well, I don’t think you are.” The next time Brown encountered the woman, according to her statement to the Lake Jackson police, he asked if she had lost any weight.
It’s Not As If It’s Carved in Stone
Workers installed a huge carved stone marker on the grounds of the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, then immediately had to take it apart for repair because the final word had been misspelled “Cemetary.”
From Each Smart-Growth Advocate According to His Abilities, to Each Light-Rail Passenger According to His Needs
After losing a race for a seat on the Austin City Council, Vic Vreeland was reported by an Austin American-Statesman columnist to have posted the following message on his Web page: “If you are not a Socialist, Fascist or Communist you are not welcome in Austin, Texas!!! You got the government you deserve, sheeple. 8.36 percent of registered voters voted in today’s election. The socialists got reelected. . . . You burned the American Flag by allowing the incumbents to sweep the election. You insured smart growth, light rail, and all the trappings Karl Marx advocated will come to pass in Austin, Texas.”
And for Pat Buchanan, “Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Shine”
Burke’s Peerage designed a presidential coat of arms for George W. Bush bearing the Latin translation of “The prodigal son will shine.”
P.S. I Need This Note Back
Hugh Benjamin Culp was arrested for robbing the drive-through window at the First National Bank of Anderson—his second robbery at the same locale. Culp’s note to the teller read, “This is the bank robber. Give me the money. [Signed] The bank robber.”
Ding-Dong Daddies From Dallas
While in the possession of the Dallas Stars, the 1999 National Hockey League champions, the Stanley Cup acquired a three-inch dent.
Because the Dallas Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, lost a bet with his brother George W., the governor of Texas, and had to wear a Cowboys jersey for a day.
Next Time You Pick a Talent, Try Something Simple, Like Tap Dancing
Roni Lowe, Miss Lubbock Teen USA, relinquished her crown for saying that she intended to make the Frenship High School cheerleading squad “disappear from the face of the earth.”
They’re in Sudden Death
Moments before being executed by lethal injection in a Huntsville prison, condemned murderer William Prince Davis said, “I’d like to say in closing: What about those Cowboys?”
Where Did He Find a Tofu Shank For the Last Supper?
Following protests by Amarillo residents, Chancellor Media removed a billboard underwritten by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which depicted Jesus with an orange slice behind his head instead of a halo along with the message, “Jesus was a vegetarian.”
Ladies and Gentlemen of The Jury, Have You Overreached Your Verdict?
A Plainview jury intended to sentence Jesus Piñon, whom they had convicted of aggravated assault, to twenty years’ probation but discovered by reading the Sunday paper that they had in fact sentenced him to twenty years.
You Wanted a Hotline, You Got a Hotline
The City of Corpus Christi distributed flyers to 46,000 homes providing a toll-free number to call for assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. People who called the number got a sex line instead.
First, Lie Down on This Gurney and Roll Up Your Sleeve
With four inmates on death row, New Mexico, a state that hasn’t executed anyone for almost forty years, sent two officials to Texas to witness an execution and seek advice on how to carry out capital punishment.
Politics—The Final Frontier
Executives at Paramount Studios sent a cease-and-desist letter to stop Dallas mayor Ron Kirk from using the theme music of the TV show Star Trek in a campaign ad that begins, “Four years ago, we chose Ron Kirk captain of the Dallas enterprise.”
Wampum Upside The Head
Native American members of the Dallas-based Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas protested to the Federal Communications Commission after Fort Worth disc jockey Kidd Kraddick of KISS-FM urged listeners to make up their own Indian names and christened himself Chief Caught Peeing on Side of House by Mother-in-Law.
Disc jockey Doug Tracht of WARW-FM in Washington, D.C., was suspended after he played part of a song by black hip-hop artist Lauryn Hill, who had been nominated for ten Grammy awards, and then commented, “No wonder people drag them behind trucks.”
Which Way to The Cockpit?
A man and a woman aboard an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Manchester were arrested for violations of public decency, drunkenness, and air-rage laws after they cuddled under a blanket and performed a sex act.
Responding to a column in the Sporting News that referred to the Kansas State University football team as “pompous” and said that everybody would be cheering for KSU to lose to the University of Texas, KSU president Jon Wefald wrote a letter of protest to the publication and also posted it on the school’s Web site. “Outside of Texas,” it read, “very few people cheer for the Longhorns because the University of Texas represents in most people’s minds incredible wealth and arrogance. Many Texans believe the world begins and ends with Texas.”
This Bush Is a Plant
Californian Pat Rick, known as Counterfeit Bill for his Clinton impersonations, is helping to prep George W. Bush look-alike Brent Mendenhall of Missouri for a similar career in faux politics.
The Hall of Fame Hurler Was Plum Worn Out. The Currant Game Would Be His Last. His Arm Was Feeling Akee and His Legs Weren’t So Grape. He Tugged on His Capulin, Rubbed the Back of His Nectarine, and Tried to Think Cherry Thoughts, But Only Meloncholy Ones Came. Could Anything Imbu Him With Enthusiasm? This Pitch Was Dewberry or Die, a Date With Destiny, His Raisin d’Etre. “Holy Cacao,” He Thought to Himself. “The Damson of a Gun Must Not Get the Sweetsop of His Bat on the Ball.” The Roaring Crowd Gave Him Gooseberry Bumps. Suddenly He Felt Lucky to Be Olive. He Stepped Off the Mound to Savor the Moment, and the Batter Wondered, “Now Where Did That Mango?” “Orange You Ever Going to Pitch?” A Cameraman Shouted, and Here Came a Citrange Sight. It Was Ugli. Hit By a Peach
While taping a promotional spot for Texas agricultural products, Nolan Ryan threw pieces of fruit at a sheet of Plexiglas situated in front of a camera, but one toss missed the mark and hit a cameraman in the head with a peach, knocking him to the ground.
Our Question Is, How Can You Hire On as a Cop in Rapides Parish?
Willie Johnson of Houston, sought on an outstanding warrant for aggravated assault, was arrested at a relative’s home in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, after the Houston police telephoned a description of Johnson to officers in Louisiana, who at that moment were watching Johnson during his guest appearance on a Jerry Springer episode about drag queens.
Don’t Have a Cow. Sorry, Make That “Don’t Have a Soy Protein Patty”
Vegetarian Jeanne Daniels, the president of the company that owns Austin’s tony Tarrytown Shopping Center, refused to renew the lease of the Grocery, a gourmet food store, because it sold meat.
He Could Be Sentenced to Up to Five Yards for Ineligible Player Downfield
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was charged with interference with public duties when, while driving behind a family member who was nailed for speeding, he decided to pull over too but then drove off in spite of the police officer’s request that he wait until the ticket was issued.
No Wonder They Disapproved
The ultraconservative Republican Leadership Council of Montgomery County rebuked the all-Republican commissioners’ court for voting “Republican” only 34 percent of the time. One of the votes the council disapproved of was a proclamation making March Mental Health Month.
He Wanted to Habeas the Corpus
The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly rebuked Bastrop County judge Benton Eskew for socializing with a woman whose divorce case was pending in his court and for going to the Yellow Rose men’s club, where she worked, to watch her dance topless.
Practice Makes Perfect
For the first time since air pollution records have been kept, Houston passed Los Angeles as the U.S. city with the most smog days.
The Right Man To Sell Crude
An advertising campaign in Romania for Lukoil, a Russian oil company, featured Dallas actor Larry Hagman posing as J. R. Ewing.
But You Can Keep the Chewing Gum and Baling Wire
NASA took back parts from a space shuttle exhibit at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, because the agency realized it was so short of replacement parts that the equipment might be needed for future missions.
They Left the Metric Conversion Chart at the Alabama Museum
NASA lost contact with its $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft because engineers had failed to convert English units of measurements into the metric equivalents.
“Hey, Isn’t That a Dil—Doh!”
Longview TV station KFXK broadcast a Simpsons rerun that contained a four-second spliced-in segment of a porno movie
Even Newer: Sharon Stone and Acting
Actress Sharon Stone, who came to Dallas to preside over an art auction that benefited the American Foundation for AIDS Research, told nationally syndicated columnist Liz Smith, “Modern art and AIDS in Texas, two fairly new concepts.
Red, for Example, Is the Color of the NEA’s Face
After the National Endowment for the Arts discovered that The Story of Colors, a bilingual children’s picture book, had been authored by Zapatista guerrilla leader Subcomandante Marcos, it canceled its grant to the publisher, El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press, which, thanks to the publicity, promptly sold 18,000 copies.
“I Shall Never Surrender Or Three-Putt”
Hoping to inspire the American Ryder Cup team to come from behind to defeat Europe, George W. Bush read to the golfers William Barret Travis’ last letter from the Alamo, which concludes with “Victory or Death.”
The Final Exam Was A Cinch Until the Question About How to Beat the Antitrust Laws
Twelve students who failed a Microsoft computer certification course at Southern Methodist University’s Advanced Education Center in Houston sued the school because they said administrators had promised them the course would be easy.
Soon to Open at the Brooklyn Museum
Gregg County Commissioners rescinded a $50,000 grant for Kilgore College’s Texas Shakespeare Festival because the school’s theater department staged a performance of the Pulitzer prize-winning play Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches, which follows the lives of five gay men.
The Devil Made Them Do It
The Texas Lottery, which usually pays out around $250,000 in prizes to winners of its Pick 3 game, had to pay a total of $1.5 million for a game in June because so many people had chosen the winning numbers, 6-6-6, the number of the beast in the Book of Revelation.
Ivins the Terrible
Nationally syndicated columnist Liz Smith quoted former Texas Observer editor Molly Ivins as saying that the paper was in serious financial difficulty, but the current editor, Louis Dubose, subsequently said, “We’re in better shape than we have been in five years, easily.
An Apple a Day Keeps The Legislature Away
State health commissioner Dr. William “Reyn” Archer drew heavy criticism from members of the House Appropriations Committee for seeking candidates for two associate commissioner positions, each paying $76,000 a year and requiring “knowledge or the ability to comprehend and articulate the conflicting dynamics of love and alienation . . .”
The Good News Is, He’s a Natural for Texas Politics
The biography Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President—in which the author, James Howard Hatfield, alleges that the governor was once arrested for possession of cocaine—was recalled by St. Martin’s Press of New York after editors discovered that Hatfield had served five years in prison for soliciting a hit man to kill his former boss in Dallas in 1987.