1988 Bum Steer Awards

The best thing you could say about 1987 is that the stock market crash did little harm to the morale of Texas. Face it, the bull left outta here a long time ago. If 1986 was the year of the bust, then 1987 was the year of the busted. Two Hunt brothers filed for Chapter 11. So did Texaco, no thanks to a hands-off Texas Supreme Court. The feds caught up with savings-and-loan sultan Don Dixon and nabbed Houston wheeler-dealer J. R. McConnell. In Austin, which by year’s end was leading the nation in empty office space, only the bankruptcy lawyers were blowing and going.

Fact is, we’ve been down so long that all we have to export is the Houston Oilers—and they wouldn’t go. Meanwhile we’re being invaded, and not just by bank examiners. Chemical Bank now owns Texas Commerce. A guy named Abboud took over First City. J. C. Penney took over Plano. Whatever’s left will doubtless go to the Australians, Arabs, or Japanese. And by the way, who was that foreigner in the robes and funny hat? We thought the pope visited only the sorriest, most down-and-out places in the world.

Come to think of it, divine intervention was what Texas needed in 1987. Not even if we had enlisted the entire city of Midland, with its proven rescue record, could we have pulled ourselves out of the hole we’d fallen into. No, there was something blocking our way—a mean, sour-faced Bum Steer, personifying everything that went wrong in the year we hit bottom, 1987. His name? Bill Clements, of course.

On his first pass through the public china shop (1979-83), Bill Clements made a fine mess of Texas. Most noteworthy was his role in one of the worst oil spills ever to gunk up the Gulf Coast. Asked on that dark occasion what Texas could do about his crude performance, Governor Clements suggested they “pray for a hurricane.” These days, as Clements puts the finishing stains on the first year of his second term, Texans are praying harder than ever. Here’s a sample of what the guv let slip this time.

• Ponygate, Chapter I. A Dallas TV station reported that while Clements was chairman of the SMU board of governors he approved illicit payments to football players.

• Ponygate, Chapter II. When reporters accused him of being less than truthful in his discussions with the NCAA, Clements insisted that he hadn’t lied—because there was no Bible present.

• Ponygate, Chapter III. A committee of Methodist bishops reported that after Clements and his fellow SMU governors pulled off the play-for-pay scam, they attempted to cover up their misdeeds.

• Having campaigned on an anti-tax platform and boasting a “secret” economic plan, Clements urged the Legislature to make temporary gasoline and sales taxes permanent.

• After promising to veto a tax increase, Clements hemmed, hawed, double-clutched, then allowed a hike of $4.8 billion.

• Clements told the Amarillo Daily News that the FSLIC would not stand behind Texas savings and loans, thereby risking a run on the state’s thrift institutions.

• Clements asked Joe Madrigal, the state’s director of Hispanic and Latin American affairs, to act as his translator on a junket to Mexico, unaware that Madrigal does not speak Spanish.

• In response to a letter from the Texas Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Clements promised to do everything he could to help the mentally retarded.

• Eager to win the federal supercollider laboratory for Texas, Clements challenged the governor of Illinois to an Indian wrestling match.

• In the middle of a ceremony to honor the blind, Clements ordered a young boy to kick a Capitol reporter in the shins.

• And not surprisingly, by autumn Clements had earned a negative performance rating from 72 percent of the state’s voters.

Soon to Be Retitled, Geraldo Rivera: Dope of a Nation
In a live segment of Geraldo Rivera’s news show, American Vice: The Doping of a Nation, a camera crew accompanied the police on a raid of a Channel-view duplex, where, according to Rivera’s background commentary, “an alleged pimp and prostitute—a dude and his lady, real pros—are supplying truckers speed.” Cops and camera then burst into the house to find a lone woman in shirt and shorts painting the walls.

He Paid His Bail in Sand Dollars
Lang Nguyen

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