DATA DISASTER COSTS UH IN RANKING
Geri Konigsberg, director of Media Relations, initially said the (U.S. News ranking) information was provided, and that UH needed to work on improving departmental communication next year, but later retracted and said it was due to a breakdown in staffing.
by John Darbonne
Daily Cougar Staff
UH administrators admit that this year's bottom-tier listing of UH in U.S. News & World Report's annual ranking of colleges is due to staff errors.
U.S. News issues surveys to 1,400 universities nationwide, then runs the statistical information through a formula to create a numerical listing that is used to compare schools within the categories into which they are divided.
UH ranked 173rd, which placed the university in the lowest tier, in U.S. News' Sept. 26 issue.
University officials across the country advise U.S. News on the methodology used to determine rankings. The categories are: academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources, financial resources, graduation rate and alumni satisfaction.
Cydney Mackey, associate director of UH Media Relations, said she believes the rankings are important because they shape public perceptions, which can affect enrollment.
Bob Morse, who is in charge of U.S. News' ranking, said the reason UH placed so low was the fact that some information was not provided.
Morse said the missing information included the number of faculty with doctorate or terminal degrees and the number of students per class.
"It is unfortunate that this information was not provided," Morse said. "UH would have made it to the third tier if it had been."
Geri Konigsberg, director of Media Relations, initially said the information was provided, and that UH needed to work on improving departmental communication next year, but later retracted and said it was due to a breakdown in staffing.
"There was a high staff turnover at the time, and so many surveys that needed to be filled out, it simply fell through the cracks," Konigsberg said. "UH did not put an estimate down because it was an error on our part that can be attributed to a lack of staffing."
Mackey said part of the problem may be computer-related, but Konigsberg said it was not computer-related. She said UH needs more staffing to go over the surveys, and that the UH fact book, which lists all data, had not been, and still is not, published.
"We knew we were sending the survey in not completed," Konigsberg said, adding that there is a mechanism in place to avoid this situation next year. The mechanism in the future will be people who will review the surveys.
Konigsberg said she is disappointed with the UH ranking, and said the errors will not occur again. She said she believes we are doing enough to avoid this in the future.
Lorne Cuffel, the new director of the Office of Policy and Planning, the office responsible for filling out the surveys, said it seems strange that U.S. News would base ratings that allow no data ranking, and that the rating would have such a tremendous effect.
He said magazines often use data from the past to fill in a missing estimate.
"It is possible that the assumption was that the magazine would use some data from the past," Cuffel said.
When asked if using increased staff to solve a past problem resulting from staff turnover was wise, Cuffel said the office has this experience to avoid the situation, also.
"I am not sure how much of the problem came from staff turnover, other than the time factor," Cuffel said. "I will make sure that the surveys will be filled out properly next year, and I am trying to even out the workload."
Cuffel was not the director of the Office of Policy and Planning when the surveys were sent in this year.
Cuffel said he is disappointed with the ranking because it is due to a lack of information, which makes it bogus.
"We will do what we can to correct the problem, and get UH its actual ranking next year," Cuffel said.
DEMAND FOR SPACE ON CYBER-TURNPIKE RESULTS IN TRAFFIC JAMS
by James V. Geluso
Now that the semester is in full swing, students and faculty trying to use the mainframes on campus may encounter busy signals more often than the screeching noise made by a connecting modem.
The Xyplex terminal server, which connects users at home to over 200 on-campus computers, has 144 modems, but that isn't always enough to meet the demands of "net.addicted" students.
According to Charles Chambers, manager of network services, all the modems are usually busy between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. "It usually starts saturating at 10 p.m., then is solid until 12:30 or 1 a.m.," he said.
Xyplex links modem users to one of the on-campus computer systems. It can be reached by dialing 749-7700. Although any phone number between 749-7700 and 743-7799 will connect to Xyplex, Chambers said there is no reason to call any of the higher numbers.
"If one number is busy, the call will go on to the next one," he said. "If you dial 749-7700 and there is an open line, you will get it. If you dial a higher number, it won't go back to the lower ones, and you might miss an open line down there."
Most of the Xyplex modems are v.32bis modems, which can handle data at up to 14.4 kilobaud, or roughly 14,400 bits per second. Although faster modems exist, Chambers said the computer industry has not yet agreed on a standard for that technology. Of the 144 modems, 48 still operate at 9600 baud.
Of the over 200 computers Xyplex connects to, Chambers said the Jetson cluster is the most popular. Menudo is the second most popular, and several other computers tie for third, although none approach the popularity of Jetson and Menudo.
Chambers said several changes are being considered for the future. The v.34 standard, which will probably be available in November, may be installed on Xyplex as early as January. Chambers also said a security system is being looked at for Xyplex. "Currently, anyone can just log on. We want to have a user name and password for everybody on Xyplex, not just on Jetson and Menudo."
Although such a system would increase security in the UH computer system, Chambers said such a system is unlikely to be installed soon. "There are a lot of issues to resolve before that happens," he said. "It's mostly administrative issues. We have the technology."
As for installing additional phone lines, Chambers refused to say whether it could happen in the future. "It's mostly a budget issue. It depends on what we want to spend our money on."
GILLEY'S FIDDLER STILL FIDDLIN' AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
by Bobby Summers
Daily Cougar Staff
Pasadena (pop. 119,963) is a blue-collar suburban community located southeast of Houston, just outside Loop 610. It is bordered on the north by petroleum and chemical processing plants, and the docks and warehouses of the Houston Ship Channel. On the south, it borders Ellington Field and the Johnson Space Center, to the east lies Deer Park, to the west, South Houston.
Every day thousands of vehicles travel Spencer Highway, one of Pasadena's main drags. Most of the occupants of those vehicles are local people on the way to and from work, taking little or no notice of their surroundings.
But at 4500 Spencer, near the intersection of Spencer Highway and Burke Street, quite a few vehicles slow down as the occupants look at a large vacant lot. Memories of a smoke-filled barroom, dance-floor romances, broken hearts, late-night intrigues, boot-scootin' country music and good times flood their minds as they look at that vacant lot, once the home of Gilley's Club, an internationally known symbol of Texas cowboy culture.
Between December 1989 and September 1991, a series of late-night fires, all eventually ruled to be arson, ravaged Gilley's Club, the adjacent rodeo arena and a recording studio. The fires, and a long and bitter legal battle that began in the mid '80s between entertainer Mickey Gilley and his manager and business partner of 17 years, Sherwood Cryer, wrote a sad final chapter to the incredible story of Gilley's, once reported by the <I>Guinness Book of World Records<P> to be the world's largest nightclub.
The end of the world's most famous country-western club left an aura of mystery to replace the mystique that once surrounded Gilley's. According to employees and regular customers, the club had a spirit of its own no one will ever forget.
One person with especially fond memories of Gilley's is UH student Robert Herridge, a 13-year veteran of the house band at Gilley's. The spirit of Gilley's lives on in Herridge. He still loves country music and the excitement of playing in a "live" band. But most of all, he still loves "fiddlin'."
Herridge, a business major at UH-Clear Lake, joined Gilley's house band, "The Bayou City Beats," in '73 when he was 22. He had previously played a couple of nights at Gilley's with a local country band, but was not looking for a job. A late-night phone call from Gilley's Club owner Sherwood Cryer changed Herridge's life.
"About three o'clock in the morning, Sherwood called me and woke me up," Herridge says. "He said he remembered me playing out there and he wanted to hire a fiddler because fiddling was 'hot' then. I wasn't even looking for a gig. But he said, 'Come over tomorrow and we'll talk about it.'"
After just a short time, Herridge could see that this was not going to be "just another gig."
"It was a great opportunity," he says. "After I worked there about six months, I realized that it was not your 'normal gig.' There was something special about it. It was so unusual. I tell people now that it wasn't a job. It was a 13-and-a-half-year adventure!"
Gilley's gained a good deal of its fame from the movie <I>Urban Cowboy<P>, which was filmed at the club and at several locations in Pasadena during 1980. The movie starred John Travolta, Debra Winger and the Gilley's Club mechanical bull, "El Toro." Many club employees and regular customers joined hundreds of Houstonians as extras in the movie.
Mickey Gilley, singer Johnny Lee and the musicians in Mickey Gilley's road band, "The Red Rose Express," were included in the movie. Herridge was the only member of the house band to appear in the movie. He also arranged the music for the Texas traditional song, "The Cotton-Eyed Joe," which was featured in the movie and the soundtrack album.
<I>Urban Cowboy<P> was released in '81 and is credited with changing the course of country music. It created the atmosphere that allows current artists like Garth Brooks, Reba McIntyre, George Strait and others to "cross over" to an entirely new audience.
"The movie really affected country music," Herridge says. "At that time, country music was at a standstill. <I>Urban Cowboy<P> was a shot in the arm for the country music industry."
Before <I>Urban Cowboy<P>, Gilley's already had big crowds five out of seven nights each week. But after the movie was released, crowds were at overflow level every night. The club was expanded several times to handle the influx.
"Gilley's was already happening. We were getting some national recognition after winning 'Club of the Year' and 'Band of the Year' awards from the CMA (Country Music Association)," Herridge remembers. "But when the movie hit, the club went bonkers! It was an unbelievable situation every night. It was totally incredible, not for just a couple of months, but for a couple of years. It was a phenomenon that I would categorize as musical history."
After the success of the movie, the "in" thing for Houston's high-society crowd was to wear hats, boots and western clothes and to take out-of-town visitors to Gilley's for a night on the town. Every night, the huge, dirt parking lot was jammed with charter buses, limousines, 18-wheeler tractors minus their trailers and hundreds of pick-ups, or "Cowboy Cadillacs."
A small army of Gilley's parking-lot employees made sure every vehicle sported a Gilley's bumper sticker before it left. The stickers were almost impossible to take off without a razor blade and considerable time and sweat.
"Gilley's started opening up at about 11 in the morning," Herridge says. "Tourists were coming by the bus load. Sherwood built a gift shop in the club to sell Gilley's memorabilia and records."
Gilley's Club began in the mid-'60s as a small, open-air icehouse called Shelley's. After Mickey Gilley's first No. 1 hit, "A Room Full of Roses," in '74, the club grew steadily in stature and size. In its heyday, between the mid-'70s and mid '80s, it grew, eventually covering 60,000 square feet and seating 7,900 people.
The club featured live music seven nights a week, dance lessons, live radio broadcasts and a huge game room. Most major country-music artists on tour appeared at Gilley's. Hundreds of people came every night to test their bull-riding skills on "El Toro." The adjacent rodeo arena provided a venue for large concerts and full-scale rodeos.
The success of the enterprise led to its downfall. In '88, Cryer lost his legal battle with Gilley and was ordered to pay $17 million in damages. The club closed its doors for the last time in March '89. Cryer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August of that year. Then came the fires.
Eventually, Mickey Gilley moved his musical operations to Branson, Missouri. The 12-acre site where the club stood went on the auction block in '92 to satisfy unpaid tax bills. The Gilley's Club era finally came to an end.
"It was sad," Herridge says. "Had things not happened like they did, Gilley's would still be here today. It would be a big force in country music. Unfortunately, due to the misunderstandings and differences of opinion between Mickey and Sherwood, it crumbled."
Herridge, perhaps seeing what was coming, left Gilley's six months before the end. He returned to college, taking computer science and business courses at UH.
"I got to the point where I realized that I probably wasn't going to play music for a living all my life," Herridge says. "I just knew I had to have something else to fall back on, even though I love playing music more than anything else in the world. That's still No. 1, no doubt about it!"
Music has always been a big part of his life. He started playing guitar in '60s rock 'n' roll bands when he was 16. He added bass guitar and fiddle when he was 18. The fiddle did not become his primary instrument until he started playing at Gilley's. While he was at Gilley's, he added piano and harmonica to his musical repertoire.
"In the early '80s, after <I>Urban Cowboy<P>, the house band was often seven, eight or nine pieces," Herridge says. "They didn't need me to play fiddle on every song. So to not be bored and to be able to contribute, I would learn to play another instrument."
Gilley's recording studio provided band members with the opportunity to record and release their own records. Herridge released two LPs and four singles. He hit the top of local charts in '79 with the instrumental "Cajun Fiddle," a song written by Don Rich, legendary guitarist with Buck Owens.
"The radio stations played it forever," Herridge says. "For months, 'Cajun Fiddle' was blasting the air waves. Then the stations kept playing it as an 'oldie.' Back then, records stayed on the play list for a lot longer than they do today."
Herridge's peers in the music business are unanimous in their praise for him. Artists like Michael Martin Murphy call Robert to play with them when they come to Houston.
The late Bob Claypool, highly respected music critic for the Houston Post, said, "Robert Herridge is one of the finest young fiddlers in Texas, and is part of a long tradition of truly great fiddle players from the Lone Star State."
Chicago Tribune music columnist Jack Hurst observed, "If you don't like Robert Herridge's fiddling, you don't like fiddling, and if you don't like fiddling, you're too hopelessly high-brow to be worth fooling with."
For his part, Herridge is quiet, unassuming and almost shy. He refuses to take much credit, attributing his success to practice and to fate. He gives much of the credit to his longtime employer, Sherwood Cryer.
"I can thank Sherwood for some of my musical abilities," he says. "He made us work hard. Over the 13-and-a-half years, we played six nights a week and had two four-hour rehearsals each week, whether we needed it or not!"
Today, Herridge is employed by another flamboyant and controversial man, Oscar Wyatt, chairman of Coastal Oil and Gas. Herridge works in the Joint Interest Accounting Department while he attends UH. He hopes to keep working for Wyatt after he graduates.
"Working for Sherwood was always interesting. He kept it that way," Herridge says. "Oscar Wyatt is the same way. They have a similar mindset."
Today, Herridge's musical interests center on recording sessions, playing one or two nights a week, and teaching fiddle and guitar lessons.
Playing in a "live" band is an addiction Herridge just cannot shake. About a year ago, he joined the "Texas Rose Band," the seven-piece house band that plays Saturday nights at the Texas Rose Hall, an 1,800-seat honkytonk in Alvin, just south of Houston on Highway 35.
Joining the TRB reunited Herridge with drummer Terry Westbrook, a nine-year veteran of Gilley's. Westbrook is a studio musician and chief engineer at Limelight Studios in Dickinson. They have been playing music together since Herridge's first pro band.
All the members of the TRB are longtime pro musicians. They all have long lists of credits from recording and touring with major artists. Herridge says the band and the Texas Rose Hall remind him of Gilley's.
"This is the best band I've worked with since I left Gilley's," he says. "The building is very similar to Gilley's. It has much of the same spirit and feeling."
While most professional musicians would probably say something like: "I will quit playing when they pry my cold, dead fingers off of my instrument," Herridge is taking a more realistic approach.
"I'm going to get my degree," he says. "I intend to continue working a 'straight' job and teaching music lessons. But you know what they say about fiddlers 'It's hard to quit fiddlin' around when you're having so much fun!' "
THE DAILY COUGAR TURNS 60 PROUDLY
by Marla Dudman
<I>"Dr. E. E. Oberholtzer, president of The University of Houston, is probably the hardest man on the school staff to see.
"This writer urges all young would-be journalists to try the fire escape or other convenient means to interview Doctor Oberholtzer, rather than through his staff of highly trained personnel.
"...In this modern world of ours, it may seem hard to understand why women cannot have their cake and eat it too. It does not seem impossible for a woman to marry and have a career<P> as a hobby...
<I>"...Dean N. K. Dupree announced at a general assembly Friday night that smoking in the building would not be tolerated. 'I have noticed several of the girls smoking in front of the building,' continued the Dean, 'and I do not approve of this at all. If you girls must smoke, please do it away from the building...'
"'Excuse me, am I on the right campus?' " you ask. 'Am I even in the right time zone?' "<P>
The Daily Cougar is celebrating its 60th anniversary serving the students of the University of Houston.
The preceding actual news quotes are from 1934 editions, when UH first became a four-year college, and E. E. Oberholtzer was named president. UH enrollment was soon at an all-time (at the time) high of 2,000 students, with every expectation from administrators to continue its rapid expansion.
Poetry was a popular column, and even in 1934, the battle cry for womens equality in education and careers was being heard.
"The Cougar" was printed every Friday and featured such columns as "Humor and Rumor," "Advice to the Lovelorn" and "Our College Cutie Says." The paper also featured national and local news along with campus reports.
Cigarette advertising dominated each issue with one-quarter and half-page ads. "Get a lift with a Camel" and "Chesterfields, the smokers cigarette" ads were regularly featured.
By the 1940s, The Cougar was designated as the official student publication and began the task of keeping students informed on World War II events.
Academic defense classes were initiated, and regular black-out drills were practiced on campus. A "War Time" column replaced "The Campus Cutie Says," reporting updates and requirements for enlistment. "Geared to war strategy" became the slogan of the university in January 1942.
The Deans Message, published on the front page of The Cougar, expressed appreciation to all the students for the very fine cooperation they gave in carrying out the black-out and air-raid drills.
He was quoted as saying, "This is the kind of spirit it takes to make a success of our part of the war effort. Lets all make just such an effort to buy savings stamps and bonds. Lets stay in school as long as possible, making every minute count in preparation to do our part in the war effort. "This war requires trained minds and trained leadership. These leaders must for the most part come from our colleges. My advice to both high school and college students is still to remain in school until the country calls. There is then time to enlist for the place where the student is first prepared to serve."
In spite of war concerns, The Cougar began featuring campus sports and engineering news. UH held its first "Fiesta" which was to be the largest event in the history of the university at that time. More than 40 booths were occupied by UH clubs and high school groups, with each booth an individual expression of personal ideas relating to the frontier days in the West and Mexico.
The poetry column was also very popular to students who read the Cougar, according to letters like the following received by the editor: "My prayer like many other maidens is Oh! Lead me beside the full streams where the fish are plentiful and the fishing worthy of the fishermaiden that I may peradventure, find one eligible, who shall rescue me from the hand of Innocuous Desuetude, and usher me into the kingdom of matrimony!
"And this eligible, I wont expect to be perfect, for who can find the perfect husband? The Lord makes the man, but the wife makes the husband. Man is but the raw material on which the woman puts the finishing touches!"
The Cougar surveyed 10 men who said a model wife is one with personality, health and tolerance, a woman who does not smoke, drink or wear slacks was the ideal for one of the men.
In 1945, UH campus enrollment had reached 2,300, second only to the University of Texas in student population in the state. Texas A&M trailed in third place.
Coca Cola was the "get together pause." Joan Crawford was regularly featured in half-page ads promoting Raleigh cigarettes, and Rita Hayworth pushed Chesterfields in alternating issues. Even Dr Pepper showed up in two-column six-pack ads.
Local merchants such as Sakowitz Bros., Foleys Bros., Battlesteins and many others were strong supporters of the university and advertised regularly in The Cougar. The Empire Room of the Rice Hotel was the "Dine and Dance" headquarters of UH party-goers, and many other commercial businesses happily catered to the students, who reciprocated by bringing in both new and regular business judging from the repeat ads.
As the war dragged on, English Professor Charles Hiller encouraged students to keep their sense of humor, saying, "Americas youth has more work to do today than it has ever had, and the labor will be hard because we are soft and not steeled to it. We must maintain a sweet spirit, our invaluable sense of humor and our high ideals during this trip into the valley of the Shadow."
Bold headlines read DEANS QUIT and CHAOS REIGNS AS FAKE SUB IS SPOTTED IN POOL in one '40s issue, causing confusion and angry emotions all over campus.
Deans Naason K. Dupre and L. Standlee Mitchell submitted their resignations to the Board of Trustees, declaring that both the student body and the administration could not be supreme, and because "the deans were outnumbered a thousand to one; the student body was too hot for them to handle."
The fake sub was an April Fool's joke played on the UH population by a fellow student and was merely a conglomeration of soda pop bottles dredged up from the reflection pool. Unfortunately, it looked so much like a periscope from one students distant view that he let out a petrified yell, according to the reporter, that shook up the entire campus.
On Oct. 29, 1945, UH was invited to join a five-college sports league, the Lone Star Conference. The offer included year-round programs in five major sports, including football, basketball, tennis and track. The Cougar supported the teams by introducing a Sports Chatter column, lots of action photography and a feature article introducing the first inter-collegiate UH athletic department.
News in the 1950s covered the Cold War era and commie paranoia. The Cougar added Integrity and Truth in the News to its masthead, and front-page news regularly featured articles on national defense.
The paper also published a student protest letter that read, "Because that which is sordid commands more attention than that which is good, college students today are definitely on the defensive. The white banner of American colleges must look ragged to the beholder.
"The country has been told by newspapers, magazines and movies that we have lost our integrity and our morals, that we thrive on "fixed" athletics, are social snobs, and are carrying on ugly practices even the big ears of the press have not caught but are willing to imagine plausible.
"WE PROTEST...If our elders are sincerely concerned with this supposed degeneration of Americas youth, the logical course of action is the encouragement of the real achievements of American colleges. Too seldom do magazines feature the scientific research, play productions, books, poems, and short stories of college students. THE GENERAL public ought to hear about the contributions the student makes, if they are to hear about the scandals."
The cigarette ads continued, but more local merchants began to advertise like The Donut Hole and Blackstones Jewelers.
Comments like "Politicians usually dont have to worry about food shortages. They eat their words." were published regularly in an opinion column called "The Reflection Pool."
By the mid-'50s, UH students had a brand-new Olympic-size swimming pool that was pictured in The Cougar. Swimming lessons were offered and private parties could be scheduled.
UH also proudly announced the addition of television to its KUHF radio station. No snow in the picture either, according to the article.
The latest gimmick for the '50s was featured in a one-column ad headlined "Sleep Learning, The Revolution in Education." The ad proclaimed that you could literally "sleep your way through college actually learn languages, poetry, prose, tables of numbers, vocabulary words, lecture notes-ALL WHILE YOU SLEEP!" It even included a money-back guarantee. The ad didnt run for very many more issues.
As the sock-hop decade drew to a close, the university sought accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges. The Cougar supported the effort by publishing an article explaining the great opportunity students had to help UH gain stature, primarily through a spirited attitude and good grades. By then, the campus had grown from a classroom in a Baptist Church to 14 permanent buildings on a 274-acre campus.
The Cougar's news editor admonished students to shape up their appearance in a stinging article. He wrote, "Anyone who idealistically holds the image of the scholar as an earnest young man or woman devoted to the pursuit of higher knowledge would find a quick visit to the UH a traumatic experience.
"Crossing the campus, one finds high school styles of dress in flourish. Ducktail haircuts, sideburns, blue jeans worn at a level that gives the appearance that they are about to fall off, and noisy hot-rods painted in the gaudiest and most tasteless manner imaginable are everywhere.
"Can you imagine these students taking part in campus activities or taking advantage of the many plays, lectures and other cultural events that are offered to students at little or no cost? Dont bother to try. They dont. They are under the mistaken impression that they can cover their faults with a college degree and therefore enhance their chances of finding a better job. They care nothing for higher learning."
The Cougar brought on the '60s with Calendar Girl pin-ups each month and articles like "Is Football Bad For Education?" The story asked, "Should higher education and sports be mixed?"
The naysayers bellowed that "it hinders a college education. Why, just look at the recent basketball scandal and the way college football is buying high school stars."
But the real solution to the nationwide college sports vs. education problem came from University of Chicago President Robert M. Hutchins, who said, "When professional football reaches a point in time when people will not pay to see collegiate ball, then we shall be able to disentangle sport and higher education."
In 1962, The Cougar reported that integration plans were being made on Texas campuses. At UH, about 10 black students were enrolled for that fall semester. All of them were in graduate school.
Moving right along into that decade, a Lutheran chaplain sounded off in The Cougar about UH student attitudes. "Perhaps the greatest self-deception," he said, "is the belief that our personal worth is tied up with what other people think about us. Good public relations is the motive power of American business, with some justification. But the depth psychology utilized in modern advertising is not a carefully guarded secret of the trade. It is a well-documented and admitted fact.
"Therefore, it hardly seems honest and salutary to imply that the virility of the young American male student is intricately tied up with the brand of hair oil that he uses or that he is more masculine if he smokes a particular brand of cigarettes. Furthermore, it seems tragic that an institution of learning should have to skim off a small layer of "cream" and separate it into an "honors program" in order to do what a university is supposed to do, that is, to challenge professor and student alike to the best that is in them.
"I have the feeling that it is not primarily a matter of inability, but a lack of resolution and will to perform any higher than is necessary for acceptance by one peer group.
"In fact, it seems to disqualify a person with his gang to become even minimally serious about intrinsic personal values. So one continues to observe flatness of life in the faces of far too many students."
That issue also featured, on the next page, a new ad for The Red Devil Lounge, "The Hottest Spot in Town. All you can drink for $1." And it printed an article for the UH yearbook committee, which was seeking campus beauties for the annual Vanity Fair beauty contest.
More letters to the editor were sent to the paper. The Cougar began devoting nearly a full page to student sound-offs.
A particularly poignant one came from a German student who wanted to comment on an earlier letter from an American student who thought foreign students were being rude when they conversed in their native tongue around the campus. The German student responded, "I had a lot of American friends in my home country, but I never saw two of them who spoke German among themselves. On the contrary, they often tried to make me speak English also, when they had as much experience in my language as I have now in English.
"I think everyone of us foreign students regards speaking English as a simple requirement for class and, of course, to our American friends here. But nobody can demand that I change to Americanism at the very moment of my arrival."
A new column for Greeks appeared in The Cougar informing fellow frat rats and sorority sisters of the latest "whatevers." One issue actually said, "Fraternity pledges are going better than expected this semester. Only five were killed last weekend, two seriously. One is suffering from several broken legs, but for more sports news, see McNabbs (Cougar sports writer's) section.
"A few are still missing from the A&M trip, but they should return any day now. So remember, take the bus, and leave the drinking to us. Everyone wanted to drive; they were too blotto to sing." And fashion news for the sisters, "Some girls are not going to wear their dresses any longer."
UH students were stunned to read in the Nov. 27, 1963, edition that President Kennedy had died. The Nov. 22 issue had just featured a front-page photograph of the president and Jacqueline Kennedy with UH President Phillip Hoffman at Houston International Airport, before going on to Dallas. A full-page memorial in The Cougar followed the tragic news.
It read, "John Kennedy was the idol of the youth of this nation as no other statesman or politician has ever been. The effect of his death was written on the faces of students appearing in television interviews and those on the UH campus. The news hit the office of The Cougar minutes after the assassins bullet struck the president. Students began coming into the office immediately in hopes of getting news firsthand."
One student wrote in his own moving memorial, "John F. Kennedy is not dead. It takes more than the bullets of a crazed assassin to erase John F. Kennedy from the slate of life. Every time an American soldier in Berlin marches down the street, John F. Kennedy is there...Every time a Peace Corpsman rises for his daily task of aiding the hungry and illiterate, John F. Kennedy is there...Every time a man demands his constitutional rights of justice and equality, John F. Kennedy is there."
By the mid-'60s, the Vietnam War was raging and protest songs became popular. Cougar editorials shouted protests against ABC-TV's <I>Hootenanny<P> program for not allowing Joan Baez; Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul and Mary; and other singers of that genre onto the show. They implored KUHT, the on-campus television station, to can the "hillbilly music" in favor of more progressive programming.
Tragedy struck the nation in April 1968 when civil rights activist and humanitarian Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. In a special one-page tribute to King, The Cougar acknowledged that he was a true leader of the common people all common people.
During all his years of marches, sit-ins, protests and rallies, he was denounced by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as a "notorious liar" and condemned by former President Harry S. Truman as a "trouble-maker," yet he always maintained his faith. King said he refused to accept the idea that man is a mere flotsam in the river of life that surrounds him. He refused to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless night of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
Many letter-writers said they recognized King as a prophet who realized early the need for all races to work together in cooperation. King said, "All life is inter-related. We are caught in a network of mutuality. We must all live together as brothers, or we will all perish together as fools."
The first day of classes in September 1967 brought UH student enrollment to 21,278. Cougar headlines read "UC Bulges as Student Flow Reaches Massive Proportions," informing the UC administration of the need for larger dining facilities. A suggestion box was placed in the center for students to make comments to the UC administration.
The Cougar masthead changed again with "Serving the Growth University of the South" as its new subhead. National news was still featured on the front page, this time regarding draft laws and Black Power rallies held in Washington, D.C. Sound Off sessions were held outside during the semester, and anti-draft speakers, Students for a Democratic Society and other students debated the draft issue, sometimes very heatedly.
The Cougar reported one student as saying, "Im 20 years old, Im unable to vote; must I go over and fight and give my life for someone elses freedom?"
Another student was applauded when he said he had served his time in the Army and was proud of it. The rest of the session was spent debating constructive alternatives to the problem of war, particularly Vietnam.
"MARIHUANA BENNETTS TOPIC AT SOUND OFF" was the Oct. 18, 1967, headline of the now-Daily Cougar. According to the article, the Rev. Bennett listened to students questions concerning the recent report suggesting psychedelic drugs were a major factor in the motives of the founders of Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Bennett admitted he didnt know enough about the issue, but went on to say, "Anything that helps people turn on, without doing harm, is of great beneficial value. The trouble with education, as it is today, is it turns off so many people."
Students then demanded that Bennett address himself specifically to the issue of marijuana. Bennett said, "Pot is not as bad as cigarettes and whiskey, according to some scientists, and this cant be ignored."
Norman Cavior, a graduate psychology student who disagreed with Bennett on the use of LSD only with a scientifically qualified person present said, "What a person needs, if he uses drugs, is someone present who loves him, who understands him, and will care for him no matter what the reaction." A Black Mass was also discussed during the Sound Off session and happened on campus in October 1967, and The Cougar was there to report it.
During the latter part of the '60s, no campus, however provincial ordinarily, was able to shut itself off from the dialogue over the war in Vietnam. War and peace demonstrations continued as first one group then another demanded to be heard.
One Daily Cougar weekly column titled "On Nations Campuses" covered the protests, peace torches and flagpole sittings at college campuses across the nation.
Locally, "Campus Chatter" became "Its Happening," informing readers of upcoming campus and club events. <I>Newhart<P> was advertised as the popular TV show.
Parking was apparently a problem then, too. The paper reported that automatic car counters were placed at each of the UH entrances to determine exact figures for new parking lot projections. Students had less trouble finding a parking place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
By 1968, concert dates for The Beach Boys and other popular groups were published in The Daily Cougar, along with bikini and President and First Lady Health Spa ads. The Cougar classifieds, which sometimes took up a full page, featured such hot-selling items as used Volkswagen bugs. The "Letters to the Editor" column changed to "From the People," and poetry readings continued.
In May 1968, The Daily Cougar reported that Mohammed Ali had lost another round in his legal fight to avoid a prison sentence imposed for refusing induction into the Armed Forces. Cassius Clay, who preferred his Muslim name of Mohammed Ali, was convicted on criminal charges by a federal court jury in Houston. He was then stripped of his heavyweight boxing title.
A special guest editorial appeared that said, "Between childhood and second childhood, society watches the emergence of a superhuman, supersensitive, super-idealistic cross-section of the American population the college students.
"They can be found anywhere in meetings, in Houston, in clubs, in Cambridge, maybe even in class. They are found in trouble, in bars, in pain, in love, in combat and usually in debt.
"They are usually in full blossom nights, weekends, after work, between classes, summers, after hours.
"They are as individually different as they are alike.
"Some have bald heads and preach of established church and state and the value of some abstract called 'a college education.' They scorn those who are different, waving their hands in the air and spouting something to do with "right and wrong."
"Some have closely cropped heads and preach of tradition, one-way streets and past laurels. They scorn those who are flexible, shaking hands and shouting something that sounds like 'me too.'
"Some have barely visible heads and preach of individualism, of relationships and of change. They scorn those who ostracize them, throwing up their hands and doubting that anyone understands when they say, I am.
"Some have no heads and preach the loudest.
"Some flagellate between heads as they are touched by moods, by other students, by situations, by God. It is strange that life structure is reflected in anatomy.
"Some students feel inadequate, some superior, some inferior, some complacent, others aggressive, some miserable. But, most important, they feel.
"Some are selfish, some moody, some pushy, others shy, some repulsive, some personable. Some are overbearing, rude or loud. But the important thing is that they are. They are people with feelings.
"Articles are written about, for, against them and their ideals, their fantasies, their problems, their mistakes. They have the right to have them as the writer has to write.
"Students are as individually different as they are alike. They all preach what they believe in, what they think is right for them. They all search for the same things for love, for happiness, for their own ideas of success.
"They only go about the search in a different way. Who is to question the method?"
To close the 1960s era, a report of national black sororities initiating at UH was printed in the Cougar, and news of a proposed multi-campus community college system went to the greater Houston-area voters.
During the "hippie" era of the '70s, a new column appeared. "A Matter of Opinion" voiced students' thoughts on controversial subjects like the legalization of pot as a benefit to the nation. Student enrollment was over 22,000 then with 741 international students on campus from Asia and Latin America. High-noon luncheons were held each Wednesday for foreign students, and several of them were asked in a Daily Cougar interview to give views on their life on the university campus, some of the problems confronted at UH and how they attempted to solve or overcome them.
All of the students referred in some way to their isolation, but showed no bitterness for being left out of campus activities or for their own lack of participation in many of the extra-curricular functions.
Actually, the foreign students seemed to feel that their self-isolation was important to the closeness and togetherness they had among themselves. "We do not care, but wish to stay isolated because no one really cares... . We are happy in our own little group," said a junior engineering major from Peru.
The Summer Cougar published articles on national violence and featured the first of a two-part series titled "NARCOS RAID TEXAS CAMPUSES" in response to the growing drug problem in universities throughout the nation.
During this time, a tongue-in-cheek comic strip called "Doonesbury" by Gary Trudeau appeared regularly in The Daily Cougar along with political cartoons lampooning domestic oil prices and other national concerns of the time.
The newspaper also published an article that reported questionable activities at the Houston Gun Show. It stated that unlicensed transfers of automatic weapons to unidentified individual purchasers on a "cash and carry" basis occurred rampantly at gun shows sponsored by the Houston Gun Collectors Association, and that such illegal action was ignored, and therefore condoned, by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The article also reported that firearms dealers made unrecorded sales of conventional weapons at the Houston Gun Show. Raymond Kroulik, president of the Houston Gun Collectors' Association, denied the allegations in a letter written to the Cougar, and it was published in the paper the following week.
During the mid-'70s, Silva Mind Control was a hot topic and an article appeared to promote its benefits. The UH Psychorientology Studies International Club sponsored a seminar workshop on mind control during one fall semester with a certified mind-control lecturer present.
Classes on speed-reading were advertised, and the Greyhound Bus Service invited students in a two-column ad to leave the driving to them.
In 1975, the legal drinking age was 18, so the UC began allowing mixed drinks in the UH coffeehouses.
The Daily Cougar asked students to "please recycle this paper" in a subhead on the front page of every issue to promote environmental concerns. And Channel 13's Marvin Zindler was scheduled to appear at the UH fall carnival in Peoples Park II. According to the report, a crowd of 25,000 was expected.
More new courses began showing up on campus in the experimental '70s. A Cougar staff reporter wrote about one entitled "Human Sexuality, Marriage and Family." It was better known on campus as "that sex course." The article explained that the class dealt with many areas of sexual encounters, including male-female sex relations, male and female homosexuality, transvestites and sex crimes.
Professor James I. McCary taught the class and said, "Kids think going to see <I>Deep Throat<P> or some other X-rated movie is going to teach them everything they need to know about sex. What I attempt is to provide accurate sexual information, hoping that future generations will not be misconstrued as many in my generation were."
Oct. 28, 1975, Cougar headlines read DISCRIMINATION RULING FAVORS BLACK GREEKS. The UH Organizations Board ruled that the UH chapter of the Panhellenic Council must admit representatives from UHs black sororities as full voting members by Dec. 3 or lose their privileges as recognized campus organizations.
Until that time, black sororities were allowed only associate memberships, which did not include voting privileges on national issues of the National Panhellenic Conference or on local rush procedures.
At that time, six predominantly white sororities and four predominantly black sororities operated on the UH campus.
A black-sorority spokesperson was quoted as saying to the board that separation might have been the answer in the 1950s, but that now was the time to come together. She said sorority sisters could learn from each other and that they needed to work together for a stronger overall organization.
Afro-American studies became popular, and UH offered courses such as "Afro-American History" and "A Survey of African History." The Daily Cougar interviewed Dr. John Indakwa, director of the Afro-American Studies Program. He explained that theses courses endeavored to point out black Americans contributions to America and other civilizations.
He added that studies of black achievers in the fine arts also helped to tear down the myths that black people are lazy and have no history.
"Racism exists because of beliefs in some myths and ignorance of others culture and heritage. When you dont understand each others problems, you end up being suspicious of each other," Indakwa said.
A second purpose of the program was to provide courses in sociology, psychology, economy and politics that examine todays black American community.
Later in the semester, an "Identity Search" column appeared in the paper announcing a planned Chicana Identity Conference. Its purpose was to provide resources and information on workshops dealing with problems unique to the Chicanas.
Though Mujeres Unidas, a Chicana feminist organization, supported the national womens movement, it wanted to focus more specifically on Chicana-related problems like birth-control restrictions in the Catholic Church. However, the workshops were open to all people interested in the Chicana experience.
The workshops dealt with consciousness-raising history, politics, business and labor, the Chicana and the family, and education.
1976 marked the beginning of an outstanding Southwest Conference era for the Cougars.
That same year, Pat Paulsen of Smothers Brothers fame was interviewed by a Cougar staff writer while in Houston for the hit comedy, <I>The Last of the Red Hot Lovers<P>, in which he starred. Paulsen, a professional comedian, had also been a 1968 presidential contender and was quoted as saying during one of his political speeches, "I think that you cant have too much right wing or left wing. If you have too much right wing or left wing, you tend to fly around in circles."
During his campaign, Paulsen also talked about gun control. He said he was against it. "I felt you had to have guns...youll never know when youre walking down the street and youll spot a moose. If you come home at night and find your wife in bed with another man, youll have no time to poison him, youre not gonna say, Would you drink this, sir? No, youll have to shoot him.
"If you want to commit suicide, and you dont have a gun, youll have to beat yourself to death with a stick. So guns are really important to Americans. Ive always felt that we could make a compromise, and we would give everybody a gun and lock up the bullets."
Paulsen got a lot of write-in American votes. He also said he had no qualifications to be a politician.
Dance fever hit the UH scene as the '70s came to a close. Doonesbury was a regular in The Daily Cougar, and coin-operated electric typewriters became available for student use on the third floor, west wing, of M.D. Anderson Library. The new Smith Coronas rented at 10 cents for 15 minutes and 25 cents for 45 minutes. The new IBM Correcting Selectric typewriters cost 25 cents for 20 minutes.
In 1980, The Daily Cougar featured an article on the universitys Day Care Program. Full-time students, faculty and staff were eligible to enroll their children up to kindergarten age.
According to the article, there was already a waiting list for children ages 1 to 4 with an expected waiting period of two to three semesters. It was considered more than just a nursery school because many of the staff members had degrees in such fields as teaching, psychology and child development.
One front-page news article written in 1980 talked about a proposal sent by top UH officials to the director of the Texas State Legislative Budget Board. It stated that all universities and colleges should benefit from the $1.6 billion Permanent University Fund and that the funding should be equitable. At that time, the PUF was open only to the University of Texas and Texas A&M. It also generated about $82 million for the exclusive use of UT and A&M.
In 1981, the SWC football race was close. It was a three-way battle between the Coogs, the Hogs and the Horns. Texas A&M barely had a legitimate shot, and Baylor was considered the dark horse, who ended up in a deadlock 14-14 with the Texas Longhorns, shattering the Cotton Bowl dream for that year.
As the cry of millions of working women, comprised mostly of clerical workers and secretaries, began to be heard during the early '80s, The Daily Cougar reported on a newly formed Houston affiliate of the National Association of Working Women.
Explaining the Houston groups purpose, the article defined the network as an organization committed to the rights and respect of women on the job, with goals to upgrade the status of working women. A spokesperson for the group who was a secretary for 18 years said she had personally seen many secretaries do their bosses jobs better than the bosses did.
One downtown office secretary who was interviewed said she must get her boss's coffee and run out to pick up his lunch. She also had to reserve his tennis courts, mail all his friends birthday cards and shop for annual presents for his entire family, not to mention covering for his whereabouts and taking blame for many of his mistakes. For all her devotion, she said he referred to her as "the girl."
The game of chess was apparently popular on campus then, because an entire column was devoted to strategic moves.
A small pitch for staff members in the Cougar brought enough responses in the early '80s to merit a report in the paper about "Caring." The article stated that this (caring) was becoming a disturbing trend and it looked as though apathy could be on the downslide unless something was done quickly.
The writer went on to say that if apathy died, gratuitous bitching, an art that had made enormous gains in 10 years, would have experienced its birth, Bohemian period, renaissance, then lapse into nostalgic quaintness all within the span of a mere decade.
In the mid-'80s, the Cougar added more pages and began to take on a more polished look. The ads had a more professional appearance, especially the college-loan ads, and even the classifieds reflected a change in types of student jobs available.
Telemarketing and English for Speakers of Other Languages tutoring positions dominated, but in the 'For Sale' section, there was still an ad for a 1964 classic VW Rabbit convertible.
During this decade of greed and navel-gazing, reports of fake Swatch watches and Rolexes circulated the campus, the mystic experience of yoga was advertised and a three-time All-American basketball player returned to UH for a degree in business to prove that there is, indeed, life after sports.
His name was Elvin Hayes. In 16 years, he played the most regular-season games and scored the third most points of any player in NBA history at that time.
In an article he wrote for a special insert, his message to students was clear: Don't be quitters. Care enough about yourself and your future to demand that athletics and education go hand-in-hand.
As campus crime increased, students began aiding police in capturing suspects. One Cougar article written in December 1985 stated that friends got together and nabbed a car thief while he was still sitting in one of their cars. An accomplice who ran away from the scene was chased by both students and police until he was apprehended.
He was then taken to the Harris County Jail, where he faced a third-degree felony charge for burglary of a vehicle. Then-Capt. Frank Cempa of the campus police force praised the residents of Moody Towers for their efforts.
As the holidays rolled around campus, the UH School of Music began hosting a series of off-campus Christmas concerts in addition to the student and faculty performances. Houston residents from West Houston to the Woodlands were treated to the UH Concert Chorale in a program of Christmas Music.
Art shows were also held at various locations throughout the campus. In a one-man art show, Walter Rubin, UH professor of Spanish and Classical Languages, exhibited his works at the University Center Gallery. The Cougar advertised many such expositions.
As the 1980s progressed, the Cougar began devoting an entire page to Houston community entertainment. Titled "Urban Diversions," it promoted such cultural experiences as visits to local museums, theaters and live music events around town. But it didn't stray far from on-campus interests. Album reviews were abundant. ZZ Top and Aerosmith stole the headlines with albums like "Afterburner" and "Done With Mirrors." Joni Mitchell's "Dog Eat Dog" and Elton John's "Ice on Fire" also stirred up the charts.
As Americans around the nation began locking onto every piece of health news the media published, the UH Health Center submitted an article to the Cougar about the dangers of food additives. In "If We Are What We Eat, We May Be in Trouble," Toni Murphy, R.N., explained that the average American meal is largely made up of additives, the most predominant being sugar, salt and corn syrup.
She said other additives are man-made substances designed to preserve the flavor and make the food more appealing, but have no nutritional value.
In 1989, the state began ordering skills tests, and the UH Counseling and Testing Service began developing programs and workshops using the latest in video and computer technology to produce study materials.
Students with up to 66 college credit hours were now required to pass the new basic-skills tests before they could enroll in upper-level courses. The tests were designed to identify students who needed help in reading, math and writing.
Along with all the high-tech and high expectations of the '80s, came ads like the one promoting Sony diskettes. It showed two college students conversing. One said, "No, I've never lost a term paper because of a disk error. But then, I've always used Sony." Quite an upgrade from the 25-cent typewriter of only a few years earlier.
Time continued to move on, and the Cougar kept pace reporting campus news like the clamp-down on harmful hazing in fraternity initiation rites, the treatment of date rape as a real issue and the continuing problem of professors leaving for higher-paying positions elsewhere after they were long tired of waiting for a significant salary increase. The perseverance of the university band in spite of a rickety, leaking building was a case in point concerning the continuing money problems of the administration.
In spite of all the nationwide complaints about students not learning, The Daily Cougar reported that the UH Honors Program was growing and diversifying. It no longer was just a small group of mainly white male engineering students, but now housed a mix of males and females, business, engineering, and humanities and fine arts students, as well as a larger minority enrollment. The number of Hispanics in the program tripled from 1986 to 1987, although black enrollment dropped 1 percent.
Finally, as the 1980s drew to a close, the Iran-Contra report was still a hot issue, the NRA had Charlton Heston on its side in the war against gun control, and George Bush asked us not to read his lips after all.
So here we land in the '90s, the decade of decency, or so they say. Flirting has finally come of age, only this time, it's by computer modem and "the Net." No touchy-feely here, but watch your language or you'll get booted off.
College students have it made. Well, don't we? Computers with erasers, graphics calculators, modems, faxes and pocket phones (not to mention the latest brain-cancer-causing car version) are standard fare among students on campus today, some reports say.
AGGIES TO BE A FRESH START?
New QB, 0-4 mark send Coogs back to drawing board
Pull quote: "(The Aggies) block well, throw well, pass well, run well ... everything. We're hoping to be as good as they are someday."
by Jason Paul Ramírez
Daily Cougar Staff
In some ways, at least, the Houston Cougars are actually starting over.
Senior quarterback Clay Helton, Houston's starting signal-caller for the duration of the season, will get his first collegiate start when the Cougars (0-4) open up their Southwest Conference season against the No. 10 Texas A&M Aggies (4-0, 1-0 SWC) Saturday night.
Kickoff at the Astrodome is set for 7 p.m.
The Cougars desperately need a fresh start since having had a week off to recuperate from a Sept. 24 52-0 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio.
In Houston's first four games, it has been outscored 135-20 and held scoreless since Sept. 10, almost a full month ago.
"The Aggies are so much better than Ohio State, it's scary," Houston head coach Kim Helton said earlier this week.
The Aggies lead the conference in passing, rushing and total defense and are eighth, third and seventh, respectively, in the nation in those categories.
"They are a high-pressure, bump-and-run football team," Helton said of A&M. "When you go into the game, you're playing against Buddy Ryan's defense. You know you're going to get hit."
Conversely, Houston is dead-last in the SWC in total offense, and only four other teams in the country have had a harder time moving the ball.
In other words, the younger Helton should have his work cut out for him.
"It's a great chess match for the quarterback," coach Helton said. "If he does everything right, you still have to block them (the line). The two corners (junior Ray Mickens and sophomore Donovan Greer) are outstanding."
The Aggie "Wrecking Crew," led by Dick Butkus Award candidate Antonio Armstrong, has produced 42 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (10.5 per game) and 22 quarterback sacks (5.5) through its first four games.
Armstrong has contributed for 12 of the losses on tackles and five of the sacks.
"No. 56 (Armstrong) is a grown man," Clay Helton said. "I'll have to take five steps back and get rid of the ball.
"No. 24 (Mickens) and No. 27 (Greer) are great football players," he added. "There's not any better man-to-man coverage in the country."
"All quarterbacks function with time," coach Helton said. "We have to be able to block people against A&M for him (Clay) to function properly."
Though A&M's defense is "still the 'Wrecking Crew,' " at least Armstrong has said so this year, the Houston running game hasn't been wrecking much except its average-per-carry.
Despite the solid performance of sophomore running back Jermaine Williams (253 yards and a five-yards-per-carry average), the rest of the Cougars have run for a total of 133 yards. As a team, Houston averages a mere 2.7 yards on the ground.
The Aggies do not have that problem, however, and their offense might be almost as punishing as their defense.
Runners Rodney Thomas and Leeland McElroy have combined for 639 yards rushing and have a total of nine touchdowns to their credit.
"Their offense is the running back (McElroy)," coach Helton said. "Outside of the one in Washington, (senior Napoleon Kaufman), he's the best one I've seen."
In addition to his ground game, McElroy led the nation in kickoff returns a year ago and is averaging 48.8 yards a return this year, though he has only four returns.
"(The Aggies) block well, throw well, pass well, run well... everything," coach Helton said. "We're hoping to be as good as they are one day."
With A&M's strong running game, the Aggies could very well enjoy their best outing of the season Saturday. The Cougars are giving up an average of 275.3 yards per game on the ground.
<I>ED WOOD<P> ANOTHER BIZARRE BURTON FILM
Stars: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau
Pull quote: Filmed entirely in black and white, <I>Ed Wood<P> chronicles Edward Wood's bizarre life as director, visionary and cross-dresser.
(below) B-film director Ed Wood, played by Johnny Depp, confesses his desire to be intimate with girlfriend Dolores Fuller, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, in <I>Ed Wood<P>.
(right) Director Bela Lugosi, played by Martin Landau, is befriended by Ed Wood, neither of whose directorial careers ever took off.
Photos by Suzanne Tenner/Touchstone Pictures
by A. Colin Tangeman
In all his films, director Tim Burton has displayed an affinity for the strange. From <I>Edward Scissorhands<P> to <I>Batman<P>, Burton's stories have dealt with the plight of the misunderstood with empathy and intelligence. His latest feature, <I>Ed Wood<P>, the story of one of Hollywood's most eccentric directors, is no exception.
As a director, Edward D. Wood Jr. (played by Johnny Depp) was responsible for a handful of B-grade 50s horror films, including <I>Bride of the Monster<P> and <I>Plan 9 from Outer Space<P> films that featured latex aliens and plastic flying saucers suspended by wire. A cult hero to some, Wood's unique vision garnered him the dubious title of Worst Director of All Time.
Filmed entirely in black and white, <I>Ed Wood<P> chronicles Wood's bizarre life as director, visionary and cross-dresser. On a quest for artistic recognition, the film follows Wood as he seeks out studio-backing to finance his unique film vision.
Depp's convincing portrayal of Wood adroitly conveys the singularity of purpose with which Wood pursued his dream of film-making. Depp plays Wood with charm and sincerity, and it is easy to be swept away by this eccentric director's misguided vision.
What is equally compelling about this film is the depth and believability of the supporting cast. At first glance, the people Wood attracts and surrounds himself with are dead ringers for the Addams family. This odd assembly is further complemented by Bill Murray's hysterical portrayal of intellectual transvestite Bunny Breckenridge.
The power and success of <I>Ed Wood<P>, however, lies not in its humor, but in the touching relationship between Wood and Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau).
When Lugosi and Wood meet, Lugosi's days of fame as Dracula have evaporated under the sun. The hero Wood worships has become a bitter old man with a morphine addiction. But Wood's respect for Lugosi never falters, and the complex development between the two entertainers is very affecting.
Wood made films of childish fancy. He told tales of devious space aliens and scientific mutations gone awry. Burton's <I>Ed Wood<P> is a compelling homage to this wayward film director.
TEXAS BAND NIRVANA-WANNABE
Fort Worth-based band the Toadies performed at the Abyss Oct. 2, promoting its newest release, <I>Rubberneck<P>.
Photo by Michael Lavine/Interscope Records
by Terri Garner
Daily Cougar Staff
Who looks like Nirvana, sounds like Nirvana and probably even "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? It's the Toadies, Fort Worth's contribution to the alternative rock 'n' roll migration, whose musical concept reminds the listener of a 10-car pile-up on I-45: lots of screaming, punctuated with sounds of crushing metal, blaring horns and cursing motorists, probably the derivative of the title of their debut release, <I>Rubberneck<P>, on Interscope Records.
The Toadies hail from Fort Worth and began as a TCU frat-party cover band, Gunga Din.
After a couple of grass-roots efforts, the band has become a favorite in the Dallas Metroplex music scene. Enter Interscope Records and Andy Wallace (Nirvana, Helmet, Soul Asylum, etc.).
The band has potential for an original sound in songs like "Mexican Hairless" and "Mister Love," which are meshed together into a cluster of machine-gun guitar riffs and screaming vocals, leaving the listener wondering, "What was that?"
There are only a few songs out of this 11-track release that are worthy of this Texas band's reputation, contrary to what the producers would like the general public to believe.
Todd Lewis, lead vocalist, has a soul-piercing singing ability and when given the musical freedom, can milk a poetic line for every drop it's worth, this being particularly evident in the acoustic release, "I Burn," with its haunting lyrics, "Smoke is freedom, flame is mercy, I'm free tonight, I burn."
Cuts like "Possum Kingdom" and "Away" are the best chance the Toadies have for mainstream-radio air play, with Lewis' true vocal potential shining through. "I Come From the Water" is stylistically noteworthy as the band blends grinding guitar riffs and thumping back-beats that support the song instead of drowning out the vocals, thus creating an almost bluesy Credence Clearwater Revival sound.
The dominating disappointment of <I>Rubberneck<P> is its assault on the ears, with Todd Lewis' vocal-chord-ripping screams backed by a thudding bass and superficial drum solos.
The Toadies are promoting the national debut of <I>Rubberneck<P> with a 15-city tour, playing in Houston last Sunday at the Abyss.
The Toadies have potential to be one of the great Texas bands, but should stick with its roots to ensure a place in the rock 'n' roll market and protect against being rubber-stamped as a Nirvana-wannabe.