1. The 2002 National Cancer Survivors Day Luncheon celebration was hosted by the Friends of CanCare. The annual luncheon is more of a spirit raiser than a fund-raiser for those who’ve been affected by cancer. The event raised more than $10,000 for the cancer support network. This year’s guest speaker was actress and cancer survivor Barbara Barrie, who starred in the NBC sitcom “Suddenly Susan.” Pictured (l to r) are: CanCare board member Jane Lehto, CanCare president Nancy Tucker, Barbara Barrie and luncheon chair Cathy Harris.
2. The Covenant House Texas Guild put on another record-breaking event at the Westin Galleria Ballroom with this year’s spring gala, “Mosaics and Mirrors.” A crowd of more than 700 attended the big event, which brought in more than $420,000 for Covenant House Texas, an emergency crisis shelter for homeless and runaway teens. Pictured (l to r) are: Dana Strake, CHT board chairman George W. “Trey” Strake III and CHT executive director Ronda G. Robinson.
3. She’s making her way to the top of the charts and all over the country. Latin singing sensation Shakira sported a ripped “Led Zepplin” T-shirt when she stopped by the 104 KRBE studios to visit the morning show. She chatted about fame, fortune, her new single, as well as her U.S. tour that included a concert in Houston. Pictured (l to r) are: KRBE’s Lesley Brotamante, Tracy Austin, Shakira, Leslie Whittle, Epic Records’ Mark Neiderhouser and promotions coordinator Tony Bracy.
4. Close to 500 guests gathered in the garden at Sally and Nathan Avery’s home to honor Josephine Powell Smith and to help raise money for Teach For America. Smith has worked hard to help children growing up in low-income communities get a good education. Teach For America founder and president Wendy Knopp came in from New York to recognize Smith’s contributions in the Houston area. Pictured (l to r) are: Kara and Ray Childress. Photo by: Jeff Fitlow
5. It was an action-packed grand opening for Community National Bank in Bellaire. Highlights included performances by cheerleading squads, a flag ceremony and dance routines by the Bellaire Belles. Bellaire City Council member Cynthia Siegel presented a proclamation declaring “Community National Bank Day.” Pictured (l to r) are: bank president Randy Dobbs, Channel 13 consumer reporter Marvin Zindler and CNB CEO Frank G. Cook.
6. The National Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners awarded Houston’s own Page Parkes-Eveleth from the Page Parkes Corp. with its highest honor. Parkes-Eveleth was named 2002 Business Owner of the Year. For 21 years, the Page Parkes Center of Modeling and Acting has been a household name both locally and nationally in the fashion and commercial industry. Pictured (l to r) are: Todd Ramos, Shannon Fergason, Tabitha Pagel, Page Parkes-Eveleth, Michelle Rogers, Myrna Phillips and Rachel Duran.
In Your Face
by Roger Gray
As Comebacks Go, We Prefer Pam Grier’s –
Like failed baseball managers who keep inexplicably finding work, defeated candidates keep reappearing on the Houston political scene like electoral Freddy Kruegers to remind us how thin the statesman herd is. The latest: Orlando Sanchez, whose work ethic is on a par with your average highway department employee, has announced his second kamikaze mission for mayor. And Sylvester Turner, for crying out loud, is in as well! Presuming he has settled on a home address and gender selection, there is still that voice and demeanor that resemble your 10-year-old son copping a plea after feeding the neighbor’s cat an M-80. Hell, let’s throw in Kathy, Fred and Louie. If it’s going to be a reunion, let’s make it a truly bizarre one.
I Did Try a Tax Dodge Once, but Never Inhaled –
As I write this, we are knee-deep in the mid-summer political mud fest, and it is certainly time to ask, what the hell were Democrats thinking with Tony Sanchez? I know, no one is perfect, but his running battles with the IRS over questionable banking practices couldn’t have shown worse timing. In an era where the public is showing disgust with the kind of financial game of twister that we’re seeing among CEOs, here’s Tony S. speaking out for the little guy while, according to the Feds, keeping more sets of books than the Publisher’s Clearing House. Add to that an explanation for his Vietnam deferment that makes Bill Clinton sound like honest Abe. Rick Perry may have all the political substance of meringue, but he’s on cruise control for now.
And to Present the Political Integrity Award to James Traficant – Tony Soprano!
I mentioned a while back that our own political superfund site, Tom DeLay, was given the “Distinguished Christian Statesman” award by some nutlog group. Well, the other night I watched the James Madison Award ceremonies on C-Span, and sharing the award for defense of free speech were Tommy-boy and Sen. Mitch McConnell, whose passionate arguments in defense of legalized corporate-political bribery were enough to make John McCain miss the Hanoi Hilton. Thank heaven Madison is long gone. Watching these two walking definitions of the term “political hack” wax eloquent on how the founding fathers would oppose campaign finance reform would have resulted in a flintlock-related Vince Foster situation. My jaw returned to its normal position when I saw the head of this free-speech group. Former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese was the presenter, which makes this group the equivalent of the Ted Kennedy Driving School.
If We Move to Rail, it Means the Terrorists Have Won –
In a DeLay-related matter, it’s worth noting that Dallas has just expanded its light-rail system into the suburbs. While still limited, the system up in Big-D (and on this subject they grudgingly deserve the sobriquet) is expanding and serving more and more riders. And more to the point, they seem to understand that, metaphorically, you walk before you run. I have to wonder out loud, who is on the take here? Some of our leading political and business lights can’t be that dumb!
Pulitzer Wept –
I took the Chronicle’s Shelby Hodge to task last month for her role as toady-in-chief to the Enron gang. Well, in July, Bill Murphy took up the mantle as he wasted Lord knows how many trees explaining how tough life is for the disgraced execs at that steaming pile left on Houston’s doorstep. His opening line? “Taking the kids fishing, attending civic club meetings, relaxing at the beach house. Such are the mundane activities that now occupy the days of the three men who ran one of the country’s most high-flying companies, Enron Corp., before it imploded last year.” What followed was the most embarrassing piece of PR since Pat Buchanan went to bat for an ex-Nazi. Perhaps Bill might consider a look at the lives of the employees who were shafted in this debacle. “Taking the kids to day care she can’t afford, collecting unemployment, relaxing at her computer posting her resume on Monster.com. Such are the mundane activities that now occupy the days of hundreds who once worked at one of the country’s most high-flying?” This was one more nail in the journalistic coffin of what once was a decent paper. Seems there have been too many lunches at La Griglia for Chron execs and not enough reflection on what is important.
Kim France Got Lucky – Magazine, That Is
Former Houstonian writes her way into unique women’s fashion mag
by Jessica Rossman
Admit it. Lucky magazine is your favorite new women’s fashion magazine. Just admit it. It’s OK. It’s everyone’s favorite. Launched last year to widespread skepticism and even a scoff or two, Lucky is a magazine darling. And it has become so without any of the standard bells and whistles on which its competitors rely. The magazine covers, for instance, don’t feature the model du jour or the hottest new starlet. It doesn’t feature articles with saucy suggestions for your love life or secrets to a flat tummy. Nor does it explore the issues of today’s young modern woman or offer advice on improving your relationships. In fact, it doesn’t really have, well, articles.
But it does have straightforward, no-bones-about-it shopping and lots of it. Lucky has done what no other magazine has had the guts to do: It ‘fesses up. This magazine acknowledges that its purpose – its very reason for existence – is to sell stuff, plain and simple. This, of course, is the purpose of all of its competitors, as well. What sets Lucky so brilliantly apart from the rest is that its competitors aren’t being as upfront about it with readers. Traditional fashion magazines dress themselves up as magazines about issues, such as improving your love life or how to be a better boss at the office, when deep down inside, all they really want to do is get readers to go buy what they see. Lucky is honest about it. It sheds the disguise of being about issues and stands naked as a tool to help you spend your money, laying out for its readers pages of would-be must-haves with the contact information for where to buy them right next to each item, not buried in tiny print in the last few pages of the magazine. It even unabashedly includes a page of “Yes!” and “Maybe” sticky-tabs to mark your potential acquisitions as you browse. It is fiendishly, brilliantly, preposterously materialistic.
So who is the devilish mastermind behind this bold concept? Who, in other words, do we all have to thank for this? Kim France, a Houstonian turned New Yorker, is the shopping guru and media revolutionary behind the magazine that Adweek recently named the “Launch of the Year.” As editor-in-chief, France finds herself at the helm of a national magazine with a circulation of 800,000. And the best part is that she didn’t even really plan it.
What France had planned to do was to become a writer. And she did. And even though the idea of moving to New York City at first “terrified” the young Texan, she took the Big Apple by storm. She soon was writing for the Village Voice, interviewing rock stars for Spin and Rolling Stone and reviewing books for The New York Times. In 1990, she started her climb through the ranks of some of the hottest national and regional magazines. As a staff writer for Sassy, she became an expert on a new music phenomenon we know today as rap. At Elle, she solidified her expertise as an entertainment writer by heading up the entertainment section of the magazine. As a senior editor and then deputy editor of New York magazine, she reinvented Cue, the weekly magazine’s popular guide to New York nightlife, dining and fashion. She wrote about fashion and nightlife and got paid for it. Life was good.
But life would get even better. After a two-year stint as editor-at-large for Spin, France was hankering for an inspiration. She was in her 30s, and covering concerts “where everybody there was 18” had grown old. France had matured as a person and felt that her writing should keep up. It was time for a change. As she sums it up, “I basically didn’t know what I wanted to do.” She also didn’t know that New York’s fashion director, Jade Hobson Charnin, an “impossibly glamorous creature,” according to France, was talking about her to Conde Naste Publishing. Conde Naste, it turned out, was looking for someone to launch a new fashion magazine. Out of the blue, Conde Naste called. Would she be interested in conceiving of, launching and running a brand-new fashion magazine?
“No” was her first response. France thought the proposal was near ridiculous. She was a writer, after all, not an entrepreneur. She skeptically agreed to think about it. The result is Lucky.
She launched it, she runs it and she enjoys the hullabaloo it stirs up. Lucky has been both heralded as the most honest fashion magazine in the industry and criticized for being a shallow, glorified catalog. France’s philosophy is straightforward, “Lucky isn’t about trying to, say, find the cure for cancer. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about that. It just means that we are about something else.” And that something else is shopping.
That’s one big “Yes!” sticky-tab for Lucky.
Marketing Sports Memories For Worthy Causes
Tri Star takes sports memorabilia to next step
One of the best things about attending the Astros’ Wives Gala is that it offers an opportunity to rub shoulders with our boys of summer. It’s always fun to recognize the big players and to try to determine who everyone else is. Another super-cool feature of the event is the one-of-a-kind baseball memorabilia that is available in both silent and live auctions. Last year, I picked up an autographed pair of spikes. They are held prominently on display at my home.
But really cool sports memorabilia isn’t exclusive to Astros fund-raising events. In fact, more and more select items are popping up on the auction block of social soirees all over town. Now you can purchase an autographed jersey of your favorite player and help your favorite charity. What a great combination.
Just Another Day at the Office
At the forefront of this creative fund-raising wave is the local company, Tri Star Productions. The folks at Tri Star have the jobs that the sports fans in all of us wish we had. They hobnob day and night with sports stars most of us never have access to. Well, at least this is my take. They say it isn’t so, but the day I visited them, David Carr, the rockin’ quarterback for the Texans, was at the office signing autographs.
In an unassuming way, he sauntered into the office, sat down and signed several hundred pieces of memorabilia. It was all very methodical and surreal, like a factory. He signed pictures, hats and, of course, footballs. Although he signed nearly 500 items, he was out of the office in less than 30 minutes.
This type of signing event is really no big deal for Tri Star Productions President Jeff Rosenberg. Rosenberg, who founded the company in 1987, has contracts with athletes all over the country to distribute autographed memorabilia. When the business began, the main focus was producing collectible shows nationwide. There’s a big one at the George R. Brown each year. Now, Tri Star’s business has expanded to representing players, booking them for corporate events and distributing memorabilia.
All This – and in Houston?
“We started regionally and grew to develop a national presence. Houston is a nice launching point,” says Rosenberg. “The population of Houston is pretty representative of what’s going on in the country. Sports is a very regional industry. David Carr, who was in the office today, is the thing in Houston, Texas, but he doesn’t resonate nationally like he does here.
“On the other hand, we have stars with national appeal that come from Houston. Stars such as Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwan are names we all recognize.”
So how does a person know how much to bid at a charity auction? “If you’re bidding for charity, you really have to do what your heart tells you,” says Rosenberg.
“There aren’t really any price guides for signed memorabilia. Some people have tried, but it’s really difficult to pin down prices. You can go to our Web site to find what true retail is. The truth is, at an auction, items go for a lot higher than retail price because people are buying with their hearts. They want to help this charitable organization, and it would be great to take something home. My wife and I always make it a point to take something home. One, we want to have a memory of the event, and we want to help that charity. It’s a win-win situation.”
Rosenberg says they try to create some unique things in the auction that you can’t buy anywhere else. For example, several items might be grouped together, perhaps an autographed item from every starter on the championship Rockets team. The message here is pay attention, he says.
Rosenberg and his crew are just doing what many have been doing for years. “People were buying memorabilia (at our shows) and donating the items to auctions. Now, we make it easy for the charity because the charity can contact us directly.”
All This and Motivation, Too?
Corporations have also found creative uses for memorabilia. Items can be used as incentives to give to salespeople and customers. “People are always trying to do something different,” says Rosenberg.
So, instead of winning a set of golf clubs, the top salesperson just might win Astros tickets and a personalized, autographed picture of Jeff Bagwell. Imagine what that is worth to a sports fan.
“You can’t put a price on it as a gift. And most people don’t know what the value is. The perceived value of the signed item is typically much more than the cost to the corporation,” says Rosenberg. Besides, it can be a very personal gift, and the recipient will always remember who gave it to them. ih
To our stockholders:
I call you “stockholders” since, as residents and taxpayers in Houston, you, in effect, own stock in this corporation, the City of Houston, Inc. In the same vein, as mayor, I am the city’s “CEO.” Perhaps it is this similarity that has prompted a few of you, well, more than a few – by actual count, almost everyone – to ask whether I would follow the lead of major U.S. corporate executives and sign a form affirming the honesty of the city’s accounting methods and findings.
Let me state unequivocally that only wild horses could drag me away from signing such a letter. But first let me explain a few items in the attached financial statement for this fiscal year that may cause confusion. The item “mayor’s travel,” which so far this year comes to less than $750,000, was for city-connected business. Studying solid landfills in Napa Valley proved most constructive as did investigating mass transit around Monaco. In a related matter, because of our bid to land the Olympics within the 21st century, I am checking out the competition in western Europe, Palm Springs and several Caribbean islands.
The item “fender bender” for $889.50 was also a city expense in that the accident occurred when I was out, on my own time, looking for “bandit signs,” which we see around town advertising everything from aluminum siding to computer lessons. As you will recall, I made the cornerstone of my last campaign ridding Houston of such visual blights. Those signs stuck in the medians are so distracting we can hardly see the billboards.
There is no point in going over “elocution lessons” since that expense has been thoroughly explained that it helped me speak good. The cost of the mayor’s police escort and bodyguards is not to be made public for security reasons. The item “resume writers” is being revised since the spell check broke. Under “mayor’s office expenses” you will notice that we have accounted for every order for pencils ($32.10), paper clips ($11.88) and erasers ($17.00). The item “miscellaneous supplies ($2.3 million)” is proper under usually accepted accounting principles, which are followed by several major corporations, according to federal subpoenas.
Other items are self-explanatory, such as “fixing potholes – $45.60,” “water pipe maintenance – $89.33” and “the really big picture of the mayor at Bush Intercontinental – $58,500.” The item, “Christmas party – $97,000” is being looked into as is “Kmart Raid – $11,500 with 20 percent off.” All in all, our expenses seem to be somewhat higher than expected, perhaps doubled.
By amortizing the overall under capitalization of the misaccounting factor, I have just learned that a few of our financial statements may be leaning more toward AOL than IBM and could involve the FBI.
As for income, it appears to be slightly below our predictions, roughly by $400 million, but how were we to know Minute Maid’s naming rights would go to the baseball park instead of the Main Library? It was not included in our $40,000 study. Also, our projections on coin-operated police sirens proved overly optimistic. This income shortfall is because the city budget was passed while I was at a conference in Aspen. Had I been here, such smoke and mirrors would not have been used.
As with many other Fortune 500 companies, the city has recently discovered some slight accounting errors. For example, we counted the tax collections from 2004 to 2008 as current income. Also, we may have to re-state earnings for the last 15 quarters. If this happens again, I am going to reduce the annual bonuses in the City Finance Department.
The gap between the city’s income and outgo is still being tallied, although my budget office says the amount will be “stupefying,” which must be an accounting term. Still, we have to put these problems in their proper perspective and realize that we are not alone, as I was telling a grand jury only last week.
But back to the question of whether I will sign a statement attesting to the honesty and accuracy of the city budget. My answer is an emphatic “Probably!”
Lee P. Brown
P.S. Late expense – $490 for wild horses ih