Michael Berry's Dead Osama Pep Rally
Early yesterday, Michael Berry, the former Boy Wonder of Houston politics turned radio rabble-rouser, sent out a press release plugging a "Houston Celebration: Osama Bin Laden Dead." The event would be later that day at Hefley's, a Texalicious bar/BBQ joint in what used to be Freedmen's Town. The event would be starting at four and Berry would be gracing us with his presence at 5:30, the release said, and he wanted it known that this was to be a NON-PARTISAN event. (Caps his.)
Photos by John Nova Lomax Wheels fit for a celebration.
He then closed his communiqué with a slam at Sheila Jackson Lee. So much for the nonpartisanship, but bless his heart, that's just a reflex for him. As Hunter S. Thompson trained his dog to attack on hearing the word "Nixon," as Chief Inspector Dreyfus would degenerate into a cold-sweating bundle of tics and spasms at the mere mention of Inspector Clouseau, so it goes with Michael Berry and Sheila Jackson Lee. Berry seems unable to go 500 words without nipping at her expensively, if not tastefully, shoed heels.
Turns out that dead Osama pep rally was a much more subdued affair than we thought it would be. In fact, it was so subdued that the perpetually irascible KTRH grouser showed up over an hour and a half after he said he would, which was about an hour after most of the media, including Hair Balls, had already lost interest.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. We had to be there. This was history.
And we went expecting to see vengeful, drunken mobs like the ones we saw pictured in New York and Washington overnight Sunday. What we found instead was a slightly militarized happy hour with deafening AM radio providing the audio.
There was less a sense that we were attending the aftermath of a public execution of a very bad man than there was a sense of relief, a feeling like that in the days after Hurricane Rita swerved east.
Bud Light and an "Osama Dead" T-shirt: Ain't that America?
At about 5 p.m., from half a block away, the event looked promising. The parking lot was studded with the masts of three or four TV vans. A company called Big Fat Freedom was handing out T-shirts bearing Osama's likeness with a red X through it and the single word: "Terminated." (Another shirt read "God Bless Arizona," so there goes that nonpartisan thing again.)
Before they switched to a live feed of Berry's show, the jukebox was kicking out country, blues and classic rock jams. (Naturally, we did not escape without hearing the obligatory dose of Lee Greenwood's stomach-churning "proud to be an American" song.)
All that was missing was the turnout. The five or six cops on hand were supremely bored, and the dozen or so reporters had to fight over people to interview. (In fact, I wasted my first interview questioning a guy at the bar inside who turned out to be a freelance photographer there to do his own story. For the record, he thinks Osama's death was a good thing, and he is glad it happened.)
Meanwhile, all the flat-screens in the bar were tuned to Fox News, and George Thorogood's Delaware Destroyers were rumbling through their cover of John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillun." As I read for the first time details of Operation Geronimo, the fateful raid, as the news-scroll unspoiled tidbits like the choppers descending and disgorging 24 fast-roping Navy Seals, I couldn't help but feel a surge of testosterone.
In all seriousness: America! Fuck yeah, baby!
Energized, I spoke to B. Lee Frazier, a 69-year-old white guy sitting alone at a table outside. Frazier said Osama's death was long overdue, and he was shocked that it had finally happened. I didn't bring up Obama, but Frazier broached the subject for me. "I don't make judgments," he said. "I give credit to whoever was in office."
By this time, Berry's show was getting beamed into the bar. Berry was saying that Obama should have called George W. Bush and given him credit for never forgetting about 9/11. WTF?
And today wasn't about presidents anyway, Berry continued, it was "about the brave men and women in our armed forces." He said that many of them would be at this event and we should buy them a beer and show them our support. I didn't see any, yet.