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Spare a Dime, Dah-ling?

Fashion shows in area clubs go philanthropic

One night not too long ago at the now-defunct Lava Lounge, a stream of young and impossibly thin guys and dolls strode snobbishly down a makeshift catwalk. They walked in time to the beat of acid jazz and modeled some designer duds. Onlookers appeared spellbound. The whole thing was all so, so, so superficial.

Yet unlike your typical Milanese or Parisian fashion show, this one -- and others like it throughout the city -- has served (gasp!) another, deeper purpose: charity.

Take the weekly gargantuan Thursday-night affair at Prague (402 Main). The show, which debuted at the end of August, rounds up designers and retail outlets to help various charities, including the SPCA, DiverseWorks and Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS. People have flocked.

Club owners, promoters and organizers are often determined to lift something meaningful out of the flashiness. Gregory Perrin, director of development at AIDS Foundation Houston, points to a fashion show last year in which Spy (112 Travis) collaborated with the Versace clothing line. The two groups contributed $14,000 and some change to the foundation. "Any establishment or club or person who wants to do that comes to us," Perrin says, explaining the process, "or any [other] nonprofit, even an arts organization as well." The organizers usually have two motivations (not mutually exclusive) in approaching organizations like AIDS Foundation Houston: to make a generous donation to a worthy group and to get people in the club's door. "People are more apt to pay," Perrin says, "if somebody's gonna be benefiting."

Getting folks to the club is key. One of the clothing providers for the Prague event is Erotic Cabaret, which has also supplied durables for shows at Spy, City Streets (5078 Richmond) and the Mercury Room (1008 Prairie), among others. Dick Wills, co-owner of the shops, says that despite the fact that many clubs are looking to exhibit a hip, international flair via these shows, most like to keep the clothes on display accessible -- ya know, shit that would make Kate Moss look frumpy. "The clothes that we dress the models in," he says, "are clothes that we sell every day off the rack."

Keeping folks interested is even harder than getting them through the door. Zack Truesdell, co-owner of the underground club Rehab (709 Franklin), has held a fashion show or two in his digs, and says the organizers must always think of patrons first. Customers are ready to riot if the clothes aren't desirable or the models attractive or the music appropriate. "If it's not a good fashion show," says Truesdell, "then it loses the crowd pretty quick."

Wills says these shows are basically win-win deals. "If it's a charity, I want [patrons] to walk away with [an understanding of] what the whole night was about," says Wills. "But I want them to walk away with [the idea of] coming back to my store and buying my clothes." Of course.

Last CallRun-DMC is the big-name headliner for "Infrastructure 2000," a massive throwdown at the Funplex (13700 Beechnut) on Saturday, September 16. More than a chance to see faded rap stars, the event also will offer audiences an opportunity to catch local and visiting DJs and PA crews. Philadelphia's Joshua Ryan, Toronto's the Stickmen and the all-over-the-place team of Skylab 2000 are scheduled to entertain, along with local favorites Kung Fu Pimp, Brotha Jibril, Audio 3, Rebel Crew and Groove Matters. For more details, call (713)226-2511.

If that seems too damn far out, head to the closer-to-home Club Waxx (1601 Leeland). On the same night, the venue is hosting a little downtown get-together called "Bloom." Miami's Mike "Da Mooch" Mucci and Dallas's Brad Denton will be appearing, as well as the usual dollop of hometown flavor from the likes of BMC, Chris De La Rosa and the oddly named Christopher Calicott is DJ Licious. The info line is (713)789-0690, and the Web site is www.pureplush.com.

 
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