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Learning to (Pub) Crawl

Teen nights prepare the next generation of ballas and ballettes

On a recent Saturday night, Hannah Owen and her cousin Orla sit outside a dance club waiting for their ride. It's a familiar scene: Two girls ready to call it a night after an evening of rewarding nocturnal entertainment at their favorite nightspot. But there are a couple of things particularly askew, if you will, in this instance. For starters, Hannah and Orla are under 18. Now, before you start going off on how today's youth is going to hell in a handbasket, keep in mind that the venue they just spent the evening at, Club Storm(1801 Dairy Ashford), just happens to cater to the underage crowd.

If you ask the two girls, who happen to hail from Ireland (Hannah's dad works for an oil company here), they much prefer spending their time in this place instead of trying to sneak into a "mature" club. "It's kind of hard to find clubs that are kind of like teen-something, you know what I mean," says 15-year-old Hannah. "And it's nice to go there and have people your own age -- I like that." The same thing goes for her 16-year-old cousin, visiting from the homeland. "There's no alcohol here," says Orla about Club Storm. "In Ireland alcohol is served, so like a lot of people like to be drunk or whatever. So it's better here." (Hey, she said it, not us!)

That kind of talk is music to Edwin Dean's ears. As manager of the hip-hop/dance/pop club that caters to the 14- to 18-year-old set, he loves it when kids appreciate what Storm is trying to accomplish in Houston nightlife. Says Dean, "It is kinda cool that we have a place where so many kids can come and relieve some of their everyday frustration, have fun, whatever." Since its opening last December, Storm has managed to attract a large adolescent patronage when it's open on Friday and Saturday nights.

But of course when you have someone like Dean, a well-known player in the local club scene, steering the ship, is it that much of a surprise? As former editor of the now-defunct nightlife periodical Houston Scene, Dean wields a lot of influence in the city's clubland; he has been called in as a consultant -- he prefers the term "medic" -- for such gone-but-not-forgotten venues as Lizard Lounge, 6400 and the XYZ Club. The owners of the Storm building, which previously housed another Boogie Nights, contacted Dean to see what he could do with the place. All the schools in the area gave him the idea. "We didn't know what we were gonna get into and what the results were gonna be, but it made good sense for me to give it a try," says Dean.

Dean isn't the only club proprietor capitalizing on extroverted teens. "All Ages," a night of teen frolic at Numbers (300 Westheimer) has been going strong for five years now. The Roxy (5351 West Alabama) and Coco Loco (3700 Hillcroft) also host underage nights, while Surfside Sally's (2626 Tanglewilde) holds a teen night on Mondays in summer and through the holidays. And before its recent closing, Hustle Town (6333 Richmond) held what the club called its "Super Teen Nite" on Fridays.

But with all these evenings devoted to teenagers, parents might be a little worried that their young'uns are exposed to things they shouldn't be (drugs, alcohol, violence -- the usual suspects). Dean ensures that every precaution is made for customers to have a PG-rated evening -- well, PG-13 anyway. "We're very proactive," says Dean. Anyone who tries to sneak in a flask or their stash is gone. Likewise for those who throw up gang signs, a rule that also prevails at Coco Loco's teen night. What's more, Dean offers free admission to chaperones. "If a parent wants to come in," he says, "or older brother or older sister, for guardian purposes, they're more than welcome."

There are, of course, a few adventurous teens who still prefer to sneak into the places where the big boys and girls play. "It's funny," says Dean. "I've talked to 16-, 17-year-olds, and they will say, 'Oh, my God, there's too many young people here.' Young? What are you talking about? You're 16, 17 years old -- what are you looking for?"

For those humble enough to chill with fellow underage commoners, Dean and the rest of the personnel at Storm are offering up a proper weekend retreat that teenagers, as well as their parents, will approve of. Says Dean, "Maybe we can help some of them here and there, and show them that you can have a good time and maybe prepare them for that next step where they can become the big balla."

Last Call

Gee, has it been a year already since local rave crew Bigtyme Productions started its party operation? It seems like only yesterday dozens of kids were taking in the team's "Fun Haus" Halloween fiesta, or its little Christmas throwdown known as "Jingle Bells." Well, fans of Bigtyme's fine work can celebrate this Saturday, September 1, as the underground aces throw their one-year anniversary bash, simply titled "Chapter 2." The event will take place at the usual spot, the De Andas Ballroom (5201 Hopper Road). They've lined up a modest yet impressive card for this occasion: New York's Vicious Vic, Florida's Huda Hudia and Baltimore's DJ Who are the headliners. Also on board are local DJs Movement, Jermaine Flowers, Dave Arbiter, BMC, SDF-3 and others. And if that isn't enticing enough, there is also a good chance you can get in free. (The first 100 people get in without a cover.) For more info, call 281-991-1749.

 
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