CAH? AHA!

Plus: No Foolin', HGO Curtain Call, Shooting Gallery

CAH? AHA!

Saving Houston's history: As a professional archivist in Houston, I want to commend Richard Connelly for his excellent article ["Scenes from a City's Soul," May 23] concerning the Bailey photograph collection at the UT Center for American History (CAH). He was able to accurately convey to readers the historical value of the collection as well as its fragile condition. It is a shame this collection had to leave Houston to be preserved, but no local archive felt it had the resources to commit to the project. I hope the CAH is able to preserve the majority of this valuable collection.

However, I would like to point out that there are numerous archival repositories in the Houston area that contain other wonderful photographs of Houston, the Gulf region and the state -- each repository with its own story, and each housing the many stories lurking in its collections.

Local archivists in the Houston area meet at least a few times a year under the name AHA! (Archivists of the Houston Area). We are working on formalizing this organization, but whatever the name or status, Houston archivists will continue to work together and enjoy discussing archival issues. Knowing one another and each repository's collections allows us to provide a better reference service to our customers.

Mark W. Lambert
South Texas College of Law

Houston

No Foolin'

Change our image: Houston does have an image problem. The problem is the number of marginal people sitting in positions of authority within high-profile government and other positions representing our city [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, May 30]. The shame is that Houston deserves better. Too often people like Jordy Tollett and Elyse Lanier have been elevated to positions well beyond their capabilities.

The past ten years at the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau have been filled with controversy, mostly because of incompetence at the top. As a former board member of the HCVB, and one in a position to compare that operation with others elsewhere, the HCVB is not among the least effective -- it is the least effective.

Where are the voices of all those dues-paying members? How long will they sit idly by while politics replaces performance? Why should the city's largest downtown hotel benefit the most from the HCVB?

Houston can no longer afford to suffer fools in leadership positions. The time has come to change the image of the city, and that change begins from within.

Name withheld by request
Houston

HGO Curtain Call

Unseated: I think you're going to see a lot more moaning and crying at HGO ["Bloody Monday," by Marene Gustin, May 30]. This is just the beginning! We've been subscribers for the past nine seasons, and we're not renewing our subscription.

Why?

HGO merged the Tuesday and Wednesday series into one series with the comment that subscribers may need to be "relocated" to different seats. We could almost cope with that, but then our seats went from less than $600 for six operas to almost $1,200 for seven operas. Yes, HGO says that subscribers get La Bohème for "free." This is worthy of a challenge by agencies interested in ethical advertising.

From an economic viewpoint for HGO, it's terrific; from an operagoer's viewpoint, it sucks. Is it paying off for HGO? Doubtful! The opera now allows a whole year to pay for the tickets, but doubling the ticket price doesn't make the higher cost more palatable.

When I look at HGO's financial problems, I'm reminded of the old Smith Barney TV commercials featuring John Houseman saying, "We make money the old-fashioned way -- we earn it." HGO needs to look at earning some money instead of begging for it from the stage before the opera begins.

There is reluctance on the part of our arts organizations to innovate and do something that requires extra effort. (HGO is not alone in this lack of earning it.)

Mr. Gockley has bewailed a drop in subscribers. But what do the Met, New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera and San Francisco Opera do that HGO doesn't?

Each of the companies offers subscribers the opportunity to buy a mini-series of opera, even if the prices are slightly higher. It is obviously more advantageous to have a subscriber for three operas than for zero. It presents an opportunity for young people with limited money to start going to HGO. The concept is commonly referred to as marketing. Doing something innovative seems to be beyond the ability of HGO.

Eli Bensky
Houston

Shooting Gallery

Mac's no monster: I was disappointed that the Press would publish such a vicious and anonymous personal attack on Mattress Mac ["Down on the Mattress," Letters, May 23]. Anyone who feels this strongly about something should not mind being identified. The writer evidently has a personal grudge against Mac, because his tirade is not grounded in fact.

Like the majority of furniture stores in town, Gallery Furniture's notes are carried by outside consumer lending companies, so Mac does not send out trucks to repossess furniture. Even if he could, Mac is not the type to just jerk furniture out of someone's home. I have seen him perform too many unpublicized acts of philanthropy to think that he would do this.

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