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Cock-a-Doodle Deux

A rejuvenated Red Rooster crows again on Old Spanish Trail

Francis Page Jr. is one elusive sum-bitch -- we're talking panda bears on the Discovery Channel elusive. During the day, it's an exhausting search trying to locate the man. He's always out and about, trying to make his workload, which has grown immensely over the past few months, a little lighter. Apart from editing and publishing his own magazine, the long-running Houston Style (a publication this columnist wrote for back in the day), he is now in charge of running Page Center, the strip mall located at the corner of Martin Luther King and Old Spanish Trail that was previously owned by his father, the late entrepreneur/magazine publisher Francis Page Sr. In February, when the elder Page passed away at the age of 63 from congestive heart failure, it was time for the mobile businessman to slow his roll and carry on the family legacy.

At the heart of this legacy -- the center of the Center -- is The Red Rooster (4937 Martin Luther King Boulevard), a nightclub/entertainment complex Page's father opened back in 1971. He soon found that people were calling, nay, begging for him to bring back the Red Rooster of yesteryear. "I mean, everybody in the community wanted it back like it was," says Page. According to Page, his old man's spot was the first black club to discard old-fashioned BYOB in favor of liquor by the drink. This may explain why it became such a popular hideaway with Houston's African-American somebodies, attracting such folk as Mickey Leland, Gerald Womack and Sylvester Turner. "Everybody used to hang out there -- all the who's who of Houston -- because it was the nicest club in town," declares Page.

Running an operation like the Rooster isn't a new thing for the 39-year-old Page. In the early '80s, when the elder Page needed to concentrate on other projects, Page Jr. and good friend Darryl Scott ran the club. Back then it was known as weekend youth spot Raphael's. Scott, who now owns Blast Records and Tapes (also located at the Center), remembers how he and Bubba (Page Jr.'s nickname) served as the club's janitors when they were kids. "We cleaned up the club before we went to school in the morning," remembers Scott. Turns out this was part of their education, too -- they were getting schooled on how to run a nightclub. "We learned," says Scott. "We picked up a lot of things: operated the doors, watched the bar, watched the people, learned from 'em."

The chicken is kickin' -- again -- at the corner of M.L.K. and O.S.T.
Craig D. Lindsey
The chicken is kickin' -- again -- at the corner of M.L.K. and O.S.T.

Although Page inherited Page Center when his father passed away, he didn't acquire the Rooster until June, when he took back the property from the previous owners, who called the club The Set. "I feel they shot themselves in the foot by taking the name Red Rooster off the club," says Page. "They had an opportunity to run it, and now we're running it." His former partner in crime agrees. "I kinda see when a business is prospering, and [The Set] would have some good nights but not enough to keep a club going," says Scott. "From what I'd seen in the parking lot, I know it wasn't prospering."

Since Page is always on the move, he knew he needed some help to get the club back into shape. Enter promoter Ed Lee Jr., whose previous experience includes bringing a weekly poetry night to the former Midtown hangout Echelon Live. Once again, Lee decided to spice up the weekly happenings at the Rooster by including a poetry night on Wednesdays as well as an all-girl comedy night on Thursdays. Although he's looking to these new additions to bring in a younger crowd, Lee wouldn't dare put the past up in storage. "I think we should keep his memory going," says Lee of Page Sr.'s legacy, "because a lot of older people still respect him and like the fact that the name, The Red Rooster, still exists."

The biggest problem the club faces is operating without a liquor license. Apparently Page was not briefed on the fact that liquor licenses expire when the property holder dies. So, it looks like the club, for the moment, has to become the BYOB tavern it was once famous for not being. But Page and Lee insist the situation will be cleared up before the month is over. And when that's done, Lee will take over as the official owner/manager of the Rooster while Page fills the role of landlord. "I'm pretty sure if Bubba just had the club to concentrate on and not his own paper, he would be able to really make that thing work," says Scott. "'Cause Bubba knows what it takes to make a club work, but he just don't have the time that he used to have when we was young."

As long as The Red Rooster is under his thumb, Page plans to polish the club to the same luster it had when his dad was running things. "I look forward to continued success in the future in any business endeavor my father left me in charge of," he says.

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