Gays, censorship, alligators, mobsters, Houston Texans

Hyatt says "Get a room!" to gay romance

Laura Baumbach is a mother, a nurse and an author. An author of hot, sweaty, man-on-man “romance” novels, among other works. And she learned recently that we don't take too kindly to such things here in Houston.

Baumbach flew in from western New York state to attend a romance writers' convention at the Downtown Hyatt recently. (A romance writers' convention? We're conjuring up images of...ummmm...not really much sex happening. But we could be wrong.)

She'd paid for a space to display her wares, which she calls “manlove romances”: such notable titles as A Bit of Rough and the “M/M erotic paranormal werewolf story” Out There in the Night.

She also put up a poster of a naked man, artfully covered with a sheet in the strategic spot, advertising her Web site with the logo “Reading. The second best thing you can do in bed.”

That's when things got weird.

She left her space for a while and when she got back her stuff was gone. A convention worker told her Hyatt staff had removed it after complaints “from businessmen.”

Told her stuff was too risqué, Baumbach and a friend pointed out promotional material from other tables, which included “a naked woman on her knees in front of a naked man, a woman with her naked buttocks pressed to a man's naked groin and other items that had bared male chests, bared male thighs and such just like ours.” (Yep, sounds like a romance writers' convention.)

A Hyatt rep was summoned, and he confirmed that he had ordered the poster taken down. “And if I replaced them they would be removed and taken,” Baumbach wrote in her blog.

Her post drew scores of replies, some from other authors saying the Hyatt had also been censoring others' display material with a heavy hand.

We guess when the Hyatt booked a romance writers' convention, they expected to see lots of tasteful Fabio posters. And by “tasteful,” we just mean pants-on. But we'll never know, because the spokeswoman for the Downtown Hyatt didn't return calls.

Baumbach says she's written a letter of complaint to the chain because, she says, the Downtown Hyatt's customer-service department refused to discuss the issue with her.

So should we expect a future novel to depict some lusty, iron-abbed studs finding their powerful urges thwarted by an evil Houstonian?

No, Baumbach says. She's not blaming the city.

“It was my first visit to Texas. I thought Houston was beautiful,” she says. “I don't judge an entire city by one unpleasant incident.”

So maybe there's still a chance for A Bit of Rough — Rodeo Style!!

Gator Bait

Living in the vast suburbs of Houston sometimes means living with wildlife that us city slickers don't mess with.

Usually the routine is pretty set: Resident sees an unwelcome visitor like an alligator, calls authorities, they take it away and everyone's happy.

Not in The Woodlands, though.

People living near the Panther Trail Golf Course learned recently that an alligator that had been roaming the course had been removed. And, somehow, they're not pleased.

The golf-course director didn't return our calls, but he told the Montgomery County Courier that the five-foot gator had been on the course for about two years. He says “a game warden” told him to leave it alone, but when it started getting too close to pathways and the adjacent neighborhood of Grogan's Mill, he had it removed.

That didn't sit well with Bruce Cunningham, president of the Grogan's Mill Village Association.

He said the course should have simply posted signs warning people to look out for alligators. “It's part of living in The Woodlands,” he says, although we don't recall any promotional material blaring “Come to The Woodlands!! But be sure to tell your toddlers to zigzag away from any alligators!!”

“Clearly they can be dangerous,” Cunningham says, “but if people are warned, they should be okay. If they jump in a pond, they could have a problem.”

He admits that his opinion is not universally shared. “There are people with strong feelings that the alligators should be removed,” he says. “If I had young children in that area, I might feel differently.”

Yeah, but he doesn't, so you're on your own, golf-course neighbors. Plus, it's just so damn entertaining watching toddlers trying to zigzag.

International Intrigue

Gators aren't the only thing worrying residents of The Woodlands these days. There's also all the kidnap and extortion plots by the daughters of Uzbekistan presidents.

Interspan Distribution Corporation, headquartered in The Woodlands, has filed suit in Houston federal court against Liberty Insurance, alleging the insurers have refused to pay claims regarding the kidnapping and ransom of Interspan employees in Uzbekistan.

The suit says employees there are also subject to torture, sham trials, sexual assault “and possibly death,” all by a ring controlled by Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov.

And what is all this high-stakes gang-banging about? Tea.

Interspan imports tea into Uzbekistan, and apparently got too successful at it. “Ms. Karimova is widely reported to use government entities illegally to force profitable businesses either to partner with herÉor to surrender the businesses' assets to her,” the suit says.

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