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Hidden Treasure

Somehow, Chez Lounge has remained anonymous for more than three decades.

Wayne Myers has been in four major motorcycle accidents in his life, two of which required his removal from the scene via Life Flight. One of those somehow spiraled into Myers's becoming a karaoke DJ.

In fact, that's what he's doing at the moment — DJing a karaoke night at the nondescript Chez Lounge (10308 S. Main), a gem of a drinkery that's figuratively invisible even though it's literally right out in the open.

A 30-plus-year-old dive that time seems to have forgotten about — which is absolutely a good thing — Chez is the kind of place with an original poster from the Rockets' championship years on display without a hint of irony. There's a checkered-tile dance floor, a couple of electronic slot machines, a lone pool table, less than two dozen bar stools and tables combined, and that's about it.

Any guesses which team the crowd at Chez Lounge roots for?
Larami Culbertson
Any guesses which team the crowd at Chez Lounge roots for?

The exterior is equally bare, consisting mainly of some white walls and a neon sign with a few of the letters burned out. The drinks are cold and the people are nice, very much like a still-undiscovered version of Alice's Tall Texan (4904 N. Main).

A model Chez Lounger full of all sorts of noteworthy nuggets of information, Myers has been coming here for more than 15 years. He's older, cordial, talks slowly and wears button-up shirts but doesn't button them up all the way.

Still, he's only the second-most interesting person in the room, because nobody — nobody — has ever been as interesting as the man not really named Tony Ray.

This gentleman is a portly, friendly-faced sort. He's nondescript, mostly, save for the smile lines that bracket his mouth and the shoulder-length hair that looks far healthier than it probably should.

As it is, he is sitting quietly at Chez's bar. He answers questions candidly and freely, like about how he started drinking at age 13:

"Back in the day, they didn't question young people," says not-Ray, who gives his real age as 58.

"Plus I already had a moustache," he adds without a hint of irony.

Here's how his family thought he was dead for three weeks when he was 16 and went on an impromptu trip with a friend:

"My buddy asked me to go to Mexico with him one day. I told him I needed to pack some clothes, but he told me don't worry about it, he had some clothes there. So I went."

And how he used to pick cotton. And the time he shined B.B. King's shoes. And how he knows America is going to be attacked by nuclear weapons soon. The one thing he doesn't talk about is his name.

"Tony Ray" is but one of the aliases he uses nowadays. He says he has to do so because some of the people who he used to run with — the ones who aren't dead — might try to get to him, even though they're in prison.

He too has been going to Chez Lounge for years on end. It seems like everyone there has. The bar gets an annual boost in traffic from the Rodeo each March, or from one of the bimonthly live shows it books.

However, like all four Houston bars that have been open more than six years, it exists almost solely because it's cultivated a meaningful, organic relationship within its surrounding community.

"Everybody knows everybody — it's one of those types of places," says manager Toni Thurber. "Ask Eva [the bartender]. She's been here for 34 years."

Of course she has.
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LAST CALL

Michael Franti & Spearhead

The Wire is, inarguably, the greatest television show of all time. We've written that before, and we'll write it again. It's not even close, really. And that's how we know that Michael Franti, the funky, dreadlocked, rumble-tumble-voiced front man for Michael Franti & Spearhead, is a genius. (His "Oh My God" track is on The Wire official  soundtrack.) Which is why you should drop everything to make sure that you get out to his show this Saturday at House of Blues (1204 Caroline). We mean, if he gets deemed a genius through his association with The Wire, you do too. You do want to be a genius, right?

 
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