Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Among premillennial anxiety symptoms, clinging nostalgia rates high. The 1990s have proven a colorful and watery upchuck of the past three decades -- a sentimental rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" in fashion, art, TV, dance and music. It should come as no surprise, then, that 1999 brings to Houston a brand-new downtown nightclub that smacks of Studio 54.

While not yet packed with stars, models and socialites, Oz mimics the bygone discotheque's glamour and exclusivity. The 10,000-square-foot, three-story brainchild of Jeff and Danielle Taylor (who operated Houston's Liquid Lounge until its July fire) features a "high energy dance" floor surrounded by a futuristic-meets-art-deco decor: platinum walls, sci-fi furniture, a gothic chandelier, laser lights and the ubiquitous disco ball. Both the DJ and too-cool-to-dance voyeurs can read the mood on the floor from an upper balcony; the same floor also houses a VIP/champagne lounge dressed in mismatched retro furnishings. To be "very important"-- and ultimately very tipsy -- there's a $30 drink minimum.

But Oz is a monument to money housed in another type of monument to money, the historic State National Bank Building. By ironic coincidence, its exterior speaks more of providence than decadence with the puritanical inscription: "Frugality is the Mother of All Virtues." Perhaps it's the building's karmic history that prevents Oz from measuring up to the menagerie that was 54. Perhaps it's simply '90s conservatism. At this Houston hot spot, cutting-edge fashion is swapped for a cautious, "urban chic" dress code (no sneakers), and drug use or other hedonistic acts would be quickly snuffed out by black-suited and pony-tailed men in headsets.

-- Andrea Grover

Oz, 412 Main, is open Wednesday through Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. The cover charge is $5 on weeknights and $10 on weekends. It's free to get in every night before 10 p.m. Call 223-4778 for more information.


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