In the wake of the unexpected death of longtime Numbers owner Robert Burtenshaw at the age of 58, a memorial evening of soft tunes, stories, and food is planned at the landmark Houston nightclub on Saturday. Doors will open at 8 p.m. to soft music and catering from the nearby Michelangelo's. A short service and a chance to share remembrances of the late DJ and impresario are also planned, and afterward the club will celebrate as Robot undoubtedly would have wanted: with dancing to the video productions he had produced for the club since the '70s.
The night will be hosted by Robot's longtime comrades in spin DJs Mina, James, Morado, Gringo Pimp, and of course Robot's friend wES wALLACE. Numbers hasn't hosted a memorial night since the death of the 2003 Miss Spooky, Kat Cresswell, who succumbed to cancer in 2004.
Amidst the mourning of Burtenshaw's passing are many rumors as to both the manner of his death and the possible future of one of Houston's oldest music institutions. Earlier this week, CultureMap reported that Burtenshaw, who was Catholic, died by his own hand near St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Humble. Meanwhile, Houstonia said it had uncovered a report in Harris County District Court dated July 22 and showing Burtenshaw had been arrested by Humble police for alleged cocaine possession. If he had lived to face charges, he could have been eligible for up to ten years in prison.
Numbers officials declined any further comment on the manner or circumstances of Burtenshaw's death.
"Many of these rumors are false," Wallace replied. "Thanks for understanding."
There are also concerns about Numbers' future after Burtenshaw's death. He was allegedly still the primary owner of the building, and presumably his stake would pass to his next of kin, wife Janna. Many hope that longtime manager Rudi Bunch will assume ownership, though that remains pure conjecture for the time being. Meetings with the staff over their fate are expected soon, according to one Numbers bartender.
Regardless of how he exited the world, Burtenshaw was responsible for bringing both custom video-music collaborations to dance floors in an era when most people didn't even own VCRs, as well as welcoming some of the biggest names in '80s and '90s alternative music to Houston. If you attend Saturday, be sure to raise a glass to all the wonderful shows and memories that came into existence because of Robot and his club.
"Robot was an inspiration to me, and I appreciated Numbers more than other clubs in the '90s, because of what he created; and the vision that he shared with us all through the combination of video and music within the nightclub itself," said Provision's Breye 7x on the event's Facebook page. "Robot was a true gentleman and always treated me with utmost respect. And I respected him in return, very very much.
"Since the mid-'90s he always supported everything that I did," he added. "And any time I saw him out, he was always interested in what I was working on; and always asked me how I was; and how the band was. He was a genuine soul that cared, and you loved him for it. He will be truly missed."
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