John Yeager has the best memories.
The former Prague general manager remembers the time when a crowd of people gathered around a stall in the club's infamous unisex restrooms ("blow-job bays," they were often called) to feast their eyes on a pair of butt cheeks pressed up against the glass door like two glazed hams, their owner engaged in a feverish lovemaking session. He remembers when a certain agitated celebrity showed up and played grab-ass with male patrons. He remembers when a tipsy, attention-starved stripper shed her clothes, got body-painted and became an impromptu go-go dancer. In her inebriation, she fell off her platform, landing on and injuring one of her heavily enhanced boobs. And he remembers the time, in the downstairs vault, when a guy enjoyed a three-way with two gals. Bereft of protection, he seized some handy plastic wrap for the job. And if you haven't guessed yet who the resourceful fellow was at the center of this joyous event, Yeager is happy to tell you that, yeah, it was him.
It was just all in a night's work behind the velvet curtain at Prague, the ultra-trendy north downtown club that closed its doors in March (road construction strikes again). With its Euro-chic decor, strict dress code, high cover and relentless house music, Prague did much to define -- and some would even say perfect -- the NoDo scene as we know it today. To be sure, the club always had its share of detractors ("I think everyone I've met in this bar has severe emotional problems," one person posted on Citysearch.com), but it did burn some indelible memories in the minds of many.
So in an attempt to get my Anthony Haden-Guest on, here are some remembrances, testimonials and straight-up weird stories from the employees and affiliates of the place they would come to call Houston's Studio 54.
Kung Fu Pimp, former Prague DJ: I remember I played at one of the fetish balls, and it was a real crazy party. I think, at the time, Prague was the only place that was doing stuff like that. They had fire dancers inside the club, and about five people doing a fire show. From the DJ booth the fire dancers were way on the opposite end of the area, and they blew the fire and you could see it all the way at the end of the opposite side of the building, where I was deejaying. And you could just feel, like -- the people there were just bedazzled because no other club was doing stuff like this.
Martin Zidell, Dare Ware owner/S&M Ball promoter: They had a bed. I think it was a king-size bed. If not, it was a queen-size, four-poster bed. It was on the first floor of the club, back in the corner, and they had a tripod camera set up, and they'd film everything that was going on. The deal was get on the bed for free, do whatever you wanted. The people kept their clothes on; they weren't taking clothes off. And couples were on the bed, two girls and a guy, three girls and a midget -- just posing for the camera. It turned out to be an exhibit unto itself. I mean, the other customers at the bar all gathered around to look at the sexy, hot chicks and, in some cases, guys. There was some good-looking guys who were in shape just as much as the girls. People of both sexes were standing around watching the people on the bed. It was just an erotic show.
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Michael Cook, former Prague head of security: Everybody was pretty well behaved -- just a random scuffle here and there. The only fight that I really remember well is when I broke it up and tackled two guys. I actually landed on top of my knee, hit the floor and landed on a broken glass. I ended up having to get about 12 stitches on my kneecap. The fight sticks out in my mind because I remember being in the emergency room, and I walked in there with an entourage of people who were out that night. Of course, there was a line to get sewn up. And this doctor happened to walk by and asked me, "Don't you work at Prague?" I said, "Yeah, I manage the security down there." And he goes, "I thought you looked familiar. I go down there with my wife all the time." So, he slid me in, in front of everybody, and stitched me up."
Mike Snow, former Prague DJ: It really was a great dance club, and it was a beautiful club, and there's nothing else that's been like it in this city, you know? I think that's what people will remember about it. And I think that's why people kept going to it. I saw people in there, when I left [last] November, that had been going there since it opened. And you can't say that about many clubs, you really can't. Because once that A-crowd goes for three to six months, they go to the next place. Rob [Thomas] and Skip [Woods, the club's owners] always wanted people to think that they were at a party when they went there. I hope their wishes came true.
For those of you who were planning to go to Club Space (799 St. Emanuel) on June 28 to check out UK jungle brotha Goldie and the rest of his Metalheadz crew, there has been a last-minute change in plans. Don't worry, that gold-toothed, limey cut creator is still coming, but the engagement has moved a couple of blocks down to -- that's right, kids! -- old, reliable Hyperia (2001 Commerce). Hyperia's rep as the city's premiere place to catch the gods of the DJ world when they come to town is well earned.