Wet Nighthawks Cry Foul
It seems like some folks just aren't done talking about the flood yet. People are still reeling from the repercussions of the Great Disastrous Amazing Technicolor Floodapalooza of 2001. A handful of Houstonians are upset about the way a few clubs treated stranded, sopping-wet spectators.
We start with Fitzgerald's (2706 White Oak Drive). That Friday night, when our visiting guest Allison came to town, the punk outfit Vice Squad was playing the revered venue. When water began to spill out of White Oak Bayou and onto the streets, many of the show's attendees had to stay indoors. But around 3 a.m. a fight inside the club forced management to tell everyone to scram, including 24-year-old social worker/community organizer Peyton Belunek. Although she played no part in the fight, she and her husband, Daren, were told to vacate the building.
"And so this woman, the woman who owns it, said, you know, 'What's your story?' " recalls Belunek. "And I said, 'Well, our car is totally under water.' And she said, 'No, it's not. Nobody's car is under water.' And so they kick us out."
According to Belunek, she and her husband, as well as about 20 others, stayed out on the club's porch for five hours, standing until her in-laws finally picked them up. Belunek claims employees of Fitzgerald's popped their heads out the door from time to time. "First they came out and said, 'Here, I don't know if this'll help,' and handed me a Heineken," remembers Belunek. "Like, at 7:45 in the morning, after freezing for that long, I'm really in the mood to drink."
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Owner Sara Fitzgerald remembers it quite differently. There was a fight between opposing skinheads, which prompted Fitzgerald and personnel to evict the troublemakers, she recalls, but the owner says that well-behaved people were allowed to stay. "A lot of the customers got their -- you know, their car was flooded, or the people that were gonna pick 'em up couldn't get to 'em," says Fitzgerald. "So we had a lot of customers that ended up just spending the night at the club."
Fitzgerald says her crew even fed soup to those who remained. The owner does apologize to anyone who had the misfortune of being lumped in with the misbehaving few and spent the night braving the storm. "I'm sorry they got booted out with the bad kids," says Fitzgerald. "They should've spoke up."
Fitzgerald's isn't the only club accused of callousness on Flood Night. South Beach (810 Pacific), the lavish-to-be-damned gay club that recently opened on Montrose's famed (and on that night aptly named) Pacific Street strip, has been the brunt of some rumors about that dark and stormy night. A Web site, Glitteronza Planet, has posted an article (www.geocities.com /SouthBeach/Suite/3141/ views.html#sobe) alleging that a stranded patron told the site's designer, Ron Duffee, that the club didn't inform its customers that a flood was brewing and then kicked everyone into the deep water come closing time. According to the article, employees of the club were told to quietly move their cars to higher ground, while people were still inside spending money and dancing. (Duffee and his source could not be reached for comment.)
South Beach owner Charles Armstrong disputes every single word. Armstrong says patrons were notified early in the evening about the impending flood by the club DJ. And those people who couldn't leave the premises were welcome to stay inside the club, which he says was open until 6 a.m. Also, Armstrong says that he invited patrons from his other Pacific Street haunts, JR.'s Video Bar (804 Pacific), Santa Fe Bar & Patio (808 Pacific) and the Montrose Mining Company (805 Pacific), over to South Beach. Armstrong believes this is a case of rival clubs hatin' on a brotha. "People are threatened right now," says Armstrong, defiantly. "Who says who is spreading what rumors, or what lies? There are just people who are threatened that this place is so awesome."
It was that great sage Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles who once said, "I wish it was Sunday / 'cuz that's my fun day." The folks behind two brand-spanking-new club events are hoping Houstonians who feel the same way will venture over to their Sunday-night parties. The ever creative DJ Ceeplus is behind "The Phonograph Music Project," a "music experience" being thrown down every Sunday at Mausoleum (411 Westheimer). The mixman once again has assembled a roster of eclectic spinners to work the various decks: Joe B, Chello, Comp1 and Soul Free are among the regulars at the laid-back event. "It's just like a house party at somebody's crib," assures Ceeplus. "If they wanna dance, they can dance. If you wanna hang out, you can hang out." Over at Tonic (310 Main), "Soul Sugar Sundays" aims to sweeten Sabbath sunsets. This event sports an old-school/new-school vibe, with the help of funkafied DJs like Chocoholic, Van Franklin and Gov. Good Grief, and such extras as kung fu flicks on a big-screen at the first-floor bar. "I wanted to do something casual and, you know, laid-back," says Joseph Tran Van, who shares hosting/promoting duties with partner Joe Applewhite. "To get rid of, you know, the techno and trance that's been going around town here, and play some other stuff, like house, hip-hop, rare grooves." These parties vow that after you're done, you can take on another manic Monday.
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