Saving Houston's history: As a professional archivist in Houston, I want to commend Richard Connelly for his excellent article ["Scenes from a City's Soul," May 23] concerning the Bailey photograph collection at the UT Center for American History (CAH). He was able to accurately convey to readers the historical value of the collection as well as its fragile condition. It is a shame this collection had to leave Houston to be preserved, but no local archive felt it had the resources to commit to the project. I hope the CAH is able to preserve the majority of this valuable collection.
However, I would like to point out that there are numerous archival repositories in the Houston area that contain other wonderful photographs of Houston, the Gulf region and the state -- each repository with its own story, and each housing the many stories lurking in its collections.
Local archivists in the Houston area meet at least a few times a year under the name AHA! (Archivists of the Houston Area). We are working on formalizing this organization, but whatever the name or status, Houston archivists will continue to work together and enjoy discussing archival issues. Knowing one another and each repository's collections allows us to provide a better reference service to our customers.
Mark W. Lambert
South Texas College of Law
Change our image: Houston does have an image problem. The problem is the number of marginal people sitting in positions of authority within high-profile government and other positions representing our city [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, May 30]. The shame is that Houston deserves better. Too often people like Jordy Tollett and Elyse Lanier have been elevated to positions well beyond their capabilities.
The past ten years at the Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau have been filled with controversy, mostly because of incompetence at the top. As a former board member of the HCVB, and one in a position to compare that operation with others elsewhere, the HCVB is not among the least effective -- it is the least effective.
Where are the voices of all those dues-paying members? How long will they sit idly by while politics replaces performance? Why should the city's largest downtown hotel benefit the most from the HCVB?
Houston can no longer afford to suffer fools in leadership positions. The time has come to change the image of the city, and that change begins from within.
Name withheld by request
HGO Curtain Call
Unseated: I think you're going to see a lot more moaning and crying at HGO ["Bloody Monday," by Marene Gustin, May 30]. This is just the beginning! We've been subscribers for the past nine seasons, and we're not renewing our subscription.
HGO merged the Tuesday and Wednesday series into one series with the comment that subscribers may need to be "relocated" to different seats. We could almost cope with that, but then our seats went from less than $600 for six operas to almost $1,200 for seven operas. Yes, HGO says that subscribers get La Bohème for "free." This is worthy of a challenge by agencies interested in ethical advertising.
From an economic viewpoint for HGO, it's terrific; from an operagoer's viewpoint, it sucks. Is it paying off for HGO? Doubtful! The opera now allows a whole year to pay for the tickets, but doubling the ticket price doesn't make the higher cost more palatable.
When I look at HGO's financial problems, I'm reminded of the old Smith Barney TV commercials featuring John Houseman saying, "We make money the old-fashioned way -- we earn it." HGO needs to look at earning some money instead of begging for it from the stage before the opera begins.
There is reluctance on the part of our arts organizations to innovate and do something that requires extra effort. (HGO is not alone in this lack of earning it.)
Mr. Gockley has bewailed a drop in subscribers. But what do the Met, New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera and San Francisco Opera do that HGO doesn't?
Each of the companies offers subscribers the opportunity to buy a mini-series of opera, even if the prices are slightly higher. It is obviously more advantageous to have a subscriber for three operas than for zero. It presents an opportunity for young people with limited money to start going to HGO. The concept is commonly referred to as marketing. Doing something innovative seems to be beyond the ability of HGO.
Mac's no monster: I was disappointed that the Press would publish such a vicious and anonymous personal attack on Mattress Mac ["Down on the Mattress," Letters, May 23]. Anyone who feels this strongly about something should not mind being identified. The writer evidently has a personal grudge against Mac, because his tirade is not grounded in fact.
Like the majority of furniture stores in town, Gallery Furniture's notes are carried by outside consumer lending companies, so Mac does not send out trucks to repossess furniture. Even if he could, Mac is not the type to just jerk furniture out of someone's home. I have seen him perform too many unpublicized acts of philanthropy to think that he would do this.
As far as employees working on Christmas night, Gallery is closed on that holiday. If employees were working on Christmas Eve, I can guarantee you they were working voluntarily and were being paid very well.
As someone who works for Mac, I can speak with more authority on these matters than the person who wrote the letter. A year ago, I was suspicious of his motives, but I have been fortunate to get to know the man on a personal level. You'll find an introspective, spiritual, almost introverted man, who is sincere in his charitable endeavors. That is matched by his treatment of his employees. He is a stern but compassionate boss; give him your effort and loyalty, and he will return it without question.
Jilted by Jones
Students deserve better: Your recent article about Jones High School really hit home ["A Fixer-Upper," by Margaret Downing, May 30]. Recently I was unsuccessful in obtaining a copy of my child's transcript. (The registrar would not, of course, provide it to me on my first visit -- I had to return.)
The most important statement in the report from the Continuous School Improvement Team was its observation that "children and their needs do not appear to be at the heart of the school's culture."
Here is one typical example: Last fall I was waiting in the counselors' suite (a visit necessitated by the staff's refusal to process my daughter's routine, approved request for a schedule change). Most of the other counselors were gathered around the reception desk laughing at reasons listed by students for why they wanted to drop a class. This was in front of three or four students who were trying their best to pretend that this violation of confidentiality was not occurring.
Thanks so much for speaking out for the Jones students. How many other students in HISD face these same problems? This is the one chance our students have to receive a high school education, and improvements cannot be made soon enough for their benefit. Jones students deserve as good an education as the students at Bellaire High, but that won't happen unless major changes are made.
Name withheld by request
Biggers and Better
A home for art: "Unmasked at Last" [by Jesse Washington, May 9] is a nice, palatable discussion on the division of commerce and culture that will always have race as an unclear issue. The statement was made that John Biggers's preference not to work with dealers and galleries was a contributing factor to his lack of national recognition. That might better be explained as a comparison to New York-based artists Roman Beouden and Jacob Lawrence.
With respect to Biggers's mainstream affiliation, I am aware of numerous gallery showings here and elsewhere. For more than 25 years, my company has enjoyed a lucrative dealer/artist relationship. I continue to work with the estate and am committed to finding a home for Biggers's art legacy, one that will afford him the true global recognition he deserves.
Fundamentalist ways: I have learned not to go to places where I do not belong ["God Only Knows," by Margaret Downing, May 2]. I gave up long ago trying to fit into the narrow mold demanded by fundamentalist churches.
By the time I left fundamentalism (a Southern Baptist church in northwest Houston), there were five basic tenets of faith: 1) gays are going to hell; 2) abortionists are going to hell; 3) Democrats are going to hell; 4) non-Christians are going to hell; and 5) fundamentalist Christians who vote Republican will be the only ones in heaven.
I also found out that questioning their version of Christianity in any way was not welcomed.
There are too many good churches around that are interested in spiritual growth and love to waste time on those who want only to make and follow rules.
Washington Avenue wonder: As someone who has spent a little time on Washington Avenue, I'd like to salute Pam Robinson and her endeavors along that interesting little street ["Pamland Central," by John Nova Lomax, May 30].
The ambitious and farsighted young lady has put her money where her mouth is and rolled the dice to try to provide Houston with some viable entertainment alternatives. I really believe her motives are altruistic as well as pecuniary. She has loved and supported music (read: paid the dang cover), and her growing involvement in the Houston music scene will only benefit its fans and artists. And as you can see, she gives good quote. It will be interesting and fun to watch what happens.
I'm a displaced Houstonian and pine for the town greatly. I describe the city this way: New York City is great to visit, wouldn't want to live there. Houston's a great city to live in, wouldn't want to visit. It's people like Pam and her crew at Walter's who make it such a dynamic town. Can't wait until Donna and Pam work up their Washington Avenue Hoo Ha Parade, or whatever they end up calling it. Sara Fitzgerald needs to be involved in it so another of the dynamic women of the Houston music scene (the original?) gets a chance to show her stuff.
Down-write Goodman: The article about David Allan Coe ["The Reddest Neck in Town," by Denise Edgington, May 30] said his songwriting abilities were in demand as well, and then mentioned his anthem, "You Never Even Called Me by My Name."
As the words in the song specifically state, Steve Goodman wrote that song and gave it to David Allan.
Mr. Coe can write songs, but he didn't write that one, and that's the song most people associate with him. Coe is more of a musical personality; Goodman was a songwriter's songwriter.
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