Semi-Comeback for the Tower Theater
By Katharine Shilcutt
Back in November 2009, the Hollywood Video store that occupied the erstwhile Tower Theater on Westheimer at Waugh closed for good. Since then, the property has sat vacant, the same sad way as the Alabama Theatre has been empty since Bookstop finally sold its last book in August 2009.
But a recent drive past the theater revealed some new life for the old building, which was originally a movie theater when it was built in 1936 and was once the home of the popular nightclub Clubland in the early '90s before becoming Tower Theater. Workers were unloading what looked like shiny new marquees from flatbed trucks, marquees that match the orange and blue facade (albeit with far less Westheimer wear and tear). Could the theater finally be making a comeback?
A call to Beeson Properties, which currently owns the theater and the surrounding properties, revealed that we shouldn't get our hopes up quite yet.
A representative from Beeson confirmed that they were renovating the facade. "It looks fantastic," Hair Balls mentioned. "Oh, does it? I need to drive by there and look," she replied. "I didn't even realize it was going up today."
Sadly, no tenant is planned for the space. The representative merely stated that they were hoping the renovated marquee and exterior would attract a client, steps that Hair Balls is happy to see taken. There were worries that the theater would lapse into total disrepair and further depress the area, which also has to contend with the vacant Mary's and the almost empty Tower Community Center nearby. Yes, the languishing building which houses empty storefronts, a Spec's and Half Priced Books has a name; it was built in 1937 as a companion to the theater across the street.
At least Beeson seems to be taking steps to prevent another beautiful Houston landmark from slipping away into the ether of demolition and decay. Weingarten? Pay attention. This could be you, too.
Rites of Bellaire
It's not hazing, it's fun
By Craig Malisow
Here's what you need to bring if you go to the annual Bellaire High School girls' freshmen volleyball team sleepover: Beans, shaving cream, a plastic tarp and plenty of Saran Wrap. No, you sick bastard, not for any immoral purposes, but because it's a tradition for new team members.
The incoming athletes' arms are bound with the plastic and they're told to slide around on the spray-food-soaked tarp. Hair Balls received an anonymous letter and photos from a "concerned parent" who's worried that this violates HISD's hazing policy.
"...it was swept under the rug by the team," the letter states. "The freshmen were told they had to be there, and the girls were wrapped up in plastic wrap, had their heads covered so they could not see and put in a van." (Here's a general rule of thumb: Van + young girls = something totally legitimate and life-affirming is going to happen.)
"These embarrassing pictures of the freshmen were then put on the [I]nternet."
But HISD spokesman Norm Uhl assures us that this doesn't violate HISD's hazing policy: "This doesn't seem to fit the definitions in the policy," Uhl said in an e-mail. "In addition, this is not a school-sponsored event." (That last part made us wonder if any hazing would be considered "school-sponsored.")
Uhl also assured us that the event "is supervised by adults," and that "the activity is voluntary and does not have an impact on whether a student makes the team. I'm told that several team members were not able to attend this year due to other obligations." (Note: In our initial blog item, we used wrong information provided us by HISD, describing the "fun" ingredients as chocolate pudding and whipped cream.)
Those obligations must have been pretty important, because we can't imagine passing up an opportunity to be bound up, covered in a slimy sauce and made to roll on the ground like a dog in front of a laughing mob.
But Hair Balls spoke with one mother who felt the activity was well-monitored and none of the girls were pressured into doing anything they didn't want to. She also said that the girls who didn't participate weren't ostracized or thrown off the team.
"I felt no pressure that she had to go, and I felt no danger about the whole thing," she said. "...I just don't think of it as a hazing kind of thing."
Fortunately, the awesome thing about crowds is, they're just so right all the time; God bless the good parents of Bellaire for teaching their girls that, in order to signify an achievement in life, they must first debase themselves for the pleasure of others.
But we're sure that none of these girls would be ostracized if they didn't participate. After all, every adult knows that 14- and 15-year-old children have the confidence and maturity to speak up if they don't want to participate in an event that all their peers are involved in, right?
Don't Forget the Jolly Ranchers!
By Richard Connelly
When you think about it, anytime you try to get a toolbox delivered to a prison, you're going to raise some suspicion. You'd have to figure the authorities aren't just going to carry it down to Cellblock D and say, "Here you go, here's the file, screwdriver and chisel you ordered!"
So chances are, that package is going to be inspected. And X-rayed. And when one such toolbox was examined at the Ellis Unit near Huntsville recently, officials discovered a veritable Sam's Club of items designed to make a prison stretch go easier.
Packed away in the box were five ounces of pot, some chewing tobacco, five grams of meth, 139 Ecstasy pills, two bags of Jolly Ranchers and some do rags, TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons tells Hair Balls.
As Slim Pickens said as he examined the survival kit on a Russian-bound nuclear bomber in Dr. Strangelove, "Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."
Not as unusual as you might think, Lyons says. One Death Row inmate requested green Jolly Ranchers for his last meal.
Ecstasy? Are they having raves in prison? "That is an odd place for Ecstasy," she says. Hey, who are we to judge?
The package was addressed simply to the unit's maintenance shop. Which is quite the party place, it sounds like.
An investigation is ongoing.
DOING IT DAILY
There is a ton of new stuff each day on the Houston Press blogs; you're only getting a taste of it here in the print edition. We break news, we cover sports, analyze the hot TV shows and dig up the things that make Houston and Texas unique. Head to blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs (or "/rocks" or "/eating") and under "Tools" on the top-right side of the page, use the "categories" drop-down menu to find these stories:
Our Sean Pendergast, a five-time winner of Jim Rome's epic national Smack-Off rantfest, critiqued this year's competition and provided his list of 12 All-Time Smack-Off calls. He also traded Tweets with Sports Illustrated's Peter King on the NFL draft. We also urged Nolan Ryan to please, puh-leeze buy the Astros, and caught up with the 'Stros' Morgan Ensberg, who defended his seemingly indefensible former teammate Milton Bradley.
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Tales from Transit
We began a Suvival Watch on embattled Metro CEO Frank Wilson, with a handy meter to determine his daily odds on keeping his job. (On a report exonerating him from improper spending: "He's hanging on. This report comes from a firm that Metro hired to investigate itself, so while it's good news for Wilson and the only thing the board currently has to go on, it can't be considered the final word on the investigation.")
Life in the Times of Rick Perry: An "Honorary Texan" award for cultish clown Glenn Beck, and using a laser-sighted pistol and hollow-point bullets (while jogging!) to take out a coyote. We compared the putative presidential candidate's animal-killin' skillz with those of past presidents. His feat was more impressive than Jimmy Carter and the Killer Rabbit, but Perry's no Teddy Roosevelt.