Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the Unites States, and we can best prove that point by highlighting some of our more unmissable citizens. No matter where you are in Houston there are ten people that you're likely to run into and will instantly know who they are.
10: Booker T: Houston has had its fair number of wrestling superstars over the years, but none as accessible and community-minded as Booker T. Huffman. The 6'3" former champion cuts an imposing figure both at his own Reality of Wrestling shows, on the various golf courses, or having a meal at Mambos, but is always willing to stop and have a chat with a fan.
9. Brian Arthur: The owner of Super Happy Fun Land looks and acts exactly how you would think he does. Bearded, wild-eyed, but good-hearted, Brian Arthur rules an empire of the odd and strange from his venue on Polk, and sometimes serves as the sole sanctuary for the more esoteric bands and performance artists who want to visit Houston. If you meet him out and about and ask him what's up, be prepared for the answer because what's up is usually something weird and wonderful.
8. The Black Time Lord: A new addition to Houston's collection of personalities is a guy I'm calling the Black Time Lord because he resembles nothing so much as an African-American incarnation of Doctor Who. He's been sighted in Midtown and the Galleria. He is tall, middle-aged, slender, light-skinned, and his black hair is in small cornrows. The BTL tends towards sharp suits in blue or grey, complete with vest and fob watch, over black silk shirts with a knotted cravat. Accessories include a silver-headed cane (Which may or may not conceal a sonic screwdriver) and small sunglasses similar to the ones Gary Oldman wore as Dracula.
Over a dozen people have spotted him and reported it to me, and I have no idea who he is. Just that he's either a time traveler or just the coolest looking guy in the city.
7. Annise Parker: Not only is she our mayor, but as one of the first openly gay mayors from a major city Parker is well-known visually to both residents and visitors. She's friendly, and she's got style to spare so you always know when you spot her on the move on the news. She's also one of the only people from Houston I can name that has been on The Colbert Report and managed to zing him back, which makes her cooler than any three other lesser people.
6. Willie D: There's a reason we gave the leader of the Geto Boys an advice column. It's because he's eloquent, famous, and everyone who knows anything about rap knows Willie D. He's not only one of our most treasured musical exports, he writes provocative political prose as well as solid tips for every day situations. Like Booker T, he's keen to help the youth of today aspire to greatness, and you can hear him speak all over the place.
5. Merlyn: One man you have definitely seen around Montrose is Merlyn because he is unmistakable. Leaning on his carven wizards staff he limps through the streets with a smile and a wave on his way to purchase magical artifacts at Magic Cauldron. Omar Afra managed to track down his story for Free Press Houston on film, and believe me it is worth the watch.
4. Little Joe Washington: Very few people top our elder blues statesman in terms of cred and cachet. Whatever cool thing you do, Little Joe has been doing longer tan you've been alive and makes it sound better in a song in any case. Into his '80s and still kicking it as hard as he ever did, you still see him riding his bike and hoofing it to and from gigs. Everyone loves Little Joe.
3. Juan Carlos: The infamous Montrose rollerblade dancer recently became an Internet sensation when a YouTube video of his performance went viral. For 15 years he has been entertaining people on the streets of Houston with shakes and shimmies. He always brings a smile to the face of everyone he encounters.
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2. Christian Kidd: The face of punk in Houston is that of Christian Kidd zooming around on his endless series of scooters, defiant mohawk cutting the air through traffic like a shark fin. Even after a bad car accident landed him in the hospital and he was being wheeled through the emergency room on a bed he still had people all over the ward screaming, "It's the guy from the Hates!" When people know who you are in the middle of a medical emergency that's tough to beat.
1. Billy Gibbons: Even among all the other musicians in the world Billy Gibbons with his trademark beard and glasses stands out. That said, what makes him ultra-special is what happens when you meet him. I've clerked at two different establishments where he has just walked in and been a normal customer, and he is always the most down to earth and friendly person you could ever want to meet. Ask anyone that has ever served him as a waiter, ticket taker, whatever, and they'll tell you that Billy Gibbons is exactly what they want people to think of when they think of Houston.
He's larger than life, he's polite, he's one of a kind, and he's completely awesome.