The road has been rocky and hard, but now there are two spaces under The Little Room Downstairs Theater's modest little sign on Bissonnet. Still, neither of Richard Laub's theaters seats more than 60 people, and most of the time the stages have been reconfigured so as to allow no more than 55 people in the intimate audience. Elbow to elbow, knee to knee, the close quarters can make for some very meaningful theatrical moments. The one-woman Brandon Teena story fit perfectly on the tiny main stage, as did Laub's musical memoir The Seat Between. As hardworking as the silver-haired, reserved artistic director is, he's still struggling to make his theaters financially stable. But that's the way of any and all artistic ventures. Besides, growing pains can be good, especially if the little theaters can make it through this coming year. If Laub's big plans -- which include producing writers such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Paula Vogel and best-seller Stephen King -- pan out, his little-theaters-that-could might just become a force to be reckoned with.

Dancing and driving hardly seem compatible. But choreographer Leslie Scates, the woman who single-handedly engineered Drive By Dancing 2000, is clearly not the type to let a little workaday common sense supersede inspiration. The big idea came to her back in 1997, during one of those Houston-freeway-turned-parking-lot-hell moments. She tells it this way: "I was stuck in traffic at 59 and 610 by the Galleria coming north, and there was this big green space there, and I thought dancing would be better than a billboard. What would happen if ten dancers were out there right now?" The muse had struck, but Scates still had to wind her way through a Kafkaesque maze of city bureaucracy in order to get permission to dance by the side of the road. Help came from the Parks and Recreation Department and the folks at the Art Car Museum. In this way Drive By Dancing was born. A couple of years and a couple of CACHH grants later, the dancer-choreographer has built her good idea into a yearly event unlike any other in Houston. And best of all, not a single drive-by spectator has crashed in the process.
Dancing and driving hardly seem compatible. But choreographer Leslie Scates, the woman who single-handedly engineered Drive By Dancing 2000, is clearly not the type to let a little workaday common sense supersede inspiration. The big idea came to her back in 1997, during one of those Houston-freeway-turned-parking-lot-hell moments. She tells it this way: "I was stuck in traffic at 59 and 610 by the Galleria coming north, and there was this big green space there, and I thought dancing would be better than a billboard. What would happen if ten dancers were out there right now?" The muse had struck, but Scates still had to wind her way through a Kafkaesque maze of city bureaucracy in order to get permission to dance by the side of the road. Help came from the Parks and Recreation Department and the folks at the Art Car Museum. In this way Drive By Dancing was born. A couple of years and a couple of CACHH grants later, the dancer-choreographer has built her good idea into a yearly event unlike any other in Houston. And best of all, not a single drive-by spectator has crashed in the process.
After stumbling across this book on eBay, we tracked down the retired George Fuermann's phone number and called, hoping to hear some stories of his career, which spanned the better part of half a century, seven books, innumerable magazine articles and long-running columns in both major dailies. "Career?" Fuermann growled over the line. "I didn't have a career." We know how he feels, but beg to differ nonetheless. Land of the Big Rich is Fuermann's first book, published in 1951 by Doubleday, with a jacket photo identifying the smart young journalist as "the hottest young newspaperman in the South and Southwest." While compadre Sig Byrd documented the era's tragic underbelly, Fuermann's dispatches documented how the other half lived, with chapters on cafe socialism and Houston's Riviera and a flashy focus on Houston millionaires and mavens and movers-and-shakers: "Guests are a merge of satin-and-minked cotillion-type belles and their business-suited escorts; red-faced (from weather more than liquor) men and their well-appointed women, incontrovertibly standing for Oil and Gas with a capital O and a capital G; aging matrons, with more cash than they will ever be able to spend in the years they are still going to spend, trying to wring a lonely thrill out of unlonely thousand-dollar bills; Proper Houstonians and Almost Proper Houstonians; celebrated stars of stage, screen, and finance -- all loaded with diamonds, furs and cash, most of them well behaved and behaving as though they owned a well, an oil well, which they undoubtedly do own." Them, one suspects, were the days.
After stumbling across this book on eBay, we tracked down the retired George Fuermann's phone number and called, hoping to hear some stories of his career, which spanned the better part of half a century, seven books, innumerable magazine articles and long-running columns in both major dailies. "Career?" Fuermann growled over the line. "I didn't have a career." We know how he feels, but beg to differ nonetheless. Land of the Big Rich is Fuermann's first book, published in 1951 by Doubleday, with a jacket photo identifying the smart young journalist as "the hottest young newspaperman in the South and Southwest." While compadre Sig Byrd documented the era's tragic underbelly, Fuermann's dispatches documented how the other half lived, with chapters on cafe socialism and Houston's Riviera and a flashy focus on Houston millionaires and mavens and movers-and-shakers: "Guests are a merge of satin-and-minked cotillion-type belles and their business-suited escorts; red-faced (from weather more than liquor) men and their well-appointed women, incontrovertibly standing for Oil and Gas with a capital O and a capital G; aging matrons, with more cash than they will ever be able to spend in the years they are still going to spend, trying to wring a lonely thrill out of unlonely thousand-dollar bills; Proper Houstonians and Almost Proper Houstonians; celebrated stars of stage, screen, and finance -- all loaded with diamonds, furs and cash, most of them well behaved and behaving as though they owned a well, an oil well, which they undoubtedly do own." Them, one suspects, were the days.
Front man and local homeboy Jesse Dayton says on the band's Web site that this song is "based on a real-life altercation between the Texas Highway Patrol and a kid with a hot-rod Ford and a little too much to drink." But you gotta believe Dayton's crunchy-twangy guitar work and Jason Burns and Eric Tucker's kickin' rhythms weren't playing in the background as this hot-rodder and Texas's finest were going at it. The lyrics may tell the tale of how some testosterone-fueled punk had his way with the law, but the rest of the song gets the message across: Speed kills the competition.
Front man and local homeboy Jesse Dayton says on the band's Web site that this song is "based on a real-life altercation between the Texas Highway Patrol and a kid with a hot-rod Ford and a little too much to drink." But you gotta believe Dayton's crunchy-twangy guitar work and Jason Burns and Eric Tucker's kickin' rhythms weren't playing in the background as this hot-rodder and Texas's finest were going at it. The lyrics may tell the tale of how some testosterone-fueled punk had his way with the law, but the rest of the song gets the message across: Speed kills the competition.
Cherie Craze is one of Houston's unrecognized wonders. Like lots of shy teenagers, the self-taught guitarist spent a good deal of her childhood hiding out in her room, wrapped around her guitar, teaching herself to play. What sets Craze apart from most pimply-faced, angst-ridden adolescents is the fire in her heart and the amazing talent in those ten little digits. From the beginning she was good. And after years of practice, her fingers have learned to fly like tiny devils on fire over the strings of her guitar. Her pad is now piled high with just about every sort of string instrument ever invented, including a banjo, a lap steel guitar and the bajillion guitars she owns. It doesn't matter if it's classical, flamenco, western or pop-rock -- she can play it. And when she opens up her mouth to sing, out comes a sound so beautiful, it could make grown men weep. This is one fine player who really ought to quit her day job.
Cherie Craze is one of Houston's unrecognized wonders. Like lots of shy teenagers, the self-taught guitarist spent a good deal of her childhood hiding out in her room, wrapped around her guitar, teaching herself to play. What sets Craze apart from most pimply-faced, angst-ridden adolescents is the fire in her heart and the amazing talent in those ten little digits. From the beginning she was good. And after years of practice, her fingers have learned to fly like tiny devils on fire over the strings of her guitar. Her pad is now piled high with just about every sort of string instrument ever invented, including a banjo, a lap steel guitar and the bajillion guitars she owns. It doesn't matter if it's classical, flamenco, western or pop-rock -- she can play it. And when she opens up her mouth to sing, out comes a sound so beautiful, it could make grown men weep. This is one fine player who really ought to quit her day job.
Cezanne Jazz Club
Though being able to sit on a musician's lap as he plays does not necessarily a great live local-music venue make, fantastic sound and a hospitable atmosphere do (we're talking about a city that is not Los Angeles or New York and where local musicians need that friendly face to turn to for work). Cezanne is the place. Under the artistic stewardship of local pianist Bob Henschen, the tiny hideaway has become a bunker for Houston's jazz pros. From the legendary late piano virtuoso Dave Catney to Malcom Pinson and his Jazz Warriors, every hep cat to ever shake his head in time to that big beat in the sky has occupied this club's warm wood room. Its good vibe and desire to celebrate Houston music are exceptional in a town of clubs whose booking agents believe only Austin acts draw crowds.

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