—————————————————— Best Shrine to the Abnormal 2002 | Museum of the Weird | Best of Houston® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Houston | Houston Press
Donations of every imaginable variety show up weekly: horns, doll heads, a film canister of Tommy Lee Jones's spit, balls of Saran Wrap, clumps of hair, an appendix, color photos of fallopian tubes and contemporary art of a disquieting nature. Artist/nutball Dolan Smith has turned his Heights bungalow into a mecca for all things weird, including his own artwork, an ongoing series of drawings that details a host of physical and psychological scars featuring Smith's own brand of black humor. Visitors are invited to write down and contribute their own scars to the Scar Room as well. Smith is supplementing his empire of the bizarre with a two-thirds-complete pet cemetery. Last year, Tropical Storm Allison took its toll on the nascent final resting place for pets. Rising floodwaters filled the jars of 32 dead rats, inadvertently creating biological pipe bombs. Smith plans to complete the columbarium this fall. For a strange time, call to schedule a visit.
Usually we're depressed by Houston's headlong rush to tear down every vestige of its past and replace it with something modern. But let's face it, the old Music Hall was a dump. The roof leaked, the offstage areas were cramped, and there wasn't much charm in its pedestrian design. The $100 million Hobby Center is a spectacular improvement on all accounts. Even though the main hall is far too big (2,600 seats), the feeling is as intimate as possible given the numbers. The acoustics are great, and the stage environs were designed with touring Broadway shows in mind. The accompanying 500-seat hall, yet to be finished, has endless possibilities, but whether it can be a financial success remains to be seen.
Usually we're depressed by Houston's headlong rush to tear down every vestige of its past and replace it with something modern. But let's face it, the old Music Hall was a dump. The roof leaked, the offstage areas were cramped, and there wasn't much charm in its pedestrian design. The $100 million Hobby Center is a spectacular improvement on all accounts. Even though the main hall is far too big (2,600 seats), the feeling is as intimate as possible given the numbers. The acoustics are great, and the stage environs were designed with touring Broadway shows in mind. The accompanying 500-seat hall, yet to be finished, has endless possibilities, but whether it can be a financial success remains to be seen.
The beauty of all open mikes, whether it be for poetry, comedy or music, is that they're open to anyone with the nerve or lack of ego to take a shot at five minutes of fame. You get the professionals, the diamonds in the rough or, if you're lucky, the people who seem to exist in their own time and space. Larry Simon is one such performer. His most frequent sightings are at the open mike at the Laff Stop on West Gray. People are usually struck mute when asked to describe his act. Many agree that a classic Larry joke will not make sense until it soaks in -- usually about three months later. It'll hit you while you're driving or in the shower. "Oh! That's why the vacuum cleaner sucked up the rat, a dog, a tomcat and two winos." Whether he's talking about chocolate-covered ants (a legendary Ed Wood cult classic of a joke) or about being robbed by a hooker (which somehow connects to pygmies throwing spears at leprechauns on an airplane), the best classification for this comic enigma is "accidental surrealist."

The beauty of all open mikes, whether it be for poetry, comedy or music, is that they're open to anyone with the nerve or lack of ego to take a shot at five minutes of fame. You get the professionals, the diamonds in the rough or, if you're lucky, the people who seem to exist in their own time and space. Larry Simon is one such performer. His most frequent sightings are at the open mike at the Laff Stop on West Gray. People are usually struck mute when asked to describe his act. Many agree that a classic Larry joke will not make sense until it soaks in -- usually about three months later. It'll hit you while you're driving or in the shower. "Oh! That's why the vacuum cleaner sucked up the rat, a dog, a tomcat and two winos." Whether he's talking about chocolate-covered ants (a legendary Ed Wood cult classic of a joke) or about being robbed by a hooker (which somehow connects to pygmies throwing spears at leprechauns on an airplane), the best classification for this comic enigma is "accidental surrealist."

Houston's own Rob Nash just keeps delivering the goods, from his first show, Freshman Year Sucks, to his most recent madcap caper, his take on a production of the Bard's venerable play at the fictional Holy Cross High. Unlike many one-person shows, which are all too often portraits of some moldy historical figure (yawn) or, even worse, are drawn from the actor's own personal experience (double yawn), in Romeo and Juliet: Love and Sex at Holy Cross High, Nash managed to invent an entire world populated by a bevy of fascinating, completely unique and hilariously screwed-up characters. Drawn from his own experience? Maybe. Yawn? Not once.
Houston's own Rob Nash just keeps delivering the goods, from his first show, Freshman Year Sucks, to his most recent madcap caper, his take on a production of the Bard's venerable play at the fictional Holy Cross High. Unlike many one-person shows, which are all too often portraits of some moldy historical figure (yawn) or, even worse, are drawn from the actor's own personal experience (double yawn), in Romeo and Juliet: Love and Sex at Holy Cross High, Nash managed to invent an entire world populated by a bevy of fascinating, completely unique and hilariously screwed-up characters. Drawn from his own experience? Maybe. Yawn? Not once.
Politics and theater can make boring bedfellows. The result is usually a bunch of soapboxing badly disguised as art. Of course, if you're Brian Jucha and you want to write about the horrors of 9/11, the whole world -- including any usual standards about what happens when art and politics mix -- gets turned upside down. Certainly that was the case earlier this year when Jucha and the brave hearts at Infernal Bridegroom Productions put on the most original and provocative production of the entire theatrical season. Jucha's strange synthesis of pop music, modern dance moves and dialogue taken from actual tapes of the air-traffic controllers turned into an astonishing collage of images and sound that illuminated much about the culture in which we live. (Everything from "Free Winona" T-shirts to skate punks to phone sex got a moment on stage.) The utterly inspired night of showmanship was gorgeous to watch, painful to think about and should not have been missed by anyone who loves theater.
Politics and theater can make boring bedfellows. The result is usually a bunch of soapboxing badly disguised as art. Of course, if you're Brian Jucha and you want to write about the horrors of 9/11, the whole world -- including any usual standards about what happens when art and politics mix -- gets turned upside down. Certainly that was the case earlier this year when Jucha and the brave hearts at Infernal Bridegroom Productions put on the most original and provocative production of the entire theatrical season. Jucha's strange synthesis of pop music, modern dance moves and dialogue taken from actual tapes of the air-traffic controllers turned into an astonishing collage of images and sound that illuminated much about the culture in which we live. (Everything from "Free Winona" T-shirts to skate punks to phone sex got a moment on stage.) The utterly inspired night of showmanship was gorgeous to watch, painful to think about and should not have been missed by anyone who loves theater.
When the bubble burst in 1929, so many stockbrokers took a dive themselves that it brought the euphemism defenestration (the act of throwing a person or thing out of a window) back into the lexicon. More recently, post office employees showed the need for anger management in the workplace. But despite being left with worthless stock options at best, or a pink slip at worst, Enron employees expressed their justifiable rage through humor. Amassing corporate "deal toys" handed out in the company's heyday, former and remaining employees put together an impromptu art exhibit at Drew Crispin's coffee bar in the now mostly empty Three Allen Center. Among the works on display was a Lucite dome containing shredded money handed out in 1995 in honor of closing a financial deal (it's called "Not a Shred of Evidence"), and a watercolor print of an American flag and eagle presented as a gift to Enron's political action committee members in 1999 (called "How Much Is Your Vote Worth?"). Building management turned a blind eye to the exhibit even though it might not have followed the letter of the contract, and Enron's remaining top brass wisely kept silent. This is one case where blurring the line was justified.

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