Night Life

Hottest Foam in the Dome's Home

It was a mixed crowd at Polly Esther's Culture Club (6111 Richmond). Half were nattily dressed folks, dry as a martini, taking in the whole 1970s music-and-ambience thing. The other people were dressed in bikinis, T-shirts, shorts and other casual beach gear, occasionally covered head to toe in foam, walking around the club as though they were hanging out in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory -- or the Playboy Mansion. Obviously, the former crowd did their best to avoid all interaction with the latter.

This was another of the retro club's foam parties, and of course it couldn't have been more successful if the foam had come from endless bottles of beer (although that would've been a nice perk). Men and women slid around, got doused and made out in the knee-deep foam that covered the patio floor. "It's like partying in your bathtub with 500 of your closest friends," states general manager Trey Gounah.

And whenever a foam party arises, a bikini contest is not far behind. As usual, the bustiest of the bunch stepped up to relieve themselves of their clothing, get sprayed with water guns, get ogled and captured for posterity by amateur paparazzi.

Why? Because it was the night before Labor Day, and if we, as Americans, stopped admiring naked, suds-covered breasts, then, dammit, the terrorists would have won!

Some may wonder what the hell a foam party is -- and more important, why the hell anyone would need to immerse themselves to have a good time. Well, the foam party began overseas on that international party island known as Ibiza. Over there, clubs, arenas and whole stretches of land would be covered in suds, and folks flocked to partake in the soapiness of it all. The foam party craze made its way to the States, first hitting raves and gay parties and eventually leaking into the mainstream of Houston nightlife.

Although foam parties are still an alien concept to most Houstonians, those hip to the little shindigs really get into it once spume begins to seep. Bob Welch and his company, has supplied many a foam-generating machine for these gatherings. He finds that many people get in touch with their inner child once they feel the soft, white, inviting bubbles. "You get inside the foam, and it's like you're five years old," says Welch. "My wife got in there [at a party]. She's 39, and she had a blast. You lose your inhibitions."

Occasionally, a foam party can be a straight-up disaster. Rehab (709 Franklin) general manager Chris Alan remembers when one of his colleagues did one back in 1996 at the long-gone Shelter. "The foam guy ran out of foam," recalls Alan. "And he said, 'Go buy some Lemon Joy or something like that.' "

Party foam is nontoxic, and unlike actual soap or detergent, is also nonabrasive. "I don't know if you've ever gotten [detergent] in your eyes," says Alan, "but it burns."

Alan's previous nightlife venture, Club Space, held a couple of foam parties, and he believes that you always need to have a reliable supplier. "Hire a company," stresses Alan. "[Then] it's their responsibility. There are professionals -- there are several in the country that do it."

DJ Patrick De La Garza, who once provided the music for a foam party, also feels that party organizers should keep their patrons out of harm's way. "Organization is always a must for any promoter," he says. "Making sure that everything will run smoothly, and making sure people aren't going to end up slipping and hurting themselves. But that's something they should be worried about anyway, so that they don't get sued."

Since there have yet to be any significant incidents, expect a lot more suds to be permeating out of local venues. "I plan to do one this month and, depending on the weather, next month," says Polly Esther's Gounah, who also hopes that foam party patrons don't feel the need to rid themselves of apparel next time. "Of course, most people don't mind that, but I'd rather have everyone have their clothes on."

Last Call

We couldn't let this week's column go by without mentioning what's going on with Spy (112 Travis) and The Hub (312 Main). Unless you've been holed up with the newly released-on-DVD complete works of Quentin Tarantino, you probably already know that the owners and some employees of both clubs have been indicted as part of the bust of an international Ecstasy ring. It turns out these cats were allegedly the biggest suppliers of X in the city, if not the whole world. The feds have seized control of both clubs, accusing the owners, the Singh brothers, of laundering their drug loot through those spots. So what does this mean for downtown nightlife? And what will become of the clubs after they've been turned over to the government? Well, kids, tune in next week for the whole story.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey