Westheimer Babylon


Not long back, I had the opportunity to explore the origin of the name of my favorite Houston club, Numbers. My source explained to me that the name originated from a late-'70s slang term indicating a hot guy or girl during the club's original disco days. The upstairs area also sported silver wallpaper decorated with actual numbers, further cementing the moniker. Later, the wallpaper was painted over with black.

That solved at least one mystery for me, but Numbers has had a fair share of tales told about it over its tangled history. And its history is quite long; it opened as Numbers in 1978. Along with Fitzgerald's and Anderson Fair, it's one of the oldest clubs still in its original building, and still operating almost half a century later.

It's time to lay to rest some of the myths surrounding my gothic sanctuary.

7. Numbers has never been a roller rink.

When the building first opened in 1975, it was The Million Dollar City Dump, a dinner theater where people could see Las Vegas-style shows. It transitioned into a disco to capitalize on the latest fad, and has remained a dance club ever since.

6. There used to be bowls of ecstasy available by the doors for patrons.

This was true during the '70s and '80s, and isn't really all that shocking. X, or MDMA, didn't become illegal until 1985 and punishment for its sale and/or use didn't become serious until 2001, when Congress mandated a 3,000 percent (not a typo) increase in penalties.

5. A fire did not shut down Numbers in 1980.

If there ever has been a significant fire at the club, I have not been able to find out anything about it. The closure in question was the result of poor management that had neglected to pay Numbers' bills, the final outcome being that the power got cut off for nonpayment during a Gone with the Wind-themed gala. The club reopened as Babylon later in the year.

4. Numbers has never had another location.

It has always resided at 300 Westheimer. During the Babylon days, when CO2 cannons and laser lights were installed and Lloyd's bar was built in the old Million Dollar City Dump kitchen, management once again began to disagree and changes were made. The club again took the name Numbers, adding a "2" to the sign to signify its new direction.

3. At no point in its history has Numbers ever been a brothel, either.

There simply aren't enough gaps in Numbers' chronology for one to have been operating. Of course, there's been plenty of sex, and I can't say for certain whether it's ever been in exchange for either money or drugs (or both). Most Numbers regulars treat any canoodling they happen upon with little more than a shrug.

2. Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon did not OD at Numbers.

Some people say the singer died of an overdose after his final show at Numbers in July of 1995. This is both true and false. Hoon did perform at Numbers, and it was the last show he ever played. However, he was found dead on his tour bus after failing to make sound check for his next gig (in New Orleans), not at or outside Numbers.

1. Someone has died at Numbers, though.

That's not to say no one has ever met his end at Numbers, though. In 2003, 21-year-old Thomas Hall, also called Tommy Vain, sent a shockwave through Houston's goth community when he stabbed and killed Brody Darnell in an argument over a girl. Darnell later died of blood loss, and is buried in Pearland's South Park Cemetery.

Hall pled guilty to the murder charge and received a 30-year sentence, which he's now serving at the Robertson Unit in Abilene. He is studying to be a minister, and is eligible for parole in 2019.

The incident inspired the song "Murder by #'s" by Jim Jones and the Kkoolaidman, but was also the subject of eerie coincidence. In English author Carmilla Voiez's gothic novel Starblood, there's an altercation between two characters in a goth-club bathroom that ends in a brutal murder, though it's head trauma and not a stab wound that proves fatal. Like the Numbers incident, it was a sudden and violent act committed in jealousy over a lover.

Though the scene was not in any way patterned after the murder, when I interviewed Voiez about Starblood, she was surprised at the similarity. She also revealed that Hall had modeled for her Drac-In-A-Box clothing line years ago. The resemblance between the scene as written and the actual incident was just weirdly uncanny, since Voiez had heard none of the details about that night.

Just another strange chapter in the history of Numbers.

Ask Willie D

Role Playing
A reader is unsure how to deal with her husband's porn addiction.

Willie D

Dear Willie D:

My husband is a helpless porn addict. He not only has loads of DVDs, he watches porn on the Internet daily. The weird thing is he knows many of the girls by name; who does that? I get mad at him because I don't want him lusting over other women, even though I know he can't have them.

Our sex life is pretty good, but when we are in the moment, I don't know if he's thinking of me or the porn actresses. Am I being insecure or what?

Dear Jealous:

Yes, you are being insecure, but that's understandable considering most women in the adult-film industry are vivacious and uninhibited. But don't trip; they're not real, you are. And they don't share his bed, you do. As long as he's not trying to pee on you or have you do something you don't want to do, let him have his porn.

Let's look at the positive side of your husband's porn addiction. In his imaginary lust for other women, you don't have to worry about him bringing home sexually transmitted diseases or having children outside of the marriage. Also, rather than popping Viagra pills, maybe fantasizing about being with the girls in the videos is the stimulant he uses to satisfy you.

You would probably say, "Well, when we're making love, he shouldn't be thinking about anyone but me." That may be true, but variety is the spice of life and life doesn't always have to be real in the bedroom.

Dear Willie D:

I have a family member who is very irresponsible. She recently moved from Mississippi to Tennessee. Once she moved here, my mother and I began to help her get on her feet. We helped her get her children into school [and] find a job and a place to live. My issue with her is that she lets her four children do anything and everything they want to. The children range [in age] from five to ten years old.

The mother does not help the kids with their homework. The child who is in the first grade does not know her ABCs, nor can she count past ten. The ten-year-old cannot read a word that has more than five letters in it. She is so worried about getting back with her youngest child's father that she completely forgets the older two.

What do you think I should do to help her change her destructive ways?

Dear Worried:

You and your mother deserve a standing ovation for doing all you have done and continue to do for your family member and her children. But there's not much you can do to make her a responsible parent.

The kids are stuck unless you can prove in a court of law that the mother is physically abusive or neglecting them by leaving them home alone, not feeding them or something along those lines, in which case your local child protective agency is likely to remove them from the home so the court can place them with a close relative or foster parents.

Unfortunately, the failure to properly educate your children and teach them to conduct themselves in a civil manner is not a crime. If it were, a whole lot of parents would be on death row awaiting execution.

Ask Willie D appears Thursday mornings on Rocks Off.

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Jef with One F
Contact: Jef with One F