Bad Advice

Imagine you are a tourist here in town. You have a room at one of the seeming dozens of swanky new downtown hotels. You've been to the zoo and the museums and now you want to see what Houston's all about after dark, so you head over to the downtown visitor's center in city hall and pick up a few of the tourist brochures.

I did just that the other day, minus the swanky downtown hotel bit. Here's what I found. In the winter edition of the official Houston visitor's guide, exactly one page is devoted to night life. The story opens by touting weekends downtown, where "on Friday and Saturday evenings Main Street is closed to cars between Congress and Capital [sic]." It recommends that you go to the Red Cat, Sambuca, the State Bar in the Rice Hotel, Market Square Grill, Flying Saucer and St. Pete's, which are all decent enough tips, as are the ones that tout Dean's, La Carafe, the Char Bar and Kenneally's. (You'd expect a publication published by noted tippler Jordy Tollett to have solid bar info.)

Then the article gets weird

— in a section on dance clubs it recommends The Roxy, Hush and the Belvedere, all of which are at least five miles from downtown. Big Woodrow's is the only icehouse-type bar it steers you to. So there's no mention of Rudyard's, the West Alabama Ice House, Proletariat, Fitzgerald's, the Engine Room, Warehouse Live, the Meridian, Mink, the Mucky Duck, the Continental Club or any of Houston's other live music venues, or any of the nightclubs downtown. Worse, the short article is accompanied by a large, pleasant photograph of attractive people chillaxing at the 12 Spot. Which is nice, but I'm sad to say that the 12 Spot closed a couple of months ago.

All in all, it's a pretty underwhelming effort, especially when you consider that the publication devotes roughly four times the space to inane "Official Welcome" statements from the mayors of Houston, Webster, Galveston, Seabrook, Nassau Bay, Kemah, League City, and La Porte and the judges that run Harris and Fort Bend County. (Interesting factoid I learned from these: "Kemah" means "wind in my face" in some unspecified Indian language.)

Lame as the official visitor's guide is, it seems as clued-in and hip as DJ Ceeplus when you compare it to "Enjoy Houston, The Guidebook for Convention Delegates, Visitors, and Tourists." Believe you me, this little pamphlet is a corker. Under "Sights and Attractions," there's a puzzling, full-page profile of Sisters Morales, who despite the article's statement to the contrary, moved from here at least five years ago. I am totally at a loss to explain this article's placement here — I mean, if you are going to claim some non-local band as a Houston sight and/or attraction, why not aim higher and profile Radiohead or something?

I was enthused when I saw that this pamphlet devoted four pages to Houston entertainment, but my joy quickly transformed to dismay when I saw the offerings therein. There are 14 tips on the first page of the section, and they include a recommendation that you rent an ATV in Austin, enjoy fun in the sun at Schlitterbahn Galveston, or head down to the dog track in La Marque or Space Center Houston in Clear Lake. Are those attractions not far enough way? Then why not follow up on the pamphlet's tip and head over to the Isle of Capri casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana. (It also recommends Champps, Bayou Place, the Houston Ballet, Jillians, the Mezzanine, Pub Fiction, Tumbleweed Texas and La Bare.)

La Bare is hardly the only fleshpot with this pamphlet's seal of approval. In fact, the entire remaining three pages of the entertainment section are given over to huge ads for Cover Girls, Splendor, the Trophy Club, Centerfolds, the Gold Cup, Treasures, and Rick's Cabaret. And I guess that's only fair — everybody knows what conventioneers are like, and if there is one area in which Houston is indubitably world-class, it is as a jiggle joint Shangri-la.

So that's the city that the powers-that-be here are foisting off on visitors to Houston — a titty bar bonanza with no live music scene and so little, in fact, to recommend it that you might just as well head to Galveston, Austin or the shining city on a hill that is Lake Charles. -- John Nova Lomax

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