In Case You Missed It: A Little Bit Of The Public News Returns

Our thread on all the favorite things gone from (The) Montrose garnered a lot of great replies, as people remembered a mystical time 10 or 15 years ago when townhomes were not on every block.

One caught our eye, not only for its snappy prose style but for its byline: one Mel Sharkskin.

It may not ring any bells with you whippersnappers on the nets, but oldtimers will instantly remember the Public News, the alt-weekly that ruled Houston before we got to town.

PN offered Sharkskin's taut takes on life here, as well as what the Houston Chronicle once called the "saucy" writing of sports columnist Red Connelly, a description we're still trying to live down.

The incomparable Bert Woodall admitted he probably would have never kept the enterprise going if he had been sober enough to grasp the financial folly of it, but for 15 years it was a weekly must-read for a certain segment of Houston (whether it was to agree with it or hate it.)

PN is gone, but Sharkskin lives on. (In New York, to be exact.)

Here's his comment, for those who missed it:

As a 16-year-old in 1971, I fell off the watermelon truck from Northeast Texas right at the corner of Montrose and Westheimer. For you youngsters, the '60s still had about three years to run. The glutted LSD market had it down to 75 cents a hit, and pot was $10 an ounce, though much of it was seeds and lumber.

But that's not what I remember nor miss the most about Montrose: I miss the twice-annual Anderson Fair Block Party behind Texas Art Supply, and the Pagan Church just around the corner from that. Freaky Foods on Richmond and Woodhead, where you could get rolling papers and Ding-Dongs at 3 a.m. On Fairview you had Turtle News, which was a newsstand devoted to undergound comix and out-of-town underground newspapers and magazines (now, like this publication, called the "alternative press.") In fact, I miss the couple who stood in the middle of the intersection of Westheimer and Montrose selling Space City News. The Grass Hut on Alabama and Yoakum was the Saks of head shops. The free cab service was still operating in 1972 by local hippies. No money? They'd take you where you needed to go in a VW Bug with FREE TAXI painted all over it. Donations only. KPFT played rock n' roll with no words bleeped, and constantly battled the Klan (who blew up their transmitter twice) and the FCC. And best of all, what made Montrose were the Freaks and the gay community, which was just feeling its power for the first time.

The title "Freak" was worn as a badge of honor then, not as a suggestion of sexual predation or having too many limbs. We were proud soldiers of The Revolution, those courageous drag queens who came out at night, unarmed, at risk of life and limb, and us, the Freaks, whose job it was to do nothing constructive, unless it was to offend people who were not Freaks.

This was during the days when the HPD was completely out of control, more a gang than a police force, and they would break down your door without a warrant, destroy your apartment, and beat you senseless for the crime of having long hair and going barefoot, or of wearing a dress against your gender.

Yes, I may be an old crank now, but you youngsters out there have no appreciation for the battles we fought, the blood we spilled on Lower Westheimer so you could wear your hair any way you please and you young trannies out there can safely sport a Little Black Dress with a dainty tuck-under on a Montrose Saturday night.

My body may be in New York, but my heart and soul will always be in Montrose.

You might call it "saucy."

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