Six Houston Myths Mayor Parker Dispelled on The Colbert Report

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to life in Houston. We're fat. It's hot. Our scenery is ugly. We all wear cowboy hats every day and have oil wells in our back yards. Well, we do all have oil wells, but that's for a different story.

When Mayor Annise Parker appeared on The Colbert Report Wednesday night, it was clear she meant to set the record straight on at least a few of the popular myths about Houston...and let the world know that she is Batman.

Myth 1: Houston is a "rinky dink burg like Akron or Charlotte."

Colbert jokingly set up the mayor, allowing her to explain that Houston is, indeed, the fourth-largest city in America behind New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Myth 2: Houston's weather combines "the heat of Texas and the humidity of New Orleans."

Technically, this isn't a myth, but Parker brushed it aside with "We have air conditioning and jobs." Truthfully, anyone who has spent time in New York in the summer has had to deal with stifling heat and humidity and, quite often, little or no air conditioning, so it isn't as if we are alone in this one.

Myth 3: Houston isn't particularly cosmopolitan.

I'm sure that this notion of Houston as a backwater swamp town is easy to hold onto if you've never been here, but the mayor swatted that one down as well. "We're a foodie town, we're an arts town, we're a sports town, a theater town. Anything you want in a big city, we have in Houston," she said. "We have a good quality of life, we're affordable and we have jobs." We could do without that foodie part -- just kidding, you crazy food nerds!

Myth 4: Oil and gas dominate Houston's industry.

This is partially true and Parker did mention it when Colbert asked about the kinds of jobs available here, but she also mentioned the Port of Houston, the largest medical community in the world and our manufacturing base. She left out Houston's ever expanding tech industry, but we certainly didn't sound like a bunch of roughneck ditch diggers when she was done.

Myth 5: Houston isn't tolerant of people with differences.

Being the nation's first and only openly gay mayor and being from Houston must seem like an oxymoron to most. As Colbert put it, "How is that possible that Texas, Texas, six-shooters, conservatives, George Bush, Rick is Houston electing a gay mayor, no offense?" Those who have lived here recognize this as a ridiculous statement and Parker tried to be clear about that fact. "Houston elected me six times before they elected me mayor...and they knew every time," she said. "Houston is very tolerant of a lot of things. They want to know what you can, not who you are, where you are from."

Myth 6: We all stroll around in cowboy hats and boots every day.

The stereotype of the cowboy was fully realized when Dallas first aired and Urban Cowboy hit the big screen in the '70s. It's understandable that this continues when virtually every media discussion of Texas is delivered with a picture of a steer or some boots. Colbert asked, "As mayor of a Texas city, do you walk around the streets in a 10-gallon hat, with your thumbs in your pockets, with six shooters, spitting tobacco?" to which the mayor responded, "You had me until the tobacco. Once a year, during rodeo time, I get my hat and my boots and I ride a horse down the middle of Main Street."

Overall, the mayor acquitted herself nicely and stayed pretty much on point with what she wanted to say. In doing so, we hope she managed to dispel a few "Yankee-ish" myths about the Bayou City.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke