Sumer is icumen in ?? an ancient poem begins. Although it is only May, ?sumer? is, indeed, ?icumen in? to this sleepy fishing village on the bayou. That?s because, in Houston, winter falls on a Thursday. And we must not confuse the official start of summer with the formal beginning of hurricane season, June 1, which is signified by the head of the Red Cross tossing out the first doughnut.
Thus, no matter what the calendar says, summer in Houston begins when we turn the air conditioning from ?cool? to ?frostbite? and we can hang meat in the hallway. The warmer it gets outside, the colder it gets inside. Do you notice how many secretaries and receptionists in our office buildings, in the hot glare of July, are wearing sweaters?
I carry a jacket in the back seat of my car from April till October because our theaters and restaurants tend to get colder as the temperature in the parking lot rises. This is because the thermostats in the theaters are set by the people cooking the popcorn, while the temperatures in the restaurants are controlled by chefs sweating over a bubbling cauldron. The waiter tells you the soup of the day and the wind chill factor. Mark Twain once noted that the coldest winter he ever spent was one summer in San Francisco. He might have written that about Houston.
Besides our heat, every now and again we have some moisture in the air. During the summer, Houston?s average low is 71 degrees, the average high is 91 degrees, and the average humidity is 120 percent. Houston is the only city in America where you really can grow moss on a rolling stone and tie a knot in a Frito. Yet it is only fair to compare. Having experienced both, I will take an August afternoon in Houston over a January morning in Manhattan any time. (Like they say, you don?t have to shovel heat.) Come to think of it, Manhattan is an island at sea level, and an August afternoon there isn?t much fun either, especially when they?ve never heard of air conditioning.
Which brings us to the a/c. It has been noted that Houston is the most air-conditioned city in the world. There is no way to quantify that fact, but we have 50 Yellow Pages listings under ?air conditioning,? while churches have 20. There has long been an urban legend that the British Foreign Office considered Houston a hardship post for its diplomats stationed here. This is not quite accurate. We were not a hardship post, but, because of our weather, three years here counted as four years towards retirement. I once broached this subject with the British counsel at the time, and he said, ?I wrote back to White Hall, ?My God, haven?t you people ever heard of air conditioning??? So that perk was dropped.
ýo be honest, we do have our limp hair days. But we must look at the bright side, as Andersen told Enron. Dermatologists say our humidity is good for the skin. That is why we have nine super large humidifiers strategically placed around town to pump moisture into the air. We also have some rain, but most of the time it is only heavy dew, like Allison. Houston is a great town at low tide. Remember that only in Houston do Realtors use glass bottom boats. And we must also remember that a good flood every now and again cuts down on the crop of roaches. Do not attempt to defend our hot flashes. When visitors and new arrivals ask, ?How do you stand your summers?? explain that we don?t. We go from our air-conditioned house to our car with a/c on to the cooled-down office building to the frozen tennis court then to the Arctic baseball park. Advise them to take along a sweater. Also explain that a city ordinance requires all newcomers to put in swimming pools. You don?t want a pool yourself. They are trouble and expensive. What you want is for your neighbors to have a pool you can use.
Finally, remain humble when speaking to others about our weather. To win them over, it ain?t the heat, it?s the humility. ih
51 Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer
by Aaron Howard and Marks Hinton
Summer’s on top of us, and school’s out. That means the kids will be home for the next three months. Your child prefers to sleep until 5 p.m. and then watch movies and hang out with friends all night. You’re a parent obsessed with shepherding your kids through as many positive experiences as possible.
With that in mind, here are 51 opportunities for classes, volunteer activities and day trips with your pre-teens and teen-agers. Sit with your children and ask them questions about their interests. Create a family dialogue about values. Then show them this list and ask them to choose from the following.
1. The old ball game. It’s no longer called Enron Field, but the stadium is still open for tours. See the skyboxes, locker rooms and the inner workings of a major league ballpark. If the home team’s in town, stay around for an Astros’ game. Located at 501 Crawford. For tour information call (713) 259-8000.
2. The Eagle has landed. Hey, this is Space City. And this is the place for youngsters who dream of someday exploring outer space. Kids can get a head start at one of the Space Center Houston day camps. Get more information at (281) 244-2131.
3. Skateboarding heaven. Houston boasts one of the country’s most vibrant skate scenes. Urban skaters have been skating downtown since 1979. But if you’re a 15-year-old skater, heaven is Van’s Skate Park, 7620 Katy Freeway. Dad, you might want to drop your teen off here and catch a film at the Edwards complex nearby. (713) 681-9750
4. Sugar sugar. The Imperial Sugar Refining Company in Sugar Land hosts one of the area?s few remaining industrial tours. Young kids can get to see 161 bags of sweetness being produced each minute. Oh, sweet excess! Visits are conducted Monday through Friday. (281) 490-9805
5. Top cops. A helicopter hangs from the roof. There’s a simulated police car kids can play in and a bomb squad robot. And there are guns dating back 200 years. It?s all at the Houston Police Museum at the Houston Police Academy. Reservations are required for their Tuesday and Thursday tours. (281) 230-2361
6. Before sunrise. Wake the kids up at 4 a.m. Load them into the car and drive to the Farmer’s Cooperative Market at 2520 Airline Drive. This is a slice of real Texas where farmers offer their produce directly to Houston’s restaurants, grocers and shoppers. Open daily.
7. Come fly with me. The last time we visited the Cockrell Butterfly Center, it was giving out ladybugs for release. Enjoy the thrill of scores of butterflies landing on your shoulder. Look for the iguanas. The center is located at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5800 Caroline in Hermann Park.
8. The engine that could. What kid doesn’t love firetrucks? Climb aboard one. Put on real fire gear. See historic equipment. And there’s even information on historic fires. Younger kids will adore the Houston Fire Museum at 2403 Milam. (713) 524-2526
9. Walk the dog. Do you love animals? The Houston SPCA has dozens of volunteer opportunities. Everything from teaching the large dogs basic obedience with clicker training and positive reinforcement to cleaning ears and general grooming. Call Volunteer Services Director Yvette Carmona at (713) 869-7722, ext. 129.
10. Cruise the channel. The Port of Houston’s inspection boat, Sam Houston, glides past the oil refineries along the Houston Ship Channel. No, it isn’t the Seine, but it’s a great way to understand our city’s industrial muscle. And those breezes coming off the water feel good on a hot summer day. The cruise is free on Tuesdays through Sundays, but you must make reservations in advance. (713) 670-2416
11. Bays and gulls. Plant sea grass in the West Bay. You’ll help prevent erosion, create habitats for fish and get your feet wet. Volunteer by phoning the Galveston Bay Foundation at (281) 332-3381.
12. Go orange. Jeff McKissack was an eccentric. He built a monument to the orange on Houston’s east side. This phantasmagoric structure is like a jungle gym on steroids. Visit it at 2401 Munger. (713) 926-6368
13. Winged red fingerlings. Fingerlings are little red drum. Fifteen million of these fishy guys are raised at Sea Center Texas. Operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife, the center features five aquariums, a touch tank and a wetlands exhibit. It’s worth the 50-mile drive to Lake Jackson. And Surfside Beach is only five miles away. Open every day except Monday. (979) 292-0100
14. Water Wall. An amazing kinetic sculpture and one of the city’s best venues for people watching, the Water Wall is a great place to take out-of-town visitors. After sunset is a particularly good time to visit. Look for the vendor selling Mexican fruit ices. And bring money to take a horse and carriage ride. Located behind the Galleria at 2800 Post Oak Blvd.
15. Wanna play? Widely considered by most to be Houston’s finest children’s theater program, Early Stages offers a summer’s worth of live presentations with professional actors. Meet and greet the actors after each show. Backstage tours and birthday parties can be arranged. Located at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway, (713) 527-0123
16. Space commander camp. Wannabe space cadets ages 6-12 can build model rockets, perfect robot operating skills and learn how to be astronauts. The Houston Museum of Natural Science runs a space program and numerous other science camps. To access their complete Summer X-Plorations programs, visit online at www.hmns.org or phone (713) 639-4652.
17. Demolition derby. Loud engines and lots of dust. Everything for a boy to love, from stock cars to monster truck wars. It all takes place at Houston Raceway Park, 2525 F.M. 565 South in Baytown. (281) 383-2666
18. Movies and more. The Marq*E Entertainment Center offers pure entertainment for Houston families and singles in search of a great time. This 350,000-square-foot entertainment complex features a 22-screen state-of-the-art cinema, a variety of good restaurants and eateries and fabulous specialty retail shops. Located at I-10 West and Loop 610 South
19. Decorate your car. Art cars are eccentric, visionary and always a joy to behold. Inspire your kid to consider the personal and impractical in life at the Art Car Museum, 140 Heights Blvd. (713) 861-5526
20. Paddle boats. Nothing says lazy summer like a paddle boat. Nowhere to go and all the time in the world? The Hermann Park boathouse is located beside the miniature train station and across from the zoo entrance. Paddle boat hours are weekdays from 11 a.m. to dusk and weekends from 10 a.m. to dusk.
21. Hidden sanctuary. A tiny wildlife refuge in West Houston, the Edith Moore Nature Sanctuary is a walk in the woods right in the center of the Memorial area. Operated by the Audubon Society, the sanctuary features a self-guided tour with maps that can be obtained at the log cabin. Plan a birthday party here. Located at 12955 Memorial Drive, (713) 464-4900
22. Stormy weather. You can experience tornadoes, hurricanes and floods in the safety of the Weather Research Center, 3227 Audley. Scouts can earn their weather badge, and the center offers a weather camp each summer. Reservations are required. (713) 529-3076
23. Mexican wrestling. As far away from the WWF as you can get, the heroes in this parallel wrestling universe include El Mongal Chino, Pantera, Olimpica, Caballero Star and Gran Brutus. Virtually all of the wrestlers wear mascaras (masks), and the audience is mainly Hispanic. This is definitely a unique Houston cultural experience! Sunday afternoons at the new flea market at 8315 Long Point Road, (713) 722-7122
24. Eat your heart out. From the kid’s table by the front door to the numerous samples offered throughout the store, Central Market is geared to young people. Prepare to be overwhelmed by the volume and variety. You’ll see vegetables you’ve never heard of, sophisticated kid?s meals and candy by the bulk. A trip to the supermarket was never this much fun. Located at 2815 Westheimer, (713) 386-1700
25. This Bud’s for you. Retired railroad car upholsterer John Milkovisch, sick of painting his house, decided on a unique material for siding – beer cans. John and his neighbors consumed enough brew to completely cover his cottage. Visit the results of his hard work or recycling gone amok at 202 Malone. It’s free and you can drive by any day.
26. Yaks and llamas. A visit to the True Buddha Temple is a slice of Tibet transported to Sharpstown. In addition to an impressive array of golden Buddhas, the walls are lined with intricately painted holy thankas, religious story paintings. This sacred space welcomes visitors. Remove your shoes at the door. Open 1-6 p.m. daily. Located at 7734 Mary Bates
27. Buffalo Soldiers. 180,000 African-Americans served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Of these, more than 33,000 died. After the war, Congress passed legislation establishing two cavalry and four infantry regiments, which constituted 20 percent of all cavalry forces on the American frontier. Learn all about this part of our history at the African-American Military Museum, 1834 Southmore. (713) 942-8920
28. Nature’s way. You may have passed by the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center while driving through Memorial Park. Make a trip to explore this beautiful 265-acre wooded site. Nature walks, trails, a lake for bird watching and indoor exhibits are offered. The kids will love touching the animal exhibits. Located at 4501 Woodway, (713) 681-8433
29. Spooky tour. Explore Houston?s enchanted and haunted sites on the High Spirits tour. Visit homes, hospitals and graveyards to commune with Houston’s restless souls. (713) 224-2868
30. Big art. Rodin, Matisse, Calder, Umlaf and Naguchi are just some of the artists in the Cullen Sculpture Garden. Turn your kids on to metal and stone that seems alive. A trip here will put you right in the heart of the Museum District. Located at Bissonnet and Main
31. Well kids. Teens make great mentors for younger children. Texas Children’s Hospital has a vibrant junior volunteer program for teens ages 15-18. Junior volunteers are trained in most of the same areas as adult volunteers and can choose from entertaining children in clinic waiting areas and playrooms to planning and hosting weekend craft activities. Call the Volunteer Services office at (832) 824-2255.
32. Underground city. Did you know that downtown Houston has more than six miles of tunnels? This air-conditioned matrix, full of retailers and restaurants, means you never have to go outside in the sweltering summer sun. Ah, what pleasure. Visit the downtown tunnel system during business hours, Monday through Friday.
33. Bird’s eye view. The 60th floor sky lobby of the Chase Tower is the highest public viewpoint in Houston. From here, you can see the downtown skyscrapers, Buffalo Bayou, Memorial Park, River Oaks and an amazing amount of trees. Located at 600 Travis, it’s open business hours, Monday through Friday.
34. Black life. The John Biggers murals at Texas Southern University are some of Houston’s most elegant depictions of African-American life. And while you’re here, visit the rest of the TSU campus. The murals are located at 3100 Cleburne. (713) 313-7210
35. Oriental fusion. Dorothy, you’re not in Texas anymore. Eat, see and smell your way through Houston’s Chinese community, all enclosed in an air-conditioned mall at the Hong Kong Market, 11205 Bellaire Blvd. It?s open daily, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
36. Row your boat. The Allen Brothers founded our city on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. Get down to the water level, and you?ll discover a different Houston. The best way to explore Buffalo Bayou is by canoe. Consult the Yellow Pages for canoe rentals. Many of these places will help you put in along the bayou and will pick you up downstream.
37. Gator got your granny. If granny doesn’t move faster, she may be supper for one of the many alligators in Brazos Bend State Park. The area also is home to numerous breeding pairs of bald eagles. Visit the gators at 21901 F.M. 762 in Needville. (979) 553-5101
38. Ticket to ride. Don’t forget your stale bread to feed the seagulls that hover over the Bolivar Ferry. Watch for porpoises, too, and enjoy the sea breeze and the lights of Galveston in the night sky. The Bolivar Ferry runs day and night. And this ocean cruise is free. Go to the east end of Highway 87 in Galveston.
39. It’s a mechiah! Uncover hidden historical Jewish Houston with professor and historian Keith Rosen on his Jewish tours of Houston. Visit the oldest synagogue in Houston and see the old neighborhood. Make reservations by calling (713) 392-0867.
40. Born on the bayou. The 2000-acre Armand Bayou Nature Center is often so quiet and removed from urban Houston, it’s said you can hear falling leaves. There’s an Indian camp, boat tour and interpretive center. Don’t forget to bring your mosquito repellant. The entrance is one-quarter mile from Bay Area Park in Clear Lake. (713) 474-2551
41. Ride ’em cowboy. There?s something so Houston about riding a horse in the middle of the city. Generations of Houstonians have covered the trail at the Hermann Park stables, located at 5716 Almeda. (713) 529-2081
42. City treasure. The Miller Outdoor Theater has a covered seating area with 1,582 seats, 27 wheelchair spaces and lots of grass seating on the hill behind the covered seating. All shows are free and open to all, but some popular events require tickets for reserved seating in the covered area. The grass area is always open, and no ticket is required. Tickets must be picked up at the box office between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the day of performance. Call (713) 284-8350 for a recording with updated programming information.
43. Pick your own. Put your kids to work picking their own meal. At the Matt Family Orchard, 20010 Bauer Hockley Road in Tomball, they grow Asian pears, figs, Asian dates (jujube), mayhaw, Asian persimmons, loquat, thornless blackberries and citrus. Phone (281) 351-7676 to find out hours and what?s in season.
44. Under the boardwalk. It doesn’t matter what age your kids are, the Kemah Boardwalk is one of the hottest area destinations. Bring lots of money because nothing is cheap here except the fountains and the occasional free concert. (281) 334-9880
45. Pigsty. This lavender house was once the home of Priscilla the Swimming Pig, who became famous for saving a little boy from drowning. Although Priscilla is gone to that pigsty in the sky, Pigdom remains a monument to our porcine friends. Visit the outside, but please respect the owner?s privacy. Located at Crawford and Eagle
46. Really big guns. Houston kids have scampered aboard the anti-aircraft batteries and machine guns aboard the Battleship Texas for two generations. It’s the only U.S. battleship to see action during both world wars. Combine a trip out east with a visit to the San Jacinto Battleground and Monument. It?s all located at 3523 State Highway 134. (281) 479-2421
47. Ranch style. The Taylor-Stevenson Ranch is one of the oldest African-American-owned ranches in the nation. Lots of farm animals live here, and the American Cowboy Museum also is on the grounds. Located at 11822 Almeda, (713) 433-4441
48. Crypt kickers. More fun than Dracula’s castle, the National Museum of Funeral History is chock full of hearses, coffins, tombstones, a replica of King Tut’s tomb and other equipment of the undertaking industry. Boys will love this place. Located at 415 Barren Springs Drive, (281) 876-3063
49. Environmental action. There are dozens of local organizations that are working to protect and educate people about our environment. All of them need volunteers. Start by visiting the Citizen’s Environmental Coalition Web site at www.cechouston.org. Educate yourself about the issues and the diverse, then volunteer your time and energy. The CEC Eco-Information Line is (713) 524-4ECO.
50. Share the music. Nothing divides the generations like one’s taste in music. On the other hand, nothing can bring parents and kids together like a night of sharing live music together. Ask your kids whom they really like. Then spring for tickets and surprise them with a different type of family outing.
51. Mall rats. Yes, Katy Mills is part of a nationwide retail and entertainment corporation. Yes, Katy Mills sucks your time and money better than anyone else. But our teen-agers and their friends love Katy Mills. You want to spend a mindless afternoon with your kids? Offer a trip to Katy Mills. They won’t say no. Located at 5000 Katy Mills Circle in Katy, (281) 644-5000 ih
Darn! We Were Counting on That John Worldpeace Juggernaut Gathering Speed
Open the bar, the primaries are over – well, almost. And what an embarrassment for a couple of prominent Democrats. Dan Morales started sounding like David Duke there for a while, ranting on about Spanish actually being used in a debate. Frankly, I think he was momentarily deluded into thinking it was a Republican primary. For Dan (who would understand all this if he were Hispanic) and the brownshirts on talk radio, here’s the deal: If you lived in France and were a responsible newly minted citizen, you would make it your business to be pretty fluent in French. But would a political debate in English help you understand some nuances that might escape you in your adopted tongue? Of course, and it probably wouldn’t undermine the Republic. Of course, the French wouldn’t care. But we do. It’s no more complicated than that. Dan’s hysterically desperate charges about racism and Tony Sanchez somehow facilitating Sept. 11 were the loopy capstones to a once promising political career. Dan now joins the Henry Cisneros – I blew my chance to be an Hispanic Kennedy- Club, and any talk of running again should be chalked up to exposure to ground-level ozone or something.
And you’d think that being handed a revered and honorable political name like Bentsen at birth and then actually making it to the U.S. Congress ought to be enough to get a minimally competent politico onto the next level. But our boy Ken, a man who can walk across a beach and leave no footprints, couldn’t rouse enough enthusiasm about his performance in D.C. to best a schoolteacher in a mini-pickup so he could face a man known primarily in Dallas. When Uncle Lloyd stops slapping his forehead, he should slap Ken silly.
David Dewhurst, whose presence in Austin has been imperceptible, trounced a guy who I suspect from his picture is really Mickey Gilley. Dewhurst and Tony Sanchez are that new breed of rich guy who is just plain bored, puts his wealth on autopilot and takes a flyer at politics. The thought of a Sanchez/Perry race is better than Sominex and bodes well for Texas in that none of these guys will do anything they are promising. It’s the office that counts. Meanwhile, search teams with dogs have fanned out in quest of detectable personalities in this bunch.
Our First “In Your Face” Put a Cork in it- Awards
Bush spokesloon Ari “I’m in over my head” Fleischer sought to rationalize administration inaction on the Israeli-Palestinian issue by blaming the violence on Bill Clinton and his push for a peace settlement – obviously the result of too much Limbaugh piped into the White House intercom system.
Russell Yates, who ought to be sharing a cell with his homicidal nutlog helpmate, actually blamed everyone but himself for her life sentence. Among his regrets –
“We won’t be able to have more children.” Expect tubal ligation rates to soar.
Jeffrey Skilling, the amnesiac former head of that daisy chain of offshore pseudo-commerce known as Enron, apparently used Chico Marx as his model for testimony before a salivating Congress.
“Heeeyy! I’ma don’ know noting about dis!” Too bad Ken Lay chose Harpo – “Datsa my partner. He don- speak!” Skilling was so slimy, his own mother didn’t buy it, which probably cost her an invite to his wedding to an Enron vice president. Here’s hoping that VP will be allowed conjugal visits.
And a preemptive award for Anna Nicole Smith, the pneumatic widow of the late, randy but overmatched J. Howard Marshall. She finally got $88 mil from his estate, and here’s hoping she will confine future appearances to Playboy. If Marshall’s son Pierce has any brains at all, he’ll leave well enough alone. Don’t worry, she’ll blow it all on pizza and silicone.
What Are Your Summer Vacation Plans?
by Mimi Dihn
I don’t know about you, but I am ready to escape from the daily grind to somewhere tropical for a slice of beachside heaven. Some place warm and exotic where I can shop in floating markets, lose myself in the coral reefs and discover fragrant wildflowers. Somewhere I can relax in a competition-size pool surrounded by cabanas, with an azure blue sea nearby, where the only sounds are from the waves and the occasional call of a seagull. On the other hand, just anywhere there is a beach and white sand would be heavenly right this moment.
I’m going to be planning a wedding! My fiancé, Ramon, and I are going to be married on Aug. 31. I work for The Orange Show, so that means March and April are nothing but planning for the Pennzoil Art Car Weekend, which is going to be really fun this year. That means I have four months after that to plan a big party for friends and family. We went to Tahiti last summer and may return for our honeymoon. That is one decision I look forward to making. Planning a honeymoon is like planning for no other trip.
Christine Jelson, development director, The Orange Show Foundation
I’m planning a trip to La Habana, Cuba! I want a chance to experience the island before the Castro regime falls and it is opened to U.S. citizens.
Raul Herrera, general manager, Liberty Noodles restaurant
First, a river cruise with my husband through Belgium and Holland with a day at the Floriade, a 160-acre horticultural exhibition near Amsterdam presented only once every 10 years. Second, Hong Kong Fashion Week, a whirlwind of designer fashion shows and trend-forecasting seminars with my HCC fashion students and a group of businesswomen from the Federation of Houston Professional Women.
Kay King, fashion and interior designer department chair, Houston Community College
I will be going on some business trips to New York and Arizona. I also have plans for a pleasure trip, probably where there is a beach.
Bradley Marks, vice president, I.W. Marks Jewelers
My husband, our 5-month-old son and I are cruising up the Intracoastal Waterway. We just bought an Eastbay – 49 and are taking her on her maiden voyage. We’ll start in the Bahamas and then swing back over to Florida to begin the journey, with the final stopping point to be Maine.
Tanya Lapinski Murphy, president, TQR for Men
We’re planning a trip to New York City and possibly a week in Peru.
Bill Burge, director of operations, Cities
Dishing it Out: Houston’s Best Seafood
by Laurette M. Veres
Houston is full of many wonderful places to dine – so many, in fact, that it can be difficult to know where to begin. Faced with such a full plate of options, it becomes a daunting task to sift through the city’s many eateries in order to separate the good from the truly excellent. With this in mind, we have attempted to break down for you some of our favorites, this month focusing on seafood. Some will tell you it’s politically incorrect to eat sea bass. But we say it’s hard to resist when such temptation knocks. Make up your own mind on that one, and take a look at what else we recommend as some of the best seafood dishes in town.
Chilean seabass – Ibiza
Not too long ago, there wasn’t a decent meal to be found in midtown. Thankfully, Ibiza has changed that. Most of the dishes have a Spanish flair that chef Charles Clark picked up from his travels abroad. My personal favorite is the oven roasted Chilean sea bass with mango essence and Rioja broth. It’s perfect with a side of risotto that includes crimini mushroom, grana cheese and white truffle oil.
Pancetta-wrapped rainbow trout – Rainbow Lodge
Boasting one of the most exotic menus in town, the Rainbow Lodge does not disappoint with the pancetta wrapped rainbow trout. The pancetta offers the perfect spicy complement to the light trout. It is served with roasted tomatoes and fried risotto cake.
Grilled filet of salmon with pistachio crust – Sierra Grill
The private herb garden at Sierra Grill always lets you know that you will have the freshest seasoning on your meal. The grilled filet of salmon is no exception. It is encrusted in a pistachio crust and served with a citrus sauce. It’s tangy, zippy and delicious.
Sea salt-encrusted italian sea bass – Tony’s
You’ll die for the sea salt-encrusted Italian sea bass at Tony’s called Branzino. It comes to your table covered in salt, and your waiter cracks the salt and pulls the fish out. Cooking in the salt creates a savory flavor that isn’t salty at all – it’s just plump, juicy and delicious.
More, More, More
Houston’s best-kept fashion secret, HBO’s Emmy award-winning “Sex and the City” designer, Houstonian Rebecca Weinberg
by Todd J. Ramos
Her energy fills the room. She is part rock star, part diva and exactly how I had imagined it would be to meet Madonna. To be sure, her presence is felt when she walks into a room. She is surrounded by an aura that is exotic, creative and sexy all in one. She is Rebecca Weinberg, in town recently for a benefit with fellow Houston fashion designer Cesar Galindo, and she took some time to visit with H Texas magazine.
Weinberg knows a lot of people in town, and they all love her. So when she stopped by our studio for the photo shoot, it was as though we already had met. She is bold, beautiful and upfront, and what you see is what you get. She is a very direct person and she knows it. She is a passionate woman with lots of creative energy. “I?ve known Rebecca since we were teen-agers. Her spirit has always been vibrant and very stylish. She?s always been very proud of her roots,” says Galindo, fashion designer for the House of Dolce & Gabanna. “Her style is unique, it has definition, and it’s sexy. Her spirit is genuine, and she is very focused, charming and edgy yet, at the same time, calm and confident,” notes photographer Kevin Jeffries.
Weinberg attended Spring Oaks Junior High School, where her drama coach, Mrs. Summerlin, made a huge impact on her life. She attended Hastings High School in Alief and was accepted to the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. She was a creative and eccentric youth. “The Alabama Theater is where it all began. ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ played there, and it was the place to be when growing up,” she says. She also frequented Rich’s, Lola’s, Numbers, James Coney Island and House of Pies. When she thinks of the ’80s in Houston, she thinks of individuality and diversity. Punk and new wave were the big looks back then.
Weinberg is very proud to call Texas home. In fact, the day after our shoot, she was having our fair state tattooed on her elbow. She says Texans are like peacocks – very proud. She is most comfortable in her cowboy hat and boots, which have become infamous in New York. She describes herself like a cartoon cowboy – “Grand Ole Opry” meets Texas, with an edge.
In the mid-’80s, Weinberg moved to Atlanta. She worked the door at a nightclub, assisted hairstylists and was a performing artist. Rebecca befriended drag diva RuPaul, and they ventured off to the Great White Way. There, RuPaul appeared at an underground club in drag. The Texas Jewish girl and the drag queen diva definitely made their mark on the club scene. Rebecca was trying to make her way as a performing artist but found the bar scene to be very difficult. The late hours and smoky bars really got to her. During this time, she had a rainbow of friends surrounding her, including painters, artists and performers. Soon after, she met Patricia Field, who is well known for her eponymous and notorious Greenwich Village shop. Field took Weinberg under her wing and taught her the art of styling (costuming). She started off as a production assistant, and a creative partnership began.
While working on the movie “Miami Rhapsody” Field and Weinberg met Sarah Jessica Parker along with Mia Farrow, Antonio Banderas, Gil Bellows and Kevin Pollack. This unique film enabled the designing duo to showcase their talents to the world. Their hard work on the front lines landed them at the hottest new show on HBO, “Sex and the City.” This show, about four fashionable, independent and smart women living in New York, highlights the woman of today. In 2000, “Daily Variety” and “New York Women in Film and Television” featured Fields and Weinberg as rising stars. Also in 2000, the Accessories Counsel Award honored Weinberg.
I sat with Weinberg at one of her favorite local hangouts, House of Pies, and discussed life and other issues.
Who are some of your fashion role models?
Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga
Who inspired you early in your career?
Downtown designer André Walker, Patricia Field and André Courreges
How would you describe your own personal style?
It depends on what I am doing that day. I like to dress the part. I’m very diverse; everything from uptown to downtown – you might say “cross-town.”
How do you prepare for styling a job?
It is like a triangle. I take the actor’s perception, my own style and what is written and create a unique style. You have to read between the lines.
What do you think about Houston now?
It has grown to be a very diverse and fabulous city that has drawn it?s own influences from a variety of sources. I’m really proud to be from Houston.
How was the styling team composed on projects such as “Sex and the City?”
We would have two designers, Patricia and me, two assistants, two costume supervisors, a tailor and three set costumers.
What is the fashion business like?
I didn’t push to get here – it just happened. Fashion is a business. It’s a little flat now since the events of Sept. 11. Just like any other business, it has its highs and lows.
Where do you pull ideas from?
From everyday people – people on the streets, kids, artists – people from all walks of life.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to be in your business?
Know your business! Theater is a good place to learn and have fun. You need to know the terminology, references, measuring and sewing to begin with. Get involved in the local union as well. Do local then go national. Try to stay true to your own style and what really excites you. Create, create, create and create artwork.
What’s next for Rebecca Weinberg?
Anything creative. I’d like to work on everything from advertising campaigns to editorial work, commercials, music videos, film, theater – you name it. I am open to exploring any outlet where I can express my creativity. Who knows, maybe I’ll start dressing celebrities for awards shows. Gwyneth, call me before the next Oscars; we’ll talk!