Identifying Houstonians Explaining where you’re from gets complicated

February 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

When you are traveling afar, if someone asks, “Where are you from?” how do you reply? “Houston.” “Texas.” “America.” “You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.”

This is a sticky question because our answers speak volumes about how we view ourselves. Where do our allegiances lie? Where is home? Exactly, what are we? If you are in Waco or Dallas (You do love missionary work, don’t you?), and someone springs that location question, it would not make much sense to answer, “America” or even “Texas.” So, replying that you are from Houston is the correct answer.

But what if you are in Chicago or Miami and get hit with that question? The proper reply is: “Ah’m frum Teck-siz.” To which the interrogator says, “Now what was my first clue, besides the big hat, boots, belt buckle the size of a hubcap and your lapel pin reading, “$100 a Barrel?'”

You may wish to narrow down the answer to two words, “Houston, Texas,” but that is a condescending term used mostly by network TV anchors, “In Houston, Texas, today, another BP plant exploded with ” – Why the extra and gratuitous explanation of the state in which we live? “Houston” as in “Texas.” Perhaps our happy home might be confused with a Houston in Ohio, Nevada or Burkina Faso. Maybe we are such a little-known sleepy fishing village on the bayou that the viewer needs to be told exactly where we are, probably with a map in the background pinpointing our location.

Would the TV anchor intone, “In Los Angeles, California, today the smog was so heavy it surpassed Houston, which is in Texas, a state located between Mexico and Oklahoma.”? How about, “Meanwhile, in Washington, the District of Columbia, Congress passed a …”? So the term, “Houston, Texas,” is sort of demeaning when used in any of the other 49 states (which are not in Texas). The farther we go from here, the more the explanation changes. In Mexico, saying you are from Texas is ample explanation, if not deportation. In Louisiana, when asked from whence you come, you reply, “I’m from Houston.” To which the inquirer says, “Hey, I got a brother in Houston.”

“Oh, really?”

“And three sisters, 14 cousins, both parents and grandparents, a dog and two pet ‘gators. But they are only there temporarily, after the hurricane damage is fixed. Until then, FEMA is putting them up.”

“Where?”

“Two suites in the Warwick.”

“When are they going back to Louisiana?”

“When room service stops replenishing the mini-bar.”

While traveling overseas, this location information takes a totally different meaning. Saudi Arabians love Texas and are thoroughly familiar with Houston. Between going to school at UH, UT or A&M, it seems half the Saudi petroleum engineers and geologists I met there spent some time in Houston, and a few had apartments here because of their constant business trips. They didn’t need any explanation as to the whereabouts of Houston, except maybe to inquire on what street my wives lived.

Elsewhere, the best way to describe our hometown is to simply say, “Texas.” The whole world knows about Texas. A friend of mine, Phillipe (fill-LEAP), was the executive director of a hotel in Paris called the Hotel de Crillon, and one time he asked me, “Lean, (that was about as close as he could get), why is it Americans say that they are from Boston or Los Angeles or Atlanta. But Texans always, and I mean always, say they are from Texas? Don’t you have any towns there?” What a kidder, that Phillipe, but he made a telling point.

Some Houstonians take this word form to task. In her recent obit in the Chronicle, former Houston Post columnist Marguerite Johnston Barnes was quoted as complaining, “I always felt Houston has never gotten acknowledgment for its leaders at a national or international level. You always hear that they’re from Texas, but never from Houston.” Then there was this observation by a Houstonian, Yao Ming: “Today is barbeque my feet. It’s pretty warm here. It’s soft turf, but it’s heat. But we’re from Texas.” Note, not, “We’re from Houston.”

When quizzed by a border guard while you are trying to smuggle into Tibet, do you reply, “I’m a Baytownian.”? Or, perhaps, “It says right here on the forged passport, “Piney Point, Republic of Texas.” As for the photograph, since then, I’ve had a sex change operation, gained 40 pounds and lost my mustache.”

Once I wrote a column about the most obscure place in the world, Ouagadougou, international capital of Upper Volta, in Central Africa, a nation now known as Burkina Faso. A few weeks later, I got a phone call from a Foreign Service officer on leave from ” where else? – Upper Volta.

“So what’s it like to tell people back home that you are living in Ouagadougou?” I asked.

“Nothing like when I tell people there that I am from Clute, Texas.”

Actually, I have been to Clute, and it is a very nice town filled with lovely people. The Ouagadougouians should be so lucky. But did he really have to add, “Texas?”

True Texan Ties

February 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

Lone Star pride shines in the life of Gina Chapman Bouchard

Hard core Texans are making their plans to celebrate Texas History Month. You have a little time – it’s not until next month. March is, by decree of the Legislature, Texas History Month. If you’re looking for the biggest Texas birthday party, travel 70 miles north on March 2 to Washington-on-the-Brazos. Among the truly dedicated Texans, there you’ll find Houstonian Gina Chapman Bouchard.

In the picturesque State Park on the Brazos River is the historic site, where in 1836 under the direction of Sam Houston and George Childress, with Mexican President Santa Anna besieging the Alamo, the Texas Declaration of Independence was drawn up literally overnight. Drawing heavily on the United States Declaration of Independence, the document declares Texas, “a free and sovereign nation.”

The events are re-enacted each year by the Texas Army. Each ‘soldier’ in this official modern-day Texas Army is commissioned by the Governor as a “Colonel.” And just like the original army, they are all volunteers who provide their own uniforms and weapons. And like the original patriots, they come from all walks of life. This new army is dedicated to getting it right when it comes to authenticity. They’re also dedicated to educating folks about Texas history.

The trek will then move south to San Antonio for events marking the fall of the Alamo on March 6. Gina will be among the 300 or so folks who will squeeze into The Shrine at the Alamo for the Alamo Defenders Descendants ceremony.

In the dimly lit church, re-enactors march in carrying the flags of every state and nation represented at the Alamo during the famous battle 170 years ago. Then, as each of the heroes’ names are called, the descendants rise. To see it is thrilling; but because the Shrine is so small, it’s almost impossible to get an invitation, unless you’re a descendant.

Not many folks can copy Gina’s road map to the evening ceremony. First of all, you have to be a Daughter of the Republic of Texas. She is the great-great-great-granddaughter of The Rev. John Haynie. The reverend was a Methodist circuit rider and first chaplain of the Congress of Texas. (Gina would make her religious ancestor proud today because she serves as Lector and President of the Worship Leaders Guild at St. John the Divine Church.) Another patriotic ancestor, Joseph Hyland, was a soldier at the battle of San Jacinto. It doesn’t stop there. Gina has 13 ancestors who were actually in Texas prior to the revolution.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, of whom there are now more than 10,000, were made custodians of the Alamo by the State Legislature in 1905. The DRT’s nine-member Alamo Committee actually runs the Alamo. And, yes, Gina is one of the nine; hence, she gets to go to the ceremony.

Running the Alamo free to the public is a big job. It is done through proceeds from the gift shop, as well as grants and financial gifts. Last year saw the 100th celebration of the effort. Gina chaired the kick-off for the year-long anniversary party, helping to raise half a million dollars to preserve the Long Barrack, the area where most of the defenders died.

Gina is President Elect of the San Jacinto Descendants, of which there are 400 who have presented themselves for membership and been approved. She and Al Davis serve as co-chairs of the upcoming San Jacinto Day Commemorative Celebration, which will be held at the battlefield on April 21. All are welcome.

Gina will also be busy July 4, as she is Regent, Lady Washington Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, the oldest Houston chapter, as well as the largest DAR chapter worldwide. In 2007, she’ll be busy coordinating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown Colony. The original John Haynie arrived there 14 generations ago. Without being a Native American, Gina is about as close as you can come to a native Texan.

Forgotten Soldiers

February 1, 2006 by  
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Museum honors the legacy of African-American soldiers

Founded in 2000 by Paul J. Matthews, a Vietnam Veteran and African-American military historian, the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum strives to preserve the history and honor of the brave African-American soldiers in our country’s history. An often overlooked group, the soldiers’ military contributions from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War are spotlighted in this one-of-a-kind museum with interactive exhibits.

Exhibit of honor
This unique museum displays more than 2,000 artifacts chronicling the heroism of the Buffalo Soldiers. Visitors will find a plethora of paintings, swords, memorabilia, uniforms and rifles that provide a unique look into the history and lives of the soldiers, from their role in combat to their contributions to settling various frontier areas. The pieces are expertly grouped by time periods, including the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, Vietnam, WWI and WWII.

Forming the Buffalo Soldiers
In 1866, Congress adopted legislation that created six African-American Army units: Two cavalry and four infantry regiments were formed. Consisting of former slaves and Civil War veterans, they were the first African-American professional soldiers in a peacetime army. Many of the white officers in the Army disapproved of having African-Americans serve in the regular Army and made life as difficult as possible for them. Nonetheless, they persevered and became some of the Army’s most effective fighting units.

The African-American soldiers were dubbed “Buffalo Soldiers” by Cheyenne warriors in 1867. Though the exact reason for the nickname is not known, many feel it is because of the soldiers’ short curly black hair, heavy buffalo robes or surprising stamina and courage. Serving in the harshest and most remote posts at the time, their duties were expansive, from subduing Mexican revolutionaries to exploring the Southwest, from controlling hostile Native Americans to stringing telegraph lines. Their presence cannot be ignored in any American war, since they fought in every one, including the Indian Wars of the American West, Spanish American War of 1898, World War I and World War II.

Reaching out
In an effort to honor the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers, the Buffalo Soldier Museum strives to teach as much of the community as possible through the many educational activities and opportunities. From parades to lectures, creation of a youth drill team to high school ROTC summer internships, the museum reaches out to every member of the community.

Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, -1834 Southmore, (713) 942-8920, ?www.buffalosoldiermuseum.com

Street Smarts

February 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

Jay Leno’s Harley finds a home in Houston

Never before has a motorcycle stirred up as much dust as the celebrity-signed “Tonight Show” 2006 Harley Davidson Road King. The hog was signed by 67 mega celebrities who were guests of the show throughout 2005. It was then auctioned off on eBay to raise money for the Red Cross International Disaster Fund to aid the victims of last year’s tsunami in Southeast Asia.

Several Texans signed the bike, including President George W. Bush, Matthew McConaughey, Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson and Roger “The Rocket” Clemens. Other celebrities on the impressive list include Donald Trump, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Jennifer Garner, Bill Clinton, Tyra Banks, Jamie Foxx, Ellen DeGeneres, Mel Gibson and, of course, Jay Leno. After 219 bids, David Steiner, CEO of Houston-based Waste Management Inc. came up on top with a winning bid of $800,100.

But this wasn’t the end of the road for the white Harley. This winter, the hog was auctioned off, yet again, by Waste Management Inc. to raise funds for the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund. Steiner, a native of New Orleans, felt it was a good way to “pay it forward” for the holiday season. Houston lawyer and philanthropist John O’Quinn won the motorcycle with a high bid of $1 million.

No surprise. O’Quinn, one of the most well known and successful lawyers in Texas, is an avid car and motorcycle collector with more than 600 rare and luxury vehicles. He is also a prominent Houston philanthropist, most widely known for his generous support of the University of Houston and St. Luke’s Houston Medical Center, among many others. After it was all said and done, the “Tonight Show” Harley Davidson raised nearly $2 million for the relief of last year’s horrendous natural disasters. We’re thankful that Houstonians like David Steiner and John O’Quinn were able to bring this symbol of generosity to the city.

Houston’s Sweethearts

February 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

This year’s Houston Sweethearts are chosen from many of those talented Houstonians who have left our city to find fame and, most often, fortune in show business. Love may not be exactly what we feel for them; moreover, we have a feeling of pride in the accomplishments of those who were born in Houston. We feel a connection to them, possibly similar to that of a parent to children, smiling at their successes and understanding of any stumbles along the way. We send this Valentine bouquet, a short love note, to some of Houston’s favorite sons and daughters, our celebrities, our “Houston Sweethearts.”

Yolanda Adams
[singer]
Ask Yolanda Adams, a lifelong Houston resident and beautiful Grammy-winning Gospel/Adult Contemporary superstar, what she loves about her music, and she’ll answer: “The music brings joy. I truly believe that my songs bring the answers and the solutions, as opposed to just talking about the problems. My music at its core is joyful.” A former schoolteacher, Adams’ groundbreaking first release, “Mountain High … Valley Low” went multi-platinum, and she received the Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album and the first American Music Award for Inspirational Artist of the Year. Many sold-out tours, a string of hugely successful albums and the birth of her baby girl followed. Her new album, “Day By Day,” has just been released on Atlantic Records.

Edward Albee
[playwright and director]
A quiet person who likes socializing with small groups of people, Edward Albee is a prolific playwright and director who has been heavily lauded and highly recognized. Some of his credits include “Three Tall Women,” “A Delicate Balance,” “The American Dream,” “The Play About the Baby” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe.” He has won Pulitzer Prizes for “Three Tall Women” and “A Delicate Balance,” as well as the 1996 National Medal of Arts, 1996 Kennedy Center Honors, 2005 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre and the 1994 Obie for Sustained Achievement in Theatre.

Beyoncé
[singer and actress]
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles attended Welch Middle School and The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. By the age of 7, she was performing for her friends and family. “I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer; and when I was 8, I formed a singing group.” Beyonce performed many smash hits as lead singer of Destiny’s Child, including “Bootylicious,” “Nasty Girl,” “Independent Women,” “HappyFace,” “Apple Pie a la Mode,” and “Jumpin’ Jumpin’.” The superstar also wrote and produced many songs for the group. Last year, Beyoncé partnered with her mother, Tina, to launch a clothing line, The House of Dereon, named for Beyoncé’s Creole grandmother who was a seamstress.

Clint Black
[singer and musician]
Clint Black grew up on the west side of Houston and after school could always be found fishing or hunting snakes. At age 13, he took one of his brother’s harmonicas and taught himself to play. At 18, he was working as an ironworker. Black said, “One day I just quit; and for the next 8 years, I worked nightclubs and honkytonks in Houston, making $35 to $75 a gig.” What a start for a performer whose record sales exceed 17 million albums worldwide and who has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Black’s 1989 debut album, “Killin’ Time” rocketed to the top of the Country charts and stayed at No. 1 for an unprecedented 26 consecutive weeks. An unheard of five No. 1 singles came from the album. His latest acting gig had him playing an angel on ABC’s “Hot Properties.”

Lisa Hartman Black
[actress and singer]
Lisa Hartman Black was attending The High School for Performing and Visual Arts and singing in her own band when she was spotted by a record producer and whisked away to Hollywood. Soon, she was starring in “Tabitha,” a spin-off of the popular television show “Bewitched.” Her big break came when she was cast in the smash hit “Knots Landing.” Hartman Black has starred in major television movies, such as “Roses are for the Rich,” “The Return of Eliot Ness” and “2000 Malibu Road.” The duet that Clint Black wrote for the couple’s 10th anniversary, “When I said I Do,” won the Academy of Country Music Award for Vocal Event of the Year. She appeared on the “Knots Landing” reunion special last December and sang the closing song, “Open Arms.”

Walter Cronkite
[television journalist]
While Walter Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Mo., he grew up in Houston, attending Sidney Lanier Junior High and San Jacinto High School. At the University of Texas, he worked at both his college newspapers, The Daily Texan and at the State Capitol. During his 60 years in journalism, Cronkite covered virtually every major news event in the world. He was one of the original creators of the “CBS Evening News” in 1963, which he anchored until his 1981 retirement. His level-headed grace under pressure earned him the affectionate nickname “Old Iron Pants,” and the public’s perception of him as honest and objective led to his popular title as “the most trusted man in America.”

Hilary Duff
[actress and singer]
Over the past year, teen superstar Hilary Duff, has shot three movies, released a best-of album with three new tracks and performed a sold-out tour, which took her to Australia and Canada in December and January. When she was in New York this past November to accept a Born to Lead Award from CosmoGirl, she was exhausted, explaining that she thought she was to get the month of September off for her 18th birthday. That never happened. After the tour, she was back in California to host the West Coast portion of Dick Clark’s “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” where she performed three songs. Her “Most Wanted” album has sold more than one million copies. (She returns home to perform at the Houston Livestock Show &Rodeo on March 16.)

Shelley Duvall
[actress, director and writer]
Shelley Duvall grew up in Houston and attended South Texas Junior College. She was selling cosmetics at Foley’s in Northwest Mall when she was “discovered” by Robert Altman when he was in Houston to direct “Brewster McCloud;” he gave her a small role. It was in Altman’s “3 Women” that she won a Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the L.A. Film Critics Best Actress Award. Duvall had memorable roles as Jack Nicholson’s wife in “The Shining” and as Olive Oyl in Altman’s “Popeye.” Her commitment to producing high-quality children’s entertainment led to “Faerie Tale Theatre,” “Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales” and “Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories.” Living in the Hill Country, she continues to work in the industry.

Farrah Fawcett
[actress]
Farrah Fawcett had been voted Most Beautiful at the University of Texas when Hollywood began calling – and she let them call for three years before she ventured out, just as a lark. She began to get acting roles immediately. After guest-starring in television shows, such as “I Dream of Jeannie,” “The Flying Nun” and “The Partridge Family,” Fawcett won her first movie role in “Myra Breckenridge.” Her career exploded when she posed for the poster wearing the red bathing suit that sold an astonishing 12 million-plus copies. After landing a role in Aaron Spelling’s “Charlie’s Angels,” Fawcett became a household name throughout the world. Many awards and accolades followed. She remains very close to her father in Houston and visits him often.

Robert Foxworth
[actor and director]
Robert Foxworth attended Bellaire High School and began his impressive theatrical career as a teenager at the Alley Theatre in 1959. Making his Broadway debut in 1969 in “Henry V,” he played John Proctor in “The Crucible” at Lincoln Center and Robert Falcon Scott at the American Place Theatre. One of his first television series roles was in “Storefront Lawyers,” but it was a six-year run on the television series “Falcon Crest” that solidified his position as a leading man. Between Broadway, television movies and feature films, Foxworth has continued to work non-stop.

Billy Gibbons
[vocalist, guitarist and musician]
When Billy Gibbons was just a teenager, he was blowing the roof off of his parents’ garage in Taglewood and putting together a band. His father, Fred, was a successful musician about town, but the young Gibbons was learning about R&B, not from his father, but from his family’s housekeeper. After a few turns with other musicians, ZZ Top was born with Frank Beard, Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons in 1969. Their third album, “Tres Hombres,” brought the group national attention. ZZ Top’s first video, “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” took the band’s mystique and popularity to an all-time high. By 1990, the band had sold 50 million records.

Jennifer Holliday
[singer and actress]
When “Dreamgirls” opened on Broadway in 1982 with Jennifer Holliday singing, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” people in the theater jumped up, climbed on seats screaming and started crying. Her sheer talent is indescribable. She won Broadway’s Tony Award for Best Actress and a Grammy for the hit single that followed. Growing up in Houston, Holliday was the daughter of a Baptist preacher. After releasing three albums in the ’80s, her recording career slowed. In 1990, she had no work and was depressed. Her recovery consisted of receiving clinical help, losing weight and finding new ways to earn a living. Now back, the beautiful actress/singer has appeared in many television productions and several new albums are being released.

La Mafia
[musical group]
La Mafia is among the most versatile Latino bands and is largely responsible for the resurgence of the ‘norteno sound,’ which has some basis in country music. The group was founded by Oscar and Leonard Gonzalez, both of whom were raised in the north end of Houston. Other members are drummer Michael Aguilar, bass player Rudy Martinez, and keyboardists Armando Lichtenberger Jr. and David de la Garza. La Mafia released its first album in 1986. Extensive touring in the United States and Mexico brought them fame. Their second album, “Estas Tocando Fuego,” sold nearly one million copies. The album “Ahora y Simpre” went triple platinum. La Mafia has won many awards, including an award for Top Regional Mexican Album and Song of 1992.

Lyle Lovett
[singer and songwriter]
Lyle Lovett was born in the Houston suburb of Klein, named after his great grandfather, a Bavarian weaver. Lovett attended Texas A&M University in the late ’70s, where he studied journalism and German and began to write songs and perform at local folk festivals and clubs. As a graduate student, he traveled to Germany, continued to study, as well as write and play clubs around Europe. Lovett didn’t begin to pursue a musical career until the early ’80s. Five of the songs on his first MCA/Curb album hit the country Top 40. Lovett’s originality pushed the boundaries, incorporating jazz, folk and pop into a country framework of each genre. His second album, “Pontiac,” garnered positive reviews from both country and mainstream critics and expanded his pop and rock audience.

Peter Masterson
[producer, director, actor and writer]
Peter Masterson has appeared on Broadway and in many films, including “The Stepford Wives,” “The Exorcist” and “Tomorrow.” He is probably best known for directing the popular Broadway show, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” in 1979, for which he was nominated for two Tony Awards as Best Director for a Musical (along with collaborator Tommy Tune) and Best Book for a Musical (along with Larry L. King). Masterson met his wife Carlin Glenn at the Alley Theater when they were both apprentices 46 years ago. An actress, director and writer herself, Glenn has won acting awards for Broadway. They keep a bay house getaway in Kemah and visit as often as possible.

Dennis Quaid
[actor]
Dennis Quaid studied drama at Bellaire High School and later at the University of Houston before dropping out and moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. He has worked steadily since landing his first role in “Breaking Away” in 1979. His first good reviews came in 1983 in “The Right Stuff.” Dennis experienced a popularity resurgence since the last decade with roles in such hits as “Traffic,” “Far From Heaven,” “In Good Company” and “The Rookie.” He is also a musician and plays with his band, The Sharks. He’s an avid golfer and works with the charity, International Hospital for Children in New Orleans. Dennis has said, “There are three things being a celebrity is good for: raising money for charity, dinner reservations and tee times.”

Randy Quaid
[actor]
Randy Quaid is the older brother of fellow actor Dennis. He was attending the University of Houston when he was discovered by Peter Bogdanovich, who quickly cast Randy in “The Last Picture Show” with Cybill Shepherd. His film career spans 30 years and more than 90 features, running the gamut from comedy to drama. His portrayal of Larry Meadows in Hal Ashby’s “The Last Detail” earned Randy an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson in “LBJ, The Early Years.” He’s come a long way from performing as a clown at AstroWorld.

Kenny Rogers
[singer and songwriter]
Kenny Rogers has recorded 58 albums with sales of more than 100 million records, has won four Grammys, 11 People’s Choice Awards, 18 American Music Awards and eight Academy of Country Music Awards. Rogers grew up in Allen Parkway Village and in recent years came to Houston to see the renovated Allen Parkway Village public housing development rededicated and a scholarship fund for low-income youth established in his name.

Jaclyn Smith
[actress and fashion and furniture designer]
Jaclyn Smith always wanted to be a ballerina; and while growing up in Houston, she took ballet and acting lessons. After studying drama at Trinity College, she launched her professional career by joining regional theater groups in Boston and New York. There, she was spotted by an agent who asked her to become the “Breck Girl.” After her success in the long-running “Charlie’s Angels,” Smith was dubbed “Queen of the Miniseries.” She created a clothing line for Kmart that has become one of the biggest retail sellers in the country. Recently, she began to design a line of furniture.

Brent Spiner
[actor]
Brent Spiner left Houston for New York after graduating from the University of Houston, where he trained with Cecil Pickett and Sydney Berger. He soon had parts on Broadway in “Sunday in the Park with George,” “The Three Musketeers” and “Big River.” After moving to Los Angeles, he began working in theater, movies and television. The role for which he is best known is the android Lieutenant Commander Data in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and he was featured in the four “Star Trek: TNG” motion pictures. He continues to have roles in feature films and television series, such as “The Aviator,” “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” and “Geppetto.”

Patrick Swayze
[actor and dancer]
Patrick Swayze attended S. P. Waltrip High School, but his education included the Harkness Ballet School, the Joffrey Ballet Theater School and San Jacinto College. He first performed as a dancer in “Disney on Parade.” After performing in “Grease” on Broadway, he made his film debut as Ace in “Skatetown, U.S.A.” Swayze received his first Golden Globe nomination for the role of Johnny Castle in the musical-drama “Dirty Dancing,” while his second nomination came for his portrayal of the ghost, Sam Wheat, in the hugely successful “Ghost.” In 1991, he was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world, as well as Sexiest Man Alive.

Tommy Tune
[director, producer and dancer]
Tommy Tune is the winner of nine Tony Awards and the first person in theatrical history to win in four different categories. He started taking tap, aerobatics and ballet lessons at the age of 5 with Emmamae Horn, of whom he has said, “She taught me to put on a show.” Tune attended both the University of Houston and the University of Texas, studying drama, and left for New York. His first Tony Award was for “Seesaw.” His next venture was “Best Little Whore House in Texas,” followed by “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” for which he won his second Tony. Other Tonys were garnered for “Nine,” “My One and Only,” “Grand Hotel” and “The Will Rogers Follies.” Tune presents “The Tommy Tune Award” at TUTS each year to recognize excellence in high school musical theater.

Steve Tyrell
[producer and singer]
Steve Tyrell grew up in Houston’s 5th ward singing in an R&B band. He had a recording deal at age 16 and a job in New York at 18, working with Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick. He collaborated on hits like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling.” With Barry Mann, he started a music supervision company that created customized soundtracks for films, including the Grammy-winning “Somewhere Out There.” Four of Steve’s albums grabbed top three chart positions on Billboard’s Jazz Chart. The Sinatra family, who happen to be fans of Tyrell, helped him with his fifth album, “Songs of Sinatra,” by providing him with original Sinatra arrangements. Called “The Standard Bearer,” Tyrell says, “I think this music is America”s greatest contribution to the arts.” (Tyrell performs with the Houston Symphony on March 17-19 at Jones Hall.)

Jo Beth Williams
[actress and director]
JoBeth Williams grew up in Houston, went to Jones High School and, thereafter, to Brown University on a Jesse Jones Scholarship. Her show-stopping movie debut was in “Kramer vs. Kramer,” where she played a one-night-stand of Dustin Hoffman who darts nude to the bathroom. Many movies followed, including “Stir Crazy,” “Endangered Species” and her biggest hit, where she plays the terrorized mother in the shocker, “Poltergeist.” Television roles have been some of her finest, such as playing the mother of a missing child in “Adam,” for which she was nominated for an Emmy, and Mary Beth Whitehead in “Baby M,” for which she earned both an Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. In 1995, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her directorial debut of short film, “On Hope.”

Renee Zellweger
[actress]
Renee Zellweger, sometimes called “Zelly,” grew up a tomboy in Katy. Her brother, Drew, taught her to play baseball, basketball, soccer and football. At Katy High, she was a cheerleader and enjoyed gymnastics. At the University of Texas, she majored in English. After many small parts, she got her big break. When she spoke the now-famous line, “You had me at hello” to Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire,” she became America’s Sweetheart. Since 2003, Zellweger has been in the Top 10 of the biggest box-office stars in the world. She won a Golden Globe Award for “Nurse Betty,” an Oscar nomination for “Bridget Jones Diary,” an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for “Chicago,” and an Oscar nomination and Golden Globe Award for “Cold Mountain.”

Great Dates

February 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

It’s February again, which, of course, demands the perfect date for Valentine’s Day. Relax: Houston offers up a plethora of options for creative dates. With a little thought and effort (and a bit of trusty advice from the dating experts at H Texas), you can definitely make this holiday one to remember.

Funky fun
Add a bit o’ funk to the relationship. Start your date at the Art Car Museum, and experience the unique phenomenon that has taken over Houston – art cars. From here, take the scenic route to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. This outstanding museum will be hosting the “Perspectives 149: It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll? exhibit. Peruse the 100-plus candid photos of musical icons, such as Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground. Next, cruise over to Alabama Ice House for an ice-cold beer. A laid-back find, this neighborhood favorite offers great people watching and a quick game of horseshoes. Art Car Museum, 140 Heights Blvd., (713) 861-5526, www.artcarmuseum.com; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose, (713) 284-8250, www.camh.org; Alabama Ice House, 1919 Alabama, (713) 528-6874

Kiss the cook
Fun for all, Central Market is the perfect place to take your dream date for some hands-on cooking classes. There are a number of Cooking for Couples classes, as well as an interesting Intro to Red Wine class, but our ultimate pick is Dinner with Aphrodite. Presenting a sensual menu of lobster, champagne, chocolate and more (Sorry, no oysters!), this is the place for couples that are trying to improve their kitchen prowess. Afterward, walk through the aisles of this foodie paradise, and pick out some ingredients for a future meal at home. Central Market, 3815 Westheimer, (713) 993-9860

Picnic in the park
Start your day at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Perceptions of beautiful and engaging art are the perfect conversation starters – and not a bad way to share your feelings. Be sure to visit the “Two Women Look West: Photographs of King Ranch by Helen C. Kleberg and Toni Frissell” exhibit. Next, walk over to Hermann Park for a picnic along the lake. (Catering your lunch from eatZi’s or another prepared meal hot spot is a great idea, too.) Pack a bottle of wine and some glasses, and enjoy each other’s company. MFAH, 1001 Bissonnet, (713) 639-7300, www.mfah.org; Hermann Park, www.hermannpark.org; eatZi’s, 1702 Post Oak Blvd., (713) 629-6003

Classic romance
Take your love to Spindletop in the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston for a drink and some spectacular views of the city. The only rotating restaurant/bar in Space City, USA, sunset at Spindletop adds a decadent aspect to any evening. Next, pop over to 17 in the Alden Houston Hotel. With Executive Chef Ryan Pera holding the culinary reins here now, this exquisite eatery continues to produce some of the best meals in the city. Whisk your date over to the theater district for the closing night of Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” performed by the highly heralded Houston Grand Opera on Saturday, Feb. 11. Spindletop, 1200 Louisiana, (713) 646-6999; 17, Alden Houston, 1117 Prairie, (832) 200-8800; Houston Grand Opera, Wortham Theater Center, (713) 228-OPERA, www.houstongrandopera.org

Taste of Texas
Think Napa Valley – but Houston style. Craft your own tour of Houston wines. Rent a limo to add a bit of romance (and safety), and pop into some of the city’s best wine bars for a flight of fancy. Start off at the Wine Bucket. A boutique and wine bar, this spot offers a bit more diversion to get your conversation rolling. Next, stop in at Cova. Not only can you sip some extraordinary vino, but you can also indulge in some amazing hors d’oeuvres. Last on the tour is La Carafe. An edifice that is more than a century old, this wine bar serves up character, as well as a romantic atmosphere. Whether you sit on the balcony to soak up the views of downtown or put a couple of bucks in the jukebox downstairs, you won’t be disappointed. Wine Bucket Boutique &Bar, 2311 Alabama, (713) 942-9463; Cova, 5600 Kirby, (713) 838-0700; La Carafe, 813 Congress, (713) 229-9399

History in the making
For the more cerebral (or proud!) couples, a visit to the Battleship TEXAS and the San Jacinto Monument and Museum is the best choice. Here, you can experience history at the site of the last war for Texas’ independence from Mexico, smooch along the vast reflection pool, view the tallest war monument in the United States and stroll the decks of one of the greatest battleships in history. All along the banks of Buffalo Bayou, you’ll be amazed by the glory of Texas history right in your backyard. Finish your date with a drive to the Santa Anna capture site. 3523 Battleground Road, State Hwy. 134, LaPorte, (281) 479-2531, www.sanjacinto-museum.org H

Spa Escapes

February 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Blogs, Edit, Travel Blog

Willow Stream: The Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Scottsdale, Ariz.
The desert has many secrets, and the serene desert attitude at The Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is the perfect locale for a romantic getaway with your sweetheart. Not sure your man will entertain the notion of going to a spa? He will now. Willow Stream is catering to couples. According to the friendly staff, men visiting spas is the next big thing. From the MVP sports-themed room (with plasma TVs, headphones and today’s newspaper) to private changing areas, there are many reasons your man will love Willow Stream. “Even the paint on the wall is called ‘pump iron gray,'” says Spa Director Jill Eisenhut of the lengths to which the Fairmont has gone to make men feel at home. Your man still not convinced? Here at Willow Stream, you’ll notice many treatments on the menu are geared explicitly for men. One of the facials offered is a super sport facial, specifically created for the man who is in the sun a lot. (Tennis or golf anyone?)

The Spanish colonial architecture and terra cotta color of the resort are the perfect compliment to the McDowell Mountains in the rugged Sonoran Desert. Willow Stream is a wonderful place to continue your self-directed journey toward a healthy and balanced life. The name means “relaxation,” with the wood of the willow representing strength and the water that pours through the stream representing the journey through life. The unique design was inspired by a place called Havasupai (pronounced Hah-vah-su-pie), a hidden waterfall oasis in the Grand Canyon.

The spa is three levels, all linked by a streaming waterfall. The first relaxation begins just by hearing the flowing water. The waterfall descends from the third level to the first into a waterfall Jacuzzi for both sexes. What a great way to loosen up your shoulders as the pouring water hits your back! This area is co-ed and a great place to spend time together before heading in for treatments. (Some of the spa treatments even begin in the waterfall!)

The women’s relaxation area is unique in many ways. The lockers don’t have keys (which are so easy to lose); there is a four-number lock to program. The wet area is also unique. A completely new experience is the inhalation room you visit before your treatments. It seems more like an upscale lounge with large red pillows, but you sit and inhale 100 percent eucalyptus. The steam room is person activated: It knows when you are in there! The treatment rooms are first class with recessed lighting, a back-lit bath tub and spa shower (two sets of jets overhead and along the side), and beveled lighting.

You can’t leave without experiencing the Arizona Aloe Body Wrap, given by skilled body worker Mark, which focuses on relaxation and re-hydration. You start with a light bath of chamomile and, then, step into a hot shower to completely rinse off. Aloe is applied, and then you are wrapped up in a cocoon. Sometimes wraps can be claustrophobic, but Mark keeps you at ease with a scalp massage, deep massage on your upper neck and then a foot massage. You’ll stay wrapped for at least 20 minutes, allowing your skin to soak up the aloe vera. Once the wrap is removed, relaxation is complete, as your body is doused in chamomile body lotion.

Moonlight dinner
In the moonlight atrium, you can each enjoy a bento box (spa lifestyle cuisine) meal before your treatment, which is served by candlelight. You pre-order your protein, veggie, grains and rice, dairy and sweets. It’s great because the portions are small and include a lot of different flavors, all light and refreshing. This is the type of meal that you can enjoy before a treatment and not feel too full and sluggish. Also, the feeling in this spa at night is very serene and personal; like you and your lover are the only patrons.

Barton Creek Resort &Spa Austin, Texas One of the best things about Barton Creek is its proximity to Houston. In just a little more than two hours, you are delivered to the rolling hills of Austin – definitely worlds away from Houston. Once you reach the grounds of Barton Creek, relaxation sets in almost immediately.

Barton Creek Resort &Spa has 300 well appointed rooms and 72 holes of championship golf. The courses are first rate here, as the ladies tees actually serve the purpose of equalizing the game; and with the streams flowing through the courses, you’re almost sure to see many forms of wildlife. A deer might even be on the green when you arrive! As good as the golf gets, the spa seemed to always play second fiddle at this otherwise lavish resort.

Not any longer. Thankfully, the full-service spa has just undergone a much-needed renovation. This expansive renewal has doubled the spa’s space and created new treatment options. If you’ve been to this resort before, hardly any of the spa is familiar – you have to really focus to see the resemblance of its former self. For example, the Jacuzzi is in the same place, but the old-lady pink-flamingo tiles have been replaced by earth tones.

The re-design had function in mind, as well as luxury. More of the treatment rooms are geared for famous body treatments like the Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit scrub. The final series of renovations included a redesigned women’s wrap room and a second scrub room; and a redesigned Vichy shower room to provide a setting for the Rainforest Body Rinse treatments.

To go along with their new digs, the spa treatment menu has been greatly expanded. One of the new focuses for the spa is the lymphatic treatments. The primary job of the lymph system is to identify toxins; it’s the second line of defense to our immune system. So, working specifically on the lymphatic system can help clear up a lot of issues.

Centre for Well Being at The Phoenician Scottsdale, Ariz. Entering the grounds of the Phoenician is an otherworldly experience. Like the mythical phoenix that rose from the ashes of its past to be reborn, this visual masterpiece resort, engulfed by Camelback Mountain, is the perfect setting for escape and relaxation. With a picturesque 18th hole on your right and an $8 million sculpture garden throughout, there are many reasons you may never leave the grounds until you head back to the airport.

You will be blown away by the nine tempting swimming pools. As soon as you sit down in a lounge chair, a pitcher of ice water is delivered to quench your desert thirst.

The big trend here is fitness. Guests are no longer happy with a small workout room and a facial. (We want more!) To this end, the spa is rounding out its offerings and elevating to the level of a destination spa with new classes, such as acupuncture, Chakra clearing and workshops led by lifestyle coaches. One of the new revolutionary programs resembles a boot camp and uses the 250 acres as an actual gym. Participants use rocks instead of weights, do yoga in the cactus garden and hike up Camelback Mountain. Included with the world-class gym are fitness classes like pilates and new additions like ballroom dancing.

Checking into the spa, your shoe size is input into the computer. This lets the attendant know which locker to assign, as they are differentiated by shoe size. You wait for your treatment in the Meditation atrium on the lower quieter level – a peaceful sanctuary where guided meditation classes and one-on-one meditation sessions are held.

You simply must try the decadent facial from the Pevonia line, the ultra-indulgent Myoxy caviar facial with granite stone massage. If you are concerned with lines and wrinkles, stress or environmental pollutants, this facial defends against the signs of time. Caviar is historically recognized as a key anti-aging ingredient, counteracting the trials of time and contains replenishing amino acids. The caviar is freeze-dried and “activated” while you are in the room. A thin film is laid over your face, and then the caviar is applied. It feels like a light mud; and as it dries, you receive a stone neck massage. It can be a little awkward trying to put the stones under your neck with out moving. But, the alternative, which would be just waiting patiently for the substance to dry, sounds way too boring. The coolest part of this treatment is the removal of the caviar. The mask is removed in its entirety – it stays in the form of your face, channeling “Phantom of the Opera.” The opulence of the Centre for Well Being extends to the casitas and rooms with the eucalyptus and grapefruit products that come in very generous portions. And for guests in search of enlightenment, these products are perfect for soaking in the Italian marble bath.

Afternoon tea
One of the true treats at this upscale resort is the opportunity to celebrate afternoon tea. From children with their grandparents to ladies celebrating a birthday, there is always a great reason to attend afternoon tea at The Phoenician.

The deluxe offering is the Grand Royal Tea, which includes sparkling wine, full tea and a three-course tasting menu. It starts with finger sandwiches, including smoked salmon, chicken salad and egg salad. The attendants come by many times to refill your plate if you are interested. The tea concluded with baked scones, fresh strawberry preserves and pastries. H

Essentials:
Willow Stream: The Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
?(480) 585-4848, www.fairmont.com
Barton Creek Resort &Spa
(800) 336-6158, www.bartoncreek.com
Centre for Well Being at The Phoenician
(800) 843-2392, www.centreforwellbeing.com

Spa Escapes

February 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Willow Stream: The Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Scottsdale, Ariz.
The desert has many secrets, and the serene desert attitude at The Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is the perfect locale for a romantic getaway with your sweetheart. Not sure your man will entertain the notion of going to a spa? He will now. Willow Stream is catering to couples. According to the friendly staff, men visiting spas is the next big thing. From the MVP sports-themed room (with plasma TVs, headphones and today’s newspaper) to private changing areas, there are many reasons your man will love Willow Stream. “Even the paint on the wall is called ‘pump iron gray,'” says Spa Director Jill Eisenhut of the lengths to which the Fairmont has gone to make men feel at home. Your man still not convinced? Here at Willow Stream, you’ll notice many treatments on the menu are geared explicitly for men. One of the facials offered is a super sport facial, specifically created for the man who is in the sun a lot. (Tennis or golf anyone?)

The Spanish colonial architecture and terra cotta color of the resort are the perfect compliment to the McDowell Mountains in the rugged Sonoran Desert. Willow Stream is a wonderful place to continue your self-directed journey toward a healthy and balanced life. The name means “relaxation,” with the wood of the willow representing strength and the water that pours through the stream representing the journey through life. The unique design was inspired by a place called Havasupai (pronounced Hah-vah-su-pie), a hidden waterfall oasis in the Grand Canyon.

The spa is three levels, all linked by a streaming waterfall. The first relaxation begins just by hearing the flowing water. The waterfall descends from the third level to the first into a waterfall Jacuzzi for both sexes. What a great way to loosen up your shoulders as the pouring water hits your back! This area is co-ed and a great place to spend time together before heading in for treatments. (Some of the spa treatments even begin in the waterfall!)

The women’s relaxation area is unique in many ways. The lockers don’t have keys (which are so easy to lose); there is a four-number lock to program. The wet area is also unique. A completely new experience is the inhalation room you visit before your treatments. It seems more like an upscale lounge with large red pillows, but you sit and inhale 100 percent eucalyptus. The steam room is person activated: It knows when you are in there! The treatment rooms are first class with recessed lighting, a back-lit bath tub and spa shower (two sets of jets overhead and along the side), and beveled lighting.

You can’t leave without experiencing the Arizona Aloe Body Wrap, given by skilled body worker Mark, which focuses on relaxation and re-hydration. You start with a light bath of chamomile and, then, step into a hot shower to completely rinse off. Aloe is applied, and then you are wrapped up in a cocoon. Sometimes wraps can be claustrophobic, but Mark keeps you at ease with a scalp massage, deep massage on your upper neck and then a foot massage. You’ll stay wrapped for at least 20 minutes, allowing your skin to soak up the aloe vera. Once the wrap is removed, relaxation is complete, as your body is doused in chamomile body lotion.

Moonlight dinner
In the moonlight atrium, you can each enjoy a bento box (spa lifestyle cuisine) meal before your treatment, which is served by candlelight. You pre-order your protein, veggie, grains and rice, dairy and sweets. It’s great because the portions are small and include a lot of different flavors, all light and refreshing. This is the type of meal that you can enjoy before a treatment and not feel too full and sluggish. Also, the feeling in this spa at night is very serene and personal; like you and your lover are the only patrons.

Barton Creek Resort &Spa Austin, Texas One of the best things about Barton Creek is its proximity to Houston. In just a little more than two hours, you are delivered to the rolling hills of Austin – definitely worlds away from Houston. Once you reach the grounds of Barton Creek, relaxation sets in almost immediately.

Barton Creek Resort &Spa has 300 well appointed rooms and 72 holes of championship golf. The courses are first rate here, as the ladies tees actually serve the purpose of equalizing the game; and with the streams flowing through the courses, you’re almost sure to see many forms of wildlife. A deer might even be on the green when you arrive! As good as the golf gets, the spa seemed to always play second fiddle at this otherwise lavish resort.

Not any longer. Thankfully, the full-service spa has just undergone a much-needed renovation. This expansive renewal has doubled the spa’s space and created new treatment options. If you’ve been to this resort before, hardly any of the spa is familiar – you have to really focus to see the resemblance of its former self. For example, the Jacuzzi is in the same place, but the old-lady pink-flamingo tiles have been replaced by earth tones.

The re-design had function in mind, as well as luxury. More of the treatment rooms are geared for famous body treatments like the Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit scrub. The final series of renovations included a redesigned women’s wrap room and a second scrub room; and a redesigned Vichy shower room to provide a setting for the Rainforest Body Rinse treatments.

To go along with their new digs, the spa treatment menu has been greatly expanded. One of the new focuses for the spa is the lymphatic treatments. The primary job of the lymph system is to identify toxins; it’s the second line of defense to our immune system. So, working specifically on the lymphatic system can help clear up a lot of issues.

Centre for Well Being at The Phoenician Scottsdale, Ariz. Entering the grounds of the Phoenician is an otherworldly experience. Like the mythical phoenix that rose from the ashes of its past to be reborn, this visual masterpiece resort, engulfed by Camelback Mountain, is the perfect setting for escape and relaxation. With a picturesque 18th hole on your right and an $8 million sculpture garden throughout, there are many reasons you may never leave the grounds until you head back to the airport.

You will be blown away by the nine tempting swimming pools. As soon as you sit down in a lounge chair, a pitcher of ice water is delivered to quench your desert thirst.

The big trend here is fitness. Guests are no longer happy with a small workout room and a facial. (We want more!) To this end, the spa is rounding out its offerings and elevating to the level of a destination spa with new classes, such as acupuncture, Chakra clearing and workshops led by lifestyle coaches. One of the new revolutionary programs resembles a boot camp and uses the 250 acres as an actual gym. Participants use rocks instead of weights, do yoga in the cactus garden and hike up Camelback Mountain. Included with the world-class gym are fitness classes like pilates and new additions like ballroom dancing.

Checking into the spa, your shoe size is input into the computer. This lets the attendant know which locker to assign, as they are differentiated by shoe size. You wait for your treatment in the Meditation atrium on the lower quieter level – a peaceful sanctuary where guided meditation classes and one-on-one meditation sessions are held.

You simply must try the decadent facial from the Pevonia line, the ultra-indulgent Myoxy caviar facial with granite stone massage. If you are concerned with lines and wrinkles, stress or environmental pollutants, this facial defends against the signs of time. Caviar is historically recognized as a key anti-aging ingredient, counteracting the trials of time and contains replenishing amino acids. The caviar is freeze-dried and “activated” while you are in the room. A thin film is laid over your face, and then the caviar is applied. It feels like a light mud; and as it dries, you receive a stone neck massage. It can be a little awkward trying to put the stones under your neck with out moving. But, the alternative, which would be just waiting patiently for the substance to dry, sounds way too boring. The coolest part of this treatment is the removal of the caviar. The mask is removed in its entirety – it stays in the form of your face, channeling “Phantom of the Opera.” The opulence of the Centre for Well Being extends to the casitas and rooms with the eucalyptus and grapefruit products that come in very generous portions. And for guests in search of enlightenment, these products are perfect for soaking in the Italian marble bath.

Afternoon tea
One of the true treats at this upscale resort is the opportunity to celebrate afternoon tea. From children with their grandparents to ladies celebrating a birthday, there is always a great reason to attend afternoon tea at The Phoenician.

The deluxe offering is the Grand Royal Tea, which includes sparkling wine, full tea and a three-course tasting menu. It starts with finger sandwiches, including smoked salmon, chicken salad and egg salad. The attendants come by many times to refill your plate if you are interested. The tea concluded with baked scones, fresh strawberry preserves and pastries. H

Essentials:
Willow Stream: The Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
?(480) 585-4848, www.fairmont.com
Barton Creek Resort &Spa
(800) 336-6158, www.bartoncreek.com
Centre for Well Being at The Phoenician
(800) 843-2392, www.centreforwellbeing.com