Houston Pride: Dancing, Dining, Divas & Diving on the Bayou
Long ago Houston shed the remains of an outdated image as a sleepy Southern city to emerge as an economic dynamo and the fourth-largest city in the country. If you have any doubts that this is one of the most progressive American cities, consider this: The city’s electorate have twice voted in a lesbian, Annise Parker, as mayor -- far and away the largest city in the nation to have an out-gay chief executive. Hear that, San Francisco?
The city’s Pride celebrations similarly have exploded in recent years from a small local event to a regional one to one that brings in visitors from way beyond Texas and Louisiana. This being Texas, no one knows the meaning of "small," and this year’s Houston Pride promises to be one of the biggest in the country, with the most varied roster of events.
Bette & Thelma
If you’re a fan of Bette Midler (and if you’re not, what are you doing on this site?), then you absolutely have to attend the Saturday, June 16, concert, when the city’s Gay Men’s Chorus presents "I’m Beautiful, Dammit: A Tribute to Bette Midler." Bring a mermaid outfit, if you really want to be in the swim. Go to this website for information and a link to ticket sales.
A real-live musical icon makes an appearance on Friday, June 22, when "Rainbow on the Green" presents Thelma Houston, whose cover of "Don’t Leave Me This Way" was one of the biggest disco hits and still gets plenty of airplay and DJ rotations.
Houston is responsible for a huge number of hits, but for my money, nothing tops the soul-inflected Morning Music ballad, "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning." If you’re not familiar with it, have a listen:
Get information here to this don’t-miss event.
Pro Soccer, Fine Dining & Models in Underwear
If, like me, you prefer buff men in shorts who actually have to run their hearts out playing real football (OK, "soccer") to the American version, watch the Houston Dynamos take on Toronto FC on June 20. It’s "Pride Dyno-Night," so do the Wave with your fellow LGBT sports fans. Information here.
Houston cuisine has long been associated with three major aspects of the city’s culture. As one of the nation’s largest ports, it serves up the delicacies of the Gulf of Mexico; Tex-Mex, of course; and, this being Texas, beef.
On Monday, June 18, you can "Dine With Pride" at Canopy, one of the city’s finest restaurants. Located in the heart of the Montrose gayborhood, Canopy offers upscale versions of everything Houston, with a locavore accent present in a locally farmed cheese plate. There’s comfort food like mac-and-cheese, here cooked with white cheddar, scallions and applewood smoked bacon.
Not ordering these two dishes -- chill relleno, here made with an array of vegetables, Mexican cheeses, roasted tomatillo salsa and chipotle creme; and the grilled shrimp salad -- is like going to New York without a slice of pizza and "bagel with a shmeer." Bring a friend so you can share.
Get more information here.
What would Pride be without hot models in underwear and skimpy swimsuits? I don’t even want to consider it. On Tuesday, June 19, South Beach is offering a free fashion show. Watch buff, tanned men strut their stuff while barely being covered by Aussie Bum, Bayou Beau Underwear, Paul Ferrer Texas, Skimpeez and Go Softwear, among others.
Everybody Dance Now
The big dance party happens Friday, June 22, at "Wonderland," where the 130,000-square-foot Bayou Music Center will be transformed into an "Alice in Wonderland" extravaganza. Expect aerial performances, drag performers and hot go-go dancers, all while you work it to DJ Michael Tank’s grooves. Tank has played everywhere from Miami’s White and Winter parties to a Circuit party in Singapore. Information here.
If you need to cool down, get wet at the Sunday, June 17, "Salvation Pool Party" at megaclub Roak. Cast away your sins on the dance floor. And remember to undress for success. (in other words, wear a bathing suit!)
There will also be a talent show leading up to Saturday, June 23. The Gay Pride Festival, which runs from 1 to 7 p.m. features exhibitors, entertainment, special areas for kids and a local history exhibit curated by Rice University. It’s followed by the largest parade in the Southwest, when politicians, organizations, celebrities and everyone else march in Montrose.
This is the city where the lawsuit originated that ended up striking down discriminatory sodomy statues nationwide. Gay men and lesbians fought hard for their place at the table -- a table they’re now heading. Today’s Houston is a multicultural, cultural, happening place with Texas-wide smiles. Come down the bayou, and leave your cares (and attitude) at home.
Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).