Death Of An Icon?:  The Westheimer Street Festival (Ostracised and Exiled Forever?)


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What is depicted on these pages is based on evidence abstracted from the Houston Chronicle and other sources.  Vigilante Entertainment vehemently opposes censorship and the depiction of the logo isn't aimed at extremism or illegal activity.  The author of this page has no affiliation with any media group like the Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, or any Montrose-area organization, like Covenant House, or the Westheimer Street Festival Corporation.  Overall content of this publication is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Since the early 1970s (c. 1971), the Westheimer Colony Association (established October 1972) always held a biannual arts festival (known as the Westheimer Colony Arts Festival before March 1997), which started out as an artist's expo of their noted works.  At the same time, a street festival (c. 1973) was held in conjunction with the arts festival, and throughout its existence, the street festival (known as the Montrose Block Party and up to 1993, the Westheimer Incredible Street Extravaganza) has grown in proportion to the arts fest.  In April 1993, the arts festival (now known as the Bayou City Arts Festival) vacated their venue on 900 Lovett Blvd (today Walgreen's), and the biannual Westheimer Street Festival, to this day, has been the iconic representation of Houston, like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  As the author of this URL, three organizations have been behind the WSF:  the (formerly Westheimer before 1995) Art Colony Association, Inc. (2700 Albany St.), the sole owner of the current-day Bayou City Arts Festival), the Westheimer Street Festival Corporation (formerly known as WISE and the parallel Westheimer Street Fair) (524 Westheimer, headed by John Flores), and a spin-off (breakaway) group (led by concert promoter Sirron Kyles and Don Schwarzkopf) known today as the Downtown Street Festival.

During the 28 years of its existence, there have been issues concerning the Westheimer Street Festival since 1992 (when the street closure extended beyond a 3-block strip of Montrose Blvd between Lovett and near the intersection of Hyde Park Blvd. to include the 100 - 1100 block of Westheimer), where residents have complained about several issues, like partygoers engaging in deviant activity (e.g. public urination on private property, illegal trash dumping), as well as overcrowded parking, and excessive noise, along with certain businesses that form an integral part of the Lower Westheimer and Montrose Districts.  Reurbanization of the Montrose District, since 1990, along with numerous businesses, have been at odds with the organizers of the biannual street festival that has been the iconic symbol of Houston since 1973.  Driving on Westheimer (from the 100 - 2000 block) has changed, especially the clothing stores (e.g. Liquid, Buffalo Exchange) that sell vintage fashion (e.g. pumps, Elvis suits, "Beat It" {a.k.a. Thriller} jackets and Tony Montana posters) and body piercing/tattoo joints.

Back in the 1980s, the 100 - 1100 block of Westheimer (the technical term for the Lower Westheimer) was once a haven for crime, where pimps, prostitutes, SOBs, and runaway youth were rampant, and as an educated guess, the first sightings of fenced front yards.  Covenant House has been there since 1983, and along with the Westheimer Street Festival Corporation, have been active in the Lower Westheimer/Montrose community.  Funds from the Westheimer Street Festival have been used for street cleanup (until February 2000), which is a sign of giving back to the community, but why a conservative Houston City Council destroying a cultural heritage?

Urban renewal might be a theme for change, since suburban refugees have taken up residence near Downtown Houston, and to this day, cosmopolites (a term coined by sociologist Herbert Gans, for those that are single, without children) outnumber inner city residents.  Not only the Lower Westheimer is affected; other inner Loop (inside Loop 610) communities are affected, like the Upper Shepherd District near Interstate 10.  From my POV, there is a double standard for xenophobia to occur here: suburban refugees (a.k.a. anti-WestFest residents - those that migrate from suburbia, unfamiliar with the Montrose or any inner-city community, which breed resentment toward culturalist norms, along with residents raised in the era when a nuclear family during post-WWII America, and religious fundamentalists) consider the culturalists (e.g. the bohemians, Gay/Lesbians, hippies, and traditionalists) as a group of people that differ in cultural values, stemming from the baby boom generation to the present day.   This also holds true for the traditionalists of the Lower Westheimer (the Montrose community, old hippies, gays/lesbians, and culturalists) - considering the new inner city residents, from young urban professionals in their mid-30s (yuppies in Brioni suits and Lane Bryant dresses driving Lexuses, Ford Explorers, and BMWs), and conservatives (a politically correct term for anti-festival residents) as an intrusion on how a community's environment (from an ethnocentric POV) is shaped for generations.

Even Lower Westheimer and Montrose residents have been known to erect fences around their front yards, which might be a deterrent to deviant partygoers from the WSF (e.g. urination/defecation in the yard), and from a personal observation after cruisin' Roseland Street (as well as other Montrose-area homes), a majority of homes have fenced-in front yards.  These homes are located near local businesses (e.g. Kroger, Soundwaves, and the University of St. Thomas).  To some traditional residents (e.g. the 14 anti-WSF plaintiffs that have been backed by COH Dept of Public Works director George Bravenec, where his street closure decision was upheld by a 12-3 vote), the fenced front yards leads to devalued property, and in the above pic (1118 California Street), a BMW Z3 coupe is parked in front, across from Mary's.  The homeowner might have a purpose with the fenced front yard, especially with the drunk and disorderly.  In this 'hood, loft housing worth $250,000 (a sign of urban renewal and avoiding the long commutes to Sugar Land or Friendswood) and fenced front yards will always be a reminder of an unzoned frontier.  During the pre-2/17/00 days of the WSF, a typical Montrose-area street is packed with parked cars, and whenever I went to the WSF, I always parked in front of Covenant House.  Some residents might complain about the overcrowded parking and narrow streets (they were planned at the turn of the century when the Montrose was envisioned as an early suburb of Houston, when streetcars were once public transportation.  Older, Inner Loop communities are experiencing a renaissance, where no one wants to drive to suburbia anymore.

February 17, 2000 might signal the end of a lower Westheimer tradition, when the City of Houston upheld the Bravenec decision concerning the denial of a street closure permit to the organizers of the Westheimer Street Festival Corporation by a margin of 12-3, and as a result, something revered by Houstonians has taken the same path as the Houston Oilers (1959 - 1997), Kiddie Wonderland (1931 - 1995), the Red Lion Restaruant (1956 - 7/31/94), Gilley's (1971 - 1989), Sonny Look's Sir-Loin Inn (1967 - 12/31/91; located at 9810 South Main), Timeless Taffeta (1980 - 2001; located at 1657 Westheimer), and the Shamrock Hilton (1949 - 1987).  From my perspective, the WSF belongs in the lower Westheimer, not on Allen Parkway.  It's just like buying a brand new Impala, or Monte Carlo SS, which is a desecration of the GM marque, since the new Impala is FWD with a transverse V6 motor.  What would a New Orleans be without Mardi Gras?

Here's a link with a cover story from the now-defunct Public News magazine:

Public News #776

The article details the role of the WSF in the 1990s, especially with references to urban renewal and leaning toward conservatism.  One evidence revealed that the Greek and Egyptian Festivals (the Egyptian Festival is now held in Bellaire, TX) are exempted, due to the fact that they are affiliated with religious and educational groups.  1997 might have been a year when SOB regulation was controversial, since the 1984 breakup of AT&T.

In the year of the Millenium Bug, Y2K, the Street Festival was held at Eleanor Tinsley Park (formerly Buffalo Bayou Park before 1998), near Downtown Houston, and going to the "relocated" Westheimer Street Festival wasn't the same.  The 3-decades old tradition has become a victim of urban renewal, and diva impersonators on top of Mary's were a thing of the past, along with the thriving businesses that contribute to the festivities since 1973.  The last thing that I would do is to purchase a round-trip ticket to New Orleans or drive to Galveston Island for Mardi Gras, since the Mardi Gras of Houston has been tarnished for life.  For over 28+ years, the Westheimer Street Festival is the Mardi Gras of Houston, but instead of the parades and floats on Bourbon Street (as well as the women flashing for beads), alternative rock bands, partygoers wearing snakes, and inline skaters are common in Houston.  Galveston has revived Mardi Gras, except that "flashing for beads" (a Carnaval ritual) is a prosecutable offense under the indecent exposure law.

Below are several pics of the Lower Westheimer, on May 6, 2000 (The End?):

Mary's, located at the intersection of Waugh and Westheimer.  During the street festivals of years past (up to October 1999), diva impersonators that lip sync hits by Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Gloria Gaynor, as well as disco classics like YMCA, always performed on the rooftop of Mary's.  When I snapped this pic (around 12:30 p.m.), it's sad to see the diva impersonators disappear.

On the left of the pic is the former Tower Theater (now Hollywood Video and Crossroads since 1997).  It's a good sign that the Tower Theater didn't meet its fate like the Shamrock Hilton.

In the parking lot of Charlie's Diner and Chances Bar, an alternative rock band was performing, as a way to know that the party isn't over yet.  The crowds were at Eleanor Tinsley Park, but performing live in front of traffic isn't the same.  Note that the street (Westheimer @ Yoakum/Waugh) isn't closed off, which is traditional during festivities.  Yoakum Blvd. is on the left of the pic, and Waugh on the right.  In the background is Slick Willie's Pool Hall and Bar (1200 Westheimer, formerly the Houston Sign Company before 1993).

Facing east, this section of Westheimer (the West End) normally is packed with partygoers, as well as vendors making a profit.  Inline skaters, skateboarders, and watching diva impersonators is common during the weekend of the Westheimer Street Festival, but this pic shows an emptiness reflecting upon change.  Burger King, in the foreground, used to be Dorsey's Convertible Tops and Upholestry Services and Tribal Hut (long gone since 1994).  Ain't no big thing, brother.

Montrose Blvd., and local businesses have lost profits and customers.  Condoms Galore is in the background, and it's sad to see traffic flowing in place of partygoers and inline skaters.  Inline skaters and skateboarders always performed on this strip of Montrose twice a year.  Where have they gone?  Look down below:

This year, skateboarders and roller hockey were held right in front of the Historic Oaks at Allen Parkway Village (a revitalization effort of the troubled housing project, a.k.a. San Felipe Courts).  What was depicted here was in the ET in October 2000.  Note the false street sign in the background.  After October 1999, what was once a tradition has died forever, and exists in an ostracised world.  Imagine a Bourbon Street without Mardi Gras, and yielding side repercussions involve lost crowds and profit.  Mary's has a $50,000 annual (net) income from the WSF, and what happens if they can't come up with $50,000?  Profit and Loss.

The heart of the Westheimer Street Festival is always at the intersection of Westheimer and Montrose Blvd.  When street closure permits resulted in the larger crowds, this strip meant a lot of activity.  On this day (5/6/00), traffic flowed, and side repercussions were common with local businesses (e.g. the Mausoleum Coffee Shop).

Relocating the Westheimer Street Festival to Eleanor Tinsley Park is a sad for sore eyes, and it's a sad thing to see flyers in the Houston Press referring to the event at the "Westheimer Street Festival - In Exile".  Is this the new name for the WSF?  Look above at the false street sign above, located near the Historic Oaks at Allen Parkway Village.  Is this the future of a lower Westheimer tradition?  Time for a holodeck re-enactment, but this technology doesn't exist.  I wish that the Street Festival wouldn't be renamed, much like the now-departed Westheimer Arts Festival (now known as the Bayou City Arts Festival since 1995).  I might as well save $1000 for a trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, since the lower Westheimer isn't the same without the street festival.  I have seen two variations of the name, either as the "Westheimer Street Festival on Allen Parkway" or the "Westheimer Street Festival in Exile on Allen Parkway" from the official WSF site, but due to the issue of the First Amendment, the WSF marquee will always have a connotation with the Lower Westheimer, because the First Amendment's provision of free association and free exercise.  Much like Pro-Choice and Pro-Lifers on Roe v. Wade (1973), this issue will be debated for generations.

I have seen partygoers wearing T-shirts with the words "Westheimer Street Revival", and hope that an iconic theme to the lower Westheimer will return, if the Festival Ordinance is repealed.  Some might say that the Westheimer Street Festival Corporation lacked cohesion during the Houston City Council meetings earlier this year, but hope for the best.  From my POV, a playa-hata like (City Attorney) Paul Bibler and (COH Public Works director) George Bravenec might have been leaning toward conservatism, as well as a 12-3 vote, along with barring non-intervenors (gagged and silenced?) to voice their opinions (to usher in the Allen Parkway era).

The WSF isn't the only street festival held on a public street; the Heights Festival (held on Heights Blvd.) and the Southwestern Bell African-American Arts Festival (held on Holman Street, near Project Row Houses) are the other recognized street festivals in the Houston area.  (Currently, the City of Houston recently amended the existing festival ordinance, but wouldn't expect any miracles.  To John Flores and the rest of the WSF Corporation, holding the events in the lower Westheimer may be a thing of the past.  The Gay Pride Parade might not have been affected, and I hope that Covenant House of Texas wouldn't meet the same fate, since urban renewal can transform a community, much like missionaries changing or destroying indigienous (native) populations (e.g. Westernizination of Native Americans since the 1600s or a tribe of unclothed and bare-breasted natives, or the extermination of a race like the Tonkawa or Karankawa Indians through genocide or miscegenation) to Judeo-Christian values and norms.  Like Ice-T stated:  "Urban Renewal is bull$#!+."  (from the short film Urban Menace)

The WSF relocation might be the end of a tradition (hope for a holodeck re-enactment), but hope that this pic bring back some memories:

The Shamrock-Hilton Hotel, June 1987:  Armageddon to Opulence

The Texas Medical Center purchased the Shamrock Hilton from the Hilton Hotel chain in 1985, and the McCarthy-era high rise (one of the post-WWII icons of the 20th Century) was once the tallest building outside of Downtown Houston, until 1983, when the Transco (now Williams) Tower took the title.  The TMC considered a rehabilitaiton of the building too expensive, and what remains today is a ballroom and the parking garage.  It's a sad tale that Glenn McCarthy's $21 million dream lived only for 41 years, from the day of construction to his death.  Right now, a parking garage and ballroom (the remaining structures left over from the demolition) now lies on the former Shamrock site, and the above pic will be a testament for an unzoned frontier, as well as a reminder for historical landmarks being recognized.  The former M & M building (now the University of Houston - Downtown) has a plaque on the north side of the building, as a historical landmark.

Glenn McCarthy (12/25/1907 - 12/26/1988)
The Brainchild of Post-WWII Houston, Texas

May he rest in peace, and even though the Shamrock is long gone, the memories will never fade.

Here's a page with pics of a genre long gone (with a couple of pics from the recent WSF-IE):

WSF '99

Check out the Hungwell Boxer (with the Amanda Peet clone) and bikini babe pics, since these are the only two existing pics of the WSF-IE 2000.  Everything else is from the WSF Fall 99, and hope that holodeck technology would someday recreate the WSF again, if the City of Houston decides to end a lower Westheimer tradition.  If this is the end (unless the Houston City Council is more liberal to overturn the SOB and revised Festival Ordinance regulations), I  rather spend $1500 for a roundtrip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

The SOB licensing, along with the revised Festival Ordinance (where a public hearing is mandatory), is too bureaucratic, and regulates how organizations exist.  Houston, the unzoned frontier, might be the only laissez-faire land use city in the nation, and a good place to film a movie, as well as the only area that has more petrochemical refineries that spews ground-level ozone.  This URL will be a testament to shock journalism, but as an unpaid author of 23 websites, this page will make John Flores and Sirron Kyles (feuding foes?) proud.

WestFest Liberation/Montrose Links (moved for page clearance)

West Fest: Portrait of a Street Festival

The above banner is to an online club, which was established as a response to the change of venue, ushering the Allen Parkway genre. ET Park isn't the same as the L-Dub.  The other two links were established before this page went online, both authored by photographer Charles Tatum II.  Both links include a bulletin board and a mailing list, but to this day, this URL has been the only source that has been archived by the WSFC, and John Flores is aware of the content of the pages that I have authored.

Since the page's inception, here are the readable fonts, which can be downloaded to your c:\windows\fonts file.  The font typefaces are common with pages that I have authored.

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Copyright 2000, 2001 Vigilante Entertainment.  All Rights Reserved.  Unauthorized use of any images for exploitation is illegal, without the sole copyright of the author.

"Urban renewal and the City of Houston's Festival Ordinance can deny a street closure permit to oust the Westheimer Street Festival out of the Lower Westheimer, but the Lower Westheimer (and WSF) cannot be ousted out of the Westheimer Street Festival.  Someday, the WSF will return home to its heart and soul:  the Lower Westheimer." 

...The Emissary