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(We Are) Nexus to Rock Out for Pride Fest

posted on: 06/23/2015

Electronic pop music duo (We Are) Nexus will help celebrate Pride this weekend in downtown Houston.

The band will play on the Bud Light stage in front of City Hall at 12: 30 pm as part of the Pride Festival. This is the first year the festival and parade are being held downtown.

Composer Nick Gunn and vocalist Carmen Rainier formed the band in 2012. They exploded onto the scene in August 2013 with the debut of their EP "It Feels So Good," a cover to Sonique's hit by the same name. (We Are) Nexus' list of accomplishments is impressive, especially considering its age. The duo earned the #1 Breakout position on Billboards Dance Club Songs, a peak position of #14 on Billboards Dance Club Songs, iTunes Top 100 Dance and Billboards Top 50 Dance/Electronic Songs spots. With radio support and regular Music Choice rotation, the band looks forward to releasing its next single "They'll Never Stop Me" and a tour in support beginning in early 2015.

"We've played Houston before and it will be great to be back supporting equality," says Rainer. There's so much love and acceptance at pride festivals, we can't wait to join the party all and rock the house!"

Other headliners for the festival include Ginger Minj of Ru Paul's Drag Race, Big Freedia and Estelle. See the full lineup below.

For more on the festival and parade, click here.

Barefoot Stage
1 p.m. Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) ballet folklorico
2 p.m. Drop Out Vegas
3:30 p.m. Big Freedia
4:30 p.m. Morena Roas Da Artist
5:15 p.m. The T.R.U.T.H. Project - merged arts experience

Bud Light Stage - City Hall
12:30 p.m. (We Are) Nexus
1:30 p.m. Erika Jayne
2:15 p.m. Pride Superstar!
3 p.m. Jessica Sutta
3:45 p.m. Ginger Minj Official Fan Page
4:30 p.m. Estelle


Dates Off the Beaten Path

posted on: 06/12/2015

For some, nothing beats the traditional date night of dinner and a movie. No doubt, Houston offers plenty of options for both. But what if you want to do something different? Are you out of ideas for an offbeat, unconventional date in Houston? Here are some activities you may not have thought of before.

Houston Roller Derby

Started in 2005, the Houston Roller Derby now has over 100 skaters on four teams. On the third Saturday of every month, they hold a two-game match at the Bayou Music Center. The girls crash, skate and score to uproarious crowds. Don't know about derby? No problem! The fans are notoriously informative and welcoming to new attendees and the energy at the bouts is contagious as skaters with names such as Brand Aid and Freight Train encourage the audience to become a part of the experience. Grab VIP seating tickets for a comfy spot to watch the game with your date, or if you're daring, take a seat in the CRASH ZONE and have skaters fly right past you. Besides being exciting, Derby is affordable. General admission seats sell for the cost of a movie and VIP for just a bit more. Insider tip: GA ticket holders should bring lawn chairs.

Buffalo Bayou Park

Whether you choose to hike it, bike it, or grab a canoe or kayak, Buffalo Bayou Park makes a great spot for a date. Considered Houston's equivalent of Central Park, Buffalo Bayou offers 160 acres of green space along 2.3 miles of water. Pack a meal and get active or enjoy being a spectator and take in your surroundings. The park includes a skate park, dog park and bat bridge where thousands of bats swarm into the sky at dusk. There's even safety lunar cycle lighting installed along the paths for nighttime visits. Bring along a picnic lunch or dinner and design the perfect day for you and your special someone. Bike, canoe and kayak rentals are all available.

Outsider Art Tour

If you're planning to make a day of your date, Houston has some of the most famous outsider art in the country. The city is known for its ever-expanding Art Car Parade each May, but many don't know about the small, well-curated Art Car Museum, which is open year-round. The museum itself is a splendor with its jutting metal composition and design. Inside, you'll find several full-size vehicles parked among rotating displays of more traditional visual art as well as books and films about the subject. It is like no other museum in the city, open Wednesday through Sunday and always free.

Next on your tour, The Beer Can House is the last remaining "regular-sized" home in a neighborhood of newly developed lofts. John Milkovish, the house's owner, transformed it marbles, concrete, metal and thousands of beer cans. The house is featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not, which estimates over 50,000 cans make up the roof, walls and decorations on, in and around the home. Tours are available Saturdays and Sundays, and it's unforgettable.

Finish your tour with another one-of-a-kind - The Orange Show Monument. The handmade environment was created by Jefferson Davis McKissack to spread awareness of the wonders of his favorite fruit, the orange. The space is a bit of a maze with a wishing well, pond, stage, museum and gift shop. It's available to tour Wednesday through Sunday.

This wide array of art should give you and your date plenty to discuss after you finish touring.

Flea and farmers markets on Airline Drive

Sunny's Flea Market can be your main destination for a different kind of shopping date. This 35-acre extravaganza has something old and something new and all sorts of oddities in between. With snack shops, live music, a farmers market, beauty supplies and more, one can easily fill a day with new experiences. Continue on Airline Road to find similar markets selling everything from blankets and DVDs to pots and plants.

Next time you're planning a date, wander off the beaten path to explore parts of Houston many have never experienced. Memories and adventures are waiting, and any of these suggestions will surely give you and your plus one something to talk about, whether it's a first a date or you've been together for years.

By Jenn Haight


Go Ahead, Have a Spring Fling

posted on: 06/04/2015

By Tammy Shaklee, Founder of He's for Me

I know, I know, one can get a little nauseous with the overly-romantic references to love. Whether it's around Valentine's, other milestone holidays, and even Spring, with love in the air. But as a certified matchmaker, I can tell you, trends on love and seeking love can be cyclical. You'd be surprised with Fall's first cold snap, how many start to focus on a great guy to snuggle with during winter.

But it's Spring; Being open to at least one date is in the air. The serious Texas heat hasn't yet hit, and it's the perfect time to be outside (if you can control your allergies, of course). While I coach on getting a first date, and how to be most successful on a date, I also share some simple encouragement to spend a beautiful Spring day with a fellow single. When on your day off, the morning sun starts to stream through the window, and the temperature invites you to leave the back door or window open, inhale nature, and exhale with purpose.

At the recent International Matchmaker's Conference, Sex Expert Dr. Kat Smith, confirmed that sexual energy needs to flow within your body. I'm here to foster that energy and channel it in to steps that can lead to dating. When I take an occasional "Dating Coaching Client" we often start by listing his current crush or distraction. Let's list up to three, shall we? When a client can't really list anyone he has a secret or not-so-secret crush on, we've got our first exercise. It's healthy to have a crush, to admire a fantasy date, even if he's currently taken. It keeps that sexual energy flowing. Even if you realistically know he can't be the one, he can inspire action. And the act of asking out an eligible single is great practice to getting your dating life up and running.

Dating? Do gay men really date? The answer is yes. Not group dates, but one on one time spent getting to know each other. It works. It's not scary, or corny, or frivolous. It's healthy. Most of my clients refer to it as, "I'd really like to hang out with him again." Exactly! That's dating, folks. I know it can be frustrating still being single when you're the guy who's serious about a long-term relationship. So practice the traditional courting gesture by inviting a great guy to hang out and enjoy a couple of hours together.

Even when life hands you lemons, make some homemade lemonade for a picnic (or simply slice them in a pitcher of Crystal Light). Grab a couple of beach towels, some sandwiches from your favorite deli, and sit in the shade on the grounds of your local university campus. In Austin, our favorite spot for a picnic is the grounds of the Capitol. It's an ideal place for people watching. If applicable, take a bottle of wine, sparkling water, deck of cards, a couple of magazines, just not your phone (unless it's ONLY for a photo to capture the beauty of the day or to play some nice jazz).

I interviewed a bachelor yesterday who listed walking several of Houston's parks as his favorite thing to do on the weekends. He's not the guy wearing his ear buds, disengaged with his eyes on the path. He's the good look guy who's briskly walking, enjoying the sites and sounds of nature, and recharging from his demanding career. My goal is now to find him the compatible match who's going to share that path with him for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, I'm still encouraging him to ask out a date while you wait. True story: I recently had a Matchmaking Client go on hold because he had a crush on, and then dated exclusively...the barista at his local coffee shop. Good for him, we thought. He had an open heart, an open mind, took action, and had a fulfilling relationship. And it all started with eye contact, inquisitive conversation, and the art of asking one out. #LoveIsLove has so many applicable meanings.

As Rumi says, "What you are seeking is seeking you." I tell clients every week, "He is looking for you as hard as you are looking for him, I can guarantee." So get that energy flowing this Spring, and ask out your crush. I'll even coach you on the lemonade.

For more information on traditional introductions, courting, and dating for today's modern gay man, visit He's For Me, offline, personal matchmaking designed exclusively for select gay men seeking a long-term relationship - at, and like us on our Facebook Page for daily inspiration on finding love. #loveislove


Houston Gaymers: Getting Their Game On

posted on: 05/11/2015

What do you think of when you hear "Hearthstone," "Mario Kart" and "Naruto"? Probably a bunch of adolescents holed up in a basement glued to a screen. Houston Gaymers, however, is challenging that notion through its LGBT-friendly community.

According to 2014 gaming industry statistics, 58 percent of Americans play video games and 62 percent of all gamers are adults, with the average age of game purchasers ringing in at 35. Adults are playing these games and some want to find a way to do so without being bombarded by the slurs and sexually biased insults that are, unfortunately, common in the gaming world.

The LGBT community hasn't always had a natural fit into the world of gaming. That's why in 2009, Eric Hulsey, after inspiration from a dinner with friends, founded Houston Gaymers to offer a safe and fun gaming environment for gamers online and through regular meetups. "Gamers in general are more introverted in their personalities and sometimes so is being gay. By picking neutral locations, everyone can feel more open to be who they want to be," he told the Houston Press in 2012.

Houston Gaymers is the largest gay gaming community in the country, with a regular turnout of 80 or more players. The group holds the honor of being named OutSmart Magazine's Gayest and Greatest: Favorite Social Organization finalist in both 2012 and 2013.

The group is very active on Twitter, Facebook and its own blog, and events are shared via every outlet. Houston Gaymers meetups occur monthly and include access to delectable food trucks, console gaming and tournaments. They also host a monthly meetup called Handheld Connect for players who prefer personal gaming via the DS, PSP Vita or board games, for those who are into analog gaming.

Above all, Houston Gaymers is an open and welcoming community that extends its welcome to anyone looking to become part of something positive-and to also get their gaming on. Some recent events have included film screenings, drag queen shows, crawfish boils and team participation in Geeks Who Drink pub trivia nights.

Whether you find them online, hit one of their meetings or participate in a meetup, the Gaymers are waiting for you!

By Jenn Haight


7 Bad Topics on a First Date

posted on: 04/21/2015

By Tammy Shaklee, Founder of He's for Me

You've done it. You've landed that cup of coffee or happy hour drink with a guy who just might be the one. Now you simply hope to find the right shirt, a great parking spot, and that he's a good conversationalist in person.

Well, Mr. Mister, please know the barista will not be responsible for how this one, short, first date can go wrong. You just might be.

As a certified matchmaker who only matches gay professional men seeking a long-term relationship, I'm often shocked during the feedback process by how intelligent, educated, and eligible bachelors unknowingly sabotage their one chance at a first impression. Without pointing fingers, I feel obligated to share what gay men tell me are a "turnoff" on a first date. There's a lot of consistency in what we hear in our office. So I not only personally coach our clients and bachelors on first date conversation do's and don'ts, but also share tidbits with you in case you score a date with one of my clients as well.

Please avoid:

1) Gay Cruises - Do not ever mention, ask about, brag about, dis, or even laugh about a cruise. Gay men have strong connotations associated with gay cruises. I don't care if you lost your last love to the party circuit, nor does your date. Especially when he's scheduled to go on a gay cruise next holiday. It's just a topic you should not talk about on a first date. Trust me, I hear it a lot. If it comes up, do not judge, just change the subject to a vacation destination you hope to visit in the next year and ask what his favorites are as well.

2) Listing Men - Whether it's your last several dates, the guys in your complex, hotties at your gym, or your exes. A first date is not a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It's a waste of time to spend these precious first minutes together talking about another man other than the one sitting right in front of you. Ask him about him. Figure out your mutual acquaintances later.

3) Polarizing Hobbies - Believe it or not, there are some, evidently. As your biggest fan, I think it's "hot" that you love console gaming, board gaming, quilting, crocheting, comic book collecting, roller coaster riding, sky diving, extreme camping, or vintage toy collecting. Although, for whatever reason, gay men may inappropriately judge based on unique hobbies or interests. Save it for the 3rd date, when you know he's starting to like you. That way he can either see himself possibly joining you in those someday, or is secure enough to know you'll enjoy those on your own, while he visits his elderly grandmother on Sundays.

4) Yelp Review - A first date is not your chance to write a food and beverage review for the New York Times. You simply chose a safe public location for a first date. Focus on the person, not the unfortunately less-than-quality food, service, beverage, ambiance, or parking. If he's the one, you'll laugh about it later, if you can laugh about it now. To obsess during the date is not attractive.

5) Relocation - We get it. You're driven with career plans and aspirations that may have you relocating someday. Don't discuss your shortlist of cities and future move. Be present. If he's the one, you guys will figure it out in time. See if you even want a second date before unveiling your future. Men will assume they're not in your plans, instead of finding it impressive and potentially adventurous.

6) Memoirs - A first date is not a documentation of every single thing about yourself. Save a little, will you? Do not spend a date asking a series of scripted questions about their philosophy on life. And do not perform a soliloquy of yours. Keep the topics light, varied, and interesting. Always leave a date wanting to know more.

7) (Silence) - Yes, it can be a problem. "Shutting down" as we hear it called. Men, please check yourself and do not "shut down" during a date. So what if this guy isn't the one in the first five minutes of meeting him? His roommate, best friend, coworker, boss, former classmate, or fraternity brother just may be. And if you fully present your best self on a first date, he's likely to tell that guy what a great date you are, which could lead to a future date with the right guy. When you "shut down" and go dark, you're shooting yourself in the foot.

As you can imagine, the list can go on and on, but these are some repeat offenders. In public, whenever I comment about dating conversations, most everyone will interrupt me and say, "We know, we know, don't talk about religion, politics, and your ex." And I usually reply, "Exactly, so stop doing that too!"

Being a great date is determined by so much more than the words you choose to share, but that's a whole other article. Stay tuned.

For more information on traditional introductions, courting, and dating for today's modern gay man, visit He's For Me, offline, personal matchmaking designed exclusively for select gay men seeking a long-term relationship - at, and like us on our Facebook Page for daily inspiration on finding love. #loveislove


Mamma Mia Star Talks About Traveling with a Broadway Show

posted on: 04/17/2015

The Broadway hit Mamma Mia roared into town this week, bringing its over-the-top energy and the songs of ABBA to the Hobby Center. We got the chance to chat with Andrew Tebo, one of the musical's principle actors about the show, the rigors of touring and playing to an LGBT audience. What are fans of Mamma Mia going to like about this performance?
Andrew Tebo: It is a cut copy and print of the Broadway classic. Fans who know the show are going to love it--it's big Broadway from the costumes to the set, to the beautiful cast and company. It's also a very high energy cast, we're hearing that from everyone. There's a level of enthusiasm that's everyone can feel. And I think people who are excited to see it because they know the show are going to have a great time.

Tell us about your particular role in the show.
I play Harry Bright, one of the three suspected fathers. He's an uptight English banker who returns to Greece in search of his spontaneity and starts reliving his past. (Spoiler alert ahead) And of course, he comes out at the end of the whole show. Some audiences don't see it coming. They think "oh he's just European." It's always fun to play that big ahah moment!

How did you get involved in acting?
I went to school for acting and directing and I've been on the road for the past decade, based in New York and booking work from there. When you're an actor you're a sort of migrant worker, traveling where you need to for the next show.

Honestly, I'm so thrilled to be playing this role. Harry Bright is a supporting principle role and I get to take him on his journey of finding himself every night. It's great.

What's been the most interesting venue you've ever played?
Well I've definitely played a lot of venues. One of the most interesting was with a production of the Fantastiks, it was a great production and we ended up doing a full-scale show in a really small town in the Midwest in a basketball gymnasium. We did the full show, lights, sound, costumes everything and I have to think it was the first time many of the people in that town had ever seen anything like that. It was so much fun.

Talk about the dynamic between the actors in this cast.
This is probably one of the closest casts and most positive groups of people I;ve worked with in a long time. I came in halfway through this current run and they were immediately welcoming. We are all there and present for the whole story every night. At the center of it all is Georgia (Kate Haege) who plays Donna, and she is this just powerhouse of a performer. She carries us with her and she has such energy every night.

You're traveling all over the country with this production. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing a Broadway show on the road?
Travel is a double-edge sword. I love traveling and exploring new cities. But with that comes some long days. We'll travel maybe five hours one day, roll into a venue and perform the show. It is a challenge, but that's why we're professional actors. It comes with the profession.

What is it about this show that you think so strongly resonates with the LGBT audience?
The music of ABBA alone is fabulous. The costumes are as well. But I think more important is the amazing message that comes at the end of this show. As a member of the LGBT community, to get to actually come out on stage every night is such a magical moment. And then we show that there are all sorts of families, out there, that's the message. We're all loving and together.

The fact that this show has been around 16 years and delivered thousands of performances all over the world, that's powerful. At the end of this show every night, there is not an audience member sitting. It's just a great dance party at the end.

Mamma Mia runs through April 19 at the Hobby Center. Tickets are available for the remaining performances here.


Save the Date! Dine Out, Fight AIDS

posted on: 04/13/2015

On April 30, Houston diners can be a part of the fight against AIDS simply by choosing to eat at one of the 40-plus Houston restaurants participating in Dining Out for Life. The participating establishments have all agreed to donate a portion of their sales to AIDS Foundation Houston, which earns a huge portion of its operating expenses from this event. "I have been amazed about how the top restaurants in Houston have been so supportive of this event. Everyone at every price point can participate and feel great about eating out on April 30," said Dining Out for Life event chair Jessica Rossman.

An ActionAIDS volunteer in Philadelphia created Dining Out for Life in 1991. Since then the event has been hosted annually in cities across the United States and Canada, with Houston being an integral participant since the event's inception. Diners can be reassured that the funds raised from their meal will stay close to home thanks to a mandate ensuring that funds raised in a city remain local.

Dining Out for Life continues to grow annually, with 58 cities participating in the program for 2015. The organization has also raised over $4 million since it began. This one night alone provides local service organizations with a whopping 15.4 percent of their annual expenses.

AIDS Foundation Houston uses its funds to help the city in many ways. "Dining Out for Life not only raises money to end HIV/AIDS but also raises awareness about the disease," said Kelly Young, chief executive officer of AIDS Foundation Houston. AIDS Foundation Houston was the first organization dedicated to HIV prevention in Texas. Its mission is to help those who are already infected with the HIV/AIDS virus and to educate in an attempt to lessen new cases. The organization has reached over 6,000 Houston residents and 90,000 people statewide. "We have a chance to end HIV/AIDS within our lifetime," Kelly added.

The restaurants participating in the 2015 fundraising event can be visited throughout their daily hours. A variety of options are available for interested patrons-from breakfast to a late-night snack-at every price point and from simple and traditional to exotic and elegant.

2015 Dining Out for Life participating restaurants (as of early April)

Arturo Boada Cuisine
Baby Barnaby's
Barnaby's Downtown
Barnaby's Heights
Barnaby's Woodway
Barnaby's West Gray
Brasserie 19
The Original Barnaby's Fairview
Bombay Pizza Company
Café Piquet Cuban Cuisine
Canyon Creek
Cedar Creek
Coppa Osteria
dgn Factory
Dry Creek
El Tiempo 1308 Cantina Montrose
El Tiempo Cantina Midtown
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Harold's Restaurant, Bar & Terrace
Ibiza Food & Wine Bar
Jenni's Noodle House Shepherd
Jenni's Noodle House Heights
Jenni's Noodle House Post Oak
Last Concert Café
Latin Bites
Liberty Kitchen River Oaks
Niko Nikos Market Square
Niko Nikos Montrose
Onion Creek
Pepperoni's Montrose
RDG + Bar Annie
Tila's Restaurante & Bar
Zelko Bistro

By Jenn Haight


3 Reasons Gay Men Never Make it to a 1st Date

posted on: 03/26/2015

By Tammy Shaklee, Founder, He's For Me

As the "Gay Matchmaker" who introduces compatible men seeking a long-term relationship, my team and I work on coordinating the details of a first date on a daily basis. We are essentially "love agents" who represent our clients, and take the guesswork out of how, when, and where to meet that great guy who just might be the one.

Some might ask, why don't you just text or email me about him, and I'll take it from here? Overwhelmingly, from our interviews and getting to know gay bachelors from coast to coast, it's won't. And don't. No matter how much you truly may want to.

Setting up first dates is what we do for a living. (We even coordinate the second date, if both mutually agree through the post introduction feedback process.)

My team of straight allies in the office happens to be all women. And women love details. (Trust me. My husband has been discussing our Texas coast camping trip for a year, so it's going to take me putting it on the calendar for it to happen.)

Men are men. In so many aspects, gay or straight. Men are big picture, big idea, big concept thinkers. They have great ideas and they are often proud to share them. But when it comes to the finer details...well...That's where we come in.

An actual date happens because of 3 very important details being proposed, sometimes negotiated, and then confirmed. They are:


Sound silly? Sound obvious? Sound too elementary? Let me ask then how many times you've heard or even said, "Hey, good to see you, you know, we never got that drink we talked about!"

"I know, right? Let's do."


"Alright, I'll text you."

"Oh, you text me? Okay, Can't wait."

Then 2-3 months later, you run in to that same great looking, got it together, fun-loving, and professionally successful bachelor. And what do you guys say? (Shall I repeat it again?)

The best way to get a first date, and see if he's also serious about escaping the group and sitting face to face and having coffee, or a drink, or sharing a happy hour or brunch with you, is to simply propose three things: an actual date on the calendar, a time that would work for each of you to meet, and a specific location. That's it.

Taking the risk to actually put that out there allows Mr. Eligible Bachelor to do one of two things. To show you he's serious by volleying, if you will. "Sounds great! Tuesday doesn't work for me, but Thursday would, and I love that place. Does Thursday at that same time work for you?" Or, let's be honest, if he's not that in to you, or is that ‘never going to commit guy', you might hear, "Oh, I love that place, but April is so crazy with Easter and all, so..."

If he doesn't take your offer and accept or negotiate to nail it down, move on. You can do the one arm hug and keep talking about that infamous drink for years, my dear. We hear examples of it every day. Don't waste your time, or his. Get a new casual greeting line for when you see him next. (Hell, compliment his shoes, and stop talking about getting together.)

If he doesn't take your offer, then refocus your efforts on the guy that will. Give yourself a goal. Give yourself a timeline. Start spring with the dating life you want and deserve. You can take some simple steps to be your own matchmaker. It all starts with asking that great guy to meet you for a drink to see if you might have a connection.

Who doesn't love chips, salsa, and a margarita (or Topo-chico) on a cool outdoor patio this time of year? Be on time, dress nice, meet at the hostess stand, and then all you have to worry about is the hostess finding you the best table. Salud!

For more information on traditional introductions, courting, and dating for today's modern gay man, visit He's For Me and like us on our Facebook Page for daily inspiration on finding love. #loveislove



Julie Mabry on Creating Houston's Best Lesbian Bar

posted on: 03/09/2015

Julie Mabry has been a vibrant influence on the Houston club scene for years. But beyond her work with Girl Jam Productions, she wanted to expand her talents into a bar that would be a destination for the local lesbian community. Her dream came true when she took ownership of the already established Pearl Bar on Houston's trendy Washington Ave, which has since become everything she's wanted and more. We spoke with Julie about some of the things that influence, encourage and challenge her.

MyGayHouston: You've had a great level of success as a club promoter, including winning several awards. Did you always know that you wanted to do this line of work?
Julie Mabry: I've known since the ripe age of sixteen that I wanted to own a bar/club. I drew an amateur blueprint of a club called Cactus Jean's at that age and the dream never ended.

How do you balance your work with Girl Jam Productions and running the Pearl Lounge?
Let's just say Girl Jam merged with Pearl. Girl Jam started when my friends Sheila Jares and Jennifer Haymen came up with the idea to have a women's music festival. I just kept running with that concept and turned it into Girl Jam Productions, which was a promotional brand for lesbian events. I have Pearl to focus on now and we will still have Girl Jam's once in a while, but my brand is now Pearl.

What made you interested in owning Pearl Lounge? As an older building, some would have been more attracted to a new building.
My business partner Mariana and I had been looking for a spot to open a lesbian bar for almost a year. I was bartending at Little J's (which is now Pearl Side Bar) and the landlord would come collect the rent every month, and I would beg her to let me lease Pearl. Being that I had been a part of The Usual for a few years, I knew the area and I knew that it was a good location. Mariana owns Avant Garden in Montrose and, at the time, Avant had been open for 17 years, so I knew that she and I, together, could make something magical happen.

In my opinion, the fact that it's an older building only gives Pearl a classier feel by which I feel lesbians and all of our customers deserve. Not only did my landlord invest a large amount of money to remodel the building, my business partner did too. The building is actually a candidate to win The Great Brick Award of Houston, a prestigious Historical Society award, and I have a strong feeling that Pearl won.

Did you have any missteps or regrets about how your ownership/transition to Pearl Lounge progressed?
None. I chose the best business partner I could have ever hoped for and she guided me the whole way through. I have no regrets.

What makes Pearl Lounge stand out from other clubs in Houston?
You can dance at Pearl Bar to DJ Ben Phoenix from KRBE then walk next door to Pearl Side Bar and play Ms Pac Man. Need I say more?

Do you have any plans or goals for growth or change in the club?
We just negotiated an extension to our lease that will keep us on the Washington Avenue map for quite a while. We just changed Pearl Sports to Pearl Side Bar to give it a more broad attraction. We will be adding a kitchen to Pearl Side Bar in the next few months.

How does living in Houston as opposed to any other city influence your work?
We have a lesbian mayor. Need I say more?

Washington Ave. is a vibrant part of the city with a famously loud and rambunctious nightlife scene. Has the location been a good fit for your vision of Pearl Lounge?

I'm not sure how long it has been since you've driven down Washington but it's changed significantly in the past three years. A lot of those rambunctious clubs have closed. Washington has mostly restaurants and townhomes that have popped up in the past few years. I think Pearl is fitting right in with the new direction of this area.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
My mom. She is the hardest working woman I have ever known and definitely the most understanding. I wouldn't be here without her.

By Jenn Haight


Houston Artist Kiki Neumann Makes Treasures from Trash

posted on: 03/04/2015

"It has to come from the street, it has to have been undervalued and it has to have been underappreciated, like me," Kiki Neumann says when describing her art. Her life in art is an ever-changing journey that began with garden benches and has morphed into more than 30 products created from discarded license plates. Her license plate merchandise ranges from jewelry to yard art, but her biggest sellers are her line of greeting cards featuring manipulated plates. "My sources come from different car dealers. I have an unlimited free supply," she says.

Kiki cuts the license plates and forms words and images. Some have traditional messages, such as "Happy Birthday," but Kiki enjoys the double meaning of words. An example is her new card, which says "It's About Dang Time." She says, "The card is referring to gay marriage but could be purchased and used in reference to myriad other events. I can say something subtle about our community in these cards and they go out into the general public." KiKi has identified as a lesbian since she was 19.

Her greeting cards with photographed license plate art are in the flagship stores of the popular Buc-ee's gas station chain and in over 50 shops around the state. Asked if she has any ambition to see the cards spread nationally, Kiki says, "I know my limits. I'm one person."

Kiki described her journey into the world of art as a sideways one. She spent her early years out of school working as a sales representative at a paper company, but she was always observing artists. "I've loved paper all of my life. I'm what they call a sideways artist. I stayed on the fringe of art but never participated. I was marinating," she says. Unfortunately, it took a three-pronged loss to put Kiki on her current and successful path as a license plate artist. First she lost her corporate job, then she lost her mom and dad and, finally, she was challenged with breast cancer. Kiki had been working with wood and larger objects but realized that since she was going through cancer treatment, she had to find lighter materials.

Besides her art, Kiki also prides herself on providing the space for several other artists to work in studio spaces that she offers for artists in need of space. "I am a great believer in a room of one's own," she says. "I'm a great believer in the idea that you need to take your art, go somewhere, do your art and then go home and have your home life. You still have to have your special place that's just for your art."

Although she grew up as part of the Houston elite, Kiki has forged her own path. Her father, Alfred R. Neumann, was the founding chancellor of the University of Houston, where the library is named after him, while her mother was a regular fundraising partner of Planned Parenthood and the Houston Symphony. "I have lost all pride. I've been humiliated, and it's been awkward, but I have to be streetwise and safe," Kiki says. She is known to show up at garage sales, dive in a ditch of discarded housing materials or sort through piles of trash while on her way to a formal event. "I'm accustomed to my good clothes having stains on them," Kiki sayswith a smile.

As for the future trajectory of her career, Kiki has an open mind. She has ideas for a book, hopes to continue on her biannual trips to the Original Round Top Antiques Fair and is open to other possibilities. Her main goal is to stay true to her personal philosophy: "Something out of nothing is something."

For more about Kiki and her art, check out her website Kiki Neumann Creations


By Jenn Haight


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