The Changing Face of Houston: The City That Welcomes and Transforms

The sun hovering over Houston was quickly giving way to twilight when Laura Levine approached the building off Main Street, nestled near the center of Midtown. Laura hurriedly opened the door as a METRORail train whizzed by on the street behind. As she walked up the stairs to the shop sitting above the Continental Club, Levine talked about the circumstances that led to her co-ownership of a shop of oddities open only at night in the middle of Houston.

"I grew up in Waco but always knew I'd end up in Houston. It's such a crazy, mysterious city. No zoning makes everything so much more interesting. A church next to a dive bar is quirky, yet appealing in a strange way; it keeps you on your toes. With such a colorful landscape, living in Houston is an adventure, and if you pay attention, you can discover some really cool parts of town. That's what I love most about Houston: The cool spots to go to are not obvious."

Levine, who moved here in 1995, and her partner, Mike Hildebrand, opened a vintage resale shop in the Heights named Replay on 19th Street, but it wasn't her first time to visit the city.

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Skeptical but Open-Minded, Texan Ken Gerhard Hunts for Bigfoot and Other Monsters

Categories: Cover Story

Photo by Josh Huskin
In a world where the hunt for unknown animals such as Bigfoot has become reality TV fodder, Ken Gerhard quietly goes in search of the truth behind monster sightings.

All over America and even beyond, when people see monsters or unexplainable animals, they give Gerhard a call or shoot him an email. The Houston-born author and rising name in the field of cryptozoology (the study of unknown or unexpected animals) was previously a star of the goth and dark electronica music scene that once included nationally known bands in our city. He toured and released extensively with the likes of Flowers and Machines and Bamboo Crisis, but two decades in the music industry eventually burned him out.

Now he hunts Bigfoot, thunderbirds, the chupacabra and other cryptids. He says it's a lot less stressful and much more rewarding. He hasn't left stagecraft behind entirely, though. When tracking Bigfoot, he dresses in black leathers and matching cowboy hat.

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Magical and Fantastic: Patrick Renner Transforms Dream Images into Reality

Walk through Eastwood Park on Harrisburg Boulevard and be prepared for a bit of visual hijinks. Depending on your vantage point, you might see an aluminum rocket ship jutting upward or a bicycle Ferris wheel spinning in the wind. An orange automobile plods through the air and a Chinese dragon boat floats through the trees as if enchanted. Get a little bit closer and grab one of the five handles. Make it move and change shape. It's the nearest thing you'll get to experiencing a daydream in the physical world.

What you're seeing is Conduit, the latest public art installation by Houston artist Patrick Renner. The sculptures of transportation through the ages are supported above a stream of interwoven wood panels painted in blues, purples and greens. The winding base takes its form from a section of Houston's intricate bayou system, a tribute to the city's development and progress through modes of moving into the future. And just like daydreams, Conduit is temporary; you have until November 30 to experience its fantastical charms.

When the Houston Arts Alliance started putting together its Transported + Renewed calendar of events, Renner seemed a natural fit for the scope of the three-month-long program of cultural activities in Houston's East End supported by an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. "I feel like Transported + Renewed is very much about participation, and it also speaks to collaboration and a lot of things that are larger than life," says HAA's Folklife + Traditional Arts program manager, Angel Quesada. "All of these things are intrinsic to his art-making." There's also the fact that Renner's final products tend to be beautiful objects that just about anyone can appreciate. "There's no pretension to his work," says Quesada. "It really is just what it is. You can see the hand in it. People really appreciate that somebody made that. If you can order it from a machine, it loses a lot of charm for me."

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Cover Story: Movies 2014: Why I'm Irrationally Excited About Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Wearing the hat of a critic means making rational arguments about irrational subjects. Art is irrational. Movies, music, sculptures, painting, burlesque, video games, and professional wrestling may all have rules, but these rules can just as easily be thrown away if the final result speaks to the heart. Love, like art, is irrational.

There are many rational reasons to get excited for about a movie. If the film is Divergent, maybe you want to see how it stacks up against the source material. If it's 22 Jump Street, maybe you loved the casting of the first film and want to see Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill back on screen together. If it's Interstellar, maybe you just want to see what Christopher Nolan has up his sleeve this time.

Those reasons are all well and good, but they're not nearly as fun as the irrational reasons we have for looking forward to movies.

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Houston 's Darkest Nightmare Is Laid Bare by One Dedicated Filmmaker

Categories: Cover Story

In the early 1970s Houston was haunted by evil in the form of a man named Dean Corll. The prominent and well-liked candy-maker showed a genial face to the city, but in reality was a murderous and sadistic rapist who claimed the lives of at least 28 young boys and men until he was shot down by his own accomplice.

That accomplice was Elmer Wayne Henley, 17, who started out as a potential victim himself but became Corll's personal procurer and executioner for two insane years. Now, a young Houston filmmaker, Joshua Allan Vargas, is bringing to life Henley's tale in a new movie called In a Madman's World.

Vargas spent a year interviewing Henley in prison, where he is serving six life sentences for his part in aiding Corll. The director even obtained Henley's actual clothes and effects, held in forgotten storage by his family for decades for his shoots. The resulting story is a shocking and disturbing tale that illustrates how a perfectly normal person can find himself caught in a web with no escape, forced to do the bidding of a monster until the most hellish of acts becomes normal.

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Cover Story: Stanton Welch Celebrates Ten Years With Houston Ballet

Categories: Cover Story, Dance

Stanton Welch is the son of famed Australian dancers Garth Welch and Marilyn Jones. His brother Damien danced. So, of course, Stanton Welch would go into the family trade automatically right?

Not exactly, as writer Adam Castenada explains in this week's cover story about the ten years Welch has spent as artistic director of the Houston Ballet and the years before that. Initially, Welch didn't want dance as a career and it was only after he took a job as a dresser - helping performers with their costumes backstage - that he began to fall in love with being part of this particular art form.

"I saw that dance was an ultimate way of expression. You had music, you had movement, you had acting. Dance was the three coming together at a perfect point," Welch said. He began training at the advanced age of 17.

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Cover Story: Announcing the 2013 Houston Theater Awards Winners

Categories: Cover Story, Stage

Long before streaming video, television, film, or still photography, there was theater. For thousands of years humans have flocked to venues to take in live performance, as they will for the next few thousands of years. As we say in this week's cover story, "...nothing can, nor ever will, replace the intoxication of live entertainment. Theater marches on."

For theater lovers in Houston, now is a great time. The 2012-2013 season was amazing and there's no reason to believe that the 2013-2014 season won't be just as good. There is a lot of talent in the city and we can't wait to see how they will dazzle us over the coming months.

Today we are proud to announce the winners of the 2013 Houston Theater Awards. Making these choices was not easy. There was discussion. There was debate. When you have a wealth of options to choose from, you spend a lot of time making sure you make the right decision.

Thank you to those of you who wrote in with your picks. Your feedback was very helpful.

Thank you to the Houston theater community for continuing to delight us every week of the season.

We can't wait to see what's next, and look forward to debating who should win next year's awards.

Cover Story: Summer Movies 2013 and Joss Whedon Goes From The Avengers to Shakespeare

World War Z, Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger - all kind of big movies in a summer ahead that promises more blockbusters than obscure indie films.

To help you plan your dance card we've outlined what's coming up from late May to mid-August including films such as Monsters University, a prequel to Pixar's Monsters Inc. and Pacific Rim where Guillermo del Toro has giant monsters fighting giant robots (which means it'll be easier to tell the good guys from the bad, unlike in the Transformers movies).

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Art Car Creators on Parade: Mark "Scrapdaddy" Bradford W/ Video

Photo by Chris Curry
Mark "Scrapdaddy" Bradford doesn't waste any metal he finds
The 2013 Art Car Parade starts this Saturday, May 11 at 1 p.m. In this week's cover story "Enjoying the Ride" with story and photos by Chris Curry, we decided to highlight some of this year's entrants. Throughout this week, we'll run posts with video to give you a closer look at these dedicated artists.

Mark "Scrapdaddy" Bradford has built something of a leviathan in his latest creation called "The Char Car."

Using 15-foot radius industrial spools as wheels and scrap metal parts he found at a nearby machine shop, Bradford has welded, bent, compressed and scrapped an oversized rickshaw as well as a working, free-swinging rickshaw runner together. If all goes according to plan, the 20-foot-tall metal man he constructed will appear to be running the rickshaw, but in reality the contraption is driven by two motorcycle engines, one to power the vehicle and the other used to steer.

"I wish I had more time, because now I have to learn to drive it," Bradford said laughing. With an impending deadline fast approaching he still has a lot of hours to put in before he can say "finished" to the piece he named after his young daughter.

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Art Car Creators on Parade: Randy Blair W/Video

The 2013 Art Car Parade starts this Saturday, May 11 at 1 p.m. In this week's cover story "Enjoying the Ride" with story and photos by Chris Curry, we decided to highlight some of this year's entrants. Throughout this week, we'll run posts with video to give you a closer look at these dedicated artists.

Randy Blair drives his "A Little Bit of Nonsense" all the time, not just in the Art Car parade. His 2007 Toyota Yaris is a magnet for all sorts of objects hanging on to it.

For instance, the Katy man has a Hot Wheels Mini Cooper glued on top of two busts of Superman, which in turn is glued to an Imperial Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars."

Photo by Chris Curry
Randy Blair and his magnet car

The punchline: "You get a mini-cooper, double, super trooper."

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