Daddy, Why Is Numbers Called Numbers?

NUMBERS then Babylon 1st Laser club .jpg
Numbers, then known as Babylon
One thing has always bothered me whenever I attend concerts and dance nights at Numbers, and that is, "Why the hell is it called Numbers, anyway?" Now, I know that I have something of a fixation on the meaning of names in the music scene, but I've also had several readers ask me to look into it over the years.

Well, I finally did so, and what I got back was something strange and wonderful to behold. The source of this information wished to remain anonymous so as not to reveal his or her age, but was vouched for by Numbers owner Robert Burtenshaw. I present it to you unedited, except for spelling and grammar in the name of hilarious awesomeness.

"Dad, why is Numbers called Numbers?"

Well, son, the building at 300 Westheimer was not originally called Numbers. It had a few names. The building actually opened in 1975 as The Million Dollar City Dump, a dinner theater where people could see Las Vegas-style shows. In 1978, during the disco rage, it was turned into Numbers. The word "numbers" at that time referred to someone who was a cute guy or girl. Like, "That's a cute number."

You see, son, back before cell phones, people would exchange home phone numbers and write them down on what were called 'trick cards.' Then there was the silver wallpaper.

"Silver wallpaper, dad? What silver wallpaper?"

Yep, silver wallpaper. The upstairs bar and balcony, during The Million Dollar City Dump days, was originally an office that had solid walls. The windows were put in to open the space and so people could look down on the dance floor. The wall was sort of blank-looking, so it needed something to maker it look cool.

While shopping, someone found some silver wallpaper with numbers printed all over it, thinking that it was flashy and cool. The silver wallpaper became a symbol of the club because if you were looking down on the dancing crowd, you were searching for a "number," and if you were on the dance floor and looking up, then you were looking at...

"Wow, dad. I get it. You were looking up at NUMBERS."

Right, son. So there you have the story. It's too bad that the silver numbers wallpaper, along with a lot of other things, got painted over with black. The paper may be painted over, but the numbers are still there in spirit.


Location Info

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Numbers

300 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Music


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57 comments
nnnslogan
nnnslogan

This article leaves out the short-lived second Numbers location in Austin in the early 90s.


Lurkzilla
Lurkzilla

The Numbers that I went to (practically every night) in 1978-79 was NOT gay-friendly. It was straight-friendly. It was a gay disco. And the slang term "number" usually had the word "hunky" preceding it. I find the de-homosexualizing of Numbers' history...interesting.

djrage70
djrage70

I assumed it was taken from the old Kraftwerk song... 

David Rozycki
David Rozycki

It used to say "#'s Number 2 outside if I am not mistaken.

Gayle Davis
Gayle Davis

Every NIN and Lords of Acid concert I've ever seen was at #'s. Such great memories!

Dustin Kalman
Dustin Kalman

History of 6400 and its famous radio broadcasts.

Tommie Gibson
Tommie Gibson

Dig up some dirt and info on the old power tools

Dream
Dream

great story and awesome comments. #'s is the only building in houston i think is historic and should be saved.

dream

MJT1
MJT1

Folks I knew at A&M (of all places) used to talk about going to dance at "The Plantation" in Houston, but I've never been able to figure out which club it might have morphed into.  They described at as a haven for the underage back in the late 70's and gay-run / gay-friendly back in the pre-AIDS days.  Jef, what's the word?

moviekiller
moviekiller

great job as always Jef! That story really is one for the record books!

samagon
samagon

I love and hate going to #s. I love it cause it's got so many good memories (how many terrific groups have played on that stage?), and good music to dance to. I hate it cause no one seems to care about it, most of all the proprietors. 

Jackie Hibbard
Jackie Hibbard

The only reason Numbers isn't a homeless shelter yet is because it has running water, place is rank!

missmermista
missmermista

Oh I used to love going there in my younger days when I was a glamour gal. I remember dancing with this dreamy guy for what seemed like all night, but I never knew his name or got his number. Anyways, I work in the Montrose area, and word on the street is that someone is working on getting together a Numbers documentary. So there could be even more interesting stories yet to come about this great Houston institution.

Sarah Applegate
Sarah Applegate

I would love to see the silver wallpaper make a comeback.

Sarah Applegate
Sarah Applegate

Awesome article, thanks Trish Lotterhos-Gilbreath. Wacky Jackie Jennings - did you see this?

massmurdermedia
massmurdermedia

...and by the way, if you see your mom this weekend, to be sure and tell her SATAN!  SATAN!  SATAN!...



DLege
DLege

I am 50, this was the first dance club I ever went to, it was in 1978 and yes I was not yet 18!

I still show up there occasionally. I didn't know all the history cause I was never a regular.Thanks for the story!

p_ann
p_ann

Ah, wow... I never wondered about any of that, but now I realize I was foolish not to know the backstory!  Maybe I *will* go to Numbers the next Friday night I'm in Houston!  Could be fun to relive my youth! :)

demonlager
demonlager

uncle lloyd!!!  bahahahaha.  love numbers, have been going there since i was a teen and was there again last friday.  have seen some amazing shows and had some great friends there.  nickel beer was a blast.  theresa letting us put drinks on layaway.  seeing bands like suicidal tendencies and deadhorse, ministry, NIN, skinny puppy up close & personal.  and, sometimes being in the band onstage too.  tons of great memories there, though admittedly a lot of them are a bit fuzzy.  

You Genious
You Genious

Hahahah! All of our "institutions" are trash cans John. Name one that isnt...

Clay Wisner
Clay Wisner

whether the place is shiny & clean or grungy and worn - you have to thank them for booking some of the most amazing talent to come through Houston - that wouldn't have otherwise made the swing through town. PROPS TO NUMBERS.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Great story!

John Cramer
John Cramer

Too bad we treat our institutions like trash cans. That place is one step shy of being condemned. What a dump.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Never knew the history. Great milestone, though. In '95 or '96 I went to a Marilyn Manson show with a classmate who's boyfriend ditched her. I had a great time, recalled seeing Rancid there, and realized a man of my age should be arrested at the door. 

Alexander_Bites
Alexander_Bites

Awesome! My Houston friends are always amazed to learn that I worked at Numbers #2 for a couple years in late '80's. Great memories. My eyes were opened to a lot of things I had been sheltered from in my small town life. My first night at work was PiL. The bands I saw there, NiN, Skinny Puppy, Ministry, GWAR, Violent Femmes.... Robert (Robot) and Bruce were some good guys. I always wonder what happened to the old gang and how many of them are still around. 

TA

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Violent Femmes playing until about 4:30am on a Sunday night, repeating the songs they played way earlier in the set. Using numbers as a decoy, so we could catch a bus to the axiom to see more edgy shows, to being nearly killed at a ministry show by the crazy pit. Ahh good times, first show I saw here was Jesus and Mary Chain with NiN opening probably 1989..

Jimi Austin
Jimi Austin

I've been going there for about 20 years now and never knew. Very cool. Dig the old pics too. Hard to believe it once looked like that.

Lurkzilla
Lurkzilla

@MJT1 The Old Plantation. It was a gay disco 2 blocks east of Shepherd and 2 blocks north of West Alabama. Around Kipling and Huldy streets. It became a linen supply company or something. First gay bar/club I ever went to.

djrage70
djrage70

@Sarah Applegate was that during the dinner theater days?

p_ann
p_ann

First time I saw Erasure was at #s back in 1997 when they were there on the Tiny Tour. :)

MJT1
MJT1

@Lurkzilla Thanks.  I tried to find THE PARLOUR on Mandell after it had closed and only found a modern 3-story apartment block.

Lurkzilla
Lurkzilla

@MJT1  I've never heard of The Parlour. There was a place called Parade Disco on Richmond near Mandell that had New Wave Mondays. It was in the building that now houses the Menil's Dan Flavin installation.

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