For Robot: Daddy, Why Is Numbers Called Numbers?
Note: This article originally appeared on Rocks Off on February 27 of this year. To pay our respects to Robert Burtenshaw, the club's owner, DJ and video artist known as "Robot" who passed away over the weekend, we're posting it again as a tribute.
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.
Numbers, then known as Babylon
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.