What a year!
Ricky Perry, red light cameras & Beyoncé's baby: 40 things Houston talked aboutin 2011
2011 was a weird year. It was the year of Rebecca Black, Casey Anthony, the Arab Spring, the Japanese nuclear crisis, Charlie Sheen's tiger blood and Pippa's ass.
But what were the places, people, events and issues that Houstonians were talking about? We looked at tweets, comments, and page views before throwing out the data and picking the 40 subjects that got the most buzz around town this year. Disagree? Let us know what would make your list in the comments.
40. The Hipstrict
Sometimes I make up words to amuse myself. This tends to annoy my friends, but when I dubbed the new District C the hipstrict I managed to annoy many more people then ever before! Some of you did not like the hipstrict at all, while some people (like District C candidate Josh Verde) liked it a whole lot. And then they started saying it on the local news, and next it will be on atlases and in the dictionary and there's just nothing you can do about it.
39. The Art Guys Marry a Tree
Some people (like Chron arts writer Douglas Britt) did not like this conceptual performance art happening either, especially since certain conservatives like to compare legalizing gay marriage to legalizing marriage with a horse or a flowerpot or whatever. The Art Guys say their arboreal marriage wasn't about the issue, but that didn't stop someone from cutting down the offending tree down a few days later.
38. Tootsies moves to West Ave
You can take Tootsies out of Highland Village, but you can't take the socialites out of Tootsies. Seriously, like even if the landlord blacks out the windows and blocks off the front door. West Ave delays meant that the store overstayed its lease, but rather than scrap the New Year's sale, sporting shoppers were simply ushered in the side door. For 75 percent off designer goods, who can blame them?
37. Douglas Britt
When the arts writer staged a protest against The Art Guys by marrying a random woman inside a strip club, we though that would be his big, attention-getting moment of the year. (Yes, there was one in 2010, too.) Then he adopted the name Devon Britt-Darby, came out as a former meth addict and sex worker and "resigned" from the paper to go on a road trip recreating a drug-fueled past journey. Now that's performance art. We hope. Art Guys, your move.
36. Ericka and Jeff Bagwell split
For a couple as high-profile as an Astros legend and his social butterfly wife, the Bagwells' separation might have stayed relatively under the radar had it not been for Jeff's relationship with Rachel Brown, the estranged wife of a rich hand doctor who was taking her husband to court for assault. But more on that later.
35. The last space shuttle flight
It was a bittersweet year at the Johnson Space Center (and that's putting it mildly) as the space shuttle program completed its last flights and rocket scientists (that's what they are, right?) started looking for work. But then NASA decided to bequeath the retired shuttles to Florida, California and New York, snubbing Houston. New York! Are you kidding me? Fuggedaboudit!
34. Joel Osteen gets a visit from Oprah and Tyler Perry
Maybe his new reality show is going to be on OWN?
33. The Occupy Houston shooter
Sometimes it seems like the motley crew camped out near City Hall are too polite to be newsworthy — like when they moved locations to accommodate a scheduled art fair in Tranquility Park. All that changed when a man strolled into the Occupy Houston encampment and started shooting into the air. He was taken down by police with a shot to the leg but the event was frightening during a time when clashes between police and Occupy movements were becoming more violent.
32. Restoration Hardware grand opening party
While the 99 percent was protesting, the one percent were partying. The over-the-top grand opening for the new three-floor Restoration Hardware store in Highland Village had 2,000 guests, a performance by indie darling Lykke Li, bites by California chef Michael Chiarello, an appearance by Architectural Digest editor Margaret Russell and bartenders flown in from Cipriani's in New York to make their signature Bellinis. In other words, for at least one night in Houston, excess was back.
With a rebuilding team of fresh, young faces (and talent, we hope) Crane and Milo Hamilton might be the only recognizeable names in the organization. Now that the team's headed to the AL West (starting in 2013), people might be buying Crawford box seats to catch a homer from Josh Hamilton or Albert Pujols instead.
30. James Franco accepted to University of Houston
If James Franco isn't Hollywood's most eclectic renaissance man, he's working pretty hard to make you think he is. The peripatetic actor has credits at NYU and Yale, and he's allegedly matriculating in the UH creative writing program in fall 2012, though one rumored appearance on campus this year was already enough to set the campus abuzz.
29. Mary's lives again
First came the rumors it was being torn down, then the announcement it would become a coffee shop. Of course Mary's is nothing without the infamous mural, which also returned just in time for the PRIDE parade.
28. Rumors of H&M's Houston debut
Not to get all Veruca Salt on you, but I want an H&M in Houston and I want it NOW!
27. Byzantine Frescoes to return to Cyprus
This must be how Julia Roberts felt about that stunning Harry Winston necklace in Pretty Woman. Rescued by Dominique de Menil from thieves in the 1980s, the frescoes remained in Houston for 28 years on an extended loan for restoration and display. But as of March 4, 2012, the 13th-century frescoes are heading back to their Mediterranean island home.
See #28, and add a video of a crazy lady in Dallas crying over a burger.
25. Linda Salinas
When one of Houston's most popular mixologists, Linda Salinas, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in June, her friends and coworkers sprung into action, organizing fundraisers to help with her medical bills.
24. Gary Tinterow named MFAH director
After the death of longtime director Peter Marzio last December, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston spent most of 2011 looking for a replacement with a similar vision, selecting Houston-native Gary Tinterow, the Engelhard Chairman of the Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in early December.
23. Texans make first playoffs appearance
Technically the first-ever Houston Texans playoff game will take place in 2012, but the team clinched the AFC South division with a nail-biting win over the Bengals with third-string quarterback T.J. Yates driving the team 80 yards with no timeouts. Had it not been for Tim Tebow, the Texans would have sole claim on a miracle season.
22. Drought kills millions of Texas trees
The Texas drought was declared the worst natural disaster in America in 2012, and it's easy to see why. Water sources hit record lows, farmers dealt with low crop turnouts and Memorial Park joggers ran through a makeshift tree cemetery.
21. Michael Brown's assault trial
Even if his estranged wife wasn't dating Jeff Bagwell, the trial of the well-known clinic founder would still have been quite the spectacle, between Brown's colorful police record, a humanitarian award allegedly used as a weapon and A-list lawyer Dick DeGuerin in the courtroom. Brown was eventually acquitted of the charges.
20. Petrol Station wishes Muslim customer a Happy 9/11
Pop quiz: Is writing "Happy September 11th" on a to-go order box complete with the number 11 as twin towers and an airplaine flying towards them: A) a hilarious joke or B) a hideous example of anti-Muslim prejudice? If you answered "A," you're probably a former Petrol Station employee. Emphasis on the word "former."
19. Erica Rose on the Bachelor Pad 2
If you love Erica Rose, it was a great show to watch, because Houston's preeminent reality star had plenty of screen time. If you hate Erica Rose, it was a great show to watch because she spent one episode being pelted with eggs as virtually all the male contestants named her the least attractive. Everyone, um, wins?
18. Food Trucks
Dear Houston: You people love food trucks. Seriously. Why don't you just marry them already? Make an honest truck out of them. But food truck festivals with huge lines, limited availability, triple-digit heat and no shade or seating in sight? You guys are less into that.
17. Roger Clemens
In 2011, Clemens' record was 0-0, with one no-decision. The pitcher's perjury case was thrown out as a mistrial in July when prosecutors showed inadmissable evidence to the jury, but a judge set a new trial to begin in spring 2012.
16. No texting PSA at the Alamo Drafthouse
Take one semi-coherent voicemail from an angry customer who was thrown out for texting, add a transcript on a black background, and you have possibly the most hilarious public service announcement ever created.
15. Ruggles staff walkout
The end of the year saw several prominent restaurants — Brasserie 19, Reef, and Bombay Pizza Company, among others — hit with lawsuits for underpaying staff. But the most dramatic case was at Ruggles, where staff who claimed that owner Bruce Molzan owed them thousands in tips staged a walk-out and a protest.
14. Conrad Murray convicted
There were several famous Houstonians inside courtrooms this year — including Tom DeLay and Roger Clemens — but Murray, who became a household name when pop icon Michael Jackson died while under his care, had possibly the year's second-biggest trial. After weeks of testimony that included photos of a deceased Jackson, a drugged-out audio recording of the pop star and a parade of Murray's mistresses on the witness stand, the doctor was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to four years.
13. The University of Houston goes almost undefeated
After a few strong seasons, 2011 was the year that the city actually got Cougar fever as quarterback Case Keenum and coach Kevin Sumlin went undefeated for an impressive 12 games. Before the bubble was burst by a loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game and Sumlin signing on to coach Texas A&M, the frenzy included a visit from ESPN GameDay and a Coog song by Slim Thug, Bun B and Paul Wall.
12. Grocery stores
Whether it was rumors of Trader Joe's coming to the Alabama Theater (and The Woodlands), Phoenicia opening up downtown in a huge way, the boozy new Montrose Whole Foods or H-E-B's user-friendly foray onto Dunlavy (complete with TABC drama), we couldn't get enough. Next year we'll wonder how we ever managed to forage for food before they all came along.
11. Final Four
The final game might have been underwhelming (except maybe for UConn fans), and certainly no one was expecting VCU or Butler to be representing their bracket quadrants, but any event that can bring in Ashley Judd, Drake and a performance by Kings of Leon is still pretty cool.
10. Rallying around the Berry kids
Yet another tragedy that inspired friends, neighbors and even perfect strangers to step up. After an oncoming car swerved into their lane over July 4th weekend, the crash killed parents Robin and Josh Berry while sons Peter and Aaron sustained serious spinal injuries and daughter Willa received some broken bones. As the kids struggled to heal, everyone from Astros players to pop stars reached out to help.
9. KTRU signs off the air
The radio station signal tower was sold by Rice University to the University of Houston last August, but KTRU supporters vowed to fight on. In April, the iconoclastic college station played their last songs on 91.7 FM with typical defiance and swagger.
8. Top Chef Texas
When the most-watched cooking competition show on television comes to your state, that's a great platform to show off a burgeoning local food movement. Yet Top Chef skipped over Houston — in part because the city wouldn't pay for the privilege. After hearing about the $200,000 that San Antonio ponied up and seeing a couple episodes of the the cliché-ridden mess, we think maybe it was better this way.
7. Down House and the tweet heard round the world
Girl walks into a bar. Girl tweets something unflattering about bartender, uses hashtag #twerp. Girl is thrown out of bar by manager, via phone, after reading said tweet. (And that's before the priest and the rabbi even got there to finish the joke.) Global scandal ensues.
6. Texas wildfires
In the middle of an unprecedented drought and an unforgiving heat wave, a series of wildfires broke out throughout Texas, including one that decimated the farming community near Bastrop. Once again, Houstonians stepped up at fundraisers and by donating and delivering food and supplies to affected people in Waller and Montgomery counties.
5. Rick Perry
4. Red light cameras
The voter repeal of the controversial red light cameras at intersections around town was one of the most dramatic issues on the ballot in 2010. But the repeal effort was thrown out, and the cameras went back and forth in a strange legal yellow-light limbo until Mayor Parker bowed to community pressure and turned them off for good in August.
3. A&M heads to the SEC
Sick of living under the shadow of UT and the disastrous Longhorn Network, A&M gave Austin the ultimate kiss-off by leaving the Big 12 for the Southeast Conference. In the last face-off between the rivals, the Longhorns took their revenge by ekeing out a last-second victory at Kyle Field. Will Texas football ever be the same?
2. Baby Beyoncé
From the moment she ended her performance of "Love on Top" at the VMA's by rubbing her pregnant belly, Beyoncé's unborn child immediately became the most interesting (and possibly deflatable) fetus the world has ever seen as well as the No. 1 threat to Suri Cruise.
1. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
In a year of disasters, and economic flatlining, one of the year's most awful stories has come to be one of the most inspirational. Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head from close range at a January meet-and-greet event in Tucson. But while four others died in the shooting, Giffords survived and has continued to recover at Houston's TIRR-Memorial Hermann at a pace her doctors have called remarkable. The love story between Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, captured America's hearts as well, culminating in a tearjerking Diane Sawyer special.