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Photo by Daniel Ortiz

The highly anticipated opening of an luxurious automotive and lifestyle brand’s landmark locale recently revved up Houston’s social season.

More than 500 partiers and car enthusiasts joined Dr. Kjell Gruner, president of Porsche North America, and Sonic Automotive CEO Dave Smith and president Jeff Dyke to pack the posh new Porsche River Oaks.

More of a showroom and architectural/design gem, the new outpost is so much more than a typical dealership. Those familiar with the area will no doubt recognize the space on 4007 Greenbriar Dr. as Stahlman Lumber Company’s former home.

Local event guru Deborah Elias of Elias Events engineered a red-hot affair that spanned two floors and more than 40,000 square feet. Aside from drool-worthy Porsches of every type (including gorgeous classic rides), the grand opening soiree featured a surprise performance by country singer Clint Black, and an appearance by Houston’s “Rocket” Hall of Fame pitching legend Roger Clemens and Dynamo icon Brian Ching.

As they arrived, guests were greeted by (literally) high-flying aerial acrobats, then with glasses of champagne topped with sugar cubes emblazoned with the iconic Porsche logo.

A shimmering wall step and repeat, pyrotechnics, and 360 photo booth, plus DLG Ice Factory’s ice wall raw bar (featuring the Porsche logo), and a cocktail chemistry station with drinks created in tail-pipe-inspired vessels set the mood. As visitors strolled, they were met by balloon clouds, a strolling sax player, and a psychedelic, interactive art installation with motion tracking.

Then it was time to hit the pop-up nightclub, which was held in the dealership’s spotless shop, and boasting multiple bars, digital 3D mapping elements and motion lighting, and tasty treats by Los Angeles-based Gastro Garage.

Upstairs, the second-floor showroom starred a “rockestra” band and delicious, cheese wheel pastas tossed with truffle. The car crowd was quick to check out the Fitting Lounge, where customers can choose everything from leather finishes to shift knob designs, doubled as a Porsche design watch showcase.

Aside from the show-stopping, collectible vehicles, artwork came courtesy of The Whale Tail Project, an eye-catching sculpture series from European artist Johans Lamic, which reinterpreted the iconic 930 turbo spoiler and mingled with stunning red rose arrangements.

Also upstairs, Clemens, the Hall of Famer and former Astros legend, shared a stirring story of how he offered his beloved Porsche for charity and how it moved him in a speech that inspired laughs and thunderous applause.

Clearly, no one was eager to leave, but when they did, those departing were gifted with pina colada popsicles and goodie bags of Porsche swag. More partners making the night a success included Bravo Entertainment, Premier Sound and Lighting, Louie Balloonieville, Kirksey Gregg Productions, and AFR.

While brand new on the scene, the new dealership is hardly a secret: One guest shared with us that he’s already placed an order for the coveted and wildly rare ride that’s set for delivery soon. In all, it was a grand prix night for an elite new venue.

Seen on the scene: Roger Clemens, Brian and Mary Elizabeth Ching, David Gow, Marcelo Saenz and Adrian Duenas, Elizabeth and Alan Stein, Andrew Pappas, Kyle Rottet, Ally Ondarza, Jose Ocque, Heather Almond, Jessica Rossman, Jennifer Roosth, Hayden Jefferies and Isrel Fonseca, Dom McGee, Lisa Gochman, Chong Yi, Kayvon Sohrabi and Dr. Roland Maldonado, Beth Muecke, Roz and Alan Pactor, and many more.

The Gastro Garage.

Photo by Daniel Ortiz
The Gastro Garage.
Photo courtesy of Night Court

Hilarious Houston lawyers summon audiences to musical comedy romp for a good cause

court is (back) in session

Call it an adjournment, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: After a two year break — due to a certain global pandemic — a beloved annual musical performance starring some talented Houston attorneys returns to downtown’s glitzy venue.

Night Court, a fun, cleverly written musical that plays to legal themes (and is chock full of puns) and stars solely local lawyers, is back at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. This new version, entitled Justice by the Dozen, celebrates more than 30 years of the institution and runs Wednesday, August 17 through Saturday, August 20 at 7:30 pm each night.

Tickets, proceeds of which goes to several charitable organizations, start at $31.05 and are available online.

So why call it Justice by the Dozen? “This performance is about jury duty, hence, dozen,” Tara Taheri, a longtime Night Court star and Houston-area attorney, tells CultureMap. “It’s our 30-year anniversary that was pushed from 2020. I’m sure audience members will be ecstatic to see the show in person. They’ll love the theme, since it’s so relatable.”

If this group can make something as soul-sucking as jury duty fun, audiences are no doubt in for a treat. Justice by the Dozen will call back to favorite past Night Court musical numbers, such as “Metro Train to Downtown” from 2004’s Law in Black and White; “Thriller from 2007’s Draculaw; and “Cell Block Tango” from 2008’s Law of the Sea— among other surprise tunes.

“There are some great skits and incredible dance and singing numbers, which include hits such as “Time Warp,” “Thriller,” songs from Madonna, and many more,” Taheri adds.

Aside from watching local legal scions exhibit their flair for the dramatic, the show offers a chance to support myriad legal-centered charities, including Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse, Beacon Law, Houston Area Women's Center Children's Court Services Program, Lone Star Legal Aid Military Veterans Unit, South Texas College of Law Houston Legal Clinics, Child Advocates, and Houston Volunteer Lawyers.

To date, Night Court has raised a whopping $1.4 million to these causes (that’s a lot of billable hours, indeed).

Last year, the legal performers pivoted to an online show, appropriately dubbed Virtually Legal. “We’re really excited to be back on stage working together as a family to help others,” says Taheri.

For those in the audience who too may be attorneys, the show is truly worth the time spent: Night Court is approved for two hours of CLE Ethics credits.

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Night Court: Justice by the Dozen runs at 7:30 pm Wednesday, August 17-Saturday, August 20 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St. For tickets and more information, visit the official show site.

White Linen Nights/Facebook and Monica Kressman

13 hottest White Linen Night events in the Heights, from pub crawls to pup parties

white linen night is back

One of Houston's most popular weekend events in arguably the city's buzziest 'hoods is back. White Linen Night returns to the Heights and promises to be white-hot. Taking over a small strip in the Heights, the party starts early and goes late, with folks donning their coolest white looks as they sip, shop, and shake it on Saturday, August 6.

Founded in 2006 (post-Katrina) by New Orleans transplants Chris and Kay Thayer, the night draws thousands of Heights locals and revelers from all over town. The smart play is to ride share in, as street and neighborhood parking on even a regular Saturday is a challenge — let alone White Linen Night.

With that in mind, we've rounded up a list of best White Linen Night events, listed by start time. Dress cool, drink responsibly (if applicable), and expect a jam-packed night.

Houston Young Professionals will host its official — and appropriately titled — White Linen Night Pub Crawl in The Heights. Open to the public, the event takes place in the pavilion between Tacos a Go-Go and Christian's Tailgate. Party band Mango Punch headlines, with a DJ spinning tunes. Participating watering holes include Bobcat Teddy's, Christian's Tailgate, Little Woodrow's, Onion Creek, Permission Whiskey and Public House. 11 am.

Heights Antiques on Yale, LLC will have a White Linen Night in the Heights sale and party. Shoppers can look for a 20-to-50-percent off sale on storewide items, as well as a sidewalk sale and a complimentary buffet. 10 am.

Moonshine Deck will throw a White Linen bash, complete with a selfie booth and backdrop, white linen-inspired cocktails and more. Bryan Rhymez, DJ Nonstopp and DJ Ebonix will be on hand providing the grooves. 11 am.

Benny Thunders, the self-pour wine/craft beer tavern, will have both a grand opening and a White Linen soiree. Artista Elisabet will be around to show off her murals, which celebrates the beauty and diversity of Houston. Noon.

Little Woodrow's Heights will get florescent with its shindig, also known as the White Linen Glow Party. Come light up the night at the biggest party in the Heights. They will have DJ sets all day and night, drink specials and more. Noon.

Tikila's White Linen jam will include a live set from Yacht Rock USA. That's right — listen to covers of Christopher Cross and Michael McDonald classics white rocking your white threads. There will also be a photo booth and drink specials all night. Noon.

Heights Bier Garten's White Linen gathering will include live performances from Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws and Mykawa. In the middle of those sets, there will be a best-dressed contest. 4 pm.

Railway Heights Market will have its first-annual Doggy White Linen Party, presented by dog park Sit Bar. Expect live music, doggie adoption, and drinks and shopping, while supporting your local Houston businesses. Fur babies and their white-clad parents are invited to come party. 4 pm.

BB's Tex-Orleans (Houston Heights) will be turning all the way up for its White Linen night. Amin Safari will be on the main stage providing live music, and you can get a Saint Arnold H-Town Pils with any full-size po' boy. 5 pm.

Casa Ramirez FOLKART Gallery will get hella artistic for its White Linen get-together. Jesus and Maria Lozano of BOSSA ll will provide the music, while Lizbeth Ortiz and other local artists will provide the artwork. 5 pm.

Cedar Creek Bar & Grill promises a rockin' White Linen party, complete with food and drink specials, swag, dancing, and more. DJ Dayta will get the party going and warm you up for The Moment HTX to rock all through the night. 6 pm.

Onion Creek Cafe will also be rocking hard for its White Linen festivities. We're talking about a parking-lot party, complete with an air-conditioned VIP tent. Shotgun Sally will be on the main stage and DJ Fredster will drop the all-night beats. 6 pm.

La Coqueta and dance school Two to Tango will host their first White Linen party. Celebrate art, culture, and community in the Heights — and, maybe, learn how to get your tango on. 7 pm.

Photo via Pixlr

Houston clocks in as one of the fastest-growing cities for freelancers

wfh ftw

Visitors to Memorial Park on an early weekday afternoon probably have to stop and wonder where all these people are coming from. Don’t they have work to do?

Maybe they do, but on their own schedules. Fiverr, a marketplace for connecting freelancers and new clients, released its fifth annual Freelance Economic Impact Report, ranking Houston as the tenth fastest-growing city for freelancers.

According to the report, some 144,000 workers in Houston made $6.6 billion. That means the Bayou City led Texas with around $46,000 for per capita income.

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin came in as the fourth fastest-growing city for freelancers. The city's 77,262-person independent workforce earned $3.4 billion in 2021. In Dallas, which came in at No. 8, some 177, 500 workers made $7.6 billion.

Joining Houston, Austin, and Dallas in the top 10 were:

1. Orlando, Florida
2. Nashville, Tennessee
3. Miami, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Las Vegas, Nevada
7. Charlotte, North Carolina
9. Portland, Oregon

Although on the surface the report focuses on geography, it collected data that shows eight out of 10 freelancers believe they can live anywhere and work anytime. However, fewer than half reported that it was “a primary factor” in becoming freelancers, and a third said that work was “a primary influence” in their choice of location.

Most important, 70 percent of respondents said they were “highly satisfied” with working independently.

Photo by Daniel Ortiz

Chic crowd stylishly steps out for $345,000 fundraiser at Houston Polo Club

doing it for bo

What: Hats, Hearts & Horseshoes benefiting Bo’s Place

Where: Houston Polo Club

The scoop: More than 360 fashionable Houstonians showed off their hottest looks at the Houston Polo Club for the annual Hats, Hearts & Horseshoes benefiting Bo’s Place. The event, which toasted Kentucky Derby season, raised more than $345,000 for Bo’s Place, a nonprofit bereavement center that offers grief support services for children, families, and adults at no cost.

Rick Smith, the former Houston Texans general manager, received the first-ever Champion of Hope Award from Laura Laux, Bo’s Place president of the boast of directors. Smith voluntarily and publicly stepped away from his duties as Texans GM to care for his wife, Tiffany, who was battling breast cancer. Rick Smith, who lost Tiffany in 2019, credits Bo’s Place as a source of comfort and aide to himself and his three children. Smith actively works with the nonprofit, serving on the board of directors and as an advocate.

As for the afternoon, emcees Stephen Lewis and Chita Craft welcomed guests who donned floral dresses, hats, fascinators, and seersucker. Guests sipped champagne from the bubble bar, traditional mint juleps, and bites from Cotton Culinary. Event chairs were Carol Lee and Allen Lyons and Sheridan and Robert Plumb, along with honorary chairs, Megan and Luke Hotze, Hallie Vanderhider, Kelli and John Weinzierl, Alissa and Kevin Maples, Millette and Haag Sherman, and Christie and Mark Sullivan.

Before it was off to the races, guests bid on auction items; Debbie and Mark Gregg received a round of applause for securing a first pitch at an Astros game for Mark’s 94-year-old father. Other lucky winners scored a gift certificate to IW Marks, a longtime supporter of Bo’s Place.

“Bo’s Place offers children and families the tools to be resilient after experiencing a great loss,” says Mary Beth Staine, Bo’s Place executive director, “as well as a support network of other bereaved peers as they navigate their grief journey. Together we can help support grieving children, families and individuals giving them hope in their darkest hours and a path to happier and brighter futures.”

Who: Debbie and Mark Gregg, Fady Armanious and Bill Baldwin, Stacey and Al Lindseth, Jade and David Shine, Shannon and Richard Kroger, Samantha and Jon Lanclos, Paolo and Daniel Alvarez-Malo, Lisa and Sanjay Kalavar, Travis Torrence, Julia and Harvin Lawhon, Tina and Dan Silvestri, Elia Gabbanelli, Claudia and Hank Holmes, Anna and Bret Scholtes, Millette and Haag Sherman, Kelli and John Weinzierl, Leslie and Jordan Smith, Lindy and Larry Neuhaus, Susan and Charlie Neuhaus, Meredith and Patrick Chastang, Jenny and Todd Abbott, Kirsten and Roger Herrscher, Christie and Mark Sullivan, Erika and Matthew Benz, Nicci and Chris Greeley, Susan and Giulio Cattozzo, Natalie and Brett Agee, Christina and Matt Altenau, Lauren and Rob Gray, Jennifer and Nick Altman, Audrey and Peter Selber, and Maidie Ryan.

Molly Ferguson and Jill Smith.

Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Molly Ferguson and Jill Smith.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' BBQ joint's Katy outpost closure leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' barbecue joint's Katy location quietly closes. Sadly, the local outpost couldn't replicate the magic of the original in Llano.

2. Ken Hoffman urges Houston travelers to keep calm and enjoy the trip at the new-look Bush IAH. Our columnist explains why travelers might be in "for a big, pleasant surprise at Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental Airport."

3. Houston's most spectacular winter light shows and events dazzle for the holidays. We rounded up where to see dazzling lights with family, friends, and visitors.

4. Disgraced Theranos CEO and former Houstonian Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years for fraud. Additionally, Holmes faces a fine of $400 million.

5. Houston's NASA leaders 'giddy' after historic Artemis 1 moon flyby. The spacecraft cruised just 81 miles above the lunar surface.

Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.

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Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World

Affluent Houston suburb leads region for highest holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Sugar Land as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Sugar Land is $2,793 per person, the 15th highest in the nation. As CultureMap previously reported, Sugar Land residents here make an average of $123,261; the average home price is $337,600.

Fittingly, Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was recently named the second-richest county in Texas.

As for Greater Houston, Santa's bag could be a mixed bag, with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling far behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Elsewhere in Texas, 10 North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531 (The only Texas city in the top 10)
  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630
  • Fort Worth, No. 366, $890
  • Dallas, No. 401, $845

Spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, CT with a budget of only $211.