Lauren Anderson, Robert Mosbacher, Sr., and other local celebrities share what they love about Houston.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT HOUSTON is the people and the energy. Everyone is really nice, and the energy is positive. I know that some people hate the humidity, but I love the humidity. It keeps your skin young-looking. And we’ve got a new football team! I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time at the stadium. My family, my husband, my kids are here, and the Houston Ballet is here—so of course I love Houston. I’ve never danced anywhere else. It’s a great place to dance. My mother and I went to see the Nutcracker at Jones Hall when I was six, and I loved the performance. I started at the Houston Ballet Academy that next September, when I was seven. I studied exclusively with the Houston Ballet Academy, and then I got into the company and went up through the ranks. And now I’m the ballerina.
Lauren Anderson is a principal dancer at the Houston Ballet. She was born in Houston.
I THINK HOUSTON IS A progressive city. I’m eighty-one-years-old and I remember Houston when the population was 150,000. It’s just grown, grown, grown. One of the things that I like about Houston is that there is not a big taxation for all these big companies that have come down here. That’s why Houston grew like it did, because the big corporations wanted to come to Houston. Unfortunately, lots of things are happening now with the big corporations, but it’s going to pull out and I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. Houston is a small town with a lot of people—that’s what I consider Houston. It has always been a small town to me.
Marvin Zindler is Houston’s most renowned consumer investigator. He has lived in Houston for 81 years.
MY FAVORITE PART OF HOUSTON is all of Houston. I’ve lived in Memorial, which is farther west and is tree-lined. I’ve lived in River Oaks, which is manicured and beautiful. I have friends who live in many other parts of Houston. It’s not really where you live in Houston so much as the feeling you get living in Houston, which is because of the people, the attitudes, and the friendliness. What is it about Houston that’s so unique to me? What is it that there is a feeling here that the people want to help, want you to enjoy being here, feel apart of it? This happened to me more than fifty years ago, when I moved here, and it has stayed with me because it has stayed with the city during that time.
I came here as a twenty-one-year-old kid from White Plains, New York. I didn’t really know anybody, maybe one or two people. My wife and I moved here and were immediately wrapped into the community. Within a year, we felt like we had lived here all our lives. The funny thing is—now remember this was fifty years ago—the funny thing is, people tell me the same thing today. I’ve lived in Washington and lived in New York. When I was a kid, we moved to New York City during World War II. They are great cities, but this is home and this is where I want to have my home. I’ve seen my children grow up here. They were born here. They’re going to kill me if I say they are middle-aged, but they’re in their forties and fifties. And now I watch my grandchildren growing up in the same way. It’s a warm, good feeling.
One thing that makes Houston great is that it has a huge number of restaurants. Besides the usual barbecue or Tex-Mex food, you can get good food from India, China, Japan, South America, and Cuba. It’s really a very international city. More than most cities, it is a blend of African Americans, Hispanics, and Anglos. In the city itself, the Hispanic and the African American populations are larger than the white. You also get another aspect that is important: You have blue collar along with white collar. I think of Dallas as not having much blue collar, maybe that’s not proper or fair, but I think the mesh of the people who work with their hands and their minds and the people who work with almost solely their minds is good for a city. It gives it breadth and understanding and perhaps an attitude that is more open, more tolerant.
I think Houston has one of the finest skylines in the country. I think the fact that Houston is close to Galveston, where we all go sailing, gives us an extra element of enjoyment. I’ve been a sailor all my life, a serious racing sailor. It’s nice to have a body of water like Galveston Bay, which usually has good breezes. It’s not as pretty as some parts of the world, but close. We’ve got a plethora of alternatives. And I must say that Houston now has flights connecting all over the world. We have some business in India, and you can now fly one-stop to India. Of course, you can fly nonstop to many cities in Europe, all over Latin America and Canada. We also have operations in Canada. Back in the sixties, it was a struggle to get there, but now there are nonstop flights to Calgary all the time.
Culturally, of course, Houston just gets better and better. We’ve just completed the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, and the Wortham Center is wonderful. The Alley Theatre is recognized as one of the foremost regional theaters in the country. The ballet is excellent, and the opera is very, very good. I can also remember how excited we were when we got a big-league baseball team and a big-league football team. Now we’ve got football coming back. The Rockets have been big. I think, even though I haven’t kept up with it recently, Houston will be a big soccer center because of the high international population here.
But when you get through all of that, the arts and the sports and the business center and of course, the medical center, which is the biggest medical center in the world, what really makes Houston is the people. It’s the feeling that you get when you wander around town. Whether you’re rich or poor, no matter your race or background, I find Houston friendly.
Robert Mosbacher, Sr., is the founder and chairman of Mosbacher Energy. He has lived in Houston for more than fifty years.
I LOVE HOUSTON BECAUSE IT is a diverse and open city. The people work hard and do good things. I think there is a real spirit among the people of Houston. They set goals and accomplish their dreams. Houston has a wonderful arts community, some of the best museums in the world, a renowned medical center with brilliant doctors, and an incredible port, which is the second largest in the U.S. And except for the summer, we have a great climate. We are the only city in the U.S. that just built three new stadiums. Houston is an event-oriented town. It is the people that make Houston the city that it is. They can bounce back from hard times. The city has changed drastically. I’ll only go as far back as the eighties, when the oil boom went bust and the city lost around 250,000 jobs. People didn’t move away; the city continued to diversify and people started new businesses. It was amazing to watch the rebuilding take place. It changed the city a lot. Houston is a livable city and more affordable than most.
Elyse Lanier is the wife of former mayor Bob Lanier. She was born and raised in Houston.
I THINK THE BEST OVERALL thing about Houston is the altruism of the people here. A lot of folks tend to think of Houston as being run by a few leaders and a few representative groups. But if you go out into the community, you find everybody working to make his neighborhood and city better. It was a real eye-opener to me to be on the campaign trail and meet all these groups. It’s kind of like watching a duck on the water—it seems pretty placid, but there is a lot going on underneath. You find people that are willing to help on almost any issue. Houstonians are the kind of people that if you ask them to help build a fence, they will bring the wire. They are willing to kick in and do things for others.
Chuck Rosenthal is the Harris County district attorney and has lived in Houston since 1960.
I’VE LIVED IN THREE CITIES, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Austin, and I love them all, but Houston is by far the most fascinating. It is a tremendous cultural center. It’s a dynamic city—it always has been. It’s an exciting, wonderful place to live.
Former lieutenant governor Bill Hobby was born in Houston.
I LOOK FORWARD TO THE Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo because I’m a cowgirl at heart. I love country and western singing, from George Strait to Willie Nelson. I’m a native Houstonian, and when I was growing up, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo used to be held downtown at the coliseum. There are so many wonderful cultural opportunities here. We have the big four—the Houston Ballet, the Grand Opera, the Alley Theatre, and the Houston Symphony. We have the Battleship Texas, which is fun if you are a bit of a history buff. You can have a picnic in Monument Hill park or dinner at Monument Inn or one of the lesser-known restaurants around there. I love to go to movies and take my beloved twelve-year-old shih tzu for a little stroll.
I love Mexican food, and I like to go to Irma’s, which is only open on weekdays. I like to go to Carrabba’s, Pesce, and the Palm. I like to try new restaurants because Houston has so many. There are lots of opportunities here. There are some lovely parks. I love to go to the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I love to do all of those things. You’re never at a want of something to do in Houston, even if it’s to contemplate at Philip Johnson’s glorious water wall at the Williams Tower.
Carolyn Farb is one of Houston’s most famous philanthropists.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS to do in Houston is canoe down Buffalo Bayou. You can start outside Loop 610 and go all the way down through the downtown area, ending up at Allen’s Landing, which is a historic landmark in the city. It’s a four-hour trek, well a four- or five-hour trek depending on how fast you want to paddle. It’s a fascinating view of the city and a great experience. The part of the bayou that is outside the loop is sort of like a Houston home tour because you’re looking into the back yards of some of the most extraordinary homes. Then as you move inside the loop, you go through the River Oaks Country Club, through Buffalo Bayou Park, and then go under the highway infrastructure as you head into downtown. I call it the Great Urban Nature Tour.
Chris Bell, a city council member from 1997 to 2001, ran for mayor in 2001.
I LOVE THE RESTAURANTS; they are ethnically diverse. There isn’t one in particular that I love to go to, but we do enjoy Istanbul Grill, which is Turkish. The restaurants change a lot, so you have to be quick. I think Houston must be the most culturally diverse city in Texas. I work at Rice University, and I live in a nice neighborhood near the campus, so I walk to work. I really enjoy my neighborhood and the walk to campus. I like the warm winters, and I like the humidity. It seems that when I go to dry climates, I’m always cold and I get chapped lips. The summers here don’t bother me, it must be the miracle of air-conditioning. I’ve lived in Houston since the summer of 1958, and it’s changed a lot. The size has caused some growing pains, but I don’t have to struggle with the commute.
Robert F. Curl, Jr., is a professor of natural sciences at Rice University. In 1996 he won the Nobel prize in chemistry.
THE THING THAT I THINK is special about Houston is something that others might not like about Houston. I love the incredible juxtaposition of new and old or high tech and low tech. I can remember in the eighties, when I first saw Houston, and it’s still true today—you can walk along and look at a spectacular skyscraper and on the next block there is no sidewalk. It’s that kind of incongruity. My favorite thing to do in Houston really plays on that. I love to run—running the bayou, where in the distance you can see the cityscape while your immediate surroundings are really wild. It’s not like Central Park, where everything is pruned and gardened and so forth. The banks on both sides of the bayou are pretty wild. It is that juxtaposition, the untamed aspect and then the high-tech, man-made aspect on the other end, that gives Houston, for me anyway, it’s snap, it’s life.
Peter Marzio is the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
I LIKE THE DIVERSITY. WE do have a diverse population in Houston in terms of Hispanic Americans and Chinese Americans. It’s just a good melting pot in my opinion. I’ve always thought that a diverse city enriches all of us.
I was born here, and I was raised on rodeo. There are a lot of small rodeos that you can go to without ever leaving the city limits. Of course, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is the world’s best, and as a child, I used to go to that. I remember, distinctly, seeing Roy Rogers, and I thought that was just amazing.
I like the weather, believe it or not. The weather gets very, very hot here, but I can’t stand the cold. I’m a Houstonian by heart when it comes to the weather. I like what is happening downtown. Houston is growing. There are more restaurants downtown. There was a time when you had to leave downtown in the evening because there wasn’t much activity, but now with the development of the baseball stadium, the restaurants, the movie theater, the railway coming downtown, all of that is going to bring back a lot of interest, culture, and nightlife. I think Houston is becoming a progressive city.
I was born and raised in the Fifth Ward; I attended school here, and I graduated from Texas Southern University. I’m a true Houstonian, and I’ve seen the city grow. It’s changed. People complain that there are more people here, but that is what attracts people to a city. I think that diversity helps to hold Houston’s personality. When you look at a city, you look at it’s ethnic mix and how people blend and share in each other’s culture. That becomes the personality of the city, in my opinion. That becomes the richness of the city, because all of those people contribute to Houston and make Houston what it is.
Playwright Thomas Meloncon was born and raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward.
I JUST ENJOY THE PEOPLE overall. When I first moved to Houston twenty years ago, people told me that, and I didn’t know what they were talking about. And now, since I’ve lived here twenty plus years, I really notice that when I visit other cities, the people just aren’t as friendly. And the pace, I think, is nice. The one thing about Houston that is really amazing is the music. Particularly, I love chamber music. Between groups like DaCamera of Houston, which does really innovative programming, and the Shepherd School at Rice University, you can go almost any day of the week. This is hard to believe, but most of it is free. In other words, if you are starving for culture, you just haven’t looked. It’s really everywhere. And that’s just the music. You have the museums, all the visual arts, the theaters downtown. I went to the Shepherd School of Music one Sunday afternoon and saw these incredible players with only about 120 other people in a small recital hall. It was embarrassing that it was free. I just walked in, sat down, and said, “This is unbelievable.” I think sometimes people from other cities, maybe outside of Texas, think that it’s just cactus and cowboys down here. Then you tell them about all the things going on that are available to everyone. I think it’s fascinating that the arts don’t exist for just a small circle of privileged people, but for everyone. I think that’s special.
Robert Del Grande is an owner and chef of Cafe Annie.
I LOVE OLD HOUSTON AND the trees. The other thing I really love about Houston is the culture. Houston has amazing museums and theater and ballet and opera. I’m new to the city, I haven’t even lived in Houston a year yet, so I’m just finding my way. Houston is very welcoming, amazingly so. I’m still finding out about it. I think it’s entrepreneurial, encouraging of new ideas. People are more ready to say yes, rather than no, to a new idea. I’m really impressed with it as a city.
Actress Lois Chiles was born in Houston and grew up in Alice.
FIRST OF ALL, THIS IS an entrepreneurial city. It’s a place where people do compete and sometimes win. So it is entrepreneurial. It’s an energetic city. But energy doesn’t amount to anything unless you’re also questing after something. And this is a questing city, also. It is a city that has risen to the occasion. It is not cowed by adversity. It is an inclusive city. It accepts newcomers—like me and others—into the fold readily. But it is inclusive in a sense that it is a city that is trying to show how to make a multiethnic community work—that is Anglos, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. And while we are not perfect, everybody is trying to make it work. The next to last one might make some people snicker, smug people from New England might snicker, but Houston is cosmopolitan. Not in the Old World, European sense, or even in the New England sense, but in a twenty-first century, internationalist sense, because it’s a city where people in science and arts and business are energized by working across diverse cultures. And finally it’s a giving community. This is a community that is incredibly active in a philanthropic sense, even in today’s economy, in which the wherewithal is limited compared with three years ago. These are the things that I like about Houston, and they come to mind fairly readily.
Malcolm Gillis is the president of Rice University.
I’VE LIVED IN HOUSTON FOR three and a half years, and it is by far the friendliest place I have ever lived. It is an open city; people are warm to newcomers. I’ve lived in Dallas, St. Louis, São Paulo, and Hong Kong. I spent a long time in Dallas, and the differences between Houston and Dallas are pretty dramatic. People are polite here every place you go. They are friendly and polite and kind. Another thing that I really like about Houston is its tremendous diversity, which is a wonderful strength. I love Houston. It is entrepreneurial and it has this wonderful can-do spirit. If Houston has a problem, Houston is going to fix it.
Deborah Cannon is the chairman-elect of the Greater Houston Partnership board of directors.
THE THING I LIKE THE most about Houston is that though it is a big city, no doubt about that, it’s got a real small-town attitude. The people are laid-back. It’s not cosmopolitan like some other big Texas cities. It has an old cowtown feel to it. That’s really what I like about Houston. The baseball fans are generally pretty good. Texas is a football state, first and foremost, but as long as the team is winning and playing well, the fans are generally pretty supportive. People in Texas like to see winners, and you’ve got to win to bring people to the games. I just really enjoy living here.
Lance Berkman is an outfielder for the Houston Astros.
I CONSIDER MYSELF FORTUNATE TO have lived and worked in Houston for the past thirty years, just about my entire professional life. I’m forever grateful that back in the early seventies, Houston Grand Opera was willing to take a chance on naming a 27-year-old former singer and business school graduate as its second general director. I have chosen to stay in Houston because the possibilities for growth and change —and that ever-present sure-let’s-go-for-it attitude —offered me a better opportunity to contribute to the operatic art form than I thought possible elsewhere.
I have found Houston to be remarkably convenient, relaxed, and congenial. Theaters, museums, concerts, and restaurants are better than in all but three or four other American cities. Corporations and foundations do a wonderful job of charitable giving, making possible magnificent medical, educational, and cultural facilities. Houstonians support charitable fundraisers to an unequalled extent.
Living inside the loop, I am ten minutes away from work, the performing arts, museums, world-class restaurants, and some of the finest medical facilities known to man. And forty minutes away is Galveston Bay, with an atmosphere a world apart.
David Gockley is the general director of the Houston Grand Opera.
IT’S THE SPIRIT THAT I love, and the versatility of the city. Houston has everything, from the opera to the rodeo and from a great port to all kinds of things. But I guess what I love most about the city is that it gave me a chance. I came from a family that was not an important family, not a rich family, it was a good family. And Houston gave me a chance through hard work and ability to become a great trial lawyer. So that is what I love about Houston. I have lived here all my life. I graduated from Lamar High School, went to Rice for my undergraduate degree, and then went to the University of Houston for law school. I’ve been here my whole life, and I love the place and I love the people. I love the spirit. It is a can-do city, we-will-not-quit city, we-see-a-problem-we-will-find-some-way-to-solve-it city. The oil industry went into the toilet in the eighties, and everyone thought it wasn’t going to come back. Houston simply diversified and became a major international trading city. It developed a medical center that is so renowned people come from other countries for treatment. Houston has a great spirit. That’s what I love about my city. The winters are great. So the summers are too hot and sweltering, but I prefer that to freezing winters and having to put chains on my tires.
The people here are friendly. It’s not like being in New York City. You can stop a stranger on the street and ask for help and that person will probably help even though there is nothing in it for him. I just think it’s the best. As far as history, this was the first capital of Texas. It was named after General Sam Houston, who helped create Texas. It’s had colorful characters throughout the years, all the way from Glen McCarthy, the great wildcatter, to Jesse Jones, who Franklin Delano Roosevelt selected to be the Secretary of Treasury. I can give example after example of somebody from Houston who did something spectacular. We went to the moon from NASA. And the people are tolerant and they treat each other with fairness. There has never been any extreme racial conflict in Houston because we’ve always found a way to accommodate the likes and interests of everybody. In some ways Houston is a conservative place, but it’s a tolerant place. It’s not the right wing of the Republican party. It’s the moderate Republicans and the conservative Democrats who run this city. They set the tone. There is a lot to be proud about Houston, but my favorite part about Houston is that it allowed a little kid, me, who had no real hope or opportunity, through a good education and hard work, to go to the top of my profession. That’s pretty amazing. There are not many places in the world that will let you do that. It’s a great thing.
John O’Quinn is the state’s best-known plaintiffs lawyer. He grew up in Houston.