05/02/11 9:23am

Upset at New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s oh-so-cruel insinuation that Houston isn’t much of a tourist town, local talk-show host Michael Berry has responded with an ad on this billboard, carefully situated at the scenic crotch between the Southwest Freeway feeder road and the Westpark Tollway near Chimney Rock, surrounded by a number of fine automotive repair establishments. It’s been 13 days since your outrageous insult, Senator. Apologize now or it’s just going to get worse. Sure hope it doesn’t have to come to that, but don’t think we won’t resort to putting a bunch of those inflatable gorillas on top of the Downtown Aquarium to get our point across — if we have to. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

10/26/10 9:21pm

Got an answer to any of these reader questions? Or just want to be a sleuth for Swamplot? Here’s your chance! Add your report in a comment, or send a note to our tipline.

  • Galveston: Watercolor artist Don Springer, who makes a habit of rendering area oddities, wants to know more about the Galveston Kettle House on the San Luis Pass between Pirates Beach and Pirates Beach West he painted a few weekends ago. “I know that it was not the radio station KUFO which once broadcasted from the foot of the Flagship (That flying saucer is now a house on West Beach).” He passes on a story he heard from “credible sources” that the half-water-tower turned house was the home of a landscaper who recently passed away, but asks, “Can you use your unlimited resourses, connections, and talent to determine the history of this landmark before it rolls off into the sunset?” Readers? He’s talking to you.
  • Montrose: Chronicle tech guy Dwight Silverman wants to know what’s going into the building at 1721 Waugh, just south of the Commonwealth split; at about the same time, another Swamplot reader sends us this recent pic of what looks to be a refacing job on the building:


04/15/08 1:09pm

Lantern Village, 5815 Gulfton, HoustonDavid Kaplan of the Chronicle catches up with Houston-apartment legend Michael Pollack and fills in a few details of the Colonial House story:

According to media reports then, Pollack lived in a super-size Colonial House apartment called “the Dream Suite,” which had a colored water fountain inside and a king-size water bed.

The Dream Suite was real, but Pollack says he never lived there. His home was the Four Leaf Towers and later the Houstonian, he said.

His glamorous stud image was just an act, he maintains, designed to rent apartments.

“I was promoting day and night,” Pollack said. “To me, it was a job.” . . .

According to Houston City magazine, he’d show up at nightclubs in a chauffeured custom Cadillac limousine with a moon roof. He traveled with an entourage, including bodyguards in satin jackets adorned with Pollack’s silhouette.

There are more memorable Pollack TV spots to be dug up:

One commercial featured Pollack in a safari outfit and a tiger. He had a fear of cats, even little cats, and being next to the full-grown beast was terrifying, he recalled.

In 1986, Pollack left Houston because, he said, the local economy and apartment market looked increasingly grim.

Colonial House was foreclosed on in 1988. It was acquired by DRG Funding Corp., the lender that financed the complex’s redevelopment. Pollack moved back to California, working there a few years before settling in Mesa[, Arizona].

In Houston, the Colonial House era is no more. A year after the foreclosure, the mammoth complex changed its name to Lantern Village.

After the jump: Laundry tips from a longtime resident of today’s Lantern Village!


01/21/08 11:54am

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLnLsrK5Tjs 400 330]

The brave work of Southwest Houston and Houston Apartment Renaissance scholars has been rewarded — a second mid-1980s Colonial House TV commercial is now available on YouTube!

No it’s not quite as iconic and over-the-top as the one with the VCR in the pool, but look at that fabulous indoor-outdoor furniture! Almost a quarter century later, we know Michael Pollack is alive and well, but does anyone know where that living-room mandala and dining-room set ended up?

12/10/07 11:02am

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC5mvVXGGjc 400 330]

This charming period piece from the abortive early-’80s Southwest Houston apartment renaissance surfaced on YouTube late last month, to the great acclaim of chief Michael Pollack fan Lou Minatti, who has hosted an online shrine to the iconic and once high-profile Houston developer on his website for several years. Why was Pollack such a big deal?

What Gallery Furniture’s “We really will save you moneyyyyyyy!” was to the north side of town, the VCR in the Pool was to the southwest.

And really, who can forget the charms of Colonial House, at the corner of Chimney Rock and Gulfton? Writes Minatti:

Built in the late 1960s, Colonial House was in terrible shape.

Gangs and prostitutes had moved in, while basic amenities such as air conditioning had quit working. Pollack moved in and the gangs moved out. Pollack’s crew gutted and rebuilt each of the 1,800 units in just three months. But after all that hard work, Pollack had an even bigger task ahead: How was our suave, sophisticated hero going to fill those apartments? That’s where his infamous TV ads came in.

Here’s a question: Doesn’t the bench-pressing dude on the Nautilus about five seconds in look a bit . . . familiar?

After the jump: Pollack claims it was all an act! Plus, what he’s up to these days — with pix!


06/01/07 10:34am

Street Sign on Bellaire BlvdOver at Houstoned, professional barfly John Nova Lomax and crooner David Beebe take a long, strange trip down the entire length of Bellaire Blvd.—on foot. Lomax’s conclusion:

If Westheimer is mainly about the fetishes, broken dreams and vanities of Anglo whites, and Shepherd is all about the needs of cars, Bellaire is a world market of a street, a bazaar where Mexicans, Anglos, Salvadorans, African Americans, Hondurans, stoners, Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans and Thais go to shop and eat.

The report from western Chinatown:

Tall bank buildings are sprouting, with glass fronts festooned in Mandarin. Strip malls fill with Vietnamese crawfish joints, Shaolin Temples, and acupuncture clinics. As we crossed Brays Bayou, a huge temple loomed in the distance, and it didn’t take much imagining to pretend you were gazing across a rice paddy toward a Vietnamese village. A Zen center abuts one of the last businesses in town to carry the all-but-forgotten A.J. Foyt’s once-omnipresent name. A couple of ratty old apartment complexes have changed into commercial buildings, each unit housing its own business.

The rice paddies, of course, have left the neighborhood.

More highlights of their journey, as they walk east: live turtles in the water gardens outside the Hong Kong City Mall; front-yard car lots in Sharpstown; Jane Long Middle Schoolers rushing convenience stores; the “Gulfton Ghetto.” Plus, this illuminating report from Alief:

Alief Ozelda Magee, the town’s namesake, is buried right there, under a slate-gray monument with a touching epitaph: “She did what she could.” And hell, maybe she still is. The adjoining apartment complex, which is rumored to cover some of the graves here, is said to suffer from a poltergeist infestation.

Photo: Cruising down Bellaire, by flickr user corazón girl