February 16th, 2010
Red Room: I Am Whatever I Say I Am
In 5 Words: List, Exclusive, Red, Mash-Up, Masquerade
“I’m having a party and you’re going to be there,” is much less a request for an RSVP than it is a demand. Considering the source, it should even be taken as a threat. Being the social recluse that I pretend to be, I can still put up a deferential fight. The joy of appearing aloof 84.7% of the time is that I can usually appear to agree with something without ever committing to the affirmative.
“What kind of party are you having?” is my first of a long line of questions meant to confuse and distract Afrodet, who is extending the invitation/demand.
“It’s a masquerade party. You are dressing up. It will be at Red Room.”
And that was that. In fewer than twenty words, I had been forced into a situation in which I never dreamed I would take part. Now, dressed in a suit, a mask concealed in the jacket pocket, and less than a full magazine of confidence, I’m turning left on Virginia St. from Westheimer hoping I don’t like this place too much.
Deciding to skip the valet – I figure that I’ll be paying out the nose for booze – I park on the corner of Ferndale and Kipling. I feel ill-prepared. The most I’ve heard about Red Room is its exclusivity and that the inside looks like “Louis XIII took a shit and smeared it everywhere.” Those are two things that usually keep a bar out of my periphery, let alone my ultimate quest. Yet, here I am, touting a much too large camera and a pocket-sized notebook, approaching the door to see if I’m on the dreaded list.
The clichè doorman stands guard at the gate, which opens up to a courtyard of smokers and and their companions taking a break from the scene inside. A dozen people stand outside the gate, trying to convince the bouncer that they belong inside. I’m of another ilk. The thought of selling my spot on the list flashes in my head. $50 could buy me a lot of Lone Star elsewhere. It would also lead to a major headache – or, more appropriately, a major pain in the ass – if I don’t walk in this door.
“I’m on the list… under ‘Afrodet,’ I think,” I tell the man with the clipboard.
He takes a look, makes a hash mark, and allows me entry without saying a word.
Red Room is an exercise in “perception is reality.” You’re only as exclusive as you make yourself out to be. The economies of club life lead you to imply demand by limiting the supply and promising a tremendous product. Adam Smith would be proud. Then again, so might Bernie Madoff.
I walk in the door and head up the stairs, noting the laid back atmosphere of the room on the first floor, which is in stark contrast to the raucous crowd upstairs, audible before I take the first stair. This area may prove to be an effective retreat later.
Upstairs, Iexactly what I most fear: An immovable sea of people – some waiting for drinks, other trying to make conversation with potential hook-ups, and a contingent of dancers unaware of anything but the beat – is situated between me and my goal of a drink.
Slipping through cracks of humanity, pushing gently where I need to, it only takes me a minute to find my way to the small bar. For the amount of people here, it doesn’t seem like there is nearly enough bar space to accommodate everyone.Then again, if I were concerned about the rest of the patrons, I would have visited my group of friends before the bartender.
I order the only drink Dalwhinnie 15 year. I hand my card over to the bartender, not wanting to know how much I’m spending up front. It’s easier to cope with your alcoholic transgressions at the end of the night, when you’ve had a few drinks to ease the pain.to be sipped while wearing a suit: Scotch, neat. A single malt classes up any affair, but when you’re attire is already out-classing you, you have to make sure to play “catch up.” They have a decent selection behind the bar and I pick out a
Weaving my way back through the crowd, the mass of people do little to ease my travels. There’s another dude in a shiny shirt each time I pass a woman giggling and tossing her hair. Of course my group of friends is in the most confined area the club. There is no hurry. Reaching them means tying on a mask and I’m feeling less and less like reenacting Eyes Wide Shut.
A massive, four-part piece of art adorns one of the interior walls. A woman’s face, separated by the limitations of the canvas, perfect blue eyes, black hair, white skin, chic . If I were to own one of the modern townhomes that are popping up everywhere inside the loop, it would be the perfect ornament for the vast amounts of negative space inherent in that style of architecture. When I get to my friends, my first order of business is to jot down the “get rich, buy Red Room’s art.”
The group parties at their own table with their own bottle of Grey Goose on ice. Hugs and handshakes are exchanged all around, but one thing is glaringly absent: masks. Who is to blame for this?
“We ditched them an hour ago,”says. “But I’m still wearing mine.”
“Um, no. You’re not. That doesn’t count at all.”
Her face is having a fleeting affair with a swath of netting. If this constitutes a mask, I would have worn a monocle, or even radder, an eye patch.
With my arrival, the idea of wearing masks is reborn. The one problem with bringing a camera is that people feel the urge to perform. I’m surprised there is such a thing as candid photography anymore. One could make the case that the idea of original music is also extinct. The DJ is playing one of the mash-ups that people like Girl Talk have made popular. Don’t get me wrong, I like it and the danceability rating is through the roof, but that doesn’t mean that my two left feet and whiteboy antics would be welcome on the parquet floor.
Standing around, looking like a goon with a dozen of my friends, it occurs to me that this place isn’t so bad. Sure, I’m the sore thumb, but I’ve blended in relatively well. Wearing a suit was going a tad overboard, but I’m a purist. You’re not going to catch me wearing Ed Hardy or Affliction with a blazer and jeans. For as much as I didn’t want to enjoy myself here, it’s hard not to.
Red Room is exactly as advertised: A lounge that is trying to remain a posh and somewhat exclusive haunt for those that want bottle service and a reserved table. It wouldn’t have been the first choice of Paul Newman, Humphrey Bogart, or Marilyn Monroe (who’s photos adorn one wall), but the patrons surely feel they’re attaining movie star status. More power to them. For now, I’m just going to be me and join in with the frivolity all around.
Where – 2736 Virginia Street, Houston, TX 77098 (View Map)
What – Houston’s Version of NYC Night Life… Maybe
Wear – Let Out Your Inner-Scenester
How Much – Borderline Expensive
When – Tue-Sat 6PM – 2AM; Private Events on Sunday; Closed Monday
Web – Website