This past Saturday, About Magazine had the honor of being invited to Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon for a special event to mark their five-year anniversary.
(HOUSTON) – When Neon Boots says that they’re going to throw a party, let me tell you … they throw a party. Houston’s favorite country & western LGBTQ bar located at 11410 Hempstead Rd. celebrated its five-year anniversary this past Saturday with a slew of performances in their Illusions Drag Show and with a special finale to their Summer Concert Series out on the patio with a performance by singer-songwriter Paige Lewis. The bar’s co-owner, Debbie Storrs, sat down with About Magazine leading up to the party for a special interview after which she invited us to be her guests at the event.
And why? Because that’s just the sort of thing that Storrs and her business partners (Jim Gerhold, Rodney Myers, Ron McLeroy, and Fernando Garcia) do for their patrons and the people that they love. For five years, the smart folks behind Neon Boots (which previously also included James Daily and the recently passed Jim Moore) have been giving back to the community that’s kept them in business for half a decade with concerts, dance lessons, nightly karaoke, parties, drinks, food, and more. And the night of the fifth anniversary was no exception, with the owners even providing a special champagne toast to round off the performance and commemorative anniversary pins for all their guests.
The evening began before the seven o’clock hour with patrons of the bar rolling in for the Illusions Show, which featured some of Houston’s most talented drag entertainers, including the current reigning Miss Gay USofA, Janet Fierce Andrews, Dina Jacobs, Adeciya Iman, Lauren Taylor, Amanda Nicole (who filled in last minute for Christina Ross) and About Magazine favorite, Kara Dion. The ladies performed a number of tributes, parodies, and favorites to a zealous audience that broke out their dollar bills for each and every performance. Kara Dion — who recently suffered a sciatic nerve injury — made her grand reappearance that night, approaching the stage slowly at first only to break out into the normal grandeur and drama that keep fans coming back to see her over-and-over. The audience was so impressed with Dion, in fact, that before she was even halfway through her very first number, a line had formed from the stage all the way to the end of the dance floor to tip her as she performed. These lines recurred during each of Kara’s numbers. Dina Jacobs brought out the best of Tina Turner and Dame Shirley Bassey, while Amanda Nicole put forth a tribute to Lady Gaga and Rihanna, among others.
Outside on the patio on what turned not to be a terribly humid or unbearably hot evening, Paige Lewis performed a set that wowed audiences on the patio throughout the evening. A native of Katy, Texas, Lewis is a singer-songwriter who spends half her time in Houston and the other half in Los Angeles. This September, Lewis will begin her tour through California, Texas, Washington, and Oregon.
Following the drag show, Storrs took to the stage to thank her entire staff, her special guests, friends from in and around the LGBTQ community and the city of Houston, and to unveil a brand new piece of their bar that she described previously as something she was “very excited” about (featured below). But once she’d had time to thank everyone around her and those who couldn’t be there — including a teary-eyed message of love to her late business partner, Jim Moore — Storrs kicked off the remainder of the night by telling the excited crowd, “Now let’s party!”
And so everyone did. The house only seemed to continue to pack itself out as the night progressed. The dance floor became busy with regulars who fell in to enjoy a few drinks and good music; the historic Esquire Room packed up nicely as Dina Jacobs filled in to host karaoke where the About staff and friends sang and spent time around the bar. Out on the patio, patrons new and old clinked glasses, spoke to the staff, laughed over drinks and cigarettes, and listened to music that played overhead as the night drifted away. All-in-all, the night was an overwhelming success. Neon Boots has done the very thing that Storrs told About just a few weeks ago: they’ve created an “everybody bar”. Sure, the history of Neon Boots — which occupies the space of the former Esquire Ballroom, which was open for forty years before closing in 1995 — is surrounded in tales of country music legends like Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn; and sure, its’ an LGBTQ bar now that hosts events in the community’s honor by working with Pride Houston, the Texas Gay Rodeo Association, and many others. But what you see when you walk into Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon is exactly what you get: a mixed bag of patrons — whom Storrs affectionately says are not “customers” but “friends and family […] but mostly family” — of all different sexual orientations, races, religions, gender identifications, and more.
If the fifth anniversary celebration at Neon Boots proved anything, it proved that Debbie Storrs was telling the truth when she said that Neon was an everybody bar. Young, old, Black, white, gay, straight, trans, Asian, Latino, and otherwise, everybody came out to Neon Boots to have a gay old time — the kind that only a place as special as Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon could provide.
Check out the rest of the pictures from the rest of the photos from the anniversary here.