Parties at Rich's Bar (New Years Eve and Outrage, 2000 and 2001)
Rich's New Years Eve Party
Rich's has been popular since its opening, when Gary Archer described "a line around the block" that "stetched to McGowen." Rich's sported a colorful exterior and, for the time, a high-tech sound system featuring dual bass cabinets located under the stage and a screen that would lower to play MTV videos.
Rich's is known for hosting large parties, including Garden Party, the Grey Party, the Tea Dances, Trash Disco, and Afterhours, where the crowd would change from commercial to more "sophisticated," according to Archer. During these hours, Rich's would bring in special DJs, and high-end DJing is still a major staple at Rich's today. Many of the parties hosted at Rich's were themed.
The music played at the original 1980's Rich's was a mix of Disco and MTV styles. Performers at Rich's have included Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, and Divine. Rich's actively tried to work to satisfy as many different crowds within the GLBT community as possible, but it was sometimes described as having a "preppy" crowd. However, Rich's was still a major force in the Houston GLBT community. An opinion piece published in This Week in Texas shortly after Rich's closing reads, "Rich's was more than just another bar...it had the best light show, the best music, the best video...it was one of the few places that made a person proud to say 'Hey! I'm GAY!'"
News about Rich's spread by word of mouth: "Friend to friend, city to city, country to country," according to This Week in Texas, 1986. Now, according to Houston GLBT historian Judy Reeves, events at Rich's "are the elite...a lot of them are at Rich's because they can afford to rent Rich's." Even though these parties may mostly attract the elite, Reeves does't mind -- they "balance the community." Sometimes, people want to just let off some steam.
The parties pictured in this gallery are from Rich's Outrage and Rich's New Year's Eve. While not technically costume parties, these photos do feature people in costume. Costumes play an important role, both in parties at Rich's and in the broader GLBT community. According to Reeves, costumes used to be a way to go to these events 'incognito" -- "nobody questioned it...you were safe." Now, costumes are bigger and more expensive; they primarily serve a social purpose. The difference in these costumes, according to Reeves, also makes a social difference: people were more relaxed in the inexpensive, home-made costumes of the early days of Rich's, and are more reserved in the tuxedo-and-mask outfit work today.
“A lot of costume events were very popular. And very big. Now they're big because the social graces, and drinking, and costumes. Costumes are no longer cut a hole in a sheet, put makeup on your face. Costumes are now grandiose with feathers, and sequins. They're very expensive, I know, I was in the Krewe of Olympus for ten years, and believe me, I did a major costume in every ball, and it can run you anywhere from two- to five-thousand dollars.”
“Back in the Garden Party days, you would see some really outrageous outfits, and you could tell--not that anybody cared--you could tell they were homemade. People took bedsheets and sewed themselves into them and they'd sprinkle glitter or glue glitter [...] glitter on their faces and...it was great! You know, it was just a party. Now...it's more the tux crowd. Glitz up your tux and put on your fancy mask with the big feathers and so on, and that's all well and good, but it changes the nature of the beast [...] A sheet and towel party, so to speak, you're more loose, you communicate more, and you don't really care. In this tux thing, it's like...you're more reserved. Even if you have a mask on, you're more reserved [...] There are fancy masks, they're not so much painted faces anymore. So it changes the nature of things.”