From gutter to hospitality suite


Mort Bryer recalls the following anecdote of a mini-adventure in the company of Variety’s longtime live entertainment reporter, Joe Cohen.

Joe Cohen (Jose) was great company on any trade trip. Back in the late 70’s we both attended an arena managers’ convention in Houston, not one of my favorite places, especially in July. The weather term “humidity” was invented there.

After a few days of minding the Variety booth, gladhanding assorted arena managers and their hangers-on and luxuriating in the numerous hospitality suites, we one night decided to take strike out of the hotel and stretch our legs by taking a walk. It was evening, we made a left out of the Hyatt hotel lobby, and headed down what I thought was the main drag.

We had walked about 1 1/2 blocks when we happened to pass in front of a bar. Just then, two men came storming out, one a stocky Afro-American guy, I’d say about forty or so, and the other a rather short, very young white Texan, about 20, dressed in white overalls. Both men were highly in their cups. And very angry! ?

For a few seconds, I thought the younger man was in deep trouble.They were both howling at each other. Much to my surprise, the young guy whipped a knife out of his pocket and advanced towards the other man. He looked like he meant serious business and started making some thrusts, as the black man backed away.

Since my credo is “better a live coward, then a dead hero”, I suggested to Jose that we beat a hasty retreat back to the Hyatt, but pronto. No argument, we split at 60 per hour. Alas, it had rained, and when we came to a corner Jose slipped and took a dive and landed on his side, in a rather muddy gutter. He looked rather unkempt. No injury to his carcass, just to his garb: mud the full length and very gooey. ?

As we walked back into the lobby of the hotel we had left only a few minutes earlier, I couldn’t help noticing the shock on the faces of the arena managers who were gassing in the lobby as they saw the two of us. You could have hanged your hat on their eyeballs. For the rest of the convention, Jose and I decided to stay close to “home”. Those hospitality suites now seemed very hospitable indeed.

That was my last trip to Houston.