Though it lacks a signature murder, the Galleria has seen its fair share of mayhem over its 43 years, most commonly smash-and-grab jewelry store robberies—always referred to as “heists” in local media, because, hey, this is the Galleria we’re talking about. Still, there have been moments of infamy.
In 1980, Texas Monthly ran Richard West’s sprawling, lightly fictionalized feature about a man who moved into a Galleria hotel, struck up a platonic relationship with a beeper-toting, fur-wearing, high-end call-girl, and henceforth never left the mall for any reason. To hear West tell it, prostitution was rife at the mall’s hotel bars, and also at a Galleria Gomorrah called Diversions, which sported 16 bowling lanes, a disco, a bar, a sandwich shop, and prehistoric video games, which enticed “the predictable things… a little dope pushing, cut-rate prostitutes, a shabbier clientele than the Galleria bosses preferred.” Diversions fell behind on its rent early and was shut down as soon as possible, much to the relief of mall moguls.
All true Houstonians know it: If there is any one place in the city where you just never know who you’ll run into, it’s the Galleria. It could be a celebrity, like Lebron James and his entourage. It could be someone you knew back in high school and tried to avoid for decades. Or it could be someone with the power to lock you up in a federal detention facility.
In 2005, accused murderer and convicted corpse-hacker Robert Durst was spotted Christmas shopping in the mall against the terms of his parole, and the woman who spotted him was none other than Susan Criss, the Galveston judge who had presided over his 2003 murder trial. “I saw him and thought, ‘Oh my God,” Criss told the Chronicle at the time. Durst, chatting on his cellphone, locked eyes with the judge. “I know you, I know you,” he said, trying to place her. “And then he realized who I was, and he dropped his phone and it fell apart,” Criss said. Awkward.
Durst got 60 days in the slammer for this and other parole infractions, but come on, isn’t a trip to the Galleria at Christmastime worth a month or two in the can?