Marcus Pontello debuted at Numbers wearing a pink-sequined jacket with enough confidence that nobody questioned whether the 15-year-old belonged among the nightclub’s out-of-control laser lights.
That was 2003, back when Pontello was coming into his queer identity, and he’s hardly missed a Friday since. “It changed my life being in that environment,” he says. So much so that five years ago, after working on costumes for HBO’s Treme in New Orleans, the HSPVA alum moved home to Pearland with the idea of making a documentary chronicling the wild history of the city’s oldest nightclub.
The project, titled Friday I’m in Love, follows the origin story of the unassuming building near Westheimer and Taft that opened in 1975 as a Montrose dinner theater before becoming a “hardcore gay disco”—go-go boys and all. After a protracted identity crisis involving more than one name change, the reborn Numbers settled into its current ’80s-night sweet spot while hosting legendary acts including The Cure, Ministry, and Björk and welcoming pretty much anyone who likes to dance (Pontello spoke with a septuagenarian who regularly makes the trip from College Station to boogey in his underwear).
If there was ever doubt about the demand for such a project, just peek at the onslaught of memories shared on the documentary’s Facebook page; a 2015 crowdfunding campaign netted almost $50,000. Now, after half a decade and dozens of interviews with owners, club kids, and performers, Pontello says production is wrapping up before the film embarks on the festival circuit.
Sure, the project has taken longer than expected, but Pontello had to wade through enough misty-eyed conversations with Numbers diehards to understand the importance of an institution that has long functioned as a sanctuary for Houston’s misfits.
“People probably don’t realize that Numbers can affect someone—they say it’s ‘just a nightclub’ where people have drinks and crazy times and dance,” Pontello says. “Obviously, that’s a floodgate to something far deeper.”