Just as you might imagine, as soon as word got out that we were putting together a cover story on the most influential Houstonians of all time, the phones at our modest Heights Blvd. offices began ringing off the hook. Everyone seemed curious about whom we were selecting and why. The receptionist, who happens to be my mother, told us that she received inquiries on the matter whenever she answered the phone, which is quite remarkable when you consider she almost never answers the phone, as regular dialers of Houstonia’s offices will attest.
Be that as it may, the questions began pouring in: What is this influential business and how can I become one? Are there certain fields and categories of endeavor that will be privileged? If I marry an Influential, am I automatically influential? Is there a nasal mist vaccine? Etcetera.
Some callers had to be disabused of the misimpression that being rich was enough to make one an Influential. This distasteful notion and its implication—that positions on our list might be bandied about like so many four-inch Loubies in a Shelby Hodge column—had no basis in fact. Even penniless Houstonians, they were reminded, could be Influentials, provided that in addition to being penniless they had also cured a disease, defeated an army of Mexicans, or lent their names to a street or building. As it happens, a homeless individual did wander into our offices claiming these qualifications, unfortunately disappearing before we could prepare his certificate.
Some of you have asked whether one could be an Influential without having done anything of consequence in one’s life. After extensive deliberations, it was decided that one could not, which is why you will not see the Keep Houston Houston blogger on our list. Also, no one who wears four-inch Loubies.
As for the people who did make this year’s list, they come from all walks of life, political persuasions, and freeway exits. The only thing uniting them all? At some period of their lives, they were Houstonians. Also, they captured our imaginations and achieved whatever it was they sought in life (invariably, their receptionists answered the phone, for instance). Also, they were dead.
That’s right: dead. It didn’t seem fair to compare the achievements of the living to those no longer living, the dead possessing limited ability to achieve anything. Furthermore, as one of our brightest editors asserted—I’m paraphrasing—the living have their whole lives to look forward to; the dead have only this list. We’re a sentimental lot, so dead Influentials it was.
My fondest wish was that the men and women who made our city the unique and special place it is would at last be properly credited. In most cases, that is what we’ve done. Inevitably, however, some names have been lost to history’s dustbin. Who, for instance, invented the $6.75 happy hour margarita at El Tiempo? Which genius made it impossible to get to the Galleria parking garage from Westheimer? Who decided that every gun show within 500 miles should be advertised on an Amber Alert sign? Mysteries still abound, in other words, and there are achievers yet to be found.