Preservation and Persistence – OutSmart Magazine

“To say that Gilbert has a heart of gold is an understatement,” she observes. “He was a lifeline and a dear friend to those lucky enough to know him.”

Perez had worked for several years at EDS before quitting his job in the early 1990s to pursue his passion for interior design. He studied at the University of Houston and Houston Community College, landing an internship with famed designer Tim Hamrock. In 1995 Perez opened his own design company, Bespoke by GJCD.

He also emerged as a prodigious fundraiser during the 1990s, which turned out to be the darkest days of the AIDS crisis. He was a leader in organizing two of the most popular LGBTQ social events of that era – Halloween Magic and Jungle Lust, which raised over $1 million for anti-corruption charities. AIDS.

At one point, Perez was invited to take part in a satirical Halloween Magic show that raised money for HIV-related causes. “They were looking for someone Hispanic to play a drag queen in the production of The Roxie Horror Beauty Shop,” he recalled. “For that first year of Halloween Magic, I had a lot of friends, brought a lot of sponsors to the table, and raised $10,000.”

Gilbert Perez in drag as Venezuela’s Maria Concepción of Los Angeles Valdez Vallejo Gonzalez (courtesy photo)

The character he created and portrayed, Venezuela Maria Concepción de Los Angeles Valdez Vallejo Gonzalez, caused a stir.

Over the years, in different Halloween Magic productions, she transformed into a woman and became a fan favorite. Crowds have flocked to Halloween Magic year after year, providing a crucial source of funding for local AIDS service organizations struggling to keep their doors open. Perez played a pivotal role, both on stage and behind the scenes, in organizing the event.

In 1996 he moved to Houston Heights. “We were on the west side of Heights Boulevard, the ‘bad side’,” he comments. “The West Side was a much more marginal neighborhood than it is now. It was artsy and there were a lot of gay people living there. I liked the eclecticism of the neighborhood.

A few years later, he remodeled his house, and the results were so impressive that he was featured on the High Heights House Tour. He then began to receive many requests from other people to renovate their homes. Eventually, bungalow renovations became the main focus of his business, and in 2003 he founded Bungalow Revival.

Over the years, as gentrification in the highlands increased, he became more and more worried. In 2006, more than two bungalows were demolished each week, on average. He came together with a group of other concerned citizens to form Save the Bungalows.

Eventually, the group succeeded in having various parts of the historic heights declared districts. After a long battle, historic district designations were upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in 2021, a significant victory for conservationists.

Gilbert Perez (Photo by Alex Rosa for OutSmart Magazine)

Today, he focuses on finding unique products for Bespoke, his home décor boutique that offers chic and innovative items. The boutique is housed in a historic Heights bungalow that Perez lovingly renovated at 501 West 11th Street. He travels to New York twice a year to go to the markets.

He is also on the lookout for inventory while traveling the world. “When I go to Chicago, I like to look for mid-century glassware and barware because there’s a great supply there,” he notes.

Perez and her partner, Andre Avina, travel often, whether it’s a getaway to their beach house in Galveston or trips to New York to catch the latest Broadway shows. But the Heights still retains an irresistible allure for the couple, despite the gentrification that has changed the neighborhood over the past two decades.

“What I love about the Heights is that it feels like driving through a small town in the middle of a big city,” he notes. “When you come from Montrose, you almost feel like you are in another city. It doesn’t feel like the rest of Houston.

For more information, visit bespokebygjcd.com.