Remember when Debra Winger and John Travolta two-stepped deep into the heart of Texas and set a nationwide cowboy/cowgirl revolution on fire in the film Urban Cowboy? Did it have an impact on you?
The 1980 “boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-wins-girl-back” drama sold a lot of movie tickets, cowboy boots, and hats and brought a coveted Western lifestyle into the big cities. Younger readers may not even know about the movie, while those in our later years have some of the iconic dance and romance scenes indelibly etched in our minds.
Gilley’s, the huge honky tonk in Pasadena, Texas, where much of the movie was filmed, became more popular and exposed a culture that attracted local residents and city slickers to the club to dance, drink, and try to find love, or a reasonable approximation of it, while songs like Johnny Lee’s “Lookin For Love” and “Cherokee Fiddle” climbed the country music charts.
In the late ‘80s, a contentious feud between Mickey Gilley and Sherwood Cryer led to the club being closed, before it was gutted by an intentionally-set fire in 1990, bringing an effective end to the Pasadena location. But you can’t keep a good honky tonk down, so Gilley’s is scheduled to reopen as part of a $55 million mixed-use project in nearby La Porte, anchored by a brand-new, 50,000-square-foot Gilley’s, a 144-room hotel, and a water park.
We can only hope that “El Toro,” Gilley’s original mechanical bull, will be installed in the new location so that this iconic honky-tonk legend can buck again, proof that our beloved cowgirl/cowboy culture lives on.