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Gambling cowboy refinery

Postby Kagajar В» 07.01.2020

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Looking back on a wild ride Twenty-five years ago, Urban Cowboy immortalized a Pasadena honky-tonk and left Houston with the image as a redneck boomtown. Fortunes were made and lost, and all that's left are cracks in the concrete prairie and fading memories. Today, what was once the world's largest honky-tonk looks more like its nickname than ever.

The ramshackle building that housed Gilley's, the boot scooters, the dancers and glancers — all are a thing of the past. Twenty-five years ago, the movie Urban Cowboy immortalized Gilley's and left the world with an indelible image of Houston as a rough, redneck boomtown, flooded with farm boys looking to cash in on the oilfield jobs.

People like Bud, John Travolta 's character, risked their lives scrambling up and down refinery towers during the day, then donned cowboy boots and hats to two-step, throw punches and ride the mechanical bull. The white-skinned, blue-collared, redneck Houston of the movie seems particularly dated today, in a metropolitan area that has become a rainbow of ethnicities. Ninety languages are spoken in area schools. The mailboxes outside the Pasadena trailer homes where the "Gilley rats" once lived now bear names such as Perez and Garcia.

Local oil work has changed from low-skill refinery jobs to supporting oil exploration around the world, and the farm boys have been replaced by engineers from South Africa and India. It is planning to build a school there, on a much-changed Spencer Highway.

The drag where Bud and Sissy wrestled in mud before agreeing to marry is now a mixture of the international and the suburban.

Discotecas featuring ritmo latino share the highway with a 24 Hour Fitness gym and posh housing developments with genteel names like Cinnamon Ridge and Pecan Crossing.

Even Conley has gone mainstream. Gray-haired and better fed, he often dresses in Dockers and loafers. For the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and other special occasions, Conley brings out his signature all-black outfit of the Gilley's days: jeans, Western shirt, cowboy boots and hat cut with a gambler-style small brim, large belt buckle with a picture of an alligator, cigarillo hanging from his mouth.

An operations manager at Fluor Daniels engineering and construction company, Conley no longer looks forward to Saturday nights at Gilley's as the highlight of his week. Now that honor goes to Wednesday dinners with his 8-year-old grandson, Sean.

Conley is married — for the second time — to Joy Domingue-Conley , whom he met at a pawnshop. She worked there, and he lived in a trailer out back. The two wed in and again in Conley started going to Gilley's in the s because he liked the dance floor. When Cryer put in the mechanical bull, Conley learned to ride it to impress women. By the time journalist Aaron Latham showed up to write a story about Gilley's for Esquire magazine , Conley was as much a Gilley's institution as Gilley himself.

Cryer discovered Gilley, singing at a Pasadena club where he was making so little money he could barely pay his three-member band. The two went into business together in , with Cryer running the club and Gilley performing. As the honky-tonk gained popularity, Gilley's recording career took off.

At the club, Conley and many of the other Gilley rats worked for Cryer, doing a bizarre assortment of tasks that included plastering cars in the parking lot with Gilley's bumper stickers and finding padding to put around the bull. He admitted the bull operators could not resist when "smart asses" rode.

The crew dressed head to toe in Gilley's merchandise, including underwear with Mickey Gilley's face on it. The Gilley rats were united by the urban cowboy code, Conley believes, which included doing right by people and wearing Western clothes. Houston was hardly the Old West, despite its frontier spirit.

As the rest of the nation foundered in recession, Houston's rugged industrialism seemed shiny and modern. Pasadena was nicknamed "Stinkadena" for the oil refineries and paper plants that brought the area its jobs.

Latham was fascinated by the contrast of "all those kids that thought they were cowboys" working industrial jobs. He hung around for a month, riding the bull getting hurt every time and searching for a love story. They had their wedding reception at Gilley's, twang-twang. But they quarreled over the bull at Gilley's, twang-twang. And then Dew met somebody new at Gilley's, twaaaang.

When Paramount Pictures bought the rights to the story, Cryer lobbied to have it filmed at the club. Cryer was the only one in Pasadena that believed the movie would be made. When Cryer started advertising the filming and the upcoming chili cookoff, everyone got out their pots, brushing off the movie news. Paramount called Cryer to say a "boy" was coming out to see Gilley's and asked him to pick him up at the airport.

All these "Hollywood folks" got off the plane, Cryer recalled in a recent interview. He had been cast as "Bud," based on the real-life Dew Westbrook. Cryer introduced Travolta to Conley, who showed him the moves on the dance floor — and the bull. Same thing with riding the bull.

Debra Winger was cast as "Sissy," the Betty Helmer character. When director James Bridges asked him to show Winger around, Conley found her glugging out of an upturned longneck. The Gilley rats hung around, just as they always had, during the filming. Many made it on screen. Jessie LaRive held Sissy's beer while she hit the punching bag. Steve Strange set Bud up with a threesome on his first night in Pasadena.

Gilley and Johnny Lee sang. The bouncer in the movie and real life was David Ogle, whom everyone called "Killer. And Conley, well, he was everywhere: dipping Sissy on the dance floor, riding the bull drunk, yelling at the crowd when they went into the parking lot to watch a fight, winning the dance contest.

Conley even wrote one of his own lines, Latham said, scoffing that ex-convict Wes' net shirt looked like it was made from his mama's hair net. Let's call your mama,' " Conley said.

When the movie premiered in June , high-society Houston stole the event out from under Pasadena. The invitation was from such noncowboys as socialite Lynn Wyatt, department-store magnate Robert Sakowitz, arts patron Dominique de Menil and Louise Cooley, wife of famed heart surgeon Denton Cooley.

Limos swarmed to Gilley's for the party afterward, Conley said, and women in spike heels were "stumbling and bumbling" on the dance floor. After that, Gilley's became a tourist destination.

Houston socialites would call former Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell and ask him to arrange for a table at Gilley's for their guests from out of town. A couple of the Gilley rats headed to Hollywood to try to make it as movie stars and open a Gilley's West, an idea Cryer put a stop to.

They were back in Pasadena before long. Cryer sold mechanical bulls to bars across the country, and lawsuits piled up as people broke arms and dislocated shoulders from California to Florida. The hype ruined the club for the Gilley rats, who fled to another bar.

They eventually lost track of Helmer, and though Westbrook still lives in Pasadena, he no longer stays in touch. He did not return phone calls for this report. That started the rift between Gilley and Cryer, culminating in a lawsuit and — when Gilley insisted on having his name removed from the bar — the welding-shut of its doors in The men who vacationed at Disney World together now will not speak or be in the same room.

Gilley gave Adkins the club's original sign to display at his restaurant, but he regrets it because Adkins invited Cryer to the unveiling. Even the Gilley rats who are still alive — Claypool and "Killer" are among the many who have died — are divided into two camps between loyalty to Gilley or Cryer. He has sold the rights to the Gilley's name to clubs in Dallas and Las Vegas.

Gilley, 69, performs a music and comedy show in Branson five nights a week, replete with Urban Cowboy references and film clips. He still lives on 20 acres in Pasadena with his wife, Vivian, and flies himself back and forth to Branson on his six-seater jet. He also performs at Indian casinos across the country.

Gilley wears a 2-inch diamond pendant with his initials as well as three ostentatious diamond rings that were gifts from Cryer. Cryer, who once owned virtually every beer joint in Pasadena, lives in a trailer behind his closed-down Deer Park icehouse, G's. Reaching him by telephone means calling the pay phone at G's and hoping someone answers. The icehouse is filled with dusty relics from Gilley's, empty beer cans and a half-dozen mechanical bulls, which Cryer still builds and sells.

At 78, Cryer walks with a cane and dresses in his signature coveralls and athletics shoes. He takes notes on everything, producing ages, addresses and maids' names when asked for a phone number. Signs at G's advertise an Urban Cowboy reunion in July, but Cryer said he will not throw the party after all.

Bud eventually comes around. But in real life, neither Cryer nor Gilley could let go of their differences to save Houston's beloved honky-tonk. Related Stories. Former owner of Gilley's dies at Trending Now. Most Popular.

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Postby Nikoran В» 07.01.2020

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Postby Gugore В» 07.01.2020

Bud eventually comes around. Baby Joe and I. The Gilley rats hung around, just as they always had, during the filming. Latham was fascinated by the contrast of "all cowbpy kids that thought they were cowboys" working industrial jobs. They eventually lost track of Helmer, and though Westbrook still lives in Pasadena, gambling pardoning no longer stays in touch.

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Postby Nem В» 07.01.2020

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Postby Dihn В» 07.01.2020

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