Urban (Cowboy) Renewal
"Hell, it's just a reunion," says Sherwood Cryer. "All them damn people from Gilley's come out here and relive what went on, look at each other and see how ugly each other are and all that shit."
Cryer, who once shared the deed to Houston's historic honky-tonk with singer Mickey Gilley, is crabbing about the upcoming Urban Cowboy Reunion. It has been nearly 20 years since the movie about the macho men and fast women of Gilley's was released. Of course, it's also been about ten years since Gilley's shut down, so the reunion will be at Cryer's other slice of Pasadena, G's Ice House.
But Cryer is not the only thing that moved to the new bar. Urban Cowboy's famous mechanical neck-wrencher, El Toro, sits just inside the fortified front porch in a pond of red mats, all of which have patches declaring that they are indeed the mats the old Gilley's rats trusted to save their backs. Cryer owns the rights to every mechanical bull in the world; he builds them in a shop behind the bar with his son Cliff. At G's, the pull of the bull is as strong as ever, but time has taken its toll on the riders. "That Gilley's bunch is all too damn old to ride bull," says Sherwood. "Probably their kids'll ride the old sumbitch."
Also seeming in desperate need of retirement is the infamous punching machine, Urban Cowboy's other test of manhood. A plaque reminds ringers that, after all this time, the maker, Zamperla, is still "not responsible for personal injury from improper use of this machine." It goes on to describe proper punching technique, as if the guys at Gilley's didn't already know how to pack a wallop.
And past the genuine Gilley's bar stools, chairs, cigarette machines and pool tables is the G's stage and dance floor. "It come from the rodeo arena of Gilley's," says Roger Mann, Cryer's media man. "That just tells you right there every star you can think of from back then has performed on that stage, from Willie Nelson on."
But G's also has a few modern conveniences you couldn't find at the old Gilley's. When you can't dance because your blue-collar back's aching from a mechanical bull ride, chiropractor Walter Cook is on hand to work out the kinks for 20 bucks a session. When dancing together seems like what you want to do for all eternity, Cryer himself, a recently ordained minister with the Universal Life Church, is more than willing to join lovers in holy matrimony. When the dancin' starts to just plain suck, notary public/bartender Shannon Talent can finalize your divorce papers. And if you need money to finance all this or just to buy a beer, you can cash your paycheck at an in-bar booth surrounded by bulletproof glass.
Despite these upgrades to a full-service honky-tonk, G's is still an everyman kind of bar, just like its predecessor (never mind that brief flash of Hollywood fame). The Urban Cowboy Reunion is for the real deals, for people like Cryer and his friends. Too bad, Travolta.
-- Brandon Cullum
The Urban Cowboy Reunion is Saturday, April 10, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., at G's Ice House, 6961 Highway 225, Deer Park, (281)479-9213. (Head south on Highway 225, exit Battleground and make a U-turn over the freeway.) Tickets are $12.50 in advance, $15 at the door.
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