George W. Bush's decisive victory has gotten the Republicans partying, and I want to get ripped with the moral majority. In search of his base, I head out to the Richmond Strip. There, the parking lot at Wild West (6101 Richmond) is lined with school bus-size Ford F-250 King Ranch four-by-four trucks, perfect for hauling brush from a Crawford ranch. A good number of them are affixed with Dubya-Cheney endorsement stickers. And as you near the entryway, you can hear Toby Keith's patriotic poetry spilling out of the barn-size club. Jackpot!
A gruff but lovable Stetson-wearing Wilfred Brimley look-alike checks my ID as I hand over a five-spot to a young lady in a Garth Brooksian two-toned button-up. The place is jam-packed, and walking through these Justin-clad wranglin' rough riders is quite a task. Every other step is met with an unintentional bump, and the inadvertent and unavoidable shoulder-to-shoulder mishaps are quickly followed by heartfelt apologies and pats on the back. It's the cordial code of the West in action.
Yes, these are kinder, gentler cowboys. No full-scale, fist-flying Gilley's riots will be taking place. The Blues Brothers could play here without the chicken wire. Compassionate conservatism has cupped its warm, soft hands around the ball sack of Wild West, and its patrons are sharing more love vibes than hippies at Burning Man.
Behind a tub full of beer and ice stands a curvaceous blond in a Lone Star flag bikini and chaps. Things really are bigger in Texas. Since the club's main bar is stacked five deep around its length, I decide to wait behind the balding businessman who's hitting on the tub-thumping, bikini-costumed bombshell and sniff out some more of the vibes. Domestic beer and shots of Cuervo are $1.25 apiece. That explains the crowd. I procure and imbibe one of each and head off to bump, apologize and grope my way to the dance floor.
Watching the crowd boot-scoot-n-boogie in counterclockwise circles around the wood-planked deck is mesmerizing. It's like ballet on roller skates. All the steps, spins, flips and backward gliding are choreographed and rhythmic. Bush's base can cut a mean fucking rug!
Of course, some rugs are cut better than others. Among the best is a girl-on-girl duo; they slide under each other's legs, spin on their asses and fly over each other's shoulders. Think Cirque du Soleil break dancing. Meanwhile an interracial Bud and Sissy sail past, smiling as they pirouette. Perhaps this is the party of inclusion.
After 40 minutes of Southern-fried music, Prince's "Pussy Control" seeps out of the loudspeakers. The dancing takes on a decidedly different tone, and the crowd's true colors (read: white) begin shining through. The urban set continues with Usher's "Yeah" and a ditty from H-town's favorite child molester, South Park Mexican. The moves don't improve as the funky music plays on.
As the dance floor's skill level plummets, I catch up with the black half of the interracial dance couple. His name is Rodney, and it turns out he's been listening to country ever since his days as a Bearcat at Sam Houston State, where his roommates persuaded him to go shake his shit at the Huntsville watering hole the Jolly Fox. Rodney explains that there are different styles of country dance: polka, waltz, two-step and jitterbug.
"Polka's the easiest," Rodney stresses. "Anyone can do it."
Waltzing is a little harder, but easy to catch on to after a couple of circles around the floor. More difficult still is the jitterbug, as evidenced by the girl-on-girl squad's high-flying acrobatics. But the true measure of a Red State redneck's dancing cred is the two-step, with its slow-slow-quick-quick rhythm. It's hard to grasp, but once you get it, Rodney says, it's like riding a bike.
I ask if Wild West is usually this packed on Wednesdays, or if tonight is a special Bush bash.
"Wednesday is Wild West. I'm sure people here are thrilled about the election too, though. I don't know. I'm a Democrat," Rodney admits.
So much for my party-of-inclusion idea. And when you get right down to it, there aren't many in here who share his shade of skin.
"Let's put it this way: My mother calls me the white sheep of the family," Rodney says.
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I head upstairs to the pool tables and a couple of sofas. There's a bird's-eye view of the dance floor, which has gotten back to its more polished country roots. The second level is adorned with posters from Gone with the Wind, under which couples brush up on their two-step skills before trying them out in front of a crowd.
The lyrics to the song now playing are frightening, if only because of Trace Adkins's Southern-tinged rap delivery: "Cold beer / Hot wings / Wranglers / Skoal rings / Get just what you see / Gun rack / Ball cap / Don't take no crap."
Country rap? I begin worrying about this obvious sign of the Apocalypse, but I think my paranoia has more to do with a few too many trips to the beer-tequila-and-titty tub -- the combined effects of which have started to erode my reason.
I've had a fabulous time at Wild West. The drinks are cheap, the dancing is like free theater, the folks -- and "folks" they are -- are polite, and some of the bartenders wear the genius combo of bikinis and chaps. By closing time the club has emptied a bit, and I exercise a personal responsibility that would do any Republican proud. I reach into my pocket, pull out my phone and call a cab.