It's Friday night and I'm buzzing in through the back door of Mo's Place, (21940 Kingsland Boulevard, 281-392-3499, www. mosplacekaty.com), the only honky-tonk on the lost highway of I-10 West, way out I-10 West. Mo's has a large, circular bar with a bandstand and dance floor on one side, and billiards, and a smaller bar on the other. Holding court tonight with a crowd of regulars is a large, leather-clad biker whose name is Spider (or, as I call him, "Mr. Spider, Sir"). A Mo's Place regular for the last 15 years, Spider was once banned for a month for riding his Harley through the club. "It was worth it, hell, yeah! You can still see the skid marks on the concrete!" he bellows before inexplicably launching into a version of "Blue Christmas." No one seems to notice anything out of the ordinary. Winding down "Blue Christmas," to a smattering of applause, Spider tells me, "What I like best about this place is the people and the camaraderie." I nod appreciatively. "Also the women's asses," he adds, laughing. Mrs. Spider, standing alongside him, simply shakes her head and grins.
Nearby, athlete Jim Whitehead is preparing for his 8 a.m. golf game tomorrow by having a few Bloody Marys. "It doesn't improve my swing," he offers, "but it definitely improves my attitude."
There actually is a "Mo" who owns Mo's Place -- he's Moses Jelouear, who came to Houston in the early '70s from Persia to attend the University of Houston to study electronics. But a fascination with country music in the Urban Cowboy era and a new career goal sent him back to study bar and restaurant management. This led to jobs at Houston clubs such as Cowboys, Fox Hunter and Remington's. In 1989, he finally opened Mo's Place, which has expanded in square footage several times since then. There are live bands on a regular basis, and word is Mo's has hosted acts including Tracy Lawrence, Mark Chesnutt, John Conlee and Tracy Byrd.
"My dream was to own my own nightclub, and it came true," he says affably. Jelouear is genuinely grateful for his club's success, an attitude he is passing down to sons Mo Jr. (he of the dimples that drive the cowgirls wild) and younger brother Joseph -- known as "MoJo."
I ask if there's the possibility sibling rivalry will boil over for eventual control of the honky-tonk. Mo Jr. thinks not. "I've been around this place all my life, but I don't think my dad will retire until he's 99!" he laughs. However, little brother might have other plans.
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"Bottom line, will you have to kill your brother to inherit this place?" I ask.
"No, he'll die a 'natural' death, then I'll take over, ha-ha!" MoJo offers gleefully. Mo Jr. is at the other end of the bar and doesn't hear our conversation.
Mo's is the embodiment of a "where everybody knows your name" joint, and strangers, like me, are taken right in. Everybody does seem to know everyone, even, I find out, beyond their faces. While I'm at the urinal, a loquacious barfly named Rick comes in and points to a photo taken years ago. It shows four bikini-clad ladies, but only from behind. Like a teacher at the Penthouse School of Etiquette, he points to each rear end on the poster and identifies each woman by name.
Tonight there are no motorcycles roaring through Mo's Place, or appearances by orangutans, baby lions, horses or other creatures the regulars tell me have been inside the bar before. But there's still enough action to keep Norman from New Orleans entertained. "I'm a drinker, and probably one of the oldest people here!" he says happily in a melodic Louisiana accent. After fleeing his city the night before Katrina struck, Norman landed in Houston and soon began looking for a new neighborhood bar. He found Mo's, and hasn't traveled east on I-10 since. "These people took me in right away. And I appreciated that. I love all of them...especially the women!"