Has anyone ever used that old “my life could be a movie” line on you? Have you ever used it on anyone else? Few among us indeed are immune to the occasional daydream that our lives are actually being scripted, and you sure would like the director to yell “Cut!” right about now. And while Houston is no Louisiana (or even Austin) in terms of location filming, it sure is fun to watch movies that were shot here and say, “Hey, I’ve been there!” I mean, nobody really remembers Reality Bites or Urban Cowboy for their hair-trigger plots and exceptional acting, right?
With that in mind, we asked a few of our music contributors to pick a bar they’d like to see on the big screen and tell us what kind of movie they’d like to see there, and maybe even who should star and direct. Let us know which local bars you’d like to see (and what type of movie they’d suit), and maybe we’ll do this again. We seem to have left out Alice’s Tall Texan, for one.
THE BIG EASY SOCIAL & PLEASURE CLUB
Gulf Coast Noir
Big Easy mainstays Luther & the Healers, Tommy Dardar, Rick Lee & the Night Owls, Alan Haynes and others supply the sultry sound track for 12 Bar Blood, an unofficial sequel to Honky Tonk Blood about a scrappy musician (Monday-night regular John Egan) who gets mixed up with the wrong girl who has all the right curves. Unfortunately, her ex-boyfriend is well-placed in the New Orleans mob, and he storms into the club intent on not only winning her back but taking over a piece of the action from the gruff but wily club owner (Tom McClendon, playing himself). When the lovesick hood’s reinforcements from the other Big Easy arrive during the club’s regular Sunday-night zydeco party, the film reaches its pulse-pounding climax with a frenzy of fisticuffs and furious dancing. Miss Trudy Lynn co-stars as Egan’s mentor, a woman with a past who gets over with her powerhouse set of pipes.
Early-‘90s Period Drama
So you've been stuck with the job of finding the right spot to film a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the currently 1993 grunge music scene, and need a gritty bar for Matt Dillon's band to hobnob around. Never mind that it's 2016 and Dillon is 51, or that the director is obsessively trying to get the fashion and makeup period correct but is failing — you’re going to make sure the bar looks authentic at least, and Lola's Depot will fit the bill just fine. Looking close to how it did 25 years ago, the place has stiff drinks and "colorful" regulars, and one can still smell the faint scent of what could be Sub Pop records melting in the Houston sun. Or maybe it's the residue of thousands of beers soaked into the floor…doesn’t matter. No one else on the film is doing his job well, but you sure as hell will, and Lola's is the perfect location for a grungy rock-bar scene. Now if you can just convince the director that not everyone in 1993 had dreadlocks, this film might not be the train wreck it's looking like it might become.
PJ'S SPORTS BAR
Bill Hicks Biopic
Miloš Forman, who brought us the story of Andy Kaufman with his film Man on the Moon, has announced plans to direct a film about the life of another legendary stand-up comedian who tragically died of cancer, Bill Hicks. Hicks got his start in Houston, and the film’s locations include the actual Nottingham Forest house in the Memorial area where he grew up; Stratford High School, where Hicks graduated in 1980; and Bythe Spirits (now PJ's Sports Bar), where Hicks used to like to loosen up after one of his live performances in town. Forman says he is still scouting other locations for the film, including a place to re-create the Comedy Shop, where Hicks performed some of his early shows, now a dry cleaner at San Felipe and Shepherd. The film’s announcement had not gone without some controversy, as many of Hicks's fans object to the casting of radio-show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in the title role, though these fans do admit there is an unmistakable resemblance between Jones and Hicks.
LONE STAR SALOON
Director Martin Scorsese reunites Goodfellas stars Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci in a new organized-crime film set in Houston. This time around, De Niro and Liotta play a couple of wiseguys in search of Pesci, who ratted out some of their friends back in New Jersey to the Feds and is rumored to have been relocated to Houston in the witness protection program. De Niro and Liotta eventually discover that Pesci has apparently stayed straight and attends weekly mass at downtown Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church; in a pivotal scene in the film, they confront a priest played by Paul Sorvino — also from Goodfellas — as to Pesci’s whereabouts at seedy dive bar the Lone Star Saloon, just down the street from the church. Rated R for extreme violence and language.
In Draft Queens, one He-Man Woman Haters Club of a fantasy-football league (Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Ron Funchess) meets at a scenic downtown Houston sports bar (Christian's Tailgate) to talk shit, drink good beers and enjoy the bar's spacious outdoor patio during fantasy football season. Their manly escape is thrown into turmoil when their football widow wives (Brie Larson, Kerry Washington, Emma Stone and Aubrey Plaza) join the league and kick fantasy ass. Big laughs, interesting social commentary and brilliant close-up shots of Christian's tasty pub foods from director Paul Feig. Rated R.
50 Shades of Bae stars a couple much hipper/sultrier than Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan (use your untamed, lustful imagination, reader). Set behind the blue door of River Oaks’s Marfreless, the alluring decor, delicate lighting, comfy couches and drinks that are super-stiff (snicker) set the mood for some plot no one cares about so long as the fire-hot leads are gettin’ schwifty. This is the movie you really wanted that Grey one to be, set in one of your city’s sexiest, most mysteriously enticing and hard-to-find spots (snicker). Rated NC-17.
RICHMOND ARMS PUB
British Expat Rom-Com
Too-beautiful-to-be-true British expats Emma Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Lily Collins are sent to Houston to learn about the business of large-scale rodeos from the best in the world, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, in Yippee-Kay-Yay, My Dear Chap. The ladies are barrel racers in the British Rodeo Cowboys Association (a real thing!), while the gents represent an entrepreneurial initiative to bring world-class rodeo to London. The homesick quartet congregates regularly to drop a tear in their beers at Richmond Arms Pub, where the Newcastle is poured properly, Stoke City games are aired and the cottage pie is just like Mum used to make. Look out for the scene at Wild West Houston, where the foursome takes a Friday-evening dance lesson in boot-scootin’ (also a real thing!) from hilarious two-step instructors Jack Black and Amy Schumer. Rated PG-13.
“White on white, translucent black capes, back on the rack”…Well, you wanted to go check out the scene at a goth club, and your co-worker with the Robert Smith haircut agreed to take you with him. It's Friday, and you've just landed at Classic Numbers, where the people wear black and the music is different from the stuff you listen to on the radio. Feeling a bit out of place in your acid-washed jeans and Izod shirt, you slink around the perimeter of the club watching people who seem to live interesting lives dance and down their drinks. Then you spot THEM: a regal-looking couple who seem different, detached. Is that David Bowie? It sure looks like him. And his partner bears a striking resemblance to Catherine Deneuve. What's going on here? They seem to be scrutinizing people, looking for the right one. You follow them slowly as they make their way up the stairs to the club's balcony level. As the music throbs in the background, you see them walking away with a beautiful young woman. In a few more moments, the song ends, and all three have disappeared through the crowd. It leaves you with the strange feeling of stumbling into a scene from a movie.
If you're "Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin,’" trying to get a cargo of Coors beer across state lines, you might need two things to get the job done: A friend driving a black 1977 Trans Am to run interference between your rig and any dedicated Smokeys who'd like to interrupt your shindig, and a home-base bar to cool your heels in after the adventure comes to an end. Shiloh Club on Studewood is just the sort of place to do a little day drinking while checking your CB for any interesting news. If you've got a long way to go and a short time to get there, it’s also the kind of place where enterprising souls might find some like-minded friends to make a cross-country run. Just be sure they're not the type of people to get too sidetracked by any hitchhiking runaway brides named Frog, or that they won't lose much time if they do. Shiloh is an ideal bar in which to spend some time plotting the eventual sequel, too.
THE POOP DECK
Director Robert Rodriguez returns to Grindhouse territory with The Conquerors, set in Galveston during the Lone Star Biker Rally. Machete star Danny Trejo and Sylvester Stallone co-star as brothers and leaders of The Conquerors biker gang, who are out to have a good time but are arrested by an overzealous sheriff played by Powers Boothe after having parked their bikes without paying for parking along Seawall Boulevard; Trejo and Stallone are taken into custody after a nasty battle with law enforcement at The Poop Deck bar. Eventually Stallone and Trejo escape from Galveston County Jail, and as they are pursued by Booth and his men, they run into rival biker gang The Rare Breed, led by Mickey Rourke, who has sworn revenge against Stallone, whom he wrongly blames for his sister’s death. Rated R.
Note: This article was edited after publication to correct errors in the Bill Hicks blurb. Also, one of these movies are anywhere near actually being made…that we know of. Pity.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.