Quietly, the Roxy shut its doors several months back after billing itself for years as Houston's "longest-running nightclub." Whether that statement is true or not, an extensive, eclectic history lies within the now-empty space near W. Alabama and Sage Rd.
Personally, I remember the Roxy's teen night, where around age 14 I went with a group of gals, hating everything and being stuck in a crowd so thick I couldn't move. I lost my purple-and-black striped jacket that night, and to this day wish I could somehow find it. If you know where my jacket is...
Never mind. The point is, most Houston kids ended up at the Roxy -- or one of its many other iterations -- at one time or another.
For adults, Roxy was a club with a dress code, a line and sometimes a mob. People got turnt with regularity, or hosted stripping nights, boxing and thong contests. The club kept its own girls calendar throughout most of its tenure.
The very first business recorded at the 5351 W. Alabama address opened in 1966 as Norge Village Cleaners, a nationwide coin-operated self-service laundromat chain. The nearby Houston Galleria opened in 1970, and the cleaners withstood the area's intense expansion until 1977, when it became a nightclub known as Foxhunter.
Foxhunter was a disco run by the McFaddin-Kendrick conglomerate, otherwise known as McFaddin Ventures. They were rich and owned all the Houston disco places of the era, and ran this club space in particular through several fashion identities.
Although nightlife in the Greater Houston area was still mostly country joints at the time, those in the Inner Loop attempted to be more urban. C&W clubs within the Loop were few until the the late '70s, when Gilley's in neighboring Pasadena became hugely popular. So in place of Foxhunter, Cowboy opened in 1979 as Houston's first upscale two-step saloon.
Cowboy was meant to emulate Gilley's, which already had a national reputation, but the latter club was frequented by prison-rodeogoers and veterans while Cowboy courted Houston's upper-class nightlife. Everyone was wearing Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, which were very "in" back then but now are mostly referred to as "mom jeans."
Besides Gilley's (of course), scenes from Urban Cowboy were filmed at Cowboy as well -- it's the bar where Pam (Madolyn Smith) takes Bud (John Travolta) while trying to steal him away from Sissy (Debra Winger). A January 1982 article in The New York Times' Travel section called Cowboy "a considerably more polished, suburban version of the Western dance club."
Story continues on the next page.
Cowboy was one of the first local clubs to feature the '80s brand of country-pop music, a derivative style with liberal amounts soft rock and pop. This could include music from anyone from likes of George Strait and Randy Travis (in their less traditional moments) to Kenny Rogers and Reba McEntire.
Following Cowboy's closing in the mid-'80s, a series of popular spots followed in the space. Confetti Administration, which opened in 1984, was said to be Houston's mini-Studio 54. A giant cannon shot out confetti on the dance floor, hourly, three days a week.
Another dance club, R&R Bar, opened in 1987. Echelon followed in 1993 and lasted for a year. Expose Nite Club opened in 1994 and lasted a year as well. I have not found much more detailed information on these last three clubs.
Lastly, Club Roxy is recorded to have opened in 1996, and enjoyed a long run catering mostly to hip-hop lovers, many of them under 21. It was a hive of activity during Houston's most recent gig playing host to NBA All-Star Weekend in February 2013. But the simplest explanation as to why it finally closed down, according to longstanding manager Brian Riggs, is that the club had finally run its course.
"Last November, just before Thanksgiving, we were trying to keep it open, and we even had a couple of acts." he says. "We thought we were going to make it, and we were just a couple days behind in our rent and our landlord just shut us out."
If you have any stories to share regarding the Roxy or any other club at that location, please comment below.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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.