Thursday, February 14, 2019

Honky Tonk Romance

This is my entry in the "Meet-Cute" Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies.

Unless you are close to my age, you probably don't remember the early 80's.  In the late 70's through to about 1985, country music took on a huge popularity.  I think it was a backlash to the disco era myself.  But the fact of the matter is that every so often a new fad in music takes hold, and people who might have been dismissive of the genre a few years before suddenly take an interest.  The era of "Studio 54" and the disco music fad faded away and the era of "Gilley's" (a legendary country music dance hall in Houston) stepped in to fill the vacuum.

Of course, country music had evolved over the previous 50 or so years (and it continues to do so).  My opinion is the so called "outlaw" generation had a lot to do with it. Formerly an unapproachable frontier, country artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and the Charlie Daniels Band were now cracking into the top 40 radio, bringing in new devotees who had previously dismissed the genre.  Since I had grown up listening to country music and had only recently started listening to pop music in 1978, I was a devotee of the genre going years back, but suddenly I wasn't the only "roper" in my clique.

In 1980, a friend of my mother from her high school showed up for a visit.  She and her 17 year old son were going to go see Urban Cowboy that afternoon and she invited me to go along.  The movie was the latest in a string of movies that had been addressing the popular music culture (and the third music oriented film that had starred John Travolta.  The previous two having been Grease and Saturday Night Fever.)  I went along even though, at that time, I was going through a phase of listening to pop music and wasn't particularly gung-ho about country.  The result of seeing the movie was that, instead of going to the disco I started going to the country music nightclub.

(As a side note:  Christmas 1981 was a memorable one. A few days before Christmas we were going shopping as a family.  My mother asked what I wanted for Christmas.  I said "A cowboy hat.  But it would have to be black.".  Christmas Day I got my black cowboy hat.  That in itself would have been memorable, but it turned out that she had bought it already.  And she thought I had seen it.  My mother and I didn't always see eye to eye, but she had me down pretty well that year...)

Urban Cowboy (1980):

Bud Davis (John Travolta) is packing for a trip to move from his small town of Spur to Houston, where he plans to get a job on the pipeline.  He says goodbye to his family, climbs into his pick-up truck and heads off into the wild blue yonder.  (BTW, there actually is a Spur, Texas.  When I first saw the movie I thought they made it up.  Red McCombs, former owner of the San Antonio Spurs professional basketball team was one it's former residents. It's in northwest Texas, making it about a 500 mile trip for Bud).

Bud arrives at the home of his Uncle Bob (Barry Corbin) and Aunt Corene (Brooke Alderson), where he plans to stay until he can get settled.  Bob and Corene take Bud to Gilley's his first night in.

There Bud meets Steve Strange (played by James Gammon, but is based on the real co-partner of Gilley's), who hooks him up with two honky-tonk sweethearts.  But he also catches the eye of Sissy (Debra Winger).

Bud gets a job as a flunky on the pipeline, which the line boss says he's only getting because Bud's Uncle Bob is a well-thought-of worker with the company.  That's OK with Bud because it's at least a job.  Bud spends his days working and nights at Gilley's.  He eventually meets up with Sissy, which leads to the "meet-cute" first meeting.  Sissy spots Bud leaning against the bar and approaches him.

Sissy: "You a real cowboy?'
Bud: "Depends on what you think a real cowboy is..."
(Awkward pause)
Sissy: "You know how to two-step?"
Bud: "You bet.."
(Really long awkward pause)
Sissy: "Wanna prove it"
Bud: "OK."  (Bud is a bit dense, as you can see.)

Love blossoms and Bud and Sissy get married.  But Bud still has a lot to learn about modern women.  He thinks that there are certain things a guy can do that a girl just shouldn't do.  This includes riding the new mechanical bull that Gilley's installs.  But since Sissy is an independent woman, she goes behind Bud's back to start taking lessons on how to ride it.

 That in itself would be enough to send Bud into a funk, but there is also an added feature.  Wes Hightower (Scott Glenn), a former convict out on parole, has just gotten the job of operating the mechanical bull.  And jealous old Bud thinks Wes's motives are not entirely altruistic.  He thinks Wes  is trying to put the moves on Sissy.

When he learns of the subterfuge Sissy pulled, they break up and Bud moves on to Pam (Madolyn Smith).  Sissy, although still in love with Bud, decides to move on herself and shacks up with Wes.

The ultimate goal is that both Bud and Wes become entirely competitive as both enter a mechanical  bull-riding  contest.  (Wes is fired from his job, thus he can enter the contest, and he has experience since he was an expert at real bull-riding when he was in prison at the prison rodeo.)

Bud is the epitome of the anti-metrosexual, in my opinion.  He thinks women are inferior, often berating Sissy for trying things that he thinks should be a man's domain, including that of riding the mechanical bull.  Sometimes its hard to like Bud, but he is definitely a better catch than Wes, who is just a full blown jerk.  Bud does get a lesson from his uncle on how to be a real man, although you might wonder if it came along a little too late.

Will Bud win the contest?  Will Bud and Sissy make up and get back together riding off in the sunset?  If you don't know the answer, you are definitely a novice to romantic movies.  I have often professed I don't care for romantic movies, but Urban Cowboy (as well as The Princess Bride, another romantic movie I like) have a lot going for it on the side that make them interesting, even with the romance aspect.

Well, folks, time for me to do my own riding off into the sunset.  Any Sissy wanna-bes out there that want to go along?  Drive safely folks.




  1. Love that story about the Christmas present.

    Too bad a cute beginning usually means lots of trouble until the happy ending, but then there wouldn't be a story.

    1. I've been telling that story for years. It remains just about the only Christmas present I can actually remember getting. Thanks for reading.


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