When we debuted our June cover on Facebook, likes and shares swiftly climbed into the thousands, and the comments thread filled with some four hundred nostalgia-laden posts. (“Saw this movie before my husband and I married and listened to the eight-track our entire honeymoon.” “Watched them film a parking lot scene from the back of my mom’s truck when I was seven. When people ask me where I’m from, I say, ‘Have you seen Urban Cowboy? I’m from there.” “OMG!!! I so wanted to be Sissy!!!”) There were the requisite emoji-driven communiqués (hearts, hands clapping, smiley faces with hearts for eyes), endorsements of the film’s indelible sound track, revelations of pets named Bud or Sissy, and many a declaration of Urban Cowboy as “my favorite movie of all time.” Recollections of nights spent at Gilley’s also spilled forth, as did a heartfelt expression of gratitude from noted Gilleyrat Gator Conley: “It’s been 35 years since the premiere and we have lost so many of our Gilleyrats since it was released. Thanks for all who help keep the legend alive.” More feedback from our readers follows.
The article about Urban Cowboy was excellent [“Urban Cowboy Turns 35”], but the impact it had was underestimated. I was working out of Indy at that time, and every bar of any size had a bull installed, and everybody who frequented the bars became a kicker, wearing big hats and boots, and this was not only in Indy but all over the United States. The job I had entailed a lot of traveling, as I worked in 44 of the lower 48 states, and all over, it was the same big hats and boots. I had been wearing boots for a long time, and I quit wearing them, as I did not want to look like a Johnny-come-lately. That movie must have made Justin Boots and Tony Lama millions.
Clyde Burns, via email
Just wanted to say, what a great story about Gilley’s. All this happened when Gilley’s was at its best and I was probably at my best too. People used to laugh about the cowboy image we had and the blue-collar folks, but oh my, it was a great time! Went there often to dance and hear the stars sing. I no longer live in Pasadena but will never forget the good times. Thanks for a story well-done.
Marion Firestone, via email
The Urban Cowboy article is incredibly well-done. I went to Gilley’s a few times, and the attention to detail is dead-on. I have been a loyal reader since 1980, and you just keep getting better.
Roy Birkelbach, via email
I was extremely disappointed reading Ms. Swartz’s article on the Blue Bell recall [“Rocky Road”]. First, there was nary a word about the victims of Blue Bell’s negligence. The people affected by the listeria did not merely get a stomachache or something benign—they died. There wasn’t a single description of the victims or how this has affected their families. It is almost as if these deaths were minor footnotes in the story. I am very disappointed by Ms. Swartz’s seemingly blasé attitude toward those who died from eating ice cream.
Second, Ms. Swartz suggests the reason Blue Bell is teetering on extinction is due to “plaintiff’s lawyers.” This is an extremely lazy narrative and demonstrably false. Blue Bell obviously has substantial commercial insurance, which will cover the inevitable settlements on the injury and death cases. These settlements will not affect Blue Bell’s bottom line in a meaningful way, other than a possible increase in their insurance premiums. The reason Blue Bell may go under is because its product is dangerous and, as a result, large corporate stores (H-E-B, Kroger) have pulled the product from their shelves. This has absolutely nothing to do with bogeyman “plaintiff’s lawyers”—the only entity that is at fault for this is Blue Bell.
Adam Loewy, Austin
I won’t be a customer anymore. To get lax in oversight and then use high-fructose corn syrup is not my idea of a caring company that wants to do right.
Vippy, via texasmonthly.com
If I thought it would help, I would volunteer to help sanitize at the plant. My ninety-year-old dad stands and stares at the empty shelves at H-E-B. It really is a sad sight. Love visiting Brenham, and I sincerely hope everything gets back to normal soon.
SweetQueen77, via texasmonthly.com
Here’s Blood in Your Eye
Alex Dropkin says “Texas has never exactly led the way on environmental issues” [“Our Toad to Ruin”]. That might be true now, but it sure as hell wasn’t true in the sixties. My bill to protect the horny toad was the first in the nation to protect a specific species, but it was just one of many environmental issues we tackled.
I was privileged to serve with dedicated environmentalists, and we passed laws protecting the Texas box turtle, funding Hueco Tanks State Park, and creating Franklin Mountains State Park. We also worked with U.S. senator Ralph Yarborough to create the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Plus, we put a penny-a-pack tax on cigarettes and earmarked the funds for our state and local parks. It raised a ton of money, and if future legislators had not raided that fund, Texas would have the finest park system in the nation. Rather than “Where have all the horny toads gone?” the question really should be “Where have all the environmentalists gone?”
Senator Joe Christie, El Paso
Your article on horny toads brought back fond memories of growing up in Midland in the early sixties. There were empty lots on either side of my family’s home, and I would spend hours each Saturday catching the little guys. On a good day, I could easily catch a dozen of them, but since I always let them loose soon after catching them, it’s entirely possible that I caught and released the same exasperated horny toad a dozen different times. They never spurted blood at me, but they would either puff up like a sopaipilla or flatten like a crepe in defense. I sincerely hope that the conservation efforts on their behalf are successful.
Robert Chatham, Nashville, Tennessee
Last time I saw one: early last summer, between Odessa and Midland. We were building a tank battery. I looked down and there he was. Hope this isn’t the last one I see.
Frank Stapp, via email
Amen, I finally have been liberated [“The Great Summer Smokeout”]. For years I have cooked huge slabs of steak right on top of the coals. In the past, I have had guests leave because they thought the host was drunk for ruining good steak. Thanks, now I can sleep!
Chester “Buddy” Barnes II, Lake Jackson
Stephen Harrigan, you have made my day. I had a “sinking feeling” when I read your article about Texas Rising in the June issue [“That Sinking Feeling”]. I have read your book, and I was thinking, “What is going on here?” as the miniseries unfolded. By the second showing, I gave up and turned it off.
I am so glad you pointed out some of the historical discrepancies. It is unfortunate that Hollywood doesn’t stick to history, because a lot of younger people who watch the series will have no idea of the truth of Texas’s independence and the forging of its identity from Mexico.
Dorys C. Grover, Pendleton, Oregon
After suffering through almost all of the Texas Rising television miniseries, I must agree 100 percent with Stephen Harrigan’s assessment of the production. They made little effort to follow the historical facts relating to the Texas Revolution and threw in events that had nothing to do with the story. But perhaps the worst thing was filming the story in Durango, Mexico, whose geography is nothing like East Texas, where most of the story occurred. Oh well, the “Hollyweirdies” have struck again.
Robert E. Blake, San Antonio
Stephen Harrigan was far too gentle in his review of the miniseries about post-Alamo Texas. The series should have been titled “Texas Writhing.”
Sam Moore, Utopia
That’s Right (You’re Not the Texanist)
You have opened a fine ten-gallon hat full of worms on Mr. Darber’s question concerning Texas music [The Texanist]. To be sure, yours is a fine beginning roster of illustrious and talented musicians; however, even a partial list of our prolific performers cannot be compiled with the obvious omission of our very accomplished East Texans. Of course, there is Jim Reeves (Carthage), Johnny Horton (Jacksonville), Gene Watson (Palestine), Lefty Frizzell (Corsicana), Miranda Lambert (Longview), and Tony Douglas (Athens). Also not mentioned: the very talented Barbara Mandrell, Beyoncé, Hank Thompson, Kelly Clarkson, Barry White, Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Lyle Lovett, and don’t forget the Big Bopper. How about a TM article devoted to all the gifted Texas musical artists sometime in the near future?
Ruth Davis, Palestine
My lovely wife says, “He left out Van Cliburn.”
Any playlist for non-Texans should start, and end, with Lyle’s “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas).”