When Debra Winger's Sissy and John Travolta's Bud courted, sparred, and fell in and out of love (and back again) amid the bright lights and mechanical bulls in 1980's Urban Cowboy (filmed at the long-lost Gilley's, in Pasadena), America grabbed onto a Western-wear wave that reached as far as Wall Street. Of course, in most parts of the country, the craze proved as fleeting as high returns on today's dot.com stocks.
In Texas, however, boots, hats, big belt buckles, bronc-busting, and honky-tonkin' have never gone out of style. If you doubt that for one minute, stop for a longneck and some two-steppin' at Fort Worth's Billy Bob's Texas, a three-acre nightclub in the city's historic Stockyards District that calls itself the "largest honky-tonk in the world." Billy Bob's is housed in a 91-year-old structure that once served as an open-air cattle barn for the Fort Worth Stock Show.
A commemorative book full of celebrity trivia, photos, and anecdotes puts Billy Bob's long history in perspective. You'll learn, for example, that after serving as Fort Worth's premier cattle-auction house, the building was used as an airplane factory during World War II. Add to that this gem: During a 1986 concert by country singer Hank Williams Jr., the club sold a mind-boggling 16,000 bottles of beer.
Most weekends don't turn out that rowdy. Still, on Friday and Saturday nights, you can watch live professional bull-riding in the arena (Ty Murray and Tuff Hedeman have competed at Billy Bob's) and see popular acts perform onstage. And if you're unsure of yourself on the dance floor, no problem; you can even learn to two-step here, thanks to the club's Thursday- and Sunday-night dance lessons.
Billy Bob's Texas, at 2520 Rodeo Plaza (76106), opens seven days a week. Call 817/624-7117; www.billybobstexas.com.
From the August 2001 issue.