Urban Cowboy: The Texas Phenomenon That Inspired a Lifestyle

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38 years ago this June (the 5th, to be exact), the movie “Urban Cowboy” premiered in a Houston, Texas theater, featuring a post-showing charity gala which was packed to the cowboy-hat-brim with stars. The event was hosted by Lynn Wyatt, one of the city’s most prominent socialites. Party location: Gilley’s.

Billing itself as the largest honky-tonk in the world, this Pasadena nightclub was also the setting for the John Travolta and Debra Winger film which told the story of the romance between Bud and Sissy (their respective characters). “Gilleyrats,” or regulars of Gilley’s, they meet here, have their wedding reception here, and their marriage hits the skids here when Bud forbids Sissy to ride the mechanical bull.

Urban Cowboy: The Texas Phenomenon That Inspired a Lifestyle

Photo: Facebook/Reel Star Nostalgia

The movie was a hit, to say the least. Houstonians were in the spotlight, Texas made the silver screen once more, and the wardrobe of John Travolta, Debra Winger, et al., were thrust into the spotlight, spawning an “Urban Cowboy”-esque lifestyle that was actually livable. For years, movie-goers had made popular the films that they loved for characters and roles they wished they could be. Now, there was a movie they really could adopt as an experience – from the hat down to the boots, and all things in between.

Over the course of the next year, mechanical bulls became all the rage. Texas chic became the style, and western wear went into high gear. Still don’t believe the movie inspired a lifestyle? By 1981, as the movie’s soundtrack singles were released, reports indicated that approximately 300 radio stations across the U.S. switched their formatting to country music. Everyone had a love affair with Texas in general and Houston specifically, the same way fans fell for John Travolta. (It was reported that water from a pothole his character Bud had fallen into on set was being bottled and sold for $25 each!)

Urban Cowboy: The Texas Phenomenon That Inspired a Lifestyle
Photo: Facebook/Groovy History

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