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The Tyrrell Historical Library Collection - Gilley’s Club (1979)

Tyrrell Historical Library

Sound | 1979

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  •  Club owner and country singer Mickey Gilley 
  •  Gilley gives his definition of an “urban cowboy” 
  •  Western wear 
  •  Teasing Urban Cowboy, a movie starring John Travolta to be released the following year 
  •  El Toro, the bar’s original mechanical bull featured in the film 
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  • About the video
  • PM Magazine PM Magazine
  • Urban Cowboy Urban Cowboy
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In this 1979 segment for PM Magazine, co-host Leeza Gibbons profiles Gilley’s Club in Pasadena. After talking with owner Mickey Gilley and bar patrons about what constitutes an “urban cowboy,” she teases the production of a feature film of the same name starring John Travolta. PM Magazine was a local news and entertainment television program broadcast on Beaumont’s KFDM-TV in from late 1970s to the mid-1980s. This segment aired on October 1, 1979.
PM Magazine, also known as Evening Magazine, was a local weeknight news and entertainment television series broadcast on multiple stations across the United States from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The program combined both local and syndicated segments, with common subjects including local people and events, lifestyle and consumer tips, and human-interest pieces. KPIX in San Francisco premiered the first iteration of Evening Magazine on August 9, 1976. Station owner Westinghouse (Group W) Broadcasting subsequently introduced local versions at its other stations, before syndicating the format to other television markets as PM Magazine. 
The Tyrrell Historical Library Collection encompasses hundreds of PM Magazine segments broadcast on Beaumont’s KFDM-TV between 1979 and 1985. Leeza Gibbons and John Walls were the program’s original co-hosts. Gibbons went on to become a correspondent and co-host for Entertainment Tonight from 1984 to 2000. She also hosted her own daytime talk show, Leeza, from 1993 to 2000. 
At least ten other Texas stations produced versions of PM Magazine, including KFDA in Amarillo, KTBC in Austin, WFAA and KDFW in Dallas-Fort Worth, KVIA in El Paso, KHOU and KHTV in Houston, KCBD in Lubbock, KSAT in San Antonio, and KAUZ in Wichita Falls. Group W canceled the format in 1990, with final episodes airing on August 30, 1991. 
“You a real cowboy?” Urban Cowboy is a 1980 boot-scootin’ Texas film directed by James Bridges. Starring John Travolta and Debra Winger, the film follows the story of a country boy named Bud (played by Travolta) and his venture into Houston’s world of nightlife, girls, and honky tonk. Bridges and Aaron Latham wrote the screenplay after Latham wrote an Esquire article documenting Gilley’s famous honky tonk in Pasadena, TX. Owned and operated by country & western singer-songwriter Mickey Gilley, the 48,000 square foot nightclub was considered to be the largest in the world in terms of available space to patrons at the time. In the movie, Bud spends his nights at the great dancehall, riding mechanical bulls and two-stepping his way in and out of love. In addition to the thriving music scene, the film captures other aspects of the urban landscape of Texas. Bridges offers audiences a glimpse into state’s oil industry, as well as prison rodeos, a tradition that was held at the Texas State Prison in Huntsville from 1931 to 1986. 
Though not as successful as Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy still grossed almost $47 million in the United States alone and sparked a country & western craze across America. The movie’s hit soundtrack became the U.S. Billboard Top Country Album in 1980, and mechanical bulls began to replace fading disco balls. The film was even adapted into a Broadway musical in 2003. While Gilley’s experienced a surge of patronage after the film’s release, the nightclub eventually closed its doors in 1989. The building later fell victim to arson in 1990.