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Volume 70, Issue 85, Friday, February 4, 2005

Life & Arts

Rustic refuge for gay cowpokes

Culture Shock Therapy

Erika Fish struts across the dance floor, pausing to take a graceful turn around a mid-beam and plops down at the other end of the bar. Followed by her entourage of a less stunning sidekick and a sassy Hispanic man flaunting a beauty contestant sash, it became clear the fabulous Ms. Fish is an illusion.

"I own the Side Pocket," she said. "Do you want to see my bruise? I fell wearing tennis shoes yesterday. Damn those boy clothes."

The Side Pocket is only one part of the Brazos River Bottom, or the BRB as the regulars call it, or The Gilley's of the gay community as I call it. Cowboy and cowboy proudly two-step and sachet past paintings of naked cowboy butts, and on any given night, cowgirls line up to do the Cotton-Eyed Joe together. There are dance lessons Thursdays, a live band Friday, a Drag show Sundays, Jell-O shots for a buck all week long and a stone bar top that looks to be just the right size for some rowdy stomping.

As I sat at the bar, blinded by Ms. Fish's diamonds, Captain Cosmopolitan (my anonymous friend) and I made idle talk with the flamboyant, jolly bartender. 

"You are so cute. Twenty years ago I was your twin," he said. "Oh my god I love this song." 

The bartender lifted his arms, swung swinging jazz hands and boot-scooted behind the rainbow flag bar taps. It was a gay country song, sung by a gay cowboy no doubt. Captain Cosmo explained that homosexuality among cowboys is a huge underground culture. The gentle Bubbas meet to kick up the cow patties at a yearly gay rodeo in Nevada sponsored by a formal rodeo association, and bars like the BRB are sprouting like wildflowers. The Reverend Horton Heat described the cowboys as "bronc-busting, bull-riding tigers, yet peaceful as a dove" in a song dedicated to his experience at such a bar. Unfortunately, Captain Cosmo explained, the cowboys are often swept quietly under the rug by the straight half of the cowboy ethos. But here at the BRB, anything goes, and for me it was going great.

"I love straight people," Ms. Fish said, as my tour guide and I toasted her cohort and the bartender with a round of free shots. "They are always our next trick."

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