John Travolta is in the news again and this time not because of one of his crappy movies. Two male masseurs are suing 'ol Danny Zucho, alleging that he wanted a "happy ending" with massage. I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know it makes me sad. It may surprise a generation that grew up on the Travolta of Old Dogs and Wild Hogs, but the man used to be a cultural icon. For reasons that only whatever god rules Hollywood (Satan) understands, Travolta has been in several iconic movies. I'm going to tell you about two of his films and how they shaped my environment: Urban Cowboy and Saturday Night Fever.
I grew up in Pasadena, TX which was the setting for Urban Cowboy. The film tells the tale of a guy named Bud (Travolta), who leaves his farm in East Texas to get a refinery job in Pasadena. In the evenings, he blows his money drinking beer and riding electric bulls at the legendary honky tonk, Gilley's. Growing up, people would proudly tell me that they were an extra in a scene at Gilley's or whatever. When Gilley's burned down, (under mysterious circumstances), I watched it burn from the front door of my mother's office. After that, pieces of Gilley's and Travolta memorabilia were gathered like sacred relics and displayed in stores and restaurants all over town. Urban Cowboy spread the influence of country music all over the country and it forever put my stinky little refinery hometown on the map.
Later, I moved to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, NY. Little did I know that I had stepped from one place defined by Travolta to another. Bay Ridge was the setting for the disco classic Saturday Night Fever. In that film, Travolta plays Tony Manero, a hunk of Italian-American veal with hair whose only outlet was dancing at the local disco. The people in Bay Ridge will gladly show you the locations where the film was shot. I could strut down the very street Tony did his famous walk with the paint can if I wanted to, (and I do). The old Italians in the neighborhood lament the changing demographics in the neighborhood. But, fear not, Ma! Tony and his loser mook buddies reproduced and now their descendants live on in the modern day Jersey Shore-type Guido. Every Saturday when I see these orange-colored meat sacks fighting over a chick in tight Spandex, I give Travolta a silent "Thanks, man".
Article By Jack Tomas