Anything too stupid to be spoken is sung. – Voltaire
What’s the point of ELV enduring the endless, mind-numbing, soul-stealing stroll through Treasure Island (or TI or whatever the f*ck they’re calling it these days) to eat a bowl(s) of stew that was certain to be shameful?
Why, for old time’s sake of course! Plus the fact that a good bowl of red is about as rare as surströmming in these here parts.
The fact is, ELV, in his younger, thinner, more promising years, actually went to the original Gilley’s — when it, country music, line dancing, and John Travolta were all at the top of their fame. Having endured that long night among mullet be-coiffed knuckle draggers who seemed to get pissed off at the drop of a hat, we became so fascinated with the sub-culture we swore to preserve its in-bred purity by avoiding it for the rest of our life. So, for thirty years we’ve done just that. But chili being chili, it can have a powerful draw on our appetite, and three complete decades is a long enough embargo for any sub-culture. So, we broke our vow, waded through the faux Texas tomfoolery and found that some things (especially in the country milieu) never change: all four blew chunks then and still do.
First of all, take country music….please! Anthony Robert Curtas — the Official Number One Son of ELV — summed up country music best when he was still in high school: “It is music without metaphor,* for people who wouldn’t understand it if it had any.”** He was 16 years old when he said those words.
Then there is line dancing…or, as ELV likes to call it: dancing for people who can’t. We first were exposed to the scourge of line dancing when the original Gilley’s appeared in one of the stupidest movies of all time — Urban Cowboy — the premise of which was fake-cowboy-Travolta overcoming his fears of riding a fake bull by doing the Texas two-step. Yeah, that was about it. Needless to say, the movie was a big hit with the country music/line dancing crowd.***
Gilley’s (either the original, or its franchises), like country music, is deeply steeped in bull. That fake bull is still around for strippers and conventioneers to pose and ride on, but the macho, blue collar misery is gone, sanitized for mass, uncoordinated consumption by middle managers everywhere.
And then there’s the food. Back in 1980, it was cheap, bad Texas barbecue (brisket and beef ribs mainly), washed down with cheap, bad Texas beer. Here, we opted for two chilies — red beef and green pork — on the theory they would be the least offensive, most authentic things on the menu.
Wrong again, testicle breath.
They were about as convincing in their authenticity as John Travolta pretending to like Olivia Newton-John. Both came out so fast it felt like the waiter must have had them in her hip pocket. Neither was hot — tepid was more like it — and seasoning, as in the use of actual chile peppers in the bowl of chili, seems to be a concept unfamiliar to this kitchen. The pork stew did have a slightly pleasant smokey finish to it, but whatever “award” it claims to have won, must have been from the owner’s wife. The beef was no better or worse than a can of Hormel’s topped with government discount cheese. We endured these indignities sitting on the quite nice, open-air patio alongside the Strip, with our meal being punctuated by squeals from cowboy-booted school teachers pretending to have more fun than they really were, while their paunchy, passive husbands ignored them.
Just another day at Gilley’s. Just another reason we’ll wait another thirty years before returning.
ELV’s lunch for one that could’ve fed two came to $24, including a $5 tip.
In the Treasure Island (or whatever they call it these days) Hotel and Casino
3300 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
* Rock and roll may be bad poetry, but at least it aspires to be something other than literal.
** Well played, apple-who-obviously-fell-close-to-the-tree.
*** One of the head-scratching things about country music is its continued popularity despite a resolute lack of originality. Everything invented and refined by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and others just gets endlessly recycled to the seemingly boundless, uncritical love of its fans. Sort of like giving a three year old the same present she got last year and watching her squeal with joy.