Back when we HQ'd downtown in the old KLIF building on Commerce, plenty of old-timers made note of the fact that, why, just across the street, matter of fact, was the old Cellar -- the Dallas outpost of the Fort Worth mainstay that opened in '59 and birthed most of the blues-rock that would come out of Texas years later (from ZZ Top to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Johnny Winter, for starters). There were, at one point, four Cellars scattered throughout Texas; Houston had one, and so did San Antonio, very briefly.
But it's the Fort Worth location, the mothership, that remains most beloved amongst those who remember when -- like my pal Joe Nick Patoski, who returns to his homeland Sunday at 2 p.m. for a Q&A following a rare public screening of long-in-the-works work-in-progress print of Giles McCrary's You Must Be Weird or You Wouldn't Be Here. Says Joe Nick, "I went there a few times as a kid -- I snuck out and did that business -- and then later as an adult. But I got to befriend [owner] Pat Kirkwood for an article for Texas Monthly before he died."
As Joe Nick wrote in that decade-old piece:
To a fresh-faced sixteen-year-old looking for cheap thrills, no place was as deliciously threatening or as sinfully inviting. Walk in and there was no turning back. You'd give your dollar to the ex-con working the register, slip into the smoky haze, and move instinctively toward the booming beats. Dark was a theme: The walls were painted black, except for the slogans painted in white letters ("Evil Spelled Backwards Is Live," "You Must Be Weird to Be Here"); the staff was dressed in black; the interior lighting was pretty much a single red bulb hanging from the ceiling. Customers sat on large pillows on the floor. At one end of the room was a bandstand from which music blared until dawn. And it was dawn: The Cellar stayed open all night, winking at the law that said nightclubs had to close at midnight, because, you know, no liquor, beer, or wine was served, though I'd have sworn I was getting a buzz from the fake rum and coke brought by the waitress wearing only a bra and panties -- at that point, the most exposed flesh I'd ever seen close-up on a woman other than my mother.
Joe Nick, who just turned in that Dallas Cowboys-Dallas Texans history I mentioned a while back, will be joined by other Cellar-dwellers from way back when. The screening's at the downtown Fort Worth library, and admission's free. Leave your bras and panties at the door.
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