NEW YORK – Died country star Mickey Gillie, whose namesake Texas Honky Tonk inspired the creation of the 1980 film “City Cowboy” and a nationwide wave of Western-themed nightclubs. He was 86.
Gili died Saturday in Branson, Missouri, where he helped run the Great Shanghai Mickey Gill Theater. He performed back last month, but over the last week his health has deteriorated.
“He passed peacefully with his family and close friends,” Mickey Gilley Associates said in a statement.
Gilley, the cousin of rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, discovered Gilley’s, “the world’s largest honky tonk,” in Pasadena, Texas, in the early 1970s. By the middle of the decade, he was a successful club owner and achieved his first commercial success with “Room Full of Roses”. He began regularly releasing country hits, including “Window Up Above”, “She’s Pulling Me Back Again” and the honk-ton anthem “Don’t Beautify Girls at Closing”.
In total, he had 39 top country hits and 17 songs №1. He won six Academy Awards, and from time to time worked as an actor, starring in “She Wrote Murder,” “The Boy in the Novel,” “Fantasy Island” and “Dukes of Hazzard.”
“If I had one wish in life, I would want more time,” Gili said in March 2001, as he celebrated his 65th birthday. Not that he did anything different, the singer said.
“I do exactly what I want to do. I play golf, fly my plane and perform at my theater in Branson, Missouri, ”he said. “I love doing my own show for people.”
Meanwhile, the sights of the giant nightclub, including its famous mechanical bull, led to the 1980 film “City Cowboy” starring John Travolta and Debra Winger, which is seen by many as a country version of Travolta’s 1977 disco “Saturday Night Fever” . The film, inspired by the Gili Club, was based on Esquire Aaron Letham’s article about the relationship between two regulars of the club.
“I thank John Travolta every night before bed for supporting my career,” Gili told the AP in 2002. – I can’t tell you how grateful I am for participating in “Urban Cowboy”. This film has had a huge impact on my career and still has. ”
The soundtrack included hits such as “Lookin ‘for Love” by Johnny Lee, “Look What You’ve Done for Me” by Bose Skags and “Stand by Me” by Gili. The film turned the Pasadena Club into a nightly tourist raffle and popularized the gem. knotted shirts, beer with long necks, steel guitars and mechanical bulls across the country.
But the club stopped in 1989 after Gili and his business partner Sherwood Krayer quarreled over how to run the place. It was soon destroyed by fire.
A high-end version of Gilley’s old nightclub opened in Dallas in 2003. In recent years, Gili has moved to Branson.
He has been married three times, most recently to Cindy Loeb Gillie. He had four children, three from his first wife Geraldine Gareth and one from his second, Vivian MacDonald.
A native of Natchez, Mississippi, Gili grew up poor studying boogie-woogie at the piano in Feridea, Louisiana, along with Lewis and cousin Jimmy Swagart, a future evangelist. Like Lewis, he made his way through the windows of Louisiana clubs to listen to rhythm and blues. He moved to Houston to work on construction, but at night played on the local club scene, recorded and toured for many years before gaining popularity in the 70s.
In recent years, Gili has had health problems. He underwent brain surgery in August 2008 after specialists diagnosed hydrocephalus, a condition characterized by increased fluid in the skull. Gili suffered from short-term memory loss, and attributed the operation to stop dementia.
He underwent additional surgery in 2009 after falling off a step that forced him to cancel scheduled performances in Branson. In 2018, he suffered a fractured ankle and right shoulder in a car accident.
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