Scott Hollifield: The wonderful absurdity of 'Road House' in a bar

I expected to fight my way in and fight my way back out.

That didn’t happen.

When I learned a bar in nearby Asheville, N.C. – or what passes for a bar in the peace, love and patchouli capital of the southeast – would host a special screening of the 1989 bone-crunching classic motion picture “Road House,” my first thought was “who will drive me there?” My second thought was “I hope I don’t get punched repeatedly in the head but if I do it will be worth it to watch ‘Road House’ in a bar.”

As I explained in an earlier column detailing my effort to buy Patrick Swayze’s fighting “Road House” sweatpants in a celebrity auction last year (I failed), “Road House,” for the culturally deprived readers who have never seen it, is the tale of a philosopher/bouncer who tames the meanest bar in all of Jasper, Missouri while romancing a beautiful doctor lady who wears a dress that resembles a red checkered table cloth and battling the evil overlord who brought J.C. Penny to town.

It stars Patrick Swayze, who combines kung-fu and what appears to be ballet moves to rip out the throats of bad guys twice his size; Sam Elliott, who looks like he might not smell all that great; Kelly Lynch, who plays the blondest doctor in Missouri; Ben Gazzara, who embodies a villain who doesn’t obey the rules of the road and dislikes anyone who bleeds when he punches them; Terry Funk, a former professional wrestler who in reality could have snapped Patrick Swayze’s neck like a pretzel; and a host of guys with mullets and sleeveless t-shirts and gals with giant hair and tube tops.

Knowing that nearby Lake Lure, N.C. pulls in thousands of people each August for a weekend celebration of another Swayze film during “The Dirty Dancing Festival,” I figured a showing of the far superior “Road House” would attract a crowd of similar numbers but with an all together different disposition, many of whom consider the film a documentary.

As Swayze’s character Dalton says before launching his effort to clean up the bar, “We've got entirely too many troublemakers here. Too many 40-year-old adolescents, felons, power drinkers and trustees of modern chemistry.”

Or exactly the people I hoped would show up for “Road House.”

The projector was set up in a screened-in porch off the main barroom, with a couple of outdoor heaters to knock the chill off. My crowd estimate of thousands was slightly off, as eight people lounged on the porch and waited for the movie to begin. A bearded hipster in red pants at a table beside me said something about Swayze and laughed.

“This is my favorite movie,” I said.

He looked at me and his smile faded, as if I just told him I had killed a hobo behind the dumpster.

“Because of its absurdity,” I added, and he smiled again, fairly certain I was not insane.

But it is my favorite movie, and not only because of its absurdity but because it constructs its own universe in which absurd things are perfectly normal, where people drive monster trucks as every day transportation, where philosopher-bouncers right wrongs and where “pain don’t hurt.”

A couple of the hipsters drifted away and six of us were left to enjoy “Road House,” including an urbanite from Brooklyn who was vacationing in the North Carolina mountains, learned the movie was playing and decided to check it out for the first time.

When the credits faded, we clapped and whistled, then shook hands and slapped backs, newfound brothers and sisters of the “Road House.”

No one punched anyone in the head and no one crushed anything with a monster truck, but all in all, it was an evening well spent. To paraphrase Dalton, if you can’t enjoy that, “You’re too stupid to have a good time.”

 Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C. and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.

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