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The Houston Cocktail Party – “The Right Stuff” – Tom Wolfe

July 25th, 2011 · No Comments · Culture

It turned out that this was where the little cocktail party (for the Astronauts) was going to take place: in the Houston Coliseum. They led them up to the floor of the Coliseum, which was like a great indoor bowl. There were thousands of people milling around and some sort of incredible smell and a storm of voices and the occasional insane cackle. There were five thousand extremely loud people on the floor eager to tear into roast cow with both hands and wash it down with bourbon whiskey. The air was filled with the stench of burning cattle. They had set up about ten barbecue pits in there, and they were roasting thirty animals. Five thousand businessmen and politicians and their better halves, fresh from the 100-degree horrors of Downtown in July, couldn’t wait to sink their faces in it. It was a Texas barbecue, Houston-style.

Just then, when the madness seemed to have outdone itself once and for all, a band struck up and the houselights dimmed and a spotlight searched out the stage and a show began and a mighty hearty voice boomed out over the p.a. system: “Ladies and gentlemen… in honor of our mighty special guests and mighty fine new neighbors, we are proud to present… Miss Sally Rand!” The band struck up “Sugar Blues”… much raunchy high-hatting of the trumpets… Oh, owwwwwwwwwwahwahwah… and out into the spotlight pranced an ancient woman with yellow hair and a white mask of a face… Her flesh looked like the meat of a casaba melon in the winter… She carried some enormous plumed fans… She began her famous striptease act… Sally Rand!… who had been an aging but still famous stripper when the seven brave lads were in their teens, during the Depression… Oh-owwwwwwwww wahwahwah… and she winked and minced about and took off a little here and covered up a little there and shook her ancient haunches at the seven single-combat warriors. It was electrifying. It was quite beyond sex, show business, and either the sins or rigors of the flesh. It was two o’clock in the afternoon on the Fourth of July, and the cows burned on, and the whiskey roared goddamned glad to see you and the Venus de Houston shook her fanny in an utterly baffling blessing over it all.

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