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Inside the Unlikely Cult of Road House

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When director Rowdy Herrington introduced audiences to legendary bouncer James Dalton back in 1989, no one could have predicted that Road House would still be a part of our cultural discourse today. It’s just another testosterone-fueled action Patrick Swayze actioner, right? Not to the film’s legions of fans, who consider Road House to be the Citizen Kane of tough guy bouncer flicks. Everything from its tagline (“The dancing’s over. Now it gets dirty”) to the copious scenes of a shirtless Swayze continue to put Road House fans in a frenzy. And these same fans have kept the spirit of Road House alive in some truly unique ways.

First off, like any self-respecting cult film, Road House has
its own rabidly loyal fan group, aka “Road Heads.” The Road Heads (who
disbanded in 2004) held yearly festivals dedicated to Swayze’s
head-busting, and even opened a Road House cafe in Massachusetts. (Road House
continues to play to “Road Heads” at packed houses at midnight
screenings at such venues as Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse and Boston’s
Somerville Theatre.) The movie also has its share of famous fans:
Kevin Smith was asked to do a commentary track for the Road House DVD after discussing his love for the film on the Clerks 10th Anniversary disc. Fellow B-movie fans Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino also paid tribute to the Road House houseband by casting them in From Dusk Till Dawn .
Swayze’s dialogue and fashions have
also made the film a go-to comedy reference on everything from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to Adult Swim’s Squidbillies.

Finally, following in the steps of fellow cult films Xanadu , Road House
was adapted for the stage by some enterprising fans for a
2003 Off-Broadway run. Further adding to the camp factor, martial arts
star Taimak ( The Last Dragon ) stepped into Swayze’s famous shoes (and blond mullet) for the lead. (Though honestly, could anyone ever replace Patrick Swayze?)

Amazingly, it’s been nearly 20 years since Road House‘s release, and fans are still celebrating its mix of tough talk and upper cuts. Here’s to 20 more years.

For a full schedule of Road House on AMC, click here.

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