Four Palms
Home Up Garner State Park

Sleazy Bar Whip Party 201 Nights Garner State Park History of Whip Four Palms

You see someone’s mother, 
she’s out with another,
while her old man’s workin’ today. 

And while he’s out slavin’,
she’s mis-behavin', 
she’s bringin' trouble her way.

She says she's home cookin',
in truth she's out lookin',
down at the old
pressure cooker.

She's singing her song,
it won't take her long,

findin' a hot one to hook her."

Lyrics from an old Blues Song

Sleazy Bar Whip Party 201 Nights Four Palms


Edited by Rick Archer
April 2008

(written in April 2008 by Rick Archer)

The Four Palms has been closed over twenty years.  But in its day, the Palms served as the inspiration for the annual SSQQ Sleazy Bar Whip Party.  You should probably read the story of the Sleazy Bar Whip Party first in order to better understand this story about the Four Palms.  But if you prefer to read this story first, you will definitely enjoy going back to read the SSQQ Sleazy Bar story after this one.  Due to the split identity of the Four Palms, you will soon see why there needs to be two stories that are closely intertwined.

For those people who are unaware of the connection between the Four Palms and SSQQ Dance Studio, the Four Palms was one of my favorite places to visit back in 1986 when I went Whip Dancing 201 Nights in a row.

Every Sunday night featured a live Blues band known as the Soul Brothers who played some sweet sweet music indeed.  It wasn't until I heard these guys play that I understood the connection between Blues music and Whip dancing.  Their brand of Texas Blues literally made the women move in ways I never thought possible. 

The Four Palms is the place where I truly fell in love with the Whip.  It is also the place where I learned a complete new style of dancing to fit the music.  For these reasons, the Four Palms will always occupy a unique place in my memory.

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The Four Palms was a pretty rough place.  For an over-protected West Side college boy like myself, I had no idea blue collar East Side joints like the Four Palms even existed.  Every visit was an eye opener to be sure.   What I did not know was that the Four Palms carried a deep dark secret.  I had heard some rumors about the past, but it wasn't till I read the following Houston Post article in 1986 that I realized the rumors were not only true, but they were still true in the present (1986).  To be honest, I was pretty shaken by the article you are about to read.   Although what I read didn't keep me from going to club, The Four Palms was never quite the same for me afterwards.

To my mind, the Four Palms had a split identity.  There was the Sunday evening Whip dancing that I participated in and there were the other activities during the week that are covered in the article.   Since these two worlds barely intersected on Sunday evening, once I got used to the place I was completely at ease.  From personal experience, I can assure you that there were some very rough characters at the Four Palms.  However they never bothered the dancers.  Although they didn't dance, they liked listening to the Soul Brothers' awesome music just as much as anyone else.  They would sit in at the bar drinking and smoking their cigarettes.  The music and watching the dancers served as great entertainment.   Yes, they occasionally ogled, leered, and grinned, but who cares?

The Four Palms went out of business in 1987.  This happened just one short year after the Houston Post article appeared.  Although the alternative lifestyle was definitely not my cup of tea, I never had my nose rubbed in it.  Not once was I hustled, propositioned, treated rudely or in any way made to feel unwelcome.  Nor did I ever date anyone I met there.  I went strictly for the music and dancing.  In fact, I came to feel so safe at the Four Palms that I had no qualms about inviting my dance students to join me.  There was usually a whole group of us there. 

As a result, I have nothing but fond memories of this place.  After the club was gone, I began to miss it so much that I created a dance party in its honor - the SSQQ
Sleazy Bar Whip Party.

People have asked if I danced with anyone in this story or knew anyone.  I have stared at the pictures and studied the names.  To be honest, I can't remember meeting any of these people.  They are all strangers to me.   Furthermore, there is one section in the article about "Mr. Blue Blazer".  Let me assure you in advance that is NOT me.

Here now is entire story of the original Sleazy Bar known as the Four Palms.  Put your seat belts on.



RICK ARCHER'S NOTE: This 1986 Article originally appeared in the Houston Post 

Overhead the Four Palms on a Tuesday afternoon, the sun glows like a flaming yellow candle.  It may be brilliant outside, but inside the Four Palms it is as dark as midnight.  As you enter, you hear the din of the crowd and the loud jukebox music, but you can’t see a thing.  You instinctively pause to let your eyes adjust lest you be trampled to death by an unseen mob. 

Soon it becomes apparent the room is packed with men in cowboy boots and women in stiletto heels.

The Four Palms is the land that time forgot.  Opened in 1951, this club is a throwback to another era. 

When you are at the Four Palms, you just never know when one thing might lead to another.

For example, over in the corner next to a restroom, a woman in snug jeans drops a quarter into a pay phone.

Ronnie, this is Camille.  How you doin’?she drawls.  Pause on the other end, but no answer.

“Just got here, probably be here until 4.”   Another pause followed by Camille's nervous giggle.

Yeah, Ronnie, come on over.  I’ll buy you a beer.”  Another pause, but again no response.  The phone hangs up.  No matter.  The connection has been made loud and clear.

Two hours later Ronnie walks into the Four Palms all smiles and grins.  Now he finds his voice.  He joins Camille at her table with a ready excuse for his silence and tardiness. Had to wait till my old lady went out to run some errands.” 

Ronnie and Camille chat for a moment.  Bypassing the promised beer, five minutes later they leave together.  And that’s how it goes sometimes at the Four Palms.

Over the years, the Four Palms has developed a reputation for the steamiest, sexiest mid-afternoon encounters in town.  But it’s not exactly a Swinging Singles club.  If Cheers is the place where everyone knows your name, the Four Palms is the place where everyone is married… but not to each other.

In its heyday, this smoke-filled Telephone Road hot spot was known as a “pressure cooker” club, the original home of lounge lizards and so-called bad girls. 

Indeed, they say that back in the old days the Four Palms had a reputation for sin along the same lines as the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel in nearby La Grange.

That was back in the Fifties and Sixties and Seventies.  So what is the Four Palms like in the Eighties?

These days, as far as the regulars are concerned, they aren’t talking, at least not much.  Taking a chapter from Vegas, there’s a code against kiss and tell.  But a few people are willing to talk in vague generalities; just enough to let this reporter know that in its day, the Four Palms was just as wild as people say it was

When it came to sin, this place was worth an entire chapter in Texas folklore.  Or at least that's what some people say when they are sure no one is listening in...

The Four Palms is pretty easy to overlook from the outside.  It is a simple square one-story brick building standing all by itself on the Texas prairie maybe about 6,000 square feet if that much. 

There is nothing on the outside to suggest anything out of the ordinary is going on here.  And it looks the same today as it did when it opened back in 1951.   That’s when the legends began.

It seems that during the Fifties, shift workers from nearby companies got off work at 7 am.  Rather than head home, many got a bite to eat, then began showing up at the Four Palms when its doors opened around 9 am.  Salesmen came too. 
Rumor has it that the club’s first owners began offering housewives a buck an hour to come sit at the Four Palms.  That’s all they had to do – just sit.  Anything else was up to them.  The owners were simply stocking the pond.   Soon enough, the fishermen would appear.

Back in those days, a buck was pretty good money for just sitting down.

Some of the local ladies obliged, rushing Junior off to school, kissing the old man goodbye and then making a beeline to the Four Palms.  Some ladies talked, some ladies danced while others began to sneak off with shift workers for afternoon quickies at the nearby No Tell Motel.

By 4 pm, the Four Palms would be empty.  The Cinderellas would shed their go-go boots and turn back into their housewife personas.  They would race home to prepare dinner for husbands and kids.   The joke was the husbands would find their little darlings sweating over a pressure cooker complaining about how long it took them to get dinner ready each day.  Truth be known, the pressure cookers prepared the dinners quickly enough, but the kitchen-ignorant husbands back then didn’t seem to catch on.

“I’ve been slaving over the stove all day,” the wife would supposedly complain.  And where she got her extra spending money or the extra glow in her cheeks was nobody’s business but her own.

Lucy, I’m home!”  Sure enough, it was kind of a lewd variation of the I Love Lucy show, the popular early-50s program that featured the adventures of a stay-at-home wife.  Of course, these amoral antics were hardly suitable for 50s prime-time television.

Today is our first visit to the Four Palms, a get-to-know-you trip.  We will be visiting again next Tuesday as for the club's 35th Anniversary Party.  At first glance, it is obvious the club’s clientele has aged.  Today, the management assures, the action is now more friendly flirtation than erotic romp.  But it seems like a good time to check under the rug and see if Houston’s legendary pressure cooker club is still cooking after all these years.

The Four Palms used to jump daily from 9 to 5.  Now, though the club is open daily, the action is limited mainly to Tuesdays from 1 to 5 pm when a complimentary buffet is offered and a disc jockey spin country and western tunes plus 1950s rock and roll.  Yes, Elvis lives at the Four Palms. 

“We call it a microwave joint now,” jokes owner Maxie.  Maxie says times have changed.  The oil economy dipped.  Women went to work.  And no one seems to have as much time or money to while away the day at the Four Palms. 

Sexual mores also have changed since the early days.  In the Fifties, a day at the Four Palms was a naughty adventure.  Even though adultery was an unspeakable taboo in the Fifties, that didn't slow anyone down at the Four Palms.  Today extra-marital affairs no longer shock anyone, at least not in the minds of the Four Palms regulars.  In quiet asides, they point out adultery is a common theme on prime-time television.  Pointing to evening soaps like Dallas and Dynasty, these days adultery seems to be increasingly accepted.  That said, rumors of rampant adultery at the 1986 Four Palms is total nonsense.  Or so we are told. 

The place is jammed.  It seems that every Tuesday 200 regulars and various newcomers make the pilgrimage to the Palms.  The place is so crowded, once the beer starts flowing it is fairly easy to strike up conversations. After some quiet checking, it seems at least some remnants of the 50s Four Palms-mentality still live on.  Today's event reminds of an era when anything goes and nothing is really taboo.  It all seems a throwback to the time when sex was a little more illicit and maybe a little more fun than it is today

Many Palms regulars have come here now for several decades. Don’t you dare tell how old I am,” says a woman who admits to being in her 70’s. The young guys won’t dance with me!

Some patrons are growing a little hard of hearing, turning gray and losing teeth.  But the midnight darkness inside the Four Palms has its benefits.  The gloom is as flattering as plastic surgery, hiding crow’s feet, erasing wrinkles and disguising potbellies in the deep shadows.  However, not all the patrons are elderly.  A casual glance shows there’s an unusually wide range of ages from 25 to 75.  Apparently a new generation is drawn to the peculiar benefits of the club.

On Tuesdays, the Four Palms citizens come together for some “hot” town meetings. For today’s Tuesday event, another ancient tradition lives on.  Owner Maxie estimates about 80% are married and present without spouses.  At times the characters and the stories they tell are reminiscent of a spicy B-movie.  But those who know and love the place say the Four Palms mostly resembles a small town for adults only, with its own set of mores and moralities.   That said, over the years, some very firm rules of conduct have been established.

Regulars know the unwritten codes of the Four Palms.  Newcomers must learn by osmosis.

Unwritten Code No. 1:
Regulars must call to reserve their table. Waitresses place small cardboard reserved signs on their usual tables.  If they don’t show up by 1 pm sharp on Tuesday, their table goes to another customer.

Unwritten Code No. 2:
Regulars sit at the tables that ring the edge of the dance floor. Newcomers generally hover at the bar or in the back by the restrooms.

Unwritten Code No. 3:
After a man asks a woman to dance, he escorts her back to the table, but he never sits down at her table unless asked.  No man owns a woman’s time just because he dances with her.  No commitments; no hassles.

Unwritten Code No. 4:
Regulars watch out for each other and keep the law and order.  If a regular is hassled, or “manhandled” as one woman puts it, she can depend on other regulars for assistance.

Unwritten Code No. 5:
Owners and waitresses pledge anonymity to their patrons.  If regulars come in with an unfamiliar person, Strong and her won’t show any signs of recognition.  “We don’t say ‘hi’ because the regular may not want the person to know they’re coming in here all the time,” explains Strong.


Most people agree with owner Maxie that the Four Palms is tamer than in the old days"Definitely not as many motel flings", says one.  But the thrill of illicit fun - a little dancing sweet and close, a little kissing in the corner - seems to loom in the shadow of every conversation.  A constant banter of pickup lines, double entendres, and explicit talk gives an indication that a spark might turn into flame at any time.  It is obvious that sex is on everyone’s mind.

The thrill of the fling survives at the Four Palms.  And so, of course, does the paranoia.  After a couple hours of making the rounds, It’s fair to say most people who frequent the Four Palms on this Tuesday afternoon don’t want to talk to reporters, don’t want their names used or have their photos taken. 

No offense is taken.  After all, their spouses aren’t supposed to know they are here. 

Fortunately for the sake of this article, a few people are willing to chat.  Here are their stories.


“It’s been my whole life coming in here,” says a tiny and quite spunky woman nicknamed Jo. 

“I’ve gotten everything from this place.  It’s got guts.  It’s got people who care.  At home I’m nobody.  Here I’m somebody.” 

Jo stands only 4 feet 8 inches, but appears taller in spike-heeled open-toe dancing shoes.  She’s a proud grandmother today, but when she first started coming into the Four Palms in 1957, she was a young and very bored housewife.

“My husband and I brought out the absolute worst in each other.  I walked into the Four Palms and it brought out the good in me,” she says.  “This place saved my marriage.  I would have left my husband long ago.”

Jo perches at her usual table on the edge of the dance floor as she sips her usual drink: a glass of water.  

 It’s Valentines week and she has brought red and pink camellias to hand to the women friends who share her table.  Red balloons and crepe paper hearts dangle from the ceiling above the dance floor.  “Be My Valentine” in gold letters stretch across the band platform. 

As waitresses wiggle through the press of bodies, Jo takes note of the packed house.

“Honey, it used to be like this every day of the week,” Jo says of the enormous crowd.  The implication is that times are changing.

In her salad days, Jo wore hot pants and silver go-go boots for outings to the Four Palms, making a quick change into her hausfrau garb before returning home.   Jo chuckled about her outfit changes, calling herself a daytime Cinderella with a 4 pm curfew instead of midnight.

Once, Jo says, her husband walked into the Four Palms.  Luckily for her, she had time to duck out the back door.  She ran to the bar across the street, called up the Four Palms and said, “Send some good-looking guys over here for me to dance with pronto!”

Today Jo wears a burgundy sweater, slack set, and a blond wig covering her silver hair.  She watches intently as an attractive man with sandy blond hair and mustache escorts her friend Virginia back to the table after a dance.  The man plops down in an empty chair without being invited.

“I’d rather you sit somewhere else,” Jo says politely but somewhat agitated. “This is my table.  This is for my girls.”   The man leaves.  He’s an out-of-towner from Pennsylvania who doesn’t know the rules.

“All the girls want to sit at my table because I know all the good guys,” continues Jo.  A man, 32, in a blue V-neck sweater asks Little Jo to dance and she dissolves into the crowd with him.  Her friend Pat leans over and says, “Jo is like the favored daughter here.”  To the regulars, Jo is known as the Queen of the Four Palms.

Jo is proud of her regal title and one other thing: her cleavage.  Jo normally wears plunging necklines to show off her figure.  Today, the neckline of her form-fitting sweater dips low to reveal a décolletage which she points out is pretty phenomenal for a woman her age.

A few yards away from Jo’s table, the DJ introduces the tune “Talk to Me” in a low, sexy baritone.  “Talk dirty to me.  I love it,” he says.  No one needs any encouragement.  Dancers spill onto the floor.  Bodies meet belt buckle to buckle.  Lights from the flashing mirrored ball above the dance shed iridescent circles on swaying figures.

“You can get anything you want out of this place,” Jo is fond of saying.  “I have morals.  I wouldn’t go to bed, but it’s wonderful to be asked.  A young cute 28-year-old tells me I’m sexy, hey, I like that.  I like to believe I am desirable.”

A man with a salt and pepper beard stops by Jo’s table, greeting her with a bear hug.  “Hi, doll,” he says.  For Jo and many others, the club is a home away from home.  She has befriended many people here, helping women over heartbreaks and occasionally playing matchmaker.  Friends, in turn, have helped her.  Since she doesn’t drive, Four Palms’ regulars have driven her back and forth to the club for almost 30 years.

“This one woman would pick me up.  She’d have a date.  She’d go to bed with someone and then come back to the Four Palms and get me home in time for dinner,” Jo says smiling, impressed by her friend’s loyalty.

While other women dash off to motels, Jo says she is a lady.  She comes to the Palms primarily because she loves to dance. 

Jo trains her own dance partners.   She speculates over the years she has taught more than 30 men how to do the “Texas Whip”, a tricky rhythm and blues dance popular at the Four Palms. 

Virginia adds most men are afraid to learn because the dance is confusing.  At that statement, Jo rolls her eyes and frowns

“Men can be such fools. The girls would kill their father to get to do the Whip, but the guys can’t seem to figure that out.

They would rather run their mouths.  They spend all this time yapping stupid lines they think gets the gals all worked up.  Don't they know we have heard every line a million times before?

Men should learn to say one thing – ‘You wanna dance?’ –  then shut up and get it going on the floor

A guy can do his talking with his feet, his hands and his eyes.  All he has to do is learn to dance and try smiling once in a while.  Then he would get more action than he would know how to handle.”

Jo concludes that good whippers are always in demand. 

“It doesn’t matter what you look like or how old you are, if you can do the Whip you got it made.

I could spend a whole day in a guy’s arms if he can dance.” 

Virginia pipes up, “Yeah, and maybe a whole night too.” 

That remark gets Virginia a frown and a poke in the ribs from Jo. 

Virginia grins and laughs. Just kidding.” 


Jim, 45, sits diagonally across from Jo at his usual table.  His black cowboy hat brushes his eyebrows.  “It’s all about tradeoffs,” Jim philosophizes.  He is in a mood to discuss marriage.  “I started coming in here nine years ago.  My wife goes to Randy’s.  I come here.  She likes modern music.  I like country-western.”  Jim says he loves his wife but in the seventh year of marriage they decided to go their separate ways when it came to clubs.

“I still can’t believe your wife agreed to this,” says Bobby, 67, a tall, big-bellied man.  Bobby, who’s been coming into the Four Palms for 20 years, says his ex-wife would have bought the place if she could have kept him barred from it. 

Jim looks forward to Tuesdays at the Four Palms.  Self-employed, he rises at 4:30 am on Tuesdays to get his work done early so he can be at the Four Palms by 1 pm. 

Jim and Bobby are “running mates.”  A running mate at the Four Palms is a pal you sit with but don’t necessarily leave with. “I have known this guy longer than the law would allow,” Jim jokes with his friend.  “He’s a good conversationalist, good friend, good fisherman, and terrible driver.” 

Jim explains that he once hired Bobby to work for him on the condition that he stay out of the Four Palms. “I told Bobby, ‘First time I catch you at the Palms, I am going to fire you!’” recalls Jim.

“So I didn’t work for him for too long,” laughs Bobby.  Both men decline to explain why Bobby was forbidden to visit the Four Palms.

Two women come over and ask Bobby to dance.  He beams.  “I’ve won 189 dance trophies.  That’s why the girls beat a trail over here,” he yells from the floor as he twirls the women around in a slow whip turn.

Jim says his wife doesn’t worry about him hanging out at the Four Palms.  “She knows I am with Bobby and she thinks he is too old to cut the mustard,” Jim says. 

Jim ducks a question about why Bobby’s age somehow puts the wife’s mind at ease.  Yet another unsolved mystery at the Four Palms.


At a table near the dance floor, a woman in a white ruffled satin blouse makes eye contact and beckons

A sad smile crosses her pretty face.  It's obvious she has a visitor known as The Blues.  Her chin rests on her arm, which is draped over the back of her chair.  The woman declines to give her name, but clearly wants to talk.

“If it weren’t for the Four Palms, I would dry up and die,”
she says.

“My husband thinks I am happy because he brings home a big paycheck.  He says, ‘Have a good day,’ every morning.   That’s it.  At night he just wants me to keep his beer cold and TV working and he’s happy.  I have no one to talk to.”

The woman’s coal-black hair is teased, framing her delicate features.  Like most married women interviewed, she says if her husband knew about her regular Four Palms excursions, “he would kill me.” 

When she was younger, she worked.  Now at 60, she figures her age would work against her being hired anywhere.

As it stands, I drive a Cadillac and live high style.  But I have no way to support myself.  It’s either live with him and stay in this lifestyle or divorce him and live on skid row.”

And then after a long pause she surmises, “Isn’t all this tacky?  We do so many ugly things.”



Angel, 35, sits on a stool at the bar talking to a woman friend.  “I like to look at good-looking men,” she says, explaining why she has come to the Four Palms for the past five years.  “I like to dance, but with no commitments.”

Angel’s friend, Mary Lou, a 35-year-old data processor, wife and mother, adds, “This is my crock pot hour.  I put on the crock pot in the morning, leave it on low.  Then I come here.”

Today while Mary Lou is at the Four Palms, a rump roast and carrots simmer at home.  “When I get home I just have to cook the spinach,” Mary Lou giggles.  “And I say, ‘Here’s dinner.’”  She says her husband would be furious if he knew about the Four Palms.  But she believes that if men can play around, so can women.  What's fit for the goose is fit for the gander.

“If you only have one life to live, you should live it the way you want to.  Not the way everybody else wants you to live,” Mary Lou reasons.

Angel returns from the dance floor looking thoughtful.  “To be truthful, I think we all have this little person, a child, inside trying to get out of being an adult.  We come here to play.”

And on that note, Angel waltzes off to the dance floor again.

“I like to mess around,” Mary Lou says, covering her mouth with her hand as if she were whispering a treasonous secret.  “This is like the other me when I am here.  Did you ever see the movie Sybil?” 

Mary Lou explains she has two personalities: one for the Four Palms and one for home.  For her, the Four Palms brings out the personality that likes dancing and the idea that men other than her husband find her attractive.

“So far, I haven’t met the right man to move my chimes here.  But if I do, I’ll take a date with him.  But you have to be careful because there’s AIDS and herpes going around.”

Mary Lou isn’t the only one to bring up the topic of sexually transmitted diseases.  Another woman said she accepted “every good offer and a few bad ones” for sex back in the Swinging Seventies.  But these days, the thought of hooking up with the wrong guy and dying for the effort has taken quite a bit of steam out of her sails. "These are different times."


A young man dressed in a blue wool blazer and button down oxford shirts whisks Mary Lou off to the dance floor.  This man is so clearly out of place here it is hard to resist wondering what his story is.

Later the same man, who looks like he took a wrong turn on his way to a Houston west side singles bar, says he doesn’t visit the Palms on any regular basis.

“I don’t fit the demographics in here,” he says peering through tortoise-shell glasses.  "I think I represent a socio-economic bracket above these people.”  Mr. Blue Blazer says he is a 30-year-old married professional, a graduate of MIT who earns $60,000 a year.  He comes to the Four Palms to drink and dance.  Ordinarily, he says, he would more likely be at Happy Hour at the fashionable Remington Hotel than the Four Palms.  When he comes here, he says, he tries hard to leave his socioeconomic bracket in the car.  From the looks of him, he isn’t trying very hard to blend in.

Mr. Blue Blazer says he imagines his wife would be angry if she found out about his afternoon excursions to the Four Palms.  Then he rethinks that.  “There’s a presumption that everybody is here for quick afternoon sex.  But my wife wouldn’t be that upset because the mitigating circumstances are I don’t come in here for sex.  I come in here to commune with the natives.  I do live in Houston and this is part of the culture.”

He enjoys looking at the women here, finding something both poignant and intriguing about a woman, “let’s say from Pasadena” who obviously gets all dressed up to come to the Four Palms on Tuesday afternoon. 

“I don’t come in here looking for intellectual stimulation.  Sometimes I try to give it out, but it doesn’t work,” he says. "I don't come looking for hookers either.  There aren't any hookers here.  Too much free stuff going around."

If Mr. Blue Blazer doesn’t come in for intellectual stimulation and he doesn’t come in for sex, it is difficult to understand exactly why he is here because a casual glance reveals he can’t dance either. 

Another unsolved mystery at the Four Palms.

Later on, a conversation with Jo reveals Mr. Blue Blazer is a marked man.  The Queen of the Four Palms is well aware of his presence.  With her usual candor, Jo confides, "Once in a while he comes in here slummin'We assume he got lucky once and keeps hoping lightning strikes twice.  Since he is convinced no one will recognize him here, he figures this is the perfect place to operate Except the guy sticks out like a sore thumb."

Jo pauses to catch her breath.  "He can’t dance and he doesn’t have a clue how to talk to our women.  He thinks we are all a bunch of loose women dying to hop in bed.  He spends his whole day going up and down the bar offering drinks to one lady after another.  We just shake our heads.” 

Jo grins, “That guy is a running joke to all of us.  We call himPreppy Boy’.  He’ll never get lucky again because we warn everyone, but he is too stupid to figure it out.  Preppy Boy keeps coming and we keep laughing."



The 35th Anniversary Party marks our second visit to the Four Palms. As before, the smoky room is pitch black.  Although it is broad daylight outside, inside it feels like night time. 

The whole gang is here - Jo, Bobby, Jim, Virginia, and more.  The
longer the visit, the more this place begins to resemble the lyrics from the Billy Joel song Piano Man. 

Its nine oclock on a saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
Theres an old man sitting next to me
Makin love to his tonic and gin

He says, son, can you play me a memory?
I’m not really sure how it goes
But its sad and its sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger mans clothes

Bobby greets us and proudly displays his finest dancing duds, including a tan straw hat and flashy two-tone loafers.  Bobby is lookin' good by his own admission.

His date is a brunette bombshell named Patsy nolastname. 

“Just call me Patsy.”

The band plays some Texas Blues.  Bobby escorts Patsy to the floor.  He proceeds to swing and twist Patsy across the dance floor.  Jo says to watch carefully - they are dancing the Whip.  Next to me, there is one man who doesn't need to be told to watch.  Patsy's hips are moving in ways that make my photographer blush.  He refuses to blink lest he miss something.

As they dance, Bobby's
face is flushed but he wears a cocky grin.  Bobby never worries about overdoing it on the dance floor.  He goes as hard as he can until there's nothing left.  

His buddy Jim says, Bobby wants to die here and have his casket put on the dance floor like a New Orleans wake.  Why not?” 

This is an obvious variation on the Viking who wishes to die in battle with a sword in his hand or a cowboy who wants to die with his boots on, but in Bobby's case, Jim's remark seems completely appropriate.  Bobby is truly putting on a show with his stylish partner Patsy. 

Finally Jo can't stand watching Bobby and Patsy have all the fun any longer.  She hollers to a guy to get his butt up.  The man grins and obediently comes to her table to fetch her for the ritual walk to the floor.

Now just a few feet away from Bobby and Patsy, Jo glides around the dance floor in a mauve silk evening outfit with her usual plunging neckline and blond wig.  She definitely still has the moves.  Her girlfriends marvel at her joy.

“If anyone is going to go dancing through the Pearly Gates, it’s gonna be Li'l Jo,” notes Virginia from the sidelines. 

Virginia's poignant remark speaks to the loyalty and love these people feel for each other.  It may be an odd Band of Brothers, but there is no doubt this group is tight.  This Anniversary Party has a lot of people thinking about the past and wondering how many more anniversaries there are going to be.


Later on, a self-described philosopher named Jeff opines about the significance of the Four Palms.  Jeff is here to enjoy the Four Palms’ 35th anniversary party.  “This is not your normal everyday club,” says Jeff  as he leans his elbow on the bar and holds his drink in his other hand “It has roots way back.” 

Jeff says he has frequented the Four Palms for 12 years.  He says he was an accountant in the oil industry until his company declared Chapter 11 recently. 

Today Jeff is decked out in a Panama hat with a Korean war medal around his neck.  When asked about the medal, Jeff laughs at being busted.  He admits he is too young to have served in that particular war.  He smiles coyly and hints that none of the women here have ever figured that out.  It seems the medal is a great tool for starting conversations.

"You ain't gonna tell 'em, are you?" 

Jeff elicits a promise that although the medal may appear in the article, his name will be changed.  That compromise works for Jeff. 
"That medal trick was getting old anyway." 

Reassured that his identity will be protected and that he has found a worthy confidant, he continues his thoughts.  As we sit at the bar, Jeff strives to find a phrase to put the place into perspective.  Finally he suggests, “The Four Palms is a place where loneliness meets its match.”

Where have we heard that before?  Why, it’s another shot of Billy Joel déjà vu!

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, They're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But its better than drinkin' alone

Jeff continues. "This place serves a purpose.  This is a strange group.  They see things a little differently than most of their neighbors, but they can't talk about it without being condemned.  So this is their only chance to hang out with people who see things the same way.  No wonder they are so tight-knit."

When asked if the “pressure cooker” club still sizzles, Jeff concludes,

Only a few people go all the way back and they aren't talking.  Thirty five years is a long time.  We don’t know if the same sort of things happen today that used to happen at the Palms, but let’s put it this way, the reputation lingers on.”

IN MEMORY with Rick Archer

One year after this article appeared, the Four Palms closed its doors for good in 1987.  As I stated in the "FORWARD", I was unhappy to see it go since I thoroughly enjoyed dancing there.  This place holds only good memories for me.

That said, as I said earlier, I thoroughly disliked this article when it first appeared back in 1986.  Even though I had been going to the Four Palms to dance every Sunday evening for some time, I had no idea what went on when I wasn't there until I read the article.  I had heard a rumor or two, but never realized the exact nature of the club until it was spelled out for me in print.

I knew the Four Palms was pretty rough around the edges, but I was still surprised by how upset I was with this article.  Even though the author clearly was non-judgmental, that didn't stop me from passing my own judgment - I found myself disturbed by lifestyle of the Four Palms regulars.

Reading the stories of all these people running around on their husbands and wives left me uneasy.  Of course we are all adults and we understand adultery exists.  But to discover an entire group of people make this a regular part of their lives was a bit tough to comprehend.

Some of the people seemed so proud they were fooling their spouses and getting away with something.   Well, aren't they clever?  Oddly enough, 8 years earlier I had taught dance lessons at a wife swappers club known as the Jet Set.  When asked to compare the two places - Four Palms versus the Jet Set - I said I actually respected the people at the Jet Set more because at least there was consent involved.  Here at the Four Palms, the article gave the impression that people spent all their time lying and sneaking around behind the backs of their husbands and wives.

Nevertheless I didn't say anything.  When the article appeared back in in 1986, I decided it wasn't any of my business.   As long as the Sunday staff and my fellow patrons continued to treat me with the same respect I had enjoyed so far, that was good enough for me.  Certainly I wasn't the only person at my dance studio who read that article, but no one ever brought the subject up for discussion.  Mind you, for that matter, I was going through a divorce at the time, so I had my own problems to deal with.  Most people didn't talk to me about anything serious since I was pretty grouchy back in those days.

So I put this story away and forgot about it.  By chance, twenty years later I ran across this story again in early 2008 as I was combing
through my archives looking for another document.  Since the Four Palms had played a large part in my life back in 1986 (Sleazy Bar Whip 201 Nights), I thought I would publish the story. 

But first I thought I would read it again and see what it had to say.  Curious, I unfolded the article and started to read it from the perspective of looking back twenty years further down the road.

My eyes began to bulge.  Nothing had changed.  I was still uncomfortable with the stuff I was reading. 

Two questions crossed my mind.

First, I could not understand why the Houston Post had published an article like this.   What were they thinking?  Don't get me wrong; it was a well-written if perhaps depressing story.   But I could not begin to imagine a  family newspaper writing about a topic like this, especially not in its Sunday edition!    This article was more appropriate for The Houston Press with its racy, edgy stories, but certainly not the staid Houston Post.  It was like opening the Sunday Houston Chronicle and finding this story in Zest next to the book reviews and new movies. 

Second, I could not help but wonder if this story accelerated the demise of the Four Palms.   In many ways, this story felt like an Exposé.  As I read the article, I realized it detailed the intricacies of a forbidden lifestyle.  It was meant to be non-judgmental to the lifestyle, but I wonder in retrospect if it had a destructive effect.  If an avowed fan of the Four Palms like me came away with a bad feeling, what would the average reader think?

That said, my own theory about the demise of the Four Palms was captured by the passage in the article about AIDS and herpes. 

"But these days, the thought of hooking up with the wrong guy and dying for the effort has taken quite a bit of steam out of her sails."

More than one cynic has suggested that the onset of AIDS has done more for 'faithfulness' than all the preachers since the beginning of time.  

Despite the article, I have only fond memories of the place.  I had great times there.  The regulars left me alone.  No one ever propositioned me.  No one ever treated me poorly.  The dancers I hung out with were fun.  And the Soul Brothers Band was wonderful... with their magic music, I could dance all night.

But there is not one shred of doubt in my mind - when it comes to sleazy bars, whoever wrote the definition for the dictionary must have had the Four Palms in mind. 

Sleazy bars are dirty, disreputable, and dark places frequented by socially unacceptable, tawdry people marked by dishonesty and low-character of quality, where the smoke is so thick you can hardly breathe and the music is much too loud."

That pretty much sums it up.  Rest in Peace, Four Palms.

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