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THE LEGEND CONTINUES

By JAN JARVIS |

Some of the guests are from the Brooks Brothers school of dress; others are faithful to their Stetsons. But they all sit tall in the saddle at Booger Red Saloon.

Last year, Marshall Young and Tom Yater took a chance when they installed saddles instead of bar stools in the Stockyards Hotel’s restaurant and saloon. Although the idea bordered on the gimmicky, the saddles have turned out to be undeniably inviting to everyone from celebrities to housewives.

So far, gun play or barroom brawls have been scarce in the plush hotel, says Carolyn Cri-bari, an administrator for the Stockyards Hotel. There has been some excitement, however. A steer wandered into the saloon before the Texas-TCU football game; and while in town for a show, fashion designer Bill Blass had a long lunch. Author James Mich-ener fell in love with the hotel’s charm and history, Cribari says, and politician Liz Carpenter propped her feet up and just relaxed in the hotel’s lobby.

Cribari says the hotel is so rich in history that visitors can almost hear the ghosts calling from the rooms. Built in 1907, the hotel has been a gangster’s hide-out and a working woman’s flop house, with rooms going for $5 nightly. One lady of the night apparently hid her $125 earnings so well that she never found it, but a renovation crew discovered the money tucked inside a stove. Outlaws such as Bonnie Parker were hotel regulars. In fact, says Cribari, Bonnie Parker’s gun is displayed in one of the hotel rooms, along with various memorabilia from that era. In the lobby, the saddle of Pony Bill is showcased along with prints and sculptures by leading Western artists. And local character Johnny Williams tells of the time a cowboy pulled out his pistol when he caught his unfaithful wife at the hotel: Thinking he had killed her, the cowboy shot himself. A few minutes later, the stunned wife recovered from a fainting spell.

Today, guns and saddles only hint at the hotel’s colorful past. “We more or less created a museum here,” says Young. “We put back the elegance of another time, but we made this a comfortable place for today.”

Today’s inflation and a massive restoration project has brought the room price up to $85 for a single room and $95 for a double room a night, but the price buys guests all the anemities of a luxury hotel, plus the chance to live out a fantasy in a room that’s been designed around a Western, Indian, mountain man or Victorian motif. Much to Cribari’s surprise, some macho men prefer the frilly Victorian rooms to the masculine decor of the “mountain man” room, especially when their wives are with them. But women, she says, tend to go for the more masculine rooms.

It’s that Western flavor that has made the hotel popular with businessmen, as well as country/western musicians. More than a few business contracts have been negotiated over the restaurant’s tables, says Cribari. Billy Bob Barnett uses the hotel as an escape from the crowds from his nightclub, Billy Bob’s Texas, while recording artists such as Earl Thomas Conley, Sylvia and the group Exile simply enjoy the luxury and convenience.

Singer Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers likes to jog through the Stockyards whenever he’s in town, Cribari says. Vocalist Reba Mclntire liked the atmosphere of the hotel so much that she decided to use it as the background for her new album. And Michael Murphy was so impressed that he’s negotiating to make a video using the hotel’s limo as the setting.

Although the guest list oftenincludes celebrities from BillyBob’s, says Cribari, they try tomake the hotel the type of placewhere everyone, from honey-mooners to executives, feelscomfortable. Guests, whocome from as far away asFrance, aren’t just given a roomfor the night, she says, they’regiven a room that matches theirtaste, personality, and in somecases, their fantasy.