Badly in need of a road trip, we set out to discover Johnson County.

Cruisin' the 'Calf 

Badly in need of a road trip, we set out to discover Johnson County.

Page 5 of 9

Rutlader Outpost houses the Middle Creek Opry, a Branson-style country hootenanny that draws up to 400 people each Saturday night. "People come from Independence, Overland Park, everywhere," says Opry co-owner Brenda Harris. "They hold auditions afterward. You have to see the show first, so you know what you're getting into. That's the only stipulation."

Black-and-white glossy shots of Opry participants line the wall: Splinter Middleton, Jamie Ogle, Stew Lager. "They're all very well-known," Harris says. An especially intriguing photo showcases "the hilarious faces of Harley Worthit," an elastic-faced Branson warm-up comedian who makes occasional visits to the Opry.

Next door, an extra-twangy instrumental version of "Deep in the Heart of Texas" plays on crackly vinyl at a knickknack shop. An employee fluffs a pillow embroidered with the words "moon beams and country dreams" and chuckles at a card that features a bathing cowgirl extending her feet to a nearby horse's face. The payoff line: "From nose to toes ... you tickle my fancy." -- Andrew Miller

2:30 p.m.
Hollywood at Home
9036 Metcalf
Six guys are browsing the adult section. Among them are an older man assisted by a cane yet wearing skimpy sweatshorts and a floppy-haired beauty in an untucked white oxford shirt who could be the next Abercrombie & Fitch model. On the wall is a poster for 1 Night in Paris, the Paris Hilton porn video shot by whoever was her boyfriend that week. A toolbox at knee level in the center of the section offers free condoms. Two are left.

Hollywood at Home owner Richard Rostenberg calls his street "Metcash." The video, DVD and magazine emporium celebrates its 25th anniversary next year; presciently, Rostenberg opened the store in 1980, just in time for the birth of a billion-dollar business. "We were the first in town to rent movies and, yes, we had Beta tapes and Laserdiscs," he says. The store is maybe one of a dozen independent video stores left in Kansas City, aided by its testosterone-heavy magazine selection, cigars and extensive foreign-film and adult offerings.

When Kansas City endured an anti-smut campaign in the late 1980s, Hollywood at Home was a convenient target. One can, after all, see split-levels from the store's front door. The effort inspired Rostenberg to found the Kansas City Coalition Against Censorship. Eventually, he recalls, a grand jury determined that he could sell no child pornography and no bestiality porn. "I mean, of course," he says. "We're a family store. We have a self-policing policy." It works. The X-rated titles bring in a lot of revenue, but on this particular weekday, Rostenberg estimates his customers have checked out between 500 and 600 movies from the nonporn stock.

"Everything from [Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 16-hour] Berlin Alexanderplatz to Fuck Doll Sandwich." -- Steve Walker

5 p.m.
Timber Creek Bar and Grill
Near 271st Street

David, a tall guy wearing a brushy mustache and a John Deere cap, smokes Pall Malls near the waitress stand. His friend Robert, a short guy with a Hulk Hogan haircut and jean shorts, swivels on a stool beside him. A man in parachute pants and aviator shades -- Robert's cousin Billy -- has settled at an unoccupied four-top, lighting smokes and watching the wine-sipping suits-and-ties who've come in after a funeral. All three have been inside the log-cabin-style bar for more than an hour.

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