I wrote again....
My 15 year old daughter went to a swing dance “event” at Downtown Disney the other night.
Back in 1982 the “Stray Cats” were at the top of the charts with their modern twist on ‘Rock-a-Billy’ music. ‘Stray Cat Strut’ was the hit of the teen dance scene and possibly the inspiration for many “Under 21” dance clubs that popped up around Southern California.
There was a dance club in downtown Long Beach where it was a black dress code and an almost too cool to move your feet vibe. The music was “edgy” at the time (now days I hear that same music in hotel elevators and lobbies); the “kids” wore makeup for shock value which may or may not have enhanced their looks.
There was another club inside Knott’s Berry Farm, where if, you knew how to use rubbing alcohol properly on your friend’s black light hand stamp (because he paid the admittance fee, then exited); you could transfer that stamp to your own wrist and get a “2 for 1” deal (but you had to use the back entrance and hope the admitting kid didn’t scrutinize it too closely). Knott’s was fun and generally packed with kids all moving to the beat. Since the “Log Ride” was next to the dance hall, warm summer nights were the best as you could slip out for a refreshing ride with some cute girl who was on vacation from Oregon.. long formal gowns
Another Buena Park hot spot was Medieval Times, they would lay down plywood all over the normal dirt turf used for their equestrian displays, jousts and other knightley events and kids would dance and frolic in the arena. The ‘Times’ was an interesting venue in that it was actually too big to be a dance club - huge vaulted ceilings, too much space between the DJ and the floor and the stadium seating was a constant reminder that you were not in some intimate club setting. Still, when “One Step Beyond” by Madness played - the whole field of kids erupted into one giant congo line that wove throughout the entire facility.
But, I digress...I couldn’t dance (and for all practical purposes, I still can’t). Yet, something about that Stray Cat song made me want to choreograph a dance routine.
About once a month, Lakewood High would sponsor a dance club event at the Youth Center in Del Valle Park (the airplane park for all you locals). They always hired the same band, a pseudo rock-a-billy Stray Cat knock-off band; generally played by someone who went (or was currently enrolled at) Lakewood. They were good - better than a DJ spinning some funky tunes; and they had energy.
Somehow, I convinced my cousin Tracy (who was a sophomore at the time) that we should put together a dance routine for Stray Cat Strut. I’m not entirely sure she thought it was a good idea or she just agreed because I was family….either way, we practiced for a couple of months inside my house anticipating “Homecoming” night and following dance at the Center.
That Friday, I was nervous, I couldn’t even go to the football game...all I could think about was screwing up, dropping my cousin and running out of the place in an embarrassed heap of tears.
I recall that we showed up early and only a few stragglers were present - the band hadn’t even arrived. We walked around, chatted, tried to drink some cherry colored water and practiced our moves in our heads, not on the floor.
About 9pm the band showed up and by 9:30 they were performing to a fairly packed house of teenage hormones.
Girls with hair frizzed out and 10 inches higher than their heads, short mini skirts with that distinct ZZ Top assemble and blue eye shadow that colored them from their lids to their brows. Likewise, for the complete look I was ‘rock-a-billy’d’ out - with my jeans rolled up, white socks and black shoes, a white t-shirt with candy cigarettes in the sleeve and my hair somewhat greased (only with gel, because I don’t like grease) - at least that’s what I think I wore.
Since Stray Cat Strut was the hit song of the semester, the band waited until nearly the end of the set to play it. Tracy and I danced with each other and other people, all the while keeping close tabs on one another in case the song came on and we had to rush over to find the other
Then the moment came...we didn’t have a routine for the first few seconds of the song as we just bobbed at the beat like everyone else.
But, then, our queue struck - I spun her, lifted her, threw her between my legs then back, we “dish toweled”, more spins, over, under and we were done. It was a routine that lasted for about half the song.
When we first started, the room was packed, everyone was dancing shoulder to shoulder - but as our routine began to unfold. The dance floor cleared back and we were in the center of circular mob of people cheering us on.
It went quick - our intent was to just go right back into normal dancing before the ending of the song - almost as if nothing ever happened...and, that’s almost exactly how it occurred. The crowd cheered, they chanted, “more, more”. But, we didn’t have any more - we could have done the same thing over again...but, that felt dumb at the time. Looking back, we probably should have.
When we didn’t continue, the mob mingled back in and once again we were dancing shoulder to shoulder.
A few people came up to us and said our routine was cool and asked whether we had any more moves. We didn’t, so there was no follow-up performance.
In fact, we never performed again. It was magical to just pull it off once - and once completed, the magic was loosened and the desire dissipated.
I picked my daughter up from Downtown Disney, “How’d it go?”
“It was a lot of fun!”
“Did you swing dance or just bob to the beat?”
“We danced most of the time.”
“Are you inspired to choreograph a dance routine...perhaps learn some moves?”
“Nope, not really”
And so it ends.