Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ballroom Dancing

When I first moved to Denver, I was working for Channel 9 on Bannock Street. I was hired since I had a First Class Commercial FCC license, but I was really just the station's gopher. “Hey Mickey, why don’t you go-fer coffee.” “Go-fer some RG-8 cable.” “Go-fer some hamburgers.” That’s proof I wasn’t performing a technical job. Only one in three requests was for anything to do with the broadcast industry.

Still, it was a good job and one thing I got to do a lot was “go-fer” the airport and pick up some celebrity or celebrity “wanta-be.” The station had a black Lincoln Town Car … not a stretch limo … but a limo in any case. I would go pick up people that were in town for the morning show or an afternoon interview show or whatever. If it was a large party, I drove a small bus, but mostly I was tooling around town in the black Town Car and they even let me take it home since I only had a motorcycle back then.

One time I picked up sixteen beauty queen finalist or semi-finalist or quarter finalist or whatever. They were on a tour across country traveling to Los Angeles for the pageant's final event and doing interview shows on local TV to increase the contest’s ad revenues. I was in the business. I understood the process. There was one who really caught my eye: her smile. her eyes. her hair; she was a beautiful blond … hello … it’s a beauty contest! Now at that point in my life there was only three things I was truly interested in: girls, girls, and … of course … GIRLS. So I planned my smoothest move on her.

You see, when I was a young lad, my mom used to send me to dance lessons. (How embarrassing.) She was a very classy lady and insisted that I learn BALLROOM DANCING. But now, what had once been a fate worse than death for a young boy only interested in baseball and fishing, I now used to my personal, girl catching, advantage. I had a white tuxedo, all custom fit to my six foot-two, 150 pound frame. (Yeah, I was a lot thinner back then … and a lot taller.)

I had found the greatest ball room dancing ballroom in all of Denver, the Ritz-Carolton. Whether is was the Big Fish Combo or Joey Thomas Big Band, I could knock them dead with my smooth moves. So I asked the young lady if she would like a pleasant night out on the town. She agreed and I told her to wear her grandest gown. (I knew they had these fancy dresses since it was part of the pageant.) I picked her up at eight in the black Town Car and me in my white Tuxedo.

I could tell right away she was impressed by my unique style and attitude and soon we were on the dance floor knocking them dead. She was really a good dancer too, although it seemed all natural to me since I’d be surprised if there was any other soul in the whole United States in the Sixties that had studied the esoteric footwork my mom had forced down my throat.

Now you young bucks out there familiar with the more common method of wooing a lady and those who quote poetry such as “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” you really don’t get it. Ballroom dancing, fancy clothes, and … champagne. Now that’s a drink straight from France, the loving capital of the world. It tastes like soda pop, but — believe me — it’s got its kick. And the ladies are so unsuspecting. Of course, yours truly imbibed freely too. After all, it was a party.

As we skipped the light fandango and whirled round and round on the floor I soon started to feel the bubbly as my head began to float, the room seemed to fly apart, and I felt decidedly nauseous. I had just got out of the service and my chosen branch was the Navy, so seasickness was something I was very familiar with. She, however, didn’t seem to be affected at all. We were such a striking couple that most the other dancers had stopped dancing and stood in a circle watching us twirling about the floor. They were all clapping and shouting encouragement. The whole room was throbbing, or maybe it was just the drink. No one wanted us to quit, but I had to go sit down.

I took her back to our table and called out for more champagne, and the waiter brought a tray of those classic stemmed glasses. Things were going exactly to plan when an old buddy of mine showed up. His name was Steve Miller and he had also just separated from the military, but he had been a Marine and served in Vietnam, very tough duty. I was quite confident and asked him to join us even though I realized he would be a rival in this carefully planned seduction, but I thought my plan was flawless and working so well I decided to spice up the evening with his presence.

Right away he started talking about his war experiences as I downed another glass. My date seemed enthralled. She had her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands and was staring at Steve intently as he told his stories. It was a gruesome description of death and dying and I could tell she was affected as the blood drained from her face leaving her pale as a ghost. What I didn’t realize was that the stories were connecting with her as the war hero wrought his tale.

I had planned so carefully and it seemed that everything was going so well. Tomorrow the sixteen contestants would leave for L.A. and, if I played my cards right, she would be mine for the night.

She said something about the truth being plain to see. I thought my eyes were wide open, but they might as well have been closed. You can guess the ending. She left that night with the Miller and I wandered home, slightly buzzed, and without a companion. As I sat at my kitchen table drinking coffee to recover my senses, I thought about the evening and penned a short poem, and then laid down on the couch and drifted off to sleep.

Shakespeare said, “If music be the food of love,” I thought, “then laughter is it’s queen.” I rose early the next morning and drove down to the station. Immediately I was sent with the van out to the airport to pick up a British band called the “Paramounts.” They were in town hawking an unsuccessful album. They’d had a small hit with their cover of “Poison Ivy,” and were in town seeking both fans and inspiration.

I had one of those throbbing heads that is the downside of the French grape and suggested we stop at a local watering hole for a Bloody Mary. They’d been on the plane all night and were most willing to join me for a drink or three. The bar was deserted at ten o’clock in the morning and there was a band set up on stage. Soon the rockers were up there playing and singing. I joined them and fired up the Hammond Organ and then thought about the lyrics I had written the night before. As the band took a break to replenish their drinks, I started playing little arpeggios on the organ and singing the lyrics I had written the night before. I started with a simple C - F - G, the simplest progression ever in the easiest key there is on a keyboard. Then I added some related minors, but still stuck with only the white keys. Soon the drummer joined me, but the rest just listened to the cool lyrics and the simple organ sounds.

When I had finished the musical composition before their very eyes and ears, they all laughed, applauded, finished the drinks, and headed for the studio. I had other duties that day and didn’t see them before they left.

Imagine my surprise when, on the radio a few months later, I heard … not only my words and melody, but even the simple organ centric production. It became a big hit for them, although they had changed their name to something they got from a cat. Most people misspell their name to this day and they went on to great success playing with large orchestras. Who knew that their start was a young man in a tux trying to woo a gal with ballroom dance. The truth is strange to see.

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