Goin’ to a Go-Go

In 1968, I still had the white Go-Go boots my parents had bought me two years prior. My feet hadn’t gotten any bigger, although I’d grown from 5’6” to 5’8”. I weighed 116, despite eating like “a rootin’ hog” as one of my cousins used to say. It was all the running around, dancing & generally being super manic that kept the weight off me. Mom had read that Twiggy, the model, ate tons too. So she wasn’t worried.

I was in symphonic band at Langley High and (for a short while) also played in a jazz combo. I’d go to nightclubs in DC with musician pals. We’d storm the stage whenever the real band was taking a break.

George J. Horan was our band leader. Th’ man was a hep cat. We learned great jazz riffs from him. I wasn’t the best flute player around but I was absolutely the wildest acting—flinging my hair around as I whipped my head back and forth.

One night, my boyfriend RW had the car. He and his brother shared, taking Sheila and me out for burgers and a movie nearly every Saturday. But Sheila was “on restriction” for some reason. Usually, we got into trouble together but sometimes I escaped detection with my natural-born innocent-looks.

Forbidden by my father to wear make-up, I could do a great: “Golly! I’ve no idea what you’re talking about” schtick when faced with authorities asking what the heck I thought was I doing driving without a license or any other crime de nuit.

So RW, despite not having a driver’s license either (he didn’t want the Army tracking him down for the draft), drove me to DC that night. I held my flute protectively on my lap. Go-Go boots, a navy blue mini-dress with poor boy top & a wide, shiny belt completed my cheap Sears imitation of the trendy British Cockney Mod look.

I insisted we go to a “groovy” discotheque. Although it was cool to be a hippy, I preferred, by far, the Beats. Jack Kerouac: On The Road! I’d grown up in a car. So the Beats spoke to me with their snapping fingers.

We drove around until finding what looked like a hep spot. RW parked the car and joined me as I strained forward, overly excited about “pitching whoopee” as one of my parents’ friends called wild nights. She’d been a flapper in San Francisco in the 1920s!

The doorman took a look at me and shook his head. I appeared to be age 12, I knew. So I held up my flute case and said, “I’m with the band.” He frowned in disbelief but opened the door for my beau and me. RW looked and acted much older than he really was—a whole month younger than me!

All my life, I’ve gotten everywhere twenty minutes (or more) early. This was one of those nights. The only people in the club were the bartender, a few waitresses, one guy sweeping the stage and a fellow standing in the shadows. The waitresses were moving tables and chairs to the far edges of the club, for maximum dance capacity. All of the workers looked bored and world-weary.

RW asked me, “Should we go and come back later?”

But I was geared up! Instead of answering, I ran up onto the stage, tapped the mic’ and stage-whispered “Is this thing on?”

The bartender looked up, shocked. The waitresses ignored me, intent on getting tables and chairs set up properly. I began playing wild riffs on my flute. Key of G.

The guy sweeping came over and clicked on the mic’. I blasted my best rendition of Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic.” A few waitresses came over to listen. I ran out of breath, bowed to minor applause. Then went to drop coins in the juke box.

I chose Cannibal and the Head Hunter’s “Land of a Thousand Dances.”

Na-na-na-nah!” I shouted and began dancing. The Pony. The Phony Maroni. The Alligator. The Mashed Potato. Some dance moves I’d learned from copying kids on “American Bandstand.” Others, I made up on the spot.

That’s not how to do the Pony,” said a stunningly beautiful waitress with flashy pink Yardley Slicker lipstick & a perfectly hair-sprayed blonde flip.

She came over and made her hands into horse’s hooves, lifting her knees up into a perfect Pony. I imitated her, step for step. We burst out laughing. RW sat at the bar, smoking and sipping a whiskey, watching the crazy girls.

Another waitress joined us and shouted, “Twist!” She climbed up onto a table and did the dance perfectly, her butt nearly touching the tabletop when she got at the lowest point in her moves. “How Low Can You Go?” Oh my God! We had to find a limbo stick!

I put another coin in the juke box and chose Smokey Robinson’s “Goin’ to a Go-Go.” Jumped up onto a table & did the wildest Jerk possible, nearly falling to the shined-up floor.

Now this is Go-Go dancing!” I yelled.

The others got into the game as customers began filing into the club. We danced for the entire long song. RW dropped more coins into the juke box and I kept on dancing.

The waitresses had to get to work, serving drinks and snacks to a gathering crowd. I jumped off the table and continued dancing alone all over the nearly-empty floor. As I danced up to people, they joined me and soon the waxed floor was filled with feet making wicked moves.

A tall, slim man in a three piece suit approached me.

What’s your name, kid?”

Dixie,” I was nearly out of breath after thirty minutes of non-stop groovy gyrations.

You want a job, Dixie?”

Like, doing what?”

Like turning this place into Disco à Go-Go!”

YES!”

I spun around in glee and ran to RW, who had retrieved my flute from the stage. The band was getting warmed up, jazzy notes filling the air as young people and some not-so-youthful talked excitedly.

I have a job!”

RW put his arm around my waist,

Mama San, think twice. What’s your Daddy gonna say when you tell him you’re a Go-Go dancer in a night club?”

My face dropped. “I won’t tell him!”

You ain’t got a driver’s license. How’re you gonna fill out all them W-2 forms an’ shit? Lie? Not to mention, I can’t drive you to town every night. I gotta work at th’ distillery when my old man’s too drunk to pull his shift.

So!? I’ve work! Coat Checker and bath-house cleaning at the Lake. I’ll save up, then buy a car and evade the cops.”

I got a feeling when that slick man finds out you’re sixteen, he’ll take back the offer.”

Defiantly, I stormed over to the ‘slick man.’

I’m sixteen.”

Well, woopsie-daisie! Is my face red!” The club owner laughed. “You come back in two years and you got a top pay job, sweetheart. I’ll try to keep this joint afloat ’til then, Dixie.”

I was a Go-Go dancer in the big city for one night!

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