As I switched off yet another black and white rerun of Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, I asked myself why I ended up watching that and Lawrence Welk on nearly every Saturday evening. The answer is obvious, I suppose. Unless you’re a big sports fan or get some sort of satisfaction from watching people (people who are even more out of shape than you are) tempt fate and coronaries by running up the side of a mountain, you haven’t much choice.
There are a few other choices, depending on which channels come in best to wherever you are located in what they call the viewing area. The options get juggled around now and then, but remain a ho-hum mix of outrageous quirky sports events, tedious and minute examination of some detail of some political crisis in some country you can’t find on the map, fashion and lifestyle advice about how to get out of your present rut and into a different one along with all the rest of the gullible consumers who long to be on the cutting edge of the next century and beyond. I can’t help smiling when I think of how hard we all try to avoid being just like everybody else, by getting on a band wagon and trying even harder to be just like everybody else– plus just as foolish.
Way back when the Champagne Music Makers were broadcast in black and white and the Lennon sisters were still thought of as little girls, the show was sponsored by Geritol®. Remember all the innuendo-laden jokes about Geritol® that were flying about during those years? I suppose it was more or less a liquid embodiment of a daily multiple vitamin tablet, but the snickering and sly glances indicated that most people considered it to be an aphrodisiac– or snake-oil.
You know what snake-oil is, don’t you? It can be anything from a magic elixir to a label strategically tucked into a seam on the backside of your jeans. The properties of snake-oil are legend, of course. Having you teeth bleached one shade whiter may be all you need to insure that you’ll get stuck in the elevator with that handsome young executive from the third floor, for just long enough for him to be smitten by the brilliance of your smile and whisk you off on a crazy-romantic lunch in a little bistro in Paris.
If you take that certain brand of heartburn remedy before you get heartburn, you will smile more often, your grandkids will love you more, and won’t even complain when you say no cookies until after lunch. Getting rid of those ugly calluses on your heels will change your life by giving you the confidence to wear a bikini and sit by the pool on a luxury cruise ship. And owning at least one pair of Capri pants with a designer’s signature on the back pocket will fix that broken engagement and make your hair thicker and shinier. Guaranteed.
As I watch the studio guests dancing in front of the stage in both those programs, I wonder if dancing will ever be the same as it was during the time of those big bands and all that singable, hummable, danceable swing music. Going to dances was a popular pastime during those days. There were movies, roller rinks, church and community club activities to provide some variety, but adults who had been teenagers during the Twenties and Thirties went to dances– a lot. We still see them on those re-broadcasts, people from my parents’ generation dancing to the sweetest music this side of heaven. Occasionally they stop dancing and stand, swaying to the beat, while a guest singer provides a special treat at Guy Lombardo’s request, but they are really there to dance. And dance they do. They are unselfconscious, know how to navigate on a crowded dance floor, and are enjoying themselves.
Many times I have fervently wished that I had tried harder to learn to dance. I may have grown up in a time-warp, or with my head in the clouds, but until I was sixteen I saw no reason to be able to dance. My dad said, “No boyfriends or dates until you’re sixteen.” So, what was the point in learning to dance. I’d never be sixteen– preparing for that vague someday was impossibly far off.
And something else my dad said really cinched it for me: While watching Lawrence Welk on TV the first time around, Mother said longingly, “We should go dancing sometime, Earl. We used to go nearly every weekend. It’s been years since we danced.”
To which Dad replied, “I got you to marry me, didn’t I? So, I don’t have to take you dancing anymore.”