Over the past two weeks I’ve received “signs” of what this blog post should be about. The first sign was when I spotted a chap at the gym who I used to know from my youth. I had an almighty crush on him which was only made worse by the fact that he had a super cool name: James Dallas. When your name has “Dallas” in it, people immediately associate it with the word “Cowboy”. Needless to say, James Dallas wore his name very well and was very cowboyish in that hot-in-blue jeans kind of way.
The second sign was when a Facebook friend posted a video of cowboys dancing in a field. The group of dancers are from a group called "Magic Men" and given the lil’ hip thrust they managed to sneak into their routine, I reckon they don’t generally dance in fields.
Anyhow, both incidences reminded me of something that happened to me in the 80’s.
I was all of 15 years old when we started seeing advertisements on the TV for a troupe of dancers from the USA. They were called The Chippendales and from what they showed us on the TV ad, they were an all-male group of dancers that toured the world.
I need to back up a bit and remind you of where South Africa was historically with regards to “dancers”. The apartheid era was known for seriously cramping everyone’s style, not least of those who like to “dance” in public. Accordingly, if you wanted to see a “dancer”, you had to go to somewhere like the Wild Coast Sun, where “dancing” was allowed. Of course, there was tons of other things that weren’t allowed, but “dancing” was definitely one of them. Accordingly, the advertisements we saw only showed the Chippendales dancing, like for REAL, and not “dancing”.
To be honest, I’m not sure if my mum and older sister put two and two together, but if they did, they certainly didn’t let me in on it. Although I was curious to know why the chosen performance venue for the Chippendales was The Wild Coast Sun, I was not about to put up a fight when my mum (also known as The Queen) and my older sister (Liza Minelli) told me I could bunk school and join them to see one of the shows. They also booked a ticket for Exotica and before long our gaggle of girls was on their way to the Wild Coast. Exotica and I felt very grown up because we were the only teenagers included in the foray (which in retrospect should have been a red flag).
We arrived hours before the show was due to start and The Queen let us mill around on our own with R20 in our pockets till the show kicked off. As Exotica and I strolled around, taking in the sights of gamblers, slot machines and card players, we stumbled upon a movie theatre which stated STRICKLY NO UNDER 18’s. Mystified as to what might lie within, we slowly got the gist as we saw man after man after man entering the theatre. As the realisation dawned on us, a discussion ensued between Exotica and I about the dynamics of watching a Blue Movie, and in the company of strangers to boot. Did they all wank off together? we wondered. Or, did they all rush to the loos immediately after the film to sort themselves out? Either way, we decided that it was a grubby, soggy business (“Ew, imagine the chairs!” we both exclaimed) and we wanted to get as far away from the theatre as what we could.
To ease our nerves, we decided to spend our R20 on a drink. I’d heard that Sambuca was a thing and had seen people in movies lighting their shot glasses and then downing it while it was still aflame.
Eager to test whether this could actually be done, I assured Exotica that I’d done it many times and that she shouldn’t be nervous and should “just go for it”. The flame was hotter and bluer than I anticipated but by now there was no holding Exotica back. To this day I’m not really sure what she did wrong, but I think she went in for the kill a little too slowly. Once her drink was downed, she said “Your turn”. As I looked at her, something seemed different about her. Kind of odd. Off. Then I noticed. Where her eye lashes were supposed to be there were now little white balls of singed hair. I decided against lighting mine and downed it cold instead.
Even if Exotica and I had finished an entire bottle of Sambuca each, we would not have been prepared for what came next.
After being ushered into the theatre, we noticed a group of rather rowdy women in the front row, just a little along from where we ourselves were sitting. We weren’t sure what the reasons behind their rambunctious behaviour was, but we decided it wasn’t very orthodox to behave in such an uncouth way in a theatre. After all, the only other theatres we’d been in were The Playhouse in Durban and The Hexagon in Pietermaritzburg, and that was to watch ballet.
The music started. There was wild cheering and applause. Whistling even. A man, let’s call him “Chip”, sashayed onto the stage. He was wearing black trousers, a white collared shirt and a bow tie. Mmm. Smart, I thought, though a little impractical if you’re about to dance. Before long there was more sashaying, and hip wiggling and stroking of chests and flicking back of hair. Exotica and I sunk low into our chairs.
After what seemed like a VERY long time, Chip started removing his clothing. I’m not sure who was in charge of garment construction but I confess, I did think it was a stroke of genius that both his trousers and shirt could be removed in one quick, snap-the-snappers move. The heat from both Exotica and my cheeks was radiant. There was nowhere to go. No way we could escape this nightmare.
As number after number was performed, the rowdy ladies got rowdier, and Exotica and I started to look like we were actually grafted into the red velvet upholstery. To make matters worse, I was seated RIGHT NEXT TO THE QUEEN the entire time.