Though "The Twist" was a song written and recorded in 1959 by Hank
Ballard and The Midnighters, American
Bandstand leader Dick Clark failed to talk Hank into performing
on his show, so instead duplicated that song using an unknown chicken plucker named Earnest Evans, also an
amateur song style impersonator. A little twist on the name "Fats Domino," and "Chubby Checker" became
synonymous with starting the dance crazes of the Sixties when his single went on to no. 1 in 1960, again
in 1962, and periodically whenever Checker recorded a variation on the theme or the song was
re-released. In the US, instructions were enclosed with every record
sold: "Imagine you are stubbing out a cigarette with both
feet whilst drying your back with a towel."
Meantime, while I was in junior high, I dried my back with a towel
after showering at the conclusion of gym. This mandatory hygiene high jinx allotted the entire class
ten minutes to step on a grate which sprayed disinfectant on your bare feet before snaring a stall,
pretending to shower by running the water to splash yourself, patting dry, and dressing which entailed
pulling on baggy nylons and securing them with garters before the bell rang. Gym class was no spa
retreat either, but rather a boot camp where we girls wore a regulation short sleeved blue gym suit
in which we ran the gauntlet of competitive track, shimmied and scurried along a labyrinth of
monkey bars, aggressively punched volleyballs over a net, or gymnastically contorted ourselves to sorely test
Often, those gym suits and socks were ripe for the picking
day after day out of bicycle baskets, falsely secured with a combination lock, crammed on
shelves. S-o-oh, you can imagine my elation when my phys ed instructor swung the armature
over the record player for us to do-si-do. Hee haw! Save for slipping into a pair
of sneakers, it signified no allemanding left into that stinky locker room reeking of sweaty
socks, nor stepping into a steamy shower stall conducive to growing mold colonies.
As far as I was concerned, square dancing or
dancing squarely was on a par with enrolling in the witness protection program. I no longer felt
threatened by being roughed up through the rigors of gym, or self-conscious about
not attaining performance standards of athletic prowess. By far, the fiddle couldn't hold a
candle to the electric guitar. There was no contagious rhythm or hip jive in the directions
twanged by a caller who extolled the wholesome heartland. For sure, there’d be no
suggestive rotation of one's hips, bouncing, arm jerking, or twisting the night away either.
Anyway, these moves were certainly not prerequisites amongst a bunch of girls pardnering up
with each other to join hands or crook elbows inside a square.
Ultimately, what happened inside gym class, stayed on our side of the folding divider
which separated the boys from the girls. Once you entered
that stale locker room to suit up, you threw in the towel and checked any semblance of glamour,
pretension, and entitlement at the door.
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