I've decided that Annette's to blame!
Yessum...Annette Funicello made me
Maybe it was the rat in me...
but I fell madly in love with the star
of the Mickey Mouse Club.
my dream girl.
I actually used
she and I
I wanted to be Annette's tall Paul!
"Tall Paul" - Annette (March 1959,
highest chart position #7)
I wanted Annette to be my
"Pineapple Princess" - Annette
(September 1960, highest chart
Or maybe even my Shady lady!
"First Name Initial" - Annette (January 1960,
highest chart position #20)
I wanted her to have my mice!
"O Dio Mio" - Annette (April 1960,
highest chart position #10)
Fast forward to August 1963:
I was 13 years old and about to enter the 9th grade.
My church held a dance for kids in junior high and my parents forced me to go. Didn't wanna! I told them it sounded boring but that was code for "I'm scared to death." You see, I had never been to a dance before. I didn't know how to dance and had no interest in learning. For years I had watched the kids dancing on Bandstand and basically knew what to do. The problem was that I just couldn't imagine myself having the nerve to take a girl by the hand, lead her to the floor and embrace her. Dancing was...icky! Baseball? Football? Basketball? Pool? Pinball? Bowling? Swimming? Bike riding?
Now you're talkin' my language!
When it comes to remembering that dance party I have tunnel vision. Truth is I can't remember anyone else who attended except me and...that girl.
(No, not Marlo Thomas!)
That girl...a young lady that I had seen in church with
her family on Sundays but with whom I had never spoken.
That girl...the one who reminded me so much of Annette!
That vision of loveliness matched in every detail Billy Reed's description of the quintessential heart breaker: big, soulful eyes, thick, lustrous brunette tresses...
Records started playing and kids started dancing...but not me. I stood on the sideline frozen in one spot unable to move. Why was I so damn shy around girls? Maybe it was because I grew up with a brother but no sisters in the house. I've always heard that boys with sisters have an easier time relating to girls than boys without sisters. Guys like me regarded girls as creatures from another planet, an entirely different species. I was in awe of them. They made me nervous. They put a whole lotta trouble in my mind. I didn't feel worthy to be close to them. Yet there I was at a church function where I was expected to "perform." The clock was ticking. Sooner or later I had to dance!
I remember a few of the records that played that night.
They included "It's My Party" and "Judy's Turn to Cry" by Lesley Gore, "Candy Girl," the latest hit single by the Four Seasons, and two earlier hits by Frankie Valli's group, "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry."
"Big Girls Don't Cry" - Four Seasons
(November 1962, highest chart position #1)
Marcie Blane sang "Bobby's Girl," Little Peggy March sang
"I Will Follow Him," Bobby Vee sang "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," and Jimmy Clanton, who hosted an oldies show in the early and mid 70s on WHEX radio in Columbia, PA, sang his third top 10 hit.
"Venus in Blue Jeans" - Jimmy Clanton
(October 1962, highest chart position #7)
After a long string of fast songs the deejay finally slowed things down and couples began swaying to the hit ballad
by Paul and Paula.
"Hey Paula" - Paul and Paula
(February 1963, highest chart position #1)
My blood ran cold. This was it. No more hiding. No more stalling. It wasn't that unusual for a guy to sit out fast dances because two or more girls often danced together without waiting to be asked by boys. A slow dance was
a different story. I would be committing a cardinal sin if
I didn't get with the program and invite a young lady to dance. Intellectually I understood that, yet I remained paralyzed with fear, standing there like a statue desperately trying to summon the courage to venture across the room into enemy territory. I wasted the entire Paul and Paula record debating myself.
When a second slow number came on.....that's when it happened! I can't remember if a chaperone came over and nudged me in the direction of that lovely brunette or
if somebody pushed us together and ordered us to dance
or if I finally decided to go for it and ask her myself.
All I know is that somehow...somehow I wound up on the dance floor with that Annette look-alike in my arms. It was my first ever slow dance and, miracle of miracles, I was experiencing it with the most beautiful girl at the party!
She took me halfway to paradise.
"Only Love Can Break a Heart" - Gene Pitney
(November 1962, highest chart position #2)
It was the first time in my life I had ever been that intimate with a girl, the first time I ever held one. We danced in silence and with every passing second I became more aware of the chemistry between us...a deep rapport that revealed itself through nonverbal communication...body language. Little by little I held her hand more tightly and she signaled approval by squeezing mine more firmly. Gently I pulled her closer to me. She offered no resistance. Her perfume filled my nostrils and I was intoxicated. Sugar is sweet, my love, but not as sweet as you...
"Blue Velvet" - Bobby Vinton (August 1963,
highest chart position #1)
Yes, there I was out on the floor in deep rapport with a dark haired beauty who also resembled a young Elizabeth Taylor.
I was discovering what heaven was like in two-and-a-half minute increments as one slow song followed another. That deejay became my NBF AND BFF when he spun another slow drag. This one sealed the deal and a future Dell rat was born!
"You Belong to Me" - Duprees
(September 1962, highest chart position #7)
Instinct took over. It was as if I was flying on auto pilot.
Slow dancing came naturally to me. In my last post Billy Reed explained what happened next and therefore I won't go into the gory details. Suffice it to say that by the time the music stopped, our dewy bodies separated and we returned to our respective corners, I had concluded that dancing wasn't so icky after all. It was right up there with catching polliwogs. That night that girl and I had real chemistry and shared an electric moment. She knew it and I knew it.
Oh what a night
Pre-September back in '63
What a very special time for me
What a lady, what a night!
If I could save time in a bottle I would enjoy that golden moment over and over again. Your first time only comes around once and my first dance was as special as it could possibly be. I never danced with my earth angel after that night. I never dated her. I don't remember ever speaking to her again and eventually I lost track of her completely.
In case you're wondering she never showed up at the Dell.
Nearly 50 years have passed since that magical evening.
I was never to see her again...
nor was I ever to learn what became of her.
We were different then. Kids were different.
It took us longer to understand
the things we felt.
Life is made up of small comings and goings
and for everything we take with us
there is something that we leave behind.
In the summer of '63
we went to Zimmy's
pool ten times.
We saw a dozen
movies and had
nine days of rain.
Car 54 was the
one to watch.
Stevie gave it up
with his harmonica.
And, in a very special
way, I lost my fear
of girls forever.
Lovely lady, in all likelihood you have long since forgotten
about that night and about me. If, by chance, you do
remember and happen to be reading this, please know how
special that night was for me. Thank you very much for
the dance and for fond memories that linger on!
Have a Shady day!