Angrier, I am, than a man who spent his life’s savings on a new business (a ballroom dance studio) at the worst possible time — during the advent of rock ‘n’ roll, when one couldn’t get a youngster to dance a mambo even if you paid him a fin to do so.
By now you are surely wondering, “Why is this Carmine person so irked about something that happened so many years prior?” The answer is simple.
There was a time, dear reader, before my own metabolism slowed to the point that it became easier for my body to store calories on my person rather than burn them, when I taught ballroom dancing to the masses. People would come from near and far to dance with me. I enjoyed the teaching, and they enjoyed the learning, so we were equally joyful during these pleasant occasions.
But times changed, rock ‘n’ roll did come, and the number of people willing to learn the ballroom style taught by me as an instructor for the Arthur Murray Dance Partners began to fall off dramatically.
Now, again, you must be wondering, “What is this man blathering on about?” I apologize for this apparent digression, and promise you, dear reader, that I will now get to the point.
Believe it or not, the savior of our business was, in fact, the very rock ‘n’ roll that had, at first, seemed to portend our doom.
The Loews Kings, the beautifully adorned movie house that, sadly, was allowed to fall into disrepair after its untimely closure in the 1970s, was mentioned in the papers last week because it is likely to undergo a much-anticipated renaissance. Let it be known that it was in that fantastic cathedral of the arts where I, Carmine Santa Maria, did convince my peers to allow the immediate commencement of instruction by our company of a dance known to the populace as the “Twist.”
At first they were shocked at even the suggestion that our troupe, which had for years been training the highest level of dance that had been perfected over the centuries, stoop so low as to simply “shake our booty” to a “groove” that was presented to us by the likes of “Chubby Checker.”
But I pressed on, for I knew in my own heart and soul, dear reader, that it was not only the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do.
Luckily, my plan narrowly passed, and without hesitation we ran an advertisement in many of the journals of the time announcing our intention.
All was quiet for a few days before, quite suddenly, like a rogue wave slamming into a cargo ship navigating an otherwise quiet and still sea, the phone in our little office began ringing, for lack of a better term, off the hook.
And we were back in business.
Soon, on that grand stage on Flatbush Avenue, we were not only teaching the Twist, but other pop culture phenomenons including the Mashed Potato, the Watusi, the Jerk, the Pony, the Monkey, and, of course, the Funky Chicken.
But none were more popular at our place than our beloved Twist — a dance, I must point out, that was as easy to teach as it was to learn. To this day, I sometimes wonder if my plan was somewhat unethical, as even a simpleton could master the dance from simply watching it on television.
Still, my plan worked. It saved our little shop, and it reminds us that the one constant in this life of ours is change. Youth demands it, and the old tried-and-true ways will eventually succumb.
Some change is for the better, and others, for the worse. It is at this point, dear reader, that I must inform you of one change that falls into the latter category.
Sam Weinberg, who had the privilege of being married to Hilda, his childhood sweetheart, for 73 years, sadly passed this weekend at the ripe old age of 94. I stopped by to give my personal condolences to his bereaved wife, and reminded her of a quip I made at the couple’s 70th anniversary party a few years prior. It was then when I cracked wise, “I assume you realize that you certainly received your money’s worth for the $2 certificate of marriage you purchased from the city.”
It got laughs at the anniversary, and brought a smile to Hilda’s face yet again.
Sam was a gentleman at all times, and his will be a great loss to anyone that had the privilege of knowing him. He will be missed.
More complaints forthcoming seven days hence.Read Carmine's every Sunday on BrooklynPa