Old jitterbugger is cool and ready to cut a rug

September 13, 1998|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight Ridder/Tribune

RECENTLY, I WAS AT A party given by a younger couple, defined as "a couple that had not yet been born when I started worrying about cholesterol." You will never guess whose music these young people were playing: Bobby Darin's. Yes. Bobby Darin, hepcat swinger from my youth, is cool again!

No doubt you've read about how the Hot New Trend among "with-it" 20-something people is to eschew the rock scene and pretend that they're swank sophisticates living three or four decades ago - drinking martinis, going to nightclubs, dressing like the late Frank Sinatra (not the women, of course; they're dressing like the late Dean Martin), voting for Dwight Eisenhower, using words like "eschew," etc. This makes me wonder: If old things are cool, could I become cool again?

I have not felt remotely cool for a long time, thanks largely to the relentless efforts of my teen-age son, whose goal in life is to make me feel 3,500 years old. We'll be in the car, and he'll say, "You wanna hear my new CD?" And I, flattered that he thinks his old man might like the same music he does, will say "Sure!" So he increases the sound-system volume setting from "4" to "Meteor Impact," and he puts in a CD by a band with a name like "Pustule," and the next thing I know gigantic nuclear bass notes have blown out the car windows and activated both the driver and passenger air bags, and I'm writhing on the floor, screaming for mercy. My son then ejects the CD, smiling contentedly, knowing he has a winner. On those extremely rare occasions when I like one of his CDs, I imagine he destroys it with a blowtorch.

My point is that, for some time, I have viewed myself as being roughly equal, on the Coolness Scale, to Bob Dole. And then, suddenly, at this party, these 20-somethings were playing Bobby Darin, a singer from my youth, an era known as "The Era When There Were A Lot Of Singers Named Bobby And One Named Freddy" (Bobby Sherman, Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Rydell, Elvis "Bobby" Presley and Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon).

I know Bobby Darin's music. Whenever I hear his version of "(Oh My Darlin') Clementine" I snap my fingers in a happening "jive" manner and sing right along with these immortal lyrics:

You know she would rouse up

Wake all of them cows up

I vividly remember when Bobby Darin had a hit record with "Mack the Knife," which is sometimes referred to as "The Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band of 1959," because it was nearly three minutes long and had weird, incomprehensible lyrics involving somebody named "Sukey Tawdry." I remember going to a record hop in the gymnasium of Harold C. Crittenden Junior High in Armonk, N.Y., where they played "Mack the Knife" maybe times, and we all danced the jitterbug.

The jitterbug was a dance wherein you remained in actual, physical contact with your partner - what kids now call vTC "touch-dancing." After that era, we started doing nontouch dances - the jerk, the boogaloo, the funky downtown rutabaga, etc., wherein you strayed several feet from your partner. Later in the '60s, dance standards got looser, and you often lost visual contact with your partner. This was followed by the disco era, during which you and your partner might touch briefly, but only for the purpose of exchanging narcotics; which in turn was followed by the "mosh pit" concept of dancing, wherein you dance simultaneously with many people, the object being to inflict head injuries on them.

But now touch-dancing is back, and I'm excited about it, because I can still do the jitterbug. Despite what my son thinks, maybe I am cool again. I'm thinking about putting a tube and a half of Brylcreem in my hair and going to a swank nightclub. I'd saunter up to the bar, order a dry martini and settle back to soak up the scene; then, when a really "swinging" song came on, I'd get to my feet and "wow" the younger generation when I, in a suave and sophisticated manner, threw up on my shoes, because martinis make me sick.

Then I'd go to bed, because I'm 3,500 years old.

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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