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LET'S CONNECT

LG POWELL 2018. CREATED BY LETSBEESOCIAL.COM

EXCERPT: RESILIENCE 

Disco had caught on and The Hustle became the most popular dance very quickly by ‘75. That fall Sarah’s older sister and her friends from the nursing program they were all now in introduced us to getting our eyebrows plucked, hustling, and disco music. The eyebrow plucking was painful, but that proved to be the easy part. I quickly learned from my sister’s best friend Michelle at that time how to use the tweezers to keep the shape and arch, then clean the rest of the eye hair off with a razor blade and some Vaseline. The hard part was learning to be graceful while doing The Hustle. The Latin kids had this dance down to a beautiful art. We practiced, and practiced for hours after Sarah’s sister and her friends taught us the basics. They had introduced us to Evelyn Champagne King’s song “Shame”, we would dance to that and Van McCoy’s ”Hustle”, Frankie Valli’s “Swearing to God”, and anything Donna Summers, Gloria Gaynor, or Love Unlimited Orchestra made for us to practice to. No matter how many days and hours we spent practicing I could not match those Latin kids who came out to the clubs and Rosedale Park even although I was taking modern dance in school, afterschool and anywhere I could find it. Those Latin kids would wait patiently in the park for a disco song to be put on so they could show off their stuff. Sarah was little, petite, and became pretty good at The Hustle. I did just ok for a black girl. Her sister convinced us that if we wanted to get better at it we would have to leave the Bronx with all the B-Boy dancing and venture out to the clubs in Manhattan where they were actually doing nothing but hustling all night. She convinced us that although we were two little underage black girls, not old enough to be in the clubs, if we dressed right and acted right we could slip through.

The first club she sent us to was called “Barney Googles”, down around 86th St. We knew where it was because her sister worked in what was then Gimbels Department Store up the street while attending nursing school. Sarah and I dressed that winter and tippy-toed while dodging little mountains of snow, because we wore the mandatory heels needed to do the dance. As we approached the club and saw it we began to panic. We slowed down about a block away when we saw people outside the entrance paying to get in, they were all white, and older. We waited in another door way until they had entered before approaching the front doors to club, we didn’t want anyone else to see us getting turned down and turned away, but to our surprise the guy at the door behaved like we were suppose to be there. We found a small table in the dark little club, which wasn’t crowded, and eventually some Latin guys approached us, offered us drinks, and then danced with us all night. We found out they were from Spanish Harlem and exchanged numbers. The one I talked with actually came up to the Bronx to visit me that week. I knew he was way older than I, (he was in his twenties), but in that dark club I hadn’t been able to see that this guy was on something, and what I mean by something was drugs. When he knocked on my door and I opened it I saw him standing there under the bright projects hallway lights, I could then see he was high and had a long history of getting high. Needless to say that was the last time I ever saw him. After getting into the first club we ventured to Ipanema’s, and then Copa Cabana. These clubs were mainly Latin and those Latin kids had it going on, tearing up that dance floor. Sarah could keep up, but I couldn’t. I began to just go along to watch them because they were amazing! We frequented those clubs every weekend for months.

I got in touch with Doris after the New Year, she had disappeared during the fall and she told me we needed to go with her to a club in the Bronx called the “Hevalo”.

 

I told her my B-Girl, Breakdancing days were over, and she assured me that there would definitely be some real dancing going on in this club. I had never been to Burnside Avenue prior to accompanying Doris to this club, and when we exited the train, I was a little bit leery about this place. It sure did not look like any of the fancy clubs in Manhattan I had been attending. It was an all black club, but the people there were at least within my age range, so I didn’t have to feel like I was sneaking in. Hot pants and halters were on the way out. The guys were dressed as well as the girls. Some of the guys were the drug dealer type with money that many of the girls were hoping to attract. The other guys were the ones perpetrating like they were dealers with money, hoping to get the leftover girls the drug dealers didn’t choose, if any girls were willing to be bothered with them. They all shopped at A.J Lester’s on 125th, or if they couldn’t afford the real stuff at Jew Man on Simpson Street. They rocked the AJ pants, mock necks, Quarterfield coats, Kangos and Cazal glasses. The girls who had snagged a drug dealer, a stick up kid, or had parents that would indulge them wore real furs even to high school. Outside of the club it was packed with people just hanging out talking. The cool guys trying to check out the girls entering on the low, pretending like they weren’t interested. Many of them stood around talking loudly, trying to draw all the attention their way. I still wasn’t confident with my looks, so I didn’t worry much about whether, or not they were looking at me. I wondered to myself why is everyone standing outside, when you can hear the music before you reached the block, and it was pumping? Why weren’t they inside dancing, instead of standing out here wasting all these jams? As we made our way through the crowds, paid to get in and entered the club, I saw why they were outside, this place was small, hot, packed and cramped, it was what we called a sweatbox. It just couldn’t hold any more people inside.

The D.J. had it going on and the dance floor was standing room only. I realized this was the same D.J. Kool Herc from the Cedar Park I had heard about a year, or more ago. He was rocking the joint and no one wanted to come off the floor. It was amazing to see how people danced with those drinks in their hands and never spilled a drop. He had to throw a slow jam on every once and awhile to give people time to catch their breath. I was never a slow jam type of girl, and neither were a lot of girls about this time. I had only slow danced, or grinded as it was called back in those days maybe 3 times max. I danced with a kid from my neighborhood in a house party one night when I was in the 8th or 9th grade, he was two years older than I and he’d gotten an erection. He begged me to continue dancing with him for another record, or two until he could calm himself down, so that none of his boys would be able to see it when I moved away and laugh at him. I obliged because we were friends, and he had always been nice, and kind to me, but I tried to avoid getting myself into that type of situation as much as I could, after that, so no more slow dances! When D.J. Kool Herc put on a slow jam, it gave many of us a chance to step outside and get some fresh air, or when the B-boys got on the floor we got to catch our breath. Sometimes we just came out to dry out because our clothes were moist and sticking to us. The only thing more embarrassing than dancing so much that you got perspiration stains, were those guys whose deodorants wore off and they didn’t know when to get off the dance floor. On one of those fresh air breaks Doris took me across the street to the Twilight Zone club, which is where she said Herc played at first, but it was empty. I wondered what fool owned it and let him get away? I told Sarah about this spot although she was beginning to get a little snooty from hanging out with her pretentious sister in-law. It took a lot to convince her to go with me on my next trip to the Hevalo, but just one trip and she too became a regular that winter of ‘75 and ‘76.