Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dancin', Shaggin' on the Bouelvard

I offer now both a cultural history lesson and a tribute to Steve "Mr. Beach" Leonard.

But first, let me qualify this by saying that when I moved to Richmond, I had never heard of shag dancing or beach music.

In fact, I managed to live here for five years before bearing witness to a suburban subculture devoted not just to a particular kind of dance music (100-130 bpm) but to a local who made listening to it a party.

And the only reason I was exposed then was because I took a job at the bottom of the ladder to get my foot in the door.

And now I give you a my introduction to the legend (and not just in his own mind, although it definitely started there) circa 1992.


During my first week as an over-qualified receptionist at a local radio station, I was sorting mail into staff mailboxes, my back to the door.

A guy breezes in and as I turn, he says, "Oh, you must be the new girl!" Yes, I'm Karen. "Hi, I'm Steve Leonard. I do the beach show." He couldn't be more innocuous looking, so I say hello and return to sorting mail.

Thwack! His hand lands firmly on my backside. "Nice ass," then more quietly, "You wearing a girdle?"

What was this, the 1950s?

Without hesitating - and I know this is where plenty of people will question my choice -  I answered him. With confusion, incredulity and a little more distance.

No. No.

"Wow, then that's a great ass!" he said all but beaming at me before walking away.


In Hollywood parlance, that is to say that Mr. Beach and I "met cute" and went on to share pizza and a few drinks.

In terms of being a woman, it's a reminder how recently ass-grabbing was still part of the acceptable culture of the workplace.

As forf forming an impression of a singular guy, it was definitive. Steve Leonard was Mr. Beach. RIP, sir.

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