Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Hungry Eyes and Blow Monkeys

Okay, so it may not have been the time of my life, but it was a delightful shot of pure '80s throwback.

With nothing in particular to do Monday night, there was no good reason not to head to the Byrd to see the latest installment in their lovers series, "Dirty Dancing," especially since I hadn't seen it since it came out in 1987. Add in that I've become nothing but a bigger fan of dance since then and I was actually looking forward to a movie about dancing.

No big deal, right?

At the theater, I soon realized that I was in the minority by a mile. First off, the lobby was crowded and made up of 90% women of various ages. (the bathroom line was out of control).

Standing in line to get popcorn, I heard two women squeal when they saw each other. One said she was there because it was her fifth grade daughter's favorite movie of all time (5th graders like films with abortion subplots?) and the other said that her boyfriend had texted and asked her to bring him dinner on her way home from work.

"I told him I'd be happy to, but that it would be a couple hours before I get there because I just found out "Dirty Dancing" is playing at the Byrd," the other responded. Meanwhile, two women in front of me were sharing their separate experiences going to a "Dirty Dancing" weekend at the resort where it was filmed.

Somehow I'd walked into the cult of "Dirty dancing" without any clue that it even existed.

But when manager Todd stood in front of the crowd to share fun facts about the movie, the screams that greeted him were all high-pitched. It made me admire the token men in the theater all the more. One of the many anecdotes he shared about the filming concerned the filming of the scene where Johnny stands behind Baby, her arm wrapped around his head as he traces his fingers down her body. The fact that she cracked up every time and he got more annoyed with each attempt wasn't scripted, but it was filmed and the director liked the naturalness of the interaction so much he left it in.

Besides, what's love without laughter?

And in his usual inimitable way, Todd signaled that it was time to go to the Catskills by yelling to the projectionist, "Mr. B., please show us all the time of our life!"

From the opening scene, one thing was immediately obvious to me: the film may have been ostensibly set in summer 1963, but everyone looked straight out of the '80s. Big perms, lots of eyeliner, high-waisted shorts and capris. Even the Keds Baby was wearing for dance practice were straight up '80s Keds (take it from someone who wore them then).

But mainly it was the women's bodies, all of which resembled the Jane Fonda gold standard of the era, right down to the tights and leotards they wore. If Cynthia Rhodes had been any skinnier, she'd have been invisible.

But the dancing was a pleasure to watch, even if it owed as much to the '80s as 1963. C'mon, choreographer Kenny Ortega choreographed everything from Madonna's "Material Girl" to Michael Jackson tours and it showed. I guess no one cared about continuity in 1987.

That said, it was refreshing to see Johnny and Baby practicing dance moves in an un-air-conditioned cabin, the sweat lending an especially seductive sheen to their moves. There was life before A/C, kids, believe it or not. Some of us choose to still live that reality.

When Patrick Swayze uttered the movie's most famous line - "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" - the women in the theater erupted in cheers and clapping as if a villain had just been killed. The scene where Baby and Johnny are practicing leaps in the water elicited still more applause and a whole lot of swooning. And you can't even imagine the decibel level during the scene where Johnny crooks his finger at Baby to get her to dance with him.

And you know what? I fell for every contrived and corny moment of "Dirty Dancing," even while judging how overly '80s it was. Sure, a big part of that was ogling Patrick Swayze's bare-chested dancer's body watching Patrick Swayze's hips and legs move as one with the beat of the music, particularly on some of the old soul tunes like "Be My Baby" and "Do You Love Me?"

Did I join the cult of "Dirty Dancing"? I did not. Did I leave thoroughly satisfied at watching talented dancing from three decades ago interspersed with a sweet little love story and corny '80s songs?

Yes, I swear it's the truth. And I owe it all to you the Byrd.

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