One Hour With Astaire
With all the senselessness and hardships of this day and age, there is an old game which is becoming more and more popular. It’s a great game. It can provide hours of entertainment, and it’s a game everyone knows how to play, because everyone has played it at least once in their life. There are no rules to the game. It can be played in groups. It can be played alone. One can play it when relaxing in the tub after a long hard day. One can play it after paying bills and looking at the leftovers in their checking account. Or, after meeting someone through a dating site and realizing the other person has exaggerated about their appearance, height—or gender.
It’s a wonderful game. It makes one think; it makes one dream-- and it’s absolutely free
The game-- If one had an Aladdin’s lamp or a time machine—what would be one’s ultimate one fairytale wish?
Would it be a platter full of diamonds and rubies? Would it be sitting beside Da Vinci as he paints the Mona Lisa revealing her mystery? Placing a bet on the Derby winner or scaling the highest mountain? Would it be having dinner and conversation with someone like Einstein or Meir, or watching a Gershwin compose? Would it be finding a cure for ignorance, or a flight into space? Would it be watching Imelda Marcos shoe shop or being in next room, eavesdropping, as E. Taylor and R. Burton have one of their famously passionate and fiery spats?
I dedicate this article to my little sister. Who, if given a chance to experience all of the above, would set all aside-- for just one hour in a ballroom with Fred Astaire.
It is a little known fact that the man who dances will always get the girl. In fact, when it comes to wooing the girl, a guy could save himself a lot of money on dinners and jewelry if he’d only learn to dance well. This is a secret women have kept to themselves for centuries—especially the ones who really like jewelry.
Astaire’s first professional dance partner was his older sister, Adele. He was five years old, she was eight, and the brother and sister team would have a successful career in Vaudeville and on stage (including London stages) for over twenty years. Their act dissolved when she married.
His next professional dance partner was a woman, who apparently, the dance world and people like my sister owe a great debt of gratitude. She was a theatrical actress and dancer named Claire Luce. Astaire would co-star with her in the Broadway production of “Gay Divorce”, a play famous for the Cole Porter tune “Night and Day” and the romantic dance routine it involved. It is believed Claire Luce pushed Astaire into being more seductive when he danced by telling him, “Come on, Fred, I’m not your sister.”
The man who dances doesn’t even need to be classically handsome. Look at Fred, not very tall, kind of skinny, not even sporting a good head of hair, yet he always got the girl and not just Ginger Rogers, but girls such as Cyd Charisse and Rita Hayworth.
Yes, it was written in the script that way, but there’s still a point.
Cyd Charisse (an amazingly graceful dancer in her own right) was once asked to compare dancing with Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly (another man who’s famous for dancing extremely well) She said, Fred was naturally more graceful and “moved like glass.”
She then went on to say that Gene was stronger and, “when he lifts you, a girl knows she’s being lifted.”
She ended by saying, “It’s like comparing apples and oranges. They’re both delicious.”
Gliding with Astaire or being lifted by Gene Kelly? I wonder if that choice would make my sister debate?
Either way, if Turner Classic Movies is running a Fred and Ginger marathon or showing An American in Paris, don’t bother to call her; she won’t answer the phone.
Fred Astaire was still dancing professionally well into his late sixties, and in the 1960’s his professional partner of choice was a talented young dancer named Barrie Chase who was many years his junior. Fred was still skinny, never lost or gained an ounce; nor grew more hair, and the man could still moved like glass. It is said for a while their relationship was more personal than professional.
The man who dances…
Though I really could use a platter full of diamonds and rubies right now, and this world is in desperate need of a cure for ignorance, and though truly comprehending the meaning of E=mc2 would be kind of cool, and shoe shopping with Imelda would certainly be a kick—placing a right hand into Fred’s left might just be the way to go. It’s innocent, it’s sensual, it’s sexy, it’s seductive, it’s a woman making a man feel like a man, a man making a woman feel like a woman and it’s the perfect escape from the reality of this day and age.
Also-- though Gene Kelly may be the lifter-- no one dips a girl like Fred Astaire.
My sister has been keeping that one to herself for years; I’m on to her now.
Some people may think this game is a silly waste of time. Some may say one simply needs to face reality head on—and part of this is true. For there will not be change until people stand together and say enough is enough. At times people do need to get angry, but they also need to dream. Otherwise they will simply be angry all the time—that’s becoming more and more evident.
It’s a great game having an Aladdin’s Lamp or a time machine. It lowers one’s heartbeat, gives one a feeling of peace. It makes one smile even when they’re not aware they’re smiling.
One can even fantasize about world peace—but then that might be too farfetched.
Fred can even dance on the ceiling.
Yes, it is a movie trick.
But, even if you know how the trick is done—it's so much more fun when you pretend you don’t.
After all, that’s the best part of the game.