I hadn’t thought about them in 10 years or so. I was sitting on a stool in a swanky Manhattan bar in the late 1970s,
chatting up a young textile executive wannabe.
He asked me where I grew up and when I told him, he asked me if I had ever been to see the Hoochie Coochie shows at the fair there. “Of course not, what do you think I am?” I replied. http://www.mortaljourney.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Little_egypt_dancer.jpg
I have been asked that same thing several times over the years. Seems many many men from many many places all seem to know about the Hoochie Coochie dancers
who graced the stage at our small town family friendly fair each fall. The fair was a big fundraiser for the local Lions club, or the Civitans, or the Rotary, or some male organization. I can’t remember exactly which one, but what I can remember is the way those girls looked. Tired and a little bit dirty and you know, they just didn’t look “healthy”, in that peaches ‘n cream glowing sort of way, like the gals in the Dove commercials look.
I never saw the girls on the inside, but I certainly did get a good look from the outside. The outside, meant standing at the end of the midway watching the dancers grind around a pole on a stage on the back of a flatbed truck. Curtains covered the inside details, and my friends and I were fascinated. I guess that would be the right adjective.
I remember Jerry. Jerry was a quiet fellow, who spent his summers priming tobacco,
he had dark thick glasses, and his hair was always greasy. I remember in second grade he would fall asleep in class, and the teacher would slap him awake with her ruler. He wore plaid shirts and jeans, often the same thing for several days in a row, and in grade school he had a cowlick that he slicked down with a special creme when he started junior high.
A bunch of us went to the fair almost every night that year,
I believe it was eighth grade. Every night we would pass the hoochie coochie strip of flatbeds and we would steal a glimpse. We heard rumors about which men in town had been spotted going into the tent to watch the ‘real’ show the dancers put on. We giggled and wondered about the dancers. What did they do? How did they live inside of those trucks? There were girls who looked to be close to our age. How did they go to school? We wondered.
Then we saw Jerry eating supper with one of the dancers, at the local B-B-Q tent, he was sitting close to her on the backside of the tent on a wooden picnic bench, we fell dead in our tracks. He had his arm around her shoulders and he had a smile on his face that you could have seen a mile away.
They had two plates of chopped B-B-Q and a side of hushpuppies to share.
We never saw Jerry again. He dropped out of school and rumor had it he took off in search of the fair. I like to think that maybe sometime somewhere along the way he helped those girls, or maybe he just became the next Hoochie Coochie man, the one Eric Clapton sang about.
I suspect those girls weren’t happy. I could see it on their faces, but they brought much joy to a young boy named Jerry. A misfit, a poor country boy who didn’t have much in the way of prospects to get him out of town, except for the hoochie coochie girls and their torrid traveling sideshow.