Y Dances

The most memorable thing about the Friday night Y-Dances to me was Wendie Miller’s perfect flip.  I don’t know why, because, to be honest, she wore that flip every single day to school. Okay, sometimes Wendie had just a simple — but thick — and also perfect ponytail.  When Friday nights rolled around in the fall and those dances became the highlight of our week, I would long to achieve the Wendie Miller “do.”

My mother had gone to beauty school, so she knew her way around the current hairstyles, but makeup was more her specialty.  She worked as assistant to George Masters, the famous makeup artist.  Together, they did people like Ann-Margaret and Jackie Kennedy.  But there I was, nearly a midget.  (Sorry, I have always called myself that, even though it is not politically correct.  Let’s pretend it’s still the 60’s.  Midget.  Shortest girl in my grade.  Except maybe Susan Slutsky, who was a touch shorter.  No, I’m not being politically incorrect again — her last name really was Slutsky.)

On a Friday afternoon, my mom got to work with the curlers, and they were so friggin tight.  This was not some gentle, warm and cozy experience.  The curlers were not delicately rolled up.  It was a form of torture.  And then the over-teasing and the setting of her masterpiece with so much hairspray that I’m surprised I didn’t end up with black lung.  By the way, the reveal wasn’t so pretty.  This was no Wendie Miller flip.  It was my extra-small head topped by tons of overly teased and sprayed hair.  Think “Tiara’s and Toddlers,” the show about little beauty pageant kids.  Think JonBenet Duke.  Big-big hair, small-small girl.  So, now I would walk into the Y-Dance faintly embarrassed by my bad-hair-day-on-purpose, but I never really had the nerve to undo it.  I was just stuck with my bad hair and my hair was stuck too.  With Aqua Net.

I let my mother and her new “beauty” career experiment on me, and ultimately she gave me two of my most bitchin’ haircuts.  The Beatles cut.  And the unforgettable and truly genius Twiggy cut.  She practiced her first shag haircut on her own longhaired cat named General Rodriguez.  I came home from school one day to find “Rod’s” hair all chopped up and asked her what was wrong.  She said there was a new hairstyle called the “shag” and she needed to try it out on him.  She also wore a flea collar around her own ankle.   Don’t ask.   And you wonder why I’m a strange one?

What was GREAT about the Y-Dances was getting to know all the kids from the other grammar schools.  We had four different grammar schools in Beverly Hills.  Now we could meet and have crushes on boys from outside our school district.  I really thought the nicest boys were two that were my size.  Is that why I liked them?  Or perhaps it was just that they both were nice to me.  Richie Greenberg and Richie Seltzer.  The two Richie’s.   Oh, and they were cute!!!!

Ricky Farber, already written about in another blog of mine, was the notoriously beautiful girl at Horace Mann school.  I remember being kind of jealous when she was asked to front Chris Head’s (a boy in our grade) band as he headlined one night at the dance.  She had a tambourine.  And I really did play tambourine.  (Did I?  I thought I did because I was a percussionist and we had to sort of play everything.)  So, why was I not considered?  Maybe it was that hideous flip.  Maybe it was that I looked like I was nine years old.

I don’t remember actually dancing at one of these dances.  I remember sitting on chairs that were up against the back wall.  Waiting.  Hoping some young dude would ask me to dance because boy, was I gonna show them then.  I danced like a little stripper.  I did.  That’s the way I danced. I felt the music and I got lost in it, and even at that age, I gyrated, practically bumping-and-grinding my way through a song.  Totally inappropriate, but authentic.  If there had been a YouTube of me dancing at that age, child predators would have been knocking down my door.  Erik Gibson really liked the way I danced and I will tell that story one day, so stay tuned.

My idol at the time was the actress Nancy Kwan (The World of Suzie Wong).  Why was she my idol?  Because she played a slut (back to that word again) and was so friggin sexy; it’s what I wanted and yearned to be.  Also, my dad was really keen on her and he was my REAL idol.  I liked everything and everyone my dad liked.  Later, in my late teens, early twenties, I would dress like Suzie Wong for Halloween and walk around saying a line from the movie: “Me Suzie, me nice gil (girl) me no Shanghai street gil.”  And, I dressed like Suzie many other days of the year.  I had lots of tight-fitting, exquisite Chinese dresses to play Nancy Kwan dress-up.

Suzie Wong Wanna-Be!!!

When I get my time machine, I will go back to when my mother drops me off in front of the Y.  I will go straight into the bathroom and flatten out that damn flip.  Then, I will not wait for the “girls’ choice” to ask a boy to dance.  Instead, I will get off my chair by the back wall, and just dance the night away alone.

On school nights, or maybe even on a Y dance Friday night, my mother would make calves liver. I looked in my James Beard cookbook and came up with this. I think my mother and other people soaked the liver in milk back in the day but here is what looks like a good recipe. And they recommend and so do I to buy the very best quality. Ask your butcher. Are you vegetarians cringing about now? Talk about not PC!
Sauteed Calves Liver Recipe
1 ½ pounds thinly sliced liver
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ chopped green onion
½ cup chopped parsley
Heat the butter and oil together. Dip the liver slices in flour and sauté them quickly allowing one minute to each side. They should be crispy brown but pinkish in the center. Salt and pepper them to taste, sprinkle them with chopped onion and parsley and serve with pan juices poured over them. My mother cooked them with onions and she sort of burned the onions and I like this dish with bacon and onions.  Now listen below to the song that Chris Head’s band played at the Y Dance.

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19 Responses to “Y Dances”

  1. Joel Brokaw says:

    Another wonderful time capsule. It’s so easy to repress the degree of insecurity and vulnerability that so many of us felt as a young teenagers, with one foot stuck in childhood and the other trying frantically to find footing in adulthood. Your stories make me go back and laugh at those times with a whole lot more compassion.

  2. eileen tomson says:

    Thank you Fredde,
    I agree with Joel, it is so nice to go back in time and remember our youth, and you put in down on paper so well!

  3. Pauli says:

    I remember Wendy Miller and she really looked like Ali McGraw. Nice job with all the memories Fredde…

  4. I remember the Y dances!! They would bust you if you and a boy danced too close. They actually physically separated you – one hands distance i believe!! Can you imagine. I too wore a flip, but mine was not perect either and I also was a midget with you!!!!

    Great memory!!! xxoo

  5. Jimmy DeWitt says:

    George Thompson was the director of Y and he would walk around with a wooden ruler measuring the gap between boy and girl dancers (we were very traditional in those days, it was all boy and girl) and if you got too close he’d tap you on the shoulder and bark “No Bear-Huggin'”.

  6. Ellen Bloom says:

    Herb Glass. He was the guy that taught us the dances. How can I forget the Slauson lines with girls on one side and boys on the other. You never knew who were gonna meet up with when it was your turn to dance down the center of the lines! Good times.
    “My boyfriend’s back and there’s gonna be trouble. Hey lai-d-lai, my boyfriend’s back”

  7. Lori says:

    Thanks Fredde for the excellent reminder of the Y dances. I remember dancing to Wholly Bully ! Mostly I sat or stood against the wall watching. All the boys were interested in Ann Hessell..she was the Ricki Farber of my grade. I can say that with love since we are still close friends!..

  8. mitch says:

    I don’t remember the Y dances, but your account really fills in the details. In the ’60s, us boys had parent-child sex ed classes at the Y. Armed with that knowledge, I should have stuck around for the dances. Damn!

  9. Augie Duke says:

    Oh do i remember those Y””” dances……………….

  10. TMiller says:

    I had my 6th grade “prom” at the BH Y… quite ka-tish for a girl from Canfield Elementary. My mom took me to her hair stylist, Jennie from Jennie’s of Beverly Hills on Camden. Sadly that great round building with the round ramp up to several shops has been long gone to make room for an ugly non-descript one. Any hoo-ha… I digress… the point of this comment is to tell you that I got the de rigueur doo which was the every-popular “bubble”… really just your hair ratted and sprayed in a large round bubble shape around you head… NOT attractive. That along with my form fitting Mohair dress to cover my knees… well just try to picture that!!! Take me back with you and we’ll dance the night away!

  11. Ginger says:

    Fabulous! I will now start following!!! Great memory and memories!! Midgets rule btw! Xoxo…g

  12. janet graham says:

    i love this spirit of this young girl. like her father, nothing is going to stop her from getting what she wants. not even a bad hairdo. love it fredde. keep those memorable stories coming.

  13. Roger Martin says:

    I remwmber those dances. You were one hot midget!

  14. Alice Stambler Seidman says:

    That really brought back those old memories. Whenever we had the Y dances, I would work myself up into such a nervous panic about the whole thing – as a perennial wallflower I wished I would fade into the wallpaper – and usually ended up having to dance with other girls. I don’t even know why I put myself through that. Do you remember when we had a Halloween Y dance, and Ricki Levin came as Marie Antoinette, or some other French lady from history, with a gorgeous gown and beautifully powdered hair?

  15. Robbie Seiden says:

    Freddie, you used to baby sit me, ah the ol days of BH, of course like all who have sitters I had a crush on you!!
    Reading all of the FB messages makes me realize how damn lucky we ALL were to grow up in such a wonderful little community (back then, now….Forrgeetttaaabbboouutt)…….

  16. DeeDee Lancet says:

    Here I am on my quest to catch up on all your wonderful blogs.
    Got wind of this one today and dove right in 🙂 The Y dances
    are tip top of my fave childhood memories. I got into the flip,
    but it had a short run with me (the labor-intense rollers, teasing
    and hairspray really wore me down!). I was giddy with the Twiggy
    cut though, after having my long locks for a long time. I even got
    into painting on lower lashes like Twiggy did–felt very hip & British.
    I recall getting separated many times when the Wrap Around dance
    was in. Thanks for rekindling the memories of what was a wonderful
    time in my life. I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, but you can keep the liver!

  17. DeeDee Lancet says:

    Sorry about the wonky formatting–

  18. DeeDee Lancet says:

    What does that mean: ” your comment is awaiting moderation”?

  19. Marwan says:

    Is your mother who worked as an assistant to George Masters , still doing makeup ?

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