RECENTLY I WAS at a party hosted by a younger couple, defined as "a couple that had not yet been born when I started worrying about cholesterol." You will never guess whose music these young people were playing: Bobby Darin's. Yes. Bobby Darin, hepcat swinger from my youth, is cool again!
No doubt you've read about how the Hot New Trend among "with-it" 20-something people is to eschew the rock scene and pretend that they're swank sophisticates living three or four decades ago - drinking martinis, going to nightclubs, dressing like the late Frank Sinatra (not the women, of course; they're dressing like the late Dean Martin), voting for Dwight Eisenhower, using words such as "eschew," etc. This makes me wonder: If old things are cool, could I become cool again?I have not felt remotely cool for a long time, thanks largely to the relentless efforts of my teenage son, whose goal in life is to make me feel 3,500 years old. We'll be in the car, and he'll say, "You wanna hear my new CD?" And I, flattered that he thinks his old man might like the same music he does, will say "Sure!"
So he increases the sound-system volume setting from "4" to "Meteor Impact," and he puts in a CD by a band with a name like "Pustule," and the next thing I know gigantic nuclear bass notes have blown out the car windows and activated both the driver and passenger side air bags, and I'm writhing on the floor, screaming for mercy with jets of blood spurting three feet from my ears. My son then ejects the CD, smiling contentedly, knowing he has purchased a winner. On those extremely rare occasions when I LIKE one of his CDs, I imagine he destroys it with a blowtorch.
My point is that, for some time, I have viewed myself as being roughly equal, on the Coolness Scale, to Bob Dole. And then, suddenly, at this party, these 20-somethings were playing Bobby Darin, a singer from my youth, an era known as "The Era When There Were A Lot Of Singers Named Bobby And One Named Freddy" (Bobby Sherman, Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Rydell, Elvis "Bobby" Presley and Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon).
I KNOW Bobby Darin's music. Whenever I hear his swinging version of "(Oh My Darlin') Clementine" I snap my fingers in a happening "jive" manner and sing right along with these immortal lyrics:
"You know she would rouse up
"Wake all of them cows up"
(They don't write them like that any more. They can't: They have been medicated.)
I vividly remember when Bobby Darin had a hit record with "Mack the Knife," which is sometimes referred to as "The Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band of 1959," because it was nearly three minutes long and had weird incomprehensible lyrics involving somebody named "Sukey Tawdry." I remember going to a record hop - that's right, an actual record hop - in the gymnasium of Harold C. Crittenden Junior High in Armonk, N.Y., where they played "Mack the Knife" maybe 14 times and we all danced the jitterbug.
The jitterbug was a dance wherein you remained in actual, physical contact with your partner - what kids now call "touch-dancing." I grew up at the tail end of the touch-dancing era; after that, we started doing non-touch dances - the Jerk, the Boogaloo, the Cosine, the Funky Downtown Rutabaga, etc., wherein you strayed several feet from your partner.
Later in the '60s, songs got longer and dance standards got looser, and you often lost visual contact altogether with your partner, sometimes winding up, days later, in completely different states. This was followed by the disco era, during which you and your partner might touch briefly, but only for the purpose of exchanging narcotics; which in turn was followed by the "mosh pit" concept of dancing, wherein you dance simultaneously with many people, the object being to inflict head injuries on them.
So for decades, the only time you saw touch-dancing was at wedding receptions, when the band - as required by federal wedding-reception law - played "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," and guests age 73 and older would hobble onto the floor and do the fox trot while younger people gyrated randomly around them.
But now touch-dancing is back, and I'm excited about it because - ask anybody who has seen me at a wedding reception after the bar opens - I can still do the Jitterbug. I can get out there on the floor and really whirl my partner around. Granted, sometimes my partner winds up face-down in the wedding cake, but that is not the point. The point is that, despite what my son thinks, maybe I am cool again.
I'm thinking about putting a tube and a half of Brylcreem in my hair and going to a swank nightclub. I'd saunter up to the bar, order a dry martini and settle back to soak up the scene; then, when a really "swinging" song came on, I'd get to my feet and "wow" the younger generation when I, in a suave and sophisticated manner, threw up on my shoes because martinis make me sick.
Then I'd go to bed because I'm 3,500 years old.