Saturday, February 23, 2008

The first time I heard about girlie shows

One day our family had an outing to Freedomland, the ill fated amusement park that was supposed to be New York's answer to Disneyland. Apparently, Mrs. Mills had a sister who sang in a band, namely the Jimmy Dorsey Band, then fronted by Lee Castle. As a bonus, Donald O'Connor was performing on the same stage.

Freedomland was okay, but not great. The best thing there was the tent where the disc jockey from WMCA was doing a radio show in front of a group of bored teenagers.

Outside it started to rain. In the band shell Donald O'Connor appeared and sang "Singing in the Rain". The stage was not sheltered from the weather. Donald O'Connor was a real trouper. No wonder my mother named me after him. The band played. The sister sang. And we all went home, soaking wet but happy.

The other big fair was, of course, the New York World's Fair, amply described in the book The End of the Innocence, by Lawrence R. Samuel. He was on the radio this morning.

The New York World's Fair was a hotly waited for event. I had been looking forward to it ever since hearing about the one in Seattle a few years earlier.

Contrary to it's detractors, for a kid it was great. Futurama was great. The Disney exhibits were great. My mother thought the electronic Abe Lincoln at the Illinois pavilion was real until he stopped talking. I got to go twice, once because my father wanted to go and once because my mother's friends from Ohio wanted to go.

After several hours of touring and tired from the day, my parents sat down at a bench at the fair. Soon a man shyly came up to my father. He almost couldn't speak, then he said, whispering, "do you know where I could find a girlie show around here?"

My father paused. "I don't know, I think the Texas exhibit has some scantily clad ladies." After living with my mother all these years, he had become a Texas booster too. And I heard a new term to increase my vocabulary.

Today there are remnants of the fair in Queens. You can still see the unisphere and the walkable map of New York at the Queens Museum of Art.

Editor's note: We'll get to an explanation of life after the sixties in due time.

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