No one in this world wanted to take over tap dancer Ann Miller's job more than I did. After fifty long years of random attempts, all that remains is a pair of silver tap shoes tucked away in a cupboard long forgotten. I use to wear them continuously on a day to day basis for many years always believing one should be on call if someone had the odd tap dancing job.
As a child my mother told my father that I had natural rhythm and would probably belong to a professional dance troupe. Actually, what she really wanted me to be was one of the dancers on American Bandstand but I had other goals in mind. When I was eight I wanted to be the Sugar Plum Fairy so badly that I accidentally bumped the reigning fairy off the stage during practice. Seeing the stage was a foot off the ground, she was luckily not hurt and I was to remain a Waltzing Flower forever.
At age 17 I had my first "break". I became one of the regular "crowd" dancers on a Montreal based TV show called “Like Young". Every Saturday afternoon I lined up outside CFCF-TV sporting my grandmother's orthopedic brown lace up shoes, ready to dance. Those borrowed shoes were just super for dancing and they looked fabulous with my floor dusting gabardine pants. Every week after the show we got to meet the featured singing artist. I remember having to sit down very quickly before I fainted when Bobby Darin shook my hand.
After the show was over we would all head downtown and refresh our spirits at the Honey Dew restaurant. One giant glass of Honey Dew along with a hot dog and then it was off to Place Du Soul. It was the "all ages" place to be, that was right across from the Greyhound Bus Station in case you had to leave town quickly. Every week I resumed my Sugar Plum Fairy dreams of long ago only this time it was for the coveted title of go-go cage dancer. The elevated cages were about twenty stairs up a shaky ladder and it became a weekly goal to try and fight the others to be queen of the dancing soul castle.
One weekend James Brown was the headlining act and even though I had issues with vertigo I decided I was finally going to be dancing in that cage that evening. As I stood in line waiting my turn I told several people that the lead singer Bruce from "Les Sultans" was soon to be coming in the front door.
"Les Sultans" were the French Canadian version of the Beatles in those days, and I tell you that line stopped being a line in about two seconds flat. Smiling a very large sinister smile I climbed those twenty stairs wearing a short print mini dress, white boots and a huge white bow on top of my head. I never looked down once and realized quickly there was no lady like way to climb that ladder without flashing my underpants.
James started to sing, "I Feel Good," and it could not have been a better song. I stayed up in the cage as long as I could and danced my boots off. Others got tired of me hogging the limelight and tried to climb up and get rid of me. I threw my boots down one at a time at some that were attempting to make me leave. Last song, bootless and eyeliner running down my face James threw me a kiss in the air and sang "I Got You". I would never live my mother's dream of being one of Dick Clark's dancers but finally I was the Sugar Plum Fairy of Soul and covered in a "Cold Sweat!"
Linda Seccaspina 2011
Images from Linda Seccaspina and Google except the record albums and me in the tutu.
Those are the hosts on the Google pics
Tomorrow- The Sugar Plum Fairy 30 years later.