Early in our courtship, my wife and I each risked participation in the other’s creative hobbies. She was an experienced ballroom dancer. I had never danced except in the uncontrolled, untrained fashion acceptable between horny teenagers. I took two years of classes, mostly without her, in order to bridge the distance in skill level. After the first dance at our wedding reception, I had to ask the serving persons to sweep up all the lower jaws that had fallen on the floor.
A few years later we went to a ballroom dance given at a downtown hotel. We were with another couple. They were attractive, excellent dancers. The musicians were playing authentic arrangements from the 1920s and 30s. The women wore a variety of glamorous dresses, and the men wore tuxedos. You may have heard of the bandleader. His name is John Crawford. As a child actor he played the son of The Rifleman in a TV series from 1958-1963. Since 1992 he has been the conductor and singer fronting the Johnny Crawford Dance Orchestra, a group of versatile acoustic musicians providing an engaging experience for those who like time-travel.
Ballroom dancing involves a more polite, controlled set of rituals than you get in clubs. You may ask anyone for a dance, and if they decline, you do not ask again and you leave them alone after exiting with a smile and a compliment. Those asked for who have declined may approach you later if they change their mind. Don’t you wish all personal transactions worked like that? It’s a level of civility I mourn the passing of.
Among the famous people at the dance were Mel Brooks and his wife Anne Bancroft. Our friend Martha knew we had some experience with celebrities. She told me she loved Mel’s work, that she also thought he was cute, and she wished she could figure out how to get to dance with him. I thought about it for a minute, and advised her that the best way would be to ask Anne for permission first. Martha was reluctant to try it, but I continued to encourage her. After all, it was a ballroom. Those asked may decline.
Mel and Anne were sitting about three tables away, too far away for us to hear their voices. We watched as Martha approached Anne, greeting her with a slight curtsy. When Anne smiled, Martha bent to her ear and whispered. Anne thought about it for a minute and leaned over to Mel, still smiling. Mel gave Anne a look conveying “Who, me?” He appeared to be genuinely shy about dancing with this young, willowy brunette. But what’s a husband to do when his wife approves and even urges him to do it? Martha got her dance with Mel.
Of course after dancing with another woman, you’ve got to dance with your wife. So Mel danced with Anne, several times. I imagined them reliving their original courtship from 30 years previous. Anyone could see they were deeply in love, and having a lot of fun. I was so happy to have had a small hand in helping to make their evening a bit more enjoyable. We all drank, danced and floated, safe in the protected bubble of a dream, buoyed by love and music.
How many acts of kindness undertaken in anonymity have contributed to the richness of the life I am experiencing now? There must be angels everywhere.