Shuffling on Main Street

S.O.S. Fall Migration 2000,

an alcoholic’s chronology

By Tim Bullard.....
 
 

FUN MONDAY: 10 a.m.

I sneak off down from work to the Spanish Galleon where rain and a tropical storm is brewing through the Horseshoe, the circle driveway between the Galleon and the O.D. Pavilion, full of baseball machines, pinball and gift shop trinkets. White frothy waves are choppy; the angry surf is eroding the beach built up by the $50 million project the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers two summers ago.

From Lumberton, N.C. Hollis Britt is the SOS Enhancement Committee Chairman. He’s sitting the edge of the Spanish Galleon stage as The Coastline Band from Laurinburg, N.C. is setting up.

“We formed a committee not only to help SOS, but we’re trying to help the local merchants out. When we set up in the street, we don’t bring in outside vendors, nobody who would be in direct competition with the merchants. While we’re at it, we try to raise enough money to cover our expenses, and we do have a charity, Caring 4 Kids, that the SOS Enhancement Committee donates to also. It’s local.

“SOS provides a lot of fellowship, and it gives us an opportunity to come down twice a year. I get to see a lot o friends from far away her. That’s what it’s all about, keeping the shag alive and keeping the music going. It’s very important to the shaggers.”

Black nylons, revealing a sexy band around the thigh, were showing as a leg crossed, high heels dangling suggestively, but as the naked eye rode up the skirt, chest hair thicker than a briar patch reversed the libido. A Womanless Beauty Pageant on Fun Monday is the most hilarious event of the week. One year a man in his 90s took part. It does something funny to you as a guy to see what your mind’s eye tells you is a woman, getting worked up, and you realize that you’re oogling over your own sex. Frightening. It’s worse than walking in on your grandparents naked dressing.

“I tell you what. I admire them,” Britt said. “It is good entertainment. “They go all out to do whatever they can to help benefit and give people a lot of enjoyment. My favorite beach song? Oh gosh, that’s hard to say. I like the Sand Band’s ‘Collard Greens and The Hardway Connection’s ‘It Must Be Love.’

“Today we’re going to have Billy swan and The Hardway Connection, Kelly Hunt, a super blues artist, and others. We’ve got a surprise artist, Rob Roy Parnell. He’s Leroy Parnell’s brother, but he does blues and has a CD out. They’re playing it, and we’re dancing to it.

Britt remembers the beach way back when.

“I’ve been coming down here since I was barely a teen-ager. I loved the ocean. I loved the beach and loved to lay on the beach. That’s what it’s all about. People have been coming down here for a long time. The shaggers contribute an awful lot to this town and this community.”

There are about 10,000 people who attend Spring Safari and Fall Migration.

“It’s going to be great,” said Ron Whisenant, SOS chairman.

“We face this every year with the weather. Last year we dodged Hurricane Floyd.”

Whisenant has a controversial opinion regarding the debate on beach music, which has at least two dominant camps.

“I have some mixed emotions about some of the music we play. I cam along with some of the stuff they call ‘Bubble Gum Music.’”

As men strutted their stuff on the dance floor at the Spanish Galleon, some danced with each other, and all got a chance to dance with last year’s reigning queen, “Tiny” Melton, a rotund, cute ersatz female. Each contestant received a free dance with the queen.

New “Miss Fun Monday 2000” Dennis Massengill of Little River, 51, said, “This was a

last minute effort.”

By Friday Fat Harold’s is packed with tourists and shaggers while Ripete Records holds a release party. Shaggers are dancing, and Jim Quick of The Coastline Band signs a few dollar bills to put in the kitty for a drawing of $250 in Ripete CDs for a charity.

In the back bar Bob Graves, 56, is a member of the Eno Beach Shag Club who is from Durham, N.C., and he’s looking for one of his favorite groups, a new bunch of performers who don’t really have a band. It’s Blind Jelly Melon & The Fabulous Jellyrolls.

“They were just here a minute ago. They’re going to showcase a brand new song here today. They are great people. The Eno Beach Shag Club in Durham has about 250 members. They are real active in the community. They do a lot of charitable work. They are a really strong shag club. They do several dance contests during the year and are just a great group of people.

“I deejay mostly at Red’s Beach Music Club in Raleigh and Club Faces in Durham. I have loved beach music. I had a good friend who is a deejay. He got me started in the business. I started doing mostly private parties. I have my own mobile deejay business. That’s my big black trailer out there in the parking lot.

“After I did a lot of private stuff, I came down here in 1993 with SOS and really got involved and really loved the music and started doing more beach stuff and started deejaying at shag clubs around Raleigh and Durham.”

-------------------------

7 p.m.: I caught up with several of the eight band members one sunny afternoon at sunset at the O.D. Pavilion oceanfront dance floor. A group of mentally and physically challenged folks from Wilkes County were shagging in the corner near the rear, and everyone really responded to their uninhibited fervor. I got a Jim Beam, chilled, and a Bud. Then another as the blood sugar level skyrocketed and the buzz loosened my neck muscles and tongue.

“I’m not yawning anymore,” I told the female bartender.

The Durham musical group includes Russ Riley “Blind Jelly Melon,” the leader singer, Scott Utley “Mirror Man,” Rommie Tyndall “Twin S.O.B.,” Frank Brantley “Painless,” Larry Mangum “Woodpecker,” Chigger Woods “Boatride” and Mike Tewell “Hammer.”

“My name in the band is ‘Chief,’” said Gene Pope, 36, of Durham, earlier in the week on the phone. “It started out as a floor show. We’ve got a new song that we’re going to release Friday. It’s being played some now. We actually don’t have any musicians. We write some songs to some music that Ripete Records is sending to us. Down here the deejays get us up and sing. We don’t have a band that does a show. We just write songs and do things for our shag club. It’s a really unique story.

“Our club meets at a place called The Basement. It’s on Broad Street. Most of the folks are from Durham. One is from Chapel Hill. Two are from West Hillsborough. It’s a group of eight best friends. We just wanted to do something fun, something fun for the shag club. We did it for our spring fling party about four or five years ago. It’s just something that Russ made up. He plays the harp. He wrote a few songs here and there. It’s just something we put together. We started out doing little fun acts for parties and stuff. We decided to write the ‘Bring Your Own Money’ song and had no idea that it would be played and didn’t think it would go on so far.”

*******************

Two guys from Virginia Beach, Va. are drinking a beer across the lounge, and it’s 2 p.m. at Fat Harold’s on Friday, the end of a long week of drinking for many of the shaggers, and from the looks on the in-coming crowd, they’re going to have some stiff competition dancing and inbibing.

Pete Stelmack, 60 in November, is an active member of the Virginia Beach Shag Club which he said is very active in the community. He’s sipping a Bud in the can with his left hand, and his right hand is snugly stuck in his pants.

“They have several activities and fund raisers,” he said.

“....For fire departments and hospitals,” continued Chuck Taylor, 58, of Virginia Beach. He has a Coors Light in his left hand.

“I’m retired. I like to meet other people. You get to met a lot of nice people from all over. We do a fund raiser for the hospital. I love SOS. It’s a way to get out and meet people. This is about the seventh year for me.”

What’s his favorite song?

“I like them all, no particular one. I like all the North Carolina shag bands, but, but I like that new CD by Billy Swan. I happen to like that. I first heard it in April here.”

Roland Hale is a few feet away from this pair, standing casually in a light colored, subdued golf shirt. This is a good looking dude, suave, debonair as hell. How old is he? He looks 75. He could slay women half his age. A lady killer, heart-breaker.

“I’m 95. I’ve been shagging since ‘83. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. We come in January, April and September, and then we have our’s in November up at Lake Norman. We belong to two of them, Twisters Shag Club and Lake Norman Shag Club. Well, the most things I like is I like to meet new people and see old friends. At my age, I need that. I was born in Rockingham, North Carolina.”

His father had a peach farm there, and Hale has been in the Shaggers Hall of Fame for two years and was in the Womanless Beauty Contest one year.

“I didn’t win anything,” he said sheepishly. He has his arm around a woman he is holding hands with. Pat Metcalf is “75 and proud of it.”

“Roland is our oldest member at 95, and is one of three generations of his family that have been in our club,” said Mike Rink, a fellow Twisters member.

“Twisters Shag Club is ten years old and is one of the most well-known and well respected clubs in the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs.

“We have about 130 members and we are based in Cornelius, N.C. which borders Lake Norman,” said Rink. “We host the Fall Cyclone Party the first weekend of November each year. Our three-day party is so big that we hold our event in a skating rink. We have averaged over 900 guests at each of the last few Cyclones. In fact, it is the biggest all-shag party hosted by any shag club.” No brag. Just fact.

“We offer dance lessons every Tuesday night, and we have open dancing every Friday.

There is plenty more.”

The sidebars for SOS go on into infinity. The looks on the faces of Wilkes County mentally and physically handicapped group members’ faces was unforgettable as they danced energetically on a dance floor owned by video poker mogul Fred Collins who‘s planning a pier. There was the guy who kept mumbling at the bar of Fat Harold’s beside me, saying unintelligible gibberish, like the funky cartoon bear family. He ended his comments with one sentence that never made any sense to me, except for the fact a lady was looking for a light.

“SHE’S A CAMEL FREAK!” he said, laughing. “Hizeil bzzebiba ferumuundo jazberwokcy beebish!” The camel freak part was the only thing I could understand of what he said for 20 minutes.

**************

It’s a good thing I didn’t eat. I’m packing 400 speed 35 mm Kodak, having shot 400 slides of the Womanless Beauty Pageant. It’s Friday, and in about an hour...well, I’ll tell you later. It’ll be a day that will live in infamy, and one that will bother me all weekend into the next week. Blood. Plenty of it. A cop barking at me. A dead body. Later.

For now it’s only 2 p.m., and at the O.D. Grill two N.C. cities are dueling; it’s a fight to the death, like fancy footed gladiators in a ring at the pit of a stadium of howling drunkards. Line dancing. Billy Ray Cyrus is to blame, I think. He probably should be hanged by his toenails and dipped into a boiling vat of blistering olive oil until his Caucasian skin turns quickly pink, then red, melting off his bones. Line dancing is the boorish bane of the dance floor in America. If you’re single, you know what I mean. You’ve worked all damned week long; the boss has made you madder than a sterile hen stuck in a pen full of horny roosters. It’s the weekend, and you just bought some new dancing shoes, and the chick on the end of the bar is making cat eyes at you, beckoning, unbuttoning that top button and uncrossing her legs to change position on the stool. “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy” by The Tams has just finished playing, and you’re developing an uncomfortable feeling below the beltline as she kisses the cherry from her Tom Collins and imitating Anna Nicole Smith on one of those nasty Playboy videos.

Then suddenly, there is a moment of clarity as you see the DJ’s head come up, bobbing as he snaps both sets of fingers before the fade-in. It’s a damnable line dance song. Everybody’s mamma and cuz from the backwoods of Egypt is pouring out of the audience, knocking over drinks and sending lighted cigarettes onto the carpet, elbowing like it was 10:50 a.m. at the Shoney’s breakfast bar. Some moron has just grabbed your female target by the elbow, and they’re hogging the dance floor like they always do when a line dance song comes on while you sit at the bar by your lonesome, staring at the mirror ball. Sound familiar? Been there too, huh?

“I think the participation we had this year and the audience we had on Friday and Saturday was large,” said P.J. McGowan, manager of the North Strand Office of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, a few days later.

How did the Charlotte Team do?

“ They did wonderful. I think Johnette who is the captain starts them out the day after the competition, and they practice for practically a year, and it shows. They are a very professional team, and they do an absolutely fabulous job too. The Charlotte team won three years, and then last year they chose not to participate, and they did an exhibition for us.”

How did the team from Raleigh do?

“You know, they were so unique. They came up with, I think, some original ideas. Their costumes were most unusual. More than anything their originality, I think, as well as their choreography, was just outstanding. You could tell that they had put a lot of work into their performances as well.

“They had sailor suits on. During the first round they had overalls and blackened out their teeth. The second time they came out they were dressed like sailors. Charlotte had good costumes as well. It’s just real tough to be a judge on those kinds of things. I was in charge of getting the judges and scorecards. They were scored on crowd pleaser, most original, choreography and the best overall.”

I break down and buy a Bud and head up to Duck’s where Charlie Womble is dancing so fast with a woman during an exhibition clinic that I can’t take a photograph. His sly slides and ankle twists, the fancy footwork, is really smooth, and I’m jealous. In Laurinburg our style of shagging was fashioned after a friendly football linebacker who will remain nameless, but who I remember would get very intoxicated and just move one foot forward and one back, repeating this combination ad infinitem, using one outstretched hand and doing a twirl maybe twice a song unless there was a celebration or good drugs floating around or some rich fool is buying everybody free fireballs, and you just twirl and twirl and twirl.

Camera over my shoulder, I hustle across the street to the Ripete Records release party at Fat Harold’s as the seconds are ticking off of the death clock for one man who will die soon.

A live broadcast by 105.7 WGQR is going on in the rear of Fat Harold’s as J.D. Cash is being interviewed by Lee Hauser of the station.

“It’s a fine event,” said Hauser. “We come down with our radio station from Elizabethtown and cover this particular event, which is the Ripete music new release party. There are a lot of beach music artists that you get to talk to.”

A young guy introduces himself to me with the radio crowd, and his name is just, well, no last name. “K.C.” Kind of like Sting. He does the station’s Saturday afternoon “Beach Party” from noon to 6. “My listeners are a very wild bunch, and they love beach music. I try to satisfy as many of them as I possibly can, and it’s a lot of fun. They like a lot of the classic stuff, like The Chairman of the Board and The Embers and The Fantastic Shakers, but they also like Terry Gore. They are big Terry Gore fans. They like The Coastline Band and Heart & Soul. It’s a nice conglomerate of beach music that people like. They like the old stuff, the new stuf and everything in-between.”

After talking to the radio guys, Cash turns to me, and I whip out the trusty tape recorder. He has one a loud Hawaiian shirt, one that would make Don Ho run into his bedroom closet and weep.

“C-A-S-H,” he said, spelling his name with a laugh. “I wish I had some of it. I’m real tickled with the new record. In fact it is playing in the background right now as we speak. ‘Summer Place’ was a big hit for me, probably the biggest hit I’ve had. It was on ‘The Bad Boys of Beach Music Vol. 1.’ I produced the album. Now Volumte II is out, and from what I’m being told, it is twice as good as Number 1. We’ve got several radio cuts fon it. They are playing ‘Smiling Dream,’ ‘What a Difference a Day Makes’ and ‘Summer Wind’ by The Entertainers are real hot at SOS right now.

“I live up in Durham, North Carolina,” said the Durham native. “I lived in Myrtle Beach for many, many years. I left her in ‘87.”

When asked how old he is, he answered “49 and holding.”

“You know, I was one of the original steppers with SOS several years ago when Gene Laughter had it. It’s the people, man. It’s the fun. It’s the thing to do.” His inspiration for the music comes from the heart.

“I’ve been singing beach music since 1965, an old guy. I’m real proud of ‘The Bad Boys of Beach Music.’ What it is is guys from the Carolinas like The Catalinas, The Entertainers and The Band of Oz who have been out here promoting this music for over 30 years.”

In the car later I‘m listening to the Loris beach music station where “Fessa John Hook” introduces the next song by “Bobby Marley.” Earlier in the week one night Gary Bass was spinning CDs at Fat Harold’s.

“This is one of the best weekends we have had in a while. They shag dance is my life. It helps pay the bills,” said Bass. “I do a little recording business. I’ve been working at Fat Harold’s since 1985. I have three CDs out. My latest one that just came out is ‘Has Anybody Seen Her?’” How was the crowd? He’s protective like a mother hawk.

“I think they are all tired. They’ve all been going pretty hard. We had Fun Monday and some great groups who came down early in the day. Most of these folks are pretty tired, but they’re hanging in there pretty good.”

Bass is from Winnsboro, South Carolina. He knows the difference between the two different types of beach music.
 
 
 
 

“Well, the old beach music is basically your old rhythm and blues. The new beach music has a lot of the beat of the old rhythm and blues, but it has a little more engineering to it, a little more upbeat and a lot more technology.”

On Main Street outside in the darkness Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman” echoes from a club into the street’s open asphalt and cobblestone pavers, which are engraved with shaggers’ names for a price. At The Pirate’s Cove the DJ is saying into the mike, “When you think of Stella, you think of a big, greasy woman, I betcha!” He’s introducing a beach song by that name.

Jim Luthy of Charleston, West Va., 64, says, “This is my third year. I like it. I’ve been dancing for about three years. I come for the exercise and meeting people.”

It’s humid on the street, and Palmetto tree branches and limbs are swaying as the thick September seaside breeze blows up Main Street. It’s time to drive 25 miles home to Conway and crash.

**********


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tim, we are currently abouy 60 strong in membership. We had 23 attend SOS, and we support local fire depts. and Camp Chemo. We are not as strong as in the past as we do not have a regular meeting place (watering hole) at the present time.Respectfully, Charley Holtzclaw, past pres., Greenwood Shag Club


 
 

I took a killer pic from 12 stories high above the shagging convention, SOS, two weeks ago, and last week when it came out, it was great, showing how a guy was in the middle of the Ocean Boulevard directing flooded traffic. The governor, Jim Hodges, had vetoed stormwater drainage relief here, but today, we got a fax saying he had okayed $1 million in aid for the shit. Wonder what turned him around? I asked the local senator. He said the guv baby saw the “gravity” of the situation. When the paper came out I told the publisher, Polly Lowman, I hoped the governor saw that picture.

That front page picture was followed this week by the little weekly’s photo I took on Main Street right in the middle of the shagging holiday. It was 4:05 when the call came in.

I was coming back from trying to snag Linda Angus, former county administrator, from her new job as town manager of Atlantic Beach, the black beach. She was not in. I was heading toward the office and saw a police car heading down Main Street toward the Ocean. There was a motorcycle cop following. Then a meat wagon.

I slid down the side street and caught up with them before they hit Hoskins Restaurant, a local family establishment where I vomited as a child after a mild concussion. I felt like puking again when I got out of the car and saw the guy, laying there. It looked conspicuously like an accident, but his arm, laying out in the street, was covered in blood. There was no vehicle parked in a vicariously awkward position in the road. A woman was crying. I knew something was awry.

When the cop started barking at me, I knew I was in the right place. The first tendency is to drop the camera and leave. I kept snapping. I felt him not moving toward me. He was pointing, barking like a porch dog. There were several other women weeping by this point. The depression hits you a few hours later. It’s like a delayed hangover.

I obeyed the cop, dropping my camera, and slipping off to the car. I hid my film, a mistake I’ll never make again. I was scared he’d take it. It was my 400 film, not the newspaper’s film. I had been shooting the shag festival in hopes I’d freelance it.

My hopes came true when Carolina Country’s editor said he’d be interested for $400. My stomach was churning for $100 a minute. I needed a joint. I knew he was dead. Two blinks told the story. He wasn’t moving. There was more movement in a flower that had missed out on watering for 2.4 years.

I called the boss. I made her admit later that I was the first one to call her with the news. Hammering this in makes my existence there longer. She’s not paying my taxes. I have to pay that. I’m going to have to be published soon. A bill collector called my brother’s house this weekend, scaring my sister-in-law, which was more embarrassing than Terry Ketron and the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower he offered Arlo in Blowing Rock or the dreams I have of me being naked in an elementary school classroom as a child.

The Mountain Shag Club has 124 members, said Susan Anderson.

We are located in Western North Carolina, far from the ocean but in the heart of the Smokies. We have members from several surrounding counties. Our club has a special event party every 6 to 8 weeks. In between those times we dance at one or two local clubs. Our local charity for which we sponsored a fundraiser this year, is Mountain Projects. We raised money to provide medical transportation to doctor appointments for the elderly who have no other means of transportation. We had a wonderful evening in May of heavy hors de oeuvres and dancing at the Waynesville Country Club in Waynesville, NC. The President of the Club, Fred Morrison, his wife Susan, and ten other members attended Fall Migration, SOS this past month. We enjoyed several days, including Fun Monday, even with the downpour of rain!

Tim,

The Boone Shag Club has in existence for 13 years. Our club is rather unique in the fact that shagging represents

sand and beach. Here we are in Boone 3300 feet high nestled between Grandfather, Beech, and Snake

mountains. The typical dance for our surrounding area is clogging. Every parade and social function in this area

entails a very enjoyable performance whereas the shag dance is somewhat foreign and unfamiliar thus creating

an attitude of the unknown(fear).

The club has an annual summer dance held at the Valle Crucis Apple Barn the third week in June called "Boogie to Boone".

Where in world can you go to a shag party held in the mountains and shag in a barn. Seating consist of old church

benches and the hard would floor is the best shag floor I've ever danced on. Around closing time DJ, Clyde Waller puts

on a gospel CD called "Rough Side of the Mountain" One can stand on top of the mountain and hear shaggers singing

together in love and friendship. Occasionally a hint of harmony can be heard.

Of all the shag parties during the course of a shag calendar year "Boogie to Boone" is without a doubt the most unique

and memorable.

Present membership 70

Community service in North Myrtle Beach consists of the bicycle patrol fund established for the Department of Public Safety by the O.D. Shag Club. The total amount needed is $15,000 to buy uniforms, equipment, bikes and bike accessories for cops. There was a police car on Main Street during Main Street, and according to Corp. Jeff Senter there was $630 raised during SOS with walk-by donations.

“The O.D. Shag Club will be sponsoring it. We’re using their P.O. box and treasurer. The treasurer advises me of the money coming in. It takes about $2,500 per officer,” said Senter. “I’m happy about it. It shows that the community is involved with our law enforcement and that they support us” Contributions can be sent to the O.D. Shag Club, P.O. Box 886, Little River, S.C. 29566-0886.

dear tim,

thanks for the query on TRSC. we have 157 members, and yes many of
our members went to sos. this is always a fun time for our group.
we celebrated our tenth year in 1999, and our main charity event is
Hospice. this past june we raised over $12,000 for hospice. we have
had this event for the past 7 years and each year we have been able to
increase our donation. our members work very hard, but we all have a
good time, too. come to see us sometime, our meetings are held at the
Oar House in River Bend the second sunday of every month.

thanks again,

patricia lyon
trsc