“The Sketchy Guy”
Recently, I was at the Jam Cellar, talking to my DJ friend during one of her more scratchy selections, when a girl in front of me did a styling in her swivels that I could only describe as “Rosy.” Rosy, you see, was a dancer in these parts once, and, simply, “had it.” She was a natural, unassuming, joyful dancer who put her own flavor into everything, and had so much attitude in her swivels that you had to stand back at least four feet from them.
But it didn’t all come naturally for her, I remember. She said she practiced a few hours a week, and even did this thing where she would spend part of the night dancing by herself–not just solo dancing, mind you, but actually dancing as if with an invisible lead, just to get better at styling and what not.
However, it’s now been a good one or two years since I’ve seen Rosy on the dance floor, and so I asked my DJ friend about it.
My friend, who shall remain anonymous to keep her from being bugged about it, told me this story:
You haven’t heard, have you? As you remember, Boobs (she calls me “Boobs” instead of “Bobby;” our friendship has other 6th grade aspects to it, as well), she used to come out every Tuesday. She was apparently here one night when some guy named Eric asked her to dance.
She said he was a little jerky with his arms and didn’t know Lindy Hop, only a stomping-version of six-count, but otherwise was just a run-of-the-mill dancer. He asked her to dance a few more times that night, and, well, you know Rosy, she said “yes.”
Over the next few months, this guy kept popping up randomly and asking her to dance. And things were changing…He ceased asking her to dance and instead just held out his hand. He occasionally would “accidentally” swipe her boob on side-passes. He was bathing less and less, she noticed. It became so obvious that she noticed other leaders start to try to cut in on her dances with Eric.
Even though she appreciated these guys trying to save her, she wasn’t rude enough–well, I don’t think it would have been “rude”, but it definitely wasn’t in her personality to stop dancing with Eric in the middle of a song. I would have told her to say “no” but when I found out about this, it was too late.
This got worse and worse, Eric asking her to dance sometimes three songs in a row before he’d smile a really creepy smile and leave. The guys always tried to dance with her before he’d ask her to dance, but they were always too late. When the guys did dance with her, they found that her dancing had felt weird because of all the dances with the sketchy guy. Soon they even stopped trying to cut in.
Then, one night, Eric asked her to dance five songs in a row, on a Boilermaker night, no less (This was one of the Boilermaker night’s I missed due to my ill-conceived Graduate school studies in the History of Early 20th Century Caucasian Upper Class Street Dances, which turned out to be mainly a study of the card game bridge.) She had a row of other guys trying to get her for a dance. She finally had had enough, and turned him down, but he pretended to not hear her, and simply swept her up and started dancing. You know Rosy-she sighed and kept on dancing. After four songs, the Boilermakers drums exploded into “All God’s Chillun’ Got Rhythm”, and Eric still had her in his clutches, and, for the first time in months, she suddenly heard his voice: “When I say so, jump up and tuck your legs.” “What?” She replied. “It will happen around 4 and 1/2.”
But before he could do so, Rosy was suddenly pulled away from him. Jeff Booth, you know, Jeff-I-only-get-upset-at-disappointing-Cure-albums-Booth, put his hand out. “Just what’s the [expletive omitted] deal, here, [expletive omitted] douche-[expletive omitted]?”
“Sorry, Jeff, he just kept asking me to dance,” Rosy said, who as you know, absolutely hates making a scene.
“Haha, that’s [expletive omitted] hilarious, [expletive omitted, though if I recall, it involved sheep].” He said. “You’re being a [expletive omitted, inv. human anatomy].”
“What?” Rosy said, who realized that Jeff was talking to her.
“It’s Boilermaker night,” he said. “Are you going to dance with yourself all night long, and then make some stupid joke when real guys are lining up to dance with you?”
At this point, she protested, pointing to the Sketchy Guy that had been dancing with her for proof. Only, she didn’t. I mean, she pointed, but he wasn’t there. No one was.
Later that night, she told Jeff everything, and Jeff sat in silence. “Holy [scatological expletive omitted],” He said. “You weren’t dancing here ten years ago, were you?”
She nodded “no.”
“Well, at the height of the neo-swing craze, The Jam Cellar was called Hep-Cat Daddy-O’s. We had, on average, about three hundred people here a night. Our Jam Circle’s would last two or three repeats of “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “Rock This Town,” at least.
There was this one guy, “Sketchy Eric” they called him, who would only dance with the best girls or beginner girls he was trying to hit on. He was probably the least well-liked person I have ever met. Even Old Man Crazy Dweezil, the war criminal who came here for awhile, thought Eric was too evil for his taste and is probably the reason he hasn’t come back. Anyway, we all disliked him, but we never had an excuse to throw him out. Then, one jam circle, all the partnerships who knew any tricks had already gone out to dance, so, of course, it was time for two guys to go out. At the beginning of the evening, Eric had suckered some beginner into working on an aerial with him in a corner, so when the time came, the two guys went out, did some basics, and then this guy took Eric into an aerial called “the widowmaker,” which Eric had invented, but never tried himself. Eric was about two hundred pounds heavier than his partner, and the guy slipped at the part where Eric dives down his back. Eric never had a chance.
Above their heads, the Boilermakers were packing up their gear, and dancers hung around in the halls talking. To get them to leave, the DJ started playing Brian Setzer’s “Rock this Town.”
“I haven’t seen Rosy since,” said my friend, finishing her story. “I called her, though, a few weeks ago, and she said she’s taken up Tennis. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that was Eric’s other passion.“
The dance now half over, we sat for awhile and I looked around the cracked molding of the old mansion’s ceiling and the warped boards of it’s floor. By this time, my DJ friend was playing some music that was actually recorded in the 1900s, and I noticed an intermediate dancer working on her swing-outs and swivels by herself. I tightened up my dance shoes, walked over to her, and insisted that she allow me to cut in.
*–From “The Haunted Jam Cellar: ghost stories” October 2009. The style of the story is based on the classic ghost stories of M.R. James.