Friday, December 10, 2010

Popular With Chaperones

1922 Arthur Murray ad [Wikipedia]
In the last post we talked about the mysterious things that a gentleman was supposed to do (according to 1920s etiquette expert Lillian Eichler) if he did not know how to dance. Well, I have read the pertinent part of Miss Eichler's chapter on dances and dancing. And I have got a few things to tell you about this important subject.

Lillian is, frankly, a bit tired of these guys who don't know a waltz from a foxtrot, for she begins (and you can almost hear the weariness in her voice) by saying that "Always at a dance, there are guests who do not dance" and that they "[are] one of the unfortunate things the hostess has to put up with at every one of her dances." Miss Eichler, are you speaking from personal experience? I fear so. And she goes on to say that these are invariably men - those annoying men! - because women, of course know all the latest dances.

What should the erring gentleman do? Well, learn, Lillian snaps - why, there are dancing schools "in every city and town." And if you're stubborn and mean enough to refuse to learn - well, you know what you have  to do? Listen to this:

Detail Pop Mech 1928 Arthur Murray
The man on the right is supposed to be amusing the chaperones.
If for any reason, a gentleman does not know how to dance, and does not want to learn, he may make up for it by entertaining the chaperons [sic]...conversing with them, walking about with them, and escorting them to the refreshment table, and altogether show by his kind attentiveness that he realizes his deficiency and wishes to make up for it.

Oh, doesn't that sound like a rip-roaringly good time, hanging around with the chaperones, sipping fruit punch and tut-tutting about Young People Today.

But no matter how boring this is, the Non-Dancing Gentleman is not, not, NOT allowed to lounge about "in the dressing-room, smoking and chatting with other gentlemen." How come they get to lounge around smoking, Miss Eichler, huh? That hardly seems fair. And why are they all in the dressing-room and not the library - I was under the impression that the library was where gentlemen liked to hide during dances.

If only the gentlemen of the punch bowl would just go to Arthur Murray and take a few classes! Then they will be as popular as the dancing sailor in the 1928 ad (above right; the link will take you to the big version) which illustrates today's post. Then maybe some of them will ask the chaperones to dance; I'm sure they'd like that.

The sailor, by the way, sent away for Arthur Murray lessons and claims to have learned on the ship, "without music or partner." I wish we could see a picture of him practicing a solo cha cha up on the poop deck. I'll bet you anything Lillian Eichler would, too.


Bill said...

I love the ad with Moody Guy. Can't you imagine the photo-shoot?
"Good stance, but look, more moody. Moodyish. You know what I mean, look cranky & pouty."

vanilla said...

Thank you so much, Lidian. The next time I start wishing I had been born earlier, I'll review your series on etiquette in the twenties.

Pam@GoRetro said...

The sailor ad is very amusing...what was that line from Austin Powers?

Austin: "Only sailors use condoms!"

Vanessa: "Not in the '90s, Austin."

Austin: "They should, those filthy bastards! They go from port to port!"

Eric said...

So... is that Arthur, or is it Murray?

Barbara said...

Funny, a sailor taught me the secret of popularity too!

Kath Lockett said...

Gee, there's a few things a girl could learn (or catch?) from a sailor but dance steps weren't first on my list :)

Marcheline said...

Getting caught doing the "solo cha-cha" can get you a week in the brig. On the poop deck? Two weeks in the brig.