Monday, September 22, 2014

How To Be Very Very Popular

Dancing. Marital advice. Makeup tips. More dancing. Business acumen. Witty conversation. And yes, still more dancing. You need all of these things in order to be popular. But mostly the dancing.

Behold the answer to all your social problems in one delightful volume: Arthur Murray's Popularity Book, which first came out in 1944 and has just been reprinted for your reading pleasure by Osprey/Oldhouse Books. Arthur Murray (1895-1991) began teaching dance when he was only 17, and in the 1920s, after several years of teaching,  came up with the idea of using diagrams of footsteps to show people how to do various dances. He sold these as a correspondence course for several years and then in 1938 he and his wife, Kathryn Kohnfelder, opened their first real school - the first of a national chain. There were over 3500 Arthur Murray studios around by the time the Murrays retired in 1964. And there are about 200 of them around the world, today.

The book was not written by Arthur Murray, although Kathryn Murray wrote a piece about "How To Attract the Stag Line," which is full of helpful hints - men like full skirts, but not in a scratchy taffeta. Also they dislike makeup and lipstick that come off easily, and they dislike girls who have to keep fixing their hair.

The book is a compilation of magazine articles and book excerpts interspersed with dance instructions. So that you could rumba your way across the dance floor - wearing just the right color (not yellow, it is childish, try black or red, or polka dots if you want to cheer people up) - and then set up shop reading people's palms. That was a way to make yourself extra popular at parties (just make sure you don't predict anything depressing).

There is even business advice, which of course advises you to learn to dance: "Youngsters just out of college are discovering that if you want to work for Uriah Q. Minkelmotter in his ice cream factory, the best way is to dance well with his wife and daughters." What I want to know is, what job are we angling for in the ice cream factory - putting lids on containers, say, or being Mr. Minkelmotter's right hand man? And how many opportunities are we going to have to dance with the Minkelmotter women, anyway?

I loved this book. Some of the advice is a bit dated, which is to be expected. For example, a woman who always ran errands for everyone at the expense of her writing dreams was told that she was too "generous with her husband's car and tires and gas." But a lot of the advice still true - it's smart to be a good listener, but not a doormat; a sense of humor is often helpful when people annoy you; show genuine interest in the people you meet, and you wll be more popular. Why, even Mrs. Minkelmotter would enjoy it if you asked her more about that extensive ice cream spoon collection of hers. She might even put in a good word for you with Uriah Q.

Many thanks to Osprey/Shire for sending this to me; as always, the opinions here are my own. And if you'd like to get a copy too, you can check it out on Amazon.

1 comment:

My Life Atomic - Modern Life of a 1950's Housewife said...

What a great book! I will put that on my reading list. How lovely. Thanks for sharing.

~ Jenn