Bonnie Clanton was a year ahead of me in school

Bonnie Clanton was a year ahead of me in school. We were friends but we didn’t really move in the same circles. She was a senior and caught up in her last year of high school. I was busy trying to crack the basketball team’s starting line-up.

I can’t remember now why her boyfriend couldn’t join her on Channel 7’s Top Ten Dance Party. And to this day I don’t know why she asked me to go in his stead…..

It wasn’t my dancing ability because I had very little. And you can rest assured it wasn’t my natural charm or good looks. The Dance Party was a big thing in 1964. The television station down in Jackson would invite a different high school in the area to be the “guest dancers” on a Saturday afternoon show. Bonnie wasn’t going to pass up a chance to appear on live TV regardless of who she had to drag along.

I’ve sat and wondered for fifty years if I was her first choice…..

There was a teeny problem. Us Baptists back in the 60’s weren’t very high on dancing. Many thought that Rock & Roll music emanating from the likes of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry came straight from the Devil himself.

I tried the Twist back in the eighth grade at a dance out at the Tri-County Stockyards. I stepped on Ann Carol McCaleb’s foot and I wasn’t even dancing with her! The school had a couple of “sock hops” my freshman and sophomore years but I did a whole lot more watching than participating. And I did dance one time with that girl over at the National Guard Armory in Paris. Roy Orbison was singing “Candy Man.” I couldn’t tell which one of us was more relieved when it was over.

I broached Mom carefully about how I was more “helping out Bonnie than I was dancing.” It was the Ecclesiastical approach. She couldn’t turn that down…..but I could tell she, being a much better Baptist than me, had some serious doubts about the whole thing.

None of us had ever been on TV. I figured me and Bonnie could kinda hop around in the back and no one would even know we were there. My plan was working perfectly until they came to the elimination dance to select the winning couple for the day. The judge kept tapping people on the shoulder until only Bonnie and I were left.

I forgot to tell you Bonnie was a natural born dancing machine!

The MC was announcing our names to the world when it dawned on me that Mom and Billy Graham might be watching! I was thinking I could survive one day of this……when the “hostess with the mostest” explained that the next dance would be between us and last week’s winning couple. Ye Gads!

Bonnie somehow managed to win that one with me doing a combination of the Watusi and Mashed Potato with my back to the camera! The winners had to come the following Saturday for another suspense filled “Dance Off.”

Listen, you ain’t heard nothing yet! My girlfriend from nearby Huntingdon caught the whole thing live sitting right in her own living room. She near ’bout had a conniption fit……and it was going to be kinda hard to lie my way around this one! She didn’t even let me finish my story about how Bobby Brewer looked a whole lot like me on TV……

I couldn’t tell if Billie Jean was mad because I forgot to mention that I was going to be on the blooming show or that Bonnie Clanton was a lot better looking than her!

Bonnie won the next week. And the next! We became three time champions and were invited back for the grand final “Dance Contest” in May. People at church were patting me on the back and wishing us well. They gave us free hamburgers out at Frank’s Dairy Bar. I swear I saw a hint of pride in Mom’s eyes. Billie Jean didn’t buy the Bobby Brewer story, she didn’t believe Bonnie and I were just friends and she was extra mad because I “didn’t dance that way with her.”

Tommy Hill and Daddy intervened. By May I was working at Mr. Hill’s DX Service Station. Dad didn’t care one whit if I danced or not. He did care a whole heap that I fulfilled my work commitment!

I, of course, told Billie Jean that I wasn’t going back for the final dance because she didn’t approve. That might have been a tiny Ecclesiastical stretch…..