People have the impression that when I was DJing those fraternity and sorority parties at UCLA, USC, and all over SoCal back in the go-go ’80s, there was nothing but the mad chaos of beers, bongs, babes, and beats. Oh ye jumpers to conclusions! There were moments of near-Germanic precision. Like this one:
The air was warm, the beer was cold, the night was young, the year was old. I set up in the corner of the patio behind a large frat house at USC. Ten young men lined up in front of my system, the heterosexual embodiment of A Chorus Line.
“Are you guys ready?”
“Ready chief, are you?”
“Sure, let’s go.”
I started the record, climbed atop the left speaker and opened my mouth:
“Here’s my story, it’s sad but true,
About a girl that I once knew
She took my love then ran around
With every single guy in town”
I kneeled imploringly, singing along with Dion into a disconnected microphone. The chorus line arranged itself in a rope bridge-shaped formation, with the ends standing at full height and the center kneeling down. There were no women yet present.
I sang the fast scat part of the song between the opening and the first verse. The chorus line emulated an undulating field of grain as the first verse began:
“I should have known it from the very start
This girl would leave me with a broken heart
A-listen people what I’m telling you
A-keep away from Runaround Sue.”
Midway through the verse, the squad laid down upon the ground in a circle, heads inward, forming a Busby Berkeley pattern of kaleidoscopic complexity. The Goodyear blimp passing overhead flashed “NICE FORMATION, MEN” on its screen.
“I miss her lips and the smile on her face
The touch of her hand and the girl’s warm embrace
So if you don’t want to cry like I do
A-keep away from Runaround Sue.”
The rhythmic hand claps began in earnest as I clambered up onto the roof of the frat house like Burt Lancaster in a pirate movie. The crew then produced semaphores and signaled “COME ON DOWN FOR A BEER” to the blimp.
The “hey heys” and “oh ohs” crescendoed into a climactic “aaaah.”
“She likes to travel around
Yeah, she’ll love you nd then put you down
People let me put you wise
Sue goes out with other guys.”
I dove headlong from the roof into a fireman’s net held by the team. They bowed in unison in a sahib-dip manner to the next “aaaah.”
The second verse began as the chorus formed a circle around the outdoor hot tub. They dove in, one at a time, in a sidelong Esther Williams style, careful not to disturb the carefully calibrated spaces between themselves.
“Here’s the moral and the story
From a guy who knows
I fell in love
And my love still grows
Ask any fool that she ever knew
Ah, keep away from Runaround Sue.”
The remainder of the house joined in at the appropriate time, repelling down the broad back of the house from their respective windows, joining in the “oooohs” and the “aaaahs” in succession, by floor, from left to right.
When all 100 members had completed this maneuver, they formed ten coequal lines of ten participants each, marching in place, fitting onto the back patio with two inches to spare on either side of the formation.
The assemblage repeated the final verse in full voice, rivaling the sound system in volume, then aligned in the in the shape of a beer keg with myself as the spout. They set off one sky rocket each, in unison by rows, to the last ten words of the song. The blimp nimbly avoided the airborne projectiles.
The blimp flashed “GOOD, BUT BETTER LAST TIME” on its screen, then landed in the volleyball pit and joined the house for beers. Soon after, women began arriving.
Dress rehearsals over, the REAL performance began in earnest for the amusement and edification of assembled hotties. Few and far between were the brothers not amply rewarded for their efforts at various points throughout the evening by members of their audience. Truth be known, that was the point of the exercise, which in no way besmirches the concentration and dedication required of its performers.
Me? I was getting paid anyway and I always loved that song.