Diane lived pretty close to Parma Lutheran Church. When my Dad drove the family to church on Sundays in our brand new Chrysler New Yorker, it took about fifteen to twenty minutes to get there. The speed limit rarely got over 35 miles an hour, and my Dad never went over that. He always came to a full stop at the stop signs too. I knew I could make it over to her house on my bike.
Parma Lutheran was the church we went to when we first moved to Cleveland. My Mom, Dad and my Grandma all got involved in teaching Sunday School, so we just kept going there even after we moved to Parma Heights. I was thirteen now, so on Friday nights, my Dad would drop me off at church for Teen Night. We had our youth group meetings at the old wooden sanctuary across the street from our new, larger brick church. That’s where I met Diane. I think a friend of hers invited her that first night. She didn’t go to our church. She was Italian which means she was a Catholic, but she said it was okay for her to come to our Teen Night. She walked over to the church with her girlfriend so I knew she lived close. I figured that twenty minutes in a car meant that I could probably make it over to Diane’s house in less than an hour. School was out for the summer. I told my mom that I was going to ride my bike and wouldn’t be home for lunch. She packed me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I rode my bike over to Diane’s house because I wanted to see her dance. That girl could really dance, just like the dancers on American Bandstand and Shindig. I got to her house around ten in the morning. She was already sitting on the front porch waiting for me, elbows on her knees, head in her hands, wearing short shorts and a breezy, cotton halter top. Her black curly hair was parted down the middle and she hooked some of it behind her ears. She smelled like Dial soap. She already had her transistor radio tuned to WIXY 1260. They were just finishing up the news about Viet Nam and something about the Negros and civil rights marches. I think girls started getting prettier right there at age thirteen.
I leaned forward across my handlebars while we talked about my ride over to her house and how she got her chores done early. She wasn’t allowed to go back in the house until her Mom called her in for lunch. That’s how we all did it. We weren’t allowed to be inside once the house was cleaned up. We had to play outside.
As soon as the music started, Diane was up on her feet and dancing. ‘Uptight’ by Stevie Wonder was a good song but she really couldn’t dance so good to it. She just stepped around in time to the music. Just warming up I guess. I laid my bike down and sat cross-legged by the bottom step looking up at her.
I hadn’t seen her in shorts before. She had some skinny-ass legs. Up there on the porch, dancing like a go-go dancer, her legs looked even skinnier. Not boney, just skinny. And when she danced, she wasn’t doing some rubber-legged, stupid-looking wiggly dance, she was moving side to side and doing circles and shimmy bops, just like on TV. I guess I was watching her legs for too long because she finally told me that she takes after her Dad because he’s tall and thin too. She said her Dad works at the Ford Motor plant over by the airport.
The songs got better and so did her dancing. She started getting her arms moving too. She could do the Jerk, and the Mashed Potato, and the Watusi. She could take these side steps and bend her knees, bop her head, pop her shoulders and clap all at the same time. Right on the beat of the song. She just danced and danced. I really don’t remember talking much once she got going. I just kept watching those skinny legs.
She danced better whenever they played Motown songs, but when James Brown came on and – I’ll never forget the song- when James Brown came on, she turned it loose and danced like I’ve never seen a girl dance before. See, James Brown had all kinds of fancey moves with his feet. He’d swivel and skate and flick his feet around like lightening, and Diane could do all that too. She got her head nodding, her arms pointing, her legs pedaling, her hips circling and she got that one-footed swivel-slide going too, just like James Brown. She hit every beat of that song, especially on that quick strumming guitar part right before the horns blow.
That skinny leg girl could dance!
I don’t know whatever happened to Diane but whenever I hear this song, I see her again up there on the front porch dancing those long skinny legs for me while I sat and watched for a whole afternoon. God bless that skinny legged girl!
James Brown singing ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ on The Ed Sullivan Show
Stevie Wonder singing ‘Uptight’