01. October 2014 · Comments Off on ADVENTURES OF THE DISCO KID AND PAUNCHO · Categories: ---

Once upon a time, toward the end of the “disco era” in the early ′80’s, a swinging young man who liked to introduce himself as The Disco Kid had an adventure. He was a devotee of discotheques, checking out a new one each week and visiting his favorites regularly.

After a while, he started hanging with a chubby young man who enjoyed dancing but was rarely picked as someone’s partner. That is, not until he hooked up with Disco, who always had several ladies waiting to dance with him, and willing to put up with Pauncho, as he was now called.

One night Al Peppard, which was The Disco Kid’s real name, met Pauncho – also known as Carl Verdugo – outside a new disco called The Swingin’ Swan. As they entered the double leather studded doors, they were besieged with pretty young ladies who had heard of Al’s dance moves and desperately wanted to be seen grooving with a good dancer. Tonight Pauncho had to step back and watch, or make the rounds of the dance floor edges to find a partner willing to chance being stepped on.

Carl – Pauncho – was actually a good enough dancer but, because of his girth, was suspected of being clumsy until he and his partner reached the dance floor. Then most of the ladies were gratified to find that he rarely stepped on their toes, and that he led assertively. But the Disco Kid could always win them back. After all, he was both an exciting, inventive dancer, and a good-looking, not-too-tall young man.

This was the night Patty Sloane and her pals, Becky and Freda, had finally decided to take a chance on a night out. Patty had turned 21 just the day before, and her slightly older friends had often begged her unsuccessfully to sneak away from home to join them at a disco palace. Now that she was “legal,” they had insisted she check out The Swingin’ Swan with them, and see what all the fuss was about.

As she got ready for her big night out, Patty stood in front of her mirror unsure how to choose between her shiny red satin disco skirt and matching bolero jacket, and the classy little black number she knew would wow those Disco Daddies. They both looked fantastic beneath her swinging mane of golden blonde, and she loved the strappy black sandals her mom gave her for her birthday to go with the black dress. But the shiny white vinyl thigh-high boots she’d bought after she first heard Nancy Sinatra sing, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” were perfect for her debut on the disco scene so the red satin it was.

Patty, Becky and Freda scored a table near the front door to watch the new entrants. When the Disco Kid swung in, Patty was looking straight at him. Shockingly, she could feel herself swooning, just as if he were Elvis himself, for God’s sake! But he was just her type – thick brown hair slicked back with one stray lock falling over his forehead, sultry brown bedroom eyes, a narrow dark moustache the width of his wide mouth, and a strong, determined chin. His narrow sloping shoulders, in that blue paisley silk shirt, and a pair of slender, expressive hands completed the picture. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, she told herself as his gaze moved slowly around the room.

He hadn’t seen her, and she quickly grabbed her bag, slid out of her chair and hot-footed it into the restroom. She needed to freshen up before approaching him, and she’d have to beat out a number of other girls to be his partner. But she intended to be his last partner of the night.

Becky and Freda were still looking around for her when she returned to the table. Patty slid back into her chair, nodding at the waitress passing by just then. She’d take another ginger ale. Her friends gabbled on about the cute guys who’d just come in, and the fact that no one had asked them to dance yet. But Patty slid her chair around so she could focus on the dance floor, and looked around until that lovely young man was in her sights.

“I’ll see you in a few,” she mumbled to the girls as she stood, adjusted her skirt and ambled over to Al’s table.

“Where are you going?” Becky wailed after her in a loud whisper, and then Freda’s “Shooosh” silenced her. They settled back to watch their girl operate, sipping their gin-and-tonics and grinning at each other.

When she reached her destination, she had to join five other girls waiting there for the Disco Kid’s attention. The bottle-redhead dancing with Al at the moment seemed to be hogging his interest, and when she managed to keep him with her for a second dance, Patty’s face grew flushed and her stomach muscles tightened. She finally stalked out onto the floor and tapped the greedy girl’s green-and-white clad shoulder to cut in, but the bitch shrugged her off and danced away from her.

Patty stood in stunned silence for a moment – she’d legitimately cut in, and that redhead should have graciously stepped back. She trailed the pair quickly, and this time pulled the girl around to face her. They stood eye-to-eye for a moment, and then the other girl put both hands flat on Patty’s bolero and shoved her. Patty stumbled back a few steps, but caught herself and a moment later, was clawing and screeching like a cat greeting her first dog. The other dancers crowded eagerly around as shiny red satin and white vinyl blurred together with green-and-white dotted Swiss.

Patty saw the Disco Kid fade back into the crowd and a frown furrowed her brow, but she wasn’t going to stop pulling hair until that bitch took her nails out of Patty’s own tresses. Finally three men, goaded by their partners, waded into the fight and pulled the girls apart.

By now the music had stopped, and, still standing and breathing hard, Patty pulled away from her captors. She stood, arms akimbo, and said, into the hushed silence, “You think you’re such hot stuff! Well, I hereby challenge you to a dance-off!”

“A what?” the redheaded intruder screeched. “A dance-off! What’s that?”

“It’s like a duel,” Patty said loftily. “We get a partner and do our specialty steps, and the crowd decides which one of us wins.”

“And what do I get if I win?” the girl asked with a smug smile.

“You win Disco. Or I do,” Patty stated. From the corner of her eye, she could see Al whirl around where he stood at his table talking to some ugly brunette.

“You’re on!” the redhead glared.

Patty rushed back to Al’s table and gripped his hand, smiling and tugging him onto the floor, and pulled his head down to listen as she whispered to him. The redhead stood glaring at them for a moment, then reached out to a tall, slender stranger standing nearby. He was dressed in a blindingly white shirt and pants, his cobalt blue tie loosened around his neck and tossed over his shoulder. He looked at his own partner, shrugged and joined the redhead, and they moved away to confer.

Then the Disco Kid nodded to the band, gathered Patty into his arms and as the music started again – playing “Stayin’ Alive” – they whirled once around the floor. Then they began a series of flips and lifts the likes of which most of their audience had never seen. It appeared to be merely an updated jitterbug, but Al entered fully into the spirit and his skill balanced perfectly with Patty’s. When they finished their little flurry of steps, everyone watching applauded wildly for five long minutes. Then the crowd turned to the redhead and her partner, and there was an expectant silence.

She stood next to him demurely, holding hands at arm’s length, for a long, silent moment. He nodded to the band, and to the strains of “Dance Inferno,” whipped his arm toward his chest and stepped back. The redhead twirled three times, dropping one of his hands and grabbing the other, and they were off in a complex series of steps. Their efforts were just as wildly applauded, and the band began again, this time in a fast Latin rhythm.

Patty and Al stepped out and did a modern version of a samba, which was greeted happily by the throng, but the redhead and her partner tangoed out to “Piña Colada,” looking as if they’d never be apart, and when they finished, the crowd went wild once again. It looked bad for Patty.

During the next dance, Al failed to catch Patty’s hand after a complicated step, and she crashed into a spectator who hadn’t moved away in time. She fell against a table and was knocked unconscious, and Al rushed to her side, Pauncho right beside him. Al yelled at his friend to call an ambulance, and then sat beside Patty and held her head in his lap. He smoothed back her hair tenderly, took her hand in his and a single tear leaked slowly from his eye. It was so sad, and many watchers wept with him.

Finally, the ambulance arrived and paramedics pushed through the crowd and loaded Patty into the van. Al insisted on accompanying her to the emergency room, and once she was cleaned up he was told she’d be fine but they wanted to keep her overnight. By then, her friends had arrived, wringing their hands and anxious about what they were going to tell Patty’s poor mom.

She was moved upstairs into a double room and as the mild sedative began to take effect, the nurse kicked her visitors out. The girls and Pauncho left, but Al remained behind in the waiting room, pacing back and forth for several hours.

As he waited for assurance from the nurse that she wasn’t going to die, Disco told himself it was not his fault she’d been hurt, but she was awfully cute. Then he decided he had no responsibility for her injury since he hadn’t encouraged her to fight with the other girl, but he had to admit she could really dance. After a few hours he began asking himself, what if he had to pay for her hospital bill? But when his friend came back to the hospital, after the Swingin’ Swan closed, Al found himself yelling at Pauncho that he didn’t care if he did have to pay, he loved Patty.

When he was allowed back into her room, after being up all night, he was dazed and hung over, and not at all sure what he was feeling. They sat down with her breakfast tray and talked.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“I’ll be fine,” she said in a tremulous voice. “I’m sorry I dragged you into all this.”

“That’s okay. I saw you come to my table while I was dancing.”

She glanced sharply at him. “You did?” She’d thought he’d never even noticed her. Goes to show how wrong you can be.

“I’d never have stayed with her for another dance,” he assured her.

“No?” She smiled, a little more confidently. Then, “But I was sixth in line – I just couldn’t wait.”

“I like an aggressive partner.” He waggled his eyebrows and grinned playfully.

“Do you?”

“And I like you. I’m sorry you were hurt, and I forgive you for making a scene.”

“Thank you. I just thought you’d be a great person to meet.”

As they continued talking, she finished her breakfast but when the nurse didn’t kick him out again, he stayed.

They spent the rest of the day and part of the next together. It didn’t take long for them both to learn just how very little they had in common. She didn’t approve of drinking; he loved shooters. She had three cats and two dogs; he didn’t like animals. He was a Roman Catholic; she was Jewish – both thought the other misguided, and he was a wee bit bigoted.

It soon turned out that he smoked a lot, and she was allergic to tobacco smoke; he was usually out dancing all night till 4 a.m., and she usually fell asleep by 10; he loved to spend money, especially on clothes, and she was thrifty.

After a few minor misunderstandings about money, religion and their personal habits, they had their “first fight.” And then they broke up.

When Pauncho picked up Disco that night on their way to the next dance hall, the Disco Dungeon, he was forbidden to talk about Patty or the events of the night before. But before too long, Pauncho couldn’t resist a comment. “Just think, Disco, when you’re dancing, you don’t have to listen to them talk.”

His friend laughed. “It’s okay to talk while you’re dancing, since you usually don’t fight on the dance floor.”

“At least you don’t if you’re not two girls,” Pauncho responded, and broke into gales of laughter. Al couldn’t help laughing with him, and punched his friend’s shoulder.

He grinned and said, “Oh, Pauncho!”

Carl said, “Oh, Deeesco” and, laughing heartily, they drove off to their next adventure.

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