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Friday Night and the Lights Are Low …

ABBA performs on Wonderama, 1976. My mother dated Bob McCallister, the host, in the ’80s. He dumped her when he realized she wasn’t rich. Jerk.

I remember being about 9 years old, at the height of the Disco Epoch, and imagining my teen and adult life being somewhat like the songs I listed to under my pillow on a Snoopy AM radio. There were a lot of songs about going out dancing. In fact, I think musicians were jailed and tortured if they produced a song that didn’t involve the concept of looking fine and hooking up over a couple well executed Hustle moves. My adult life, I was convinced, would involve lots of lip gloss, some kind of boyfriend in a flared-leg suit, shiny long hair and of course, unlimited disco dancing, occasionally on roller skates.

I do rock the lip gloss occasionally, but I’m not sure when my other dreams bowed out. However, the music will always be with me, laser-etched into my DNA, my hard wiring. Disco is perennially happy and sexy and infuses hope and beauty into the most trite of activities (Car Wash, anyone?)

A couple years ago Special K snagged tix to Mamma Mia!, which is a “jukebox” musical built upon a skeleton of ABBA songs and a wacky story of a girl who isn’t sure which of her mother’s three lovers is her father — so she invites the all! To her wedding! Dancing and copious alcohol consumption ensue! We saw Doogie Howser there and got up and danced with everyone, even though it was the “B” company in Thousand Oaks and there was an understudy!

And now (I am only explaining this to those who have been locked in the trunk of a 1973 Olds Cutlass for the past five years) Benny, Bjorn and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson went ahead and made a movie of the musical. With big stars. Which we decided we HAD to see on opening night at the ghastly Americana at Brand theaters where it’s all mediocre and American and crowded and too expensive. HOWEVER, it was fun to see Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan cutting loose.

We didn’t dance in the aisles this time, nor did we see Neil Patrick Harris. My advice to you: Even if you’re not nutso over the movie, sit through the credits.

And to ABBA, I say, thank you for the music, for giving it to me.

Vanessa McGradyFriday Night and the Lights Are Low …

Comments 4

  1. Paul

    I take it that Bob McAllister was a bit of a wacka-doo, wacka-doo, wacka-doo?

    My mom was in the audience for one of the episodes back in the early 60s (pre-Bob), and I remember the show well from when I grew up in New Jersey. Good times.

    My hallmates when I studied at the University of Warwick in England _loved_ ABBA. By the time the year was over, I couldn’t get the songs out of my head. Damn them. Damn their Nordic-disco-loving souls.

  2. Don Cummings

    Bob McCallister! What a memory. I remember Susan ____ was on Wonderama when I was a kid—a girl from my class. She sang BAD BLOOD with Neil Sedaka. I was completely jealous.
    On the Abba Front: I really hate them—they sound like gerbils in a dryer. But I’m going to see the movie.

  3. Paul

    Who says I don’t speak Disco already?

    When my colleagues are slacking, I tell them to do the hustle!

    When taxi drivers pick me up and ask, “Where to?”, I say, “Won’t you take me to… funky town?”

    Let’s face it. Knowing me, knowing you, there’s nothing we can do.

    By the way, I’m not super-angry about the ABBA. For one thing, I really enjoyed Priscilla, Queen of the Desert far more than I probably should have.

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