Dick Clark: “In This Month’s Column, Let’s Talk About”
Before I tell you what brought all this on, let’s start with some for-examples. I’ve seen this one happen lots of times on “American Bandstand” and I’ll bet you have, too. A fellow walks over and asks a strange girl to dance. They step out on the floor, sweep into the dance steps and then all of a sudden she starts nodding and waving and saying “hello” to every other person there. When the dance is over, he ambles back to rejoin his gang and she stands there wondering why he isn’t interested in her. It’s simple: He thinks she isn’t interested in him. If a fellow gets up the ambition or the courage to ask a gal for a dance or a date, you can’t blame him if he expects her to pay him attention—at least for the duration.
Does this sound familiar? He’ll say, “Let’s go to see Pat Boone in ‘Mardi Gras.’ ” You smile and reply. “I’ve seen it.” “Then we could . . .” “I’ve seen it.” “Well, how about . . .” “Oh, I don’t want to do that . . . or that . . . or that.” Let ol’ Dick give you a bit of advice. If you’ve seen the first movie he suggests, then tell him what you would like to see. He’ll be glad to go along with your suggestion, because for all you know he might have seen the first movie, too, with another date. The point he wants to make is that he will do his best to entertain you, and he’s just named one place to show you his idea of how best to do it. Your showing an interest by helping him arrive at an alternate idea tells him you’re agreeable.
Here’s another. “He” arrives. is greeted by Mom or Pop, introduced to the rest of the family, then hears a voice floating down the stairs, “Oh, is Tommy here already? I’d better hurry.” Well, along about that time, hurrying isn’t going to do much good. It’s later than you think. One that really got me one time back in high school is this: “He” arrives and you welcome him at the door, then announce, “I just got back from Carol’s house, but it won’t take me more than a few minutes to get ready.” He fidgets for a half-hour, tries to make conversation with your folks, decides he was a goon to knock himself out getting all rigged up on time. He wishes he’d dated Carol—and probably will next time.
The one that always used to shake me up the most, though, was the date who couldn’t wait to get to the corner soda shop to let everyone know that she had a date! I know you’ve been a witness to this one. too. The door bursts open and there they are, the two of them—framed in the spotlight with everyone taking notes. Girls, this is the time when the evening can start going downhill, but fast, if you proceed to go about it this way: Instead of going along to join a few friends at the fountain or in a booth, start by saying “hello” to the gang in the first booth, then have a gabfest with the girls in the second one, spin around and work through the first three or four friends on the stools at the fountain, and then go back to the booths. All this time, keep a tight hold on his hand so that everybody will know he’s with you.
I can guarantee that, after the first few gab sessions, you’ll really have to tighten that hold, or he’ll speed out of the shop on twelve cylinders with twin exhausts. Play it cool and let him lead the way, and nine times out of ten he’ll be dialing your number and ringing your bell again. And take my word for it, everybody will know you’ve had a date.
Those are just some ways to lose a Valentine—and there are more to come. Does the shoe pinch? Well, just ease it off while I let you in on how I got started on all this. It’s because I hate to be the kind of a guy who has to do everything at the last minute, but sometimes there just isn’t any help for it. You know what I mean. You make out your Christmas shopping list in June, make all kinds of plans to start shopping in September, and end up still cramming presents into the car on Christmas Eve. It does happen. Something almost as bad is buying a birthday card or a Valentine card and carrying it in your pocket for a week before you decide it’s too late to mail and end up delivering it yourself. A very bad habit. Ask me, I know. Not all of the time, mind you, but every once in a while, on my way home after the program, I head for the corner card shop. Pick out my card. Then suddenly find something else taking up all my attention.
Valentine Day cards, for instance. I went shopping real early this year. One noontime when I suddenly found ten extra minutes to spare from listening to new records—I still can’t decide which side of the Everly Brothers’ latest I like best—and outlining the day’s “American Bandstand” show, I decided to put on my coat and take a short walk around to the card shop not too far away and get a batch of cards to send off. My intentions were really of the very best. So I slipped out and was spending a few minutes browsing among the collection man, some of them were but real crazy! Soon I had a nice little stack piled on the counter, and, after paying for them and pocketing my change, I was on my way out when I saw a familiar face. It was a girl who had been in to our show a few times.
“Hi,” I said. “I’ll bet you get two for each one you send.”
That is where my downfall began. Seriously, she turned and her face fell and I knew I had done it.
“Most of my cards will be from girls,” she moaned. “For some reason the fellows seem to forget me.” In the back of my mind those little wheels started spinning, and since I had already stolen a few minutes off, I thought, why not take a few more. So I plunged in.
“What gives?” I asked. “I’ve seen you at ‘American Bandstand’ and you seem to have a guy for every dance.”
“But they’re all one-time dances, and it’s usually the same with dates,” she told me. “and I just can’t seem to keep the fellows interested in me.” Before she could ask “What can I do?” those wheels had clicked and my mental motor was running. I knew why I had noticed this girl out of the hundred or so on the dance floor. Knowing that, I could also make a good guess at why the dancing and dating ended up the same way each time.
She’s the girl in example number one, and once I’d remembered the easy way my friend at the card shop used to lose her Valentines, I just naturally got started thinking of other sure-fire, tear-tested ways.
For instance, one sure way to drive your intended Valentine into the arms of another on the dance floor or on a date is to duck every opportunity to follow his conversational leads. You may be worrying about his dance steps, and concentrating hard on them, but whatever the reason, you’re not paying any attention to what he’s saying. I know a lot of times that’s confused with shyness—and often it can be just that—but at all times, when he starts the conversational ball rolling, that’s your cue to lend an ear.
If all he gets back is a strained expression, he’s bound to get the idea that you don’t share his interest, and that’s when he’ll clam up and make a fast getaway when the music comes up and out. Even if everything he wants to talk about isn’t Topic “A” with you, it’s still the best way possible for you to get to know him and for him to get a lead on your likes and dislikes. Most young couples have some interests in common. The job is sorting them out. That’s another art that you can practice without him actually realizing you’re getting around him. They say “it takes two to tango,” and remember it also takes at least “two to talk” in this teenage world or any other.
Of course, I say “lend an ear,” but that can be twisted into “bend an ear.” Don’t go all the way off in the other direction and begin chattering about anything and everything that comes to your mind. Just work a middle line and you’ll find it’s also the shortest one to his friendship, interest and attention.
I noticed an incident the other night when I was at one of the record hops and that also set me to thinking. About three couples were standing off to one side of the gym floor, and one girl had a real tight grip on the right arm of one of the fellows. Every time he’d say something, she would let loose with a hilarious giggle that really drew attention away from whatever he had said and focussed it right on her.
Now I’m sure she didn’t realize this. She just seemed to be anxious to show her appreciation of his remarks, but I could see that he was starting to throw around those looks that can only mean “How am I going to escape?”
They were out on the dance floor a few minutes later, and she was really talking up a storm. There was another storm, too, and it started showing on his forehead. Whenever he would say something, that was his partner’s cue to pick up in mid-sentence and really go off with a line that never seemed to stop. It was easy to see that he wasn’t getting wrapped up in that line, and before the evening was over I saw them both sitting off to the side neither saying a word, and both looking like an explosion had taken place. The cause was obvious. Sure he wanted his date to be interested in what he was saying, but he didn’t want her taking over completely. The blow-up, when it came, must have been tough on both parties, but it seemed to me that it hit hardest on the girl. All she’d been doing, she thought, was trying to please the fellow. But going overboard with the chatter had drowned that romance and buried it at sea.
There’s another way I’ve found to keep Valentines out of your mail box, but here you have to have some help. That’s when you and your girl friend double date. After the dance or show, you stop off for a snack, keeping up a running line with your girl friend while the fellows are left to themselves, and feeling ignored. Fellows are as guilty of this as girls, I’m told, and I’m sure you girls get just as burned up when it happens to you. After all, that’s the reason for dates in the first place—to enjoy each other’s company—so make sure that everybody gets a word or two in the conversation. You can help if you’re the one who notices someone is being left out. Look for an opening to bring him back into the fold, and he’ll be your friend for life.
Most of these problems can come up on a date, any date, and believe me I know fellows make their share of mistakes. Sure you get mad, too, at the guy who tells you to be ready at seven-thirty and then shows up at eight-fifteen. Or the guy who says “How would you like to see the basketball game Friday night?” And then after you dress in sweater and skirt, he shows up dressed to kill and informs you, “Oh, no, we’re going to the dance at the church hall.” Murder, you say. Well, don’t do it. That’s when you should smile, and tell him it won’t take you more than a minute to change into something more formal. I guess even worse is when you’ve dressed in your newest dress and spent hours getting ready for a dance and he comes along with the last-minute word: “It’s a square dance.”
Now these mishaps aren’t your fault, and nobody could blame you if you blew up and just “told him off.” But, the date, and the ones that might follow, could be salvaged and you are the one who can do it. Don’t start blasting right away. Get ready for the occasion as quickly as possible and then, later on in the evening if your anger hasn’t worn off, politely indicate that you wish you had been told beforehand just where you were going. Sure, you are still in a way letting him know where you stand, but what could have been a really bad evening is smoothed by a lot of patience on your part.
These evenings might have started off being real hectic, but there is another way to make sure they don’t end up that way.
That can happen when you try to impress your date by telling him that you don’t have to be home until twelve—when your parents really have set an earlier curfew. All unsuspecting, he takes you to the door at midnight only to be greeted by an irate dad or mom demanding to know why he kept you out so late. Oh . . . there he goes. Fleeing down the steps and out of sight and out of your social life.
He has been told by his parents what time he should be in, so it’s only natural for him to know your deadline. Tell him honestly and he won’t get sore. At least he won’t get as burned up as he is when he gets blasted in your doorway.
So now you know how, if you really try, you can lose your Valentine. If you’d rather latch on to those dances and dates, there’s a lesson here for you, too. Most of the boners I’ve talked about come about for pretty much the same reasons—because the girl isn’t interested enough in her date, or she’s interested but doesn’t know how to show it, or she goes about showing it in the wrong way. Show him he’s a VIP and he’ll send the mailman around with Valentines to show you what he thinks.
Did I say Valentine cards? . . . That reminds me . . . now which pocket did I put them in? I know I’ve got one here just for you.
See you next month. Meanwhile, write me at the office here at Photoplay. They’ve given me a brand-new file cabinet of my own, just to keep your letters in.
DON’T MISS DICK ON ABC-TV, ON “AMERICAN BANDSTAND,” MON.-FRI., 4 TO 5: 30 P.M. EST, AND “THE DICK CLARK SHOW,” SAT., 7:30 P.M. EST.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MARCH 1959