In our society, all around us, without us even being aware of it, there are subcultures. A group of people with a culture (whether distinct or hidden), which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong. The list of subcultures are extensive from Furries, to Trekkies, to the Goths, there are people who submerge themselves in a culture that pays homage to a particular era or belief system or fetish and it is more than just the occasional dress up party, for these, it is a lifestyle.
The music, the social scenes and relationships, the fashion and makeup and for some, even the career choices will revolve around this culture which they have fallen for. On the weekend of the 9th and 10th of June, I had the incredible privilege of attending ‘Cooly Rocks on’, in Coolangatta to have an affair with the 50′s and the Rockabilly sub-culture, for which I have now fallen in complete and utter love with.
On the morning of Saturday June 9th, 2013, Elisse began the painstaking task of transforming me from a barefooted, knotty haired, tired scallywag, into a lady. She sat me down on a chair and stood before me surveying the task before her.
With narrowed eyes and hands on hips she scanned over me from head to toe. Under such scrutiny I suddenly wished I had moisturised more often, waxed my eyebrows and filed my nails into shape, as it seemed that the last several months of neglect had caught up with me. I felt apologetic that she had to try and create something out of this tired, and weathered canvas but her face suddenly brightened and she nodded to herself and got to work. Hair was pulled this way and that, curled and twisted and sprayed and fixed with pins until my head was haloed by pincurls. Makeup came next and armed with an arsenal of brushes, powders, inks, and lipsticks, Elisse painted me.
I saw none of this process as it was unfolding, my only view was my sisters face smirking away in the background. When my hair was let loose from the pin curls, there was a light brush, half a can of hairspray, a final pin to pull back a few strands and she stood back, shook her head and simply said ‘Oh. My. God’
I will never forget how I felt when I first saw myself in the mirror, and I am sure that my sister and Elisse will never forget my reaction. Utter disbelief and lack of recognition. I had never seen the person in the mirror before. A post on my dysfunctional relationship with self esteem will come later, but for now it will have to be enough to say that my battle with self worth and self perception has been life long, and without a word of a lie I can honestly say, that that moment was the first time in my entire life that I have felt truly beautiful.
My gratitude towards Elisse for being the one that made that possible, and gave me that gift will never run out. I will love her forever for that moment.
And so it began, my journey into wonderland.
Despite the weather, there were people everywhere.
Stalls with furs and silk and lace gloves and heels older than I am to my left and to my right. I would give anything to see the personal wardrobe of some of the women in charge of these stalls..they were the very embodiment of 50′s glamour and beauty.
Rockabilly music is a part of our background, It is a cousin to the blues and to country, and it is just as important.
Carl Perkins, Ricky Nelson, Buddy Holly, Gene Summers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley are just some of the Rockabilly legends but what is Rockabilly really?
The term “rockabilly” is a portmanteau of “rock” (from “rock ‘n’ roll”) and “hillbilly”, the latter a reference to the country music which was often called “hillbilly music” in the 50s
But this unique music is far from a thing of the past, it is alive today more than ever and in small venues throughout the world to large stages in front of thousands, you will find legendary performers and younger musicians in their 20′s and 30′s playing strictly rockabilly.
While we were sadly too late for The Sugar Shakers, we were thankfully just in time for Paulie and His Crazy Rhythm Boys who, with their frantic vocals, driving guitar licks, standup bass slap and heavy snare drum backbeat, had me convenced I was not simply sitting in a Gold Coast venue listening to any average tune. This was a throwback to the best parts of our musical history.
The event was made up of two kinds of people. The observers, like myself, who had come to watch these rockabilly swingers and shakers, and the swingers and shakers themselves, who live this way and breathe this way every day.
The error I found myself making over and again that weekend was mistaking the true rockabilly music fans for the regular observer.
One such person with whom I made this mistake came in the form of a man who, for lack of any formal introduction, I do not have a name.
This man looked like he had walked into the wrong venue. With his long white hair caught back in a pony tail and his wild beard reaching down, he matched perfectly the black t-shirt advertising Jim Beam and his denim shorts and faded thongs.
I decided that this man was a trucker, that he was on a long haul trip south and had stopped in at this bar and could only bear to stay out of pure need for the beer and greasy meal he was hoping would sustain him for the trip home. I decided that he didn’t belong in a place like this any more than I did and was probably looking around thinking ‘what the hell kind of place have I found myself in this time?’.
On the other side of the room, beautiful women in swing dresses, red lips and perfect hair were being twirled on the dance floor by men with ducktails and suede shoes.
From the corner of my eye I see Jim Beam guy leaving behind the half empty beer and pushing through the crowd, he seemed to be headed for…. the dance floor?
As I watched Jim Beam guy over the next hour jive and swing with some of the prettiest women in the room with such skill and ease that I wondered if he invented dance altogether, I was delighted and amazed. I could not take my eyes off him, this man in shorts and a few chip crumbs still in his beard, who you may not look twice at on the street and who I had condemned in my mind as being a trucker and nothing more, had women 20 years his junior fighting for a chance to dance with him.
While young men in Surfers Paradise nightclubs with spray tans, tattoos and artificially bloated arms are trying to fist pump their way into the bedrooms of young women with no luck, here was this dark horse, this romeo with long hair who could of had his pick of any woman on that dance floor. Why? Because he could dance, and women love to dance.
Women love to have a firm hand on the small of her back and a guiding hand in hers while she is spun around the floor until her dress flares out and her hair comes loose.
Dear tanned men with the fist pumping arms: You’re doing it wrong. Learn to dance, and you will rule the world.
And to Jim Beam man, whoever you are, wherever you are…well done.
I now move through the streets of my everyday life with this suspicion of people who appear to be regular. When I see a man driving a cab with a five oclock shadow and a Titans shirt on, I almost want to run up to him and say to him ‘come on, give it up, whats your secret? Do you dance? Are you a Furry? Do you sing in a barber shop band?’
Or to the woman passing my items over the supermarket register, I want to say ‘Just a checkout chick huh?’ Wink wink ‘Just a supermarket girl are we?’ Wink wink ‘Whats the real you……Who are you really?’
So as the story of that weekend continues, there was more dancing to be seen and, after I had consumed enough wine, more dancing to be had.
There was Colin, who tried to teach me how to dance Rockabilly and of him I can say, he is a very, very patient man, who endured many a heel to the shin and to the toe and who listened well enough to my conversation which consisted soley of ‘Im sorry, oh my gosh I am so sorry, oops, sorry about that, oh dear. Oh i’m sorry, Oh, did that hurt? God i’m so bad at this…. oops, sorry!’ (And if you are reading this Colin, I am again, sorry, for being born with two left feet.)
Yes, seeing as that weekend came to me 2 days after I made such a drastic life decision, I would say it was just what the doctor ordered and did I stick to my promise? No men, no kisses, no flirting, no nothing? Yes. Yes I did. And did I have a fabulous time regardless?
In fact, I would suggest that I had a fabulous time because of the promise.
When you can go out with a friend and enjoy yourself and laugh with gay abandon and talk to strangers and dance without conscience and not once think of men, or how they must be thinking of you…. there is such freedom.
I would recommend for anyone to take this journey at some point in their life, in some way, before committing to a life partner. It may not be one thousand days, it may be 200 days. It may be 100, it may be 10. But take it from me, if the next 986 days are anything like the last two weeks have been, then I am convinced this will be the best thing I have ever committed to in my life, and I am convinced it would be for you too.