Dancing With Jerome

DON KYLE JULY 2013 DANCING WITH JEROME I decided to dance for a dog while at my favorite Hamptons beach last summer. Later, I wished I hadn’t. Scott Cameron beach remained my favorite. It was my favorite because it was part of the beautiful beaches that stretch for miles along the eastern end of Long Island. The sand was like talcum powder, and the parking lot was smaller than most others so there were fewer people on the beach at any one time. My wife and I spend many days on the beach during the warm summer months because we have concluded there is nothing better to do with our time. Through our years of going to the beach, we got to recognize several people. One in particular was a man who walked his dog along the edge of the water. The dog was a big, friendly-looking animal with curly hair and was about the size of a standard poodle. I sometimes thought the dog nodded to me as though he knew me. Maybe he did. I thought I might be able to use him as a clever way to meet his owner who was a man who appeared to be in his early seventies, of medium height with a neatly trimmed white beard that was well suited to his face. He was about medium height with a sturdy build and muscular legs—–the legs of a dancer. Occasionally, we had seen him swimming in the Atlantic, but mostly we saw him walking his dog. Furthermore, I knew exactly who he was. He was the famous choreographer, Jerome Robbins. We knew he lived about a mile down the beach, going eastward. We passed it whenever we drove to Cameron beach. The house itself was a great old beach house. I thought it was not like the other more, sprawling, ugly, boxlike houses that had been built in more modern times. Jerome’s house was two stories high, probably consisted of eight rooms and had a stone chimney. It was situated on the dunes with easy access to the beach and the ocean. On that particular day, I made a quick decision to approach Jerome Robbins and engage him in conversation. I said to my wife, “There he is again. I’m going to go down to the edge of the water where he will have to walk right past me, and I’m going to talk to him. Come along with me.” “Not me” said my wife “I’m not going to embarrass myself by confronting someone I don’t know.” “You do know him”, I said, “Everyone knows Jerome Robbins.” “I agree” said my wife, ”It is Jerome Robbins and we have seen him walking with his dog many times but that doesn’t mean you can just go up and talk to him as though you were his old friend. “ “Just watch me” I said, and with that I walked to the water’s edge and stood directly in the path Jerome and his dog were walking. When they were about twenty feet from me, I began to do a little dance, sort of like tap dancing on the sand. He slowed down while watching me, at which point I knew I had captured his attention. I did a couple of turn-around spins, then stopped while holding my pose, and asked him, “”How do you like my dancing?” “Pretty good” he replied, but without the degree of enthusiasm I had hoped for. “What’s your dog’s name”, I asked. “His name is Spats.” “What a perfect name for him” I said “It brings attention to his feet. You know, dancing feet.” He nodded , blankly. “I’ve seen you and Spats walking on this beach many times and have always admired him—–what a great dog. I wouldn’t mind dancing with him. Have you taught him how to dance?” He gave me a confused look and shook his head. “By the way, my wife and I love your house. It’s a real old beach house. Not like all these modern monstrosities around it. We always admire it and comment on it when we drive past it at the other end of the beach.” At that point, I figured I had just made a new friend of a very famous choreographer. “I don’t live at the other end of the beach” he said looking more confused than before. “I live in that house right behind us, the one right over your shoulder. You can just see the top of it from here. You know, it’s one of those modern monstrosities.” I froze. I had just made the blunder of my life. “But you are Jerome Robbins, aren’t you?” For the first time during our brief meeting, he chuckled and said, “People say that all the time. Even my neighbor, Jerome and I say that to each other.” “If you’re not Jerome Robbins, who are you?” I asked. “My name is Ed Padula.” “Are you a choreographer too?” I asked “No. I happen to be a producer—–of Broadway shows. Some years ago, I produced “Bye bye Birdie.” I was now shaking with embarrassment, and I considered diving into the Atlantic Ocean and swimming toward the Azores, but I managed to say “Nice meeting you and your dog. Excuse me, I’ve got to get back to my wife now. Not Spats Robbins, after all. Spats Padulala. Ha ha ha .” “Well” said my wife, when I rejoined her and resumed my seat next to her, “Did you embarrass yourself? I can’t believe you just went up and spoke to Jerome Robbins.” It was then that I realized she didn’t know of my case of mistaken identity. I had one last chance to redeem myself in her eyes so I said, “I’m not embarrassed at all. Actually, my new friend, Jerome, offered to teach me a few steps next time we meet here at the beach. It seems he likes me. His dog likes me too. I turned my head in the other direction so my wife wouldn’t see the big grin on my face. But, as I turned and looked up the beach, I noticed a pretty woman walking toward us who looked a lot like Judy Garland. I turned to my wife and said, “Look, I think that woman walking toward us looks a lot like Judy Garland. Probably a close relative of hers. I think I’ll walk down to the water and sing a few lines from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” My wife looked at me with an expression that told me she had enough of my antics, and said, “You’re already somewhere over the rainbow.” I couldn’t top that, so we packed up and left the beach for the day, leaving Judy Garland to herself. “Oh well” I thought, “Some other day.” # #