The Go-Go Dancer - 1971
In the late sixties we were all about torn denim and the loose sloppy look, and flowers in our hair. You remember. Now the early 70's were much different, those were the days we tossed that look aside. We rid ourselves of those patched and ragged fashions and let it all hang out in our glamorous Hot Pants and Mini Skirts.
We gathered in nightclubs and we hung out in the discos, our boobs were real and our eyelashes were false, and our shorts barely covered our buns, and the skirts we wore weren't any longer. Our hair was tall and long and our boots were the only thing taller than our hair. And those boots? They were tight and often quite shiny, and right up our legs. Why some of the girls wore them thigh high. Who needs long pants or a long skirt when you have tall boots? And why wear holey jeans when you could be wearing a pair of velvet or satin, or if you were feeling a little naughty, leather Hot Pants.
Now back in the mid-60s if you were a college girl or maybe even a bored housewife, or just a girl looking to make a buck, you might get yourself a job at the Go-Go. That's right, a Go-Go Dancer. But you see by the 70s the era of the Go-Go dancer had started to wan in the hip big cities like L.A. and San Francisco, Miami and New York. But down in middle Georgia, Decatur to be exact, Merle Dixon still owned the most popular bar in town, the Peppermint Palace, featuring the Peppermint Stick Dancers. Those dancing girls were billed as sweet and hot.
None other than my best friend in the whole world Beth Greene, who was going for a teaching degree from Middle Georgia State University right there in Decatur, Georgia, well Beth needed some scratch. I used to just crack-up when she'd say, "Greene is in need of some green."
And Beth had the body and she had the dancing chops. So my sweet friend put on her Hot Pants and she took herself right down to the Peppermint Palace to apply for a job as a Cocktail Waitress / Peppermint Stick Dancer. It seemed to her it would be pretty darn easy work for some good fast cash.
When she walked in and her eyes adjusted a bit she saw the fellow behind the bar. He was older, maybe somewhere in his mid-30s. He was handsome for an older man, and she'd never admit this to you out loud, but Beth thought he was kind of sexy in rough and tough looking way. He spoke to her, "Can I help ya young lady? We ain't quite open yet."
Ah my girl Beth she kind of fell in love with that voice and that accent. This man wasn't from the flatlands he was obviously from the mountain country somewhere. That voice was all country all the time. "Yes please can I speak to the owner or manager? I want to apply for a job."
"That'd be me, name's Merle Dixon. Ya askin' after a dancin' job? Ya know ya gotta be willin' ta waitress an dance ta work here, right?" Damn, he was thinking, she's one blazin' little bunny and he'd enjoy watching her shakin' it for the crowd. Strictly as a business professional, of course.
"Yeah I know, I think I can figure it out."
"How old are ya? Ya barely look old enough ta step in a bar." Merle he was 34 and all these girls looked real young to him.
"I'm plenty old enough, I'm 22, nearly 23."
"Okay, good. Now ya know ya gotta be willin' ta get up on one a them platforms an shake it good. And ya need ta be aware boys will be boys an they get raunchy sometimes, they might yell for ya ta take it off, stop yer grinnin' an drop yer linen. Ya know, that sort a thing."
"Now my job as the owner an the bouncer is ta see to it that no one gets outta line with ya. Ya ain't gotta worry about guys actually touchin' ya, I won't let it happen. Anyone makes ya uncomfortable ya tell me an I'll escort 'em out. I ain't just here as yer boss I'm yer protection too. That means no unwanted attention."
"For yer part ya gotta be okay with the idea that plenty a these fellas are gonna fall right in love with ya. They're gonna want ya, an ya know what I mean by that. Ya gotta be able ta deal with it. Not let it bother ya. Yer a hot young chick, that's what they know, an if ya come here lookin' for a job I'ma assume ya know that too. K?"
"Oh, an none a my girls leaves this place at night alone. Ya wait for me an I walk ya ta ya car, make sure yer safely on yer way. Them's the rules, that's how it is. Ya still want that job?"
"Yes I do, I'm not afraid of a little dirty talking as long as it's in fun and there's no touching, and I don't have to dance topless."
Merle had smiled real big then, "Ya ain't gotta remove no clothes, this is Decatur, Georgia, not Hollywood, California."
"How do I get up on the platforms?" There were three platforms, they were bright white and shiny. They had some lighting inside of them that was turned on when the girls were dancing, and there were strobing lights that shone down from above.
"There's a little step stool to the back of 'em. I'll give ya a hand the first couple times then you'll get used to it."
And it was done, my sweet and sassy friend Beth officially became a Peppermint Stick Dancer.
Merle Dixon's interest in Beth was on real high, but it was not what you think. At that time he was looking at Beth Greene solely as an asset. She'd bring in the men for sure. What the men liked was looking at hot young women dance you know, shake their booty. Those same men liked drinking and liquor was after all, where Merle Dixon made the big bucks. The men got drunk and got to look at hot young women and the hot young women made out in the form of generous tips. That's how it was, everyone was happy at the Peppermint Palace.
Now Merle Dixon, well you all knew him, you remember, he was first and foremost a businessman, he figured he could keep the interest going in this go-go thing another year or so. Then he was shutting her down, selling the license and the building and starting up a business in his real trade.
Yep, an electrical business. Going all chamber of commerce and what not. He'd grown weary of the bar life. The Peppermint Palace had given him his funding, his security, and he was mighty grateful to the dancers and the customers who had passed through those doors during the last five years. But he was ready to hang it up and move it along. And Merle Dixon could see the end in sight for the go-go era. Even in middle Georgia.
So just as Merle had suspected Beth was a very hot property. The young men liked her, the 30 somethings liked her and the men that were way too old to be liking her, they liked her too. She was making more tips than any of the other girls.
But those other girls didn't seem to resent her because Beth Greene was a real sweet gal. She'd be the first one to loan you her make-up or jewelry if you forgot yours, and the first one to loan you five bucks if you were broke. And Beth was the first one to put an arm around you and tell you how you deserved so much better when some asshole broke your heart. And funny, oh Beth was funny and real flirtatious but in a kind of innocent, harmless way. Why everyone, men and women alike were happy to know her.
It was about a month in that Merle started to tease her. Well you remember what a tease that man could be, he had a nickname for everyone and he was flirtatious as all get-out his own self. He started calling Beth "Sugar Britches," hey, don't judge, it was the 70's for hell sake. Anyway, he'd joke around with her, "When ya gonna give ol' Merle a run for his money Sugar Britches?" Or "When ya gonna let Ol' Merle take ya out an spoil ya Sugar Britches, a sweet little gal like you deserves a good man like me." It was all in fun, we all knew that.
The problem was sweet, beautiful Beth Greene she was kind of attracted to Merle Dixon. Or honestly? Real attracted. He was after all big, strong and handsome. He had a killer smile and a personality that wouldn't quit. And she couldn't help herself, she started to kind of wish that he meant those things he said to her. But she'd never admit that. Well heck no he was her boss. And really it was kind of embarrassing to her that she had a killer crush on an older man. But shoot, there was just something about this particular older man that made her temperature go up and her better sense leave the building.
In fact this crush Beth had became so darn serious I was starting to worry a little about my sweet friend. When we graduated, and had our teaching certificates in hand, just sixth months after Beth became a Peppermint Stick Dancer I got real concerned.
You see Beth got offered a job with the school system right there in Decatur and she also got offers from the school systems in Savannah, Macon and Augusta. That's right, she was a hot property in the teaching world too. But she turned them all down. She didn't want to leave her job at the Peppermint Palace.
I knew it wasn't the job or the bar, no, it was a big handsome man named Merle Dixon. He had her pretty little head turned all around. He may have been the only one oblivious to that fact. Every one of the Peppermint Stick Dancers and half the clientele were more than aware.
I didn't know for sure but by then I'd decided Merle had a case for Beth as bad as hers was for him. But you know how it is, I didn't know for absolute positive, and I didn't want to get her hopes up if I had it all wrong. You get it, why break a friends’ heart?
So I didn't say anything then because I just wasn't sure what was best. Then it happened that same night.
Everything was cool at first when this Zach guy came in. He was sitting at the bar just sipping on jack and nursing a beer, but his eyes were glued to that pretty dancer, Beth Greene. He moseyed over to stand close to that platform where she was doing her thing.
The way he was looking at her was starting to make her nervous. It wasn't just the lusting, she was used to that, but there was a sinister quality that went along with that lust. That's what scared her. She planned to tell Merle all about it as soon as Sally came over to relieve her on the platform.
She was just having that thought when Zach leaned in close and reached his hand up and made a grab at Beth. Right in the spot he had no business going to, that off limits area between Beth's legs.
She and Merle both thought fast then, she kicked toward Zach while Merle jumped right over the top of that bar. I swear it looked like he was flying. He had Zach by the seat of the pants and the collar of his shirt. He carried him right over to the door and he tossed him right out in the street, just like yesterday's trash. Merle yelled after him, "Don't ya never show yer fuckin' filthy ass around here ever again boy, I'll kill ya."
The thing was none of us doubted Merle. I suppose Zach didn't either because we never saw him again.
Merle's brother stayed behind the bar and took care of business while Merle took Beth back in his office. She swore to him that she was fine but he insisted she just hang out in there, take a nap on the little sofa or watch TV or whatever. He apologized all over himself. She kept insisting it wasn't his fault and that she was just fine. Still he told her, "I'll be seein' to it personally ya get home okay Beth. I ain't takin' no chances with ya, period."
Now just the look that passed between the two them in that moment, why you'd think they would have caught on. For two real bright folks they were both dumb as a box of rocks when it came to this particular romance. He had no idea she was crazy for him, and she had no idea he was crazy for her.
This continued until Beth had been a Peppermint Stick Dancer for a year. I know it was a year because I was there at there at the grand finale, closing night of the Peppermint Palace. Let me tell you, just in case you’ve become so forgetful you don't remember what a Dixon party is all about.
I firmly believe every person in DeKalb County was at the closing night party of the Peppermint Palace. Of course, Beth was there because she was working that night. But my poor sweet friend was one sad little dancer. She had it in her mind she'd never see Merle Dixon again and her heart was broken.
Merle seemed a little on edge himself and I suspected it was for a similar reason. I had every intention of speaking to the both of them that night, this nonsense had gone on way too long. They both needed to come clean and admit their feelings to one another. They were killing me, I was getting a case of liver disease drinking wine with Beth three nights a week while she cried over Merle.
But it was so crazy in the place you couldn't hear yourself think, much less have an actual conversation with anyone. You can imagine how it was, what with the draft beer being on the house until it ran out. That and every liquor variety in the joint that Merle or his brother wouldn't drink. The Peppermint Stick Dancers were all out in force, and the long-time male customers were in some strange world of drunken mourning over losing "their" girls.
But all the while Beth and Merle looked downright sad. Even when Beth was dancing and she had that big smile on her face, it just didn't look convincing.
Just before closing time the Peppermint Dancers all squeezed up on those platforms together and they did their best to shush the crowd. Sally was the spokesperson for the group and she announced, "Merle Dixon we've all been dancing for you every night of the week for a very long time, we've decided it's your turn boss! You get your booty up here on this platform and dance!"
And a roar went through the crowd. Geez my own ears rang for a week. And I have to say, Merle was a sport about it. He got right up on that center platform and the music started, the ladies had chosen "Mr. Big Stuff." He went for it. He was doing the funky chicken and he was shaking his booty at the crowd. The place went completely nuts when he started rubbing his hands over his chest and then faster than you could say Peppermint Palace he pulled his shirt off, stuck his arms out to the side and started shakin' it like he wasn't scared of breakin' it.
I will never forget that moment for as long as I live. It wasn't just Merle's dancing, which may be the greatest display of male dancing I have ever or will ever see. That was a rare treat. But no, it was because when I looked over at my sweet friend Beth, I saw those tears slip out of her eyes while she struggled to regain her composure.
That's when I finally took matters into my own hands. I marched right over to my friend and I grabbed her by the hand and practically drug her into the ladies’ room. I told her she had to come clean with Merle that this may be her last chance. And I told sweet Beth that I was pretty damn sure Merle cared about her every bit as much as she cared about him. And she sniffled, "Really, you really think so?" I told her I did and she sniffled again and we hugged.
The bar closed up and the girls and Merle's brother all helped with the cleanup, oh they weren't scrubbing, a cleaning crew was coming in, but they threw out a lot of trash and such as that. Then the Dixon brothers started escorting the dancers to their cars and making sure they were safely on their way before they came back in for the next group of girls.
Beth held back until they were all gone and then she walked right over and took a hold of Merle's arm. He bravely smiled down at her, feeling pretty bummed that he wasn't going to be seeing her again.
But Merle was in for a big surprise when he got Beth to her car. He opened the door for her and said, "Safe trip home Sugar Britches." But she didn't get in. Instead she put her hands on his chest and looked him in the eye, "The only home I want to go to tonight Merle is yours."
Merle finally caught a clue, he didn't have to be told twice. He took her in his arms and he kissed her in a way that left no doubt in her mind he was going to be more than happy to take her home. Still, being a gent and all he asked, "Ya sure Sugar Britches? Cuz once I get ya there I ain't lettin' ya leave."
"That's what I'm counting on Merle."
He had a real nice little house and he was a good host. He showed her to a seat on the sofa and poured her a glass of very nice wine, nothing that would have been served at the Peppermint Palace. He poured himself two fingers of Jameson and sat down next to her.
Neither one got much drinking in because Merle had gotten his arms wrapped around Beth Greene, and even if he'd wanted to let her go she wouldn't have let him. Finally he stood and offered his hand. When she took it he surprised her, he grabbed her up and threw her over her shoulder like he was a caveman. She was laughing and she was loving every minute of it.
He got her in the bedroom and set her down at the edge of the bed. It was then he took his time. Slowly he pulled the white boots off, stopping frequently to rub his hands up and down her legs. He may have kissed those inner thighs, and he may have sucked lightly on them.
He gently pushed her so she was laying back on the bed and he moved to lay above her, propping himself up on his hands at first and kissing her deeply.
After that it got hot in a hurry. Her hands were rubbing his chest and arms and any touch from her was a turn on for him. And his hand reached up under her little crop top and if she was being honest, it was a touch she'd dreamed of many times. When her top came off and the little hot pants were tossed in the corner, and she'd slid his shirt off and her hands were unbuckling his pants, it can be said their long-held desires and dreams were about to become reality.
A year after that night I attended the wedding of Merle and Beth. It was small, held by the lake. I was there with my new husband Caesar, we were the only non-family attendees. Her sister Maggie was her Maid of Honor and his brother Daryl was the Best Man. Her Daddy did the service.
Merle's relationship with Beth's Daddy had started off a little rough, that is until Herschel threw a bible verse out there at Merle trying to prove a point. That's when he learned Merle could quote that book chapter and verse. Daddy didn't need to know he memorized it that year he'd spent in juvenile detention.
What made me smile the biggest was Beth's wedding ensemble. Even though Hot Pants had gone out of style Beth wore the cutest pair ever. They were white lace and so was her halter top. She didn't care if the style was yesterday's news, she knew what her new husband liked and that was all she cared about.
Caesar and I were going on an anniversary cruise to the Caribbean, leaving out of Ft. Lauderdale. But I couldn't be that close and not see my dear sweet friend Beth. So we made a side trip to Georgia on our way to Florida.
We pulled up in their yard and there was Merle cutting the grass, shirtless. I have to tell you the Gods’ truth, that man hadn't lost a beat. Even in his 50's he was still big, handsome, strong and muscular.
Beth came out the door and shoot, that woman hadn't lost a step either. She was wearing white shorts, a pale pink top and pretty little sandals. And even in her 40's she still looked like just a girl.
Merle saw her and he cut off the mower and went right to her with that big old smile of his. I saw him put his hand on her bottom and kiss her on the cheek, and I heard him say, "Ya look mighty pretty Sugar Britches."