August 21, 2022
"A Frisco Disco"
commentary for scene 3 of #book1
JUMP TO: Plot Summary - Cultural References - Locations - My Thoughts
TAGS: #book1 #MaryAnnSingleton #ConnieBradshaw
Link to the text: A Frisco Disco (starting on page 18) (Scribd membership required)
Plot summary: Connie takes Mary Ann to a club called "Dance your Ass Off." Connie immediately heads out to the floor to boogie, while Mary Ann has a seat and "tries to take it all in."
While seated, Mary Ann is approached by a long-haired guy in a "Greek peasant's shirt" who makes a less-than-graceful attempt at picking her up, but Mary Ann shuts him down and heads back to Connie's place. A few hours later, Connie comes home, but she is bringing along the same man (who earlier tried to pick Mary Ann up). Mary Ann pretends to be already asleep to avoid awkwardness.
- Disco - Timing is the key to understanding disco at this moment, as according to Wikipedia, disco was still on the rise in popular culture in 1976, with the anti-disco backlash not hitting hard until 1979. In other words, this scene was NOT meant ironically or as being "retro," at least when it was first written in serial form.
- Dance your ass off - see below under locations
- Tricia Nixon reviewing the troops - Timing is important for understanding this reference too. Tricia Nixon was the daughter of former President Richard Nixon who left the Presidency in shame in 1974. But before that, Tricia was a big part of the White House's social scene including when she hosted a CBS 60 Minutes special tour of the White House in 1970 but also when she was married in the White House rose garden in 1971.
According to Wikipedia, throughout her time in the White House, Tricia was known for performing "a ceremonial role, in contrast to Julie's more political involvement. She accompanied him on many campaign stops and, after his inauguration, on state trips around the world."
Another sidenote - Nixon was well-known for his failed attempts at courting youth away from the counter-culture, including by using his daughters but also for his effort to send pro-war veterans back to Vietnam for humanitarian purposes (something Armistead talks about in his autobiography Logical Family), but to young adults at the time, the efforts came off as stilted and phony.
- Robert Redford I couldn't find any references online (or in newspapers via newspapers.com) to him having genital warts, so I don't know what this is about.
- red squirrel Eisenhower jacket - an Eisenhower jacket is a waist-length jacket developed by the US Army in the tail end of WW2, but was made popular by Dwight Eisenhower, but I have no idea what a "red squirrel" version of this jacket is.
- Tequila Sunrise - Connie's drink of choice, according to Wikipedia the drink was invented in the early 1970's at the Trident in Sausalito (just north of San Fransisco) at a private party for the Rolling Stones (who were about to launch their 1972 tour), but that this drink was based on an earlier version of the drink that was invented in the 1930's or 1940's in Arizona.
On a sidenote, the Trident closed its doors in 1980 and became the Horizons restaurant. At a later point, it went back to being the Trident and is open today on the Sausalito waterfront.
- Polyester pantsuit - Interestingly, the TOTC mini-series did not have Mary Ann wearing a polyester pantsuit but rather an attractive dress in this scene.
- Greek peasant shirt - here are modern versions of this shirt --- and like Mary Ann's outfit in the mini-series, it looks like the film makers went a different direction on the guy's shirt.
- Jennifer O'Neill - was a model and actress who was popular from the 1960's through the 1980's. She later became a born-again Christian and an anti-abortion activist, but has also continued to act (most recently in the famously terrible movie I am not ashamed.
- Boogying - the word is kinda dated today (and means many different things, but in 1976 it referred to dance music with a driving beat.
- Horoscopes (and Palm Readings) - were just past their peak of fad popularity at this point in the 1970's
- 41 Union Bus - was a "trolleybus" operated by SF's MUNI system that connected "South of Market, the Financial District, Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill and Cow Hollow." In 1976, this line operated frequently but was reduced to rush hour service in 1988 and was cancelled completely in 2020 during the COVID19 Pandemic. Here is the most recent map of the route from SFMTA.com. And here are some pictures of Trolley coaches from StreetCarMike.com.
- Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a "satirical soap opera" that was created by Norman Lear. It ran from 1976-1978 (its last year under a different name). Here's the opening theme (courtesy of youtube), which might just be the most boring one in history.
- lemon-scented candles - I found lots of references to creative candles that were popular in the late 1960's and 1970's but no specific mentions of lemon candles.
Dance your Ass Off - a real club that was located at 901 Columbus Ave. According to Tours of the Tales, the building was for a time Cobb's Comedy Club, but today (according to Yelp), the location is now the 901 Columbus Cafe
Here's a a great blog post that tells of the glory days of Dance Your Ass Off.
- Connie's apartment - the text gives no clues on where her apartment is located in SF, but we do know that Mary Ann took the 41 Union bus to get there from Dance Your Ass Off. Assuming this route map is accurate (the 41 Union line was cancelled in 2020 during the pandemic), this narrows the range a bit. Adding one additional clue we learn a few scenes later (that the Marina Safeway is walking distance from the apartment, I think it must have been fairly close to the Marina/Fisherman's Wharf area.
My thoughts: Re-reading this scene made me think about how Armistead got his material for this scene --- did he go to straight clubs to scope them out or was it all second-hand experience?
Other random thoughts --- The issue of sexuality for Mary Ann is an interesting one. She is obviously put off by guys who come on too directly/creepily/etc, but she is also no prude, as we know from not only later happenings in this book, but also from her complaints a few scenes later to her future landlady about being frustrated that so many of the guys she is interested in, turn out to be gay.
I kinda relate to her contradictory nature, because when I was her age I was even more confused. For me, by my late 20's and early 30's, I was no longer committed the ideal of avoiding premaritial sex, but I also was not yet able/willing to express what was I wanting. In other words, I was ready to jump out of my shell, but only wanted to go so far out of that shell, which meant I was having a lot of fantastic friendships with women, but I wasn't having much sex.
As for the creepy guy at the club --- this might be my autism speaking, but his overtures were creepy, not because they were direct, but rather because they weren't direct but still sexually assertive (sending a weird mixed message - "I'm not making a pass"). Instead of saying bluntly, "hey I think you're cute. Do you want to get to know each other better?" instead he goes into lame lines about horoscopes and then goes into making assumptions about what she might want (walks on the beach, lemon-scented candles, etc.). Obviously this didn't go well for him. Frankly, I think it would have been far better if he had even said, "hey I'm looking for someone to take home tonight. Are you interested?"