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By Ron Carter Blog Post Updates

Curbing Bad Behavior/Stardust Ballroom Memories

Life is full of wonderful surprises. All one has to do is engage the opportunities to experience them. Last Saturday evening at the DoubleTree Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania while having one of our usual uplifting conversations, my good friend Carter Womack and I had the pleasure of commiserating with one of his friends, Ophelia Howard, who came to visit him at the hotel. Carter and Ophelia chatted about the wonderful times they had working together at Blockbuster and Viacom. Since Carter was leaving to travel home to Columbus, Ohio, I had planned on spending the remainder of the evening reading Adam Grant’s bestselling book, “Give And Take.” While chatting about a dance club Ophelia had taken Carter to during one of his visits to Philadelphia, she invited me to attend the dance club with her and a friend since I was not leaving until the following day, Sunday. I accepted the invitation.

Marilyn Lott, Ophelia’s friend, picked me up at the hotel and she drove first over the George C. Platt Bridge and then we crossed over the Walt Whitman Bridge and headed to Bellmawr, New Jersey. Marilyn was a beautiful and friendly lady. On our journey, she spoke with me as if we were longtime friends. Before we arrived at the event, Marilyn asked me if I wanted anything to drink, because we could bring our own drinks to the event. We stopped at a well-lit Walgreen’s to buy a bottle of cranberry juice for me, but the store was closed. Since I don’t drink alcohol, I told Marilyn I would drink water or juice at the event.

 She and Ophelia had planned to drink champagne.

Upon arriving at the event, which was taking place at the Stardust Ballroom, I observed many individuals, some dressed in fur coats and designer clothing, taking their food and drinks into the event. As we approached the entrance to the event, I noticed a lady selling jewelry and clothing in the hallway. My interest was now piqued regarding what  really happens inside the Stardust Ballroom. Marilyn spoke with the gentlemen at the door, who were taking tickets for entry – a $12.00 fee – and we entered the event without paying. We moved towards the front of the room and I was introduced to Juanita, she was coordinating the collection of monies for her guests’ tickets. I was given a seat at an oblong table, which seated about 12 individuals. As I sat down and began to look around the Stardust Ballroom, I was overwhelmed with what I observed and heard.

 The ladies and gentlemen – most of them over the age of 45 years old – at the event were all elegantly dressed. Some of the women wore well fitted suits while others wore designer dresses, blouses and slacks.  Most of the men wore suits and many of them were adorned in hats of all styles – Bowlers, Top-hats, Stetsons, Fedoras, Borsalinos and French Berets were some of the ones I observed.  Food and drinks were well arranged on every table. And, the music was infectious.

 Ophelia, a tall and stately lady, arrived less than half an hour after we sat down.

The crown jewel of the evening was the dancing.  To watch over 300 hundred individuals line dancing is simply beautiful. Kennedy Center Honors honoree and multi Grammy Awards winner,  Carlos Santana, recently remarked “When you dance, you shake off fear.”  His prophetic words were on displayed at the Stardust Ballroom last Saturday night.  I witnessed at least 10 different kinds of line dancing, the waltz, the cha-cha, a version of the electric slide I have never seen before, the cupid shuffle and a few other dances that were engaging to watch.

 The DJ, Butch, who Marilyn introduced to me, played no hip hop music. He skillful fused Motown Hits, TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) Hits and old school and current R&B Hits into his playlist for the evening.

I danced with Marilyn, Ophelia and Dannette, who taught me a version of the  cha-cha. I drank water, ginger ale and eat vegetable from a platter Dannette and her husband, Melvin, brought to the event. I met O.J., Darryl and Linda, who resembles my colleague and PR guru Roz Stevenson. But most of all I enjoyed watching the ladies and gentlemen danced. And, danced they did. I will never forget some of the impeccable dancing I saw at the Stardust Ballroom. Before the evening was over, Butch, who is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, gave me a shout-out from his DJ booth. I felt special. Earlier in the evening, I attempted to give Ophelia the $12.00 for my ticket, but she refused to take my money and told me I was their guest.

 Ophelia’s act of generosity was remarkable. As we left the club, I thanked all of the ladies and gentlemen for allowing me to be a member of their community for the evening. I was elated to be a member of their communal activity even though it was for a short time. Marilyn drove me back to the DoubleTree Hotel and she discovered a new route to get to the Stardust Ballroom. I exited her car and said goodbye and thanked her again for her kindness.  As she drove off I thought how wonderful our communities would be if we had Stardust Ballrooms in every city in the USA. I was overjoyed having witnessed individuals having fun, sharing, being confident, fastidiously dressed and most of all well-behaved.

Three cheers for Stardust Ballroom in Bellmawr, New Jersey.

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