Dancing Girls & Hootchie Kootchie Shows


In about 1960, when I was ten or eleven, I was wandering through a carnival in Greenville, NC with some friends.

We were captivated by a bally in front of a large tent with sheets advertising "Dancing Girls," with pictures of beautiful women in scanty clothes and feathered headdresses. A man was on the stage by himself in front of a big old-fashioned microphone.

"Gentlemen, and this show is for gentlemen only, the beautiful dancing girls will come out here in just a moment to show you some of what you will see inside the big tent in this exciting show. These girls love their work and they can't wait to show you just what they can do...

"They're going to do the hootchie kootchie for you inside, and you will see things you never dreamed were possible. They will wiggle and waggle and shake and shimmy, and they're going to show you everything you want to see. They are going to let you see how they can move every muscle in their beautiful little bodies.

"This is the show you've heard about. This is the one that they're all talking about. You will never forget what you see inside that tent tonight.
Here they come now, gentlemen. Let's give 'em a big hand and bring them out here. Here they come, and aren't they beautiful! There's Tammy and Lola, and the firey little redhead Fanny, and here comes Angel and little Debbie. They're excited and they're ready, and they can't wait to show you just what you want to see. Right inside the tent in just a few minutes..."

The girls were very lovely, and were dressed in what looked to me like almost nothing. I was embarrassed even to look at them, but I did. Gosh, what a strange and delicious feeling it was. It wasn't
even sex, but the delicious scent of something very grown up and sleazy and secret. I would have killed to get in to see that show. I had no idea what a hootchie kootchie girl was, or even exactly what it is they wanted to show me, but I sure knew I wanted to see it. These women were about as different in every way possible from my sister and mother and every woman I had ever known. They were both thrilling and scary to me. One looked like she was staring right at me with a funny little smile. I looked sheepishly away.

Some of my friends tried to sneak around behind the tent to see if they could find a hole to peek through or maybe slip under the tent. They were quickly rounded up and a couple of big guys just deposited them back in front of the bally and told them to beat it and not come back. We all talked about what they were going to do inside that tent, and some of the guys seemed to have a pretty good idea. They said that the girls would get naked and do amazing tricks with cigars and ping pong balls and all sorts of weird, exciting and forbidden things. No one had ever seen any of this, of course, they were just telling us what they had heard from older brothers or overheard the grown men talking about.

I had thoughts about those women for weeks. That odd, fast-talking man that introduced us to the girls kept appearing in my dreams. I swore that I would get inside that tent the first chance I got.

For a couple of years after that, I always went to the carnival and spent as much time as possible either watching the bally for the hootch or at the "Advertising Truck" watching a jam auction. The rides and games meant nothing to me. Those two things fascinated me, and I memorized the speeches and the cadences of the delivery.

By the time I was old enough to walk into a Girlie Show, in the late Sixties, they were all but gone. I never saw another Girlie Show at the carnival after I left high school.

I have very fond memories of the bally and the girls, though. My memory has brightened their costumes, softened their faces, and probably re-shaped their bodies; but I was definitely moved from boyhood into young manhood by the experience.

The changing social climate and other factors spelled the end for the carnival Girlie Shows, but they still resonate with me in my memory.

Pop Hayden - www.whithaydn.com


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