Tag Archives: Tea Dance

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance:

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance: (The Best Part of) Breaking Up by Roni Griffith (1982)

(The Best Part of) Breaking Up” is a song written by Phil SpectorPete Andreoli and Vince Poncia. It was first recorded by The Ronettes, in 1964.

In 1982 singer Roni Griffith hit number two on the US Dance Club Songs chart for two weeks with her Hi-NRG version of the song in 1982. By the end of that year Griffin had a platinum and gold record for her hits “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up” and “Desire”.

In 1983 Griffin’s career took a strange turn when she pursued a career as Christian Contemporary artist. She appeared on The 700 Club  and in 2004, she released her second Christian Contemporary album, entitled Only You.

Oy gavalt!

The Very Gay and Interesting History of the Almost Lost Tradition of the Sunday Tea Dance

This is one of Back2Stonewall.com’s most popular Gay History posts.  We hope that you enjoy revisiting it or reading it for the first time.

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The Very Gay History of the Almost Lost Tradition of the Sunday Tea Dance

Many gay men under the age of 30 today are totally clueless of  the almost lost tradition of the Sunday Tea Dance. (A tradition that really must be brought back.) So here’s a little history primer on the “Sunday T-dance” and how and why it was embraced it in the gay culture.

Historically, tea was served in the afternoon, either with snacks (“low tea”) or with a full meal (“high tea” or “meat tea”). High Tea eventually moved earlier in the day, sometimes replacing the midday “luncheon” and settled around 11 o’clock, becoming the forerunner of what we know as “brunch”.

From the late 1800’s to well into the pre-WWI era in both America and England, late afternoon (low) tea service became the highlight of society life. As dance crazes swept both countries, tea dances became increasingly popular as places where single women and their gentlemen friends could meet — the singles scene of the age.

While tea dances enjoyed a revival in America after the Great War, The Great Depression of the 30’s wiped them out. Tea consumption was in steady decline in America anyways and by the 50’s, tea was largely thought of as something “your grandmother drinks”. Also, nightlife was moving later and younger. Working men and women were too busy building the American Dream to socialize so it was left to their teenaged children in the age of sockhops and the jukebox diner. Rock and roll was dark and dangerous — something you sneaked out for after dinner, not took part in before dinner.

Gay people, of course, were still largely underground in the 50s, but it was in these discreet speakeasies that social (nonpartnered) dancing was evolving. It was illegal for men to dance with men, or for women to dance with women. In the event of a raid, gay men and lesbian women would quickly change partners to mixed-couples. Eventually, this led to everyone sort of dancing on their own.

By the late 60s, gay men had established the Fire Island Cherry Grove and also the more subdued and “closeted” Pines (off of Long Island, in New York) as a summer resort of sorts. It was illegal at that time for bars to ‘knowingly sell alcohol to homosexuals’ and besides many of the venues there were not licensed as ‘night clubs’ or to sell alcohol. To avoid attracting attention, afternoon tea dances were promoted. Holding them in the afternoon also allowed those who needed to catch the last ferry back to the mainland to attend.

The proscription against same-sex dancing was still in effect and  gay men were not allowed to dance together by law, so organizers were forced to institute ‘no touching’ rules. The only way it could happen was in a group. The line dance was born. Dances like the “Hully Gully” and “The Madison” allowed men to dance together as long as there was at least one woman involved. It became the rage in the Pines. The dancing was monitored by someone up on a ladder with a flashlight and megaphone to observe, if the men got too close the light would be shined on them. The dance would be featured in the 1970 film “Boys in the Band.”

In 1967 Tea Dance went to 7 days a week during season. 

During this time raids by the Suffolk Police Department were a common occurrence on Fire Island. The men of the Pines were often rounded up like cattle and chained to poles in order for them to get their quota. Their identities were sometimes revealed in the local press.

By the 1970’s after the Stonewall riots disco music arrived and again the Tea Dance would evolve. It would now grow into a phenomenon that all of Fire Island would find their way to.

Post-Stonewall, the tea dance moved to Greenwich Village. A newly-energized gay community around Christopher Street embraced the social dancing craze.  While the Fire Island gays tended to be rich upper-class preppies, the downtown gays of Christopher Street and the Village were working-class and they tended to party at night. As in the straight community, tea dances gradually moved later until they became subsumed into the night club scene.

Through the 70’s, gay men championed the uniform of the working class — t-shirts and denim — as fashion aesthetic. In part because they were affordable, and in part because it projected an appealing hypermasculinity associated with the working class. Gays in the post-Stonewall era were consciously rebelling against the effete stereotypes associated with the manicured, sweater-wearing, tea-drinking gays of the Fire Island set. Real men wore t-shirts and drank beer. Gay men still had afternoon/early evening dances — usually on Sundays, in order to make the most of one’s weekend while still being able to get up for Monday morning’s work.

The downtown gays rejected the term “tea dance” as being too effete and opted for the supposedly butcher “t-dance”, and promoted “t-shirts and denim” as the costume of choice. By the mid 70’s, the “Christopher Street Clone” look (short cropped hair, mustache, plaid shirt over a tight white t-shirt, faded denim jeans that showed off your ass) had made the trans-continental trip from New York City to Los Angeles (gays in Hollywood) and, of course, to San Francisco (follow the Yellow Brick Road and it leads to Castro). It brought with it the tea dance phenomenon

Through the decades the popularity of the tea dance has waned. And while it still survives in Fire Island and a few gay bastions like Provincetown it is all but gone and those few remaining are shadows of their former selves.

Lets not let the Tea Dance become a piece of our forgotten gay history.

*TRIVIA:

Back in the day a no gay man worth his weight in poppers ever went to Sunday Brunch before 2 p.m. and timed it that way as  to hit the Tea Dance at 4 p.m. part of this was because they were out at after-hours clubs, the Baths, or the Meat Rack the night before till 6 or 7 a.m. in the morning.

pines-arrest-in-the-news-1960s

1979TE~1 copy

1983 tea bweb

tea dance t shirt design 1983

Source:  The Clock

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance: “So Many Men, So Little Time” by Miquel Brown – (1983)

Fire Island 2

 

Miquel Brown (born Michael Brown) is a Canadian actress, and disco/soul singer in the 1970s and 1980s, most popular for the songs “Close to Perfection” and the Hi-NRG songs “So Many Men, So Little Time” and “He’s A Saint, He’s A Sinner”, produced in London by Ian Levine.

So Many Men, So Little Time” reached #88 on the UK Singles Chart on June 11, 1983  and peaked at number #2 on the club chart.

“So Many Men, So Little Time” is considered by many within the male gay community to be one of the greatest dance songs from the 1980s. It was included in the 1997 independent film, Kiss Me, Guido and in the 1998 queer coming of age film, Edge of Seventeen

 

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance 1978: “Mac Arthur Park Suite” by Donna Summer – 17mins, 51 sec.

Casablanca - Donna Summer MacArthur Park

The multi-million selling vinyl single disco version of “Mac Arthur Park” by Donna Summer was number one on the American pop music sales charts for three weeks during 1978, and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Summer’s recording, which was included as part of the “Mac Arthur Park Suite” on her double album Live and More, was eight minutes and forty seconds long on the album. The shorter seven-inch vinyl single version of the Mac Arthur Park was Summer’s first single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

The nearly 18-minute musical medley “Mac Arthur Park Suite” incorporated the songs “One of a Kind” and “Heaven Knows”. This medley was also sold as a 12-inch (30 cm) vinyl recording, and it stayed at number one on Billboard‘s Hot Dance Club Songs chart for five weeks in 1978.

The one-of-a-kind, ultimate Donna Summer classic

Pass those poppers and let’s dance!

 

TRIVIA:

“MacArthur Park” was written by Jimmy Webb in 1968, originally composed as part of an intended cantata. The song was initially written for and rejected by The Association. Richard Harris was the second to be offered the song and the first to record it for his “pop music debut”; the song was subsequently covered by numerous artists. with the best-known behind Donna Summer.

The real  inspiration for “MacArthur Park” was the relationship and breakup between Webb and Susan Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. MacArthur Park was where the two occasionally met for lunch and spent their most enjoyable times together. At that time (mid-1965), Ronstadt worked for a life insurance company whose offices were located just across the street from the park. Webb and Ronstadt remained friends, even after her marriage to another man. The breakup was also the primary influence for “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” another Webb composition.

Donna’s cover of Mac Arthur Park  was Jimmy Webb’s only song to reach number one in the US.

 

Back2Stonewall Sunday Tea Dance Flashback: “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward (1979) – Video

“Ring My Bell” is a 1979 disco song and gay anthem sung by Anita Ward. It was originally written for Stacy Lattisaw, but when she signed with a different label, Ward was asked to sing it instead and it became her only major hit and was played in every gay disco, bathouse, and backroom in America. The song hit number one on the disco charts and number one on both the Billboard Hot 100, and soul singles chart.

“Ring My Bell” has been covered by many artists since its original release, including Blondie, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Ann Lee, Tori Amos, Blood Sisters, Dynamic Duo, D’Flow Production Squad, Collette, Saïan Supa Crew, INOJ, Pato Fu, Joey Boy, and Sxip Shirey.

Back2Stonewall’s Sunday Tea Dance Playlist: Eartha Kitt “Where Is My Man” (1983)

Where is My Man was Eartha Kitt’s first recording released in the United States after her ostracism and self-imposed exile to Paris following her outspoken objection to the Vietnam War at a White House function in 1968, and it became her biggest-selling single in 30 years.

In the United Kingdom, Where Is My Man reached the Top 40 on the UK Singles Chart, where it peaked at #36.  This was her first UK Hit single in 28 years, the previous chart entry, “Under The Bridges of Paris” dating from 1955. The single was also a hit in dance clubs around the world peaking at #5 in Sweden and #22 in Netherlands. In the US, the song made the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, peaking at #7 and remaining on the survey for 14 weeks