For those who had never been inside before, stepping into Sweet Johnny Sugarshine’s Electrostatic Groove Lounge was like landing on another plant. The sights, the sounds, everything tantalized the senses. The dance floor was made of thousands of individual squares, each one blinking a different color of the rainbow. A disco ball hovered from the ceiling, bathing the room in a glow of twinkly lights.
Dancers in the gawdiest outfits moved to the beat. Spins, turns, flips, they were all trying to outdo each other. At the bar, booze flowed freely, with no one caring if anyone was overserved.
The house DJ took to the microphone to make an announcement. “Good evening all you cats and kittens! If you’re having a good time, let me hear you make some noise!”
The dancers roared with excitement.
“Now, clear the floor if you please, because it’s time to say hello to your host with the most,” the DJ said. “He’s held many titles in his life. Some call him the King of Swing or the Emcee of Funk. Others, the Sultan of Soul. But today, you know him best as the Duke of Disco…the one, the only…Sweet Johnny Sugarshine!”
Throughout the club, men stood behind massive cameras, recording all the action.
Poof! A cloud of smoke erupted in the center of the dance floor. This bought some time for a trap door to open that allowed the club’s proprietor to rise up on a moving platform. Once the smoke cleared, it was as if he had magically appeared out of thin air.
Sweet Johnny Sugarshine was a dashing man in his early 30s. From head to toe, his suit was golden, with the chains around his neck to match. His afro stood tall above his head and he had a smile so wide that it was hard to stay sad in its presence.
“Well, hello there my babies,” the host said into a microphone.
“Hello Johnny!” the dancers replied in unison.
“I hope you’re all having a good time in my Electrostatic Groove Lounge,” Sweet Johnny said. “I wouldn’t have let you in had I not seen something special in each and everyone of you.”
“Wooo!” the dancers answered.
“You know, it’s funny,” Sweet Johnny said. “About six months ago, the local cable access station came to me and said, “Johnny baby, we got to do something for all the people who will just never be hip enough to get down in your fly pad, you dig?”
Sweet Johnny strutted about the floor. “And so I said, ‘Sure I dig. What are we gonna do?’ And the cable people, and by the way, babies, if you haven’t hooked your television up to cable yet then you need to do so because let me tell you, being able to see cinema quality movies in the comfort of your own home is a real gas but let’s not get off track. The cable people said, ‘Hell, Johnny baby, we’re gonna give you your own show.’”
“Wooo!” went the crowd.
Sweet Johnny looked directly into one of the cameras. “So, to all your wallflowers at home, go on. Get out of your Barcalounger and get some pep in your step, because it’s time for the festivities Sweet Johnny Sugarshine’s Disco Power Hour to commence!”
Across the club, the spotlight hit a main stage. A group of musicians wearing bright colors played their instruments. A breathtakingly gorgeous woman took stepped up to the microphone. Her dress was white and covered with flashy gems. Her eyelashes were long, her blonde hair stacked high on her head and she was revealing a staggering amount of cleavage.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Sweet Johnny said. “Put your hands together and give it up for Boo Boo Larue and the Starlight Crew. They’re here all week and right now they’re going to lay down their latest hot track. Don’t you dare put your finger on it because if you do, it’s going to be scalded. That’s how hot it is. Here’s Boo Boo with Love Another.”
Boo Boo’s lips pressed out the lyrics:
Lover! I never thought I’d love again.
‘Till I met you, my friend.
You’re the best lover that I ever knew.
While all the action was broadcast live throughout the Tri-State area, Sweet Johnny switched off his microphone and moseyed on over to the bar. There, his signature gin and tonic was already waiting for him. It was on the rocks, just the way he liked it.
Moments later, a tall man, slender man in platform shoes bellied up to the bar. He wore a silk, floral-patterned shirt, opened at the top to reveal a lush patch of rugged chest hair. A golden medallion rested prominently on the patch. His hide was covered by a pair of baby blue bell bottom jeans which were held up by a wide, white belt. His golden hair was done up in a gravity defying perm.
Was the man happy or sad? No one could tell his mood as his eyes were hidden away behind a pair of smoky colored shades. He did carry an air of depression about him though, which was surprising, as he was in the company of two bodacious babes.
The bartender brought the man his usual – a pink cosmopolitan with a tiny little umbrella sticking out of it. He sat and sipped in silence as the ladies ran their hands over his chest hair.
Five minutes passed. Boo Boo moved on to another song while the patrons danced the night away. Finally, Sweet Johnny cut the tension. “Boogiedown Barry. Are you seriously going to sit there like the saddest sack of turnips to ever fall off the back of the truck and ignore the Duke of Disco all evening?”
Barry scoffed. “Ha. Duke of Disco. I’ve seen you dance, Johnny. You’ve got two-left feet and all the rhythm of a rampaging rhino. If anyone should be the Duke of Disco, it should be me.”
“Oh, here we go,” Sweet Johnny said. “The green-eyed monster rears its ugly head once again.”
“You think I’m jealous?” Barry asked.
Sweet Johnny swirled a swizzle stick around the inside of his glass. “I know you are, daddio. I can read it all over your face like a cheap dime store romance novel, baby. Why don’t you take a deep breath, exhale all your resentments and let them go, before they eat you alive?”
Barry laughed. “That’s rich. You talk like a big man, but we both know you’d be nothing without me.”
“You think so?” Sweet Johnny asked.
“I know so,” Barry replied. “This club was nothing before I came along. I could have danced anywhere, but I chose to dance here. I liked your digs. I thought it had a special savoir-faire, a certain je ne sais quoi. But my moves brought the people out, Johnny. If it weren’t for me, this place would have never gotten through its first year.”
Sweet Johnny sighed. He reached over and rubbed Barry’s shoulder. “You’re not wrong, hep cat, and for you’re the many funky dance moves you busted on my floor, I will be forever grateful, but you and my old man are cut from the same cloth.”
“Please,” Barry said. “I’m nothing like that square.”
“You don’t think so?” Sweet Johnny asked. “Let me lay the straight skinny down on your head, you broke ass hustler. There was a time when anyone who was anyone wanted to be caught alive inside the Dandy Haberdashery. Jazz was all the rage but music fans are a fickle lot and once rock and roll took over, my old man refused to change with the times. He kept trying to push Jazz on a public that was buying until he ended up in the poorhouse and he was just like you, ragging on me for being a sell-out.”
“You are a sell-out,” Barry said. “You sold me out to a damn, dirty werewolf.”
Sweet Johnny held up a single finger. “Rule number one of show business, baby. Give the people what they want. You hear the people ask for something, be the one who gives it to them and they’ll love you. Give them something else and you’ll be tossed out into the trash can like yesterday’s rotten meatloaf.”
“What are you saying?” Barry asked. “That I’m rotten meatloaf?”
“I’m saying that if the people wanted Boogiedown Barry, I’d give them Boogiedown Barry. But they don’t want Boogiedown Barry no more baby. They want Disco Werewolf. The sooner you get that fact through your thick head, the better.”
“I hate that werewolf,” Barry said.
Sweet Johnny pulled a pack of smokes out of his jacket. He offered one to Barry, who passed. He took one for himself and lit up. “Hate is a strong word. And besides, doesn’t the world already have more than enough hate to go around already?”
“It could always use a little more,” Barry said. “What about the dance competitions? Those were my idea. Those got people coming here. Every geek off the street thinking they would come here, shake a leg, and be the next newly discovered star.”
“Those were your idea,” Sweet Johnny said. “And I thank you. I also never told you to stop competing in them.”
Barry downed his drink, pounded the glass down on the bar, then ordered another. “Bah! Like I could ever beat Disco Werewolf!”
“You need to stop letting Disco Werewolf live inside your head, dude,” Sweet Johnny said. “Stop comparing yourself to that sexy dance monster and be your own man.”
“I can’t,” Barry said as he slurped his new drink. “Disco Werewolf has ruined my life.”
Sweet Johnny shook his head in disgust. “Fame is a fickle mistress, Barry. Today she loves one cat, tomorrow another. Hell, last decade, every red-blooded American male wanted to nail Elizabeth Taylor to the wall and now? That old crone can’t give it away. You think she sits around her big house, drinking and lamenting because everyone wants to stick it to Faye Dunaway now?”
Barry glared at Sweet Johnny, who instantly nodded in agreement. “OK. Bad example. But you get the gist. The glamour life is a great big game and we’re all players, baby. When the game’s going your way, life is sweet than candy. But when it all starts to go south, life is as bitter as a dill pickle. At that point, you can either reinvent yourself and come back as something that all the other players want, or you can right off into the sunset like a sad yet, dignified cowboy, confident that you did all you can do in this life and you’ve got nothing left to prove. Or you can just do what you’re doing right now and be a big crybaby about it.”
Without skipping a beat, Barry instantly replied, “Waah.”
“Whatever,” Sweet Johnny said. “Don’t hate the werewolf, baby. Hate the game.”
“I’ll hate that werewolf as much as I damn well please,” Barry said. “He ruined my life.”
“I give up,” Sweet Johnny said. “You have literally not comprehended a single word I have said. Just count your blessings, Barry. Look at you. You got your looks. You got your style. You got your fine ladies. At least Disco Werewolf can’t take that away from you.”
A howl came from somewhere high up in the rafters. “Ahh-woo! Arr, arr, ahh-wooo!”
The dancers went absolutely bonkers, totally out of control with excitement and anticipation. The ladies pulled their hands away from Barry’s chest.
The DJ took to the microphone. “Uh, oh, cats and kittens. Did you hear that?”
Another howl. “Ahh-wooo!”
“Disco Werewolf has entered the building,” the DJ said. “I repeat, ‘Disco Werewolf has entered the building!’”
“Oh my God!” gasped the first of Barry’s galpals. “Is Disco Werewolf really here?”
One more howl. “Ahh-woo!”
The second lady grabbed the first lady’s hand. “Come on! We’ve got to find him!”
“Oh!” the first lady cried. “I hope he’ll dance with me!”
And with that, the ladies bolted. Barry flashed Sweet Johnny an I told you so face.
Sweet Johnny sipped his drink. “Alright, baby. I stand corrected.”
The Duke of Disco reached into his pocket, pulled out a few bills, and left them on the bar as a tip. He then pointed at the sad sack. “Even so, Boogiedown Barry, you got more pussy in your life than most men don’t get in a hundred lifetimes, so this funk you’re in is all on you. Get your head on right and you’ll be feeling dynamite and out of sight.”
“Yeah,” Barry said. “Whatever you say, Sultan of Something or Other.”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Barry said as he straightened his color. “I must mingle with my public.
Sweet Johnny didn’t get very far into his mingle when he was approached by a young lady holding a notebook and pen. She was dressed way too conservatively for such a swinging establishment. It wasn’t like she was dressed like a Grandma on her way to church or anything. She just wore a simple striped polo shirt and a pair of tan khaki pants.
“Mr. Sugarshine? Can I have a word?”
“Oh Lord,” Sweet Johnny said. “Not you again.”