Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dreaming of Denise

Last night I dreamed I was in a band with Denise Drysdale. I was on drums, which I didn’t know how to play (and don’t in real life, either), and she was on guitar. Not only did Denise have some serious guitar chops, but she somehow managed to go-go dance while she played. Needless to say, I felt extremely inadequate in the dream, a feeling that was magnified when I couldn’t decide what to wear for a big gig we were playing, and got so caught up in my wardrobe dramas that I was late for the show. By the time I arrived, Denise had replaced me with one of my work colleagues.

How shallow is my subconscious? Wait: don’t answer that.

Anyway, Denise Drysdale is a Melbourne icon, and a more-than-worthy subject for this blog. Australia’s first and most famous go-go dancer, she’s had an illustrious career over the decades: releasing singles, entertaining the troops in Vietnam, appearing in theatrical productions and becoming one of the country’s most beloved, multi-Logie winning TV personalities. 

Moorabbin-born and Port Melbourne-raised, Denise started dancing very young. Her parents were publicans and, not wanting to expose her infant daughter to the no-holds-barred barbarity of the six o’clock swill, Mrs Drysdale sent her off to early evening dance classes. By the age of six, young Denise was winning competitions — and by 17, she was a go-go gal on ATV-0’s Kommotion.

Shaking it like a Polaroid picture
One thing led to another, and she was invited to tour with Ray Brown and the Whispers; after that she scored a recording contract (which included a winsome cover of Fontella Bass’s “Rescue Me”) and went on to perform on 26 episodes of the Bobbie and Laurie-hosted teen show, Dig We Must.

In between all this, Denise ran classes for aspiring go-go gals. The video below shows her in action:

You gotta love her instructions: 

Now relax your back and flop your head around. People aren’t going to look at anything else but your head. They don’t want to see your feet dancing, they want to see your head. And smile, whatever you do.
Yep, they're just looking at your face, Ding Dong!
It was Ernie Sigley who gave Denise her nickname ‘Ding Dong’, when she was his barrel girl on The Ernie Sigley Show during the 1970s. Their working relationship has endured til the current day, and they sometimes tour the club circuit together.

Other TV shows she appeared over the years on have included Hey, Hey It’s Saturday, The Norman Gunston Show, Young Talent Time, Division Four, Bellbird, Melbourne Today and, more recently, The Circle. She even had her own show, Denise, for awhile in the late 90s. Not too many TV personalities can claim a career spanning more than half a century — but then, very few TV personalities can come close to matching Ding Dong’s charm, humour, sense of fun and entertainment value. 

The original raven-haired beauty
And hell, if I’m going to have neurotic dreams about famous Melburnians, I could do a lot worse than Denise… 

Related post:
The Go!! Show: they don't make 'em like that anymore...

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