Betty the Spy
Harriet the Spy was one of my daughter
Sam's favorite books and movies too when she was a little girl. Harriet
the Spy is the delightful story about a young girl who peeks
through windows and around corners to watch people in action, then
writes down her impressions. Let me add that Harriett is quite
sneaky. As we shall see, Betty is quite sneaky as well. This is
the story of Betty the Spy.
Betty and Gary Richardson drove up
to Denton, Texas, over the May 15th Weekend, 1999, to celebrate the
graduation of their son Chris from North Texas State. Along with
daughter Cindy and son Mike, Gary and Betty were about to achieve
their life-long dream of putting their three children through
college. What a proud moment this must have been for Betty and
On the way Betty surprised Gary by
asking him to take a little detour over to Fort Worth. Gary replied
by saying a 32-mile detour in one direction adds up to 64 miles
round trip, so this was not exactly 'a little detour'.
"What's up, Betty? What is this all
Betty replied that she was very
curious about her father. Betty doesn't see her father much to
begin with, maybe once at Christmas and perhaps a second time per
year if she's lucky. Recently Betty had spoken to her father on the
phone. During their talk, Betty discovered her father Bill liked to
go Ballroom dancing every Friday night at the Stardust Ballroom.
Apparently this has been her father's hangout for 16 years. Betty
was shocked. She did not even know her father knew how to dance.
As a word of note, Gary and Betty
had taken up dancing themselves in 1998. Like many self-employed
people, Gary was a workaholic who had trouble ripping himself away
from his computer store in the Memorial City Mall. However, since
taking up lessons, Gary had fallen in love with dancing. He noticed
his health had improved while his stress level had diminished, a
pleasant development he attributed to his new-found love of
While Betty was not quite a rabid as
her husband, she enjoyed dancing as well, especially Western.
Noting that she had a Friday evening to kill before tomorrow's
graduation ceremonies, Betty whispered to Gary that she has a secret
desire to watch her father in action on the dance floor.
"Does your father know you are
"Absolutely not. That would take all the fun out of it. He doesn't
even know I'm in town."
"What if he sees you and has a heart
worry about my father. He's plenty tough. I want to see what Dad
is really like in an unguarded moment. I was just thinking the
other day that I don't know him as anyone other than my father."
"What if he isn't even there,
Betty? You told me he has been nursing a hurt foot. Is he even
able to dance?"
asked him that question. Dad said on the phone he hasn't been
dancing for nearly a month, but he has really missed it. Dad said
he thought maybe he might try dancing again this week.
"Well, Betty, Fort Worth is a long
way from Denton for just a 'maybe'. Are you sure about
don't mind taking a chance. What else do we have to do?"
Gary had all sorts of better answers
for that, but wisely kept them to himself. Instead, he resorted to
the lamest excuse he could think of.
"I don't know how to Ballroom dance
and I don't like the music either."
don't go to see you dance, Gary. I see you dance all the time."
"Yeah, but I will have to wear a
coat and tie."
won't be a problem. I packed them for the graduation ceremony."
"That's not what I meant. It will
be uncomfortable for me to sit there all night wearing a coat and
sit in the waiting room and take it off. I won't mind."
"Yeah, but then I have put a tie
back on to dance."
don't mind. I'll help you tie it."
Gary was starting to figure out that
whatever his excuse would be, Betty wouldn't mind. She wanted to do
this. Gary groaned. Happy wife, happy life. And with that, the
tune to George Strait's "Does Fort Worth ever cross your mind"
began to play on the jukebox in his mind.
Fast-forward to Fort Worth on Friday
night. As Betty got ready in their hotel room, she was very
glamorous in her beautiful black sequined evening dress cut high.
Betty always gets compliments on her lovely legs. For good
measure, she put her hair way up the air. Plus she was four inches
taller. Adding high heels, now she was six inches taller. Betty
was ready to dance.
Gary put on his tie and grumbled a
little, but seeing the determined look in Betty's eye decided not to
Was Fort Worth Calling? Yes, it was.
Betty and Gary arrived at 8:30 pm.
The Stardust Ballroom featured a large dance floor, an orchestra
and plenty of round tables for seating. Betty poked her nose around
the corner and was disappointed not to see her father.
Seeing how discouraged she was, Gary
said it was early, relax. So they found an inconspicuous corner
spot at the Stardust and began to watch for Betty's father Bill.
Gary noticed the crowd was in its seventies and eighties and
started to feel like a teenager again.
And suddenly, there he was.
Promptly at 9 pm Bill strode in wearing a sporty light blue blazer.
Noting the whole room seemed to lighten a bit, Gary wondered to
himself if the coat could glow in the dark. It was so bright it
could act as a lighthouse. Obviously Bill wanted to be noticed.
As Gary and Betty watched on in
fascination, Bill wasted no time. He was quite popular, dancing
every dance from the moment he arrived. Betty giggled with delight.
Once Bill looked over to the corner
where Betty the Spy sat, but she quickly covered her face by looking
down. Gary was not used to this side of his wife. He wondered if
perhaps Betty was sneakier than he realized.
Thirty minutes passed. At 9:30, a
'John Paul Jones' was announced. A John Paul Jones is a
mixer that allows everyone to dance with everyone without the hassle
of asking. The idea is for everyone to get out on the floor, then
change partners whenever the whistle gets blown. Gary was expecting
people to line up in circles like we did at SSQQ, but to his
surprise it was less formal here. When the whistle, everyone just
grabbed the nearest person and continued.
Gary had an idea. Seeing everyone
trade partners, this was Betty's perfect opportunity. Just stand
near her father and keep moving closer. Gary gave Betty a nudge.
"C'mon, Betty, let's get out there.
This is your chance to make her move."
not yet, Gary, I want to study my father in action some more."
Gary was tired of sitting, so he
nudged her again.
"Betty, there may not be a better
chance for some time."
Betty looked at him and nodded.
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Okay."
This made sense, so Gary and Betty
hit the floor. Gary was a little nervous because he didn't have a
clue how to Foxtrot. Furthermore he was worried that Bill might
recognize him so he located himself far enough to hide but close
enough to watch. Okay. Just how far away was that? Gary figured
about twenty feet.
After four whistles, Betty adroitly
stepped inside the path of another woman to suddenly end up in her
A big smile crossed Bill's face.
His first remark was, "Oh, a young one! Aren't I the lucky one!!"
Gary stepped off the floor to better
see Bill's reaction. At first Bill was clearly pleased to have such
a young and pretty lady to dance with. But after ten seconds had
passed, Bill's expression changed to a frown. Bill began to look at
Betty intently. Bill said, "You know, young lady, you sure look a
lot like my daughter."
"Oh really?" replied Betty, smiling
at him. With her hair up, she had changed her normal appearance
quite a bit. As they continued to dance the Foxtrot, Bill did not
take his eye off Betty for a moment.
Then Bill said, "You really do look
a lot like my daughter. I have two of them, but you look a whole
lot like one of them."
"Oh, really? What's her name?"
"Oh, really?" Another smile from
Betty. "Is she pretty?"
"Why, yes, actually she is very
pretty." They danced for a minute more. The whistle blew, but Bill
ignored the whistle to change partners. He was curious about this
lady in his arms. Betty said nothing. She just continued to dance
and smile absent-mindedly. Sometimes she looked at her father,
sometimes she watched the other people. She didn't want to make
this easy for her obviously flustered father.
Finally Bill couldn't take it
anymore. He asked, "By some chance, are you are Betty?"
"Why, yes I am!" Betty announced
with a grin.
At that exact moment, the whistle
blew again. This time Betty deliberately separated to dance with a
new partner, leaving her father standing there flabbergasted.
Before Bill could react, some woman grabbed Bill to get him moving
again. Out of the corner of her eye, Betty watched her father crane
his neck to get another look at her. Bill was in a trance.
Bill was still in shock even when
the final song of the John Paul Jones medley ended. In a daze,
instead of seeking out Betty, he walked back to his table.
Gary and Betty followed him waiting
to be greeted. To their surprise, Bill's social graces were
temporarily lost. He just sat there speechless. He appeared to be
stunned. Gary decided the lion wasn't used to being followed to his
lair. Finally another gentleman sensed Bill's shock and decided to
help by grabbing two extra chairs and inviting them to sit down. At
this point, Betty and Gary joined Bill at the table.
Not much conversation ensued. Bill
was quiet as he stared randomly at the dancing. It was actually
kind of awkward. Fortunately the music resumed, so Gary relieved
the tension by asking Betty to dance.
It took 30 minutes after the initial
encounter for Bill to finally snap out of his shock and begin to
show his natural warmth again. As if coming out of a coma, Bill
started to smile. He introduced Betty and Gary to everyone in the
Everybody at the table thought
Betty's trick was precious. They loved meeting her. Since there
were several more women than men, Gary was immediately put to work
keeping the extra ladies busy. And since Betty was the prettiest
girl at the party, for the rest of the three hour party, she got
asked to dance nearly every song. Bette was no longer the spy, she
was the belle of the Cowtown ball.
Gary was worried about not knowing
how to Ballroom Dance. The Orchestra played a lot of Big Band music.
Unfamiliar with Swing dancing, Gary was relieved he could Twostep
to the music instead. Gary had no idea why his Twostep was so
successful, but I later explained to him that the Twostep originated
from Foxtrot. It was a lucky break.
Greatly relieved to discover his
Twostep could pass as a Foxtrot, Gary got his dance confidence
back. Uh oh, watch out, ladies! Sure enough, Gary enjoyed an
instant popularity... a young man who can dance is a babe magnet for
One 80-year old lady about 5 feet
tall in a red dress hauled him out on the floor and called him 'Sonny'.
"Okay, Sonny boy, let's see what you can do!"
This lady couldn't get enough of
Gary! Later on, there was a second John-Paul-Jones. Just as Gary
approached a woman, the red dress lady came out of nowhere to elbow
the other woman out of the way.
Poor Gary. Gary complained that the
women fought over him so much they tired him out. I tried to feel
sorry for him until he mentioned he had led a Twostep move called,
'the Big Bad Wolf Step'. Well, to these women, that is like
throwing a match on dry timber in the forest. Young girls might be
irritated by an older guy pulling a slick move, but the older girls
didn't mind a bit. Gary never sat down again. He danced the night
Gary was not an expert Swing dancer,
but he found out what he could remember worked just fine. And his
Country Waltz worked just fine to a Ballroom Waltz, another major
discovery. Gary's only insurmountable obstacle was Tango and Rumba.
Gary had the sense to avoid the Tango, but made the mistake of
trying the Rumba after one lady begged him to try. She even tried
to teach him how to move his hips. Gary discovered his hips didn't
move quite the right way, so as a public service he sat back down.
Then came a Polka! Not George
Straight, but a Lawrence Welk Oom-Pah Polka. No matter. But Betty
and Gary didn't dance the Polka. Instead they decided to try the
Whip instead since the speed of the music was about right. Some
people say the Whip got its name when someone once said, "Wow, look
at that woman whip those hips!"
Betty's hips clearly worked better
than Gary's. And they worked just fine in front of Daddy no
less! Gary was worried when he saw the startled look on Bill's
face. Bill's eyes rolled out to the edge of his nose... 'Is this
really my little girl?' For a second, Gary wondered if he
should stop, then relaxed when he remembered he probably outrun her
father if necessary.
Meanwhile, everybody was watching
and they started to clap! That eased the tension and fortunately
Bill took it the right way. After Betty got off the floor, Bill
said, "I have never seen anything like that in my life. You are a
great dancer, young lady!"
Betty grinned from ear to ear at her father's compliment. It was
fun to be Daddy's little girl again. Betty the Spy had way too much
fun that evening.