Nighter At The Astoria
I finished this over Christmas 2011. Itís set in the
1960s in a dance hall. My mum and dad met at ďa danceĒ in a hall above the
Co-op on 18th May 1957 (18 and 13 years old Ė she was still at school!). Iíve
attached photos showing how a chance meeting in a dance hall lead
to marriage then me and my sister (then grandchildren.)
In those days
men wore suits and Bryl-cream hair and women wore pretty frocks and refinery.
Iíve asked my dad what these days were like and he said most dances were hosted
by two bands, one at each end of the dance hall. As one number drew to a close
the other band started and though they were respectful of one another there was
a competitive edge. As the bands played the final numbers clinging couples would
dwell in that heady hinterland where waves of sleep crashed over strains of
music. At an all-nighter they didnít know if theyíre dreaming or awake, stood
up or lying down, its Saturday night or Sunday first light.
reading the autobiography of a safe-breaker who had broken into the back of a
dance hall in the 1960's. Somehow he had crawled into a space beneath the
stage. He peered through a crack in the stage and was enraptured by the sight
before him: men in gray-flannel suits and women under bee-hive hair styles just
clinging to one another, barely standing, smoking, laying their heads on the
others shoulders. Inches above his head the band played the strains of slow
jazz. He watched transfixed until he spotted dawn rising through windows at the
top of the hall.
As you can see
I painted in the coupleís heads but once I got going I realised the manís
should be resting on the ladyís shoulder. I quickly corrected it. I did this
painting over Christmas and dabbed in a few trimmings up at high level. As
no-one wants to be reminded of Christmas until the period itself I avoided
making them festive decorations.
ladyís face was going to be the main focus of I wasnít sure how to paint it. I
daubed in the usual fleshy shapes and just started dabbing in a few colours to
goad myself on. I realised these haphazard blobs of yellow and pink were okay
and just left them. Dab and squint, dab and squint, there was lot of that going
on. I thought the dance hallís lights would cast a myriad of reds, blues and
yellows and tried to catch these in the womanís hair.
As you can see
there was a light or something on the right hand side. I wasnít sure what it
was so I scratched it out and put in another coloured neon light.
I fancied this
was the kind of women who had a nifty gold bracelet but it progressed into a
wrist watch in the end.