First Time For Everything: Dancing At Coyote Ugly

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Here’s a thing I can promise: If you invite me to your wedding, your other guests will comment on the quality of my dancing. It’s inevitable. I’ve never been to a wedding where the thank you note for whatever I picked off the registry didn’t do exactly that. Anything from, “My Uncle Morty loved your dancing!” to “You really got the party started!” My dancing skillz come down to one word: Commitment. I hear a song that moves me, and I commit. I give 100 percent. The way my best friend once described it: “It’s like, one second you’re in your chair eating a slice of cake or whatever, then the next second you’re shimmying so hard I’m, like, ‘OMG: I’m worried her head’s gonna fall off.’ You go from zero to 60 like that.

I’ve got rhythm. Always have. And though I lacked any formal dance training, I made my rounds on the comedy circuit while in my early 20s, and wound up working a bachelorette party stage show with no fewer than three male strippers. Killing time backstage over the course of the months we worked together, they taught me everything I know: Party moves. Trashy moves. How to “walk sexy.” How to “drop” my “junk” to the “flo’.”

Well, I emerged from the experience with the moves necessary to dominate any lay-person’s dance floor: At weddings, bat/bar mitzvahs, at the club. And it is with these moves tucked neatly into my back pocket that I arrived to a friend’s 25th birthday party at Coyote Ugly. There was a time when Coyote Ugly, as an entity, required a bit of explanation. Not anymore, though. You’ve seen the movie. Or the Reality TV show. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if, by 2014, Coyote Ugly had a ride at Disney World.

Anyway, I arrived at this birthday party only to discover that I was one of two single people in attendance. Everyone else was coupled off save for a gal named Deirdre who spent a solid two hours explaining to me just how well her career in acting/writing/directing was going. In an effort to avoid smacking either one of us in the face – her, to make her stop talking; myself, to have something to focus on besides an anecdote about her latest screenplay – I’d decided to leave. But then, low and behold, a certain song came blasting through the speakers: Lenny Kravitz’s “American Woman.”

Let me take a moment to explain to you that when this song comes on, I am powerless against my urge to dance. I will be performing some seriously committed hair whip-arounds. This would be true about me in any scenario – on a bus or in a supermarket, for example – so if you put me in an environment where the dancing is actually encouraged? Forget it. I was up on that bar faster than Deirdre could say, “I’ve also been getting really into podcasts!”

To borrow a phrase: “The crowd went wild.”

I’ve logged quite a bit of stage time in my life – there’s been the aforementioned jaunt through the comedy circuit, there’s been karaoke, there’s been a decent amount of high school and college theatre. There has been, God help me, a phase where I performed spoken word poetry. And though I’m embarrassed to admit it, admit it I will: I’ve been known to bomb like it’s my job to bomb. It’s been the through-line of my stage career.

But not this time! No! Victory was mine! This time, I took to that bar, and dismounted to rounds upon rounds of applause. And not only that: This time I felt a tender hand against my arm, and turned around to see a bartender trying to get my attention.

“You!” she said, “You were awesome! Do you have a job? Do you need one?”

I did need a job, as it happened. At the time I was supporting my habit for stand-up comedy and spoken word poetry with a $16/hr gig folding shirts at Banana Republic. I didn’t need to count the money lying on the bar to know I’d make triple that, easy, at Coyote Ugly. I mean, sure, I’d have to wear a half-shirt, but what of it? Half the shirt for triple the income? Sign a cowgirl up, y’all.

I had high hopes. I did. And not only in terms of money earned. I thought the dancing would be fun. I thought I’d make friends with all the other girls who worked there. Presumably, they were earning money in whatever way they could all the while pursuing their doctorates in various fields. But no. I arrived at 5pm on a Tuesday to a bar occupied by no fewer than three patrons. The welcoming committee consisted of a bartender named Tricia. She introduced herself by putting a cowboy hat on my head.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Tricia. I’m, like, the sexy coyote. If it works out and you get hired, you’ll meet the other girls. Jen’s the sweet coyote, Jess is the wild one. Sam is really sporty. Now go ahead: Dance.”

To reiterate: There were three customers in the bar.

So I said, “Now? Really?” and Tricia said, “Yes. Now. Coyotes don’t dance when they want to dance, we dance when we have to dance.”

So it was. I climbed atop the bar to perform the saddest bump-‘n-grind in history to George Thorogood’s “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.”

“THIS IS ONE OF OUR SIGNATURE SONGS!” shouted Tricia from down below. And then she started handing up the bottles. “WHEN HE SAYS ‘SCOTCH’, TRY AND TAKE A SIP OF SCOTCH. AND WHEN HE SAYS ‘BOURBON’ TRY AND TAKE A SIP OF ‘BOURBON.’”

Here it is imperative for me to tell you that I am nothing if not a lightweight when it comes to alcohol.

“TRICIA!” I shouted down. “I DON’T THINK THAT’S A GOOD IDEA!”

“YEAH, WELL, I’M NOT ASKING,” she shouted back.

I wound up doing three shots in eight minutes, then had to excuse myself to go vomit in the bathroom. When I returned, Alicia stood there, arms crossed, shaking her head.

“I don’t think you’re coyote material,” she said.

I looked down at my paunchy midriff, exposed thanks to my $8 Strawberry half-shirt. I glanced at one of the patrons who was shaking his head, like, “You’re really not.” I handed back my cowboy hat.

“Can’t blame a gal for trying,” I said, and headed out, back into the open air a mere two hours after having left it.

I returned wiser, more worldly, and – thanks to the American Apparel sweatshirt I’d had the foresight to pack before I’d left the house – way more appropriately clothed.

Sara Barron is the author of People Are Unappealing and the forthcoming book Eating While Peeing (And Other Adventures) For more info, visit her website.

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