keep yer pants on it's an old radio show

There was a good long stretch of history from about the time of the French Revolution up to just the last few years when menfolk didn't bother wearing uncomfortable clothes unless there was a wedding on. Putting on clothes with built in pain was at last seen as silly. The men said, "down with these ridiculous shoes, heavy wigs, and idiot britches of the court of Versailles!" and it was good. Then came low rise pants.

I'm not one to show the space below my navel in public so when I try on pants these days I like them to cover all that. Lately it has become a weird dream where you're trying to get all the wiggling fuzzy caterpillars into an ever smaller bag, but they keep getting out and there are ever more crawling around freaking out the onlookers. And I'm not even trying those labeled "low rise". Even the pants that are supposed to be "regular" have more and more make-believe ballroom too. Every top button is going south and more hairy backsides are being introduced to the sunshine in spite of most folks' desire to keep all that under wraps. Fashion, you cruel master.

And this, at last, brings me to my anecdote, all this about an old radio show, and what it has to do with dad. Following a recent pants buying excursion I complained about the shrinking space in all the pants, and my bellyaching briefly raised the dead. By way of mom, dad delivered one more lost gem of wisdom. Mom said, "Your dad called it the make-believe ball room." We laughed and then I had to ask where that came from as I had never heard him say this. The expression is funny enough by itself but learning the reference to a real radio program (and movie, that's the poster above) makes the gag all the more alive. The Make-Believe Ballroom started as an early stab at putting recorded music on the radio. It seems that the record publishers were loath to let radio have the rights to the recordings for fear that people would stop buying phonographs and the plastic platters that held the recordings (I know, I know, most of the people who will remember when music came on a plastic disk are dead now... by the way, they were black or sometimes in wild colors and later they were smaller and clear with a rainbow sheen). In 1935 Martin Block, an announcer on WNEW in New York, used records to fill some down time. Eventually the record companies found that playing recordings on the radio could encourage sales and Block's fooling around became the long running radio show Make-Believe Ballroom where you could tune in and, get this, make-believe you were in a ballroom... HA! And later it became a movie too. Huh... a movie from a radio show? I guess it beats writing novels and movie scripts from video games.

I was aware that dad never wore denim, Levis' or otherwise, or at least extraordinarily rarely. Turns out this was all because of the Make-Believe Ballroom. I guess he had more trouble with this than ever occurred to me. I've been wearing denim for at least 35 years and it has only been the last few years with the shrinking fly that it has become a problem for me. Hmmm. You know what? I just made the connection to those terry cloth bath skirts dad preferred to wear around the house. I won't claim that dad was a Leonardo DaVinci but he was a mad engineer and had to do things his own way in spite of convention and social norms much like the old Italian. So where there wasn't the social requirement for pants, that is... at home, he generally wore... no pants. Sometimes baggy underwear did the trick, sometimes it was a bath skirt (for the uninitiated this is just a towel equipped with Velcro or snaps so it hangs on one's waist), other times it was nothing at all.

Hence the occasional klaxon call, "dad! put some pants on! we have visitors."

I still manage to find pants with Mad Hot Ballroom instead of the imaginary kind but those pants are getting fewer and farther between. I hope the menfolk won't be talked into the kind of madness that some womenfolk seem to be willing to put up with.

Oh, and by the way ladies, it's been said before but it bears repeating... men don't care what you wear. If you are naked and smiling it beats the pants off any fashion.

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