Hanging Out in Rockford: Dancing and dancing, Bigfoot to ballet

Elisha mentions something about the ballet to me. There is going to be a production of Midsummer’s Night’s Dream by the Rockford Dance Company on a Saturday night. She says she danced for about nine years, but she has never sat on the audience side. I say we should go and she says that she will get the tickets online. She doesn’t waste any time. The very next morning, she orders the tickets.

Friday night arrives, and we do a different kind of watching people dance. A bunch of us are hanging out at the Rose. Some of the women suggest that we go out to Bigfoot and watch the dancing girls. One of my part-time people has a sister who is dancing there. This develops into a huge group. We are all waiting for people to finish their shift, etc. This goes on for quite a while until everyone is assembled (with various fits and starts along the way).

Finally, we all pile into three vehicles and head out to the east side, to the Bigfoot, to where Michael’s used to be, to where Robin’s mother, Jane, used to run the desk and do the books for Lina and Frank D’Agostin before the Verace family bought it. To where we spent a lot of our growing-up time. It looks the same. The bar is still there.

I remember when Annie Fishler and I had lunch at the bar when she was moving out of town, and Michael served us and talked about his selection of wines by the glass. He was very proud of that. I didn’t tell him that I had been doing that for years at my old restaurant downtown. I was starting to gather a little maturity. It takes a while.

We all sit around a table and talk. Hardly anyone is really watching the dancing girls. It is more about the fun of being here and the hanging out. I personally like the atmosphere of the Surf or Ken’s Hideaway better—not so well lit and noisier. I think about the night I went to the Hideaway with Dave Taylor and George Pack, and a young woman bought me a drink. She came home with me and stayed three years. She was so beautiful. I remember these old things about those places, but I don’t say anything. I just sit there all smug and watch the goings-on.

The crowd is electric (our crowd). There is a definite crackle of electricity in the air. Is it a full moon? Something is going on. Women are flirting with men. Women are flirting with women. Everyone is having a really good time. Then Elisha signals to me that she is ready to leave, and we do. We ride back with the top down on her new convertible. We ride back to the Irish Rose in the balmy night air in the spring in Rockford, where, for this moment, we can forget winter. For this moment, we can pretend to live in California or somewhere else where it is warm all the time. We talk about wanting to live somewhere it is warm all the time. We talk.

The next day, I have a lot of work to do. We touch bases and agree to meet at the Rose at 6:30. She arrives in a beautiful pink summer dress. I know Elisha won’t take time to eat, so I have had Troy make some poached shrimp and smoked jalapeno mayonnaise for us. We sit at a table and wash them down with Chardonnay. Then we are still hungry, so we order a smoked salmon appetizer, too. We eat this with more of the homemade mayo.

When we get to the Coronado, we have the most perfect seats in the house. Second row on the edge of the orchestra pit, where you can see the orchestra and have a perfect view of the stage. I can see Kerry Knodle way at the back of the orchestra. There is even room for me to stretch out my legs. I am in heaven. The performance is glorious. Then it is intermission, and we go up front for drinks.

Elisha is outside grabbing a quick cigarette when I am touched on the shoulder by Sally Mark (Sally Mark for mayor). She is wondering what I am doing at the ballet. I jokingly tell her that she will understand better when she sees my companion. Then Elisha returns. Sally’s husband, Doug, shows up, and I find out for the first time that he is a dancer. He tells a funny story about Dave Severson not ever being able to give him a hard time because Doug has a picture of him in a dress (he was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz). He encourages Elisha to get back into dancing. She is thinking about it.

Afterward, we walk down to Serrano’s. The place is hopping. Anita makes us Margaritas. Elisha sits and talks with Lawrence Smith. Lawrence loves beautiful women. I sit with Paul and Julie Tillberry and Jan, who owned Instant Jungle. We talk about the old days. Then we drive back to the Irish Rose. There is a cool wind blowing from the north. It is a little cold, so we leave the top up. The flag atop the Faust is pointing south, but spring has finally arrived in Rockford.

Owner of the Irish Rose (Rockford) and Irish Rose North (Rockton) restaurants, Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are also available on his Web site: IrishRoseRockford.com and featured on WNTA talk radio AM 1330.

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