A Dance in the Dark

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This is a story of one of my many entrepreneurial efforts, a story of optimism, nostalgia. This is the story of how I planned, paid for, and hosted a blacklight dance in my home town the summer after my second year of university.

October 2012: Near my house there is an event hall owned by the Knights of Columbus organization, a Catholic fraternal group. I had driven by the building all my life and thought nothing of it, until Grade 10, when I was invited to a birthday party taking place there. A girl in my class sent out invitations to her party at “KoC Hall”. I had never been inside, and I didn’t know what to expect for the party, especially since my friends and I weren’t too close with the girl (well… see: Never Kiss on a Cold Day). Still it was an easy choice, since it was within walking distance. My buddies and I pre-drank at my place and arrived fashionably late. 

The venue looks like a daycare or recreation centre upon arrival. The hall itself stands alone near the street with a look halfway between a confused bungalow and an inconspicuous church, its walls unremarkable, its rooftop low. An oversized parking lot extends behind it, beside the back lawn that’s used for summer event space. My friends and I entered through the set of double doors on the side of the building and greeted the birthday girl’s parents at the coat room. Inside, a small gymnasium takes up much of the space, with a small kitchen and eating area to the side. Music played. Tenth graders gyrated about. It was dim but not dark; we eyed the snack table and said hello to our classmates. All in all, it was a good spot for a dance party. The host had a photo booth set up, and I believe she received some gifts. The room was nowhere near full but we knew almost everyone there and had a fun time. Sadly, I don’t remember anything noteworthy about that night — except for the location. 

June 2017: Now a grown man of twenty years old, I didn’t want to just talk about what would be cool — I wanted to do it. More than four years had passed since the birthday party, I’d since graduated high school and long dreamed of hosting my own party at the Knights of Columbus Hall. It was time. 

For context, my high school hosted a number of dances each year. The homecoming event had the most memorable legacy: the White Attire Dance. Each September, the smaller gymnasium would be packed with blacklights and bodies for an evening of rambunctious and raunchy glow-in-the-dark grinding. Just magnificent. I remember when I attended in grade nine, I was awestruck. I walked down the long corridor from the well-lit hallway to the darkened and deafening gym, through the white streamers that marked the entrance, and I felt I had stepped into a twisted heaven. Twelfth graders were pressed against each other; I stood at what felt like waist height as these horny giants locked torsos and limbs. I got a sprain in my cheek from the ravenous grin that drew across my face. Each White Attire was a wonder and still holds a disbelieving place in my memory.

The idea was simple: “White Attire II: the Return” and KoC Hall would be the four walls of nostalgia. First I spoke to the hall manager, a polite man in his late sixties, and he was on-board. I needed to front the damage deposit and obtain the funds for the event in full within a few weeks, but I had my date secured. The bill came to some $500, with another $100 for the deposit. I was nervous to put up all the cash myself; I planned to charge for entry but wasn’t certain I could get 50 participants at $10 or 100 at $5. I wanted to disperse the risk of the night failing so I turned to four of my friends I’d known since elementary school, who I am still so shocked and so thankful for their faith and contribution. Bert and Nick, who have been featured in other stories on here, as well as Susan and Mel, each pitched $100 to the cause. Bert and Susan didn’t take too much convincing but the other two certainly needed to hear my promises of getting their money back and then some. Still, I had my funds. I rented four sets of blacklights from a local party service and covered the damage deposit myself. All things were in place. 

As the event got closer, and my questions for the manager got more specific (regarding details about alcohol on the premises, the attendance of minors, etc.), he became increasingly nervous and reacted unfortunately with firm measures. I stopped him short of cancelling the night, but he did insist on a presence of off-duty police officers outside the hall — “friends of the organization” he called them. I obliged, ensuring he and his “friends” that things would not get out of hand. Ultimately, he must have trusted me, because here I sit, typing this. 

We advertised as best we could, trying to appeal to graduates of my high school years above me and years below. My co-sponsors and I decided on a $8 ticket price, hoping to hit a happy medium that would get us the numbers we wanted: attendees and renumeration. To appease my elderly contact at the hall, I employed two twenty-five year old family friends as bouncers. And most importantly, for music, I hired a long time friend of my older brother to man the DJ-booth.

I was so nervous the day of the dance. I drank a beer to loosen up, but kept my wits about me as I felt the night’s outcome rested on my sober shoulders. I arrived extra early, with some of my close friends, and got the party rolling. Sure enough, people started showing up. I’d already received many payments ahead of time, but I was aware that I relied on door prices to get me the rest of the way. And apparently so was Mel, as she stood beside me at the door most of the night, hand out for cash before even welcoming our guests. The hall supplied their own bar, and kept those profits for themselves; each drink was ID’d and served to my peers by a man even older than the hall manager. “Bill”, well into his seventies, would lean over the bar to get your order, open the bottle of choice and hand it to you, dancing to the tunes the whole time. 

The final tally? About 80 people attended the event overall, tenth graders to third years. In the end, the bouncers and DJ were all generous enough to not want any payment for their services. Though we did make sure to keep them well hydrated throughout the night. No damage was done, the event was not shut down. Despite the numbers, the dance floor never really filled up because people were constantly tricking in and out. Miraculously, I was able to pay back each of my friends a whopping $125. By most accounts, a success. 

Learning from my efforts, I’ve concluded a dance marketed exclusively to high schoolers I didn’t know, rather than my facebook friends list, would have likely been more successful. Those youngsters just have the hormones and the energy to make it wild. My high school was shut down in 2016 at 173 years old. White Attire will never happen again, and sadly I wasn’t able to revive it that well-intentioned evening in June. But: I am proud of myself, for the idea and the followthrough. It was an achievement with no negatives — just not the twisted heaven I was hoping for. 

Stay raunchy, I’ll stay ravenous. 

You’re welcome,

B.F. Greeno, aka
The Hopeful Host

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Benny Greeno

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