Da Funk

Tonight I popped an old Pleasure Island Explosion dancer VHS tape — the only video I have of P.I., sadly — into a raggedy old VCR. And I giggled at my younger self. I thought I was so bad back then. We all did. The P.I. dancers were hot stuff, boy. You couldn’t touch us if you tried. And we were not ashamed to wear it proudly.

It was the best job I’ve ever had. Most of us used it as a stepping stone, and then went on to dance with celebrities or become one Cris Judd, for example or marry one or whatnot.

The rehearsal process took six weeks to learn the 13+ numbers in our repertoire. Learning how to do helicopters or death drops at 12:30 a.m. might be something I do not miss. But once we were approved for show, our schedule was the deal. Call time was 6:45 p.m.(ish) and on the weekends our last number was at 1:15 a.m.; 12:45 a.m. on weeknights. That opened up our entire day to do any extra gigs we were offered. And, the bad azzes we were, we had the extra gigs. If we didn’t have gigs, well, we slept in as late as we wanted.

All I know is it was the only place I’ve ever worked where people couldn’t wait for the work day to start, where people argued/pleaded/bargained/fought to do each other’s work, and we had groupies and wannabes fighting equally as hard just to get in. As much as we vied for each other’s spots, we bonded like a family. Tried and true. To this day, even the most furious of foes shares a deep appreciation and respect for the other.

We wore next to nothing for costumes, but unlike the health-crazed phenomenon of today’s active people, we weren’t too concerned about eating cheeseburgers and French fries in between numbers if we had a break. Most of us could get away with it. Although, it wasn’t uncommon to hear one of the guys who had to throw us over his head holler: “Soups and salads, ladies!” Ah, Lew. God love ya. Wait — that cadence was never directed at me, right?

I had the privilege of training the dancers into the shows for several years. Occasionally I taught the auditions. I was present to hear casting directors say, “You need to lose some weight if you want to dance at Pleasure Island. Those girls’ bodies are snatched.” That was a polite one. A different casting director grabbed the waist of a female dancer at an audition and said: “You’re a little loosey goosey. You need to lose about 15 pounds, then come back and see me.”

I sat through the talks. I sat through the tears. I sat through the smiles when a potential contract actually was offered. And through it all, I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the extraordinary level of talent to which I was exposed.

Pleasure Island doesn’t even exist anymore. What a shame. I can remember when that place was packed shoulder to shoulder — outside the clubs — because the clubs were over capacity. Especially on Thursday nights. But no one cared because there was enough entertainment outside to keep everyone happy.

And now I sit behind a desk all day and try to manufacture some sense of corporate world etiquette. I try to keep my feet off the desk. I try to keep my music low. I try not to get distracted by the memories of the days when Da Funk didn’t mean the smell coming out of my trash can.

If you worked at Pleasure Island with me and you’re reading this, please feel free to leave a comment or a memory here. I didn’t even touch on the specifics. Oh, and if you’re reading this and you didn’t work at Pleasure Island, you’re welcome to leave a comment, too. I don’t discriminate. And I won’t tell you to lose weight because your body’s not “snatched.”

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  1. It truly was the best job EVER! I miss those days, those times, those PEOPLE. This blog makes me miss it even more….and YOU TOO!! We were so lucky….

  2. PS What I really mean was that I (me, myself) was so lucky to have been a part of it and to have worked with so many amazing people.

    1. I’m not sure, Patrick, but I think you just absorbed my “I stet myself” issues. Looks like a career in editing is in your future, too! 😉

      Thanks for kicking off the comments. And yes, we were lucky.

      Love to you. See you next week.

  3. Missy D! Thank you so much for posting a little memory of P.I. I had a blast dancing there. I met some of the most incredible people that I will ever know. I miss them all, so very much. Unfortunately for me, there were a few bad times to go with the great ones. Many arrests (DUI’s and whatnots), but I was very blessed to have a job that was always there for me. I see know that it was a road that I had go down (drunk), to get to where I am now. Pleasure Island will always hold a dear dear place in my heart. More than anything else. We were hot!! And I don’t think you ever had to worry about eating only soup and salad nor rice and ice. I love you Melissa.

    1. Oh, Lew. You just made my day. Just like you to put that out there. See? We even held each other up during the toughest of times. We didn’t judge — usually — unless one of the girls would run toward you guys to dive into your arms on that teeny tiny Mannequinns stage 15 feet in the air to no avail. Huh? Oh. 😉 Or, if our partners didn’t show up on stage because they were … in the parking lot … Oh, God, the memories! Always something. I love you, Lew. Thanks for sharing. Miss you, boy.

  4. By the way, I didn’t add any other photos here because it’s too time-consuming to get permission from everyone. But, please add some in your comments, if you’d like. I’d like it very much. My photos from those days are very limited.

  5. I just saw your post on Facebook – OMG! How are you? Well where do I begin….it was just yesterday when you and MJ were teaching me the show more than 9 years ago with Flavia. Funny how time flies 🙂 It was such a wonderful job to have and I’m so thankful for it! Love you girl!!!

    1. Hi, Tabby Cat!

      Oh my goodness. Are we really that old? Time sure has flown. And, even weirder, so many of us are moms, now. Who’d a thunk? 😉 Guess it was our MOVES. HA HA. Love you!

  6. Melissa, thanks for bringing back the memories… this is true that the time experience of the Island has gifted me with a family bonded for a lifetime; experiences that I will forever hold dear to me; a lesson of lessons taught that I continue to put in affect still to date. The incredible scope of the job, (which didn’t seem like work most of the time) I can not believe that I was blessed with this experience. I laugh, cry, and laugh more whenever the memories are conjured up… it some how reaffirms that this part of my life was not lived in vain. Love you Melissa, thanks once again; and to my extended family from good ole PI, HUGS HUGS HUGS around!

    1. Aw, Chris! Thanks for stopping by. You and those frickin’ handstands you would do at the edge of the Mannequinns stage would give me heart attacks. It gives me a chill thinking about it even now! Love you!

  7. Thank you Melissa for this wonderful blog. I got teary-eyed and goosebumps while reading it 🙂
    I’m so blessed to have had such an amazing job. I too felt we were much like a family. It truly was the best job I’ve ever had… And thank you for teaching me, Tabitha, and Courtney the numbers. I know you want me to mention it: I’ll never forget the night I opened “Urban”, I was still doing my hair 5 minutes to show… :). There are so many great memories… I will forever cherish those moments (and those music… 🙂 Miss you!

  8. Oh! and may I also mention, I had a purple, left hip for months from that death drop… Where in the world is Jay? 🙂

    1. Flava Flaaaave! I know the purple left hip very well. I had its twin. I’m embarrassed to say, but it took me a few minutes to figure out who Jay was. Got it, now. Whew! I suffer from senility in my old age, Flave. 😉

  9. Hey Mrs. Dixon, Thanks for writing about the fond memories we all had dancing at the best place a dancer could ever be part of on the Walt Disney soil. I am always telling my partner charles what great fun we had dancing there and that I wish we were still dancing there now. I miss all the jokes in the dressing rooms, all the fun we had putting on shows in the green room and dancing with some fantastic dancers. But those days are over and we have all moved on to greater pastures, whether it me Motherhood, teaching, owning our own businesses, or still kicking up our heels. Miss you and all the dancers we have come across dancing at one of my most magical places Pleasure Island.

    Love Lance

    1. Hi, Lance!

      I miss your butt. I mean legs. I mean smile! Ahaaa! You beautiful boys are so awesome. Hot, hot, hot. And so sweet.

      You are so right. We have moved on. We’re doing bigger things, but we sure did leave behind some power on that pavement.

      Love you.

  10. Thank you for that beautiful memory! Although I was leaving as you were starting..now I am really showing my age..It was the best job in the business I must agree! It was the best group of coworkers, friends, family one could have asked for. Now I have moved on to another wonderful job..mom of 3 who are all equally talented in their own right. It gives me a chance to stay part of the performing world without the aches and pains..and the bruises! My kids do get a kick out of seeing old videos and pictures, and ask” Mom What were you wearing?!”, while watching me do Spirit! I do believe we should do a “picnic in the park” with anyone who worked there so that we can all touch base and meet everyones families. Melissa, who would have thought our kids would go to the same school, in the same grade all these years later! Keep in touch,
    Love to all I know and worked with

    1. I know, Kelly! And the fact that for a moment there, a few years back, there was a little romance tested between the two of them … 😉 Children!

      Thanks for leaving a comment. So good to “hear” from you. We occasionally pass each other at school, but of course we’re always running. Take care!

  11. You were always Hot Stuff to me a very proud Dad
    I will never forget some of the Acts you appeared with Like
    Donnie Osmond, and seeing you as Phonix at Pleasur Island. these are
    some memories I will Never Forget.

    Love Dad