This is not your born-to-boggie, git-down-'n'-git-funky crowd sidling into the Presidential Ballroom at the Capital Hilton.
Not that Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts haven't played to all kinds, about 5,000 gigs in the last 25 years.
But here in the ballroom, the conventioners of the American Society of Association Executives walk in as if they're lining up for tetanus booster shots. They look like they idea of excitement is taking the tour of Washington's Monuments By Night; like their idea of risque is squirting more fire-starter on the charcoal after they've already lit it.
And Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, you understand, are the legendary proto/arche/stereo/typical Southern college fraternity house-party band, the original raunch and gross-out boys, the mud-wrestlers of music, living legend.
Legend: That they've been known to appear in pink iridescent jockstraps and transparent raincoats; that they charge huge amounts of money because they get banned for life from every place they play; that they charge more depending on how raunchy you want it.
"We gonna take it easy tonight, keep it down," says Doug Clark, who is 45 now. His brother John, who does the legendary "Hot Nuts" routine, is 46. They're sprawled on a couch, waiting to go on.
Or rather, just Doug is, John gets the night off raunchy, which means no "Hot Nuts" routine.
"It's up to them, I could care," Doug says. "What always happens though, the people start demanding it, they overrule the promoter or the social chairman."
Can you blame the promoter for being frightened? It's an awful thought, a ballroom full of conventioneers foaming and staggering in panics of unbridled ids -- the Hot Nuts being to the id what Lester Lanin's society orchestra are to the superego.
Then again, the Clark brothers look hardly more excited than the conventioneers, that's the thing. They're family men, back in Chapel Hill, N.C., and their idea of a good time is going over to the gym and shooting a few baskets.
And as for the legends: "All untrue," says Doug. "Can you imageine an all-black band in the 1950s, playing all Southern schools, and we get up there nude?"
"Our bark is a lot worse than a bite," John says. What bark?"
For the first set, the eight Hot Nuts up there on stage in red shirts and black vests -- your standard motel-lounge-band outfit -- eschew their classics: "Big Jugs," "Bang, Bang Lulu," "My Ding-a-ling," "Roly Poly," "Two Old Maids" and "Canal Street."
Yes, the Hot Nuts just lay back and pump out some easy listening, even a tenor saxophone solo on "Misty."
It's a "Remember the '50s" party. The American Society of Association Executives doesn't look like it ever forgot them.
When the first set is over, a bunch who turn out to be old Kappa Alphas from the University of Georgia rush Doug Clark when he comes off the stage, asking him if he's the Doug Clark. On the other side of the stage, Richard and Barbara Haas, who went to the University of Maryland, are talking to John Clark about the old Wilson Line charters they'd take down to Marshall Hall with the Hot Nuts and their female singers, the Flaming Cherries.
"It was . . . rowdy!" says Haas, his face shining with astonishment at the memory.
"Yeah," says John Clark. "I bet you proposed to her that night!"
"What else could I do!?
"You going to sing the Hot Nuts' song?" asks Barbara.
And right behind the Haases is Rick Middleton, who was SAE at the University of Iowa, "Hell, yes, I remember the Hot Nuts. They played at a ballroom outside of town, it had a dirt floor. That band was something else, they used to appear in nothing but iridescent jockstraps."
Someone asks if he actually saw that.
"Sure," Middleton says. "Sure I saw it."
And Doug Clark says yeah, it never happened but "we'd get 99 years if they ever went before a judge, because they'd swear it was true. They believe it! You stick around for the second set, we'll see what happens with these people."
They aren't halfway through the next set before the crowd is ignoring the latest in disco hits in favor of milling in front of the bandstand with a fervor that reminds you of the words "unlawful assembly." They chant: "Hot Nuts, Hot Nuts," referring, of course to the song that gave the band its name. The fever is on them, that old glass-eyed brainlock it used to take days of house-party drinking to inspire.
House parties! How could they forget! There'd be dance floors so sticky with beer that every time you took a step it was like ripping a Band-Aid off the floor; four guys whose dates didn't show would be setting a car on fire outside; everybody marauding around in a fulminating funk of genetic throwback to the Huns, the Goths, the Visigoths, swilling down stuff like grain alcohol and grape juice, or drinks with names like Stumplifters or Maidenbusters, while somebody's date leaned out the window having just lost her dinner in the shrubbery and moaning "I'mmm sooo sorrrryy."
This was the circuit the Hot Nuts were legendary on: They've played at 300 colleges from Mississippi to Colorado to New Hampshire. They still play mostly colleges, 200 gigs a year, coming back year after year to the Kappa Alpha house at both Georgia and the University of Virginia, the Cottage Club at Princeton, Phi Delta Theta at Ole Miss, Kappa Sig at Auburn, and three of the eight Hot Nuts are originals, the Clark boys plus Prince Taylor, the singer, who just now is working out on "Hey, Baby," as in "Hey, baby, I want to know, if you'll be my girl," except Taylor bends the lyrics around till, hey baby, he wants to know something else entirely except . . . he isn't singing it, he's holding out the microphone to people in the crowd, and they're singing it.
When it's over, they scream "Hot Nuts" again. But the set is over. "Worse, the promoter's man heard that "Hey, baby," business, and he's on taylor like white on rise.
"You can't do that!" the promoter's man says.
"You shoulda told me earlier," Talor says.
"Who is that guy?" says one of the executives, pointing to the promoter's man. "I say the hell with that guy, that's what I say."
The merest whiff of the hold houseparty beer-funk has got some terrible endocrinal broth raging through their veins.
"You were Sigma Nu?" whoops Cal Clemons, formerly of U. Md. to Roger A. Smith, formerly of Florida State. "Gimme that handshake! Weren't you the guys who chopped up that hotel with axes?"
"No, but we had the Hot Nuts play," Smith says. "It was 1960, the first time I ever heard them. They wouldn't let them on the campus. They were out at the Elks Club . . ."
All over the ballroom it's going on like this, banned from the campus . . . really gross . . .
Somebody sees one of the promoter's employes, a woman, whispering to Doug Clark. He grabs her elbow.
"You gonna let 'em do the whole Hot Nuts routine?"
She looks at him as if he'd just proposed firebombing a schoolbus.
"Not the whole routine, no, but . . ."
Word spreads that it's on, and the crowd knots in front of the speakers.
"And I thought I had the night off," says John Clark, who has gotten into his mariachi shirt and tuxedo trousers. "It usually works this way."
He sets down his drink and climbs up on stage.
Prince Taylor introduces him as the funniest man in show business, and he takes the mike.
"Hey, Hey, hey!" he shouts.
The crowd cheers.
"We'd like to ask you to leave if you don't want to hear this."
The crowd cheers. One man keeps yelling: "John! Remember me? Remember me?"
"Are you ready for show time?" John yells. "'Bang Bang Lulu'? 'The Big Wheel'? 'Barnacle Bill the Sailor'? 'HOT NUTS'?"
They are ready.
And they kick into the "Hot Nuts" song, which can go an hour and a half, if the crowd wants it, though tonight they've decided to do only 10 minutes.
Hot nuts, hot nuts, get'em from the peanut man. Hot nuts, hot nuts, get'em any way you can.
That's the verse.
The chorus consists of an endless supply of bawdy one-liners and limericks about the couple named Kelly who went around belly to belly, or the man named Glass who has something made out of brass, not to mention the guy in the audience dressed in brown who gets singled out by the Hot Nuts as having the hottest in town. Yeah, hot nuts, hot nuts, get'em from the peanut man.
The crowd forms conga lines, jumps up and down, kicks, screams.Men lift women over their heads to shout the punch lines back at the band, and everybody seems to know the punch lines.
"Remember me? Remember me, John?" the guy is still yelling.
It's hard to look at this welter of shining, happy faces and not have a strange phrase come to mind: good, clean fun. There's nothing smutty or sly or snickery about this, nothing "sophisticated," which is what the men's magazines call it so you won't be ashamed to read it. No, there's nothing sophisticated about this, and ther's no shame either.
The band cuts into the tune of "He's Got the Whole World In his Hands" -- except it's "I've Got the Whole World . . ." and crowd is singing along, completing the line the Hot Nuts' way.
John Clark sings that they've got it, and then they chant back what they've got it by. They've got the Ohio State Buckeyes, they've got the Dallas Cowboys, they've got the New York Yankees, they've got the whole world, here in the ballroom.
In the age of falling hair and rising prices, the ayatollah and Afghanistan, Carter, Reagan, the rock and the hard place, they've got the whole world to the tune of Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts.