Joye, her bouncy afro surfacing and resurfacing among the crowd, was off scouting out the bands. James, who claimed he was her boyfriend, was partying solo at Portal 13 outside the Capital Centre arena, oblivious to her disappearence. He's brought her to the "Back to School Boogie" Saturday night, he said, so that she could have a good time.
Dorothy was still waiting in line for soda at the concession stand Melvin, her date, saw her and pushed up the collar of the nylon windbreaker she's given him to wear for the occasion "I came to see some of the stars," he said.
Danny, a tall, muscular, high-school defensive tackle, was conspicuously single this night. "Looking around," he said, motioning toward the blur of jeans and sneakers circling the hall outside the arena. "The ratio is at least 30 to 1. And I want my 30."
Sandy was soloing it also. At 18, she already had a husband. But he was in the Navy. She took long drags on her cigarette. Excusing herself, she pushed through the crowd for a peek, 100 rows down, to where the fourth of the night's six disco-funk acts was winding up its last big number. "Ooh, they've got a long way to go," Sandy said with more boredom than disapproval. She leaned on a wall and lit another cigarette.
They had all come together, meeting at Joyce's home in Aspen Hills in Montgomery County and dividing themselves between Melvin's black Ford van and Sandy's blue Firebird. After the concert they would all meet at the Liberty Bell sign outside, find their cars among the several thousand parked on the lot and the surrounding curbs and grassy brush, and head for a party downtown at the "Black Tahiti" supper club. The last big blast of the last big summer night.
Labor Day weekend, a time to make up for summer doldrums made duller by a boring job or too many trips down South to visit relatives. For Joyce it was a chance to cap three months of pool parties, barbecues, discos, concerts, long car rides in anywhere - any night of the week. For danny and Dorothy it was the last chance for an all-nighter before classes began at Suitland High; for Melvin, a time to celebrate the freedom of a high-school grad who now comes and goes as he pleases.
Dimensions Unlimited Inc., the local concert promoter that for six years has filled the Capital Centre on Labor Day weekend with the Back to School Boogie," knew what they, and 19,000 others like them, wanted.
This weekend they wanted to move about freely -- no reserved seating. They wanted acts they could party to not watch. They wanted to stay out late -- till 4 a.m. Most of them wanted good, clean fun. The blanket of marijuana smoke, usually pervasive at rock concerts, was uncharacteristically thin, but the beer and wine (also officially banned from the scene) flowed freely.
Everybody got his money's worth, bumping in the aisles to the blaring sounds of Experience Unlimited, Stacy Lattisaw, Kurtis Blow, the Sugarhill Gang, Vaughan Mason and Crew and Brick, and catching up on who did what during the summer.
Typical dress was casual -- faded jeans by Vanderbilt or Klein, bright T-shirts or Hawaiian prints, and sneakers or Weejun sandals. A young adult was caught wearing another label. "Liz Claiborne jeans? Ha? Hey look, she's wearing Brand X." James pointed out that the dress code was casual but still chic. "It's just gotta be something you don't mind messin' up." he said, himself decked in light blue shorts and socks, white-shirt and sneakers and a white hand towel sling over the shoulder for mopping the brow.
Talk ranged from the favorite movies of the summer, such as "Prom Night," "House of the Crazies" and "Octagon," to politics. Yes, politics.
"Reagan's the one," five in this group of mostly black, middle-class teen-agers said, snubbing the Democrats who failed to nominate Ted Kennedy. Anyway, Danny said, "If Reagan were the president the hostages would be out now."
Register and support the draft? "Who me?" Danny shot back wide eyed . Stunned.
"The Legion of Doom" is what the group of friends called themselves. No hidden meaning there, they just liked the sound of it. "Thicker than thieves," they agreed before scattering again for the final act. "We can't sit down we're too busy."
Melvin stayed back. "You should catch me by myself," he whispered to someone who, in his mind, could help make him a Hollywood star. "I'm better without them."