The boys at the bar were saying, sure, dancing had always soothed a savage Moose. Why, everyone from limboists to ballerinas had performed at their dinners over the years. But 33 kids in orange uniforms, clomping around to fiddle tunes? Better give us another round, Jim.
Skepticism being what it is, alcohol being what it is, the Guys and Dolls of Upper Marlboro did not win over their audience right away two Sundays ago. But half-way through a 45-minute dance demonstration, things suddenly got infectious.
As "The Orange Blossom Special" blared, 150 members of Washington-area Moose chapters were out on the dance floor and trying for themselves.Missteps may have been visible, but frowns weren't.
Such delayed, yet pleasing, results are classic for the Guys and Dolls. They are cloggers, practitioners of a little-known, stylized form of square dancing invented in the Appalachians two centuries ago.
Like so many other hobbies these days, clogging has gone competitive. The Guys and Dolls won world championships in two clogging categories in 1975, the only time Washington-area cloggers have ever done so well. Next month, the Gs & Ds - who are named after a Prince George's County pool hall - will be bidding for more at the 1978 championships in Fontana Dam, N.C.
But cloggers are show-offs and missionaries as well as pressure performers. So it was that G & D director Jimmy Loveless, for no fee, had brought his troops to the Suitland Moose lodge. "We love to perform," he was saying in the parking lot, as various Gs & Ds were conducting last-minute checks for their costumes. "This is fun, fun, fun."
There is no "set" way to clog - no universal steps, no basic rhythm. It is a loose-limbed, intuitive way of moving to country music. It is distinguished, however, by two unique things: the soft lead "taps" that cloggers wear on their shoes (which fill a room with clicking and clacking) and a tempo that is up, up and away.
Like many clog chiefs, Jimmy Loveless buys all his dance music on 45 RPM records. But he plays the records at 55 RPM. "Gives us a little extra to shoot for," Loveless explained.
The Guys and Dolls would not seem to need it. Formed eight years ago by Loveless, 28, and his sister, Barbara, 19, the club is one of only three in the Washington area, and it is recognized as the most polished.
Members, who pay $5 a month, live everywhere from southern Maryland to Greenbelt. Many have been around for years. Loveless runs as many as four rehearsals a week, not including performances and competitions. "I keep pushing them," said Loveless, who manages a High's dairy store in Temple Hills, Md., in his spare time. "Can't let them get soft."
That is unlikely, for the average Guy or Doll is 15 years old - and dedicated like crazy.
"My son clogs in the shower," said Katherine Carter, the assistant director, of her Buddy. "I've seen him stand around talking to somebody and his feet are moving."
The clog bug sometimes bites very, very early. It recently nailed Jason Degagne, 4, of Upper Marlboro, and his sister, Michele, 8. Both have been part of the "Little Guys and Dolls" - a group of pre-and grade-school cloggers - for the last year.
"I like it," said Linda Degagne, their mother. "I get as much fun out of it as they do. I don't care if they win (competitions) as long as they have fun."
Clogging overtook the Degagne household when friends invited Michele to try out for the Gs & Ds. Despite his youth, Jason was not far behind.
"Rhythm is about all it really takes," said Loveless, whose co-cloggers playfully call him "Coach" behind his back. "You can pick it up really easy."
To prepare for life as a clogger requires about $40. Thirty of it goes for a performing uniform, ten for the special shoes, according to several G & D members. Loveless predicted that more and more Washingtonians will soon decide that is not too much money, especially since President Carter is an experienced clogger. "Whatever the President does, people in Washington try sooner or later," Loveless said.
What is in this for a Jimmy Loveless? A lot of money paid out, a lot of time put in, "and not much else," he said.
Still, he and his Gs & Ds are going to keep at it until they attain their two great goals: appearing live at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and meeting country music star Loretta Lynn in person.
There is not much immediate hope of either, Loveless admitted. "But there's something about cloggers," he said. "Cloggers dream."