GOING TO A GO-GO
by Pat Jacobs
Sometimes they wore short fringed, tasseled dresses or mini-skirts,
sometimes bikinis or other scanty clothing.
Some were considered erotic dancers; others were not, depending on the
locale and environment.
They were nearly 100% women, with their hair often in long ponytails,
for maximum shaking effect
Some were encased in a glass cage, some on raised platforms, setting the
tone, increasing the energy on the dance floor.
They were called go-go girls or go-go dancers.
According to Webster's Dictionary, go means “move, proceed, run, or
pass.” Another meaning is “happen”. “On the go” means to be “constantly
And that's just what they were.
Another theory contends that the term came from the Whiskey A Go-Go,
which was one of the first night clubs to feature this phenomenon.
It all started in Paris, France, at the first Whiskey A G0-GO (a gogo is
French for “in abundance”.)
One of the founders of the American Whiskey A Go-Go, Elmer Valentine,
was attending the Cannes Film Festival and went to visit the original
He was impressed.
Valentine stayed faithful to the French theme when he opened on the
Sunset Strip in 1964. Dancing platforms and cages were installed (enough
room for two to three girls) above the stage and crowd.
There were 12 dancers to begin with, making $150 a week, for about four
hours a night.
At this time, Johnny Rivers was a regular performer here, becoming the
latest rage. Ordinary people and celebrities clamored to get in. The
Whiskey became THE place to be and Rivers THE show to catch.
The club went on to become a chain: there were two clubs in New York
City, and others in Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco. Go-Go dancing
went further to become an international sensation; by early '65,
practically every new club was a go-go one.
The Go-Go girls, for the most part (one notable exception was Goldie Hawn) remained anonymous.
There were college students, waitresses, young mothers, aspiring
actresses, (and dancers!) in the mix, and their heyday was from 1964 to
either 1968 or '69.
Go-Go bars, an offshoot of the dance clubs, were often seedier. They
also featured go-go girls, not only scantily dressed, but in many
places, topless or fully nude. Many were actually strip joints and some
were fronts for prostitution.
“In the mid to late '60s, I was with a group of friends, attending a
popular go-go club in downtown Youngstown, Ohio”, remembered Mrs. Tina
Martin. “ This was a decent spot, similar to Whiskey A Go-Go.
I was so intrigued; I asked if I could get up and dance in one of the
The owner said yes; I had a blast, performing all the latest dances and
a couple of new steps. Everyone applauded; I got a chance to fulfill a
Go-Go boots were another offshoot, in a sense; they were often worn
while dancing and were created during this decade (by Andre Courreges,
for this intention.)
The standard boot was white, low-heeled, rising a bit above the ankles.
They could also be knee-high.
“During the fall of 1965, I became a trend-setter at my elementary
school”, Pamela Foster recalled. I was the first in the entire school to
wear white go-go boots. It was a proud moment!
But there were drawbacks. The boots had a slick plastic heel and sole;
one day I was walking down a steep, down hill concrete slope, and FELL
HARD! on my butt, on the tailbone, to put it nicely. I thought I
was going to die; everything hurt for a week!
Evidently I did recover, but from then on, I only wore those boots if
walking on FLAT surfaces.
I also wanted to be a
Hullabaloo dancer, particularly Lada Edmund Jr.
And of course, Nancy Sinatra with her boots was the coolest!"
I remember the ending Hullabaloo segments, which was called ”Hullabaloo
A Go-Go”. A couple of segments featured The Strangeloves doing ”I Want
Candy”, Paul Revere and The Raiders doing ”Steppin' Out”, and Smokey
Robinson and The Miracles with their current hit, the aptly named ”Going
To A Go-Go”. It looked like everyone was having fun!”
Several factors contributed to go-go dancing's demise. The advent of the
hippies, the women's liberation movement, the Mob and other criminal
elements began their entrenchment, which in turn brought the curtain
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