One Thousand And One Night Stands

Ted Shawn (with Gray Poole) / 1960

Doubleday / ISBN 0306800950

Many years ago, as a teen-aged dance student, I was fortunate enough (fated?) to find a copy of this
book in our local library. I read it, reread it, returned it, rechecked it out, and continued this pattern
until I realized I had to own it. Unfortunately it had been out of print for several years by then, and
(not yet having the amazing Internet accesses we take for granted now) I was reduced to Plan B -- I would
check the book out one more time, "lose" it, and offer to make restitution to the library.
In other words... I would steal it.

I don't know how many of you grew up in a small town where the local librarian is the one who handed you
your first library card at age five-and-a-half, shushed you repeatedly over the years as you giggled your way
through the Oz books, and kept an eye on you when you were meeting boys instead of gathering reseach for your
term paper, but that lady can still put the fear of hellfire into you when you're old enough to vote. Before I even
carried out plan B I had confessed everything to her, showing the library card that had my name alone written on it
for the past several years. She made me a counter-offer. Why didn't I make one last try and write a personal letter
to the author in care of the publisher, asking if he had any left-over promotional copies? She explained that quite
often authors held on (or were stuck with) these copies for years, and he might be persuaded to part with one.

Holding out very little hope, I sat down and wrote a letter to Ted Shawn. Then I waited for Mrs. H. to either retire
or (as I strongly suspected) be carried out by the local coroner with the book stamp still in her cold, dead hand.
Instead, I was shocked to receive - about six months later - a letter and package from Ted Shawn himself! No, he
was very sorry he was unable to find a copy of that book, but he was so pleased to hear I'd enjoyed it. Would I
accept a signed copy of his latest book, Every Little Movement, as a substitute? Disappointed at not getting
the book I wanted (but still having Plan B) I wrote "Papa" Shawn an overly effusive letter of gratitute.

About six months after that, I got another surprise. Ted Shawn had been visiting an old friend in the book business
who actually had a few left-over copies of One Hundred And One Night Stands, and he'd grabbed one for me!
I was in shock. If I'd written and overly-effusive letter before I out-did myself this time. And so began a sweet
correspondance that ended only with Papa Shawn's death a few years later. By that time I'd read everything he or
Ruth St. Denis had ever written and anything ever written about them. When I moved to Southern California I found
the location of the old Denishawn school and drove back and forth, trying to imagine walking into the dance rooms
for classes. If I could choose any period of time to relive, I'd ask to be a dance student at Denishawn in 1915.*

*Re-reading the above years after posting it on my website, I realized I'd told you absolutely nothing about the book
itself! Nothing except that I'd enjoyed it enough to go to all that trouble. How about this... it is so hysterically
funny that I laugh out loud even though I nearly know every page by heart? The life of a touring performer in the
early part of the twentieth century was danged tough, but Ted Shawn manages to present it on a platinum platter.

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