Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"And Away We Go!"

It started with my girlfriend's "Trip To Japan" vacation video. There was a scene where her Japanese mother was onstage at a community center performing a traditional Japanese folk dance. As her mom's hands and legs went akimbo during the dance, I remember thinking I'd seen that move before, and I had. This Japanese folk dance was strikingly similar to Jackie Gleason's "And Awaaay We Go!" move (pictured left). The Great One made this vaudeville schtick the regular introduction on his American Scene Magazine variety show in the 1960s, dancing his way off the stage with the words "a little traveling music, Mr. Spear! - AND AWAY WE GO!!!".

This move (reenacted by Amy at right) became a signature part of Gleason's act as well as a part of 60s pop culture, as much so as Johnny Carson's "Here's Johnny!" intro followed by Carson's pantomined golf swing. The Awaaay We Go! move even became a short-lived 60s dance, basically a variation on the then-popular Twist craze with the addition of The Great One's "And Awaaay We Go!" movement being christened "The Jackie Gleason." There's actually a scene of two go-go dancers doing the dance in the 1964 short feature Le Danse A-Go-Go, which is sometimes aired on the AMC cable televsion channel.

It was soon to become an influence on Hanna Barbara cartoon characters, no doubt being the inspiration for Snagglepuss' patented "Exit stage left!" move (shown, appropriately enough, at left). By the way, both the "Awaaay We Go!" and "Exit Stage left!" moves are cited in the Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases. Snagglepuss' catchphrase was a common stage direction in theater, but it became lionized in Pop Culture thanks to Hanna Barbara's pink lion. According to Wikipedia, some people see Snagglepuss' fussiness, soft-spoken manner and obsession with theater as a manifestation of gayness. (Not to mention Daws Butler's lispy voiceover, which was modeled after Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz!) (Oh, and the pink thing!)

Even the Creature From the Black Lagoon got in on the act, as pictured below left. Below right, Amy pays homage to this rendition in her Creature From the Black Vinyl Jacket outfit.

So what's the point of all this mindless rambling? Just a remembrance of a gesture that at one time was as universal a pop cultural reference as the old middle finger flip, the two finger peace sign salute, or the index finger "Cut" across the neck motion. One now only recalled when aging Baby Boomers see old Hanna Barbara cartoons, Jackie Gleason reruns, or Japanese folk dances being reenacted.

Addendum (8/15/06): Thanks to my pal Scott Wallace Brown for subsequently pointing out that "The Jackie Gleason" move is also name-checked in the Ray Bryant Combo line-dance song "The Madison Time." To wit:
Now this time when I say hit it,
I want the big strong
Jackie Gleason and back to the Madison
Hit it - and away we go

Related Links:
Jackie Gleason's And Awaaay We Go! CD
Wikipedia: Snagglepuss
Cartoon-o-Rama Presents: Snagglepuss
TV Acres: Snagglepuss


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Gleason move cited in "The Madison Time"!

6:08 PM  
Blogger Joycee said...

Where can I find the complete steps either VHS or DVD to a dance called Madison Time?

9:23 PM  
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10:42 AM  

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