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Blondie’s Friend24 May 2012 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
It has been a bad week for disco: Robin Gibb, one of the Bee Gees, and ‘disco queen’ Donna Summer passed away. I’m nearly fifty, so you could say I’m one of the disco children. I turned 15 in 1977, the year in which the film Saturday Night Fever was a smash hit. Those could be called my glorious years: I still had a full head of hair.
As far as I remember, most people at school were middle of the road, but at both ends of the spectrum you came across striking figures: disco fans on the one hand and punk lovers on the other. These groups didn’t mix during breaks. The punks were busy smoking pot down in the cellar, which was still allowed then. In fact it was as common as relations between teachers and pupils, exploding stink bombs during classes and bags with ‘Stop the neutron bomb’ stickers.
While the punks spent their breaks in the cellar, the disco fans frequented the canteen. Everyone ate Kit Kats and there was a machine producing watery tomato soup, Coke, hot chocolate, coffee and tea, all from the same dispenser.
Reluctantly, I have to admit I was neither punk nor disco, yet more into John Travolta than Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols. At the same time I nursed a secret love for Blondie (Deborah Harry).
With hindsight I think the punks simply stayed away from school dances because the music was dominated by the Bee Gees and Donna Summer. Luckily, in 1978 Blondie appeared on the scene; she was apparently New Wave, a civilised form of punk.
So there I am on the dance floor impersonating John Travolta. Dressed, typically, in black corduroy trousers with front pleats, a shirt with a long pointed collar and an item of clothing we call a ‘spencer’ in Dutch. It was actually a lambswool jumper without sleeves. With this outfit I sported a very large pair of glasses. These made me look like a young Elton John, which didn’t help if I wanted to be Blondie’s friend.
When I look at the pictures I feel embarrassed in retrospect. It was without doubt the worst period in fashion history, and that includes the period of the cave-dwellers. ‘So there I stand in a combination of brown and orange,’ although they would label it vintage nowadays.
I remember one teacher telling us that we would look back on our school years as one of the best times of our lives. I remember, too, that even back then I thought: ‘Well, if this is one of the best times of my life, I’m doomed.’ Just looking at the way the girls in my class wore their hair said it all.
By the end of the next decade, disco was tainted, punk old hat and Blondie forgotten. ‘Stop the neutron bomb’ had apparently been initiated by Moscow and sponsored by the GDR. It was only much later that I realised that I’d never belonged to any of the groups. I was actually allergic to movements and associations, and the seed for this thought was planted during my secondary-school years.
The punks in my year progressed through the ranks of squatters and joined the long-term unemployed; the others went on to university, mostly to study medicine and law, and ended up in the local Rotary Club.
After taking various side tracks, I made my choices quite late in life: becoming a full-time writer and being truly independent; running away became my profession.
Just one piece of advice for 15-year-olds: limit the number of pictures you put on Facebook. They will keep cropping up for the rest of your life. At least put up pictures that will wear well over forty years. In my youth I danced to music by Donna Summer and the Bee Gees, and I mimicked John Travolta. It was great at the time, but I won’t let the pictures out of their box.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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