Today what we see as a romantic proposal, is a person, on one knee asking another to marry them. Cue acceptance, then the audience erupts with cheers and applause.
The applause and cheers that accompanied my proposal, were for the gallant fire department, and the fireman who wheeled the gurney out the door (neither of us was on it).
Ken asked if I would like to hang out with him and a couple friends at the little bar down the street from the funeral home. “Dirty Dons”. It was a cozy little place. More long than wide. The long dark wood counter with semi-comfortable stools on the right. They were just high enough, or I was just short enough, that I needed to pull myself up onto one, unless I was wearing four-inch high platform shoes.
It was October 17th 1973. The first time we went out was only eleven days ago. It felt like I’d known Ken a lot longer. The brothers, Ronnie and Donnie who worked with Ken occasionally, were master storytellers. We laughed a lot, they were so funny. Ronnie was a cop, so the stories were a bit crazy, and so we had a great time. Then came the last call at the bar. I get ready to leave and go home. The guys look at each other and say, let’s go to the place over on Milwaukee, it’s open till 4am.
This place was wild, noisy, and packed with people. There’s a long bench along the wall on the right butting up to a jukebox, small tables and chairs butting up to it. We snag a place on the bench, I’m between the jukebox and Ken. I feel the music through me, I’m right up against it. Ronnie sits opposite us. The bar is on the left as you walk in, and butting up to that is a very small stage with a dancer. She’s thin, has short dirty blonde curly hair, and wearing a dark navy sequined g-string and little pasties with tassels on them. The bathrooms were in the back. So she’s gyrating around, the jukebox box is blasting, and people are all over the place. I’m just watching everything. In between songs on the jukebox, Ken leans over and asks me to marry him. He’s looking at me with the most pathetic puppy dog expression, and I say yes.
Ronnie gets up and goes to the bar. Ken’s holding my hand and I’m laughing to myself because it’s just as bizarre as our other dates have been.
Meanwhile, the exotic dancer has taken a break, so it quiets down just a little bit. Donovan’s Sunshine Superman starts playing on the jukebox. Suddenly the fire department rushes in, and go to the back. In a few minutes they’re wheeling the dancer out on the stretcher at the same moment Ronnie is returning from the bar with champagne and glasses, which he has to hoist up into the air so they can wheel the gurney past him.
And that’s the memory of my incredibly romantic engagement: Ronnie, hands in the air with champagne, the gurney, the naked dancer, pasties still swinging, Ken on my left, and Sunshine Superman blasting from the jukebox on my right.