Today we reflect on things dragged under by the maelstrom of time. On snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. On a nugget of destiny chipped off the mother lode and pawned for a few wrinkled, coffee-stained dead presidents. On extinction.
Today we walk the dinosaur.
If the title of this post didn’t ring a bell, “Walk the Dinosaur”, charting in 1988, was an annoyingly catchy novelty dance tune . . . or at least, it was supposed to be. It had everything: an interpretive dance, a nonsensical chant (the title of this post), a chorus that sticks in the brain like peanut butter to the roof of the mouth, dancers dressed as cavepersons. The members of Was (Not Was) must have been lighting cigars with hundreds as the video wormed its way into the MTV rotation.
But it’s 20 years later, and somehow thousands of wedding receptions and sporting events pass every year without a single group-orgy of dinosaur-walking.
There were countless cross-promotional opportunities. Three Jurassic Parks. Two live-action Flintstones films. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (you don’t think “Walk the Dinosaur” could’ve been incorporated as an ironic bit of schadenfreude aimed at the Hummer-driving American populace?). An NBA franchise, the Toronto Raptors, named for a dinosaur.
How did Was (Not Was) blow their chance at irritating immortality? This is a band whose catalog of guest performers/songwriters include: Ozzy Osbourne, Mel Tormé, Frank Sinatra Jr., Wayne Kramer (MC5), Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, Doug Feiger (The Knack), and Kim Basinger. They even had a member named “Sweat Pea” Atkinson! Yet Was (Not Was) is known now only to trivia freaks like me who remember them more for “Hello Dad . . . I’m in Jail.”
Despite the efforts of the CDC and the World Health Organization, Macarena outbreaks are still distressingly common. The Chicken Dance and Hokey-Pokey remain endemic. Filipino prison populations perform the “Thriller” dance at scales of choreographed human endeavor not seen since the pyramids were raised. Somewhere in America as we speak “Da Dip” is being dipped, while “The Locomotion” chugs on. But who walks the dinosaur?
And yet I refuse to dismiss it as extinct. In some unexplored corner of America—a truck stop in Iowa, a karaoke bar in Sacramento, an eighth-grade dance in south Alabama—men, women and children are walking the dinosaur even as we speak. But meantime, I can’t escape the vision of “Sweat Pea” Atkinson taking the family to a baseball game . . . it’s the break between innings, “Walk Like an Egyptian” fires up, and a red-faced “Sweat Pea” curses profusely until his wife grips his arm and hisses, “Not in front of the kids!”
“I’m sorry,” “Sweat Pea” growls. “But . . . this should be our time.”