There are few things as irksome to the artistic temperament as the idea of doing something because you have to instead of want to. “Get a real job” is such a cliched invective, a thing of the past you might think. Or hope. Artists, however vainly, cling to the idea of following your bliss.
The arts are, of course, full of characters, dishwashers, and nightwatchmen, and cab drivers, waitresses and nannies – who paid their dues before getting a break, and a lot who never stopped paying.
Anyway, as I’m getting into the Lindy Hop dance scene, I was a little shocked to learn that a figure as legendary as Frankie Manning, who basically invented it, had to deal with that particularly grim financial reality of the money running out and having to pay the bills late in his career, but also pleased to hear him talk openly about, which he does in several interviews. A lot of artists will talk about how it reall was for them of course, if you ask. We should ask more often.
It didn’t turn out badly for Manning. After 30 years with the post office he was “re-discovered” and asked to teach, which he did up almost until his death in 2009, at the age of 94. At 75 he co-choreographed the Broadway musical Black and Blue, which won a Tony Award in 1989. In the decades following the 80s revival of the Lindy Hop, he became a global celebrity. He lives on too, every time someone dances the Shim Sham, an original Manning routine of jazz-shuffle-tap steps.