Twist King Chubby Checker to Headline Doo Wop Spectacular at Proctors, Nov. 19
SCHENECTADY – 62 years after he changed the way men and women dance with each other, Chubby Checker is still doing the twist. With an estimated worth of $5 million, the headliner in Saturday’s Rock and Roll Doo Wop Spectacular at Proctors Theatre certainly doesn’t need the money, but he loves being on stage. Married for 58 years to the same woman (a former beauty queen), Ernest Evans – his real name – refers to himself in the third person. A musical Clark Kent, he disappears into a phone booth and comes out in costume to become the Superman of rock and roll dances, the Twist being merely one of several including The Pony, The Fly and The Shake.
‘“The Twist’ is probably the most amazing song that’s ever been recorded with that kind of energy,” says Chubby. “It’s just not the song. It’s just what it represents and what it did and what it still does for the music industry. No one really knows the importance of that song and how much money it makes for people from the day it came out until this very moment. The kind of money that’s being made because of ‘The Twist.’”
“You gotta understand. When you were dancing the Twist, you were looking at that girl, and she was looking at you, and whatever she was wearing you had a chance to look at it. Whatever was in that dress, you had a chance to see someone exploring their sexuality while being fully dressed. That was a power of the Twist, where watching the person I’m dancing with exploit their sexuality was like a strip tease without stripping in front of you.”
“Now, that particular thing that happened on the dance floor has been happening on every song that you could dance to until the moment right now. That’s the importance of that song ’cause what it gave us is still going on and no other performer and no other singer can ever make a claim to that. But that dance that took off on the dance floor, and in two minutes and 42 seconds on ‘American Bandstand,’ the whole world was watching, but every dancer that came out after that that had a beat, the same style was there.”
“The secret of the Twist was that people who couldn’t dance were dancing on the dance floor. I mean, the people that were wallflowers became cool because they were able to go on the floor and do the Twist because anybody could do it. And the thing about the Twist was it allows you to do your own thing while you were dancing with the person that was on the floor with you, and this was what happened to dancing.”
“It’s not the suit. It’s what’s in it. It’s not the dress. It’s what’s in it. I mean it’s all about – it’s very sexy, and it got sexier as the decades proceeded and it’s still going on. Before Chubby, it wasn’t hip.”
Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” was a rite of passage for every would-be rock star in 1960 when “The Twist” hit number one on the charts.
“Dick never played anything unless it was happening. Now, you were an established artist, and you had a new song out, he would play it. Now, I wasn’t established, you know? The record was starting to get played around, and he couldn’t ignore it, but (at first) he wasn’t playing it. Then, when I got all this recognition, he played it, and they started playing it a lot on TV, and he would (let) a few people do the Twist and the Swing. And when a few people did the Twist, then he said, ‘Ah, let them all do it.’ And then when they all did the Twist, it was amazing.”
“The world changed on the dance floor, and that style is still with us. The Pony gave us disco. Chubby Checker’s influence on the dance floor and this music is so huge and with very few people associated with me. How can one man be associated with such success? Almost is too much for one person.”
Chubby Checker refers to his stage persona in the third person, while his real name is Ernest Evans. “Chubby is that guy after you go into the phone booth and change. Ha. ha. Yeah! Yeah, he’s a different guy. I like Chubby. I talk about him now. I talk about Chubby. I’m looking forward to Chubby showing up in Schenectady on Saturday. I’m looking forward to it because when I go there, I change. I put my stuff on and say let’s go, guys! Let’s go. This is it.”
Chubby is 81 years old.
“I just take one day at a time and enjoy the moment, and I realize that I have moments, and I enjoy them. I have ups and downs, but when I look at the full picture, I also look at the glass being half full, and not half empty.”
I asked him what’s in that glass because he’s obviously a multi-millionaire. He doesn’t have to do this. What is it that still turns him on?
“The excitement of being Chubby. There’s only one Chubby, and I really would like more people to know about Chubby. I like to hear my music played all over the radio like my other friends who have their music played all the time. I can play with 10 or 20,000 people because I’m the man who has the number one song on the planet. I’m the first number one song ever of all time.”
“’The Twist’ made so much money for so many people, and it’s still doing so now. The Pony still goes on in different forms, break dancing, and when you throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care. That is Chubby Checker with The Fly. I think that’s what it is, but if you’re doing the Fly, you can’t do the Fly without doing The Shake. All of these things that are happening in the music industry began in two minutes and 45 seconds with Chubby Checker. I like to play at a stadium, where there are 20,000 people coming to see Chubby Checker, because of my originality and the things that I still give to the music industry over and over again.”
Dion DiMucci once told this reporter the reason he’s able to perform for more than 60 years and stay married as long as he and Chubby have, is because his wife doesn’t care about his music. She only cares that he carries out the garbage and does the dishes.
“He’s got the right idea. I don’t get caught up in my stardom. And I don’t get caught up in my career. I keep it stupid. You come around my house, and I’m on my tractor, cutting bushes or planting flowers. When it’s time to for the music, I’m there. When the music is over, there are other things to do, and I do that, too. That’s what I do.”
The Rock ‘n Roll Doo Wop Spectacular takes place at Proctors Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 pm. Co-headlining the show is The Doo Wop Project consisting of five Broadway stars from shows like “Jersey Boys” and “Motown The Musical.”
The Duprees (“You Belong to Me.” “My Own True Love,” “Gone with the Wind,” “Why Don’t You Believe Me,” “Have you Heard” and “Theme from Exodus.”) will also perform. Opening the show is regional singer Trish Anderson, from the Bluz House Rockers, singing female hits of the era.
Tickets are on sale now at Proctors Box Office, by phone at (518) 346-6204 and on line at proctors.org.