Monday, May 7, 2012

Hoopin' It Up!

I have threatened to give up on learning.  Sometimes I think that there is only so much information that my brain is capable of retaining and I fear that I am near max capacity with the essentials - movie trivia, the schedule of my TV programs, and how many ounces are in a cup.  Before I discontinue the learning process entirely, I just need to know one more thing, just one more thing and I'm done.  Since when did hula hooping become performance art?  

Not so very long ago, we went to a local "art walk," you know the kind - open galleries, vendors peddling their wares, artists, food trucks, music, hula hoopers....Hula hoopers?!!!  Yep, the headlining act for the evening was a hula-hooper...45 solid minutes of nothing but hoopin'.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate some fancy hoopin', but 45 minutes?  By minute seventeen, I was a little, shall we say, irritated.  

Show off!

I could have walked away, but nothing gets me as committed to a one-sided standoff like my own irritation.  Was I irritated by the hooper's unbelievable stamina?  Was I irritated by the costume choice - vampire Rainbow Bright meets homeless, pirate/stripper/hippie/nurse?  Was I irritated by the inexplicable musical selections?  (My next project is a compilation album; the working title is, "Songs to Hoop By," but I'm actually leaning towards, "Hoop, There It Is").  Was I irritated by the fact that no matter how hard I try, I have NEVER been able to master the proper hula motion and therefore, in the last 30+ years have never successfully hooped?  Had I allowed the seething bitterness of jealousy to overcome the entirety of my being?

While it's never been in women's foundation garments, I have always
pictured myself being able to hula hoop for hours with the similar
carefree countenance  of these happy hoopers.

In short, yes.  The fact is, I pride myself on moving with relative ease.  I love to dance and hula is in my family.  My mother's formative years were spent in Hawaii (hula lessons/performances were basically mandatory) and my brother-in-law, a native Hawaiian, has worked as a professional Polynesian dancer.  Okay, so the actual Hula and the Hula Hoop have very little in common, but come on, what gives?  Why can't I hoop it up?  My best guess has something to do with a pathetic combination of factors - the relative girth of my equator, damnable gravity, and the fact that for my entire life I have been plagued by nothing but an endless stream of faulty Hula Hoops (I am concurrently penning a strongly-worded letter to the higher-ups at Wham-O).

The girl on the right is my personal hero.  Hoopin' and eating?
Heaven must be missing an angel!!

Yeah, I can swirl it on my arm and even around my neck.  Yeah, when I was much smaller, I could use it as a "jump rope," but I could never shake the feeling that I was my parents' biggest disappointment when they saw all of the other kids on the block - feet firmly planted, knees bent, moving in an otherworldly rhythm creating a deafening hum as the beans or rice or BB gun pellets (or whatever it is they put inside there) swirled in seemingly perpetual motion - and then saw me, probably picking my nose and pretending the hoop was a steering wheel on a giant car.

That would be me - the one looking for a hiding place in the armpit of a
girl and bracing myself for impact, afraid that the hoop would somehow
break free and hit me in the face.  "No, not my glasses!"

Anyhow, all of this got me thinking about the Hula Hoop.  My tendency is to think of pop culture fads exclusively as historical relics. I am always operating under the mistaken notion of "simpler times, simpler minds."  But try telling yourself just how terribly-modern and sophisticated you are whilst performing "The Macarena."  The mere mention of "The Macarena" reminds us that we've all been unwitting participants in the pop culture paradigm at some point in history.  Sorry, sorry, to quickly get your mind off of "The Macarena," here are some fun facts about the Hula Hoop. 

* Based on an Australian design, Hula Hoops were trademarked by Wham-O, Inc. in 1958.

* In the first four months of production, over 25 million Hula Hoops were sold (more than 100 million 
   in the first year).

* The first Hula Hoop-themed song was recorded by Teresa Brewer in 1958.

"Hula Hoop" - Teresa Brewer (1958)

* The Hula Hoop was inducted into The National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999.

* Ball bearings were the original noisemakers added to the inside of the Hula Hoop after a drastic drop  
   in sales in the mid-1960's.

* The origins of a similar hoop being used for exercise/recreation date back to the 6th Century B.C.

* I am hopeless at hoopin'.

* Although it didn't really happen that way, The Hudsucker Proxy ingeniously used The Hula Hoop as   
   a device to tell the story of corporate greed.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

* Some famous hoopers of yesteryear include Art Linkletter, Jane Russell, and Sue Lyon.

Art Linkletter showing kids that adults do the darnedest things.

Jane Russell making it look easy.
Sue Lyon's seduces James Mason in Lolita.
Not to get too deep (or too obvious, maybe?), but could they have chosen a more appropriate
 and effective tool than the Hula Hoop to communicate the danger of Lolita -
all the innocence of a child's toy and all the hip action of much more adult pastimes

I guess I can stop learning now as my question appears to have been answered.  Judging by this vintage photograph taken from Life magazine, hoopin' has been a performance art from the Hula Hoop's earliest days.

A performer at a nightclub floor
show getting her hoop on!
Now that's my kind of art!!!

Here's hopin' your hoopin' is a heapin' helpin' better than mine!!!



Mr. Tiny


  1. Dang! I wrote a whole long funny comment and it distdapeerd. Suffice it to say, Mod Betty can't hoop either - even though my hips should make it a guaranteed thing! If I do learn - and you've inspired me to try again - I promise to give you full credit!

    1. I want film documentation of your hooping attempts!!! There is only one thing funnier than a successful hula hooper and that is an unsuccessful hula hooper...hahahaha! Good luck!

  2. I'm amazed at the ingenuity of "hoop dancers" today. Inspired so much that I bought an instructional DVD. It almost led to the demise of my goldfish in my bedroom. (I lost control of the hoop and it nicked the bowl) Fish, 1; Pride, 0 -- however, I am better at it now :)

    1. LOVE IT! I guess I should try again...I need all of the exercise I can get.

  3. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! So funny! I cant decide what part I like best. The admitted irritation seventeen minutes in, the nose picking, the giant car, the sentence In short, yes. Classic!

    1. Thanks Trixie! Admit it, you like the nose picking the best!

  4. Love it!! Those '50s kids looked so darn cute with their hoops. I'm baffled by the hula hoop renaissance though-- my former roommate was actually on a competitive hula-hooping team (??). I think she paid about $100 for her special light-up LED hoops, which had to be frequently replaced as they kept breaking. And she really spent hours practicing. Crazy!!

  5. Wowza! If I invested that kind of time and money, I wouldn't settle for being on a hooping' team, I wouldn't rest until I was the hooping' star of the universe!!! It is a funny sub-subculture that I don't fully understand...but they probably have killer abs...or something.

  6. Speaking of famous product names: Maybe someday you'll make Mary a slinky dress... incorporating real Slinkys!

  7. All you need is an adult hoop, those kids ones are no good for people over 4 feet tall and more than 80 pounds!

    1. I'm willing to try it, but I think the problem is user error!!! Hahahahahaha!!!