TBA Law Blog

Posted by: William Haltom on Mar 28, 2009

Journal Issue Date: Jan 2008

Journal Name: January 2008 - Vol. 44, No. 1

I'm a lousy dancer. It's not my fault. I grew up in the Baptist church where I was taught that dancing was a mortal sin, like smoking or drinking or voting for a Democrat. For the eternal life of me, when I was a child, I could not understand the theological basis for prohibiting dancing as sinful. I could find absolutely nothing in the Bible about it. Not one of the commandments read, "Thou shalt not dance!" And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did not say, "Blessed are the wallflowers for they shall sit on folding chairs in the school gym while the sinful kids are out on the basketball court doing the Watusi." I once asked my father, who also happened to be my preacher, why we Baptists considered dancing a sin. Reverend Daddy punted, referring me to my mother, who in addition to being a preacher's wife, was a board-certified Sunday School teacher. When it came to sin, Momma was like Calvin Coolidge's minister. She was agin it. Without hesitation, Momma emphatically told me that yes, dancing was a sin. When I confronted her with the fact that I could find nothing in the Bible prohibiting dancing, Momma became impatient. "The problem with dancing," she replied, "is that it leads to other things."

Momma did not define "other things," but to me, it sounded like a lot of fun.

For the first 16 years of my life, I was a good Baptist boy who never set foot on a dance floor. But then, on a fateful night in 1968, I fell from grace. Like Adam, I was beguiled by a woman. Her name wasn't Eve, it was Sharon, and we were not in the garden of Eden. We were at the Frayser Skateland, a den of iniquity in which young people could skate and, on weekend nights, dance. We Baptists did not regard skating as sinful, I guess because when a young man is skating, it's kind of hard to put your arms around a young woman who is skating. It can be done, but it's a challenge.

But on that fateful night nearly 40 years ago I wasn't wearing roller skates. Sharon pulled me on to the skating rink dance floor. I started dancing my way to hell, and I loved every minute of it. As Mark Twain once observed, heaven for the climate, hell for the companionship.

Over the past 40 years, I have continued to, as Baptists say, backslide. I have followed the wisdom of the great philosopher Lee Ann Womack, and whenever I get the chance, I dance. I'm still not very good at it. I am rhythmically impaired. On a dance floor, I am the spitting image of Al Gore.

I am no longer sure whether dancing is a sin, but if I'm going to hell, a lot of people are going with me. I say this because dancing is more popular than ever, and even threatens to replace football as our most popular spectator sport. The most popular television show these days is Dancing with the Stars. It is the latest "reality" show, only instead of being shipwrecked on Gilligan's Island, celebrity contestants engage in dance competitions, doing the fox trot, the tango, the rumba, the samba, and the waltz. Insofar as I know, contestants do not perform the Watusi, the pony, or my personal favorite, the peppermint twist.

Dancing with the Stars is a huge success. An estimated thirty viewers recently turned in to see Marie Osmond faint.

Well, I have a sure-fire winner for the next blockbuster hit reality TV series. Are you ready for this? Dancing with the Lawyers! You read that right, Tom Bergeron-breath!

Dancing with the Lawyers would be American Idol meets Court TV. Each week, teams of celebrity lawyers would face each other in a dance-off. Nancy Grace could do the cha-cha with Antonin Scalia. Sandra Day O'Connor could mamba with Alberto Gonzales. Judge Judy could quickstep with Judge Joe Brown.

In some episodes, celebrity lawyers could be paired up with their celebrity clients. Steve Farese could do the twist with Mary Winkler. Marsha Clark could dance with OJ. (OK, I know she was the prosecutor, not his defense lawyer, but admit it, you would love to see the two of them dance together.)

Dancing with the Lawyers would be the biggest thing to hit TV since Elvis danced on The Ed Sullivan Show. Even Baptists would watch. And when that successful series has run its course, I have another idea. It's called Dancing with the Next President. Tim Russert will host this new reality TV series that will culminate on Tuesday night, Nov. 4, as we Americans choose our President based on a dance competition between the Republican ticket of Mike Huckabee and Condi Rice doing a Viennese waltz, and the Democrat ticket of Hillary Clinton and Al Sharpton responding with an unforgettable rumba.  

Bill Haltom BILL HALTOM is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.