Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. If you’ve never seen cartoonist George Blevins boogie at the Pioneer Inn, don’t despair, you have another chance to see this amazing spectacle.
Blevins has been known to attract a line of female dancers, clambering to be his next partner. It’s not totally clear what the attraction is. It could be that his knobby knees and edgy elbows form angles that don’t seem humanly impossible, or it could be that his legs unbend kind of a like a praying mantis approaching its prey.
It is most likely his exuberance, his sheer maniacal joy at finding his own rhythm, his own boogie beat in his favorite bar.
It’s been a long since George hit the dance floor but he’s gearing up for a big night at the PI, when he and his publishing partners Doug Cosper and Janette Taylor will celebrate the completion of Blevin’s Cabin Fever Complete, the third volume in which three decades of Nederland lives and times are captured, republished from weekly cartoons in the Mountain-Ear newspaper.
Cabin Fever introduced the iconic Ned Head guy, based on Steve, the PI bartender, representative of the typical log cabin dwelling character that inhabited Nederland in the 70’s. George describes him as the idea for the soul and essence of the series and, as a result, George didn’t have to pay for his beer.
At that time, George was living on a Fourth of July mining claim in a cabin that was built by his friends. He skied to the PI on Friday nights so he could hang out with real people. “And then I got wasted and boogied my brains out until I was sober enough to ski back home.”
At first, he’d ask anybody to dance, later he just danced. His particular style was to move any part of his body that wanted to move and not worry about how he looked. He claims his limbs were not connected to his brain.
Janette claims that no one warned her about the cartoonist’s unusual gyrations. “I was blown away. He is the Astaire of boogie, very impressive.”
His salary at the time was $40 a week, almost enough to live on if he didn’t have to buy his own beer.
The Friday night band was often the Swell Guys, led by local drummer Jay Forrest, who was loose with the rhythm which it made it perfect for George’s dancing. Often Tammy Forrest, Jay’s wife and a Nederland Elementary School teacher, was his partner. Then others would join them. And they would boogie on.
After he retired in 2005, his friend and journalist Doug Cosper determined that the cartoons needed a real home for posterity and he and publisher Janette Taylor approached George with the idea of collecting his cartoons and publishing them as a three-part book.
After bonding during the publishing of the Carousel of Happiness Book, the trio put together George’s Mr. Turtle Meets Ms. Lady Bug, a poignant tale of dealing with loss and how friendship lasts forever.
It was time, however, to gather 23 years of weekly cartoons, of the personalities that inhabit the segments. It was time to dig into old boxes, piles of original drawings and even into Blevins’ mind. For the last two years, the ongoing project produced two volumes and finally, the third volume has been released. A fact that deserves the party it’s going to get.
Sales from the first book paid for the next two, but George, Janette and Doug want to make sure that the books are out there, ready to buy in their entirety. In fact, they are so eager to get the books out of George’s bedroom and Janette’s closet that they are inviting everyone in for a book signing and half priced sale.
Doug says, “Nobody else was going to give us a party for finishing the collection so we decided to do it ourselves.”
Four out of five of the original Swell Guys are showing up to inspire George to dance.
Jay Forrest will be on the drums, Rob Candler on the guitar, Jamie Polisher on the bass and Lonesome Roland Turbot will sing. A virtual cavalcade of stars, dynamite in every way, say George, Doug and Janette. The party takes place on Friday, March 3 at the PI from 6-11. The restaurant and bar will be open. There is no cover charge.
George says, “I can’t quite believe it. If I don’t survive the night, it will be a wonderful way to go.”
Tammy Forrest has the first dance and after that the girls will have to line up. George says he never knows if his knees will hold out; they might buckle and then he’ll have to do the ‘gator, even though he prefers the boogie.
This could be one of the last reunions of Old Nederland, but New Nederland boogie-ers are enthusiastically invited. George also asks that nobody be offended if he doesn’t remember their name.