Nov 15, 2014

Summer 1973: I Meet A Teenage Indian God

When I was a kid, my Dad got a 2-week vacation every year.  We would always spend the first week visiting our relatives in Indiana, and the second camping up north,  usually in Minnesota.

But in 1973, just after seventh grade, for some reason we spent the first week visiting my Kentucky Kinfolk, and the second in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about sixty miles south on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.

A whole week of nothing to do but sleep outside, fish, hike, and ride horses.

Gross! Where were all the historic sites? Where was all the beefcake?

Then Mom and Dad announced that we were going to spend a day at the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  We would see the Cherokee Museum, the Oconaluftee Indian Village (a replica of an 18th century Cherokee village), and Unto These Hills, a drama about Cherokee history performed in a gigantic outdoor theater.

The play (written by Kermit Hunter in 1950) was big on "noble savage" myths and short on historical accuracy (a new, more accurate version was introduced in 2006).

But it had lots of white-Indian buddy-bonding: future President Andrew Jackson befriended Chief Junaluska, and William Holland Thomas, a white boy adopted by the Cherokee, befriended Chief Yonaguska.

And lots of semi-nude male dancers.  I especially liked the head Eagle Dancer, a super-muscular teenager whose bare hard chest glimmered in the firelight.  I kept waiting for his white loincloth to flip up so I could see what was underneath.

He reminded me of the  Naked Indian God at the Pow Wow in Rock Island three years ago, but I was just a little kid then, and didn't know how to handle the situation.  Now, a 12 year old grown-up, I knew exactly what I wanted -- to meet the Teenage Indian God, and hopefully see him naked.

 After the performance, I asked my parents if I could go get his autograph. They said ok, but hurry.

I pushed my way through the crowds to the little staging area behind the amphitheater, where the performers were wiping off their makeup.  I found the Teenage Indian God, surprisingly, alone.  He had already exchanged his loincloth for a pair of jeans, but his chest was still bare, smooth and hard, his pecs outlined in blue paint.

"Hi!  You were great!"  I said breathlessly, trying to memorize his physique. "Can I have your autograph?"

"Sure."  He signed my program.  Our hands touched as he passed it back.

What could I say to get him interested?  "Um...I want to be a dancer, too, but the Mean Boys at school say it's just for girls."

"Don't let Mean Boys push you around," the Teenage Indian God told me.  "Do what makes you happy.  I'm the only boy in my ballet class -- one boy and twenty girls!  Nice odds, huh?"

Wait -- was he studying dance just to get girls?  What about the muscular male bodies?  What about the buddy-bonding?

"Gross!" I exclaimed.

He laughed. "Just wait a few years -- let me tell you, there's nothing like holding a foxy chick in your arms..."

"Don't you ever dance with boys?"

"If you're going to be a dancer, you have to dance with girls," he said, looking at me oddly.  "They're always going to be your partners, for the rest of your life."

They're always going to be your partners.  What a bleak future!

Blinking back tears of outrage, I rushed off, forgetting to thank him for the autograph.

When we got back to the camper, I looked at my program.  Kevin Martin.  

He wasn't even a real Indian.

I took it out into the woods and threw it away.

Researching this post, I found out more about Kevin Martin.  After high school, he studied dance in New York, and then spent twenty years performing for dance companies in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Washington.  Today he is the director of the men's dance division of the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in Connecticut.

Hopefully he hasn't done it all just to get girls.