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Boogie Art

[whitespace] sculpture Men in Blue: Keith Haring's sculpture dances away on its platform as if it were at some universal disco.

Elana Koff

Getting down with Keith Haring

By Millie

Millie's seeing things again. Last time it was a balding, washed-up sitcom actor scaling the Golden Gate Bridge. Millie could swear he saw the familiar actor hanging from a support cable with a big banner about plants. "Save the plants!" it read. Or was it pollen? "Where have I seen him before?" Millie stopped the car right there on the Golden Gate Bridge and got out for a better look. "Wasn't he on Evening Shade? Or maybe Night Court?" It took about half an hour, but Millie finally realized it was the guy from Cheers. The guy who played the postman.

It's happening all over again. This time it's dancing men. All over town, Millie keeps seeing dancing men, blue and red and yellow men, their arms up in the air, their heads thrown back, their legs kicking. Some aren't even men. They're only partially men. They're more like dogs. Dog-men.

Millie sees a big red dog-man out in front of the SFMOMA. Sharply drawn, the big red beast cocks his head, throws one leg forward and barks at the moon. He's challenging the moon to a fight or a dance or a choreographed musical number. Now Millie's hearing things too. He can swear he hears the dog-man making a faint murmuring, a faint laughing sound. Or is the sound coming from somewhere else?

And it's not just in front of the MOMA either. In Union Square (at Powell and Post streets), Millie sees two different dancing men. One is blue and standing upright with his legs spread open. His one continuous arm with a hand on each end passes through his body like a capital "S." One hand waves flirtatiously by his head, the other down low as if he were signaling to some pitcher on a mound. (Millie scans the area but doesn't see a pitcher anywhere.) The blue man just stands there gesturing wildly, yet motionless as cars and tour buses and cable cars rumble by.

At the other end of the block (Grant and Post streets) is another man, this one red, riding atop a laughing red dog. The man raises his arms in an arc above his head, forming a big red smile Millie can see from a block away. The man's legs happily commingle with those of the dog in a tangled knot beneath them. Neither seems to care; they simply ride on silently.

If that were all of them, Millie wouldn't be so worried. He'd self-medicate (a little Prozac, a little pot) and stay in bed for a few days. That usually does the trick. The colorful dancing men would no doubt go away. But there are just so many of them. Bunches of them dance and wriggle on the sidewalk out in front of temporary City Hall on Van Ness Avenue. At Grove Street and Van Ness, Millie sees one blue man dancing on the back of another kneeling blue man. They danced away on their platform as if they were at some universal disco. Some guy leaned on a corner of the platform eating his bag lunch, oblivious to the figures above him.

At the other end of the block at McAllister Street and Van Ness, a yellow figure named Julia stands quietly, arms outstretched, legs bending and stretching into a maze. She looks like a skewed religious hieroglyph. I looked around for pilgrims, but all I saw were a few schoolkids staring awkwardly and pointing.

Finally, in the center of the block, where Grove Street would connect with Van Ness if it went all the way through, three figures boogie the night away in a rapture of outstretched arms, kicking legs, heads rolling and swaying. Blue, yellow and red, the little men are really getting into it. This isn't some cool little clique dancing in the mirror and playing it cool. The figures move like sweaty kids at the Box whipped up into a frenzy near 2am. "What the hell?" Millie throws down his bag and starts dancing along to the sounds of the city. That weird, joyful, don't-give-a-fuck dance that all of us know. It comes from deep inside us and responds to the primal beat of the universe. Look around you. Little colorful men are everywhere. And they want to dance. What are you waiting for?

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From the June 1-14, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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