Beware, Disco Sally!
Washington Post, The (DC) - February 8, 1979
Author: Blaine Harden
The 81-year-old widowed grandmother, the one with mischievous eyes and bleached blue jeans, wheeled around the skating rink, moving smooth, but moving slow. Her ankle hurt. She'd twisted it giving a karate kick to her roommate, and she was taking life easy.
Regina Long, who has two sons, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, skated to the side of the cavernous Alexandria Roller Rink, shook her hips perfunctorily to an organ version of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and fell down. She was giggling before she hit the hard wood.
After the fall and during the giggle, a tall, bald and fast-skating man rolled by. He said his name was Duncan, that he was an artist and that Long was "surreal." Later, in an interview, he said she was "supreme."
"Yes, the ankle hurts," Long said, after friends pulled her to her feet. It didn't hurt badly enough, however, to keep her from skating until the rink closed and then going disco dancing until 3 a.m. at The Fraternity House in Georgetown.
Regina Long was born in 1897 on F Street SW, in the District and there she gave birth to her sons. Her husband Herbert Long, a mechanic who ran an auto repair shop on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, told her that a wife's place is in the home. And until he died in 1956, home is where Regina Long stayed.
"He worked and he came home and we had a good life. I didn't dance much then," Long said.
Regina Long moved to an efficiency apartment after the funeral. Her granddaughter Kathy was a teen-ager then and Long started to go around with Kathy's crowd on Saturday nights. "As soon as I walked into their parties," Long said, "they would all scream: 'Have no fear, Kathy's grandmother is here.'"
But Kathy grew up, got married, had two children and, to Long's way of thinking, became a trifle dull. The great-grandmother moved on, leaving slumber parties and pillow fights for disco lights and an occasional bloody mary.
Long now lives in an Arlington apartment, supporting herself on Social Security and her husband's military pension. Every Wednesday night she roller skates. She disco dances five nights a week in Georgetown. Last Halloween , dressed as Shirley Temple, carrying a giant yellow lollipop and shooting a water pistol, she won a disco trophy for the "most outrageous" costume.
"She's a lovely mother, but she's not a typical mother," said her son Herbert Long Jr., a jet engine mechanic at Andrews Air Force Base. He and his family live what he calls "the quiet life" in Upper Marlboro, and Regina Long visits them often.
"She has a good time, but she doesn't seem to stay very long. She doesn't like to just sit and talk," her son said.
"I've seen that rocking chair and that rocking chair is not going to get me," Long said, explaining why, after a quiet life as a mother and wife, she turned into someone her grandchildren call "disco granny."
"I stayed home and I took care of my family. Nowadays, mothers don't stay home. That's why there is so much crime and delinquency. Now that my children are all grown up, I can act crazy and dress crazy all the time.
"When I get in that rocking chair that will be the end of me," Long said.
The race to outrun the rocking chair has included a 1977 Christmas tour of Georgetown nightclubs with Long wearing 140 blinking lights. "I had three extension cords and lights from my head to my toes. They plugged me in after I walked in the door," Long said.
She's learning karate from her grandchildren, she discoed last September with a broken toe and she claims to have ridden a horse near Houston, Texas, with a plaster cast on her broken leg.
Broken bones, while a nagging problem for Long, have not slowed her down or adversely affected her health, according to Dr. Herbert Metx, an Arlington podiatrist who treated her.
"Her feet are very young feet," Metz said. "Her pulse is good coming down to her lower extremities. That is very good at the age of 81. She is quite a girl."
In Georgetown, at The Fraternity House and Cy's, managers say Long is pampered and loved. "She gets more attention than everybody in the place put together," said Glen Thompson at The Fraternity House. Her picure hangs near the pool table at Cy's.
"When you are down in the dumps," said Joe Toussaint, 32, one of her disco friends, "she goes out of her way to make sure you have a good time. When you call her up and ask her to go dancing, the first thing on her mind is what she can wear to make you laugh."
Long is planning this month to head north to New York City to dance at the Studio 54 discotheque. She's heard of an elderly woman called Disco Sally, who's grabbed headlines with her wild dancing there.
"I'm going up there to challenge Disco Sally," Long said.
Reached in New York last week, Disco Sally, 78, said she will be in Hollywood for the next three months making a movie about her life called "Disco Sally." But she said she'd be willing to challenge Reginal Long when she comes back to New York.
Disco Sally is planning to marry her 26-year-old manager, John Touzous, in the near future. Regina Long says she will marry no one because she doesn't want to be tied down.