In the second grade, I became obsessed with watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies on Betamax videos that my family borrowed from Giant Eagle, the local supermarket. Since we never really went anywhere for summer vacation, we spent most of our time watching all of their films and were transported to Italian towns that were populated by happy villagers in garish outfits dancing some wild number, like the Piccolino, on streets paved with linoleum tiles.
One of my favorite Astaire and Rogers films was the movie Carefree (It’s tied on my list with Swing Time.) Though it was one of their least critically-acclaimed collaborations, Fred and Ginger danced one of my all-time favorite dances: The Yam.
The Yam didn’t really have much going for it, lacking the rave reviews and the popularity of the Charleston. It’s not surprising, since it consisted of basically shuffling your feet against the floor and putting one arm up like you are holding a yam on a tray — rather nuts when you think of it. Fred even said he hated the song that would introduce this boisterous jig, so Ginger was asked to sing it instead. With his reservations assuaged, Fred and Ginger turned a dance about an inane root vegetable into something magical, making it their own. They attacked it without a care, jumping on couches and running down hallways in a straight-laced, posh country club, culminating into one pivotal moment when Fred, balanced on tabletops, lifted Ginger over his outstretched leg, as patrons were being seated for dinner service. He performed this move about 10 times, eventually winning over the crowd of diners who were by now hooting and hollering, caring less about supper and interested more in joining in the fun.
Yam Books began as a selfish need to see more work from artists and cartoonists who have continued to inspire fans and motivate their fellow creators to appreciate and make art and comics. Though Yam Books is a bare-bones operation, the goal to showcase the work of such inspiring people is driven by the same bright-eyed enthusiasm that I felt as a kid when watching two incredible people dance and create magic on a TV screen.
Here’s to a great beginning!
I didn’t come to do the Charleston,
I didn’t come to Bell the Jack
I didn’t come to do
Or do the Bottom they call Black.
I didn’t come to do Big Apple,
I didn’t come to do the Shag,
But honey, Here I am
To do the Yam,
‘Cause the Yam is in the bag.
Special Thank You to Tim Hensley who designed the Yam Books logo!