The Dance Moves of Clarence Thomas: An Oral History

Clarence Thomas

“Acting like he was bending over and picking up a handkerchief off the ground was his signature dance move.”  — Retired federal prosecutor Lillian McEwen discussing former beau and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. NY Post, April 17, 2016

“Signature dance move? Clarence Thomas? You know it was an all-boys Catholic high school, right? Maybe leaning back in his chair? — Dennis McFarland, classmate, St. John Vianney Minor Seminary, Savannah

“I remember Clarence in 1970. That was the year the Jackson Five were rockin’ the charts with “ABC” and “The Love You Save,” and Freda Payne had “Band of Gold.” We’d be taking turns spinning records, which is what people used to do before YouTube, and Clarence would put on ‘Spirit in the Sky’ by Norman Greenbaum and sing, “I’ve got a friend in Jesus,” in a lame-ass falsetto. That was what you call a signature bad move. — Aaron Brice, classmate, Holy Cross ‘71

“It’s hard to imagine now, because he has less personality than a rock during SCOTUS hearings, but Clarence liked to boogie. When a woman accepted his invitation to dance. Clarence would nod and smile and move his head from side to side as he led the woman to the dance floor. It was like a mix of the Funky Chicken and a bobble-head doll. He called it his ‘Affirmative Reaction.’ That’s the move I recall.” — Daniel Bixby, classmate, Yale Law School, ‘74

“I remember Clarence being more into line dancing than developing a signature move. One night, ‘Night Fever’ came on while Clarence was at the bar, and in his rush to get on the floor, he knocked the drink out of the hands of this little dude we used to call Martini. He didn’t even say sorry. He arrived right in the flow to do the Travolta move where you extend you arm like you’re hailing a cab.” — Roger Davis, ADA, St. Louis, Missouri

“I think I would have remembered a signature move like the one you are describing, because it sounds ridiculous. The only time you bent over on the dance floor was to do the bump or because you dropped your coke spoon.” — Alison Cruz, colleague Monsato Corporation

“There was this party, and he tried to teach everyone a line dance he invented. It was like The Hustle, except that instead of clapping at the end of the — we called it the ‘rolling grapevine,’ where you turn in a circle — at the end of that, he wanted dancers to smack the butt of the person next to you. He thought it was going to be huge. I think he wanted to call it Citizens United. But nobody really dug it.” — Geena Rose, colleague, Monsato Corporation

“I ran into Clarence and he told me he had a new line dance. I was, like, ‘Not that ass-slapping thing. That was lame.’ And he says, ‘No, this is way better. It’s a line dance of “Pick a Bale of Cotton.”’ I’m like, “The racist song? Are you kidding me?’ He could tell I wasn’t digging that at all. And he said, ‘Nah, I’m just playing with you.’” — Alison Cruz, colleague, Monsato Corporation

“For a while he always wanted to do The Bump. He was crazy for it. The Hustle would come on and he’s like ‘Let’s bump.’ And I’m like, ‘No, Clarence! Stop it now!”’ —Nadine Wilson, EEOC security guard

“Now you got me thinking. One night Clarence asked the DJ play “Pick Up the Pieces” by the Average White Band and he hit the floor and started doing this weird dance. He would jump, then turn around in a spin, and put both hands to the ground almost like he was picking something up and sort of toss his hands to the side as he straightened up. Then he jumped the other way, and did it again. He called it ‘The Pick Up.’” — Geena Rose, colleague, The Monsato Company

“One year he made a cassette tape for the office Christmas party. It was all Bee Gees. Not just Saturday Night Fever stuff. He was really into ‘Jive Talkin’.’ It was the first song on the tape, in the middle and at the end. He would do this ridiculous jumping and twirling dance, The Pick Up. He told me it was his signature dance move. When I heard he was against affirmative action, I thought, man, no wonder ‘Jive Talkin’ was his signature tune.” — Nadine Wilson, EEOC security guard

“He was always talking about KC & the Sunshine Band and the Bee Gees. And I’m like, ‘Yo man, those dudes are co-opting the funk. White dudes stole rock n’ roll, and now they’re stealing disco!’ I thought, if this guy is going is going to be a strict constructionist, discologically speaking, then he should be preaching Barry White, The O’Jays, The Trammps, Disco Tex and The Sex-o-letts. But instead it was KC-this and Barry Gibb-that. I knew he was trouble back then. And that stupid dance move of his — somebody told me it was based on ‘Pick a Bale of Cotton,’ but that’s just got to be a liberal plot to show how out of touch he is, right? You know his problem? It’s like Cheryl Lynn sings: ‘Got to be real!’ Nobody was buying what he was selling.” — Martin “Martini” Milton, disco acquaintance

“My friend Rodney told me he saw Clarence at Plato’s Retreat. For real! He was with this lady, and they were just chilling in the front, having a drink. You could call him. I’ll give you his number.” — Harold “Harvey Wallbanger” Smith, disco acquaintance

“Hell yeah, I remember. Dude introduced himself and this lady friend. My girl was not at all interested in getting with them, no way. Especially after the dude went on the dance floor and did this spin move, bent down, touched the ground and then reversed it. My girl just started laughing. I told her they were from D.C., and she said, ‘That explains it.’” — Rodney (Last name withheld by request)

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