Shall We Dance, Al Franken? What About That Time in Montana?
by

Allow me to hop on board the runaway Accuser Bandwagon: I witnessed Al Franken commit sexual harassment, and from a front row seat.

Literally.

Front row, right side at Student Union Ballroom of Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. Winter of 1979 or 1980. Actually, I witnessed both Al Franken and his then partner, Tom Davis, commit acts of unwanted sexual harassment.

At the time I was something of a performer myself, and provided the opening act for prominent jazz band in the college club and concert circuits. So of course I made it a point to see the Franken and Davis Show. I fancied myself a professional peer.

I was enjoying the show from my front row seat. I thought it was nice that Al Franken mentioned his wife had very recently (the previous week?) given birth to (if I recall correctly) his first child, a son. Good for him. A proud father. I even enjoyed the lefty weather report skit, reporting on the ten thousand degree temperatures resulting from the nuclear war. “Remember to wear your lead suits at the beach tomorrow!”

I observed that they had taped a poster on the low stage floor, front center, listing their skits as a memory aid, and thereafter used that method in my own show.

I wish I had read how they listed the act I will discuss; Ass Grab? Fanny Fondle?

Franken (or was it Davis?) announced it was time to take a break from the rollicking hilarity and laughter. It was time to dance!

They each stepped off the front of the stage and into the chairs and picked out two comely young college girls and brought them up to the stage. The lights dimmed. Soft, romantic music began to play. Franken and Davis wrapped their arms around their partners and pressed their bodies close. The girls complied.

They danced. They swayed.

And then Al’s hands slid down to his dancing partner’s ass. And I use the word ‘ass’ because in that context, that’s the word you’d use. Not buttocks or fanny or tail or bottom. Ass.

His hands began fondling her ass.

Same with Davis.

Ha ha ha. There was laughter from the assembled voyeurs, excuse me, spectators.

The girls both reached behind and moved the roving hands up.

After which the hands slid back down to cop another slow, sensuous feel. Over and over and over.

Hey, at least Harvey made his moves in private, not on a public stage. And while his victims were awake, not asleep.

In my early twenties, I wasn’t prissy. Hardly. But I remember thinking this was a pretty weird skit. Or at least I scratched my head wondering what I was missing. I didn’t laugh. I kept waiting for a punchline, as though the ass grab was a setup. But it wasn’t a setup. Fondling the fanny was the whole point.

I also recall a sort of protective reaction. (Go ahead, accuse me of White Male Savior Complex.)

These were two young Montana girls, 18 to 20, and Franken and Davis were a seasoned pair of high power comedians at the height of Saturday Night Live fame. They were stars. They owned New York City, for crying out loud. These girls might have been cheerleaders at Three Forks High School. Maybe even prom princesses. Not cosmopolitan New Yorkers.

These two successful entertainers put two girls on stage, in front of maybe two hundred people, in roles of dancers, and began fondling them. Straight and simple as that. Maybe Franken and Davis whispered instructions into the girls’ ears, I don’t know.

In any event, the ass grabbing continued for the duration of the song.

Meanwhile, a couple hundred people watched. Or leered. Or laughed uncomfortably.

After the show I introduced myself to Franken and Davis. It was a casual atmosphere on the ballroom floor after a gig in Nowhere, Montana; they were friendly and approachable. The discussion was about to tick up a notch when, surprise, the two girls (the fondlees, shall we say) approached. All smiles and giggles. All starry-eyed and excited. Again I metaphorically scratched my head.

They invited Franken and Davis to a party.

A small party in the town of Logan, some twenty miles away. I assumed it was a small party because at the time there were maybe four, maybe five houses in Logan. And I also assumed, judging from their starry eyes, that Franken and Davis would have thought they had a good chance of perfecting their Fanny Fondle routine that night. I would have thought that. I’d have bet money on it, if I had been the recipient of such gazes and smiles.

Not that I would have gone to a party in Logan. For one thing I think it was thirty below zero that night and my transportation was a 1961 VW bus with (SURPRISE!) no heat. At that temperature I left it parked in first gear because the transmission oil was so cold and thick it wouldn’t shift. And I was happily engaged. (And am still happily married).

But maybe the girls just wanted to drink hot chocolate and hear more funny jokes, I don’t know.

Was the Fanny Fondle skit a one-off?

Did Al Franken grab ass in all of his shows? A hundred times? Two hundred?

Was the skit Franken’s idea?

Did Al get off on it?

Did he find some extra thrill in being able to exert their power WHILE ON STAGE IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE?

Did he score often enough to repeat the act?

But of course Al Franken, a good liberal, matured and grew. Came to respect women.

Fought against Republicans and their War on Women.

Surely Al Franken would never continue that Fanny Fondle pattern of behavior.

Surely he would never stoop to such practices as intensive kissing rehearsals and groping the breasts of sleeping women.

You know me, Al.

I’d never suspect that of you.

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