Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brass Balls - the night I danced with Dale

The other night, my hubby and I were lying in bed - I was playing a game on my iPad, and he was patting on the cat.  I made a joke about how "all cats are grey in the dark."  He's been reading through the classics on his Nook, and made a comment about that's almost a direct quote from "The Three Musketeers".

I asked him if I'd ever told him about dancing with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and he said "I know you met him, but I didn't know you'd danced with him."

It went like this:
Back in 2002, I went on a NASCAR vacation called Beach Bash, in Jamaica.  There were a dozen or so drivers, pit crew chiefs, and media celebrities, and the number of fans was limited to around 150 fans.  The idea was you could spend a week in Jamaica with your favorite drivers.
I am a HUGE Junior fan, and I think he's cute as cute can be.  I was single, and I harbored a small little fantasy that I could be Mrs. Earnhardt.  A girl can dream, right?

This was right around the time I left Quality Assurance and became a producer, and Hasbro Interactive had the NASCAR license and was about to release a new game called "Dirt to Daytona."  I convinced management to let me attempt to promote the game while on vacation.  They didn't expect much out of me, but if I could get a picture of two of driver holding our game, ok.  Our main competitor, EA, did not have even a clue about this opportunity, and I thought it could be a nice little feather in my cap as a new producer.

I made calls, I was persuasive, and I descended on the Wyndham Rose Hall with a suitcase full of video games to give away, t-shirts, game consoles, and I was ready to meet some drivers and prove a point!  I had a commitment from the hotel that they would make tv's and tables available to me in common areas to allow fans to play the game, and I'd reached out to the tour coordinator (who became a great friend) to have some time built in to play.  If I could convince the drivers to race against the fans, this was ALL going to come together.

The trip was an all-inclusive vacation, and the rum drinks were very, very good.  I think I drank my body weight in rum that week.  On the first night there, we were rumming it up at the bar when the word spread.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (and his posse) had arrived from Homestead, FL (last race of the season) and they were headed for the bar.  I decided I would go pee to gather my courage, and then I'd figure out how I was going to approach him to introduce myself and talk about video games.
I went to the restroom, practiced smiling and looking natural (and not completely sauced) in the mirror, washed my hands, and headed out to face the beast.  I walked out of the ladies room and collided directly with Dale on his way into the mens.  I looked at him, smiled, and said "Would you like to play some video games?"
He wrinkled his incredibly cute brow and said "Nah, I'm good", and continued into the mens room.
 I went back to the bar, and put my head down.  "I asked if wanted to play some video gaaaaaaaaaaaaaames!", I wailed.  "And he said Noooooooooooooo!  It was like that scene in "Dirty Dancing" where Patrick Swayze asks "what are you doing here" and Jennifer Grey says "I carried a watermelon."."

My friend patted me on the shoulder, ordered me another rum drink and reassured me it was a long week and everything would be fine.

After some mingle time, I decided to try again.  I walked over to Dale, stuck out my hand  and said "OK, so, I realize that was TOTALLY random.  Can I try again?  Hi!  My name's Rae, I work at Hasbro Interactive and we have a new racing game coming out.  I have some advance copies and thought you might like to check it out, maybe race against some fans or something?" I took no chances, I did not pause for breath, and I had a big, stupid, 'please like me' smile plastered on my face.

"Yeah, 'Dirt to Daytona'.  I've been wanting to play, that would be cool.", he said.  We chatted a bit more and I wandered off, elated.  I had redeemed myself!

The week went on with lots more rum, tons of fun, beach all day, dance club until it closed, and some video gaming.  There were autograph sessions and we had become friendly enough to smile and wave back and forth in passing.

On one of the last nights, I was in the dance club and I decided, this is it.  If I'm going to be his wife, we're going to have to fall in love.  If we're going to fall in love, we're going to have to dance.  I guess I'd better ask him to dance.  (Did I mention I drank my body weight in rum that week?) So I did!  And he said yes! It was like 8th grade, when Danny Shook finally asked me to dance, after I'd glanced longingly at him from the sidelines all year long.  I talked through the whole thing, except with Dale, the song was Nelly's "It's Getting Hot in Here", and not Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart".
Future Mr. & Mrs. Earnhardt

"So, Dale, I was wondering - what's your preference?  Really obvious bottle blond girls with bleach blond hair and fake boobs who fall on the ground with their legs spread for you?  Or cool redheads who play video games and are lots of fun?"

He looked at me for a heartbeat or two, and I tried to redeem myself with a winning smile and some encouragement.

"Come on, you know you want to say cool chick." I pointed two thumbs to my chest, and reiterated, just in case he was confused, "Cool chick!"

And then he said, (and I cannot do the drawl justice), "It's all the same in the dark."

This is where my husband interrupted my story.


"Hey, how many chances was I gonna get?" I replied.

I looked at Dale and said, dripping with saracsm, "Well, don't you know how to make a girl feel special?"  I switched to disappointment mom-mode.  "Charming, Dale. Really charming."  The song ended, I shook my head and thanked him for the dance.  I guess I didn't want to be his wife after all.
My hubby said, "Wow.  You've got brass balls."  and I gave him a kiss and reminded him "That's why you married me, honey."


  1. Tanya,
    I love this story! And I love the way you told it. And I have always been baffled and put off by "in the dark all cats are grey." Yuck.

  2. Re: cats Right? it's not like we walk around saying "hey, any sausage will do." Boys are so stupid sometimes. ;-)

  3. I was there too, that was such an awesome trip.