A Day with a Tap Legend

The warm relationship between young dancer Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin and his elderly friend and mentor Ernest “Brownie” Brown is at the heart of this touching tale, which is told in an unobtrusive “fly on the wall” style — without interviews. Brown, who worked with “all the big bands” in the 1940s, loved to reminisce about his old “gags” on the stage, and could still work an audience in his 90s.

As portrayed in this day-in-the-life video by the Chicago Tribune, the gentle, caring way McLaughlin helps the old man with his clothes, and steers him as he walks, speaks volumes about their friendship. But Brown’s age hadn’t dampened his spirit for entertaining.

The twosome set off for a performance in a middle school auditorium, where a potentially boring assembly visit by an old guy turns into a delightful experience. Brown is obviously enjoying himself as he cracks jokes and cuts up with the kids, but they save the best for last. As it was done in the old days, Brown and McLaughlin “dance” a coordinated routine — with arms and legs flying — while seated in folding chairs.

Brown died in August 2009 at age 93, a year after he was inducted into the American Tap Dance Foundation’s Tap Dance Hall of Fame.

CHANNEL: Chicago Tribune

Length: 3:38

Video by Tom Van Dyke

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