The Story of Rowdy Rosie


Before I was Princess Rosebud, I was Rowdy Rosie.

But only for a summer…the summer of 1975.

Yee haw.

Yuppers. Way before there was a Tugboat Man.

Even before the birth of Angel Boy.

Directly after graduation from San Diego State University and before graduate school, I went East.

East to Colorado. Steamboat Springs, to be exact.

I’m not sure I remember anymore what the impetus was that drove us there (literally) —  my boyfriend and I set forth June 1975 for a bit of an adventure.

I had just turned twenty-one a month prior, just had my first cocktail — a banana daiquiri — at a bar on El Cajon Boulevard that no longer exists; The Rathskellar. Anyone remember it?

I told my RN mom we were leaving  the same day we made that spur-of-the-moment decision.

We didn’t have a place to stay, we didn’t know anyone, but that’s the essence of an adventure, right?

Steamboat Springs wasn’t at all commercialized at that point. Things were just beginning to heat up. It was already known for its Champagne Snow, but the condos were just starting to be built and it retained a dusty western cowboy and horses feeling.

The first thing I did when we arrived was to dress like the natives; Frye cowboy boots, cowgirl hat, and a jean jacket. When in Rome, right? The jean jacket pictured is the lone  survivor of that steamy Steamboat summer.

There was a SS Urban Myth: It was called the Steamboat Bug. If you arrived as a couple, you’d be broken up almost immediately. THIS WAS PAR-TAY CIT-AY. Wild and raucous parties abounded seven days a week. There were so many guys. SO MANY GUYS. Once again, SO. MANY. GUYS.  Ahem. Good times. I mean, GOOOOD Times. Sigh.

True to the urban myth, my guy and I broke up. I think he went back to San Diego, not sure, ‘cos the car we came in was mine. Ooopsie. My bad. Sorry…

I found a house to share with a couple of other wandering dog owning vegetarians and got a part-time job at a liquor store on the outskirts of town. I don’t believe I worked there for more than a week or so; I was missing out on too much fun, so I quit.

I’m not a very WILD girl; mostly I’m a clean-a-holic and kinda quiet, read a lot of books, ballet dancer, always exercising and playing with my dogs; I shouldn’t fail to mention my dogs (Sabrina and Beowulf) were my traveling companions along with the forgotten about bf.

For that one summer my inner Taylor Swift emerged. No drugs, just a lot of dating – yeah, we’ll call it dating. Blush…

My wild is pretty tame compared to most; but it was a let-your-hair-down freedom for me.

This is where I smoked my first and last cigarette. Simply to try and look cool, I lit up a Virginia Slims (with the pretty flowers on the filter, remember?) It was totally gross, and I figured out that’s just not for me, plus I didn’t like the waste of money.  Not my vice.

I made a name for myself that summer: Rowdy Rosie.

Not because of any kind of promiscuity, but for one reason: I loved to go out and dance. The disco dance rage at that time was “The Bump“. Have you heard of that or am I too old? (Don’t answer that.) The Bump was pretty suggestive and kinda dirty.

The Bump

The bump was a primarily 1970s fad dance wherein the main move of the dance is to lightly “bump” hips on every other main beat of the music. As the dance (and the evening) progressed, the bumping could become more intimate, bumping hip to backside, low bending, etc. There were several songs that were inspired by the bump one of which was called “The Bump” by Kenny but the song that is most remembered[who?] is “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” by George Clinton and Parliament, which was released in 1976. The lyric in the song is “we want the funk”, but has been mistaken for “we want the bump”. In the UK, possibly the most popular and evocative song[dubious – discuss] used for this dance was “Nutbush City Limits” by “Ike & Tina Turner“.


One night at a bar with sawdust on the floors and cowboy hats everywhere you looked, there was a Bump Contest. For the first time ever, my years and years of ballet served me well: I’m VERY flexible.

I won the contest!

I can’t remember what the prize was, but that’s the first time I was referred to as Rowdy Rosie —  and it stuck. I was the most popular dance partner ever. Tales of that night were the talk of the town. I was famous — or infamous. Rowdy Rosie OWNED it.

What’s super weird about that summer is that one of my bestest friends with whom I danced at Madame Kaliskis’ Ballet Studio in North Park – found her way to Steamboat, too. For some reason, she was living in a tree, but I can’t remember why.

Eventually, she came back to San Diego and we’ve sorta stayed in touch ever since.

Here’s a bump dance vid, check out the shiny polyester shirts; yup, I had a few, I confess.

It was long ago and lots I don’t remember but one of the highlights was going to Strawberry Park Hot Springs, located about seven miles north of SS.

It was SOOO much fun.

I couldn’t find any old photos and the ones on the internet only show it all built up, and that’s not the way it was when I was there, so no pics.

Originally discovered by the Ute Indians, they believed that the steam rising from the Strawberry Park Hot Springs contained their creator’s essence, and soaked to rejuvenate their soul.

In the 1970s, neighbors continuously complained about the crazy wild parties (oh yeah!) at Strawberry Park Hot Springs and it was eventually sold to a private owner who made it into a beautiful, peaceful natural setting.

Eventually, I came back to start grad school so I could get a teaching credential.

The seventies gave way to the eighties, Rowdy Rosie retired on her laurels, Angel Boy was born, and then I met my tugboat man and became Princess Rosebud.

But I can still dance the Bump like a pro — oh yes, I can, and especially when I wear that vintage jean jacket. Yee haw!

Being a mom is forever

The horrific tragedy in Colorado got me thinking about being a mother.

Before I even had my son, which was more than thirty years ago, a friend told me that after having children, “your life is not your own”. Ever again. And that is so true.

You are forever changed. Your job isn’t completed at the arbitrary age of eighteen or twenty-one, or even thirty-one.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my baby boy, what he’s doing at that exact moment, if he’s OK, and I wonder if there’s anything I should be worrying about.

Right now he’s in Berlin, teaching a summer immersion course in German. (Have I mentioned that he has a Ph.D. from Yale? Yeah, I’m an obnoxiously proud mom.)

I wonder about the young man’s mother, did they think that as long as he was in a Ph.D. program that they could now be finished with parental duties, breathe a sigh of relief, feel their work was done?

Having a child is a never-ending process.

Maybe this is a call to action for more attachment parenting, more involvement–not less. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I was probably a helicopter mom, probably still am, and now I feel even more certain about the rightness of my own parenting theories. Validated. My reward is hoping that if my son ever did have a psychotic break like this poor boy so obviously is suffering from, that I would have been aware of it, I would have felt it—somehow.

That’s not too far off.

I remember a few years ago I awoke from a bad dream where my son had broken his glasses and was wandering around, scared because he couldn’t see where he was. (He’s got pretty bad vision, thanks to me as it’s a cross-genetic recessive gene). He was on vacation in the UK at the time, and I emailed him as soon as I woke up, “…are you OK, had a bad dream, etc.”

When he called, he told me that same day he had fallen and broken his glasses and they were taped up, and he wished he had listened to me and brought an extra pair of glasses in case something like this happened.

The rest of the scenario is that his girlfriend’s (now wife’s) sister had taken him pub crawling and he was not a very experienced drinker and had more than he should have (I’m still upset about that!!)

Regardless, I knew he was in trouble and if I had not spoken with him, I would not have let it go, I would have made calls, not given up, and there is a real possibility that I would have even gotten on a plane.

I’m not kidding. I think my motto as a mom is to be “ever vigilant”.

This was not a one–time telepathic experience. I have these “feelings” every so often, and I’ve learned to not ignore them.

I don’t think I’m all that special, I think I just pay attention to things that a lot of people dismiss.

Anyway, I’m not diminishing the ghastly violent crime and the pain he caused so many families, not to mention the whole gun ownership debate, but I think there is a very sad explanation, and the young man who did it needs help.

He was once his mommy’s little boy and something went horribly, terribly wrong.