The Dancing Lady of San Fernando Valley
San Fernando Valley's local legend "Dancing Mary" Brewer is an inspiration to many
Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
Like a warm breeze and a soft song, she blows softly across our vision and our souls, stirring our wonderment and interest...smiling...twirling...graceful...elegantly dressed...impeccably made up...tastefully sensual...
Published on LatinoLA: October 12, 2014
"Dancing Mary" Brewer has become a local legend and inspiration to many in the San Fernando Valley and beyond over the past 10 years, and rightfully so.
Born Mary Mu??oz to humble beginnings in San Antonio, Texas, Mary recounts ,"We were poor. I lived in a house with no running water or toilets, and I worked in the fields picking cotton when I was young to help my family. Life started out pretty tough."
The family moved to Watts, California in 1963, where Mary became an avid student and dancer.
"I started dancing in elementary school. I grew up watching American Bandstand on black & white TV on Saturday mornings. My brother & I used to practice all the latest dances. We entered a dance contest and won, and I've been in love with music & dancing ever since".
Not one to have ever taken professional dance lessons, Mary laughed when I asked her that question. "The closest I ever came to that was in 1969. I went to a show at the Hollywood Paladium and was invited to dance a Tango with a man who turned out to be a dance instructor for the renowned Arthur Murray dance school...That was so much fun, and I didn't have any problem keeping up, so it just reinforced my love for dancing & music."
Like many people of her generation, Mary fell in love early, married and had children. She began a career working at Bank of America, where she's been for over 32 years.
Just when life seemed to be going the way she wanted it, tragedy struck. Her husband died.
Then in 1989, Mary was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Her speech and walking abilities were impaired and Mary began to panic. Her ability to work & provide for her children was threatened.
"I was devastated. I feared for my children since they were still young. Who was going to support them now that their father had died and I couldn't work?"
Mary says her determination and faith in God pulled her through. "I made it up in my mind that I was not going to give up. My kids were not gonna go hungry or do without, and I was gonna beat this thing and keep on living. I followed all my Doctor's instructions,rehabilitated myself to where my talking & walking abilities came back, watched my diet and took on a healthy lifestyle, deciding to be involved in some kind of meaningful activity besides work,therapy, and medication that was going to keep me going...so once again, dancing & music became part of my life again."
Mary met and married her second husband Joe in 2002. The initial attraction was that she was a widow, and he a widower...the second was that he also loved to dance! They were inseparable, going to all the local clubs and dance halls every weekend , and becoming well known as a dancing couple with flair.
"He used to wear colored ties that matched my dress," Mary says nostalgically, "We had a ball!"
Just when things were again settling into a comfortable mode and Mary had convinced so many that dancing was great therapy for muscular dystrophy...tragedy struck again.
Her husband Joe died in 2004.
"I was devastated again!" Mary says. "How much more could I take before it became too much, I thought".
During her time dancing with her husband, she had met and made friends with one of the most popular and successful San Fernando Valley club/dance band at the time, THE COMPANY BAND. She and her husband became faithful followers...and the band returned the respect during Mary's time of crisis.
"Eddie Garcia, Ray & Becky Cordova, Issac Avila, and all the band member were so supportive at one of the worst times of my life. I'll never forget that. They helped me get through a tough time in life...and I have kept dancing to their music, as well as the many other wonderful music artists I have met in L.A."
That's where I first encountered Mary...the "Dancing Lady of San Fernando."
I began promoting & hosting shows in the San Fernando Valley around that time, some that included the Company Band. During most of the shows I would notice this elegant woman in a dress and high heels, dancing by herself as if on a mission. Many people that knew her would just stop and stare in amazement and admiration that she could out dance and out last people younger than her.
She became a fixture at most dance venues where a slightly older crowd would congregate, and she was always a welcome site for the performing bands because she would usually get the party and dancing started. She always had a smile on her face, and would encourage people to get up and dance.
I wrote a story about a certain gig we did about 8 years ago, where I mentioned the "Dancing Lady of San Fernando" that got a lot of attention.
Shortly afterwards, the Company Band's lead singer Becky Cordova tells me "Nice story on Mary...did you know she has muscular dystrophy?"
I was flabbergasted! As a nurse for many years, I had envisioned most muscular dystrophy patients over 40 to be using a walker or wheelchair, and be heavily medicated to treat the pain while having somebody close by in case they fall, and moving towards a slower gear in life....pobrecitos y pobrecitas I USED TO THINK!
And then along comes Mary Brewer, in 6-inch high heels, struttin' into the party all alone, dressed to impress, makeup, hair, earrings y todo!...lookin' fine, turnin' heads, and man, could this babe boogaloo!
My Lady & I get introduced to her, and we were immediately struck by her warmth & friendliness, her sense of humor, and her positive take on life.
(Of course she took me out on the dance floor and almost wore me out!)
We've been friends ever since. At one of my gigs about 7 years ago, a couple of guys approached me and asked "Is that that dancing lady you wrote about?" as they watched her in amazement spin & throw out some fancy footwork.
"Yea", I said " That's Dancing Mary"...and the name stuck.
Fast forward to September 2014. We're at a gig in Montebello where L.A.'s top gun, Ray Carrion and his L.A. Latin Legends are performing to another packed house, and everybody's dancing. Floating in and out like a pretty puff of smoke is Dancing Mary, drawing looks of respect and admiration from everybody on the dance floor.
"Doesn't she look so elegant? Like she should be in some ballroom in Brentwood or Beverly Hills or in a movie or something?" asks Ray Carrion's gorgeous wife Maria Luna, herself an accomplished professional dancer and choreographer in Los Angeles.
Wow! A bigger compliment you couldn't buy!
"Life's too short to sit around feeling sorry for yourself. I haven't given up on life, because I can't give up. I refuse to. Whenever I see young ladies sitting around at a gig when the music's playing, I feel like that's just a waste of makeup. C'mon! Even though I'm in pain, I keep on dancing," Mary says enthusiastically.
"No matter what the situation or condition, don't ever give up on life! Enjoy lt! There's always gonna be music & dancing...and as long as I'm alive, there's always gonna be a Dancing Mary!"
We at LatinoLA enthusiastically tell Dancing Mary: "Git on witcho bad self, Sista!" ...as we try to keep up !
Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the "Al Capone of the microphone and the Hitman of west coast Chicano Soul" heard daily on Internet Radio Station EastLARevue.com
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