Remembering the Frontier City Rhythm Pit
8:27 AM EDT on August 3, 2016
The 90's were a weird time to be a teenager. The internet was a new thing, but it was slow and sucky and mostly useless. Technology was evolving faster than culture could keep up with. Hollywood was churning out sequels and remakes every summer, and all the comic book movies were awful. Alright, so maybe some things haven't changed, but at least the Flaming Lips were still making great records, and Frontier City was still cool.
If you had never been to Six Flags, the rides at Frontier City seemed pretty alright. But most importantly, it was a place you could get dropped off by your parents and spend the whole afternoon without adult supervision. I have no idea if teenagers still like to go there, but I would assume they think it's pretty lame. It was a magic time when the park was being maintained well enough, and there was nothing else to do in Oklahoma City but ride the Diamondback a dozen times in a row.
Aside from rides that were a small step above Bell's in Tulsa and all the goofy cowboy shootout shows, the park hosted several events, some that still continue today, like Fright Fest every October. Others have fallen away and been forgotten about, such as the Rhythm Pit.
The Rhythm Pit was a weekly teenage dance party that the theme park hosted. Every Friday night, a hunk of asphalt emblazoned with a giant Pepsi logo was taken over by DJ's, lighting rigs, and horny youth. It was like a glorified high school dance, only without the boner-killing chaperones around to break up all the heavy grindage.
For a while, the Pit seemed like a big deal. KJ103 sponsored the event and would broadcast live from Frontier City, playing the DJ mix on-air. KOCO would tape the party and show it after the local news on Friday nights, like some low-rent version of MTV's 'The Grind,' but in a trashier setting and with far less attractive people. (Sidenote: if anyone has VHS copies of those TV broadcasts, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE upload them to YouTube!)
I'm not sure if there were people who exclusively went to Frontier City just for the Rhythm Pit or not. It cost $20 to get in back then, which was a lot of money for kids without jobs. Any adult who could afford that would have been better off going to a bar or a rave at the National Guard Armory. Granted, there weren't many all-ages clubs back then (Star 7, The Wreck Room, and Area 54), so there wasn't too many places to go flirt with people that didn't go to your school. But to get your full allowances worth, you needed to go early and cram in as much theme park as possible.
I only ever went to Frontier City while the Rhythm Pit was happening once, and it was an endurance fest. I'd often seen it on TV, because I was a loser and watching local television on Friday nights. All those teens learning how to do the Macarena and bumping and grinding to Ginuwine looked so cool, but could that life be for me?
For the most part, it was a typical junior high Frontier City trip. One of my friends talked their parents into dropping us off on a Friday morning. The park wouldn't open for another hour, but we didn't mind because we were 14 and had absolutely nothing else better to do than smoke Marlboro Reds and sit outside the gate.
The morning started off cool and dewy, if a bit humid, but by mid-afternoon it was a blazing Oklahoma summer day. For some reason we were all basically wearing Jnco's that consisted of 30 lbs of heavy denim, and extra-large Marilyn Manson black t-shirts. We hit all the rides, saving the Log Flume or the Renegade Rapids until the peak of the heat. It was briefly refreshing to be doused in stagnant sewage water, but then the next few hours would be spent in soggy discomfort, with wet undergarments and water-spotted eyeglasses lenses. I wanted to buy a $4 Josta from the vending machine, but all my dollar bills were too soggy to feed into it.
After spending all day standing on the blistering pavement, waiting in line for rides like The Wildcat that did little more than provide severe lumbar discomfort, it was time for the Rhythm Pit. Early dusk had arrived, cooling things down. Suburban teens began to conglomerate around the dance floor. Quad City DJ's or something similar was pulsing from the giant JBL speakers. The dudes had Caesar cuts or frosted tips, and Lucky Jeans tapered into their Doc Martens. The girls were covered in body glitter, perhaps wearing a bandanna as a shirt and denim skirts. A distinct fog of CK One and brick weed hung in the humid air. Neon green and pink glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets swayed tracers through the darkening night as the dancers heated up.
Not only had severe fatigue and heat exhaustion set in, but we also realized this was not our scene. We were all dirty little skater-trash poseurs. None of us had ever danced with a girl before, and this was not the right atmosphere to sway us into such awkward vulnerability. They weren't playing any music with guitars, and the only moves we knew were bedroom moshing.
After sitting on the perimeter, watching everyone else having fun and dry-humping to Boyz II Men, one of my friends eventually called their mom to pick us up so we could go home and smoke weed or huff gas or whatever irresponsible shit we were getting into in those days.
For as much as I remember about The Rhythm Pit, my experiences were obviously limited. Did you ever go? What kind of scandalous/embarrassing/goofy fun do you remember? Leave your stories in the comments.
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