Other than what I'm working with right now, I know next to nothing about Doug Crutchfield. Until last year, I'd never even heard of him. But it's not like I didn't put forth at least a cursory effort to find out more. It all happened when I was paging through a vintage copy of Ebony magazine (April, 1970) when I was surprised to read about a Cincinnati native who defied custom (and his father) to find fame in Europe as a dancer. The article, with the exhaustive title, Thanks to Doug Crutchfield: Fru Nilson Can Dance (Cincinnati jazz dancer helps Denmark's aged and infirm find new joy in living) is an inspirational profile of a modern day expartriate who followed his dreams and lived his truth. While I don't know much about Crutchfield, I think it can easily be surmised that the man must have been quite fabulous. I mean, doesn't this photo say all that needs to be said on that? Then too, anyone would have to leave Cincinnati in order to find fame and fabulosity. Consider Randy Crawford, The Isley Brothers, Bootsy Collins, and even Penny Ford & Alton Fitzgerald White. But what ever became of Doug Crutchfield?
I asked around and nobody seemed to know, and those who insinuated otherwise refused to talk to me. All the indicators suggest that Crutchfield left Cincinnati sometime in the early 1960's as a teenager or young adult after a dispute with his father, a local minister. It seems he arrived in Copenhagen via New York City, at the age of 22 in 1963. One man that I asked told me that he knew Crutchfield and that he died about 15 years ago. He ignored my requests for the details of his death but said that he was still in communication with surviving family members. All attempts to contact them yielded not one reply. Another man went so far as to suggest that I was just trying to "exploit" Mr. Crutchfield on my "gossipy blog." I've known both of these much older men since I was a teenager and now they want to act brand new about exploitation and gossip? This blog is not about that but I wish I could say the same for them! What I do understand is that Doug Crutchfield was of a generation that didn't always speak openly of certain proclivities - especially as the son of a prominent minister.
According to Ebony, young Crutchfield was expected to follow in his father's footsteps as a Baptist preacher. It wasn't his calling! He refused to conform and his resistance didn't go over well with the elder Crutchfield. Doug left for New York and eventually made his way to Denmark where he kept a small apartment but lived very big and brilliant in spirit and in his truth. He was known locally as a very distinct dresser who designed and made a lot of his own clothes. In the town of De Galmes, Crutchfield opened a dance school that by 1970, had almost 500 students. All the while, his career was still in full swing as he commuted from Denmark to Sweden where he performed onstage and in a local ballet company. He also taught jazz dance and ballet at the Ballet Academy at Lund University.
Fabulosity is not an affectation. It is a sense of being and Crutchfield may have found his true center when he took on the additional task of teaching Modern Dance to senior citizens at a local center called the Old People's Town. Through the expression of movement, Crutchfield helped elderly members find rejuvenation, and new strength of character and attitude through dance. They "used to cower in corners waiting for death" but now they had their groove back. There, Crutchfield also found time to devote to the local handicapped youth. Noting how many of the children found healing and freedom through dance, Crutchfield quipped "once you get the children away from the parents, who are often the cause of their shyness, you find the child is hungry for new contacts. Their shyness disappears and they are willing to work hard to diminish their handicaps."
Did he know of which he spoke? Certainly! Was he a saviour? The local townspeople seemed to think so. "When I stubbornly refused to go into the ministry I thought I had left religion. But in a way I guess you can say I am a priest" Crutchfield observed.
From the little that I've been told, he was certainly looked up to not only abroad but here locally as an elder statesman in the community. So what's the big hush? I only wanted to give credit where credit it is due. And in this blog post, I think I've done just that!