Bob Driver sig (new)

Of the many mistakes a columnist can make, one of the stupidest is to choose the wrong topic, chase it for six or eight paragraphs, and then realize he/she wishes he had a job cleaning dead leaves out of rooftop gutters.

I made that mistake this week. Stick with me and I’ll try to do damage control.

A few days ago I ran across a booklet that lists phrases that can be used by a boss doing a performance appraisal with an employee. This made me think, “Does anyone in today’s world actually do such appraisals?” Years ago we underwent them, but as I remember them they were usually a pain where you couldn’t put a plaster. Not just for the employee, but for the supervisor as well.

That was Question No. 1 for me to chase. The second regrettable question was “How do you evaluate a pole dancer?” I’m not sure why I chose that occupation to explore. I’ve never even seen a pole dancer in the flesh. I’ve only seen movies in which leering men suck up Jack Daniels while watching an under-dressed woman spin around a steel pole in a smoky night club.

Having entrapped myself in that area of journalistic research, I again asked myself: “What criteria would the nightclub’s owner use to measure a pole dancer’s performance?” Possibilities: how many spins per minute, or per song? Clockwise? Counterclockwise? How long does her torso remain parallel to the dance floor, or does she go upside-down by wrapping her ankles around the top of the pole? Does she smile while performing? Sing? Tell jokes?

It took me a couple of computer hours and 20 phone calls to realize that no rational columnist should ever try to write about two such disparate topics — performance appraisals and pole dancing — in the same allotted space. So I quit trying.

But by then I had learned a few things about both my topics.

PERFORMANCE APPRAISALS. This ancient practice seems to be well, healthy and still used by enough companies, employers, night club owners and other movers and shakers to warrant several listings on the Web.

Of course, computing and other advances have brought new ways to do personnel appraisals. No longer are bosses and underlings required to sit face to face and exchange grillings and hopeful responses about workplace issues. Now, I presume, such joyful exchanges can also be swapped via e-mail, Skype, Facebook and Twitter.

POLE DANCING. Its origins lie in the dim regions of history, where an upright pole possessed a phallic symbolism that we won’t discuss here. Maypole dancing in the Middle Ages consisted of maidens attached to ribbons that were attached to a pole. Some African tribes had rituals centered on a pole. As far back as 1000 B.C., Chinese males displayed their athleticism with the help of a pole.

Fast forward to the 1930s economic depression, during which traveling circuses sprang up, many of them featuring a pole surrounded by girls doing the Hootchie Kootchie and other dance forms. By the 1950s cabarets and burlesque houses were scattered throughout America. Strip teases and sexy dancing foreshadowed the later arrival of lap — and pole — dancing.

Since 1990 or thereabouts pole dancing has mushroomed into an athletic art form pursued by thousands of (mostly) women intent on attaining fitness, better health, friendships and fun. An estimated dozen or more pole dancing centers exist here in the Tampa Bay area.

Pole dancing has gone worldwide. The International Pole Sports Federation stages yearly competitions attended by upwards of 30 nations. Vertical Dance and Lab Fitness, another group, is working toward the addition of pole sports to the quadrennial Olympic Games.

In closing, I regret to say that — in all my digging — I did not learn if, or whether, most pole dancers use old-fashioned performance appraisal techniques to polish their acts. Sorry about that.

Bob Driver’s email address is