Humboldt gets ‘TikTok famous’

Senior citizen dancers have gone viral on the popular social media site. They're getting a bit of gentle ribbing from the crowd at Humboldt's H & H Grill, and react with good-hearted humor.

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November 13, 2020 - 3:10 PM

A couple of Humboldt “kids” are going viral.

Sandy Hurst, owner of H & H Grill, and Neil Hartwig are becoming viral sensations on TikTok, amassing more than 100,000 views for their dance videos. 

Make that, “reluctant to dance” videos. 

After all, they’re several decades older than the typical TikTok-er. Hurst is 75; Hartwig, 95.

“It’s just silly and fun,” Hurst said. 

“For the last week around here, no one has been talking about coronavirus or politics. They’re just amazed that this 75-year-old girl can move!”

A video of Hurst has been viewed more than 131,700 times since Oct. 28. In it, she reluctantly dances to the surfer classic “Wipeout.”

The video was filmed by Damaris Kunkler, who started doing TikTok dance challenges with her teenage daughter, Elysia, during lockdown in the early days of the coronavirus. The videos are posted on Kunkler’s TikTok account.

The popular social media app primarily appeals to children and teenagers but is growing in popularity with all ages. 

Most videos are between 3 and 15 seconds, but some can run as long as 60 seconds. Users often perform dance challenges, and some try to recruit others to dance along. 

That’s how Kunkler got Hurst and Hartwig involved. She danced to a song and encouraged them to participate.

“The only reason I did it was because she didn’t know what she was doing,” Hurst said of Kunkler’s dance moves. “So I had to show her how to do it right. I couldn’t let her show me up.”

“You’ve still got it,” Kunkler said. 

“Well, I used to have it.”

THE CHARM of Hurst’s video lies in its hesitancy. As the iconic “Wipeout” laugh and drumbeat begins, Hurst stands next to the grill and shakes her head with an emphatic no. But her legs start to twitch as if of their own volition, and soon she gives in. Just as she steps forward to shimmy to the music, the 15-second video ends.

“We need more!” 

“Awww, get it girl!” 

“Peggy Sue better work it!”

Those are just some of the comments TikTok users have left on the video.

But in Humboldt, Hurst’s family and customers enjoy giving her a hard time about becoming “TikTok Famous.”

She’s always loved to dance. 

“I know all the dances from the 50s and 60s,” she said. 

The Twist. The Jerk. The Swim. The Mashed Potato. 

Sandy HurstRegister file photo

She learned how to do the Twist from Joey Dee & The Starlighters when she was 16. She and some friends attended a dance in Chanute, and she ended up on stage next to Joey Dee as he showed her how to do the “Peppermint Twist.”

The key is to lift your leg high off the ground, knee bent, as you twist, Hurst explained.

She filmed another video with Kunkler, doing the Twist, but it hasn’t received the same level of attention as “Wipeout.” It got about 1,300 views.

Hurst said she still loves to dance but doesn’t do it as often. She’s had a hip replaced. A knee is next. 

The recent bit of TikTok fun has reminded her of when she used to dance with her mother and sister and how Humboldt used to have dances for its teens.

The lightheartedness feels especially good these days.

Sandy recently lost her brother, Rick, from COVID-19, the first person in Allen County to succumb to the coronavirus.

“The last week, we’ve all been laughing over this. Nobody has been crying.”

Neil HartwigPhoto by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

In Hartwig’s video, he taps his fingers along to “Cry to Me” by Solomon Burke. It’s been viewed about 3,000 times.

In the video, he seems to be lecturing Kunkler as she’s seen dancing next to him.

His voice isn’t heard, only the music, but apparently he said: “Eat your breakfast and quit gyrating. You’re gonna get hair in my eggs.”

Eventually, Hartwig smiles and taps his fingers along to the beat. 

Hartwig, too, has a history of dance.

He learned a variety of dances when he was in the U.S. Army. He took dance lessons while in Austin, Texas.

He can waltz and two-step with the best of them. Before the coronavirus pandemic, he was a regular at senior dances.

“He’s a good dancer. Very smooth,” a woman who was enjoying breakfast at H & H last week said. 

The breakfast crowd at H & H likes to razz him about the dance video, but he doesn’t let it bother him.

“You can do just about anything when you get to my age.”

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