Granny Go-Go Danced Through Life

TACOMA - Sylvia Eads - better known as Granny Go-Go when she danced at Bob's Java Jive and toured with the Tacoma band Girl Trouble - has died.

But at 86, she remained young at heart, even as her body gave out.

When she left her little house for nursing-home care around Thanksgiving, shortly before she learned she was dying of lung cancer, friends made her a tape-recording of her rock 'n' roll favorites.

In the days before her death Sunday, puzzled nursing-home staff asked friends about her odd movements - even while unconscious - while the tape was playing. She would move her arms and legs, and twist from side to side.

"I said, `Ohhh Sylvia. I know what you're doing. You're dancing.' She had said `I'll dance until I die.' And she did," said Beth Frick, program director of senior outreach services for the Metropolitan Development Council.

"She was a great old lady, I loved her," said Bob Radonich, owner of Bob's Java Jive, where she had worked since 1967. "She lied to me. She told me she was going to live to be over 100."

Born on Halloween of 1910 in Chehalis, Mrs. Eads was orphaned at 8 and sent to an aunt in Toronto, who put her in foster care. As soon as she could, she moved to Centralia.

Married twice, she lost her only son in a 1962 single-car accident. He was 26. "I just couldn't take it," she said in a 1991 interview with The News Tribune of Tacoma. "Two days after the funeral I had a stroke. My left side was paralyzed. the doctor said `Move it. Move it, or you'll never move it again.' "

So Mrs. Eads began to dance - first to shake the pain away, and eventually to earn her living.

Bon Henderson of the Tacoma band Girl Trouble spotted her at the Java Jive one night and remembered seeing her dance on a late-night talent show on Tacoma television.

"I told the rest of them about her, how she danced on TV," Henderson said. "They were amazed. We got this idea. If she could dance at one of our shows, those kids would be nuts."

So for five years, she danced with the band.

"This last April was the last time she danced with us. . . . We played for four hours and she danced the whole time. It was a good one to go out on," Henderson said.

The band made a record that featured her talking about her dancing. They called it "Work That Crowd!" and paid her "royalties" the record never earned.

Granny Go-Go danced last at the Java Jive on her birthday.

"One of the nurses told me they were talking about dying, and she said, `Well, I don't know where I'm going, but it doesn't make any difference, because I've got friends in both places,' " Frick said.