When Jesika Von Rabbit takes the stage these days, she’s often accompanied by a 70-year-old man who’s dancing his tail off.
Meet the life of the party, Larry Van Horn, aka OO Soul.
Van Horn grew up in Atherton, Calif., in what he described as a wealthy family. He eventually attended the University of Southern California.
“USC … is what they call a closed campus,” Van Horn said during a recent interview. “Back in the ’60s, even though they had Fraternity Row—which is a few blocks away from the main campus—you could not visibly have alcohol at a fraternity party. When the fraternities would organize their parties, they would organize them off-campus. That created a very unique campus atmosphere as far as weekend activities go, in and around USC.”
Van Horn lived in an apartment building off-campus.
“I wanted to have a social life,” Van Horn said. “I had enough money to be able to do my own thing and could get my own apartment, which provided me with a recreation room, in which I could throw parties. I also had a car and enough disposable income to where I could put together the rudimentary equipment you’d need for a party.”
Van Horn, a fan of Motown music, was able to organize some memorable parties.
“Because I had the money, I procured the music, and I also DJ’d the music. That’s how the whole Motown thing came into play,” he said. “I was intrigued with the music, and I was intrigued with the dancing. A lot of the moves you see me do onstage now were inspired by Motown and my days at USC. My nickname, OO Soul—that was inspired by a song done by Edwin Starr called ‘Agent Double-O Soul.’”
The parties reportedly became legendary.
“I had an old record player, and we’d play ’45s. We’d put a stack of records on and just let them go, one after another, and we’d be dancing to them all night. We were doing line-dancing before Soul Train, which didn’t come out until 10 years later.”
Following his graduation from USC, he found himself self-employed and living in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. Larry, being Larry, soon found himself involved with a local disco.
“The discotheques needed equipment that was produced in the states—turntables, record needles, strobe lights and all kinds of different supplies you needed to maintain the atmosphere of the discotheque, including the music, which was all disco music,” Van Horn said. “I subscribed to Billboard and was constantly keeping up with the music. The owners would give me money when I would leave Mexico, and they’d say, ‘Bring us back $200 or $300 worth of albums.’ They were looking for someone who had expertise and knowledge of this music—and that was me.”
He was in a relationship with a woman he planned to marry. However, his mother was stricken by Parkinson’s disease, and he decided to return to the United States to take care of her.
“I didn’t realize at the time when I committed to take care of her that she would live as long as she did. I started taking care of my mother in 1988, and the commitment in doing so completely changed my life,” Van Horn said. “I didn’t have the freedom to go down to Los Mochis as much as I liked; I didn’t have the opportunity or circumstances where I could leave her for long periods of time. It became a choice: Care for her, and abandon my dreams of Mexico; or abandon her, and go to Mexico. I chose my mother.
“I was involved in caring for her from 1988 until she died in 2001.”
While he took care of his mother, he found comfort in food.
“I put a lot of weight on, because I didn’t know how to cook until I started taking care of my mother,” Van Horn said. “I got extremely obese, which made it a lot easier not to be concerned about traveling anywhere, because I got so obese I couldn’t even travel. Just driving 30 minutes in my car was a real challenge. My back couldn’t support the weight that I had, and it was a disaster. When I started taking care of my mother, I was about 225 pounds, and I went from that to almost 500 pounds. I don’t know (the weight) exactly, because I didn’t have a scale that could weigh me—and I didn’t really want to know.”
He eventually started to lose weight in 2007, simply by watching the amount of calories he consumed. After he moved to the Yucca Valley area in 2010, he began Zumba-dancing at his gym. He beat colon cancer last year, he said, and has been working to lose more weight.
Not too long ago, a chance encounter at the gym led to the return of Larry Van Horn, Life of the Party.
“I met Jesika (von Rabbit) in the gym,” Van Horn said. “She came into the room where we had been doing Zumba, and I was dancing freestyle to a song, and Jesika saw me. I didn’t realize she was watching me. Twenty minutes later, she came up to me in another area of the gym and asked me if I had ever danced publicly. I told her, ‘No. You sure you got the right guy?’ She was producing a music video and wanted to know if I would perform in the music video.”
Van Horn went on to become part of Jesika Von Rabbit’s live show—instantly charming her fans. Other musicians soon began taking notice, too; Brandon Henderson of The Pedestrians demanded that Van Horn come to a recent show at The Hood in Palm Desert, for example. Van Horn has quickly become the talk of the music scenes in the low and high desert.
Did Van Horn ever imagine anything like this would happen to him this late in his life?
“Hell no!” Van Horn said. “I’m in a twilight zone! I have you youngsters telling me, ‘You’re such an inspiration. I hope I get to be you when I’m 70 years old.’ I have people telling me that all over the place.”
Below: In 2006, Larry Van Horn weighed about 500 pounds. To lose weight, he took up Zumba-dancing—and was “discovered” by Jesika von Rabbit. Today, the dancing 70-year-old is the talk of the local music scene.