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Dance Hall : Volleyball Referee Shimmies Into Spotlight With His Antics

August 11, 1995|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TARZANA — Marvin Hall isn't your typical volleyball referee. He likes to get down and boogie between changeovers and his dancing ref routine has earned him national notoriety.

And why not? At 5 feet 10, 265 pounds, it's quite a sight when Hall jiggles to his favorite tunes. He has been performing for national television cameras and rowdy pro beach volleyball crowds for more than five years.

"He's very popular on the tour," said Matt Gage, Assn. of Volleyball Professionals tour director, who is in charge of assigning officials. "People inevitably start chanting, 'Marvin! Marvin!' during a match."

The routine: While players towel off and drink water under umbrellas, Hall, a graduate of Cleveland High and former Pierce College volleyball player, gets down at midcourt.

Sometimes he comes out slowly, with a few hip jerks, then works his way into a quicker wiggle. Other times he starts off full blast, shaking his rotund physique with great intensity.

"It's unique when here comes the ref and he starts shaking his 260-plus-pound booty, so look out," said Chris Marlowe, a former beach volleyball player who does television commentary for the sport. "He really has pizazz. Everybody likes him. The crowds go nuts over him."

So do the public-relations folks at the AVP. When a final is broadcast live on network television, Hall is sure to be at center court. Beginning today through Sunday, Hall will work at the $100,000 Miller Lite Manhattan Beach Open in Manhattan Beach.

The final will be televised live on NBC on Sunday and Hall, 39, will be part of the show. He always is. That's why fans across the country recognize him and often stop to ask for an autograph.

Hall, who has been featured on MTV and television shows "Bay Watch" and "Xtra," also receives lots of fan mail at the AVP office in Sherman Oaks.

"People will come up to me at events and ask, 'Is Karch Kiraly here, is Mike Dodd here, is Marvin here?' He's as famous as the top players," said Steve Vanderpool, who handles media relations for the AVP tour.

Hall is best known among fans for dancing, but he is also a highly regarded official who is serious about his job. He's a no-nonsense referee who is not intimidated by the aggressive and often whiny athletes he regularly encounters.

"He may appear to be more of an entertainer than a referee, but he has developed into a great ref," said Marlowe, an Olympic gold medalist in indoor volleyball. "He's probably among the top three refs on the tour."

Most players agree that Hall is a good official and that his dance routine doesn't take away from that. Robert Chavez, a veteran on the AVP tour, says Hall is popular among players because he is fair and really knows the game.

"I know if I'm having a bad match and I'm upset, it makes me laugh to see this big guy dancing," said Chavez, one of the more dynamic players on the tour. "This whole game is entertainment, so let him entertain."

Hall refers to himself as a ham who feels best in the spotlight. He never imagined, however, his routine would become so popular.

It all began at a 1989 tournament in Milwaukee. It was July, but the weather felt more like December.

"It was freezing and during a changeover they played a James Brown song and I started dancing along to keep warm," Hall said. "The next side change the crowd was cheering me on to dance again, so I did. That night I was on TV and the next morning I was in the paper."

Now when the AVP tour stops in Milwaukee many fans wear T-shirts that read: "We came to see Marvin dance." Hall says it is exhilarating when thousands of fans chant his name and yell for more of his dance routine.

"I just imagine that I'm dancing with 10,000 of my best friends," Hall said. "It's such a rush, I just let my inhibitions go and I go for it."

Recently the routines have been more planned than in the beginning, when they were strictly spontaneous. Hall used to move to whatever tune happened to be playing.

Now he sees to it that his favorite songs--among them Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" and Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back"--are played and often he schedules a bikini-clad female fan to join him.

"What can I say, life has been very good," Hall said. "It's all so much fun, you can't imagine."

Hall, who lives in Tarzana and has three children ages 21, 11 and 8, didn't begin playing volleyball until he got to Pierce. At Cleveland High he played football, basketball and baseball.

He took a volleyball class at Pierce and earned a place on the team the following semester. Hall started off as a middle blocker his freshman year and as a sophomore in 1979 was a second-team All-Metro Conference setter.

Hall played casually in men's leagues after junior college but he took up coaching seriously. For more than 10 years he coached at the club and high school levels. He was the boys' coach at Granada Hills High for three years then started a United States Volleyball Assn. boys' club team in the Valley.

He got into officiating while competing in men's leagues because players had to referee when they weren't competing. Now he spends summers traveling around the country working at most of the AVP's 24 tournaments, making anywhere from $400 to $900 a weekend with expenses paid.

In the fall, Hall officiates about 22 NCAA women's matches and in the spring 25-30 NCAA men's matches. He also works an average of 25 high school matches a year. He never dances indoors, however.

In his spare time Hall is a disc jockey at various night clubs and he sells cellular phones.

His favorite job, though, is the one where he gets to bounce and sway on the sand.

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