Rick's Gabfest with Gertrude
Written by Rick Archer, March 2006
Chapter Three: THE EIGHTIES, PART
Saturday Night Fever Disco Era
1980 - 1984
Urban Cowboy Western Era,
1985 - 1987
201 Nights of Dancing, Tom
1988 - 1997
Studebaker Group, Sharon
Crawford, SSQQ Staff
1998 - 2000
Millennium - The Daryl Armstrong Experience,
Heartbeat, Swing Kids!
your 1986 divorce from Pat, how did you handle your
"I turned to dancing as my salvation. This led
to one of the most unusual sagas of my life, a story
known as The Streak. Oddly enough, this
curious tale is also very important to the history of the
studio. It is closely related to my tale of
the Third Generation and to the origins of my
studio's reputation as a marriage factory.
Slap fight, for the next several months I
played the part of the wounded bear. Other
than teaching my dance classes, I kept
completely to myself. I would leave dance class immediately and come home
to my empty house.
Not only was I angry that the truth behind the
beating episode had been flipped, I was angry at a
lot of my friends for siding with Pat. No one had come
to my defense with the details of what really
happened. I was really bitter. Sometimes I'd cry, sometimes I would stare
at the TV, sometimes I would just sit there in the
dark and brood. I was in the grips of a powerful
depression. Divorce has a way of doing that to you. Those were the dark nights of my soul.
One Saturday night in June I thought I was coming
pretty close to losing it. It had been two
months since the fight, but I was still consumed
with depression. I had been doing private
dance lessons all day and had come home to get a
bite to eat.
As evening turned into night, I continued to
sit at my dinner table. I was too paralyzed to even
get up and turn on a light. The summer twilight kept
the place barely lit. As the shadows loomed around me,
I felt very shaky in my solitude.
kept staring at the four walls of my Haunted House.
Inside my brain, it was a dark and stormy night. Thoughts of shame,
bitterness and regret crept to the edge of my brain
like a pack of wolves slowly surrounding their prey
before the attack.
I wasn't in the mood to fight
these demons tonight, but the demons were in no mood
to leave me alone either. I knew I was in danger.
Sooner or later, those
dark thoughts would come calling. I decided I
had to escape my demons and loneliness.
I figured I had 3 choices
- Drugs, alcohol, or
The dancing seemed
like the best alternative even though it meant facing some
of the people who had sided with Pat. I didn't relish
facing more humiliation, but I didn't have much
I had to get out of this place or risk going mad.
So I got in the car and went to a club called Twiggs
to dance the Whip. Sure enough,
some of Pat's friends were there. But after one look at the
expression on my face, they glanced away.
Margie Saibara was there.
She looked up and gave me a smile.
She was a witness to the slapping incident, so her smile
made me guess she had not accepted the lies.
So I went and sat down next to her. Margie didn't say
anything past 'hi', but that was fine with me. I just was glad
she was willing to let a leper sit next to her. After awhile,
Margie asked me if I wanted to
dance. That broke the ice. We got out and danced
the Whip. After that, I danced periodically
through the night. Interestingly, no one spoke to me
The Curse of Pat continued to hang over me like a dagger.
say that Saturday night of dancing at Twiggs
completely lifted my depression, but the
dancing definitely got me through
the night. Encouraged, I decided to try the same trick the next
night. It was Sunday evening. I had
heard a place called The Four Palms had a
blues band known as the Soul Brothers, so I drove across
town to dance the Whip again. Anything to avoid
staying in that lonely house at night. The dancing
worked its charm again. I remember actually smiling on
my way home.
Monday I taught
classes at the studio. When class was over, I invited
some the people in my class to go out dancing with me.
I did it again the next night, the night after that,
and so on. My Whip dancing at night kept the inner demons at bay.
That's all I cared about. Without really
giving it any thought, dancing Whip after class became a
After a month, I
realized that I had unconsciously stumbled upon 'dancing' as my self-therapy.
The nightly dancing had
worked so well, I didn't see any point in quitting. So
I continued to dance every night after class.
I would eventually
go Whip dancing every night after class for
201 nights in a row.
During this span of
time, my unusual self-help dance
program worked an absolute miracle on me. I never took a pill,
I never saw a therapist, and I never went one drop past
social drinking. Indeed, when I finally
decided to stop at the end of 1986, I was probably happier than I had ever
been in my entire life. My dancing had
improved, I felt attractive again, and I had more friends
than at any other time in my entire life. Whip dancing
had enabled me to crawl out of the deepest depression of my
If you would like to know more details, please visit
The Streak - 201 Nights of Whip Dancing in a Row
"What did you learn from
your Streak of dancing?"
"I wish I had trusted
my friends more. It turned out that only three or four
people actually sided with Pat. But I didn't know that
because I cut myself off from everyone. I was so
wounded by the things I initially heard that imagined everyone
thought the divorce was my fault.
I would say my Achilles Heel
is trust. I rejected everyone and retreated to my
lair. There I brooded over my feelings of
betrayal. The thought that my friends had deserted me
was unfounded, but I never had the guts to find out what the
truth was. In the meantime, the loneliness began to
eat me alive.
I didn't start my
road back to recovery until I reconnected with my friends. From that point
on, they reached out and carried me until I snapped back to
The other lesson I
learned from the
Streak (my term for the 201 Nights) was that for
Dance to work its Magic, you
have to PARTICIPATE. The healing waters
of Dancing will not work if you sit at
home and brood like I did.
You must force yourself to get out there. You
must take a step. You must move. And you must
PARTICIPATE with other people.
Once you take that step... one step, two
steps, three steps... it doesn't matter... the members of
the dance community will reach out to you and bring
you back into the world. But first you have to
put yourself in front of them for them to help you.
You cannot expect them to knock on your door and do things
for you. Do not cut yourself off. Get out there.
myself off was my big mistake. By cutting myself
off from my friends, I had no way of knowing how
badly they hurt for me. But they were scared
to death to approach me. They knew how bad my
temper was. Which side of Rick would answer the phone?"
happened to Pat?"
"After the Slap Fight, Pat somehow
disappeared from my dance circles. Even though she won
the PR war, she vacated my dance world, probably because
another man was waiting in the wings. She turned her
attention to him.
Towards the bitter end, one night I remember noticing how intently a
man named Bill was watching Pat dance at Cooter's. It was
one of the nights when the group went over there. Pat
went on to marry him not long after our divorce. She
also continued dancing. She was a very good dancer. Pat went on to win a City Championship with her
I don't know how she
avoided me considering she continued to dance here in
Houston, but I only recall seeing Pat for two brief moments
over the next twenty years. One time was in 1988 after
some mutual friend's wedding. I did not know she would be
there. After the ceremony as I was leaving, by
coincidence I ran smack dab into Pat in a distant hallway.
She smiled at me and showed off her two young boys.
Handsome kids. She had a right to be proud. It
was a cordial moment.
In 2001 after my divorce to my second wife, one night I
decided it was time to get back out in the world again.
Unlike the first divorce, I was sad, but I wasn't
devastated. I just wanted to get on with things.
Thinking back to 1986, I remembered how good Whip dancing
had been for me. So on a Friday night after I finished
with dance class, I went over to Melody Lane to dance the
Whip at some event. Amazingly, the first woman I saw
when I entered the room was Pat. I had heard she was
divorced again, but I was still completely taken off guard.
Here on the very first night I had returned to the world as
a single man, I had just run into my worst nightmare.
With five divorces between us, weren't we a pair? I
promise you I turned as white as if I had just seen a ghost
Pat was standing alone. She politely said hello. I
said hello back, then ran for sanctuary on the other side of
the room before she could think of something to argue about.
When I got the courage to look back, she was gone. For
a fleeting moment, I had thought I might ask her to dance.
guess she didn't want to see me any more than I wanted to
What a strange encounter."
"So how did your 201
Nights of Dancing relate to the Third Generation and
"The Third Generation had more or less
begun when I got married to
Pat. The Third Generation was still there when my
marriage ended. I have always felt like my 1986 Dance Streak
was the high point of the Third Generation.
After I ended my two-month depression and showed back up on the dance scene, the same
people who had witnessed my battering stood by me
and propped me up. The women danced with me
and talked with me. The men told me to hang in
there. So did the women. Each of them begged me to go
dancing with them here or
dancing with them there. They could see I
needed help, so my friends made a point to be sure I was
included in everything.
During this crazy year 1986,
several members of the
Third Generation became the people I was closest to in my
entire life. I would say my two best friends today are Mike
Fagan and Tom Easley. Both men go all the way back to those days
twenty years ago. On many nights, they were dancing
right along beside me. That was a very very special time in my life.
And the women were just as kind. Margie Saibara, Diane Head,
Carol Gafford, Michelle Collins, and Diane Stotz were always
All these people - add Ted Jones in there as
became my constant companions as I traveled my strange road back to
A funny thing happened along the way. After
dancing every night of the week for several months,
one day I realized that I
was actually beginning to improve as a dancer!
Mind you, I wasn't out there because I loved dancing.
Hell, no. I liked to teach a heck of a lot more
than I liked to dance. I was out there because I didn't
trust myself to be alone anymore. I remember
how scared I had been of losing control on that dark
night of the soul back in June. I wasn't just
a little scared that night, I had
been scared out of my wits by my inner demons.
I thought I was on the edge of going crazy.
Those dark thoughts were gone now thanks to
the support of my
friends and the therapeutic movement of dance. In the meantime, I was starting to
get a lot of compliments on my dancing. And
these compliments were coming from the right place -
I was hearing praise from the pretty girls who
were my friends! They said my leads were
incredible and that I was really fun to dance with.
These compliments were
exactly what I needed. Soon my self-esteem began to return. I rejoined
the land of the living. Now I threw myself
into this accidental dance self-improvement plan
with a vengeance. I had never been a
great dancer before in my life, but I could see that
thanks to all this practice I was on the road to
becoming very good.
Far more important, along the way I had
resumed my previous role as 'Leader of the Pack'. I was back."
"Tell me more about the
"For starters, in August 1986, I organized the most amazing practical
joke on my friend Tom Easley. I won't say
another word about it. I don't have to. One
look at the pictures is worth 5,000 words.
On the other hand, if you are crazy enough to dare
read the story, be my guest. Be careful, it is
the story of a descent into group madness! It
is not for the squeamish.
The Tom Easley Look-a-Like Night
The Third Generation
Left to right, Michelle Collins, Richard Zamecki, Tom
Edens in back, white shirt lady ???, Aimee Atkinson, Tom
Hazard barely visible in back, Dean in the sunglasses,
John Cowen, Diane Head, Marsha Rusoff, Margie Saibara,
Barbara Devore, Jim Ponder, Tom
Easley, Carol Gafford, ??? in back, Karen Gilcrease, ???, and Judy Raley.
That is Judy Price kneeling. Alan Brown's son in
front but no Alan Brown
Tom and Carol Gafford
Rick and Diane Head
Margie, Ted Jones, and Diane
Tom, Mike Fagan, and Carol
Mike and Tom
Tom and Margie
"So what were the
other people doing during your 201 Nights of Dancing?"
"Now that I was Leader of the
Pack again, a Leader has to have Followers, right?
And I really did go out dancing EVERY NIGHT for 201 nights in a
row. There was no fudging.
So what do you suppose this amazing cast of
loonies was doing each night? Take a wild
they were out there dancing with me. Yes, of
course, the others lacked my commitment and
dedication so they took a night off now and then, but
believe me, the group put in a lot of serious floor
time that year. And if I was getting pretty good at this dancing
stuff, guess what, so were they!!
They were a Band of Lunatics and I was one the Head
Crazies... please note that a simple glance at the pictures
above shows I clearly had plenty of company! I
still have a hard time figuring out how people that
nuts helped me become sane again.
After all that dancing, some of the people got
really good. For example, take another look at
those pictures up there. Mike Fagan became a
State Champion Whip Dancer. Tom Easley
entered several contests and did pretty well
himself competing with his upside down friend Carol Gafford. Ted Jones
and Margie Saibara became Texas State Dance Champions as well.
So one immediate benefit of the Streak as I called
it was that the whole group became phenomenal
dancers in 1986. Another benefit was the size
of our group swelled to probably 80-100 people.
On the night of the Look-a-Like event, we must have
had 50 people dancing at the Safari Bar that night.
This was the Third Generation, a group that became
Tom and Carol organized Surfside Weekends, we took
trips to the Bahamas, took ski trips, had weekend
volleyball games, you name it. As people would
discover the studio, they took one look at the kind
of fun we were having and would instantly hitch
their wagon onto to our momentum. The studio was
hot hot hot.
And so was SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance. Out of this group of
people, there were at least a DOZEN SSQQ marriages
from the Third Generation, probably even more than I
- Tom Easley met his wife Margaret at the studio.
They will be celebrating their twentieth anniversary
- Mike Fagan met his first wife
Lisa at the studio.
- Steve and Cheryl Racey.
and Sharon Hollingsworth.
- Charlie and Beverly
- Diane Head and Ken Paar.
- Emily Watson and
- Hal Perry and Shelley.
- Irving Carter and Sharon
- Fred and DeeDee (can't remember their last names)
- Jim Smith and
Did I mention we were all having the best time of
our entire lives in the process?
Not only that, there was a whole new group of people
joining the studio at the same time!"
"That is a lot
of marriages. How did you keep track?"
"Pictures. If you got
your picture taken, my memory might be jogged.
I imagine there were other marriages from those days
I don't even have a clue about. There were so many couples that got married I
get angry with myself for not making notes.
Take for example the story of
Judy Horton and Scott Lee.
Their marriage is a perfect
example of an Eighties marriage that totally slipped my memory:
Judy and Scott were a big part of the
Western crowd that went to Texas and later on to
Midnight Rodeo in the mid-80s.
I knew both Scott and Judy by name, but I did not
know either of them on a personal basis. I do
remember they were definitely a cute couple.
I had forgotten about them until by chance in 2006 I
got a very special letter from Judy (Horton) Lee.
I was so touched I had to share the story.
Let's fast-forward twenty years.
From: Judy Lee
Wednesday, June 14, 2006 7:27 AM
Subject: Old friends!
My name is Judy Lee, maiden
name Judy Horton. I'm sure you don't
remember me, but I took classes from SSQQ
(western swing, whip, and swing/jitterbug)
back in 1985-86. Irving Carter and I used to
coordinate practice sessions at different
clubs around town.
We called ourselves "The Friday Night
I met my husband Scott in the intermediate western swing
class. I had already taken the class and was helping
out, because you needed women in the class, and you
needed someone who already knew the moves to help the
teacher (Judy Price, the other Judy) show the steps to
the class. Any of this sound familiar?
Scott and I (and our two boys) are now
living in northern Virginia. Let
everyone know we will be in Houston over the
July 4th Holiday to say hi to our old
The tall one on the
left is David, who's 16. Jake is the smiling
blond on the right, and he's 13. (Yes,
blond! There are blonds on Scott's side of
the family.) And the lovely and handsome
couple in the middle is Scott and me (lovely
for me, handsome for him!).
Best, Judy Horton Lee
A major point of this story is I
that missed mentioning Scott and Judy
when I wrote the original Matchmaker story in
2006. After Judy was nice enough to
contact me, I was able to not only add her story
to my 2007 update, I even found two wonderful
pictures from Scott and Judy's days at SSQQ.
I am sure Judy will be thrilled to have her
picture displayed with Mr. Look-a-like himself,
One more point - I am really proud to
have been a
part of the lives of Scott and Judy Lee.
THE FOURTH GENERATION
did the Fourth Generation begin?"
happened in 1987 that led to the creation of the
Fourth Generation which I also called the
acquired more space. Since 1980, we had rented just
a couple rooms from Dance Arts. But once Dance Arts
went out of business, SSQQ acquired all the space.
Not only did we expand from two classes a night to
five classes a night, we were now able to establish
regular Practice Nights right at the studio after
Practicing at the studio was so convenient that
everyone stayed after class and danced the night
away. Practice Nights were not only
marvelously popular as a way to improve, but the
pace of the Birds and Bees picked up considerably as
1987 an ultra cool dance club known as
Studebakers opened up in the Galleria area.
Specializing in 50s and 60s music, Studebakers
had a great dance floor. Our group of SSQQ
Swing and Whip dancers met there on a regular
basis for a great evening of dancing.
surprisingly, Swing classes were really hot that year
Not only did
we love dancing to the music of our youth, the
place was packed with businessmen and
good-looking businesswomen. These people
became our audience. They would watch us dance
and clap. We of course enjoyed the attention.
the entertainment whenever we went there as
everyone loved to watch us dance.
As a result, we felt like the Stars whenever we
went to Studebakers. With our great dancing, we
definitely became the main attraction.
businessmen would buy our ladies drinks and our
guys would flirt with the pretty waitresses. Even better they would exchange glances with the
well-heeled unattached women who enjoyed
watching them dance from afar.
Occasionally the brave among us would even head
over to one of these women and ask them to
Not surprisingly, the regulars at Studebakers
not only turned into great dancers due to all
that practice, they also began to develop very
close friendships. It was these friendships that
resulted in the formation of the Fourth
Generation of dancers aka the Studebakers
In addition, practically all of the important SSQQ
instructors in the Nineties came from this
Studebakers Generation. Maureen Brunetti,
Susie Allen, Donna Ruth, Judy Stidham, Ben Liles, and Linda
Rooks were all card-carrying members of the
Diane Head and Tom
Third, I hired an
incredibly charismatic teacher named
Diane became an
instructor the hard way - I threw her to the
wolves. One day in 1987
long-time instructor Judy Price suddenly quit. On
the spot, Diane
suddenly got promoted from Swing student to Swing
instructor. Her first class was in two days!
Diane didn't have a clue what she was doing. Being a
woman, she had no idea how to teach the men how to
lead or what their footwork was. One Saturday
morning, I arrived early at the studio for my lesson
with Diane. I heard some Swing music in a far room.
Curious, I went over to peek.
In one of the funniest
moments I have ever seen, I saw Diane dancing with her
two teenage boys (12 and 14) at the studio.
Something seemed wrong so I looked more carefully.
That's when I realized Diane was the "Lead" and the
boys were dancing the "Follow". In other words, the
boys were dancing the girl's part. Blissfully
unaware they were dancing the girl's part, they were
having a great time!
needed to practice and this was her solution. In
fact, she needed their help so badly, she didn't
dare risk telling them the truth. She could not take
the chance of having them say "no". I had to smile
because the boys seemed to absolutely love dancing
with their mother!
Sad to say, Diane probably was doing the right thing
by not telling the boys the whole story. One day the
boys accidentally found out the truth. They got
madder than hornets at their Mom. So much for her
Practice Partners. Both boys felt humiliated. They
refused to ever dance with her again. True story.
What makes Diane's story more notable is that
despite her obvious lack of experience as a dance
teacher, her Swing classes were huge!
Her students signed up for each new level Diane
taught at a rate that was nearly 100%. Diane's
secret was Practice Night. First she had the
amazing ability to get practically her whole class
to stay. I don't know how she did it, but she did.
Her second trick was that Diane was a born teacher.
She wanted every one of her students to get better.
Even though Diane BARELY knew more than the men she
was teaching, she was phenomenal at helping her male
students during Practice Night.
She would dance with every man as often as she
could. If they made a mistake, she would correct it
on the spot. For example, if they hurt her, Diane
had a way of fixing it. Or if they were too fast or
too slow, Diane would count for them until they
found the beat. Diane didn't always KNOW what the
guy had done wrong, but she did know when it didn't
feel right. She would ask the guy to try a move
again until she could figure out what was wrong.
Usually the men would improve gradually. However
sometimes the improvement would be so dramatic after
just one Practice Night dance, later on the women
would come up and compliment Diane on the
improvements they had seen in their
Most importantly, Diane had a gift for explaining
mistakes to men in a way that never hurt their
feelings. She found some magic role as part Sister/
part Mom/ part Best Friend that allowed her to
correct the men without making them defensive.
Rather than argue like most men do, they listened to
her. In fact, they learned to seek her out during
Practice Night to get tips.
The women loved Diane because
she was turning out great dancers who had
miraculously developed rhythm and good leads. Plus
all that practice had locked the patterns from class
into their muscle memory. Best of all, the men
learned how to be gentle and never hurt them! Diane
became a huge heroine to the women who sang her
praises to me constantly.
This led to another important development. By
practicing together, over time everyone in the class
became friends with each other. They signed up for
each new class just as much to continue to hang out
with their friends. Plus they wouldn't dream of
leaving their leader. They signed up for every class
Diane offered as a GROUP because they loved her so
No one could ever have predicted Diane's success
ahead of time. Diane was a good social dancer, but
definitely not a competition dancer. Her technical
knowledge of dance was limited. She had never had a
private lesson in her life. Her day job was
secretarial work. Nor did Diane have a college
degree. Diane was smart, but not well educated. What
Diane did have was the biggest heart in the world.
She radiated warmth and concern.
Diane Head was the woman who taught me that for a
Social Dance Studio like SSQQ, a big heart is more
valuable than technical expertise. I agree that
dance technique is important, but not till the
higher levels. At the Beginner levels where Diane
started, her ability to MOTIVATE students proved to
be far more valuable. For many of the people
who took classes here, Diane Head was totally
Diane's story clearly illustrates that the
combination of Practice Night and a big heart are
the elements that drive our success at SSQQ.
The appearance of
Practice Night, the success of Studebakers, and the
genius of Diane Head were the three factors that
created the Studebaker Generation."
"How close were
you to the new Studebaker's Group?"
"That is an odd
question. You must have sensed something.
I really enjoyed going dancing at Studebakers.
I mean, every adult believes that the music of his
youth is the greatest music ever recorded. As
a result, our Baby Boomer Crowd was reliving Memory
Lane every time "Mustang Sally" or "R-E-S-P-E-C-T"
rang out. It was delicious fun.
That said, the people I danced with at Studebakers
felt like they were my students even though they
were the same age as my Third Generation buddies.
I was always curious about the distinction.
For the first time, I was seen more as a teacher
than a member of the group. It may have been
the vibes I was putting out, but this was
significant development. I was putting space
between myself and my dance students. Plus the
studio had expanded so dramatically that it was
impossible to know everyone on a first hand basis as
I had back in the previous eras. There was
definitely a change here.
I never totally warmed up to the Studebakers people
was due to my personal problems. I was suffering from a serious
depression at the time related to the disappearance
of several members of the Third Generation.
Generation by and large completely ignored
Studebakers. In fact, I rarely saw these
people any more and I really missed them. Bob
and Louise were gone. Mike and Tom weren't
around much any more. Even Ted and Margie were
I first wrote about this amazing group in article
the Creatures Meet". I wrote
more about them in a follow-up to the "LookaLike"
story. This group of people grew so close that
many of the members still see each other today.
stage yearly Big Chill-style Reunions.
The favorite reunion event is their annual ski trip
together around Super Bowl time. They usually meet
in the summer at Tom and Margaret Easley's
(pictured at right) house for Tom's
birthday party. And dinner get-togethers are
common throughout the year.
Plus I think Ted and Margie will
soon be celebrating
their twentieth anniversary of being the longest
unmarried couple in history.
This group touched my heart in ways too profound to
completely express. All I guess I need to say is
that I loved them very much back in the Eighties and
I still do today. They are a
huge part of my memories.
It's too bad they
had to break my heart."
"How did they break
"That's easy to
answer. They all left the studio!
One by one over a span of
three years, I lost probably 70 people for four
different reasons, none of which had a thing to do
with me. It is very easy to explain, but at
the time it was very
difficult to accept.
Along with me, Tom, Margaret, Mike, Ted, Carol, and
Margie were also the leaders of our group. After
all the dancing they done in 1986, these guys were
very good dancers in their own right.
By 1987, they had
become such good dancers, they decided they wanted
to enter the world of competitive dancing.
Unfortunately the biggest name in town when it came
to competitive dancing - Mario Robau
- was over at the Southwest Whip Club. I
didn't teach competition dancing, just social Whip
dancing. The die was cast.
Other than Diane Head, the entire core
group of Whip dancers - Mike, Tom, Margaret, Ted,
Margie, Carol - went over there to train under Mario.
I knew what they were doing and I understood.
They left with my blessings. The problem was
that they accidentally took everyone else with them
None of us had
any way of anticipating that the
second and third tiers of dancers in our Look-a-Like
Group would follow their lead and leave too.
But sure enough, lo
and behold, half my Third Generation group followed them over
The thinking was pretty simple. If Ted, Tom,
Carol, and Margie thought Mario's class was the
place to be, then that's where they needed to be
Ted-Margie-Tom-Mike-Carol realized what had
happened, they weren't in any position to close
the barn doors after the cows got out. One by
one, my once mighty Martian Whip class began to
suspiciously dwindle. It didn't take me long
to figure out what was happening. There wasn't
a thing I could do about it. People I had been training for months and years were
suddenly gone due to the herd instinct. I lost
practically my entire Martian Whip class. Not surprisingly, I was very bitter.
I was a very good Whip teacher, but Mario was
better. Tough luck. That's life. Big
fish get eaten by bigger fish all the time. Although
I didn't enjoy being a Happy Meal, I understood that
these people had a right to pursue their dreams.
That didn't mean it was easy to accept.
to Southwest hurt the most because these people were
not only students, they were friends. Equally
painful was a new 'Marriage is the Death of Dance' phase.
As I have said previously, once
people get married, dance suddenly takes a back
The energy from the past few years was paying off.
from the Third Generation group began to get married
right and left. Marriage eliminated at least
a dozen key couples.
Each time a couple got married, they slowly but
surely began to ease their way out of the picture.
Stan and Pam Clark,
Doug and Sharon Hollingsworth, Chuck and Laurie Gray
all moved on. So did Charlie and Beverly Roberts,
Irving and Sharon Carter.
These people were nice enough to return to my dance
parties once or twice a year, but for the day-to-day
workings of the studio, they were gone.
Beverly & Charlie
Roberts, Sharon & Irving Carter
Craig Mason peeking in. 1991 Beach Ball
Then the Houston
economy went south. Oh my gosh, people started
leaving the city in droves to find employment in the
late 1980s. The employment crunch must have
taken at least another 20 people! No one
I agonized over the important people who were forced
to leave due to employment problems. I had to
watch helplessly as they left.
Jim Ponder, Hilary Mears, Debbie Oswald,
Chuck Clayton, Juan and Julia Meza, Craig Mason, Jim
Garrison, Bill Stumph and his wife Diane, Rilla and Valerie Ryan, Bob
Job and Louise Campodonico, Pat Wilkins... And so many more!!!
Most of those
names were people who had been with me for
YEARS all the way back to the Winchester Days of the early 80s. They were literally my best friends and now
they were dropping like an epidemic had hit the
But the cruelest
blow of all was when I lost two incredible leaders at
Jim Smith and
to move to Dallas. Houston's lousy economy ripped both
Jim and Diane away from
Easley and the rest of the Look-a-Likes had moved over to Southwest Whip, Jim and
Diane had moved forward to fill the vacuum.
They had become the two most popular people at the
Jim and Diane were the heart of the
Fourth Generation, but now they were gone.
If I had been bitter before about losing the Whip
crowd or bitter about Marriage is the Death of Dance
and the Economy taking people away, the loss of my
two close friends was literally the blow that
finished me off.
Diane Head and Jim
Smith at Diane's
1988 Sock Hop Going-Away Party
Diane Head had met Ken Parr
at the studio's 1987/88 New Year's Eve Party.
They fell in love
that night and began a whirlwind romance. They were soon
married which was good news for Diane, but bad news for me because Ken's oil
company had just transferred him to Dallas.
The identical thing happened to Jim Smith. He
had just married to his SSQQ sweetheart Pat
Wilkins when Marathon Oil said his Houston-based job had been
moved to their Dallas office. Good jobs
weren't that easy to come by. Jim had to go.
The twin losses of Diane and Jim could not
have been more than a couple months apart.
hurt so much. Personally, I loved both people. Professionally, they were my top two Swing
For years since, I have secretly nursed a hope
that one or both would return, but sorry to say, I have never
seen them since. Gosh I miss those guys!
Reasons For Leaving:
Whip Exodus: the Core Group
plus 30 more students follow the Core Group
is the Death of Dance drop-outs: 24 people
Economy: 20 people
were forced to leave Houston to find employment
Toughest Blows: Jim
Add it up -
that's more than 80 people. It wasn't just
that one-fifth of my student base left me, these
numbers included my closest friends. I would say
two-thirds of my huge Third Generation
group were wiped out right there.
was like a plague had hit the studio!
I could have handled it if Jim and Diane hadn't
left. Losing Jim and Diane was
the toughest blow of all. I was miserable. I
felt like one of the 'Left Behinds'. I was
"What about the
remaining people? You said some of the
people weren't affected. Couldn't you rebuild
"Actually I lost the remaining third
of the Third Generation as well.
It is a very odd phenomenon to explain, but here is
how it went.
After Southwest Whip took the cream of the crop, there
were still plenty of people left who had hung with the
at various times. These people were more like 'part-timers' at
the studio. For every leader, there has to be
a follower, right?
These part-timers were people who would take a class, meet someone, date a while,
break up, then come back. I guess you would
call them the 'Followers' of the In-Crowd. They
weren't around often enough to make the inner
circle, but they considered themselves part of the
group nonetheless. They were on the edge of
From time to time, every
single member of the part-timers would
periodically show up for various events looking to
reconnect to the Group. The part-timers would show
up for a class or a party, take a look around, then
ask, "Where is everybody?"
They were confused. They would get to the party, look
around, recognize no one, then seek me out. 'Hey,
Rick, where's Tom Easley? Where's Margie?
Where's Mike Fagan? Where's Jim Smith?
Diane Head? What time is the Gang going to show up
It broke my heart to tell them the Gang wasn't
coming that night. They were it.
That's when I
would put on my best happy face and give them the post-mortem. For these people, SSQQ was like
coming back to a neighborhood a couple years after everyone had
moved to the suburbs. 'You mean Mike and Tom and Margie don't live here
Disappointed, the person or the couple would hang around for a
while in shock. Maybe they would dance one
dance since they were already here at the studio. Then when they were pretty sure I wasn't looking, they
would quietly disappear. They didn't come back a
The playground isn't any fun without
So that is how I lost the final third of the
If they were a good dancer, they would go find the
Exodus Group over at Southwest Whip. The rest would
drop out of the dance scene entirely. After
all the fun they had with the Third Generation
people, it was too awkward for them to make
the effort to adjust
to the new faces at the studio and start over. Maybe it was
time to look for
In 1988, with very few exceptions, I suppose I lost the entire Third
Generation in the space of a year. Once the
Core Group moved over to Southwest, the established
heart of the studio was gone. They left a huge
I didn't lose any money. Nor did the studio suffer
really. The studio was actually
bigger attendance-wise than it ever had been. The newcomers didn't care,
they just joined the emerging Studebaker Crowd and
followed the leaders of the newly-forming Fourth
But to me personally, the loss of my Third Generation
friends was just as
serious as a death in the family. I was in mourning."
"Surely they didn't
desert you, did they? Didn't they at least
come back for the Sock Hop or the Halloween Party?"
no! No one
'deserted' me. It just felt that way! If
any of these people ever read this story, let me make it
clear that no one departed on bad terms. The
people who I am thinking of as I write this story
have always been unfailingly kind to me whenever our
paths have crossed in the years since. We are
all on friendly terms and I am always happy to be
mature person would understand they all had a perfectly
good reason to go. Like I said, they had own destiny to follow!
Especially the Core Group. Thanks to my 201 Nights of Dancing,
I had helped get lots of people hooked on Whip
Dancing. Many of my
friends from that crazy 1986 adventure had practiced
so much that they had joined the ranks among the finest
dancers in the entire city. Dancing was their
love, their hobby. They had every right to
pursue their dreams. If they hadn't left, they
would never have become dance champions. I
didn't blame them at all.
Heck, I would have gone with them if I could, but I
had a certain night job."
"Here is picture where the Third Generation
and the Fourth Generation
came together. This picture was taken at Diane
Head's 1988 Going-Away Party. It should be
obvious no one deserted me - there's Tom, Carol, and
Margaret right in front, Alan Brown and Margie Saibara
on the right, Irving, Charlie, and Dan Taft in the
background. These people and many other members of the Third Generation
group came to Diane's
party to say goodbye to her. After all, Diane Head
had been a
card-carrying Third Generation member of the
degree. Diane and Margie had been with me so long they had both started as
Second Generation people before
my marriage to Pat.
Half the picture is filled with the new Fourth
Generation people. But you know what? I
don't know their names. I was so upset by the
loss of my friends that I was unable to bond with
the new Fourth Generation. I kept my distance.
I was full of sorrow the entire night of Diane
Head's Goodbye Party. Diane and her friend
Margie had been leaders of the Group during
my ill-fated marriage back in 1984-1985. Then
in 1986 during the 201 Night Streak,
both Diane and Margie were front and center of everything we did.
After Judy Price left in 1987, Diane and Margie stepped
up to fill the leadership vacuum. Diane and Margie became the Twin
Pillars of the studio for several years, acting as
hostesses at all the events. These two
women became marvelous leaders.
But as of
this party, now Diane and Margie were both gone.
And so were the Exodus Core Group. In addition
I had lost my Martian Whip class.
all of them back!! It burned
my soul that my entire advanced Whip program was
functioning intact over at Southwest Whip. I
think in a way, Tom/Mike et al felt a little guilty
that their private decision had triggered a mass
defection, but there wasn't much they could do about
I felt like the odd man out. Heck, I
Odd Man Out! I was Mr. Left Behind! What
was I going to do, quit my
job as a dance teacher and go over to join Mario's dance
team so I could be with my friends at night? Of
course not. But I wanted to.
It didn't help that I kept hearing through the
Grapevine what a great time my friends were having
together. As a group, they had joined a performing dance team that
was 75% ex-SSQQ, they entered dance contests, they
got advanced training, they traveled to other cities
for workshops and performances, you name it, they did
it. If anything, the Exodus Core Group grew
closer as if that were even remotely possible.
Meanwhile I felt like the exile watching
from afar through the
window as my friends celebrated their love for each
other in the tavern on a
snowy night. I was once their leader.
Now I was an outsider.
Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd
But end they did. Those
days were gone.
And I wasn't handling it very well. I wasn't bitter at any particular person. I
was simply bitter at my tough luck. I had
built a terrific Whip dance program at SSQQ only to
see it walk intact over to another studio.
Every single one of my top dancers except one person either
jumped ship, got married, or left town. The
glory of the 201 Nights of Whip Dancing was long
Financially, it was a drop in the bucket, but
spiritually it crippled me.
the Universe had blessed me with one incredible
break after another during Saturday Night
Fever and Urban Cowboy, but
you know, in every life there has to be some
hard lessons along the way.
after all those early
blessings, my good luck had run out. I suppose
Breaks have to even out, but that doesn't stop it
"You said 'Everybody except one
was literally the 'Last Person Standing'. She was
the only leader left. Sharon remains my last surviving link to the glorious
past of the Eighties. That is why I love her so much. She
the closest thing to a sister I have ever had.
Sharon Crawford came to the studio in 1987, the year
after my 201 Night Streak. A former Kilgore
Rangerette, Sharon was a marvelous natural dancer.
She picked up everything so quickly. Due to her
unbelievable dancing ability, she immediately fit
right in with the elite dance crowd. Even
though she was a rookie, she caught up to their
level in a hurry.
However since she had missed the Streak in the
previous year, Sharon didn't bond quite as strongly
as all the others. So when the Exodus group
went over to Southwest, Sharon decided to stick
around and take some more classes from me.
Thank goodness she stayed. Sharon Crawford saved
me from going mad!"
"How did Sharon come
to the rescue?"
Previously I mentioned that we acquired more space
Things grew very weird at the studio in late 1987.
My long-time dance teacher (and landlord)
started to treat me very badly. I didn't
understand why at the time, but I later learned what
the problem was.
It turns out that without my knowing, Glen had
developed a serious chemical dependency. He
took my rent check each month and used it to pay for
One day in October 1987, I
showed up at the studio only to find the doors
padlocked. Glen had been evicted... and so had
I wrote down the phone number
of the realty company and contacted them the next
day about taking over the space. They were very
reluctant to do business with me because they
assumed I was fronting for Glen to sneak him back
into the building.
Finally I had an idea. What if
I could prove his operation and mine were totally
separate? Would that make a difference?
The man reconsidered. He asked me how I was going to
prove that. I smiled and said that was easy.
All I had to do was show my rent checks to Glen for
the previous seven years and how I had never missed
a payment. That would show that I was paying
the entire time and that the money wasn't getting to
them because Glen had diverted it.
So that's how I took over the
studio. I had been using two of the five rooms
each night. But assuming full control
meant I went from two classes a night to five
classes a night! Fortunately business
was so strong that I could fill the space almost
without blinking with all my Studebaker Generation students and 'parallel
classes'. But I didn't have 21 new dance
teachers! (3 extra rooms, 7 nights a week).
That evening, Sharon Crawford showed up for her
dance class. I told her she would begin
teaching for me the following week when the next set
of classes began. I didn't ask - I told her!
It was one of those 'Uncle Sam Needs You'
kind of moments.
I told Sharon I needed three more
teachers and she was the obvious choice for one of
the spots. Sharon turned white as a ghost.
Nor was she alone.
Diane Head got the same treatment and so did Jim
Smith and a lady
named Debbie Reynolds.
Debbie had taught previously elsewhere, so she was
already trained. Debbie came
to work for me full-time. Jim and Diane stuck to the
Swing classes. Sharon would teach Western.
I threw poor Sharon to the wolves. We didn't have
assistants and volunteers in those days. Sharon had
never taught anything in her life. I spent some
hours getting her ready on the side, but it wasn't
enough. Sharon was so frightened in her first
class she completely lost her voice. This led
to an strange sight.
On that first night, I checked in on Sharon several
times because I knew how worried
she was. Late in the evening I peeked in and
saw what resembled a football huddle with Sharon
surrounded by her new students. At first I
wondered if someone was hurt. So I went over
to ask what was going on. One of the students said
that Sharon had lost her voice and the only way they
could hear what to do next was to huddle up!!
Sharon looked up and tried to say something to me,
but I couldn't hear a word she said. Maybe it
was better that I couldn't hear what she was
saying... she probably was telling me what a jerk I
was for getting her into this mess.
I felt so guilty!
Sharon went through hell those first few months, but
to her credit she hung in there. Soon she
added other nights a week to her teaching duties.
Because my studio had tripled in size, I now had
this huge new studio. Seeing how overwhelmed I
was, Sharon eventually quit her day job to help run
the studio full-time. That was a good break
for me. I don't see how I could
have made it through my first year without her.
Sharon was absolutely indispensable.
happened after you took over the entire studio in 1987?"
"The following year - 1988 - was like a Clint
Eastwood movie, you know, good, bad, and ugly.
The Good was that with Studebakers Swing crowd and
the Western crowd, the studio had never been busier.
I had my hands full trying to keep up with the
expanded demands of running a five-room studio (as
opposed to two rooms for the first ten years).
The Bad was this was about the time the
Exodus of the Core Group began. Everyone kept one
foot in the studio and one foot over at Southwest
for a while. They would take a class here and
a class there. But eventually the day came when
everyone threw their lot in with Southwest Whip for
good. Like I said, I donated my entire Martian
Whip class to Southwest Whip. I would estimate
30 dancers jumped over there.
The Ugly was that I was miserable over their loss.
And like I said, once the remaining part-timers from
the Third Generation saw how the
studio wasn't any fun without their friends, they left too.
Then came the job migration
that sent people to other cities. One by one, I had
to say goodbye to so many people who had been my
friends for years.
Then came the toughest break of all when I lost Jim
and Diane. I tore my hair out as Houston's
failing economy and marriage attrition cost me all
my remaining leaders save Sharon.
Once Jim and Diane left,
Sharon Crawford was the last person standing. Every
time there was a disaster, there was Sharon to cover
it. For example, guess how many Swing instructors I
had? Two. Any idea what their
names were? Yes, that's right, you got
it - Jim and Diane. In the blink of an
eyelash, I had lost not only my two best Swing
teachers, I lost my only two Swing instructors.
Who was going to take their place?
Superman! Uh, make that Superwoman.
I turned to my new Western teacher - Sharon - and
said 'Guess what? Next week you are also my
new Swing teacher!'
Sharon turned white as a ghost. It was deja
vu. I had done it to her again. But to
Sharon's credit, she pulled it off. Sharon was
Despite my bad luck and my personal problems, thanks
to Sharon the studio was doing well in those days.
In fact SSQQ was doing very well. Attendance
was strong. However without good instructors,
the program would have come to a grinding halt.
Sharon Crawford saved the day. Yes, thanks to
Sharon, 1988 was probably the most successful
in studio history to date. 1988 was a year of
one triumph after another.
For example, the Sock Hop going-away party
for Diane Head brought a crowd of way over 200
people. That was the Fourth Generation
Studebaker crowd in action.
The Sock Hop wasn't the only success either.
Big Bad Jim Smith &
In the spring, Sharon and I debuted the first-ever "Sleazy
Bar Whip Party." This
clever idea had come from all the nights Sharon and
I used to dance at the Rusty Bucket and the Four
Palms back in 1987. After these clubs closed
down, we thought it would fun to recreate the sordid
days of the Whip. Despite the
fact that the party got raided by the Bellaire
Police (good story by the way), the party was a
In the summer of 1988, Sharon organized an enormous
trip to the Bahamas. More than 50 people
joined us, including the whole Third Generation Gang. Sharon's
summer trip was an incredible success.
That fall, we had the biggest Halloween Party in
The Studebakers Generation was
in full swing in 1988. We set attendance records
in our Swing classes that
year that weren't broken for another ten years. It
the crazy "Jump, Jive, and Wail" Gap commercial of
1998 brought waves and waves of Swing students through our
door that the Studebaker Glory Days were finally
The studio was doing fine. It was me that was having
was the problem?"
Despite the outward success,
I wasn't doing very well for a
couple of reasons.
After my up-and-down Divorce/Streak year of 1986, in
1987 I screwed up my courage and decided to try a
serious relationship again for the first time since
my divorce. My 1987 relationship to a woman
named Gail started off well, but she worked a 7 am
day job and I worked nights. After a year of burning
the candle at both ends, this poor woman found
exhausted beyond belief.
Gail decided to call it quits after the 1987
Halloween Party. She couldn't take it anymore.
I think her parting words were something along the
lines of 'I know I will miss you, but first I am
going to take
a nap.' Bless her heart. Gail was a good woman.
I wish her well.
Not long after my disappointment with Gail, at the end
of 1987 I began to date a nurse named Janet who was
taking lessons at the studio.
Janet and I were well-matched. The first word that
comes to mind is the word 'sharp'. Janet had a
sharp mind and a sharp wit. Her sarcasm and my
sarcasm blended well. We had a real
connection. I thought this
relationship had a good shot at going somewhere.
Janet & Sharon Crawford became best friends.
Thanks to these 2 women, I was in good hands. They kept me from going off the deep end when all
the problems hit, but they couldn't shield me
My sense of what I had lost began with Sharon's
marvelous Bahama Mama trip in July 1988.
Sharon did all the work organizing this trip; she was quite the social butterfly. This was
a great studio adventure!
The Bahamas Trip was bittersweet for me because the
Third Generation Exodus had been completed.
All my friends were long gone now, but the pain lingered. I was
still nursing my wounds from losing all of my best
friends. As long as they stayed out of sight,
I was okay, but they were coming along in force for
the Bahamas Trip.
Exodus Gang thought Sharon's Bahamas trip was a
great idea! They signed up en masse.
We had nearly 50 board on board for this one and
half of them were Third Generation people.
I was forced to share a plane
trip and a full week with 25 people who had
switched their loyalties to the other dance program.
That is the trip when I first developed my 'nose in the window' feeling. Thank
goodness Sharon and Janet were there - I spent most
of my time with them because being around the Old Gang
felt so awkward. I was already beginning to
feel abandoned. Like I said, those were my
feelings. There was no animosity on their part
towards me at all. But I felt ill at ease with
their tight-knit group because the pain of losing my
best friends to my strongest business rival was such a
tough pill to swallow.
My mistake had been mixing my profession with my
personal life. I had spent the past ten years
finding my friends among my students. As a
result, I had too much invested in these people.
I was not only losing students, I was losing my
friends as well.
Adding to my personal woes, as 1988 turned into 1989, I knew my relationship to Janet
wasn't going to work out. This was a real
disappointment because I got along so well with
The problem was her six-year old daughter
didn't like me - she had a perfectly good Dad of her
own. Nor did I approve of Janet's preference that I
not discipline the child.
Alone, Janet and
I were fine, but you can't create a permanent
relationship unless the triangle is solid.
I could not foresee a relationship where I was
forced to bite my tongue and tolerate the girl's
disrespectful words towards me and towards her mother.
The way it is supposed to work is the parents unite
to work with the child, but in this situation Janet
sided with her daughter instead and left me out. This relationship was doomed.
Janet and I decided to give it one last try.
Earlier in the year we had signed on for a ski trip
together. Adding to my discomfort, the same Exodus
Gang that had gone to the Bahamas reunited early in 1989 for a gigantic 50 person
ski trip to Banff, Canada.
Actually, from my point of view, the ski trip was
50% of the Bahamas Trip were people who had left the
studio. But except for Sharon and Janet,
single person on the Ski Trip was a Third Generation
studio dropout. That's right, I was flying to
Canada with 48 of my best friends who had left me.
As the January 1989 trip approached, things weren't
looking very good for me - I had a failing relationship
with Janet and a group of people who presence
constantly reminded me
that I had once been their teacher until the day
discovered I was only the second best Whip teacher in the city.
I was really grouchy.
Better buckle your seat
belt, Rick, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Take a quick look at that
picture above. Every person in that
picture (except a nanny along for the ride) met each
other by taking lessons at my studio. Does that help
clarify why I was in a bad mood? They
are all smiling... but not me.
Guess how many people in that picture were still
taking lessons from me? Zero. Not one
person was a student any longer.
Beware the dangers of signing up for a trip six months
in advance! Things might be different when the
On this trip, SSQQ had five letters
instead of four.... X-SSQQ.
Similar to the previous summer's trip to the
Bahamas, on the ski trip I again had great difficulty being
around my friends. Only this time it was
much worse. My heart ached whenever I was around them. Seeing them having fun together hurt like hell, so I
found it was easier to keep to myself.
I know my behavior may not make sense. Why did
I avoid these people? Let me
try to explain. Let's say you have a
girlfriend who leaves you for another guy.
OK, that hurts. Except suddenly the two of you are on a trip and the
other guy is out of the picture for a few days.
The old girlfriend suggests we be 'friends' for the
week. She isn't the one who was left.
You are the one who was left behind. Every
time you look at her all you can think of is that she left you
for someone else.
You can't turn feelings on
My feelings said my friends had left me. It
was easier just to be alone.
Meanwhile the tension with Janet was unbearable. Please
don't misunderstand - I liked Janet a lot. We
did not fight at all. We were very sensitive
to each other's feelings. But there was an
invisible presence in the room that put a wall
between us - the knowledge that Janet's kid disliked
me a lot. It was really hard to get past the
sense that there was absolutely no future for us
back in Houston.
We talked and we talked,
but neither of us could figure out a way around the
problem. One night at the hotel in Banff, Janet and I decided
to throw in the towel. We
weren't angry at each other, but what's the use?
We were just going through the motions anyway
knowing we couldn't move past the impasse. Our
breakup was actually
quite civil. No tears, just quiet desperate frustration
at our inability to find an answer.
I had been in pain since the start of trip, but the
Breakup made it worse. Now
I was in a lot of pain. The word 'miserable'
might apply here. I quickly discovered that
the very sight of Janet brought me close to tears.
It was difficult being in the hotel room knowing our
relationship was over. I had to get out of
that room. But I was also avoiding the rest of
the group. I was avoiding the whole damn
world! So what was I going to do to keep from
By chance, Sharon had recently given me a portable
Radio Shack computer chess game as a Christmas present
a month earlier. For the first time, I had decided to give the chess game a try on
the flight up to Banff. I was fit to be tied
when this chess
game consistently beat me at some of the
I was the unofficial high school chess champ and
I was the undefeated chess champion of my dormitory
in college. Therefore I
unaccustomed to losing at chess. However now on
the plane ride I was losing with an alarming
frequency. I was
getting whipped like a rag doll. Once I
overcame my shock, I became
obsessed with mastering that chess game.
Now that Janet and I had called it quits, each night after skiing, I
would shower and change clothes, and then leave our
room to find the most deserted corner of this vast hotel.
In a huge remote sitting room I would find a big chair and
curl up in it. I would sit alone
playing computer chess for four, even five hours at a time.
Each time a game was over, I would mark 'win' or 'lose'
on a note pad. Sorry to say, the chess game
stayed way ahead of me for the entire trip.
Playing constantly, I won only about 40% of the time. But at least the chess game helped keep my mind off my
Rumor had it that this ancient hotel was haunted. I wouldn't be
surprised. It was a forbidding place indeed.
Alone in the cold,
vast dreary halls of this ancient hotel, I was sinking into a very deep
depression. Dark thoughts filled my mind.
I was growing numb.
Think Jack Nicholson in 'The
On the plane ride home, I thought things through.
This time there would be no
"Dance Streak" to bail me out. I hated dancing. Losing my best friends to Southwest Whip hurt me
deeply on two levels. Not
only did I lose my best friends in the whole world,
I had lost my best dancers as well. Who was I
supposed to go dancing with? Dancing
would not be a refuge for me.
April 1989 marked the final bitter humiliation.
Tom Easley was putting together his annual Surfside
Beach Trip. This year the
entire Southwest Whip crowd had decided to come down
and join. After all,
since practically all my Third Generation Exodus
group were now taking dance lessons at Southwest,
the veterans of past Beach trips talked it up to
their new friends over at Southwest Whip Club.
What a bizarre turn of events!
Adding salt to my wounds, Janet would be
there too. Rumor was she was dating someone
from SW Whip. Janet was taking lessons at
Southwest Whip Club just like the rest. I didn't blame Janet at all;
after all it would be too awkward for her to stay at the studio.
What choice did she have other than
join the only other friends she had over at SW Whip?
But that didn't mean I was happy about
it. I missed Janet a lot and I was extremely
jealous. Just because her kid didn't like me
didn't mean I didn't still like Janet!
I missed Tom. I missed Mike. I missed
Carol. And Ted. And Margie. And
Bob Job. But they all had new friends now.
Their new friends were people who were loyal to my
business rival Mario.
Although I was invited to
join the old gang at Surfside, I did not have the guts to go down there as
the "Odd Man Out" and hide my feelings for an entire
weekend. I sure didn't want to watch Janet and
her new boyfriend. I am not a masochist.
As stories of the Beach Trip floated back to me, it
was confirmed that Janet definitely had a boyfriend
with whom she shared a cabin. Janet had
nothing to apologize for, but the news still cut
through me like a knife. It was the final
humiliation that the entire world had to know I had
lost Janet to Southwest Whip Club in more ways than
I was reeling.
Jim and Diane were gone.
After the Bahamas, Banff, and Surfside, my best friends were gone.
Now Janet was gone.
It was so ironic that even though
the studio was packed with
students, I was unable to take any satisfaction.
My heart was somewhere else.
Each night when I came to
the studio, in my heart the dance studio felt like a Ghost Town.
My friends weren't there any more.
Ain't no sunshine when you're gone. Only dark
when you're away.
Thank goodness Sharon stuck around.
She was my saving grace that year.
Sharon Crawford not
only ran the business single-handedly, she kept
me from going completely over the edge."
there was one bright spot in 1989."
"1989 was my Zombie Year.
I pretty much mailed in my performance the
entire year. Show up, teach, go home. I did
my job, but without my previous enthusiasm.
No serious girlfriends and not much social
life after class either. After Sharon came to work for me full-time, I
relied on her a lot more than I had a right
Yes, thanks to Sharon, there was indeed one
odd little bright note.
As I neared my 40th birthday in October
1989, Sharon played an excellent practical
joke on me. One day Sharon was over at
the house to help me with the mailing list.
She noticed this awful picture of me from
the seventh grade laying on my desk.
Thick glasses, cow
lick, pathetic smile, busted front tooth -
the kind of face only a mother could love.
Sharon snuck that picture out
the door, had it blown up and put on tee shirts.
I knew the girls on the Staff were up to
something because they kept laughing and hinting
that I was in for a big surprise.
But I had a surprise for them too... on the night of
the 40th Party, I came out with
an old man's mask on so they wouldn't see my face.
Thank goodness I did wear that mask - I was
flabbergasted by Sharon's practical
joke! Thank goodness they couldn't see the
shock on my face!
Sharon got me good. A cursory look
at the smiles shows how happy the girls were to
Sharon's clever trick.
I have to say it was a cute idea. I never knew Sharon was
20 years later and I still haven't found a way to turn the
tables, but someday I will get her back. Sharon,
better watch out!
After my 40th birthday party, I sat back and thought
things over. I knew I had pretty much had gone
through the motions for the entire year. I was
I had put in eleven hard years
at the studio. All the people save Sharon that
I was once closest to were over at another dance
studio. I had a failed marriage and two serious relationships
in the past three years that had failed.
I was lonely out of my wits. I shouldn't have
been lonely. After all, there were a lot of
neat people at the studio these days. In spite
of my darkness, the Studebakers Gang was having a
merry time of it.
problem was with me. Losing my friends had
affected me in a way nothing could prepare me for.
I was afraid to make new friends. Too many
The transitory nature of my unusual
business had made me reluctant to open up again.
All I could think about was 'Marriage is the Death
What was the point of getting attached when someone
might get married and leave? Or go to another dance studio? Or be forced to leave
Houston to get a job? My previous warmth
was replaced by a professional smile and a
superficial politeness. I was bitter and I was
To add to my woes, my two beloved dogs, Emily and
Sissy, both died of old age that year within one month
of each other. Listening to sad Enya music, I cried my eyes out for days.
never just rains, does it?
Even the fact that the studio
was successful and completely established worked
against me. I no longer had that struggle to
keep me preoccupied. I had reached a plateau.
Inside I was Night of the Living Dead.
That old man's mask was reflective of my mood -
I was totally burned out.
As any career progresses, one of the toughest things
to do is keep it fresh year in/ year out. The
studio was established now and I wasn't a kid any
longer. As 1989 drew to an end, 'Leader of the Pack' had totally lost
its meaning for me.
After my 40th birthday party,
I crawled into a shell for the final couple months
of the year. It was ironic that as the wild decade of the Eighties drew to a close, I probably
spent more time with that computer chess game than I
did with human beings.
Other than Sharon Crawford, a computer chess game
had now officially become my best friend. I
took comfort in the fact that the chess game was
unlikely to go to SW Whip."
In our next chapter, we cover the events of