The Ritz
Home Up Stiff Arm


The Dance Curse!!

Part One - The Ritz Dance Disaster

Story written by Rick Archer

First Published: January 2001
Last update: February 2010

Do you ever reflect back on your life and ask yourself, "What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me?"   I know my own answer to that question.  It happened in June 1978. 

he single most embarrassing moment of my life took place at a long lost Disco here in Houston known as The Ritz .  I have never been so humiliated in all my life as I was that night.

Let us return to those glorious days of yesteryear in the heyday of the Disco Era.  Saturday Night Fever had debuted in November 1977.   In just a few short months, Disco Fever had exploded like a supernova.  Disco was Hot Hot Hot!   Houston was no exception.  Disco Fever was burning hot throughout the city. 

Pistachio Club, my favorite hangout, had been Houston's most popular Disco in the early months of 1978.  However, pretty soon they would be getting some competition.  Entrepreneurs had taken note of the Disco frenzy and decided the time was right to open more dance clubs.  Several more clubs opened throughout 1978, the heyday of Dance Fever.

hottest Disco of all was the brand new Ritz.  Located on Westheimer in Highland Village a mile east of the Galleria, The Ritz featured the finest lighting technology seen to date in Houston. Someone had spent a small fortune to create the largest dance floor, the best sound system, and the most elaborate lighting system Houston had ever seen.

The Ritz was now the place to be.  Many
of Houston's best dancers had deserted my beloved Pistachio Club to become regulars at the fabulous Ritz.   Of course I had visited the Ritz to check it out.  I didn't like it at all.  The place was almost as large as a warehouse.  It was so vast and dark that I felt lost in there. 

Although I thought the club had a cold, sterile feel to it, I kept my thoughts to myself. I still greatly preferred the cozy confines of the Pistachio Club.  

Nevertheless I couldn't help but be impressed by the incredible lighting system in the place.  Those fancy lights created all sorts of dazzling special effects.  One moment the dance floor at the Ritz would be brighter than the Sun, the next moment the Disco floor would be plunged into brief but total darkness.  Once the darkness had taken effect, seconds later white lightning bolts created by strobes would flash across the ceiling.  It was a pretty eerie effect.  Those lights were amazing! 

Saturday Night Fever Hits Town

As a bit of background information, I had inadvertently stumbled into a job as a Disco Dance Teacher back in October 1977.  I began taking classes at Stevens of Hollywood to learn more about partner dancing, something I knew nothing about.  However I started my class a couple weeks late.  I was worried about catching up.

The teacher, Lance Stevens, assigned a volunteer to dance specifically with me to help me catch up.  Dorothy Piazzos, my dance angel, was very nice to me.  It is a good thing she was patient because I was really nervous. 

In fact, I was so nervous I almost poked my thumb through her hand.  Dorothy patiently pointed out the nerve damage and recommended a lighter touch.  I apologized profusely and told her not to hesitate to tell me if I did it again.  30 seconds later she shook her hand again and nodded.  I sighed deeply.  Yes, I was pretty nervous. 

After I finally relaxed, Dorothy was surprised to notice that I seemed to pick the steps up a lot quicker than most guys.  She complimented me.  Responding to her kind words, I mentioned the footwork was familiar to me since I taught a Disco line dance class somewhere else.  Dorothy raised an eyebrow. 

It turned out my teacher was also the owner.  By chance, Mr. Stevens needed a disco teacher because his instructor had quit.  Mr. Stevens hated Disco music and Dorothy knew that.  She mentioned what I had told her to Mr. Stevens.  He came over to check me out.  I had been teaching line dances elsewhere for four months.  It was really just a hobby. I had been taking Disco line dance classes steadily for the past four years.  I knew every dance in the book.  Bus Stop, LA Freeway, Electric Slide, the Freeze, Jungle Boogaloo, Four Corners, you name it. 

Mr. Stevens didn't seem very impressed by me, but he was more than happy to find someone who would teach the class for him.  Disco was no big deal in his book.  Dorothy was right; he hated the music and he didn't want to be bothered.

Although I wasn't the most talented dancer in the world, at least I was qualified for the job. For the next four weeks, I came to Stevens of Hollywood one night a week to teach a Disco Line Dance class.  I had 15 students.  It was hardly an auspicious start, but as they say, the mightiest oak starts out as a small acorn.

What neither Mr. Stevens nor I ever expected of course was that just around the corner, a Tidal Wave known as Saturday Night Fever was headed our way.  My life was about to change dramatically.

Saturday Night Fever hit Houston one month after I started my job.  Think about the sharp timing.  I started my class in October and one month later the movie arrived in Houston.  No one earth knew a thing about the movie. I didn't even know it had been filmed.  The first time I heard about it was the day it opened in Houston.  The Houston Post had a small Friday review about this new movie.  As I read the plotline, I was immediately curious.  Disco was my first love and here was a movie about the dancing.  Wow!  Better check it out!  I took off work a little early to see the movie at 4 pm that same day.

I was practically the only person in the theater. There could not have been more than 10 people in there.  That didn't keep me from loving every single minute of the movie.  I left the theater thinking the movie was a lot better than I expected it to be.  That said, I certainly never suspected the world was about to go nuts.  Nor did I expect this movie would change the course of my life.  But it did.  I was in the right place at the right time.  It only took 4 months to go from teaching one class one night a week to teaching 16 classes stretched over all seven days.  This was suddenly a full-time job in its own right.

Soon after the movie's release, hundreds of students began to bombard Stevens of Hollywood for lessons.  The phone would not stop ringing.  Mr. Stevens bitched the whole time.  Like I said, Mr. Stevens couldn't stand Disco.  That didn't keep him from cashing the checks.  He had a better idea.  Rather than teach the classes himself, he kept scheduling more classes for me.  Not only was I having fun, I was ambitious.  I turned those Beginner classes into Intermediate classes.  The Intermediate classes spawned Advanced classes.  As word of mouth about my classes spread, more Beginner classes were starting almost weekly... all this for a young man who knew nothing more than a bunch of Line Dances.

As you might gather, the sensation caused by Saturday Night Fever created a horrible 'Peter Principle' situation for me. The Peter Principle holds that people who do a good job keep getting promoted.  Then one day they find themselves promoted one level above their competence. This business axiom certainly held true for me, but with one exception.  I wasn't promoted one level above my competence, I was pushed SEVERAL LEVELS past my level of competence. 

I was overwhelmed, but I was game.  It helped that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Ignorance was bliss.  I liked the music and I liked the dancing.  I did everything I could to learn more line dances plus I started teaching freestyle, i.e. line dance moves without structure.  It got close a few times, but I always managed to stay one step ahead of the students I was teaching.

My Achilles Heel was partner dancing. 
Partner dancing had been more or less non-existent on the American Dance Scene since the Fifties.  The Sixties had witnessed a never-ending series of fad dances like the Twist, Cool Jerk, Frug, Monkey, Hitchhike, Pony, Mashed Potato, Watusi and more.  These goofy dances kept teenagers busy throughout the Sixties.  The Seventies had seen the introduction of Disco Line Dances, my specialty.  Saturday Night Fever changed all that.  SNF brought back partner dancing with a passion. 

Everyone was inspired to learn how to partner dance like John Travolta!  My students begged me to start teaching partner dancing.  The problem was, I barely knew any partner dancing!  I had taken some Whip lessons, but the Texas Whip certainly didn't look anything like the fast, fluid partner dancing seen in SNF

One day Mr. Stevens showed me a simple dance based on East Coast Swing footwork.  It used even-tempo Swing footwork.  In other words, one step per beat.  I knew this wasn't the dance in the movie.  This 4-beat dance moved too slow.  On my own, I developed something similar to Aggie Jitterbug that shortened the basic pattern down to 3 beats.  Calling it the New Yorker, my modest invention worked for a while, but I was never satisfied.  What I really wanted to do was to learn the Latin Hustle!

I could see the advanced dancers in the clubs were using a system of footwork that was far more sophisticated than this goofy thing I had concocted.  Known as the Latin Hustle, or Hustle for short, this beautiful dance with its syncopated timing was far too difficult for me to pick up just by watching.  I had no idea what they were doing out there, but I really wished I could learn how to dance it.  I told Mr. Stevens about the Hustle, but either he didn't know what I was talking about or he didn't care.  I didn't know where else to learn the Hustle, so I stayed in the dark and cursed my bad luck. 

The demand to learn partner dancing was intense. It was driving me crazy to feel so ignorant!  Although I was teaching partner dancing in my classes, I was barely one step ahead of my own advanced students.  I kept making up new moves based on what I saw out on the dance floor during my nightly scouting trips.  I was in constant fear that one day my students would realize I didn't know any more than they did.  More often than not, I would learn a pattern on Monday to teach my advanced students on Tuesday... I was always winging it. 

This practice isn't quite as unheard of as you think.  The secret of my success could be indelicately described as "Fake it till you Make it".  Every career has moments where an opportunity arises before you are completely ready.  You can either sit back and wait for a safer chance to come along or you can hit the hole and go.  I went for every opportunity, but I was taking some very big chances in the process. 
Sometimes when you play Fake It Till You Make It, you get burned

The Invitation to Perform at the Ritz

Shortly after The Ritz opened, in May 1978 Mr. Stevens received an invitation to perform there.  Mr. Stevens and his wife Cliann were celebrated Whip dancers and well-worthy of the honor.  The Texas Whip wasn't actually much of a Disco dance.  This dance was suited to slow, sensual rhythm and blues music with a strong downbeat.  The Whip vaguely resembled another dance known as West Coast Swing that several people were trying to use in the clubs, but I thought the West Cast Swing looked stupid to Disco music.  The fluid Latin Hustle was the dance of choice for most people including me (I just wish I knew how to dance it!)

Nevertheless, Mr. Stevens was so good at the Whip that I was sure people would enjoy watching him perform. 

To my utter and total dismay, Mr. Stevens informed me I would be performing too. 

He didn't ask, mind you, he told me I would be performing.   He added that the performance would be heavily promoted and that he expected the Who's Who of the Houston Dance Community to be there.  He added that he expected me to take this performance seriously and that I better not disappoint him.

Does that sound cold?  You betcha. 
Mr. Stevens was never the warmest of men.  In addition, his disdain for my lack of dancing ability had been obvious for some time.  But if he knew I was such a weak dancer, why did he insist that I perform?  I never quite understood why he bullied me into doing something I was not ready for.   Yes, I spoke up.  I said I wasn't ready, but my protests fell on deaf ears. 

Mr. Stevens
asked me if I taught partner dancing.  I nodded yes.  He said if I was going to talk it, I better learn to walk it too.  If I wanted to work here as a dance instructor, I better get used to performing. It came with the territory.  He said to get a dance partner and work up a routine to precede his.  In other words, I would be his opening act.  I had two weeks to prepare.  

I wasn't stupid.  I knew I was in big trouble.  I knew my own dancing didn't remotely compare to the best dancers I watched in the clubs on a regular basis.  I knew I was in way over my head.  However I didn't see that I had much choice in the matter. 

t the time I felt like keeping my job depended on it.  I can tell you from this experience, using a job as leverage is scary. I have little respect for people who abuse their power like Stevens did, but there is no question he used a very powerful form of persuasion.  I ended up doing something I didn't want to do.

Mr. Stevens had to know he was throwing me to the wolves.  But why?  My best guess is that he was being paid and he been told he needed another couple to fill the bill.  No other explanation makes sense unless you accept the darker thought that he deliberately set me up.

Saturday Night Fever had come out of nowhere to create a huge demand for Disco classes.  Although I never saw this chance coming ahead of time, once I saw the Wave, I grabbed my surfboard and paddled just as hard as I could to find the pipeline.  I made a conscious decision to accept every new opportunity that came along and see where this magic carpet ride would take me.  Up till now, my gamble to accept every new opportunity had worked like a charm.

I had not been foolish to accept the risks. As long as I was allowed to evolve at a gradual pace, I was okay.  After all, I knew more about what I was teaching than 98% of my students.  The other 2% seemed to like me enough not to call me on my act. 

However the Ritz was too big a leap for me, too much of a stretch.  This was one challenge that I definitely wasn't ready for, especially when you factor in the limited time.  When the Ritz Invitation came along,
I had been teaching for six months. My skills at partner dancing were much too rudimentary.  At this point I was still mostly teaching line dances and Disco Freestyle. Only recently had I even begun to learn how to partner dance, much less teach it. I knew from my frequent trips to the Disco my partner dance skills didn't even begin to match up to the good dancers that I admired so much.  I really wasn't much better than the next guy at partner dancing.  The thought that my idols would be watching me perform upset me no end.  I had no business passing myself off as someone in their league. 

Furthermore I had never performed at anything in my life.  Yet here I was committed to perform at the Ritz with all the best dancers watching. I was terrified.  I was so worried I wanted to throw up. 

What Mr. Stevens was asking me to do - PERFORM IN FRONT OF HOUSTON'S BEST DANCERS - was way over my head.  Making matters worse, I had no one to turn to for help.

I did not know how to lead!  That was my weakness.  Advanced Disco Dancing called for lightning-quick leads.  These leads were either acquired from lots of practice or they could be learned from a teacher.  However, good leads can't be acquired overnight.  They are honed through steady practice over time till they become is known as 'muscle memory'.  No one can develop muscle memory overnight.  It is against the law of nature.

This was not something I could acquire in a period of two weeks.  Mr. Stevens surely knew this, but he didn't lift a finger to help me.  What little I knew was stuff I had figured out on my own.  What was I supposed to do?

Wake me up... This has to be a nightmare!    But it wasn't...

To tell you I was scared out of my wits would be a vast understatement. I had only two weeks to prepare.  The finest dancers in Houston would be watching.

I was sick in my stomach.  I was in terrible trouble.  I was drowning. 

I was certain this was going to end badly.  And there was no one out there to save me. 


I asked a lady named Suzie Mathews to be my partner.  Suzie and her husband Chick were Ballroom students of Mr. Stevens

Suzie was interested in Disco dancing as well, but her husband could not have cared less.  So Suzie signed up for my Disco classes by herself.  I quickly realized she was a good dancer.  Once I realized she didn't have a partner, I naturally began to use her to help me demonstrate patterns in my classes.  Almost immediately Suzie became more of an assistant than an actual student.  Come to think of it, Suzie knew more about dancing than I did at the time. 

Suzie's good looks and dancing ability made her a good choice to be my partner. U
nfortunately I soon discovered she had no more experience at performing than I did.  Nor did she have a clue how to teach me to lead. 

Now we were both in over our heads!

God bless her, Suzie was willing to stay the course.  She should have run when she had the chance.  Instead she stuck around to suffer.  Suzie was just as worried as I was.  In fact, I decided she was a worrier by nature.  Suzie was always in a semi-state of panic over our impending doom. 

As we tried to prepare, Suzie could never relax and completely concentrate because her fears kept nagging at her.  I felt like I was the one who needed the encouragement, but she needed it more than I did!  Weren't we a pair?

It was the blind leading the blind, an ominous phrase that would soon come to have a much more serious connotation. 

Making things tougher, scheduling time to practice wasn't easy.  I had a full-time job during the day.  Using every small moment to practice, slowly but surely Suzie and I rehearsed various patterns.  We didn't have any help, so it wasn't easy.  I was learning stuff on the fly.  Finally we decided on a routine that was completely choreographed.  Since I didn't know how to lead, we had to memorize the order of everything we were going to do.  What other choice did we have?

Considering how little experience we had, it was a good routine.  I had one skill - I had discovered I was especially good at dance acrobatics.  I could throw girls in the air without a problem, I just couldn't lead partner dancing with them. 
So we planned to go thin on the partner dancing and thick on the lifts, drops, and flips.   Dance Acrobatics are so entertaining that our lack of dance background could actually be disguised.  I was very encouraged by this realization.  I taped a bunch of Dance Fever TV shows and came up with some good new acrobatic moves to try. 

However, we weren't out of the woods yet.  Not by a long shot.  The main negative was that I wasn't able to create the acrobatics on my own.  I couldn't lead.  The lady had to memorize her part.  She had know when to jump into my arms and when not to.  Anyone who knows dancing will tell you that women hate being expected to dance memorized patterns.   Tough.  We had no other choice. 

Suzie and I had invested almost all of our two weeks racking our brains for material and practicing the patterns all by themselves.  The performance was two days away and we didn't have a routine yet, just lots of separate parts.  Now it was time to integrate all the separate patterns into a dance routine. That's when we made a painful discovery - neither of us could remember the damn pattern!    As an unfortunate byproduct of our inexperience, neither of us had realized how much time it would take to memorize the routine.  We had allocated too much time for development.  This made us even more nervous because we could see we were quickly running out of time.  We had two days left to get it together.

Two days.  We had been nervous before, but now we were sweating bricks.  Nausea was a full-time guest in my stomach. 

Practicing every spare second we could find, we were now able to remember the pattern.  Sort of.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that neither of us could remember the entire pattern at the same time.  We took turns screwing things up. 

Then I made another bad discovery - I couldn't figure how to restart in the middle of the pattern!   Our grasp of the routine was so flimsy that we could only perform it by starting from the top again.  This worried me a lot because I was certain something was going to go wrong... a fairly easy prediction since it had never gone right once! 

I didn't know how to lead or create a move, I had to depend on Suzie to get into each acrobatics position herself.  I didn't know how to put her there myself.  We would dance a couple patterns, then Suzie was supposed to get into position.  I would grab her and throw her up in the air for a while, put her back on the floor, then let her get into position to start the next move.  

I kept thinking to myself, What were we going to do if we messed up... ask the deejay to start the song again?

Finally I couldn't take the pressure any more.  The night before the performance I tried desperately to back out.  No luck.  Mr. Stevens reminded me I had made a commitment.

That night I was sick with worry.  I couldn't sleep.  How did I ever let myself get into this fix?  They shoot horses, don't they?  Shoot me now.  Put me out of my misery.

The next day was the day of the performance.  It was a weekday.  I snuck out of the office to meet Suzie for more practice.  Throughout the afternoon
we had yet to do the routine right even a single time.  One of us would screw up and we would both freeze.  Then we had trouble deciding how to get it going again from the middle of the pattern.  We would give up and have to start the song over again.

The entire time both of us carried that awful panicked feeling inside.  One time Suzie broke down and cried.  We could both feel the impending doom.  

However today wasn't quite as hopeless as it had been yesterday.  We were getting closer.  We were messing up later in the routine than we had before.  Isn't that a sign of progress when it takes longer to screw up?    Grasping for any sign of progress, at least I had this small encouragement.   We hugged and parted, planning to meet later at the Ritz half an hour before the performance and try again. 

Mind you, as I said goodbye, there was one dominating fact at the front of my mind.  There had not been one single time Suzie and I had ever performed the routine from start to finish without a mistake.  Not once.   What possible chance did we have to make this work?  This was hopeless.  We were surely doomed.

The Night of the Performance at the Ritz

The fateful night arrived.  Suzie and I met at the Ritz early for our last ditch effort.  We went over to a dark corner of the room and practiced furiously.  That afternoon the patterns had been close to working.  All we needed was more time.  Just give us a little more time!  We practiced for a solid hour.  People would come over to watch and we would tell them to leave us alone so we could concentrate. 

The time was getting close.  Then it happened.  Five short minutes before we were scheduled to perform, like a miracle, Suzie and I did the routine from start to finish without a problem for the very first time!  Then like Magic we did it right a second time!  Two times in a row! 

There wasn't time for a third try... it was
just seconds before game time. Still, I was very encouraged.  It was clear to me that we now had a fighting chance of success.  Against all the odds, maybe we could pull this thing off after all.

We heard our names called.  Time to face the firing squad.  Nervous beyond any kind of anxiety I have ever felt before in my life, with my heart beating rapidly, I walked with Suzie out onto the enormous dance floor.

There we stood all alone in the middle of a gigantic dance floor with the brilliant spotlights beaming down on us.  The glare was so intense it felt like daylight.  The Ritz was packed.  As predicted, there were easily 400 people present that night to witness my performance.  Four hundred people.  I was so sick with worry.  The pressure on me was intense.

Once we were out on the floor, I looked for their faces and was surprised that I couldn't see them.  I was disconcerted to realize they could see me, but I couldn't see them!  Since I had never been on stage before, I didn't realize the crowd would be so difficult to spot. 

The Ritz had a lowered ceiling in the seating area and a raised ceiling on the dance floor.  The lighting in the seating area was kept dark.  Meanwhile the powerful lights made it
so bright out there on the floor that there was only blackness beyond. 

400 people surrounded us from a darkened perimeter.  It was so weird that we could not even see the audience.  Then I looked again and saw something white.  That is when I realized that although I could not see anyone's face, I could see their eyes peering at us from the darkened perimeter!  Too weird.  It was spooky being alone in the middle of the floor with nothing to see except for the white eyes of the people in front.

I felt like an animal in the jungle about to be attacked. I felt like screaming.

I wanted to throw up.   How on earth did I get myself into this fix?  My gut wrenching nausea was overwhelming.  How was I supposed to smile?  How would I ever be able to perform with this kind of anxiety?

Suzie and I were introduced.  The time had come.  

A phrase from my Eight Grade Latin class crossed my mind.  Morituri Te Salutamus... We who are about to die salute you.  That's what the Roman Gladiators would say as they entered the arena.  The way I felt, it seemed fitting.  Death by Disco.  That would be my epitaph.

The music began.  To our surprise and great relief, our routine began flawlessly.  Each move was executed with precision! 

After our first tough move came off without a hitch, Suzie smiled at me.  I smiled back. Suzie and I were gaining confidence.  It felt like our last minute success off-stage had carried over onto the dance floor.  We were right on the verge of enjoying ourselves.   We could feel the invisible crowd start to warm up to us.  Encouraged, we began to smile for the audience and they responded back.  From the darkness, they began to clap and cheer! 

I was flush with excitement.  Maybe this will work after all...

Suddenly without any warning the lights were turned off! 

Without warning, the Deejay had switched to the dark strobe lighting.  What was he thinking?  The sudden change in lighting literally left us blind.  We had been performing in brilliant light and our pupils were dilated.  Although there was some light from the dark strobes, it did us no good at all.  Until our eyes adjusted, we were both totally blind.

This disaster happened at a moment where Suzie and I were dancing apart.  We had no connection and I had no idea where she was.  I literally could not see her because I was thrown into total darkness.   I started to grope for her.  What a time to be playing Blind Man's Bluff! 
While I searched for Suzie, I also screamed at the DJ to turn the lights back on.  His unnecessary transition had left us completely blind.  What kind of idiot turns the lights out while someone is performing?   The bright spotlights had been in our eyes, but now it was totally dark.

Making things worse, the audience could see everything that was going on.  After all, they had been shrouded in darkness the whole time.  The transition to the strobes made no difference to their eyes.   As a result, they could see me clearly as I groped around frantically for my dance partner. 

I could hear them start to laugh and giggle as I kept lunging around furiously on the dance floor trying to locate my missing partner.  I was numb with anger and frustration!   Why couldn't I find my partner?   Losing my cool, I cursed out bitterly, using the F word.  I was
groping everywhere in the dark for Suzie without any success!  I kept screaming, "Turn on the lights!  Turn on the lights!" 

This all took place in about 5 or 6 seconds.  Too bad I asked for the lights to be turned on again because now my eyes had adjusted to the strobes.  I didn't realize my eyes would adjust, but 6 seconds had been enough. The strobes supplied just enough light for me to discover Suzie was standing behind me.  Now I could see just fine. 

That didn't last long.  Now I got my second blow.  Reacting to the urgency in my voice, the
DJ flipped the lights back on at the exact moment I finally located Suzie.   Now I was suddenly blind again!  Back to groping for my partner.  What a comedy.

The crowd groaned audibly.  Here we go again.  They had seen me lose my partner in the darkness.   They had seen me flailing for her without luck.  They had heard me scream at the deejay and loudly curse my bad luck.  Now every person in the room was able to see me lose her again for yet a second time!

Now they would witness the final act and it wasn't pretty.

Once my eyes adjusted for the second time, I found
Suzie again.  I still had my wits about me, but my partner had gone rigid with fear.  She was glassy-eyed and terrified.  Suzie looked like someone who has been in a serious car accident and is wandering around trying to make sense of it all.  

Suzie was practically catatonic.
Any memory of our routine was long gone.  

Since I didn't know how to lead, I didn't have any way to recreate the routine.  We were only one-third into our performance and my partner had gone psycho.  All I could do now was grab Suzie and throw her around.   She was in shock.  What else could I do?

Maybe I should have just walked off the floor.  They say the show must go on, but this was ridiculous.  Stupid me, I stayed out there.

Although I was badly shaken, I could still remember what patterns came next.  I cursed again, this time at my helplessness to rescue the situation.  I did not have the ability to carry out the routine alone.  We finished the act only because I literally manhandled this poor hapless woman for two more painfully long minutes.  A wooden dance dummy would have actually done just as well.

The Lucy and Ricky Comedy Hour

As a comedic dance act, we would have been great.  Our problems were something out of an 'I Love Lucy' episode to be sure.  Imagine the kind of fun Lucille Ball could have had with this story!  In Lucy's world, anything that can go wrong usually does go wrong.  And of course we laugh ourselves silly in the process at her travails.  Too bad we didn't know how to play our own mishap for laughs.  

Perhaps if we had some prior experience, we could have made something of the situation.  Seasoned performers might have waved to the crowd, acknowledged the problem, asked the crowd for a second chance, and then turned to the DJ to ask him to start the music again.  After all, everyone knew the lighting problem had caused our silly groping in the dark.  Of course we deserved a second chance.

But we weren't seasoned performers, now were we?  We were rookies who had totally bombed out in our first performance.  We panicked and fell to pieces. 

The crowd turned cold. T
hese people were expecting a professional dance performance.  Once they saw how amateurish we were, they were turned off.  Fortunately they were polite in their scorn.  There were some snickers, but mercifully no one booed us.  I think most people realized we were the victims of the deejay's stupid mistake and cut us some slack.  After all, we had looked pretty good till the lights went out.


After our two very public minutes of hell, Suzie and I were sick with shame.  As we crawled off the floor in ruins, I remember the quiet crowd separating to let us pass as if we had leprosy.  Their faces indicated that we were pathetic.  We could see the frowns and the averted glances as we passed.  No one said a single word to us.  We were dead men walking.  It was a grim scene.  

Stevens and his wife Cliann passed us on their way out to floor.  Her face was taut and uncaring.  She looked rigidly straight ahead.  His face was cold as ice.   Mr. Stevens refused to look at me as well.  I assumed he was ashamed of me.  They just walked right past us as if we didn't exist.  God forbid anyone should think he was associated with me.  Oddly enough, he never said another word to me about it.  I might add he never asked me to perform again either.

Fortunately I had not told a soul at the dance studio about this performance.  There was no one there to support, but that was okay by me.  This meant there was no one there to witness our debacle who knew us.  Even Suzie's husband Chick had stayed away.  It was just Suzie and me against the cold cruel world as we made our way towards the recesses of the building.

With my arm around Suzie's shoulders, I took her as far from the dance floor as I could.  There in the remote corner of the club where we had practiced earlier, Suzie came back to life.  She started to cry uncontrollably.  I didn't cry, but I sure wanted to.  We were so ashamed of ourselves.   And disappointed too.  We were right on the edge of pulling this off only to have someone else's stupid mistake ruin it for us.

Suzie didn't say a word.  She just cried.  No one else came near us.  We had leprosy, remember? 

As I sat there trying to comfort her, I struggled to comprehend what had gone wrong.

I suppose the Deejay in the booth above us had sensed that our dancing had gotten the crowd excited.  As a way to enhance our performance, he had decided to switch from the powerful spotlight to the amazing (BUT VERY DARK) strobe light system.  I imagine he was new to this performing business himself.  He probably had no idea how much trouble he would cause for us by switching the lighting.  He was learning things the hard way just like we were.

Maybe experienced performers could have laughed it off and picked up the pieces, but certainly not us.  We were shaky to begin with.  Once the whole world saw us staggering around like drunken fools, our poise was shattered.

What little confidence we had was completely shattered by the DJ's bad judgment.  It was a new club and he had made a rookie mistake. But that mistake was more than enough to shoot us down. We never had a chance after that.  Once Suzie locked up, there was no hope for recovery.  Our shaky house of cards came tumbling down.

My worst fear had come to pass.  The 400 best dancers in the city all got to watch me make a complete fool of myself.  Que cera, cera.  What will be, will be. 

Little did I know it at the time, but this ugly moment foreshadowed an astonishing string of dance performance disappointments.  Some of the incidents were silly, some were frightening, but they all were deeply painful to me. 

I do not handle embarrassment well
.  Too bad.  I was about to get plenty of practice at it.

The Ritz Performance was only the start of my Dance Curse.

Like the tales of Brave Ulysses, my Odyssey had just begun.


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