The Odyssey
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The Dance Curse!!

Part Five - The Odyssey

Story written by Rick Archer

First Published: January 2001
Last update: February 2010


 


The Curse of Poseidon


Following the 1983 wardrobe malfunction with Judy's dress, I discovered that I was genuinely spooked by what had happened.  For all my previous problems with performing, this accident got under my skin in a way much different than the previous problems.

I was actually beginning to believe there really was a Curse!  Although one part of me thought this was ridiculous, another part of me was turning into a True Believer.

The more I thought about it, the more I was reminded about The Curse of Poseidon, a tale that had gripped me as a young boy.


Fate, Destiny and the Gods

I have been fascinated with the concept of Fate and Destiny for my entire life. 

When it comes to these concepts, no culture was more preoccupied with the idea than the ancient Greeks.  When I was growing up, I spent several years reading every book about Greek Mythology I could get my hands on.  I learned that the Greeks and their counterparts the Romans were a superstitious lot indeed.

The Greeks believed they had very little control over their own lives.  They assumed that all their good fortune and all their bad fortune had something to do with whether the Gods liked them or not.  They believed that all battles were won or lost based on the favor of the Gods. 

Needless to say, any Greek or Roman with an extra coin in his pocket made sure to build a Temple to his favorite God or Goddess just in case he needed a favor down the road.  It helped to have friends in high places. 

The Greeks believed they didn't have much control over their own lives.  They assumed that The Fates, aka the Moirae, were in charge of each person's destiny.  Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos were the three Goddesses who spun the thread of Life.  Whatever happened to an individual during a lifetime was in their hands. 

Fortunately, according to legend, even these typically remorseless women could be placated by good behavior.  The major skill was to always show respect to the Gods.  Consequently, there were a lot of Greek Myths around to remind people not to irritate the Gods. 


The Odyssey

The Odyssey was an epic poem written by Homer as a followup to The Iliad.  The Odyssey details the story of the endless series of miseries Odysseus had to face after the conclusion of the Trojan War.  The cruel fate of Odysseus at the hands of Poseidon, God of the Ocean, serves as the classic example why no mere mortal should ever mess with the Gods.

Athena and Poseidon were both on the Greek side during the war.  However
, during the sack of Troy, a Greek warrior violated the high priestess Cassandra in the Temple of Athena.   Athena was so angry, she convinced Poseidon to help her punish the Greeks. On their way home, the entire Greek fleet was beset by terrible storms.  Many ships were destroyed and the fleet was scattered. Odysseus and his crew were blown off course as well.  This was the start of a decade-long series of troubles for the Greek chieftain.

During his ten year 'Odyssey', the Greek hero Odysseus had to overcome one terrible crisis after another.  Besides the deadly storms that first drove his ships off course, he encountered the mind-numbing Lotus Eaters, the Cyclops, the enchantress Circe, the beautiful but dangerous Sirens (pictured), the dual monsters Scylla and Charybdis, as well as Calypso, the sea goddess who held him captive for seven years. These stories were all part of the wild tale about the adventures of Odysseus, the ultimate "Cursed" warrior. 

 The amazing Cyclops from the
Seventh Voyage of Sinbad


The Gods considered the storms punishment enough for the Greeks. However, Odysseus incurred special wrath. He made a serious mistake that would come back to haunt him time and again. 

Thanks to the storms, the Greeks were low on supplies. They visited an island populated by huge monsters known as the Cyclops. Odysseus and twelve men explored the island. They found food in a nearby cave.  They should have left, but at the urging of a very curious Odysseus, they decided to stick around and see what a giant Cyclops looked like.  That evening Polyphemus, the Cyclops who made this particular cave his home, arrived with his herd of sheep.  To keep his herd secure, Polyphemus pulled a large boulder across the mouth of the cave, thereby trapping the Greeks inside. 

Odysseus ordered his men to hide.  That would save them. However, upon seeing this hideous monster, several of the Greeks involuntarily gasped in terror, thereby giving away their hiding place. Polyphemus was delighted at this surprise.  He immediately devoured two of the men.  Yum.  Odysseus, always the clever one, offered the monster all the wine that he and his men had brought along with them.  Unsuspecting, Polyphemus drank the massive amount of wine to celebrate, then fell fast asleep.

Odysseus was fairly sure he could kill the Cyclops while he slept, but what to do about that boulder?  Never in a million years would they be able to move something that heavy away from the mouth of the cave.  Odysseus came up with a clever plan.

In the dark of the night, while Polyphemus slept, Odysseus and his men prepared a sharpened pole to use as a weapon.  When it was ready, they plunged the pole into the solitary eye of the Cyclops, permanently blinding him.  Polyphemus was deeply wounded, but not killed.  In a rage, he thrashed about the cave looking for his tormentors, but had no luck catching them in this deadly game of Blind Man's Bluff.


Meanwhile, it was morning now. The sheep were ready to leave the cave for their grazing.  Polyphemus removed the boulder to let them out, but he knew full well the Greeks would try to escape.  So Polyphemus deliberately touched each animal one by one as they passed through the cave entrance to make sure it was a sheep that was leaving and not a human.

Odysseus instructed his men to grab the underside of the sheep and hold on tight.  This trick allowed them to deceive the blind Polyphemus into thinking that only the sheep were leaving.  They all escaped.

Now the Greeks made their way back to their ship, taking many of the sheep with them for provisions.  Once he was safely aboard the ship, Odysseus decided to taunt Polyphemus from afar with insults.  Polyphemus, realizing he had been tricked again, hurled giant rocks at the voice of Odysseus, trying to smash the ship to pieces.  However, his attempts were futile.  Odysseus continued to bedevil the frustrated giant with his taunts, but he made one huge mistake - he told the Cyclops his real name.

This was a bad move. Odysseus had no idea that Polyphemus just happened to have a very famous father.  Once Odysseus had made his escape, Polyphemus prayed to his father Poseidon, God of the Oceans.  The wounded Cyclops asked his father to avenge him and punish the man who had blinded him. 

Poseidon was furious at Odysseus for hurting his son. Thus began the Curse of Poseidon.  Throughout his journey home, Poseidon would make sure that Odysseus suffered at every possible turn.

To avenge his son, Poseidon spend the next eight years getting even with Odysseus, causing earthquakes, storms at sea, and throwing horrendous sea monsters in his path.  No matter where Odysseus went, Poseidon made sure to punish him some more.

Odysseus, once the darling of the Gods, had now dared to challenge the Gods.  For his hubris, Odysseus was given a painful lesson that would last seemingly forever - if you anger the Gods, there will be consequences. 


Rick's Magical Mystery Tour

Baby Boomers will recall that the Beatles took a serious trip inward at a certain point in their lives.  They visited the Maharishi in India.  They weren't the only ones to look inward.  The late Sixties were a pretty strange time.  As part of the Love Generation and the Psychedelic Era, lots of people followed the Beatles' lead and embarked on spiritual journeys of their own.  I was one of them.  Being in college meant I had the free time to study other things besides my courses. 

I spent the better part of two college years reading every book on mysticism, occultism, and eastern religion that I could get my hands on.  I suppose that everyone goes through a "Meaning of Life" phase, but I took it more seriously than most.

During my two year search, I investigated meditation, reincarnation, and astrology.  I read the Autobiography of a Yogi, supposedly the true story of a real-life yogi from India.  Wonderful book, by the way.  I studied the predictions of Nostradamus and the predictions of Edgar Cayce, a modern day mystic who predicted someone would discover of the remains of Atlantis about now... I am still waiting on that one.

Thanks in part to my Quaker upbringing, I have always had an open mind when it comes to mysticism.  During this same time I studied the Rosicrucians, the Freemasons, and the writings of the Essenes, ancient Jewish mystics.  It was all pretty interesting stuff.

I visited séances, spiritual communes, and saw hypnotic retrogressions where people were hypnotized in able to recall previous lifetimes. 

Along the way, I had several very odd experiences.  For example, at one séance, the lady next to me asked me if I knew "Terry".  I gasped.  Terry was the name of my beloved dog who had recently passed away.  Except that Terry had died in my mother's arms back in Houston while I was in college here in Baltimore.   I was the only person in Baltimore who had any knowledge whatsoever of my lifetime companion back home.  There is no possible way this could have been a trick.  When the lady said the spirit of my dog was right beside me, I could not help but break down and sob my heart out.  (I am NOT making this up.)

One night in college I took a break from studying to daydream about what I would like to do with my upcoming summer.  I decided I wanted to be a camp counselor.  It was April.  Too late to apply for anything.  I wouldn't even know where to start looking.  Oh well.  I went back to studying and didn't give it another thought.  One week later I was playing with a kid named Eric at a day care center where I did volunteer work.  Eric's mother showed up with another lady beside her.  This lady was her sister visiting from Colorado.  To be polite, I asked what she did for a living in Colorado.  She and her husband ran a summer camp for kids.  Oh really?  Do you have any openings?  Yes, in fact we are interviewing people right now.  Would you like to stop by?  That night I got the job.  Just like that.

The episode that shook me up the most had to do with Astrology.  I had always scoffed at astrology.  How can billions of people have twelve different personalities?  What utter nonsense.  However, when I delved into it further, I discovered there are things known as birth charts.  As I studied my particular chart, I was surprised at how accurate it seemed to be.  Here's one for you... I have Neptune and Mercury side by side in the Tenth House... the House of Career.  According to astrology, I am supposed to have a unique ability to use communication such as WRITING to promote my career.  Interesting coincidence.

I like math, so I learned how to do astrology charts in great detail.  I learned that you can predict things using astrology.  I delved into Progressive Horoscopes.  I made a disturbing discovery - the massive star Antares was located at the same degree in my chart as the Sun.  People with this aspect are in great danger of eye injuries - Antares turns out the light.  Considering that I cut my eye out with a knife at age 5, when I read this tidbit I had a serious attack of goosebumps.  Using a mathematical progression, another accident was predicted to occur in several months.  Since I only had one good eye left, I wasn't very happy about this knowledge.

On the spot, I decided to quit basketball.  After all, it was my only activity that carried any risk.  Why tempt fate?

However, there is so much going on in college that it is easy to get sidetracked.  Since I never had a girlfriend in college, I had some serious bouts with depression and loneliness.  One Friday night I just couldn't take it anymore ; I had to get out of my room and do something.  Yes, I vaguely remembered why I had given up basketball, but I had a serious case of the yayas.  To heck with my stupid superstition.   You can't let superstition rule your life. So I went to the gym to play basketball for the first time in months.
 
As I played, a rebound went sailing over my head.  Just as I turned my head to go chase it, another man accidentally smashed me right in the face with his forehead.  It was literally a head-on collision.  I screamed in pain.  He hit me so hard that I collapsed to the ground with a searing pain across my one good eye.  As I fell, I instantly closed my eyes.  This was it.  This was the accident.  I was sure of it.  I was sick in my stomach with fear.  Blind!  For several minutes I just lay on ground too terrified to reopen my good eye.  I knew I had suffered an injury because someone said I was bleeding pretty bad.  Finally I screwed up my courage and reopened my good eye - I could see!  Waves of relief washed over me.  The collision had jammed my glasses deep into the eyebrow of my good eye and cut me, but my eye was spared. 

One of the nurses at the emergency room commented that I was the most cheerful person she had ever seen that had to get stitches.  What a great attitude I had about my injury. Hmm. Better than being blind.

Afterwards I went home and pulled out my astrology charts.  Sure enough, just as I suspected, the accident had occurred as Antares was passing over the sensitive part of my astrology chart.  Amazing.

I shook my head in bewilderment.  The implications were frightening.  This felt like "Fate" and "Predestination".  I was meant to have an eye accident; the astrology chart said so.  On the spot, I gave up astrology.  I decided that even if Astrology was true, I couldn't live my life worrying about something that might happen to me in the future.  It would drive me crazy.   No more astrology.  I have never opened an astrology book since.  By the way, this is also a true story.

After my accident, I began to study every thing I could get my hands on about Fate and Destiny.  I became particularly interested in the Eastern concept of Karma.  Karma was one of the catch phrases of the day. What goes around comes around.  Everywhere I went, the word "Karma" was being used in everyday conversations.  Good karma, bad karma.  Thanks to the Beatles, everyone on campus was studying eastern religion.  It was the Time of the Season.

When paired with the concept of "Reincarnation", the idea of Karma made a whole lot more sense to me than the Christian notion of one life, heaven and hell.   For example, in order to get to heaven, you had to live a good Christian life.  It seemed to me that a child born to a loving Christian home and a disfigured orphan who never knew any love whatsoever were not being given an equal shot in this "one life to get it right" system.  But if everyone had several lives to figure it all out, that squared things with my sense of justice.

I am not trying to disrespect Christianity here.  After all, my entire life credo is based on Christian ethics.  However, when it comes to justice in the Universe, for my thinking, I was a lot more comfortable with the idea that humans have free will to choose good or evil and suffer the consequences over many lifetimes.  In Eastern beliefs, the karmic effects of all deeds are viewed as actively shaping past, present, and future experiences.  Good deeds are rewarded, bad deeds are punished and you keep coming back for one lifetime after another till you get it right.  Perhaps what we call "Life" really is just one big Groundhog Day.

That eye accident and its coincidental link to astrology must have affected my mind.  To my immature college age brain, this incident was proof that whatever was to be was to be.  Que sera, sera.  If everything was predestined, what difference did it make?  Why bother trying?   Sit back and let it happen.  I immediately developed a very passive attitude towards my daily activities.  Like the hippies around me, I figured Live For Today was as good as any other philosophy to live by.

Fortunately, that didn't last long.  The moment I got my first lousy grade on a test, I decided my new attitude was total bullshit.  Maybe predestination was true, but for me to be effective in life, I had to pretend that I was captain of my own ship.  Thanks to this change in attitude, I began studying again and pretending I was in charge in of my own destiny.  Smiling with satisfaction over an "A" on my next test, I knew I had made a much better choice in my philosophy towards life.

Since then, I have lived the past forty years under the assumption that the harder I work, the luckier I get. 

So let's address some of the questions that might have crossed your mind. 

1.
Q - Back in those days, was I on drugs?  A - No, I wasn't on drugs.  I had a clear mind if that is what you are wondering. Other than practice yoga and meditate, mostly I read a lot.

2. Q - Did I have any visions or mystical experiences?  A - No, never had any visions.  No burning bushes.  No visits from angels.  No visits from ghosts.  No memories of past lives.  No ESP experiences.  No out of body experiences.  Nothing paranormal occurred whatsoever.  

3. Q - Did I discover any proof of the existence of ghosts, reincarnation, life after death?  No.  I wish I did.  My favorite story on the subject is the pact that Harry Houdini made with his wife Bess.  The famous magician promised that after he died, he would to do everything in his power to contact her from the other side.  Bess Houdini, the magician's widow, held yearly séances on Halloween for ten years after Houdini's death, but Houdini never appeared.

I have no direct knowledge of the existence of life after death.  As far as I am concerned, the jury's still out.  I simply try to keep an open mind.

That said, I remain convinced that there is more to this world than meets the eye.  I have encountered so many odd coincidences in my life that I can't help but wonder sometimes that there is something going on behind the scenes.   In other words, thanks to my two years of investigations, I am certain something fishy is going on.  I don't know what it is and I can't prove it, but my gut says there are some peculiar things going on that are hard to explain.

For example, I wrote a long story about an amazing coincidence in my life that occurred in my Senior Year in High School.  Titled Maria Ballantyne, I would like to share some quotes from that story.

A MEDITATION ON COINCIDENCE

“A Coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”  Unknown

“Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys.”  Emma Bull

"Coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous."  Doris Lessing

"When you live your life with an appreciation of Coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities."  Deepak Chopra

"The more frequently one uses the word ‘Coincidence’ to explain bizarre happenings, the more obvious it becomes that one is not seeking, but rather evading the real explanation."    Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson

 


Brave Ulysses


And that brings us back to Brave Ulysses.  Throughout Homer's Odyssey, I asked myself how much control did Odysseus have over his own life.  If anyone had any  control, my money would be on him.  After all, Odysseus was a Greek hero.  He was a seasoned warrior who had survived many hand to hand sword fights during the Trojan War.  That meant he had tremendous skill as well as great courage.  He was also said to possess amazing strength.  And, of course, Odysseus was considered by all to be the smartest and most cunning of all the Greeks. 

Odysseus was clearly the most talented man of his time.  And yet, as we read in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus did not have much control over his life.  He was human.  Mortal.  Flesh and blood.  Skin and bones.  When paired opposite the powers of the mighty Poseidon, a God, Odysseus didn't fair very well.  He was fortunate to survive.  For that matter, legend suggests that Poseidon didn't kill Odysseus just so he could torture the man some more.  Poseidon wanted Odysseus to suffer a lot.  And despite all his impressive set of mortal skills, suffer he did.

Odysseus never did break his Curse by himself.  In the end, Athena took pity on him.  She asked Zeus to intervene with Poseidon.  Poseidon finally relented and set Odysseus free to go home.  The point is it was the Will of the Gods that sent him home, nothing Odysseus did.  At no time did Odysseus ever appear to have control of his own destiny. 

And what about me?  I was the victim of a ridiculous string of bizarre accidents.  Six times I had tried to perform, six times I had failed.  Six times I had failed for reasons that I felt were totally out of my own control. 

Now I fully admit I am not in the same league as Odysseus.  If Odysseus, the great hero, couldn't outwit the Gods and break his own Curse, then what chance did an insignificant guy like me have of ending his own Curse?


A Very Eerie Feeling

After my 1983 Waltz performance with Judy Price ended with the two of us knotted together like Siamese Twins, I had the weirdest feeling. 

I remembered actually saying to myself, "The Curse is Over!" to myself out there on the dance floor at the very end of our dance routine.  Just like Odysseus felt when he foolishly called out his name to the Cyclops, I felt secure in the knowledge that the Gods were done messing with me.

Every part of our routine had gone perfectly... every pattern, every turn, every step, every dip and every lunge had come off to perfection.  Not one slip, not one mistake. 

Judy and I rose out of our Twist Dip to a warm and quite sincere round of applause... only to find out one second later that we were forced to endure what had to be the most humiliating ending to a routine in the History of Dance.

If this had been an isolated episode, I think I could have shrugged it off as bad luck and moved on.  However, when viewed in light of my remarkable string of five previous failures, this wardrobe mishap took on a much different meaning to me. I had literally BEEN ON GUARD FOR THE CURSE through all the days preceeding our performance and throughout our dance, and yet IT HAPPENED ANYWAY.  I seemingly had no control over the events.

This incident got under skin in a way that none of the other accidents had.  Everything that had gone wrong before was scary and frustrating, but at least each time there was an explanation that made sense.  Having a DJ turn off the lights is not paranormal.  Having a woman get karate chopped because she foolishly stood too close to the floor is not paranormal.  On the other hand, this tangled belt incident, however, was off the charts for "weirdness".  

There is "odd", there is "strange", and then there is another level known as "bizarre".  This incident was truly Twilight Zone quality Bizarre!! 

It was ultra bizarre that the string cord got so tightly wrapped around my buckle.  That cord wasn't very long. I have a picture to prove my assertion.   Nor was there any unusual feature about my belt buckle.  Even if the cord did get wrapped around my belt buckle, it should have slipped right back out.  Nor did we do anything unusual.  Judy and I were practically standing still when the cord must have gotten tangled.

So how on earth did the cord get so tightly wrapped that all our tugging and thrashing didn't knock it loose?   Seriously, I could not possibly have DELIBERATELY tied a knot that was any more powerful.

It defied credibility that this little cord got so tight that we could not pull it loose.  I didn't do any further experiments, but I imagine I could do that same acrobatic stunt wearing the same clothes twenty times in a row and never once begin to recreate what had happened. 

Furthermore the timing was equally bizarre.  I had just announced to myself that the Curse was over... only to see it instantly strike again!

To me, this event was like something out of Greek Mythology. It was like I had defied the Gods and the Gods had decided to teach me a lesson on the spot. 

Moving away from the specific tangled belt accident, I next examined the string of unusual accident that had happened to me.

The sheer
statistical improbability of my string of mishaps was curious.  Sure, things go wrong all the time.  That's life.  People slip.  People trip.  People lose their concentration.  Accidents happen.  However, in a normal world, accidents are not supposed to happen six times in a row.  That defied logic. 

The way most people see it, there are two kinds of bad luck.  There is bad luck you bring on yourself and there is bad luck you have no control over.

Usually if something happens once or maybe twice and you say it wasn't your fault, people will cut you some slack and give you the benefit of the doubt.  However, when you ask them to accept you have had bad luck six times in row and not once was it your fault, that strains most people's sense of credibility. 

And yet here I was with six consecutive examples of bad luck and claiming to be the innocent victim each time.

You be the judge.  I have now told six stories.  I have related each incident exactly the way it happened.  I have not changed the details or omitted key information.  Assuming I am telling the truth - which I am - I contend that I was not responsible for one single accident in the string of mishaps.  I say I was the victim each time.

A quick review. 

1.  Ritz - the DJ turned out the lights and caused us to lose our way.
2.  Spats - a woman pushed me in the back and I hit Susie in the mouth.
3.  Lighthouse - a ceiling fan that we had tested earlier hit Victoria's foot.
4.  Foley's -  slippery pants caused Victoria to fly out of my arms.
5.  Annabelles - Victoria's karate chop nearly broke a woman's larynx
6.  Waltz performance - Judy's string belt tangled around my buckle tied us together like Siamese Twins.

Another way of expressing how odd these six incidents were is there was not one performance that was successful in between. They all went bad!  Six performances, six failures.  Every time I performed, something went wrong.  I don't know what your definition of a Curse is, but this string of coincidences met my conditions just fine.

I was Cursed!

Every single mishap had a freakish feel to it that gave me the sense that no matter how hard I tried to prevent it, something was going to go wrong anyway.  Like Odysseus, I had no control in the outcome.  That is especially true for the Annabelles incident and the Waltz performance.  Thanks to the previous four mishaps, in both the fifth and sixth instances I was actually hyper-vigilant for new problems, but they happened anyway.

Of the six incidents, the only incident I felt slightly guilty about was the Lighthouse ceiling fan accident.  In my defense, I had taken two precautions.  One, during rehearsal I had Victoria test the nearest ceiling fan with her toe.  She was unable to touch it.  Two, someone turned on those fans without telling anyone.  That's the same thing as turning the power back on while the electrician is working on a short... very dangerous, very stupid.  Yes, maybe we should have noticed the fans had just come on. However, we had already eliminated the fans as a problem so we weren't on guard. 

Let's play a game called 'car accident'.  Your brother has an accident.  He calls you for sympathy.  He says it isn't his fault and you do your best to cheer him up. 

Two months later, he has another accident.  Not his fault.  You offer sympathy again, but to yourself you feel a twinge of doubt about his story.  Two months later, another accident.  Not my fault.  Two months later, another accident.  Not my fault.  Two months later, another accident.  Not my fault.  Two months later, another accident.  Not my fault. 

Meanwhile, in your mind, your brother has lost almost all his credibility.  At what point do you decide there is no possible way that anyone could have this many accidents and be blameless? 

When it comes to dance accidents, no one can perform six times and have six accidents without being responsible in some way, right? 

And yet here I stand before the court of human opinion and claim I am innocent.  I was the victim, not the guilty one.  I say one damn thing after another happened and I didn't do a single thing to cause any of them to happen.  That's my story and I won't back down from it.

Admit it.  The utter improbability of it all is kind of strange, now isn't it? 

The tangled dress cord incident was definitely the creepiest of all the incidents.  To me, someone would physically have to wrap that cord around my belt buckle to get it that tight.  Judy and I had danced apart for the entire song.  It wasn't till the very end that our hips were close enough to allow something to happen.  First Judy slid her right leg under mine.  It seems unlikely a simple motion like that would cause her cord to wrap around my buckle.  Then I turned my hips and shoulders as we Dipped.  That forced Judy to turn her right foot to allow her own hips and shoulders to stay parallel to mine.  Since our hips were already together, what possible motion would cause her belt to wrap around my buckle?  Besides, I was above Judy.  Gravity dictates the cord should dangle, not creep upwards in my buckle.

Then finally we stood up.  Okay, maybe the cord got a stuck in my belt when we stood up, but how?   And how did it get stuck so tight that we couldn't move?  Why wouldn't the cord just slip back out the same way it slipped in?   There is no logical explanation of course.  It happened, therefore I have no choice but to accept it.

The whole incident was creepy beyond creepy.

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Five previous incidents had preceded the Tangled Cord incident, putting me on guard ahead of time. 

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I practiced as hard as I could for my Waltz.  That was the only thing I had control of.  We danced just fine.

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I was on the lookout during the entire Waltz performance against a sixth incident, but it happened anyway. 

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I had just told the Gods that in my opinion the Curse was over.  In that split second, something went wrong.

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And the way things went wrong defies the imagination.

Do you blame me for wondering if this entire series of mishaps might actually be a 'supernatural' event?   If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.  Well, I don't know what "Curses" look like and sound like, but this felt like a legitimate Curse to me. 

It was in my mind and I believed in it.  If you think getting a string cord wrapped around your belt is a self-fulfilling prophecy, then have it your way.

For me, I had a Dance Curse. 

This tangled cord incident was so weird that it seemed like the best explanation was that a supernatural being had decided to interfere in the workings of men.   That would have made complete sense to the Greeks, but to boy like me raised on Science, this was much too weird.

As I contemplated what had happened, this had a myth-like feel to it.  I acknowledged I didn't have control over the Universe.  In a way, the realization that some supernatural being might be jerking my chain was oddly soothing to me.  If some vengeful God on Mount Olympus wanted to keep punishing me for some reason, there wasn't much I could do about it, now was there?  In other words, it wasn't my fault after all.

As far I was concerned, this entire series of incidents completely defied any logical explanation.  Each individual incident could be explained away, but not six incidents in a row.  And this Waltz incident was by far the strangest one of the bunch. 

"The more frequently one uses the word ‘Coincidence’ to explain bizarre happenings, the more obvious it becomes that one is not seeking, but rather evading the real explanation." 

I decided that this string of failures was strong evidence that there really is more to Life than what we see with our eyes.  This felt like Karma, pure and simple. I didn't know what I had to done to deserve it, but there is was.  Accept it, deal with it, move on.

This conclusion actually cheered me up.  I had a much different reaction to the tangled dress cord incident than after the previous mishaps for the simple reason that I didn't feel guilty any more. 

Something had gone terribly wrong, but since it was clearly out of my hands, I wasn't going to worry about it any more.  In the future, to keep my conscience clear, I would continue to prepare as hard as I had for the Waltz performance and simply take my chances. 

And if something happened, then oh well, too bad... but it wasn't My Fault, unless of course someone could explain what I had done to create the curse in the first place.  Taking a cue from my hero Odysseus, I try to keep my wits about me and cope with each new problem as it arose.  But I wasn't going to blame myself any longer.  What more can a mere mortal be expected to do when the Gods are angry?


Dance Contest in the Bahamas


After my wardrobe malfunction in 1983 with Judy Price, I shut it down when it came to dance performances.  I had experienced enough humiliation to last a lifetime.  Plus I had no idea why Gods mad at me.  Why bother trying any more?

From that point on, my new rule was leave the Dance World glory to other people.  No contests, no shows, no exhibitions for me.  I stuck strictly to dancing for the fun of it.  For example, in 1986, I went Whip dancing 201 Nights in a row. That meant I was out dancing in public every night for seven straight months. 

However, not once single time that year did I attempt to perform.  Not once in that time did I attempt to enter a contest.  I stuck strictly to teaching.  When I danced, I danced for social reasons only.

Sharon Crawford started taking classes here at SSQQ in 1987.  From the very start, I realized what Sharon had a serious gift for dance.  A lovely, graceful woman with a dancer's long legs, Sharon had looks, dancing ability, athletic ability, and stage presence all wrapped in one.  So much talent!  Furthermore, unlike me, Sharon was used to performing on a large stage - football fields!  Sharon had once been a Kilgore Rangerette. 

Sharon quickly became my favorite dance partner of all time.  Although I made sure we avoided "performing" like the plague, we did show off all the time.  It was a fine line between "showing off" and "performing", but I made sure we didn't cross it.  As long as we didn't announce our dancing ahead of time or ask people to clear the floor for us, this meant we were just dancing for the fun of it... and if fifty people wanted to walk and watch us, that was their business.

By May of 1988 Sharon had joined the SSQQ Staff. I can still remember her first class. Sharon couldn't speak above a whisper. Sharon was so nervous that her class had to crowd around her just to hear what she had to say. However, Sharon soon got over her first night jitters. It was just a matter of time.  After all, Sharon had the strongest dance background and the most dancing ability of anyone on the teaching staff.  In short order, Sharon became one of the studio's most popular teachers.

Sharon showed her leadership in other ways.  In the summer of 1988, Sharon organized a summer trip for SSQQ to visit the Bahamas. We stayed at a Jack Tar Village.  Sharon had put together a wonderful package.  So inexpensive!  Back in those days, the studio was still small enough that everyone knew everyone.  When someone found out that a couple friends were going, they wanted to go too. Word of mouth snowballed the event.   We ended up with over 50 people on board, quite a number considering the studio was smaller in those days.  We looked like a small army as we got off the plane.

Our Bahamas Trip took place in 1988.  This wasn't much of a group picture.  I only count 33 people out of 50. 

You might notice Judy Price in the front.  Behind her in the Hawaiian shirt was Jim Ponder, her boyfriend.  Jim and Judy were both long-time SSQQ members dating back to the early Eighties.

Judy and I broke up in 1984 after a two year relationship. 

I don't even remember what the reason was for separating.  I always liked Judy a lot.  Still do! 

Fortunately Judy and I were able to stay friends.  Judy continued to teach at the studio till 1989.  At that point, she decided to move out on her own.

Judy Price became a popular Ballroom teacher over at Melody Lane.  I believe as of 2010 she is still teaching over there.


Thanks to Sharon's preparation and hard work, the group
had a great time during our week's stay.  These 50 people were a close-knit group of friends.  I have written in the past of the phenomenon known as "Generations".  A Generation at SSQQ is a set of individuals who show up in ones and twos at the studio, but somewhere along the way become part of a large group identity. To this day, many people in the Bahamas group still get together socially on ski trips and other events.

In addition, I have written about that famous SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance Magic.  I see six people in that picture who met their husband or wife at SSQQ (Tom and Margaret Easley who weren't in the picture should be included in that category as well).  This was indeed a tight-knit group of people.

On the third night of our Bahamas trip, our group had a choice of two events.  People had to pick between a moonlight boat ride complete with dinner and dancing or a Sock Hop in the Disco which included a dance contest.  Forty six members of our group went on the boat ride.  The other four picked the Sock Hop.

I wanted to go on the dinner cruise.  So did my girlfriend Janet Gunthrie (pictured on right).  So what stopped us? 

The four of us who stayed behind - Sharon, Janet , Sharon's sister Cynthia, and me - remained on shore for the sole purpose of entering a dance contest.  And guess who wanted to win a dance contest?  Me?  No way.  I had sworn off dance contests. 

We stayed behind because Sharon wanted to enter the dance contest.  I didn't care anymore if I ever won a dance contest.  But
Sharon cared.  In fact Sharon cared a whole lot.  Sharon wanted to win the dance contest.  Not only that, Sharon had a lot of energy on this issue.

The problem was that Sharon needed a dance partner.  When she first brought the subject up, I pointed out that there were 20 men in our group capable of helping her to win this contest.  After all, what kind of competition could there possibly be? 

The only people who could beat her would be in our own group and they were all out to sea!   This would be a slam dunk.

Sharon persisted.  She thought I should be her partner.  I scoffed.  Nonsense.  I reminded Sharon that I had sworn off dance contests long ago.  Besides, Sharon didn't really want me.  Didn't she know I was still Cursed?  Had she forgotten that? 

Sharon was like a sister to me.  Sharon had been my best friend for nearly a year and a half.  She knew all about my Dance Curse.  Apparently she was undeterred by the threat of a broken neck, a split lip, a wardrobe failure or any other sort of freakish humiliation that only I could generate. Thanks to the Black Cloud that the Gods of Olympus made sure followed me everywhere, any woman who danced with me was taking a real chance.  

Sharon said nonsense.  There was no way the Black Cloud could possibly know we were in the Bahamas.  Besides, this wasn't business, this was a vacation!  Surely the Dance Curse would look the other way just this once.

I smiled at her persistence, but gently turned her down.  Thanks, but no thanks.  Not this time.  I had previously discussed the issue with the Dance Gods on Mount Olympus.  I told the Gods that I had learned my lesson. I had reassured them this dance contest business wasn't for me.  They didn't have to watch over me any more because I quit.  Finis.  Done.  Kaput.

I expected that would be the end of it.  Nope.  Sharon persisted.  Sharon said my Dance Curse was a lot of superstitious nonsense.  She couldn't a grown man believed in crap like that.  I grinned.  Tell me what you really think, Sharon.  

Sharon continued.  Sharon pointed out that for the past year, she and I had been dancing practically every Sunday night at Wild West.  She reminded me that any time the Whip music came on, she and I had moved right next to the railing so that half the people in the club could see us dance.  Now wasn't that performing?  After all, people lined the railing just to get a better view of us. And not one time had the Dance Curse manifested itself!

I asked Sharon if there were other dancers on the floor. Well, yes, but they all cleared the area for us. 

I asked Sharon if we practiced any routines ahead of time.  Did we choreograph our patterns?  Sharon said we didn't have to.  She knew every move I knew.  All I had to do was to do was lead it.  I smiled.  Sharon was right about that.  We were such good dance partners that she could follow anything I led without any hesitation.

Furthermore it was true that Sharon and I appeared in front of large crowds each week.  In a way, she was probably right about that too.  I justified it as "showing off", not performing. 

Then Sharon asked about our recent Dirty Dancing Crash Course.  We were up on a stage, for crying out loud! 

Well, yes, we were up on a stage.  It was easier for a large crowd to see us demonstrate the patterns that way. However, we didn't perform up there, now did we? 

Sharon was getting exasperated.  I was trying to wiggle out of this and she wasn't going to let that happen.  That's when Sharon decided to play her trump card.

"Rick, every Sunday night I get out there and dance with you.  That helps your business.  I get up on a platform and show off Dirty Dance moves.  That helps your business.  I volunteer in your Advanced classes when I am not teaching myself.  And now I busted my butt to organize a trip for 50 people here in the Bahamas and I didn't make one single penny.  I even paid my own way.  So I think when I ask for one simple favor, the least you could do is cooperate!  Don't I deserve to have you do one crummy favor for me!?

Sharon had never raised her voice to me before.  I had to admit she had made her point effectively.  So I threw in the towel.  No dinner dance for me tonight. 

This contest was all about Sharon.  I was just going along for the ride.  Was I apprehensive about the Curse?  Definitely.  But I had warned Sharon and she said she didn't care. 
Oh well, if we are going to do this, we should at least practice some. Sharon agreed, so we scheduled time for later that afternoon. 

As we parted, Sharon turned around and said, "
Besides, Rick, what can possibly go wrong?"

I shuddered.  I couldn't believe Sharon had said that!   Like Brave Ulysses, Sharon had just challenged the Gods.  Before I thought we could sneak past, but now they were on alert.  I had a bad feeling about this. 

This picture is from our 1988 Dirty Dance Crash Course

That line was caused by the mirror


Worries

I didn't mind granting Sharon her well-deserved favor.  She was certainly correct on all the issues.  One, we danced beautifully together in public all the time.  Two, I definitely owed her a favor.  

However, Sharon was wrong to disrespect the Curse.  Something could very easily go wrong.  Sharon loved to do acrobatics.  All acrobatic moves carried a risk factor. 

Take Michelle Collins (pictured on left) for example.  That's is the Flying Flip she is demonstrating.  Dancing with me at Wild West one night, I threw Michelle way up in the air doing the Chattanooga Choo-Choo acrobatic stunt.  I tossed Michelle so high that her face was easily three feet above mine.  She wasn't used to being that high.  Apparently I used more strength than most guys.  When Michelle came down, she landed wrong.  Ouch!  Michele broke her ankle.

Once Judy Price hit the back of her head doing an acrobatic stunt.  Fortunately it wasn't me.  Her partner simply dropped her doing some stunt in another room at the studio.  I heard the thud and went to check it out.  Judy was just sitting on the floor in a stupor.  She was dazed from the blow. 

Another time a different guy lost control of Judy and she went flying across the floor until she thumped up against the wall.  When I found her, she was sitting on the floor dazed from her blow.  Acrobatics definitely carry an element of physical danger.  Fortunately both times Judy was okay, but she had some bad bruises to show for her accidents.

Even Sharon Crawford made mistakes.  One Sunday night in 1989 Sharon talked me into entering a dance contest at Wild West.  Minutes before the contest, Sharon suggested we try the Slingshot.  I had taught Sharon a new variation on the move the day before.  I told her we should probably practice it a couple times.  So there we were practicing over in the corner just moments before the start of the contest.  We hit the move perfectly twice in a row. Sharon was so pleased she insisted we use it in the dance contest. 


So our performance began. Unfortunately, instead of jumping on Beat 4 like she was supposed to, Sharon jumped on Beat 3.  I wasn't set and totally lost my balance. Completely out of control, I fell and landed face down in a highly compromising  X-rated position.  The crowd went wild with laughter.  They were thoroughly amused.  We did not win the contest and I got teased all night long.  Was it the Dance Curse again?  You decide.  As you now know, mishaps like these have occurred throughout my career with alarming regularity.

Nor was Sharon immune to bad accidents either.
That picture of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner demonstrates an acrobatic move we called the Death Drop.  One night Sharon and I were conducting one of our weekly impromptu dance sessions at Wild West.  As usual, we were showing off the Whip.  

As fifty people watched from the sidelines, I spun Sharon sharply five times with my left hand.  Then I suddenly dropped Sharon to my knee doing the Death Drop.  Sharon winced in pain.  I had not braced her fall enough.  My mistake came when I failed to support Sharon's body properly with my right arm.  As she fell, I let too much of Sharon's weight hit my knee.  Sharon cracked her rib as she crashed against my knee. 

In dance, accidents happen.  If anyone should know, it would be me.  Thanks to my fear of the Curse, I was worried that tonight's performance might see Sharon get hurt.


Now that I had agreed to dance with Sharon, all my memories of the Dance Curse came flooding back in.

I had not performed in public since the Waltz incident five years earlier with Judy Price. I had learned my lesson loud and clear - don't tempt Fate!  As you remember, the Waltz mishap had seriously weirded me out.  As silly as it sounds on paper, I had actually begun to believe there were supernatural forces at work here.  Okay, go ahead and laugh.  But I took the Dance Curse seriously.  No matter what I did, every time I performed, something went wrong. 

If you believe it's true, then it has the power to affect you.  I had definitely begun to wonder what would go wrong this time.  Another ceiling fan?  Another wardrobe malfunction?  Another split lip?   What would it be this time?   I was on guard against everything. 

And yet at the same time, to be honest, I felt invulnerable.  I figured at this stage in my dance career, I could handle just about anything but Sharon getting hurt.  That was my only real concern. 

Okay, so Sharon had twisted my arm into confronting my Dance Curse head on.  Perhaps the Gods on Olympus would give me a pass since this was her idea, not mine.  Now that was a comforting thought.

Nevertheless, we were going to do things my way.  Sharon and I were going to practice every acrobatic move we would use tonight and make darn sure we had our act down cold.  That way, if something went wrong, it wouldn't be for lack of practice.  Sure enough, Sharon and I practiced all afternoon. I even have a picture from our practice session.  That's a back flip we are doing in the picture.  Sharon was quite an athlete.


Premonitions


I was surprised at all the weird thoughts that started to come up.  Not only was I still worried about Sharon getting hurt, I began to worry that there might be another explanation for the Curse.

I thought about it some more.  Maybe there was a Curse on me for a reason.  I really hadn't done anything evil that meant I deserved to be punished over and over again. 

Or had I?  Maybe my performance problems were related to bad karma from my three year affair with Victoria back in the early Eighties.  That was a troubling thought.  Then I remembered all the chances that I had taken during my Fake It Till You Make It years.  Maybe I had gotten lucky so many times in my early gambles that this Dance Curse was the way the Universe was evening out my luck.  No one can be as lucky as I was all the time. 

I told Janet the stories of some of the previous incidents.  Janet scoffed.  This stuff was all in my head.  Don't be ridiculous.  Nobody cares about this hill of beans dance contest in Remotesville, Bahamas.  Get a grip.  If I wanted to make Sharon happy, then that was all the motivation I needed.  Quit worrying.  Keep it simple.  Just get out there and do a good job.  You practiced hard and you know what you are doing.  So whatever happens, happens.

I listened to what Janet said.  Yes, fate did seemingly intervene in the Ritz performance and the Clear Lake dance contest and all the others, but maybe the Gods didn't care any more.  Or maybe my Dance Demons were just a figment of my imagination.  Or for that matter, hadn't I been punished enough?  Maybe I had completed my allotment of punishment.  This was all just idle guessing.  The problem with Dance Curses is that no one ever emails you when they are over.

That's when I told Janet I had another issue.  M
y conscience had started to bother me again. I was wrestling with the same issues about dance competitions that I had back in 1979 when I busted my girlfriend's lip at Spats down in Clear Lake.

I realized I still had mixed feelings about showing off.  It was a no-win situation.  If I danced better than someone else, well, what have I proved?   I am professional dancer. I am supposed to be better!  And why am I even competing against amateurs in the first place?  My mind raced to a scene from a favorite movie.

  Here I am doing my
Tom Easley impersonation. 
We had fun in the Bahamas. 

In the Hustler, Paul Newman got his fingers broken for shooting pool against people who weren't even remotely in his league.  But Janet replied this wasn't hustling.  I wasn't dancing for money.  Besides, Sharon was right.  This stuff was all in my head.  Besides, my previous fiascos like the Ritz and Clear Lake were almost ten years in my rear view mirror.

Janet suggested that surely the Dance Gods would see that I had not asked to be in the contest.  Instead I was entering for the noblest of reasons... because it takes two people to Jitterbug and Sharon deserved to have her favor honored. 

Janet was right.  I wasn't hurting anybody.  This was for Sharon, not me.  If I accidentally won a dance contest, I would give all the credit to Sharon.  Who the heck on Mount Olympus would notice, much less care?  I would do it for Sharon.  I figured this noble sentiment would soothe the Dance Gods.  They would see that my intentions were pure and remove the Dance Curse.  After all, curses have been removed before!

"After 18 failed nominations in a row for her role as Erica on All My Children, it came as a complete shock to both Susan Lucci as well as the viewing audience when she finally won an Emmy in 1999.  When Lucci's name was announced, the audience erupted in a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.  The actress began to sob uncontrollably, bringing nearly the entire auditorium to tears as well."

So obviously Curses don't have to be permanent, do they?

Now my mind entered a dark space. I refused to tell Sharon or Janet, but I still wanted to win a dance contest.  Wasn't there enough mercy to allow me to win one stupid crummy dance contest and get it over with?   Despite objecting strenuously to entering this contest based on that "fairness" hang-up of mine, deep down my Ego still burned for one simple little victory just so I could say I won a dance contest.  This might be the right time.  The omens were good because entering the contest this time had been someone else's idea. I was participating not for my own glory, but as a "favor" to a wonderful friend.  This had a real Disney feel to it.  Maybe the Gods would look the other way.

Now that I had admitted the truth, I shook my head in disgust.  I wished I didn't want to win that contest so much, but I did.  That was bad karma for sure.  Something was bound to happen.  I just knew it.  Just let me dance and don't let Sharon get hurt and don't let her clothes fall off... or mine either for that matter.  


So What Were Our Chances of Winning?

If we were going to enter this competition, we might as well go ahead a win it.  What were our chances of winning?  Despite my misgivings, I took stock of our chances.  Even though I had truly resisted participating in this contest, I intended to dance my best and "get it over with".  I decided that now that I had agreed to do this, I intended to win and get the monkey off my back. I did not tell Sharon I was taking this contest seriously.  I wanted to avoid having her feel any pressure.

I was 38 years old.  I was at the very peak of my dancing ability.  Unlike 10 years ago, now I could lead. Oh boy, could I lead!  In 1986 I had gone Whip dancing
201 nights in a row.  After this incredible amount of practice, I had quietly taken my place amongst the best dancers in Houston.

Sharon was my equal.  Sharon was a phenomenal dancer.  Thanks to her innate grace and perfect timing, Sharon was a joy to watch.  Sharon was also an excellent acrobat. Sharon could do anything - back flips, lifts, drops, dips.  The woman was fearless.  For that matter, Sharon was knockout good-looking.  No woman in Houston had more beautiful legs than Sharon.  With her long legs and her great figure, Sharon cut such an imposing figure out on the floor that we had a nickname for her - The Whip Goddess.  Sharon liked the nickname so much she used the idea for her Halloween costume (see picture).

Furthermore, Sharon and I danced well together. 
Sharon knew every one of my moves and followed me perfectly.  Our favorite spot was Wild West.  Whenever we danced at Wild West, Sharon and I would receive the ultimate compliment - people would line the railing four deep to watch us.  I would throw Sharon into the air or slingshot her between my legs and hear the oohs and aahs of the crowd as they gasped with delight.  We put on quite a show together.

That evening, Sharon, Janet, Cynthia and I waved goodbye as our 46 friends sailed off into the sunset.  As the boat sailed off in the distance, I smiled.  The only true competition we might have had would be from our friends.  Now that they were all conveniently out to sea getting drunk, it was clear sailing for us. 

At this particular moment in our lives, the two of us were trained, experienced professional dancers at the top of our game. If it had been important to me, I have no doubt Sharon and I could have entered any dance contest in Houston and done very well.  Here, hmm, off-hand, I would say we were 100 to 1 favorites to win.  I could not conceive any way we could lose this. 

I was in a very strange mood.  Bring it on.


The Contest is About to Begin

The four of us headed over to the Disco.  As we waited for the contest to begin, we checked out our potential competition on the dance floor.  To be honest, the dancing was pretty lame.  I rolled my eyes.  Tell me again why we are doing this?  

Every time my conscience began to bother me,  I reminded myself I was doing this for Sharon.  Sharon and I danced a little before the contest, but I held back.  Nothing fancy. Just warming up. Sharon whispered to me she was worried that if we showed off too much, no one would enter!! 
I decided Sharon had a good point.  I stuck to Beginning Swing moves just to stay loose.  This was the Big Contest!  Let's play every angle and be on guard for threats!

The pressure was so intense, in fact, that I was getting sleepy.  That's right, I took a nap while we were waiting.  Janet nudged me back to consciousness.  T
he Sock Hop contest was about to begin.   During my nap, my Sharon had been doing her homework.  She told me in this contest each couple would dance separately. This made me feel better - at least Sharon was in no danger of some moron hitting her in the back  (a bad memory from Clear Lake nine years ago).

Plus I knew they could blindfold me and I could still dance better than anyone here (Memories of the Ritz).   I checked out Sharon's outfit for strings.  Good, no strings attached.  I checked out Sharon's outfit for slippery stuff.  Nothing slippery.  Sharon had worn a simple dress and a simple top.  Her clothes seemed okay to me.  I looked up for ceiling fans.  There were none directly over the floor.  All the spectators were seated.  No one was in any danger of a karate chop. 

There was no immediate external threat that I could see.  Short of a lightning bolt from Zeus, the coast was clear.  At the thought of Zeus, I frowned.  Were the Gods watching?

I noticed the crowd had somehow gotten noisier during my nap.  I asked Sharon about it.  She said a whole group of people from Fort Worth had just flown in that day.  Apparently most of them had just finished dinner and had come to the Disco to watch the contest.  There were about forty people knocking down beers over there.  As I watched them hootin' and hollerin' over in the corner, I was reminded that our own band of crazies were conveniently offshore on their dinner cruise.  At least I wouldn't have to put up with my friends teasing me to death or needling me to pick on someone my own size.  This was just the way I liked it.

I was ready.  In fact I was mad!  I had spent most of the day reviewing in my mind the half-dozen miseries of the past.  As I thought about it, all the indignities and frustrations came welling up again. The memories of my past failures and humiliations whistled in my mind like the Sirens taunting the lost Odysseus as he wandered lost and lonely around the Mediterranean Sea.  It was time to set things right.  I set my jaw.  These people were in for a show.  

We were the first couple. Sharon and I
walked on the floor to pleasant applause. Since Sharon and I had not danced seriously earlier in the night, no one knew what to expect. Our act was a total surprise to everyone but Janet and Cynthia.

At my request, the DJ put on the 50s classic At the Hop.  For our starting move, I spun Sharon 15 times and ended it with the spectacular Death Drop. Sharon plunged sharply to the floor only to come to an instant stop on my knee. 

The audience gasped in disbelief.  For a second they thought Sharon was going to hit the floor.  Well, scaring them was the whole idea.  They had no idea I had Sharon under control!  I think we had their attention now.  Who are these guys?

Next
we did a Slingshot.  This is a move where Sharon shoots through my legs with her body parallel to the floor, then comes back out and flies into an aerial way above my head. Sharon almost touched the ceiling as she stayed suspended for two seconds in midair.  People's mouths were hanging open.  Shock and Awe swept the crowd.  The degree to which their jaws dropped is the perfect example of why Sharon and I did NOT belong in this contest.  We had clearly beamed down from another planet.

But here we are.  Why not give it our best shot?  Now that Sharon had figured out how serious I was, she grinned. We were dancing just like we did at Wild West when 50 people would line the railing to watch.  It's Showtime!   Sharon turned it on too!  I felt her afterburners kicking in!   The rocket is ready to lift off.... We're heading to the Moon, baby! 

Next up was the Flying Flip followed by the Back Flip.  This exciting move had me throwing Sharon over my back and my head.  The audience gasped again as Sharon flew up in the air and landed with ease.  The girl can even fly!

I had spun Sharon 15 times.  Then I scared everybody with the Death Drop.  Next I had thrown Sharon in the air. Then in quick succession came the Slingshot, Flying Flip, and Back Flip.  By my count, Sharon had already been upside down half a dozen times and we were only getting started.

What next?  Why not add a little sex appeal? 
The movie Dirty Dancing been released not long ago. Sharon and I had developed a crash course with patterns based on the movie.  It was time to Dance Dirty.  So I sat Sharon on my leg and held her firmly as she leaned away from me and arched her backI swept Sharon off her feet.  She clung to me with as I shifted her one way, then the other.  Sharon was so flexible her head was nearly touching the floor. We drove them wild with our wickedness.

People were clapping now.  This was fun to watch!  Once they decided I wasn't going to kill my beautiful partner, they started to enjoy themselves.  Then I switched to the Whip, a fairly wicked dirty dance in its own right.  Sharon worked her hips in every provocative way she was capable of... and she was quite capable.

We added
Sugarfoot, then Spin Tunnel, Flying Flip, a Lightning Pretzel and Rope Turns. I pulled out the entire bag of tricks. None of it was rehearsed, but it wasn't necessary. I could lead these moves to perfection.  Sharon matched me step for step.  We were incredible. 
Best of all, Sharon didn't get hurt.  Nothing evenly remotely went wrong.  We were flawless.

Sharon and I hugged.  We had just put on the best display of dancing in our lives. 
Sharon and I left the floor to very warm applause.  When we got back to our seats, Janet gave me a big kiss and said she was proud of me.  I was very happy.  No one was laughing at me, no one was hurt, Sharon and I were great.  So much for the stupid Dance Curse!  I was so relieved to finally get that monkey off my back.  Finally!  Now I could sit back and relax.

Now that the pressure was off, I was curious to see Couple Number Two.  There was no Couple Number Two.  Hmm.  The Emcee kept begging more people to enter.  No one budged.  Hmm.  Obviously we had intimidated the entire crowd.  Tough.  Works for me.  I wanted this to be over.

After a long pause, to my surprise, I saw two people get up and trot out on the floor.  It was
a couple from the Fort Worth group. I think someone actually pushed them out there.  They were two drunk people who could barely stand up, much less dance. They did the Twist very badly for three minutes to Louie Louie

While the rest of the audience stared in polite silence, the Fort Worth duo were obviously a big hit with their friends.  While they waddled around out there
, their friends cheered for them like they were the hottest performers since Elvis.

After the dubious Twist performance, no one else seemed interested in competing.  So that was it.  The Emcee asked one more time for more performers, then gave up. The room had just seen the strangest dance competition imaginable.  It was the Texas Twisters against the Second Coming of Patrick Swayze and Baby.

The suspense was killing me.


Surprise!  The Winner of the
Contest is Rick and Sharon


The Emcee announced that
the audience would decide the winner
The Emcee asked Sharon and me to stand up first.  Sharon and I got a nice round of sincere applause.  We smiled and waved, then sat back down.

Then he asked our fellow Texans to rise.  Suddenly the Fort Worth Forty erupted as if the Dallas Cowboys had just won another Super Bowl.  They stood up, whistled, hooted, stomped their feet, and cheered like banshees for their two heroes.  It was Bubba Power Supreme!  Let's hear it for the Underdog!

The Emcee was caught off completely guard.  He had never expected something this ridiculous and he didn't know what to do. Rick and Sharon had won the contest, but the audience had chosen the Twisters.  The Emcee had a big frown on his face.  Well, it was his own fault.  He had left the voting to the people with poor manners and now he wasn't happy with the result.  He seemed to be wrestling over what to do.  Should he overrule the Bubbas or should he honor his own rules?  Finally he walked over to the Fort Worth couple and handed them their trophy.

Fortunately... or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it... our own gang of friends was not there to back us.  Had they been here in the room, the evening might have gotten very interesting, perhaps even ugly if the Bubbas had tried the same trick.  But as it stood, the Fort Worth Forty outnumbered everyone else in the room by a two to one margin.  Sharon and I were badly beaten by the Applause Meter.

I suppose
this group thought they were being funny.  They had played a joke on us. As Wilt Chamberlain once said, no one cheers for the tallest player.  The Fort Worth Forty clearly felt we had no business being in that contest.  We didn't belong here.  We needed to be taught a lesson.  I imagine their sense of fair play had been violated by the miraculous appearance of two professional dancers.  They decided to deliver a Fort Worth brand of Jack Tar Justice.  It was their way of breaking Fast Eddie Felson's knuckles for hustling in the wrong place. 

The four of us silently left the room.  We had been humiliated.  The Curse had struck again.


Final Reflections on the Curse

Seven performances, seven failures... each one for a reason so surprising that I never saw it coming.

The failures even occurred when I was on guard - Annabelles's with Victoria, the Waltz Performance with Judy, and now even the Bubba Breakdown in the Bahamas.  

Like Odysseus, my role model, I contend that in this area I had no control over my own destiny.  No matter how much I prepared, things went wrong anyway. 
I suppose most people will simply dismiss the whole thing as silly.  Since no one got hurt other than some deeply bruised feelings, the string of seven mishaps can be shrugged off by the casual observer as a  bunch of odd coincidences.

Everyone has the right to their own opinion.  As for me, in my opinion, this string of problems was real proof to me that there is more to this world than meets the eye.  There was an unseen hand of some sort operating here.

 


My 1988 defeat in the Bahamas dance contest didn't bother me very much.  I dismissed the Texas Twister Incident as a bunch of rude, drunk people who ought to be ashamed of themselves.  Sharon and I didn't do anything to deserve to be treated like that.  We put on a very entertaining dance exhibition.   That was the extent of our crime.  But you know and I know there are ugly people in this world and the sooner we get used to it, the better.

As for performing, the incident with Sharon in the Bahamas had a liberating effect on me.  I realized I didn't need external applause any more.  I knew I was a good dancer; my self-respect came from within. 

As long as no one got hurt, I could probably handle anything else if the Curse struck again.  I had been humiliated so many times that nothing could possibly hurt more than what I had already been through.  All I needed to do was train properly to clear my conscience if something did happen.  If the Curse took me down again, oh well, I'm only human. 

One year later I tried again.  In 1989, Saint John's, my former high school, asked me to perform for an alumni function at the school.  I asked Margie Saibara, one of my favorite dancers, if she would help me.  She said she would be glad to try, Curse or no Curse.  Margie even sewed the "SJ" onto our red sweaters as our costume.

We did great.  No problems, no slipups, no humiliation, no nasty surprises.  Encouraged, I asked Margie to repeat our dance a couple months later at the 1989 SSQQ Christmas Party.  Again we performed without a hitch.

Just like that, the Curse was gone.  Poof.  As long as I live, I will never understand why I had to suffer through seven embarrassments.  However, as Nietzsche pointed out, that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. 

I have never had a problem since.... knock on wood.         RA 2010

 

 

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