Glen Hunsucker
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Glen Hunsucker
Written by Rick Archer, October 2003
Updated February 2008

After 30 years in the dance business, I think it safe to declare that Glen Hunsucker will forever remain the single most influential person in my career. 

Glen was my dance teacher for six years from 1978 to 1984.  Not only did Glen give me the valuable training I needed to become an effective dance teacher, it was Glen who saved my skin in 1980 when I was thrown out of my first dance studio.  

By offering his own studio as a safety net, he stepped in to offer me a place to land at a time when I had no other options. For the next eight years following the rescue, I subleased space from Glen at Dance Arts.  These years marked a period of great expansion for my businessI compare the Dance Arts Era to the protective time a parent gives a child to grow up and prepare to take care of himself.  Under the shelter provided by Glen, I was able to mature as a teacher and a leader.

In an odd twist of fate, Glen indirectly donated his studio to me in 1988, the pivotal move that opened the door for SSQQ to become the largest dance studio in the city of Houston.  Unfortunately this was also
an unhappy time that marked a parting of our ways. I never saw Glen again.  Nor did I speak to him again.  Here is the story.

Introduction: The Man Who Fell From Grace

In the late 70s and throughout the 80s Glen Hunsucker was considered the finest male jazz dancer in Houston.  He was at the very top of his profession.  Glen's jazz classes were legendary.  The best dancers in the city all came to learn from him.  Glen was not only the city's most popular jazz instructor, he was the choreographer and director of the Glen Hunsucker Dancers, the leading jazz dance team in Houston.  Although Jazz was his first love, Glen was also an excellent Ballroom teacher.  

Basically, when it came to dance, Glen could do it all. 

In my opinion, Glen was the most gifted dancer and the most gifted teacher in our town.  And Glen was a nice guy too.  He was very dedicated to his students and wanted them to improve.  I admired Glen so much in so many ways.

But Glen lost it all.  He was the Man Who Fell From Grace.

Here is a mystery for you.  Long-time readers of the SSQQ Newsletter and the SSQQ Web Site know I love to write about every imaginable event that ever has occurred during the studio's long 30 year history.  A quick glance at my list of topics reveals stories about mud volleyball, broken toilets, balloon racing, Sadie Hawkins races, plus many other random and trivial events, humorous perhaps, but definitely not very important. 

The story of Glen Hunsucker is at best the 100th story I have written.  So ask yourself this question -  Given that Rick Archer writes about everything, why would he delay telling the story of the man who was the single most important influence in his career?   
Good question.  By
all rights, Glen's story should have been the first story, not the hundredth.  The reason I have avoided writing about this episode in my life is that I have mixed feelings.  While you will read again and again of my admiration and gratitude, this story contains a great deal of bitterness and pain as well.  It was my constant uncertainty over the correct path to take that explains the delay.   I always wanted this story to be a tribute.

But starting in 1984, the events in our relationship took a dark turn.  Telling this story means
revealing controversy and tragedy that I have never completely come to grips with.  Unlike many of my stories which include elements of humor and irony, my story of Glen Hunsucker is mostly one of pain and unresolved feelings.  I wanted to tell the world about Glen's great ability.  Like everyone else, I also wanted to protect his reputation

But after all the other stories I have told about this studio, it didn't make any sense to start making up tales now or covering things up.  If my word is to retain its credibility, I have to tell the whole story, warts and all.  I either tell the story correctly or I don't tell it at all.  

In 2003, I decided it was finally time to write the story
about this man who was so pivotal in my dance career.  One word of caution - many people think this is a story about Glen Hunsucker.  That is only partially correct.   This is really the story of how I got started in the dance business and the contributions that Glen made along the way.  Please keep that in mind. 

1978: The Pistachio Club


One evening in August 1978 I had the privilege to witness the finest exhibition of Disco partner dancing I have ever seen in my life. The Pistachio Club was Houston's favorite Disco in those days.  

That night I was standing by the railing with my dance partner Victoria. As Victoria and I talked,  I noticed something unusual was going on at the other end of the dance floor. People were leaving the dance floor in droves only to turn around and line its perimeter. Victoria and I moved to get a clear view of two people dancing with the floor all to themselves.  Our mouths dropped open in awe.

We were amazed by their phenomenal dancing! 
A tall, handsome man was dancing the Latin Hustle with his pretty blonde teenage dance partner. They were poetry in motion.  What Exquisite Pleasure it was to watch them dance!

This dancing easily eclipsed anything I had seen in Saturday Night Fever. They were incredible!!Judging by the faces, I wasn't the only person who felt this way.  Out of respect for their excellence, all the other dancers had cleared the floor.  Now they lined the floor to better appreciate this wonderful show.

I don't think anyone in that building felt they had the right to be on the floor at the same time as these two talented dancersEveryone in the building instinctively knew
they were watching the finest dancing they had ever seen.


This was my first chance to see Glen Hunsucker and Paula Abbott in action.  Unbelievable!  They danced three songs in a row, then sat down and did not dance again for the rest of the night. Their impromptu performance electrified the crowd. Everyone in the building was in awe. I was mesmerized. This is the only time in my life I had ever seen a dance floor cleared and it has never happened again since. Such a performance!

After they walked off the dance floor, Victoria and I stared at each other in disbelief. We could barely believe what we had just seen. Finally after we confirmed what we had just seen was not a mirage, we began to wonder who this man was. Victoria nudged me. "Rick, why don't you find out who he is?  Maybe he is a dance teacher!" 

So I approached the man before he could sit down.  I asked if he taught dance. He said yes and handed me his business card.  This is how I met Glen Hunsucker, the man who would teach me practically everything I know about dancing over the next eight years.  

1978-1981:  Victoria, Glen, and Me

Two weeks later on September 7, Victoria and I began taking private dance lessons from Glen.  Back in 1978 Glen's dance studio was located at Westbury Square. Dodging heavily padded poles throughout Glen's upstairs studio, Victoria and I would practice the Latin Hustle to our heart's content. 

The Latin Hustle was my first love in dance. With footwork similar to Swing, the Hustle was a fluid, graceful partner dance that worked perfectly to Disco music.  Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end...

As we learned the Hustle, Glen also taught us acrobatics. Victoria had a lot of guts. I have to hand it to her - there were moves where I threw her in the air and sometimes didn't catch her very well on the way down. I guess we were too young to know how stupid we were.  

But I will tell you what - thanks to Glen's expertise, Victoria's courage and athletic ability, and my broad shoulders, we looked pretty good for a while there. 


Victoria and I became terrific dancers, good enough to be hired to perform on many different occasions.  Glen had taught us very well.  

Unfortunately Victoria and I were more than slightly cursed when it came to performing.  We had one horrible mishap after another. 

Once Victoria almost broke her neck in a fall - with her feet straight up in the air, a ceiling fan we hadn't noticed caught her feet and toppled her over.  A miraculous catch on my part literally saved her life.  Another time during a performance she flew face-first into a corner - this time her skin-tight Disco pants was the culprit as she slipped right out of my arms. A third time during a performance she nearly collapsed a woman's throat with an accidental karate chop.  As we danced, a woman standing next to the floor accidentally stepped into the blow.

Although all of our mistakes were of the "freak accident" variety, they occurred nonetheless more frequently than seemed normal.  Each accident was very discouraging.

Plus Victoria had a lot on her mind that prevented her from putting in the extra time and concentration needed to overcome our jinx.  Sometimes things are simply not meant to be despite the best of intentions.  Victoria and I parted ways in 1982.  The story is chronicled in a rather bizarre tale known as Risky Business.

 

One on One


After Victoria moved on to other adventures, l thought about finding another dance partner.  Finally I decided to continue the private lessons with Glen all by myself.  

For one thing, at this point the
Saturday Night Fever-inspired Disco Era was over and the Urban Cowboy-inspired Western Era was in full swing.  Now that Disco had bit the dust, I didn't have much need for a dance partner any more.

I thought it made more sense to concentrate on improving my own dancing and learn more about the different dances such as Ballroom dancing and Whip. 


Glen was an excellent teacher. Not only did he teach me the steps and the rhythm to all the important dances, he helped me improve how I looked when I danced. This is the mark of an excellent dance teacher. Most instructors can give you the facts and figures to each dance, but only the really good ones can impart style and grace. In my case I initially moved with the fluidity of a dump truck stuck in reverse, but with his help over time even I was able to learn how to make my steps smaller and improve my balance significantly. 

I took lessons from Glen twice a week for six years.  Glen taught me the Whip, the Latin Hustle, West Coast Swing, Acrobatics, Tango, Cha Cha, Waltz, Foxtrot, Samba (I was a failure at Samba), and East Coast Swing.  In addition I also took two  group lessons a week from Glen in Jazz dancing

About the only thing Glen didn't teach me was Western (which he hated), but once in a while he even offered to help me with C&W too if I was trying to figure out a pattern and asked nicely enough.  The standing joke was he would help as long as I promised not to turn on the music. 

95% of the time Glen danced the "follow" part while I danced the "lead".  Watching us dance must have been a pretty strange sight since we were both tall athletic men with large shoulders and tapered muscular bodies. By coincidence, we even developed prematurely gray hair at the same time.  We were so similar in age, size, build and appearance that I was asked if I was his brother or related to Glen on more than one occasion.  

Since we were well-matched, I was even mistaken for his boyfriend once or twice.  During our very first solo lesson,
I was worried about dancing alone with another man, but by the end of the first hour I got over it. I never gave it another thought.  One advantage from my years of dancing with Glen is that I became completely de-sensitized to dancing with men. 

My students ask me from time to time how I feel about dancing with men in class. They are surprised to find I don't enjoy it much for two reasons. First I don't enjoy getting knocked off balance or forced to dance off the beat.  However my main concern is the obvious discomfort it creates for my male partners.  Although I may be used to dancing with men, my male students clearly aren't.

I don't enjoy putting these men ill at ease, but I will do it anyway if there are too many men in the class.  I always laugh at their surprise. The first thing they say, "Gosh, you're easier to dance with than the girls are!"  What they discover is that even though I weight 200 pounds, I weigh less to dance with than a 110 pound woman who is off balance. They don't have to move me; I move myself. 

I soon noticed a huge benefit of dancing with Glen alone - I learned to lead phenomenally well.  If I made a mistake, Glen would immediately show me what I had done wrong.  When you watch students dance, you often have to guess what went wrong.  But by dancing with Glen he could tell me exactly what I needed to do to correct the problem.

The Most Dangerous Man in Houston

Although there were many benefits to learning to dance with the finest male dancer in all of Houston, there was one very peculiar disadvantage - I became the most feared man in Houston on the Whip dance floor. 

Today I am considered a gentleman on the dance floor as well as a "gentle" man.  That was certainly not true when I first started.  As always, I had to learn things the hard way.  For a while there, women would run in terror whenever they thought I was coming to ask them to dance.

I had originally learned the Whip back in 1977, but had abandoned this dance for the Latin Hustle when Disco came along.  It was now 1982.   Disco was dead and I had mastered Western, so I needed a new hill to climb. I asked Glen to help me pick back up where I had left off with the Whip.  

For about a year Glen was the only person I ever danced the Whip with.  Country-Western was big at the time and I still preferred to dance the Hustle if by chance a disco song was played.  But Lance Stevens had made a big deal about the Whip and I was still curious to learn more.  During my private lessons, month after month I practiced my Whip dancing in secret with Glen. 

This had two consequences. 

First, my leads became very strong.  Let's face it, Glen was a phenomenal dancer and very light on his feet, but he still weighed 180 pounds.  I had to learn how to use my strength to move him.  He taught me how to put my 'follow' exactly where I wanted him/her to go.  If that meant using my shoulders to make it happen, well, then that's what I did.  I was taught to be firm.

Second, I learned to help when needed.  Glen was a gifted turner.  If a song was fast, he just turned a little faster and kept up with the beat.  No song was too fast for him.  Once in a while he encouraged me to use a little more speed in my lead to help him stay on the beat.  Throw more wood on the fire!  I learned that no matter how much power I used, he could handle it.  Glen was faster than a speeding bullet when he turned.

One day in 1983 I decided I was ready to dance the Whip in the Real World with Real Women.  Back in those days I was reluctant to learn how to dance the traditional way, i.e. by getting out on the floor and making mistakes. My self-esteem with women was so poor I couldn't bear to screw up leads and patterns for fear my partner would laugh at me. 

It was my dream
to learn my lessons in private, then suddenly appear on the scene already wonderful.  This strange attitude explained why I appeared on the Houston Whip scene out of nowhere.  Everyone asked me how I had learned to dance the Whip so fast.  Most good Whip dancers take years to develop.  I lied and said I was a fast learner.  How pathetic.  Why not just tell the truth?  In reality I had been dancing Whip with Glen completely out of sight for a year.

This meant in a sense I was a "Whip Bubble Boy".  I only knew how to dance with one person!!  And not just any person either - at the time Glen was likely the best dancer in the city.  I had learned to dance with Apollo and now I prepared to dance among the mortals.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!

The first time I got out on the floor, I nearly sent my lady partner through the roof with my leads!!  I had learned to pull and push a "woman" who weighed 180 pounds and now these 110 pound women were in for the terror ride of their lives.

Yes, I admit I was a beast that first night, sort of a Hulk Learns To Dance episode. It might have been funny to watch from the sidelines, but I definitely hurt or frightened many women who danced with me with my power

Fortunately I realized my first mistake.  As I practiced, I began to adjust my leads to the size of my partner.  It took me longer to overcome my second problem.  I was using too much power on spins, but I wasn't aware how much women disliked what I was doing. 

I quickly discovered no woman I ever danced with could turn as fast as Glen did, a fact which increased his already Mythic status in my eyes.  And since Glen had encouraged me to use force to help him catch the beat, I assumed this was okay for all women as well.  

Having trouble turning fast enough?  Here, let me help you turn faster!! 

That's when
I would pump up the volume

I had no idea what a brute I was.  I was simply dancing the way that Glen had taught me.

No matter how fast the song, my dance partners
ALWAYS ended on the beat whether they liked it or not. I had been taught this was the way it was meant to be.  My partners quickly became terrified.  Women are always complaining to me in class that men are clueless as to their strength on the dance floor.  Well, let me raise my hand.  Guilty as charged.  I was dancing like a Beast and never even realized it.

I was a big, powerful, 6 foot tall, 200 pound lean mean dance machine.  If I wanted to turn a woman faster, I could. And did. I just cranked up the juice to spin her as fast as needed.  Every woman I danced with may have finished their turns right on the beat, but what I didn't realize was their eyeballs were also spinning around in the sockets.  Ladies began to dart for the restroom when I came walking to their table.  I was really getting a complex!!

Finally one night a woman named Linda stopped in mid-song and said, "Slow Down!!"  Linda told me point-blank on the floor to ease up. I stared at her in confusion. What do you mean?  

She said I was just too powerful and that she didn't appreciate being man-handled. I was turning her faster than she wanted to turn.  It just wasn't any fun being muscled like that. 

Normally I would get defensive with this sort of tongue lashing.  But I was actually grateful.  Linda had just cleared up all the mystery!
 In a flash, I understood what she was talking about and why women had been so reluctant to dance with me.

Glen wanted the muscle, but all women preferred I be gentle.  Aha.  As usual, another important lesson learned the hard way.  Did any lesson in Dance ever come easy to me?  No. 

What I learned from this experience is when to use power and when not to.  It turns out if a woman turns well, she doesn't need much power.  If a women doesn't turn well, then power makes her lose her balance.  The woman will tense up her arms and body in self-defense.  The power only makes her worse.  Therefore, power is rarely of much use on the dance floor.

The ONLY time power is justified is when the woman can turn well, but the music is so fast that she WANTS you to turn her faster (just like Glen asked me to do).  But social dancing is no place to use power.  Let her turn at her own speed and burn an extra beat.  Who cares if her turn takes a little longer as long as she feels safe.  No woman ever thanked me for muscling her on the dance floor. 


By the way, I hope any of you men reading this story will take a moment to examine your own dancing for signs of unintentional uses of power.  Wouldn't it be nice if you could bypass the kind of embarrassment I went through?
 

Further Insights and Discoveries

One day during our lessons, I noticed something unusual about dancing with Glen.  It bothered me that he never seemed to be out of breath and he never showed any sign of sweat.  Glen was always dry as a whistle. No moisture, no glistening, no dampening of his shirt.  I don't sweat much either as a rule, but his workouts were an ordeal for me.  By the end of the lesson, I would be exhausted.  Furthermore my shirt would be soaked through and through by the end of an hour.  I looked like the Sweat Monster. Finally I got up the nerve to ask Glen about the mystery of the missing perspiration.  Did he have sweat glands or not?

Glen laughed. He said the reason he didn't sweat as much as I did was due to his balance. Since his body had already mastered the secrets of every move he taught, his body moved in precise, efficient, energy-saving ways. On the other hand, because I was learning, my body was constantly wasting extra energy correcting my mistakes.  In other words, even though we were dancing the same moves, I was working a lot harder than he was.

I thought this was one of the most interesting observations Glen ever made. I thought about Glen's Sweat Theory for several weeks.  Then one night in a Western class I noticed that every guy in the room was soaking wet while I was completely dry.  Interesting.  I had been dancing just as much as the rest of them.  One of the women even pointed this out.  That was when I realized that Glen was absolutely correct.

Glen may have been brilliant, but he definitely had his sarcastic side too.  One day I was having a particularly hard time combining some tricky footwork with precise leads. I had been knocking Glen off balance all day long with this move.  Finally towards the end of our hour, he went over to put the music on.  This surprised me because typically he played the music as a reward only when I had thoroughly mastered a pattern. 

I asked Glen why the change in policy. His response was a classic. "I doubt the music can possibly make things worse."

Glen taught me a reverence for dancing on the beat. He could not tolerate any drift away from the music's cadence. If I danced off the beat, he would stop and make me start over. Or he would ask me to count the beat out loud.  It didn't take long before I developed the same attitude. If I was dancing with a student who couldn't keep the beat, it would drive me nuts.  My body had to be on the beat or it wouldn't move. I also discovered that dancing with someone who dances on the beat makes it easier to acquire a sense a sense of rhythm.  This is one huge advantage of private dance lessons over group lessons where you dance with people at your own beginner level, a sort of 'blind leading the blind' situation that prevents rapid progress.  

Glen had some interesting training methods.  One incident that comes to mind was the time I had fits learning the Compression technique in Waltz.  I have to confess I am not a natural dancer.  I learn slowly.  Nothing ever comes easily to me on the dance floor, a fact that has embarrassed me all my life.  I wish I could move gracefully without having to work at it so hard.  But if persistence is the only way I can learn, then that's what I will have to do.  Slowly but surely... that's me.

I
n the case of the Waltz, I really struggled more than usual.  Glen had already invested two hours in previous lessons trying to teach me the intricacies of first step in Waltz.  He told me to lower my weight into my supporting leg as I simultaneously took a long reaching step with the other foot.   I wanted to transfer my weight to the foot that was moving, but the technique called for my weight to stay over the original foot.  This did not feel natural.  How are you supposed to get somewhere if you don't move your body with your step??

Exasperated, Glen went to the storage room and found a 2 by 4 board. At first I thought he was going to beat me with it. Instead he told me to get up and stand on the board.  My job was to touch the floor with one foot while remaining on the board using my weight-supporting leg. If I did it wrong, I fell off the board. This is how I finally learned how to "compress" properly. 

Not satisfied that this motion was locked into my muscle memory, he put on a Waltz and told me to practice by dancing around the floor all by myself. He added with a smile I wasn't worthy yet to dance with him.  I am not sure he was kidding, by the way.

So for nearly an entire hour Glen sat and smoked cigarettes while I Waltzed by myself practicing "Compression".  I quickly developed "compression depression" over the stupidity of my ordeal. 

As I danced I thought about the scene in the Karate Kid where Ralph Macchio learns karate by practicing special painting and sanding motions.  I made a small joke to myself that maybe I was also secretly learning karate by dancing alone.

I look over in disgust.  He was talking to someone who had come in the room.  I frowned.  Half the time he wasn't even watching me.  I couldn't believe I was paying Glen $30 to sit on his butt smoking a butt for an hour. 

But you know what?  That was the day I learned how to "compress" correctly.  

So many Memories. I am eternally grateful to Glen for his masterful job of training me how to dance.

October 1977 - October 1980:  Stevens of Hollywood

TIME LINE

In October 1977 I accepted a small one hour a week job teaching Disco line dances for Lance Stevens, an insignificant move at the time that would lead to stunning changes in my life soon after. 

In October 1978 I met Glen Hunsucker at the Pistachio Club.

In September 1979 I took a dangerous gamble that paid off, allowing me to eventually become the city's best-known Western Dance teacher.


In September 1980, Glen and his business partner Bill Tucker moved their Dance Arts studio from Westbury Square over to 4803 Bissonnet, an address you might recognize as today's SSQQ location.  

September 1980 was also the month I was fired from Stevens of Hollywood.  I was incredibly fortunate when Glen stepped up to offer me a spot at his new location on Bissonnet, a move that basically saved my career. By offering me this life-saving parachute, Glen's timely rescue elevated him to Hero Status in my mind. 

The stories of Glen and Lance Stevens ran parallel for two years starting in October 1978 to October 1980. The only way to for me to explain the significance of Glen's help is to first explain how much trouble I was in. 

Here is the story of my stay at Stevens of Hollywood.

The Stevens Years

During the entire time I had been dancing with Glen over at Dance Arts in Westbury Square I had also been working at another studio called Stevens of Hollywood.  Owned by Mr. Lance Stevens, this studio was located across the street from St. Anne's Catholic Church on Westheimer one block west of Shepherd. 

Mr. Stevens had given me my second big break when he hired me to teach Disco at his studio starting in October 1977. Saturday Night Fever released a month later. As most of you remember, this unheralded, un-hyped low-budget movie came out of nowhere to strike a nerve in the American consciousness. SNF quickly triggered a tidal wave of interest in Disco Dancing. I was basically minding my own business teaching two little Disco Line Dances per week at the time when the tidal wave came to sweep me away. Overnight Saturday Night Fever created an explosion of interest in Disco that served to hurtle me at a fever pitch into an unexpected career as a dance teacher. 

To fully appreciate the folly of my adventure you need to know that quite frankly my dance skills were about as limited as humanly possible. I was a good Disco freestyle dancer and I knew about 20 line dances. That was about the extent of my repertoire. 

I couldn't partner dance to Disco music which was a big problem since SNF had created a lot of interest in "touch dancing".  I knew nothing about Ballroom or Latin dancing.  Nor did I know any Western dancing either although it didn't matter back then since Country-Western was at most a single blip on the Houston dance radar screen. I didn't know dance acrobatics. I had no experience performing and very little experience teaching. 

I found myself in way over my head from the very start.  Overnight I had been propelled from a comfortable spot as a big duck in a very small pond to a little duck in a mighty ocean.  I had three things going for me. One, I had been learning Disco line dances for the past two years. Two, I already was in position as the Disco dance teacher when the SNF tidal wave hit at Stevens of Hollywood. Three, I was too stupid to see what I was getting myself into. 

Overnight the phone starting ringing at Stevens and students poured in out of the woodwork. Stevens would look at me and ask if I could teach another class. I would always say yes. Then he would ask me if I wanted to try an Intermediate level. I would gulp and always say yes. Teaching dance was the most fun I had ever had in my life and I intended to ride this wave as far as it would take me.

And what saved me from being exposed as a dance fraud?  Although my dance knowledge may have been limited, I was fortunate enough to at least know more than my students did.  I always tried to stay one step ahead.  Like any good surfer I knew I had to scramble to stay at the front of the wave or get drowned in the process. 

That doesn't mean it was easy. I struggled desperately for an entire year to learn how to Disco partner dance. By hanging out in clubs and watching carefully, I had been able to figure out enough on my own to develop a silly little walking dance called the "New Yorker" that was an odd cross between Merengue and Aggie Jitterbug. For the moment the New Yorker was enough to keep me barely ahead of the wave, but I remained a woefully inadequate partner dancer. 

Nor did I escape unscathed. My vast inexperience cost me dearly when I was basically ordered by Mr. Stevens to perform at the opening of a new club called The Ritz in August 1978. Trapped into performing at a level way beyond my ability, my humiliating crash and burn at the Ritz remains the single worst moment in my dance career.  Now that I think of it, this miserable moment was also the single worst moment of my life too.  I was in a lot of pain over that one.

Thank goodness Glen arrived in my life not long after the Ritz Fiasco. There is an old saying in Hindu Philosophy that the teacher will appear when the pupil is ready. I doubt the Hindus were thinking of Disco Dancing when they coined the saying, but Glen definitely made his unexpected entrance into my life at the time when he was most needed. 

The reason Glen's instruction was so important was that I had no other way to develop my dance skills. Many of my students were beginning to leave because they sensed I couldn't take them any further.  And Mr. Stevens was no help at all. Mr. Stevens hated Disco so much he never bothered to learn enough about it to help me beyond the basics.  Furthermore Mr. Stevens had no interest in training me either.  He made it clear to me right from the start he was not interested in a mentor role. He could not have cared less. Mr. Stevens kept me around because I made a lot of money for him teaching something he didn't want to fool with.

Stevens' attitude really left me hanging.  I was so insecure about my dancing, but I didn't know who to turn to!!  Here I was considering a career as a dance teacher and the only thing I knew how to do was teach a couple line dances. I knew the day would come when I would need a much better dance education that that!!

Fortunately Glen stepped in at the right time. Once I had his help, my knowledge of dance increased dramatically. I no longer had a problem staying ahead of the advances in Disco although I did have some traumatic moments when Western dancing came along 9 months later. Glen didn't know a thing about Kicker Dancing and hated it too much to learn. Fortunately I was able to learn most of what I needed to know about the Twostep and Polka on my own and Glen helped me figure out the rest. 

Glen was a marvelous ace in the hole the entire time I was at Stevens of Hollywood. Not only did he save my skin with his knowledge, he acted as a sounding board whenever I was having trouble getting along with Mr. Stevens. Unlike Stevens, Glen was quite willing to become my mentor. He counseled me in ways that transcended an ordinary teacher-student relationship, a fact that was not lost on me.  

And let me add that it was Glen's arrival into my life that gave me the final boost of confidence necessary to get up the nerve to quit my full-time day job. I knew I could count on Glen to give me the extensive training that over time would allow me to become a well-rounded, well-trained instructor.  In other words, without Glen, I would not have been willing to take the next step forward. This is one of the main reasons that I say I owe my dance career to Glen. 

Meanwhile over at Stevens of Hollywood I continued to have a lot of problems getting along with Lance Stevens.  Mr. Stevens was a grouchy guy to begin with. Thirty years my senior, Stevens and I never really clicked.  Over the years I knew him, Mr. Stevens showed me little warmth despite the fact that I made a ton of money for him.  In those days it was common to for me to teach 20 Disco classes a week with an average of 50 students. This meant I was teaching 1000 students a week at Stevens of Hollywood.  I was putting $5,000 a month into his pocket in return for a salary of $1,200.

After putting that kind of dough in his pocket, you would think he would have appreciated my help, but I can't remember one compliment the man ever gave me.  Instead Stevens often took pleasure in belittling my ability.  He loved to point out I never taught "style". And I admit he was right. You can't teach what you don't know. 

Despite my commercial success, Stevens' contempt for my limited dance skills was no secret.  Mr. Stevens let it be known I was there strictly because I helped him pay the rent. He figured once Disco was over, I would be on my way. This attitude was certainly his right.  It was the business world - Mr. Stevens was the boss, I was the employee and we left it at that.  I came, taught my classes, and left.  No hanging around at his studio. It was not a very happy place for me. 

One year into the Disco era of my life I was at a crossroad.  Despite my problems with Mr. Stevens and with my self-esteem, I was still having a lot more fun teaching dance than I was investigating child abuse.

However, a full year of working two jobs day and night had taken its toll. I was now making almost as much money teaching dance as I did as a social worker. Finally I worked up my courage and decided to try to make a living strictly as a dance teacher. I resigned from my day time social work job at the end of December 1978.  

It was a huge gamble for me at the time because leaving my day job created a huge hole in my finances. I knew I had to quickly find ways to supplement my income. 

The Negotiation that Changed My Life

Bill Gates credits a clever deal he made with IBM as the starting point for Microsoft.  Gates was hired by IBM to develop an operating system for a new line of personal computers they wished to market. Gates got permission to keep exclusive rights to the operating system. In simple terms, this is like Detroit making cars and having to buy a separate key for each car from Bill Gates before they can sell them.  In a nutshell, once the fledgling PC industry came on board, Bill Gates owned the key to the door of every computer manufactured.  

I was fortunate to negotiate an angle of my own that proved to be the just as important to me as MS-DOS became for Mr. Gates.  Back when I first considered leaving my day job, I asked Mr. Stevens permission to teach some group classes at his studio on my own while paying him rent for his room in return. This meant that not only would I continue to teach any class for him that he asked me to, but when I wasn't working for him, I could teach my own classes during any gaps in my schedule. Simply put, I would work for Mr. Stevens first and for myself second.

I am not sure Mr. Stevens gave this any serious thought.  Since he only asked one question and it took him about 10 seconds after that to give me permission, he couldn't have analyzed it too deeply.  On the surface, the rent for my new classes meant more money for Mr. Stevens' pocket.  Mr. Stevens asked where my students would come from.  I said I would find my own students through my Class Factory listings (a Leisure Learning predecessor). This eased his understandable concern that I wasn't planning on stealing his own students to take my classes. 

At the time Mr. Stevens had a lot of under-utilized space.  Furthermore he had another instructor named Alicia Lopez who frequently did the same thing. Teaching little classes here and there with six or seven people in them, Alicia was able to pick up some much-needed extra income to make ends meet.  I am sure Mr. Stevens assumed my suggestion would take the same path. Therefore, on the surface, this deal was a no-brainer.  Mr. Stevens gave it no more than a passing thought before he granted me his permission. 

However I don't think either of us thought through the long-term consequences of his decision. Or maybe he thought them through, but simply underestimated me. Do you blame him?  I barely knew what I doing half the time. I might fool my students, but I didn't fool him.

But what Mr. Stevens didn't know was how hungry I was to succeed.  I had been thrown out of graduate school in 1974. I had wasted four years of my life in a no-results, dead-end, hopeless job as a social worker. I considered myself a failure up to this point in my life.   But now I had discovered I had a gift for teaching.  I wasn't a great dancer, but I was a great teacher.  It felt like teaching dance was something I was born to do.  I was enthusiastic, I was funny, and I expressed myself well.  I had the ability to motivate people to practice.  My students actually improved before my very eyes.  Plus they knew I cared.  I was a popular teacher.

I was also smart enough to know exactly how far I could go without exposing my woeful lack of knowledge about dance.  Each new step I took was carefully calculated like a move on a chess board.  Every time I acquired enough new patterns, I planned another level of classes. Without any help from Mr. Stevens, I was constantly adding Intermediate this and Advanced that. When line dances began to fade, I taught free style instead. When students had learned everything there was to know about freestyle, I added partner dancing.  When they started to tap out my limited knowledge of partner dancing, then I taught them dance acrobatics.  I stayed one step ahead of the posse.

One reason the posse never caught me was my aggressive pursuit of knowledge.  I was young and full of energy. A regular Johnny Hustle, I was in the clubs every night scouting for new moves and new students.  Bringing my students along for company, this allowed me to turn my current students into my friends.  Then they made friends with other students.  This marked the all-important formation of a social program.  Dance classes became a way to hang out with friends. 

Plus I offered as many classes through the Class Factory as I could think of.  Teaching all of these Beginner classes at Stevens of Hollywood, when each class finished, I would offer an Intermediate level, then an Advanced level and so on.  At first, Mr. Stevens thoroughly enjoyed seeing his previously empty rooms now being productive.  He was making more money than he ever had in his life. 

I noticed there were still rooms empty, so I hired Victoria to teach some classes too. Now I was an employer, self-employed, plus an employee at the same time.  How weird was that?   As Stevens assumed, things were very modest at the start with six or seven people per class as he expected.

But I was pushing my program 24/7 and constantly looking for new sources of students.  My search led to an enormous break.

My Big Break

My biggest break of all came in June of 1980.  A lady named Linda Schuler gave me permission to teach Western dance classes for her singles organization TGIS (Thank God It's Sunday).  TGIS  was Houston's leading singles group at the time, so quite a few people assumed the name really stood for Thank God I'm Single This group met every Sunday morning at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. 

Urban Cowboy had not been released yet, but it was just around  the corner.  We all knew it was coming since the movie had been filmed here in Houston and Pasadena a year earlier.  A lot of people were asking me about Western lessons.  

Thanks to a desperate gamble back in September 1979, I was practically the only person teaching Western dance (although I didn't know it at the time).  But I didn't have any students.  That was about to change.

One Sunday I wandered over to TGIS for the first time because one of my Disco students hinted my dance classes would be just what this group needed.  I gasped when I saw how many people there were.  200...300...400... Who knows how many?  People stretched as far the eye could see. 

TGIS claimed to have
several thousand members.  You wouldn't get any argument from me. This group was definitely a dance teacher's land of milk and honey.  I felt like an Indian who had just located a huge herd of buffalo.  Or perhaps a prospector finding a mother lode of gold.   I had found a potential gold mine here.

However there was something that baffled me.  I couldn't figure out why TGIS didn't already have a Western instructor.  Urban Cowboy had been creating a lot of interest in Western dancing in Houston for over a year now.  A year is a long time.  

I asked this exact question and found out there had indeed been classes fairly recently, but the instructor had been so bad the classes fell apart. This did not sound very encouraging, but I wasn't going to give up that easily. 

I asked who was in charge.  A woman named Linda Schuler was pointed out to me.  She was the acting president.  I approached her after the morning sermon was over.  I explained who I was and what I wanted to do.  Ms Schuler just looked at me for a moment.  Then she asked where I would hold the lessons and how much I would charge.  She must have liked my idea.  Ms Schuler said okay right on the spot. 

I was incredulous.  Ms. Schuler did not know me from Adam. She didn't even know someone who knew me.  She didn't know if I could teach or not.  Maybe I was con artist.  I was a total stranger.  Maybe I was a crook.  No bidding necessary.  No resume needed.  No one needed to vouch for me.  No committee to propose the idea to.  No questions.  No time needed to think it over or sleep on it.  

After
Linda Schuler made her snap decision, she added it sounded like fun.  She told me to create a flyer and bring it to her the following week.  She would sign it and give me permission to hand out my flyers on the premises.  Then she turned to talk to someone else who wanted a moment of her time.  And that was that.  I was knew something incredible had just happened.  I was in the right place at the right time. 

Starting the following week each Sunday morning for the next month I was at TGIS pushing my upcoming class. I promoted my class as hard as anything I ever did in my life. I put a flyer in the hand of every person willing to receive it. I answered questions patiently. I drew maps for people. I answered phone calls. As they say, I did whatever it took.  

One month later it was June 1980.  It was time for the first night of class. I had no idea how many people would show up. I was gratified to see 10 people walk in fairly early. This was a good start. Remember I was used to classes of 6 or 7 students so this indicated an immediate improvement. Then 10 more showed up. And 10 more. And 10 more.  People kept streaming in as my eyes bulged with astonishment. I ended up with 120 students!!   And every one of them were Mine, All Mine!!  At $25 a student, I was looking at a payday of $3,000. My rent was $20 an hour.  Even after I subtracted out my rent payment of $200 for a 10-week class, this left quite a chunk of money in my pocket. 

Now factor in the multiplier effect - this class went on to an Intermediate, Advanced, and Super-Advanced level. Plus referrals from the first class led to another bonanza one month later.  The eventual benefits from working with TGIS helped me create easily the largest Country-Western dance program in the city. And this reputation only helped to bring me more success.

What an incredible stroke of fortune.  I will always owe Ms. Schuler a huge debt of thanks for her trust in me.  Someday I hope she gives me the chance to repay her in some way.  This kind woman gave me the chance of a lifetime.

The Beginning of the End at Stevens of Hollywood

Once the TGIS Era began, Mr. Stevens was fit to be tied.  It was one thing for me to rent the place for six or seven people, but he had not banked on sixty or seventy... or a hundred for that mater.  My classes were enormous.  Any time Mr. Stevens walked near me, I could feel him seething with resentment and hostility towards me.

It doesn't take a lot of math skill to see what a good deal my arrangement with Mr. Stevens had turned out to be for me. Maybe "good deal" is an understatement.  Let's call it an unbelievable deal Based on our arrangement, every one of these students were considered mine.  All I had to do was pay him rent.

After one year using this arrangement, I now taught more classes and had more students than Mr. Stevens did.  This did not mean I was a better teacher.  Hardly.  It just meant that while he taught Cha Cha, I taught Disco.  While he taught Foxtrot, I taught Western. I had the benefit of teaching the more popular curriculum.  I was also hustling a lot harder than he was.  Mr. Stevens had already made his mark and wasn't that far from retirement.  He wasn't that interested in hitting the clubs and the singles groups for business.  Do you blame him?  Of course not.

But my sun was rising.  I had something to prove.  I intended to make a career out of this!


Mr. Stevens was disgusted.  Here was this pathetic young kid half his age who had to be worst dancer for a dance instructor he had ever seen.  I didn't have one-tenth his knowledge about dance.  Yet this miserable excuse for a dance instructor had made the biggest score imaginable while he, the master teacher and winner of many professional awards, plugged along with much smaller classes.  There were Western students all over the place.  Where was the justice?  It had to rankle him when my monthly rent check to him was larger than his payroll check to me.  After all, I was supposed to be working for him, right?

I don't blame Mr. Stevens one bit for being unhappy with this situation. If the tables were turned on me, I would be miserable. Here Mr. Stevens had been teaching for 30 years only to be forced to co-exist with some mediocre talent kid who ran a program bigger than his own.  Whenever he was grouchy... which was most of the time... and he was chewing me out for something, his pet phrase was "The name on the door doesn't say Rick of Hollywood."  He made his point loud and clear.

I knew I was crowding him, but I didn't feel guilty. I was hustling as hard as I could to expand my end of the business using permission he had given me.  This was my golden opportunity and I wasn't going to fumble it away.  

I was sensitive to the problem.  I understood his resentment at how badly the agreement had backfired. I wished there was a way to even the score and find a way to work together, but Mr. Stevens was never an easy person to approach.  He was far too gruff to sit down and iron things out with.  Nevertheless, I tried several times to clear the air.  It never worked.

No matter how much I bent over backwards to appease Mr. Stevens - offering to pay more rent, working more hours for him - there was nothing I could do to make such an awkward situation palatable to him. The damage to his ego was too great.

I knew I was living on borrowed time.  Roxanne, Stevens' wife, hated me.  Alicia Lopez, another instructor, hated me.  Stevens himself hated me.  I did not have one ally in the entire building other than the cash I put in his pocket. Mr. Stevens' pocketbook wasn't hurting, that's for sure.  Stevens of Hollywood experienced its greatest era of affluence during this time.  I may have hurt his feelings, but never his bottom line. 

How long would the money be enough to keep me here? If I had a brain, I would have been looking for space of my own. However
,  like an idiot I clung to this shaky situation despite warning signs of danger everywhere I turned. 

Finally, in early September 1980, an incident occurred that proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back.  This was the point of no return.

I was on the main dance floor teaching yet another massive TGIS class. One class had led to another.  Thanks to word of mouth, this particular group was the third incarnation of the original mega class back in June. 

Without warning, Lance Stevens simply walked on the floor along with his ex-wife Roxanne and interrupted me right in the middle of class.

He told the students that he was the owner of the studio, that the place was named for him, that he was the "King of Whip" and that he would be starting a Whip class next week.  Now he was going to perform.

Incredulous at being shoved aside in my own class, quite frankly this was the same mean arrogance that had
characterized much of our relationship.

As I stood aside fuming at the discourtesy, Mr. Stevens put on a recording of "Brick House".  He then proceeded to dance a three minute Whip exhibition with Roxanne Stevens.  Lance and Roxanne put on an awesome show although it might have helped if they smiled.  Mr. Stevens had been one of the leading Whip dancers in Houston for a long time.  Furthermore Roxanne with her awesome figure and mouth-watering hip motion was always a sight to behold.

My students clapped enthusiastically.  I completely understood. I had long admired Mr. Stevens for his Whip dancing ever since he had been my first Whip teacher two years earlier.  These guys could really dance.

But that didn't keep me from being furious that he had decided to interrupt my class without asking.  Attendance in Stevens' Whip classes had been dwindling steadily for some time.   He needed a fresh supply of students.  I suppose he figured that since it was his studio, he could do whatever he damn well pleased. 

There is a right way and a wrong way.  The right way would have been to ask permission.  I would have been more than happy to cooperate.  I would have introduced him and his wife, put in a plug for Whip dancing, yielded the floor, offer to put on the music for him, then clap the loudest before and after the performance.  But Stevens had chosen the wrong way.


I wish I had better control of my temper.  After class, I made the stupid mistake of letting my anger get the best of me.  I confronted Mr. Stevens about his unprofessional interruption of my class.  I told Stevens I would have been happy to help him if he had simply asked me ahead of time. I told him I would have introduced him myself, explained why he was there and helped promote his class. I added that with my blessings the students would likely have been more receptive as well. 

Of course doing things the right way would have made a huge difference.  I was definitely right.  Dead right.

Standing up to authority isn't always the smartest thing to do.  As you may have already gathered, sometimes my mouth has a death wish. Back in 1973-74, I had gotten myself thrown out of Graduate School with behavior similar to this.  You would think I had learned my lesson.  However, faced with this man's inexplicable rudeness, I obviously had still not learned my lesson. 

Mr. Stevens lost his temper.  He said something along the lines of "No one talks to him like that in his Studio and Maybe it was About Time for Me to Hit the Road, Jack."  He gave me two weeks.

The next day I tried as hard as I could to grovel my way back into his good graces.  I brought him a bottle of expensive wine and told him how wrong I had been to say the things I said.

That cleared the air a little.  He wasn't quite as mad at me any more.  But he did look me in the eye and say it was time to go.  He said it in a way that I completely understood.  This isn't working; this place isn't big enough for the two of us.  One of us has to go. 

Now t
he clock was ticking. 

The following week I did have a moment of dark pleasure when the infamous Whip class started.  Overall Stevens had maybe 10 students, far below his expectations.  In the old days he would have 30, 40 students.  It didn't help that no one was interested in Whip at the moment  No surprise there; Country-Western was the order of the day.   I noticed only one couple from my TGIS class showed up in his class.  Mr. Stevens' nasty Whip performance hadn't done him a bit of good.  Hmm.  Served him right.  

After that class ended, Mr. Stevens was in a foul mood indeed.  

Not only was interest in his favorite dance dwindling, but the poor attendance and the obvious lack of talent meant he was committed to teach a very mediocre class for the next two months.  No one wants to be obligated to teach a class with little energy.  As he walked by me, maybe I should have wiped that smug look off my face.  Mr. Stevens scowled at me and grumbled it looked like the curse I had put on his class had worked.  He reminded me I had two weeks.

I was scared out of my wits.  I was angry at myself because my own mouth had created this dilemma. 

I had several hundred students, but I had absolutely no idea how to run a studio on my own.  I had teaching been at Stevens of Hollywood for three years but never had to worry about the details.  The cost of renting space, putting up mirrors and putting down floors was intimidating enough.  My head was spinning thinking about all the things I would need to do.  Insurance, light bills, air-conditioning, telephone, music equipment, etc, et al, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, ad disgustum! 

Nor would two weeks even remotely be enough time to make a smooth transition to some new place The pressure was unbearable! 

What made me even angrier with myself was there had been plenty of warning.  I knew this was coming sooner or later.  I should have prepared a backup plan and gotten out of Europe before the Nazis took over!

In my defense
I was still a rookie in this business. Everything took me by surprise in those days.  

I was in a lot of trouble.  Where was I going to go?

Exodus

During my private lesson the next day I mentioned my problem to Glen. He thought about it for a while and said he had an idea.  Maybe I could move over to his place. 

I tried not to appear too anxious, but I was ready to explode with joy.  My savior!  What a break!  This was one of the happiest moments of my life.

That afternoon I got a call from Bill Tucker, Glen's business partner. Bill invited me to move over to Dance Arts and sublease their two backrooms.  How long do you think it took me to accept?  

So in October 1980 I moved my program from Stevens of Hollywood over to Dance Arts Unlimited.  My program didn't skip a beat.  My Stevens of Hollywood students loved the place!  They had the same amount of room, but best of all the tension was gone.  As one Leisure Learning class and one TGIS class after another rolled in, I adapted quickly to my new location.  

There was no loss of momentum.  I hit the ground running.  My program began to resemble an avalancheThe next four years became the happiest times of my career.  

The headaches were small and the profits were big. The rent was fair and my responsibilities were limited.  I didn't have to pay light bills, liability insurance, worry about the fire marshal, the roofing people, the air conditioners, cleaning the studio, the broken floor tiles, the broken toilets, the broken mirrors, payroll taxes, corporate taxes, etc.  Personnel problems were non-existent.  My staff was usually one or two women who worked part-time.  What a dream life!!

All I had to do was show up and teach, then go out dancing afterwards, chase girls and have fun.   This is not to say I don't enjoy the modern era of the studio, but things were definitely less stressful in those days.

It really helped that my relationship with Glen was terrific. Although we both taught dance, I was so relieved to find that his interests and my interests did not compete.

I definitely didn't want a repeat of the tense situation at Stevens. As I had anticipated, our worlds were totally different.  Glen's main interest was teaching Jazz and building his dance company.  I taught mostly Western dancing.  This arrangement worked like a charm.  


Not once did we ever compete for the same students. 
Neither of us was a threat to the other.  We both wished each other complete success under the same roof. We were able to be supportive of each other. 

Gone was all that stress.  I was free to develop. 
And develop I did!!  Under Glen's protective umbrella, my program grew by leaps and bounds during these years.  I was happy.  My students were happy.

Utilizing Glen's training and his sponsorship,  my program developed into a two-ton monster.  And I owed this phase of my success to Glen.  

What a shame a snake would come along to force us out of this Eden.

About Glen


I am not sure exactly why, but Glen and I were never buddies.  Glen grew very close to the famous Whip dancer Mario Robau, another protégé of his.  It is my understanding they went out drinking and hitting the bars together. 

Despite my daily proximity I was never close to Glen.  We never went drinking or hung out together.  Nor did our paths ever cross in a night club.  His dance spots and mine were totally different.  I would go to see his company perform on many occasions, but I was never allowed into his inner circle.

Glen and I were friendly, but we were not 'friends'.  Despite our many hours alone together during lessons, he never confided in me about his career or his personal life.  I often wished I could get to know Glen better because frankly I had a bad case of hero worship, but he always kept a wall between us.   As long as I knew Glen, he made sure our relationship was student/mentor or renter/landlord.  Whatever I learned about Glen came from observation and from what people told me about him.   His personal life and business dealings stayed hidden from me.  Since I respected Glen, I never pried.  Too bad.  Maybe I should have!  As you will see, my ignorance cost me dearly further down the road. 

Glen grew up in Pasadena.  He graduated from either Pasadena High School or perhaps Dobie.  I believe he went to college at the University of Houston.  I know for sure that Glen entered a Fred Astaire Ballroom training program as one of his first steps in his dance teaching career.  One mystery I wish I knew the answer to was where he received his extensive jazz training.

At some point Glen met Bill Tucker.  Bill was at least twenty years older than Glen. They were mismatched by age and by beauty - Glen was an extremely handsome man with a muscular sculpted dancer's body - but somehow they connected.  Bill became Glen's business partner as well.  It was Bill's money and business background that set Glen up at the Westbury Square location.  When I came along in 1978, I was told that Bill and Glen were very much an item, but in all the years at Dance Arts I never saw any indication that they were anything but business partners. 

Bill Tucker may have been gruff, blunt, profane and sarcastic, but he always treated me fairly.  Although I was very intimidated by him, he really didn't push me around He seemed like a tough guy and someone I never wanted to cross, but I can't remember one time that Bill and I ever got into an argument.  Bill and I always got along well.

Although Bill stayed out of sight most of the time, I could tell he was running the business end. This freed Glen up for what he did best - teaching and choreography. 

Oddly enough, I don't even know when or why Bill Tucker left Dance Arts.  That's a pretty solid indication of just how much I was kept out of the loop.  Not only did Glen play things close to the vest where I was concerned, so did the people who worked for him.  Bill was replaced by two tough women, Hjortis and Karen Pons.  These women were just as secretive as Glen was.

I was always treated like an outsider.  But you know what, for the most part this was okay with me.  My attitude was if it wasn't any of my business, then it wasn't any of my business.  I had my own business to run.

Glen's star performer Connie Beth

Glen's passion was his dance company, the Glen Hunsucker Dancers.  Glen ran an extremely successful jazz dance program.  He had many talented young women and several young men as well who took his classes on a regular basis. 

At the time I first met Glen in 1978, Glen had just attained a major rung in his climb to stardom.  Earlier in the Seventies, the leading jazz instructor in Houston had been Patsy Swayze, mother of Patrick Swayze... yes, the Patrick Swayze of Dirty Dancing fame. 

By chance, I had taken jazz lessons from Patsy in the mid Seventies and knew her very well.  We would go get some coffee. I would listen as Patsy told me about her talented son.  Patrick was appearing in Grease on Broadway during this period. 

As Patrick hit it big in Hollywood, Patsy began to lose interest in her own dance studio, the Houston Jazz Ballet Studio. Patsy got involved in Urban Cowboy, then moved to Hollywood herself. 

At this point, Patsy passed her mantle onto Glen. Glen Hunsucker was now the biggest name in town when it came to the performing arts. 

Many of Glen's jazz, tap, and ballet students were graduates of HSPVA, High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.  Dance Arts became the next step on the road for all the gifted dancers being turned out by HSPVA's talented dance director Mary Martha Lappe

These young people were trying to make a career out of dance and Glen's studio was the place to be in those days.  Not only was Glen a magnificent dancer whose performing ability was admired by everyone, he was an excellent, highly respected teacher as well. 

One of Glen's strengths as a teacher was his ability to constantly criticize his dancers without alienating them. These dancers wanted to be pushed hard and that's one thing he gave them.  Glen cracked the Whip and watched with satisfaction as their skills improved under his tutelage. 

Many of the young men and women in Glen's regular jazz classes auditioned to become members of his dance company.  Watching these dancers in action resembled scenes from the movie Fame.  What a talented group of dancers they were!  

Glen's dance company trained every night starting at 9 pm in the area called Room One After I was done teaching my own classes, I would often stick my nose through the door and watch in awe.  What I would have given to have their talent.  My envy was so apparent.

I went to as many shows as I could.  I was one of the biggest fans of Glen's dance company.  My favorite dancers were Pam Spira, Connie Beth, Donna Hull, Paula Abbott, plus Keith and Jerry Lynn (pictured).  

Glen's choreography was very sexy.  The picture you see is from an African dance number that raised the passions in any man fortunate enough to watch it. 

I hired Glen's Dance company to perform at my infamous Halloween Party from Hell back in 1981.  I had no idea they were going to dance their African Frenzy dance routine.  That was a provocative performance to say the least.  The hot-blooded males in the audience went a little crazy to say the least.  Meanwhile the women stared angry darts at me for inviting these scantily clad dancers to the party and getting their guys all worked up. That was one wild night!

My biggest regret is that Glen did not personally dance in his own showsI could never get enough of his incredible talent; I thirsted to see him in action!  He preferred not to dance because he always ended up stealing the show with his incredible dance ability.

I was always an outsider with the dance company.  I had nowhere near the kind of dance ability these kids had and I was also 15 years older. My role was strictly that of an "onlooker".  Most of the dancers called me the "Western Guy", but at least they were nice about it.  With the exception of a woman named Hjortis who never missed a chance to be rude to me, the rest of the company members were unfailingly polite and friendly

Then came the Magic Moment when I miraculously found a way to hang with the group!!

1983: Star for a Night!


My single favorite memory of my years as a dance company groupie came in 1983.  Glen's dancers were hired to perform at a huge society bash at a private ranch in the hills outside of San Antonio.  The rock band Johnny D and the Rocket 88s would be performing two acts.  Glen's dancers would perform when the Band took their break. 

I begged Glen for permission to tag along.  He rolled his eyes and said okay.

I took my girlfriend Judy Price with me on the trip.  We rode up in the car with Glen and his boyfriend Tito, who was also a star dancer.

I am not usually envious of rich people, but my eyes bulged when I saw the estate!! 

This place was tucked way off the highway in a secluded valley with trees and natural foliage everywhere.  There were lovely rock cliffs above overlooking three sides and a stream ran through the property.  Most people have fences around their yards, but this ranch had beautiful rocky hills instead

Judy and I spent the whole afternoon walking around exploring the lovely terrain.  Oh, what a beautiful place!!  Such a paradise!! 

I had more fun at the party that night than I ever thought humanly possible.

First of all, I have to say Johnny D and his group were the greatest live band I have ever danced to!  They played great rocking oldies music like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis.  Their music was perfect for Swing and Jitterbug dancing. 

Second, I loved watching the dance company perform.

Third, I loved the open bar with its endless supply of beer, wine, and mixed drinks.

Fourth, I loved not having any responsibility.  That meant I didn't have to stay sober... so I didn't. 

Johnny D was awesome.  The guests loved the music. They were clapping and stomping and hollering.  But the dance floor in front of the stage was deserted.  The guests weren't drunk yet and didn't have the guts to get out there and dance.

So the guests
people were treating it like a rock concert.  Despite this awesome dance music and the huge open air dance floor, there was no one dancing!!

Out of politeness, I waited for other people to get out there.  Finally I couldn't stand it any more.  The music was so good that Judy and I had to get out there and Jitterbug.   There we were, the only people on the floor.   Who cares?  We wanted to dance. 

Judy and I
warmed up fast. Then we started to burn!

I threw Judy in the air, between my legs, over my back, around my waist, flipped her, dipped her and best of all didn't trip her. It may have been impromptu, but that was some of the best dancing of my life. I was loose and having a great time out there. The crowd started to clap for us!  We were smokin'!  What a blast!

That's when we realized that we had become part of the show.  We had inspired the crowd.  Now people were clapping for us too!   Too much fun.

After our big solo, the guests started to join us on the floor for the next song.  We had broken the ice.  Judy and I continued to dance and dance and dance until finally the band had to take a break.  That was when Glen's dance company came on and performed wonderfully.  This was one great party!!

As the evening continued, several of the guests at the party came over to Judy and me to compliment us on our dancing.  They said they were so glad that we were part of the dance group hired to entertain them that night!  


Then a
very nice thing happened.  Then this incredibly nice woman came up to me and introduced herself as the hostess of the party. She wanted to personally thank the two of us for getting the dancing started.  She said she was aghast when the music began and no one responded.

At the time she worried about what she could do.  Right about this time, Judy and I got out and performed.  That solved the problem perfectly.  She was so glad Glen had brought us along to help!  

I didn't tell her that Glen never had our performing in mind when he gave me permission to come along.  That said
, I was certainly glad to make a contribution.  After all the years of feeling inferior to Glen's dancers, I think you can imagine what an elixir this kind woman's words were for my fragile ego. 

Plus there was still more fun to come!  When Johnny D came back on for Act Two, I got the surprise of my life when several of Glen's beautiful dancers came over and begged me to dance with them.  Now this was new! 

Whoa, be still my beating heart. I had crushes on several of these beautiful young ladies.  However, despite
all the times I had come to watch them perform, these girls had barely acknowledged my existence.  I was always the Country Dude or something to that extent.

But Swing Dancing was my turf - I was the only boy around who knew how to Jitterbug!

So with Judy's permission, I danced with one gorgeous jazz dancer after another.  With their own performance over, these girls were ready to let loose!  Pretty soon they were drunk too!   They went nuts out there dancing with me. They barely knew a thing about partner dancing, but these girls were dancers!  Thanks to a good lead and some whispered advice, they picked up Swing Dancing fast.

I didn't sit out one song the whole night.  Can you imagine that kind of fun?  To be the most popular boy with all these pretty girls?
Even Johnny D himself complimented me on my dancing over the microphone.  I had become the Star of the Evening.  My ego was swelling to Dirigible-size proportions.  I had the best damn night of dancing in my whole entire life. 

Too bad it had to end.  The music was over.  Suddenly I realized I was so tired I couldn't lift a finger or an eyelash. Judy and I crawled into the back seat and collapsed.  And you know what?  Glen drove the entire way home for three hours nonstop. I couldn't move and here he was with the energy of a Titan. The man never ceased to amaze me.

Looking at him through my puppy dog eyes, it never dawned on me there may have been another explanation for Glen's prodigious energy...

1984:  The Year it Fell Apart


Something went wrong with Glen in 1984.  He seemed to be angry at everyone, me included.  Things deteriorated quickly.  By the latter part of the year, Glen had stopped talking to me. 

From that point on, Glen communicated with me through his three assistants: Hjortis, his arrogant right hand man, Karen, his accountant, and Tito, his boyfriend, star dancer, and assistant.

Since no one was willing to talk to me, I ended up writing a lot of letters.  I also filed away copies for future reference.  For the purposes of this story, I reviewed 16 letters in all.  Therefore I am very clear on the details regarding our problems.

Something
happened in 1983 between Bill and Glen.  I think 1983 had to be the year they called it quits in their personal life because that is when Tito entered the picture.  Bill and Glen tried to continue as business partners. Then sometime in 1984 Bill disappeared altogether.  Don't ask me what happened to Bill or when; no one ever told me anything since I was always the "outsider".  All I know is that in Bill's absence, there were really dark vibes around the place. 

Here is a telling passage from a letter I wrote to Judy Price on August 29, 1984:


I am so disgusted at Glen - he is a good teacher, but seems to be turning meaner.  I have pointed out to you how he treats people like a tyrant.  Recently 2 or 3 part-time staffers at the Dancing Duds clothing store were fired.  One of them was Hjortis, although it looks like she got her job back.  Diana was threatened with being fired and replaced by Glen's boyfriend Tito as manager.  If you look, you will see neither Hjortis or Diana is saying much these days.  They are walking around with their tail between their legs. 

Bill Tucker is gone on some sort of 'emotional illness' leave.  Too bad.  He used to look out for me.

The point is, I don't have a lease.  And I don't feel safe here any more.

Here is a paragraph from an apology letter to my students Ed and Dee written on September 7, 1984.


I am writing to apologize. I am aware that you get aggravated with people constantly interrupting our private lessons.

In regards to being pushed around with people walking the room during our lessons, I swear I have no control over that.  You may not realize this, but I have no lease at Dance Arts.  The two owners know that they can intimidate me with this fact.  They have constantly used their control over my program to treat me, my staff, and my students like illegal aliens.

Since dance studios are not the easiest things to pick up and move, I am forced to put up with their BS until I am established enough to leave on my own terms.

I think much of the rudeness is directed at me.  But my students are affected too.  This means for now we all have to put up with being treated like second class citizens.


Grumpy gruff Bill
Tucker had been gone a long time before I even knew he was gone.  My first clue came in 1983 when Glen became open about his relationship with Tito.  I think Glen definitely missed Bill on the business end.  Without Bill's astute business acumen and perhaps his ability to keep Glen focused, the jazz classes and Glen's dance company began to go downhill.  Glen started losing students and some of his best dancers as early as 1984.  A downturn in Houston's economy didn't help much either.

Perhaps Glen simply did not have the ability to be a creative artist, a teacher, and a businessman too.  That would be too much talent in one human being.  It just seemed that in Bill's absence, Glen became incredibly neglectful of details and responsibilities.  Often things such as the air conditioner or the plumbing got fixed only after they had been run badly into the ground.  Finally these devices completely shattered and there was no choice but to get them fixed.  

My hunch is that Glen intimidated his assistants so much that none of them had the guts to tell him what he needed to hear.

Throughout
1984, I felt a lot of tension between Glen and me.  But he never spoke his mind.  I was constantly in the dark as to what caused his foul mood. He just went around frowning all the time. 

Glen's program and mine were doing a seesaw.  As his program eroded, mine just kept growing. The previous 4 years had been so tranquil I was able to build my dance program to an incredible size.  But at the same time the growing number of students in my program became a source of friction.

A situation eerily reminiscent of the Stevens days began to develop as my students seemed to be everywhere during the evening.   My program now had far more students than Glen's did.  Even though we taught completely different types of dance classes, it did seem odd that the pupil's program outnumbered the mentorHowever, at least this time it could not have been an ego thing.  Glen and I did not compete in the slightest. 

There was friction though.  Glen did not like having my students get in his way.  He had been flexible in the past, but now the slightest frustrations seem to set him off.  With memories of my eviction at Stevens of Hollywood haunting me, I worried the same thing was about to happen again.

As his marginal Tap classes and Ballet classes were dropped off the schedule due to poor attendance, rooms would come available in the evening.  I would pressure Glen to rent me any rooms that weren't being used, but he resisted because he wanted to save the empty rooms for future use.  He knew once he rented to me, that room would be mine forever.  Frustrated, I would have to back down. I fumed inwardly as I walked past empty rooms at night while my own rooms were crammed with students.  It wasn't my studio. What was I supposed to do? 

Then there was "The Artist Thing". 

Glen began to act as if the world owed him a living.  It was my impression Glen treated me and my students as a sort of irritating but necessary evil.  He acted like an  irresponsible, inconsiderate Diva with constant his lack of respect for anyone's needs but his own It was kind of the world revolves around me attitude.

A favorite trick of his was to run the AC at 80 degrees, especially whenever he was mad at me.  He liked to keep his leotard-clad jazz dancers hot, fearing muscle pulls at colder temperatures. Plus he personally never perspired anyway.  Unfortunately, at this temperature, my dancers complained bitterly about the heat.  They had clothes on and they were miserable. 

I begged Glen to simply put in a baffle up in the main vent to block air to Room 1 to allow the AC to cool the rest of the studio while keeping his room hot.  He refused.

Increasingly his attitude seemed to indicate that he could care less about my students.  In fact, at this point I honestly believe Glen resented us being there.

Finally Bill Tucker stepped in and did exactly as I requested - put in the baffle.  It took a couple hours.  It was that simple! Problem solved.  I agreed to pay $100, half the expense.  Bill always called me "The Asset".  That was his nickname for me which I took as a compliment. I guess in a lot of ways Bill and I had more in common than Glen and I did.  Bill and I were businessmen; Glen was the Artist.

The petty stuff was rampant.  Each incident was small, but added up the damage was devastating. 

Looking back on my letters from 1984, there is one stupid story after.  One night Judy Price discovered a couch in the room she was about to teach in.  So she had a couple students move it back into the hallway where it came from.  When Glen discovered the couch had been moved, he chewed me out.  That couch was there for a reason!  Lord only knows what the reason was, but I was not to move furniture again without consulting him first.   Oh great, we were crowded to begin with.  Now we get to dance around a couch in the middle of the dance floor because it is inconvenient to Glen to let us move it out.  How weird is that story?

One of my dance rooms - today's Room 3 - connected the dance studio to the Dancing Duds clothing store. Although there was another way around, Glen's staff would constantly walk back and forth through this room while my classes were being held.  Hjortis, Glen's assistant and a member of the dance company, was something of a petty tyrant.  She delighted in walking through the room.  Hjordis was clearly the main offender.  Her arrogance was hard to take.  She knew exactly how I felt about her constant needless interruptions, but she did it anyway.  It was too much for her to take the long way.  In fact she smiled at me sometimes as she took her sweet time walking through my room.  My students didn't like it either.  Too bad I never called her on it.  If I had to guess, Hjortis overestimated her own importance to Glen.  If push came to shove, I have a hunch I was more valuable.  But that was too big a chance to take given Glen's mysterious moods.  So Hjortis had her way with me while I seethed at the disrespect. 

Some idiot friend of Glen's tried to use my Caliphone record player as an amp for his clogging class.  He played his music too loud and blew it up.  When I spoke up, Glen said tough.  Glen never reimbursed me the $200 to replace it.

Then there was yet another one of the endless Kotex/Tampon incidents. I have many mysteries about women.  One mystery is my perpetual amazement that this same problem shows up once every two months.  Women get mad at men for not putting down the lid, but then they turn around and show total disregard on this issue.  Don't women know those things expand in water?  Why won't they use those containers on the floor?  The number of times the toilet would get stopped up for this same problem drove me to despair.  

One night someone just kept flushing the damn toilet thinking that would solve the clogging problem. That did not work.
 Then something broke.  I personally spent four hours mopping up the mess.  Furthermore I paid the emergency plumber out of my own pocket.  Although I was not responsible for repairs, I didn't let that stop me from handling an emergency.  There was no thanks and no reimbursement offered.

Several times I scheduled private lessons in the rooms that were owed to me as part of my rent only to find one of Glen's dancers was using the room for some reason.  When I protested, I was told I would have to wait until the dancer was finished.  I did not appreciate being treated like a second-class citizen nor did my students.

One night Judy Price lost her voice. She was teaching a class in Room C.  Next door in another room beside hers, a group of ten men known as "The Dianas" were practicing their singing for a Gay Pride Day performance.  Judy had no choice but scream to be heard over them for the entire hour.

 Increasingly, we were made to feel like unwelcome guests in our own home.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Early in our relationship Glen had been so wonderful to me in so many ways. He was warm, helpful, and enthusiastic about improving my often limited dance skills.  But now something had changed in the man.  Glen was always short with me, irritable, and sometimes downright rude. He would forget things that he promised to do (like get things fixed when they broke!!) 

Few things bothered me more than his perpetual lateness for our lessons.  I would show up for a lesson only to see him Waltz in twenty minutes late.  That irritated me no end.  Once in a while is not a problem, but this happened continually.  Why was his time more important than mine?   Then suddenly the problem got worse - he stopped showing up altogether!  Imagine how angry I felt about his new trick - skipping the lesson altogether!

Something was wrong.  Over the past several months I would show up for our regular private lesson on Tuesday or Thursday at 11 am only to realize Glen had stood me up completely.   This happened about one in every four lessons.  I would wait for an hour or half an hour, then finally give up in disgust and drive back home.  My entire morning was wasted.  When he finally did appear for evening classes he always had an excuse, but I fumed at the disrespect.  

Over the ten years of our relationship, I paid Glen in the neighborhood of $20,000 for private lessons and $100,000 in rent.  I had never missed a lesson in my life.  But recently I was driving across the city in the middle of the day just to get stood up when all he had to do was call.  Lift a finger and dial. Or ask an assistant to do it.

What the hell made him think his time was any more valuable than mine?

I am certain that Glen had legitimate beefs towards me, but he always kept things bottled inside.

One night Glen was furious when I ran my class over my allotted 9 pm time slot in Room 1. Unbeknownst to me, Glen had scheduled a special 9 pm rehearsal.  He was waiting with 20 members of his company out in the hallway for me to get out of there.  The door was closed.  I had no idea they were out there.  All he had to do was send someone in to say something

That would been the graceful way to handle it, but no such luck. Instead
at 9:05 pm 20 of his dancers simply walked into the room and started their warm-ups while my students stared at them in confusion. Glen walked right past me but avoided eye contact. He looked furious. 

I told my students it was time to go. I was embarrassed, but didn't see the point of making a scene.  Glen had a right to the room. One of the dancers said Glen assumed I was running my class over to deliberately spite him. This was not true, but as usual there was no communication.  I was so busy teaching I was unaware of his presence.  

Most of the time Glen preferred to hold his anger in and avoid confrontation. As anyone knows, this leads to Cold War. 

The fact was that Glen felt increasingly frustrated that my students and my classes always seemed to be in his way.  He resented the inconvenience of working around us and preferred to just have it his way most of the time.  He resented it when we complained about his friends singing or his staff walking through our room. Rather than fix the problem, he avoided it with angry silence.

I have no doubt there were other things that bothered him.  But how could I correct them if he never talked to me?? 

For example, one time my students carelessly stacked chairs in front of his office door, forcing him to move them the next day to get in to his own office.  This time Glen did say something and I promptly had them moved.  Just tell me what's bugging you!!

On the other hand,
Glen's instructors would always leave their moveable ballet dance barres in the middle of our rooms, forcing us to move them out of our way to start class.  Stuff like this should have been easy to solve.  Dance Arts was like a big home with a lot of people who often got in each other's way.  But with manners and courtesy, most problems could have been solved easily.  All Glen had to do was say something.  In a family, that's how you get the small things ironed out.  But that was not Glen's style.

Glen set the tone.  If he acted rudely towards me, then his assistants felt entitled to behave the same way. 
Instead of getting his problems off his chest, Glen chose to treat me, my staff, and my students like inferiors.  I should have stood up to him, but I depended on the use of his studio which meant I had little choice but to swallow my anger and carry on.  The truth is I lived in constant fear of making the man angry.  But as the year went on, even the smallest indiscretions seemed to make Glen angry.

Looking back, there were three explanations for Glen's anger.

He had lost Bill Tucker, the man who kept things glued together.  Either Glen did not have the ability to run his studio himself or he didn't have the inclination.  Whatever the reason, the place was falling apart and Glen ignored it.

Second, Glen had bills coming out of his ears.  The money pressure on him was probably intense.

Third, Glen was using drugs.  I was totally ignorant of this, but in retrospect it explained EVERYTHING that made no sense this year.  The drug use explained his lack of attention to details.  The drug use explained why he didn't have any money.  And the drug use explained his constant missed appointments and all the times he lost his temper for seemingly no reason.  Glen was falling apart.

August 1984:  The Infamous Piano Incident

Saturday, August 25th, 1984, is a day which will live in infamy.  On this day, a very curious incident occurred that changed the nature of my relationship with Glen permanently.  Things would never be the same again. 

Glen had a piano on wheels that he moved back and forth depending on where he needed it.  One afternoon he sent Tito, one of his assistants, to come get the piano from a room where I was teaching a private lesson. I offered to help Tito push it, but Tito said no, he could handle it.  Well, I didn't think Tito could handle it because it usually took at least two people to move this big piano, but I held my tongue and went back to my student.

So Tito rolled the piano into the hallway.  I heard a huge crash.  He had accidentally hit a table with the unwieldy piano.  In the process, a valuable picture frame of mine being displayed on the table fell to the floor.  The glass frame was shattered.

I ran out to see what happened and make sure no one was hurt. The first thing I saw was that broken glass was scattered everywhere. Then I saw my pictures were in ruins.  Upset,  I said, "Jesus Christ, Tito, what happened!?" 

Tito was a friend of mine, but at the moment I was pretty mad at him for such a careless mistake.  I was just letting off steam.  I was already over my anger.  It wasn't that big a deal.

Down the hall from another direction, Glen had also heard the crash.  Glen was coming up from behind me to investigate. Hearing me raise my voice with his 19 year old protégé/boyfriend, Glen exploded in rage!  I can only guess his protective instinct plus the built-up resentment he had been carrying towards me kicked in all at once.  

To my utter shock, from my blind side Glen shoved me away from Tito.  Mind you I hadn't even remotely threatened the young man.  It wasn't like the kid was in any danger.  But that wasn't how Glen saw it.  He put both hands on me and pushed hard.

Hit from behind, I lost my balance and fell against the wall among the broken glass.  I ended up sprawled on the floor.  It was ugly.

I wasn't hurt but I was stunned.  Now that he had me laying helplessly on the floor, Glen towered over me and screamed down at me.  At the top of his lungs he said I had no business talking to Tito that way.  He said if I had a problem, I should bring it to him directly.  The man was crimson with anger way beyond proportion to the severity of the incident.  It made no sense for him to lose it like this over something so silly.

I stared at Glen in shock. Then I noticed my dance student staring fearfully at Glen, Tito and me.  She had her hand covering her wide open mouth and her eyes were bulging in horror.  She got her purse and ran out.  Glen couldn't have cared less.  He was too busy screaming and fuming.

I had never seen Glen behave like this before. I had seen him lose his temper once or twice, but nothing like this.  Mount Vesuvius was blowing its top.  Glen had been angry with me a couple times in the past, but he had never raised his voice like this before and he had certainly never been physical with me.

Why had our relationship deteriorated to this point?  I was totally clueless.  I had known this man for six years. For most of this time I had worshipped him like a rock star groupie.  Even despite our recent troubles, I still felt so much gratitude towards him. 

Glen
was the single most important authority figure in my life.  I owed my dance career to him! 

But now I felt exactly like a dog who had been kicked by its master. 

I was seething inside.  Had it been anyone else, I would have gotten right up in his face. 

But something warned to show restraint. 
In my mind I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, but Glen was too out of control to confront.  At this point, I saw him as an irrational landlord who might be mad enough to tell me to pack my bags.

Remembering my mistake with Lance Stevens that got me thrown out of his studio 4 years ago, I decided it was better to appease Glen with a slapstick "sorry, masta" routine than say what I really thought.  I got up and apologized first to Tito, then to Glen for my mistake.  Then I slunk off to lick my wounds. 

Did you notice that for the first time in my life I bit my tongue?  Maybe I was growing up.

Glen Raises the Rent; I cancel my lessons

Four days after the Piano Incident, I was handed a letter raising my rent immediately to $1800 a month, a $750 increase from my current $1050.  By comparison in 1980 my rent had started at $600. 

Glen was demanding a 70% increase in my rent. 


Feeling keenly that this increase was mostly about revenge, I made an appointment with Karen Pons, Glen's accountant.   As far as I was concerned, this amount of this increase was uncalled for.  We went over the bills, figured out what percentage of the studio I was using, how much I was making, etc.  

During our negotiations, Karen spoke openly that Glen's diminishing enrollments were a real problem.  During our negotiations, Karen excused herself to use the restroom.  She had been quoting figures from several documents to explain the rent increase.  So I took a look myself. 
From what I saw laying around on Karen's desk, money was pretty tight for Glen.  

Ultimately Karen and I decided to split the difference.  We settled on a $450 increase to round it off at $1500 a month. 

Even this amount stung. I was seething at the 50% increase, especially because I had still not forgiven Glen for the piano incident.  Judging by the way he stuck it to me, Glen was still angry with me.  Too bad I didn't have a clue what it was. 

I needed to be respected.  Glen had humiliated me for no reason.  I decided to retaliate.  I wanted to
fight back.  Now that I knew money was his weakness, I knew right where to hit.  I canceled my 2 private dance lessons a week with Glen.  This move that would save me $225 a month.  

I didn't feel the slightest guilt.  After being shoved to the floor, w
hat was the point of continuing lessons the way I felt now?  

The magic was definitely gone.  There is a right way to handle things and a wrong way.  Although obviously the drug use was the real reason, I had no way of knowing what the truth was.  All I knew was things were being handled poorly around here. 

Glen
had already stood me up six times that year for private lessons.  Now the respect I had felt for Glen had been shattered by the shoving incident.  The threat to increase my rent by $750 was absolutely the last straw.  

I didn't grieve too much over the loss of my once beloved private lessons.  They had long ceased being productive.  For some time now, we had just been going through the motions.  Glen's concentration was simply not there.  He didn't seem interested in my development as a dancer any more.  Or perhaps his built-up resentment prevented him from effectively teaching me at this point.   In hindsight, my guess is the drug use had ruined him as a person who cared about people anymore.

Glen never replied
to my decision to drop the private lessons.  I imagine if he had spoken with me, I was more than willing to patch things up.  A compromise could have been reached like one lesson a week instead of two. 

But on the other hand, maybe he agreed it was time the lessons ended.  Who knows?
 

The Air Conditioner Extortion

It quickly became was obvious Glen wasn't happy about the loss of his private lesson income.

One month later
Glen fired another salvo.  On October 11th, just one month after completing the rent negotiations, Glen had Karen Pons write me a letter demanding a special payment of $300 due to an "unusually high electric bill".  

This move rankled me no end.  I saw this AC demand as personal, not business. I was so frustrated I was ready to leave and told him so in a letter. Why a letter?  Because Glen wouldn't speak to me.

After a month to cool off from the piano and the rent incidents, I was ready to see if Glen and I could clear the air and maybe even resume the private lessons.  What could possibly be eating at him so much?  This guy could really carry a grudge!

First I wrote Glen a letter asking to speak with him and left it on his desk. No phone call, no letter, no conversation, no response period. 

Next I asked Karen and Tito to intercede in the matter.  PLEASE tell Glen I wanted to speak with him. No reply. 

Not one response to any of them. This was ridiculous. There wasn't going to be any powwow.  Glen made it clear with his body language that I was NOT to approach.  His scowl towards me could have frozen Medusa herself.

This was not how people were supposed to run a business.

Did I pay the $300?  

No.

First, technically I didn't owe the money.  Karen Pons had specifically said my rent increase included all utilities. I had it in writing. 

Second, the excessive light bill wasn't my fault to begin with. In August, Glen had let some friend of his use the studio all month long during the weekends to prepare for a dance performance.  This guy, the Bum as I referred to him, acted like he owned the place. This guy wrote the book. Talk about Attitude!   I don't dislike a lot of people, but I really disliked this man.

Glen's buddy definitely didn't share Glen's love for heat.  Glen and his dancers weren't around on Saturdays and Sundays this month.  Since no one was looking, the Bum would turn the AC down to 70 degrees.  That meant the Bum was at the studio every Saturday and Sunday for a month running the AC at 70 degrees all day long.  Normally the AC either stayed off at these times or was set to 75.  There's your electricity increase right there. 

But there was actually an even more compelling reason for the "unusually high electric bill".

One Saturday night The Bum got drunk. I came in the next day on a Sunday afternoon for my regular classes. The moment I opened the door to the studio, I realized the AC was already running.  The whole place was really cold.  As I walked by AC thermostat, I saw that it was set to 70 degrees, a huge No-No. 

Curious as to who might be there ahead of me, I looked around.  That's when I found The Bum passed out face down on the couch in Glen's office.  One arm and one foot hung over the couch.  The guy reeked from dried vomit. There on the floor beside him lay two empty bottles plus perhaps a million cigarette butts scattered everywhere.  It's a wonder he didn't burn the place down. The air conditioner had likely been running ALL NIGHT LONG.  And I told Glen this.  Well, let's put it another way.  Since I never spoke to him, I put the details in a letter.  I was damned if Glen expected me to pay for a bill caused by the Bum.

Third, I was angry that Glen did not have the decency to speak to me.  I was feeling very defiant.  I didn't want to pay!  
 

Disillusionment

But the real reason I didn't pay the $300 surcharge was that I no longer feared getting thrown out. 

During the recent rent negotiations, Karen Pons had accidentally tipped her hand when she revealed just how shaky the Dance Arts finances were.  Houston's economy was in the midst of a sharp downturn due to problems in the Oil and Gas industry.  Money was very tight.

I smiled at the irony of it.  $1,500 a month was a lot of money in those days.  Glen needed my money so much he probably couldn't afford to get rid of me.  No matter how much Glen hated me, he was stuck with me.  

So I decided to call their bluff.  I stood my ground and didn't pay the Air Conditioner surcharge

After a week of nothing happening and no further communication, I knew I had won this round.  The balance of power had shifted permanently. Although Glen still had some leverage as my landlord, we were now basically Even Steven.

I am sorry to say that after the Piano/Rent/AC episodes, Glen hardly ever spoke directly to me again. If there was some reason to contact me, he used Karen, Tito, or Hjortis as intermediaries.  Tito was the only one who was ever civil to me, but he landed a job performing in Vegas.  Now that he was gone, things were always tense from this point on. 

To me, the unforgivable thing was when Glen refused to even sit down and talk it out.  We had known each other for six years.  I was not the enemy.  How could we ever iron out out our differences without talking?  

It took a while, but I finally got the message.  Glen didn't want to talk.  Fine.  I can play cold shoulder too.  From this point on, Glen and I had an unspoken agreement to avoid each other like the plague.  For the next 4 years this plan worked for him and it worked for me. 

Glen's unwillingness to even speak to me caused my final loss of innocence where he was concerned.  It was time to drop the rose-colored glasses and grow up.  Glen had become a first-class jerk.  Something was wrong here, but I didn't have a clue what the real problem was.

Fortunately for me, the balance of power had shifted.  If he wanted to get rid of me, he would have done it by now.  Glen and I stood on equal footing from here on out.  Having weathered the crisis of the rent increase and the AC extortion, I was pretty sure he needed me just as much as I needed him.  

 

Something had snapped inside.  Glen was no longer this towering authority figure that I worshipped.   After the way he behaved during this tug of war, I had lost a lot of respect for him.   This was the end of my Puppy Dog Eyes.  

This man had once been my friend.  As far as I could tell, the only thing I had done to offend Glen was to discontinue the private lessons.  If he was upset about that, the right thing to do was to talk to me, not slap me around with his air conditioner bill.


I wasn't going to follow him around any more looking for approval and a stray smile.

The days of Hero Worship were over. Having seen a side of Glen that I definitely didn't care for, his fall from the pedestal was now complete.

Interestingly, in the next four years I was never again asked for more money or rent increases.  My rent did go up, but only because I kept renting more rooms as they came available.  Every time Glen lost another class, I gained another room.

Things would never be the same between us. 

1984 - 1988: The Cold War

The Cold War had begun. A sullen peace developed between the two of us. 

On the bright side Glen and I never again exchanged harsh words.  On the dark side we never exchanged anything but uneasy glances from afar.  We co-existed in separate rooms.

Dance Arts was a big place. It had two entrances and two doors to each room. This made it easy for me to avoid Glen and vice versa. For the next four years Glen and I taught in rooms right next door to one another.  I could hear him teaching.  But we never spoke and rarely saw each other.  Personally I liked it this way just fine.  My bitterness ran pretty deep. I found the further I stayed away from him the better we got along. 

My personal life wasn't all that great.  Parallel to my Cold War period with Glen, I was in a very unhappy marriage.  Believe me when I say I had more than I could handle.  My wife and I divorced early in 1986. If you are curious, a good account can be found in Spin

As a way of coping with my divorce, 1986 became the year I went Whip Dancing 201 nights in a row. Affectionately known as The Streak, I left the studio every night at 9 sharp to go out dancing.  I discovered it was an effective way to stay as far away from Dance Arts as I could.

I was miserable at Dance Arts. Although I was not longer afraid of getting evicted, this didn't stop Glen or his two assistants Karen Pons and Hjortis from treating me like the village leper.  It was like Chinese Water Torture, one little drip at a time, one little petty incident after another. 

Something else was going on that I couldn't put my finger on.  One reason Glen and I never fought any more is that he just didn't seem to care enough anymore to even want to fight.  He looked worn out.  Not only did he leave me alone, signs of his apathy were tangible. The place had deteriorated into a dirty, run-down dump. The dance floors had been ripped up so badly from the metal tips of clogging and tap shoes that splinters were becoming a real problem.  Tripping in the ruts while dancing was another!  Nothing ever got fixed.  My students were constantly treated like second-class citizens.  I was sick and tired of these prima donnas who made my life miserable at Dance Arts.  

At the end of 1986, I went skiing over Christmas with a group.  I kept to myself most of the time.  After my 1986 Dance Streak ended on New Year's Eve, I spent the following day holed up in my hotel room for a day of reflection.  I decided it was time to go. I did not want to allow myself to be treated like this any longer.  I was worried that finding an affordable escape route wouldn't be easy.  My dance program had grown so large that only a very large facility would do.  I wanted a building to call my own.

Without telling Glen I asked a real estate agent to look at commercial properties.  I needed a good location, I needed a lot of space, and I needed a lot of parking. I could only afford a building of $300,000.  You would think at that price I could have come up with something, but it was not to be. Often it was the parking issue that did me in.

I spent the entire year of 1987 trying to buy one building after another.  I wanted out of Dance Arts so badly!!  What a preposterous waste of time this turned out to be.  I put contracts down on nine different buildings including one bizarre deal on The Castle at Greenridge that nearly cost me my entire life savings.

The fact that I even entered into such an incredibly risky deal shows how desperate I was to escape Dance Arts. But there must have been something in the cards because one business deal after another fell through.

Besides the nine places I put contracts down on, I looked seriously at a dozen other buildings.  I even toyed with taking over Al Marks' lease at Melody Lane Ballroom.  I had $100,000 saved up for a down payment, which should have been more than enough seed money.  Furthermore a terrible economy was depressing the price of buildings.  But no matter how hard I looked, I could not find one place to move to!

I hated being at Dance Arts, but I didn't want to move out just to rent some place. Wherever I moved to, I wanted it to be my studio's permanent home.  I had so many ideas and dreams!  

1984 was one of the worst years of my life.

1985 was one of the worst years of my life


1987 was definitely one of the worst years of my life. 

1988 would deliver the biggest shock of my life.

1988:  The Day I Got Evicted...

One afternoon in March 1988 I arrived at Dance Arts to teach a private lesson.  I was stunned to find a chain and padlock on the door.  I also discovered the door lock had been changed.  

Panic-stricken, there was no one to call. I realized for the first time that in all these years I had never even been given Glen's home number. 

There had been no previous warning of trouble.  This lockout came totally out of the blue.  I stood there staring at the padlocked door stunned out of my mind.  

What in the hell was going on??  At first I wondered if Glen had decided to lock me out, but then I discarded this thought as overly paranoid. We hadn't had a fight in ages.  In fact I barely ever saw him any more.  He was sort of a ghost these days. 

No one was in sight to explain what was going on No one in the other stores knew anything.  I was paralyzed with uncertainty.  What was I supposed to do now?  

When my student showed up, her appearance forced me to snap out of it. I pointed to the door and apologized. What else could I do?  

I had more students coming for classes that night.  Should I wait for them or should I simply put a sign on the door?   I decided to do both.  

I had an hour before my group class would start which gave me time to reflect.  I had a lot of dark thoughts to deal with. As I sat drinking coffee in my car waiting to see who would show up, I thought about how miserable I had been for so long. 

The problems with Glen Hunsucker went all the way back to 1984.  Last year I had tried to find another place, but to no avail.

Now
it looked like it was too late to escape gracefully. As a symbol of how bad the relationship had fallen between Glen and myself, there had been no warning of financial problems.  Nor had any of Glen's cronies clued me in either. But then concern for my well-being had never been one of their strong points. 

I cringed with embarrassment as my students began to show up. They asked a lot of questions I didn't have answers for and I took a lot of heat.  When would I be open again?  How could they get their refund?  I told them all I didn't know what was going on and that I would put a daily message on my answering machine with updates.  What else was I supposed to do?

Glen's students showed up too but he was the great artist, so he didn't bother to show up nor did he send an agent. They were all very worried about Glen which of course rankled me no end. 

Worried about Glen?  Hell, I was out of business.  I had 20 classes a week with 400 students and nowhere to go. Caught off guard, I had no backup plans.  I was SICK WITH WORRY. 

As I sat in my car, I noticed there was a store for rent in the same shopping center. It said to call "Village Savings" for information. This is how I got the phone number of the shopping center landlord.  Unfortunately it was after 5 pm so I had to wait till the next morning to call. 

After a long sleepless night, it was time to make my move.  Since Glen was no use, I would have to find out why the studio had been closed by myself. 

The receptionist transferred my call to Gary Hargrave, the man who was responsible for the property.  He made it clear he did NOT want to meet with me. I had to be very persistent just to persuade him to give me an appointment later that day.  I was baffled by his cold-shoulder treatment.  What in the hell was going on? 

Two hours later I showed up for my appointment. The moment I walked into Mr. Hargrave's office, he closed the door and immediately went into a tirade over Glen.  I quickly discovered that Glen had not paid his rent in over a year!!  Glen had broken one promise to Hargrave after another.  He had lied to Mr. Hargrave's face.  Glen had made appointments and consistently stood Hargrave up.  That sounded vaguely familiar.  Hargrave said at first he felt sorry for Glen and had bent over backwards to help him work his way out of the hole.  But after one evasion tactic after another, Hargrave realized Glen had no intention of ever paying another cent of rent.  

Hargrave was left with no choice but to legally evict Glen.  He said the eviction process was a pain in the butt, but it had to be done.  At this point his attitude towards Glen was deeply personal - Hargrave told me he detested the man! 

This was all news to me.  In my wildest dreams, I never expected this meeting would have me playing therapist to a man I had never met before.  This guy had so much anger towards Glen it was unbelievable.  Nor did I have any clue that Glen wasn't paying the rent.  

But there was yet another shock in store for me.  Mr. Hargrave told me it wouldn't bother him a bit if Glen killed himself from a drug overdose.  

What?? 

It seems Mr. Hargrave apparently had been contacted by one of Glen's assistants after the door was found locked.  When he obstinately refused to give Glen one more chance, the woman had told him about Glen's cocaine problems in hopes of gaining some sympathy.  But the well of human kindness had completely run dry.  No way, Jose.

In a blinding flash, I suddenly realized here was the reason why Glen had gone Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde on me.  I had never once suspected the man was on drugs.  I was floored. This thought had never crossed my mind.  Looking back, now it made all the sense in the world.

I had never been around a person with a drug habit in my life and frankly I had been totally fooled. The missed appointments, the constant lateness, the stupid excuses, the neglect of his business, the tendency to hold things in, the screaming episode, the reclusiveness... it all made sense now. 

The constant self-centered behavior I attributed to "The Artist's Right to Be Rude" had in reality been created by a serious drug habit.   I was caught so off guard I could barely make sense of it.

And it was pretty obvious I wasn't the only person mad at Glen.  This Hargrave guy was beyond angry.  It wasn't business at this point, it was very personal. 

Hargrave
didn't know me from Adam, but he had a huge list of grievances that were eating him up so badly he had to tell someone. Glen had managed to drive him crazy!   Hmm, welcome to the Club.

I listened as Hargrave continued to rant and rave about how poorly Glen had treated him.  I shook my head at one horror story after another. Theoretically Mr. Hargrave held the cards.  I could not for the life of me figure out how Glen had gotten so deeply under his skin. Finally Hargrave stopped ranting long enough to take a breath.  He was through venting.

Deciding it was now or never, I asked Mr. Hargrave if he would rent the place to me.

No!!

My heart sunk with fear.  But why not? 

Because I was one of Glen's associates. 

Now I understood.  Glen had taken him for a ride.  Hargrave wasn't about to make the mistake of trusting anyone associated with Glen for fear it might be Glen's backdoor way of sneaking back into his studio.  What if I were to turn around and lease to Glen?

I replied that while it was true I shared the building with Glen, I actually ran an organization independent of Glen.  

Hargrave didn't believe me.  He had been so badly burned he was not in an open frame of mind AT ALL.  He said 'no' again, but for some reason this time I wasn't worried any more.  Now that I understood what he was worried about, I was even beginning to smile. 

 

I had an idea.  What if I could prove our two operations were different?  What if I could prove that I paid my bills?  

Hargrave looked at me. How was I going to do this?  

I replied that it was actually fairly simple.  For starters, I could show him my schedule of classes which would show we were two separate operations.

Then
I had an even better idea.  What if I could produce monthly checks from the past eight years that would prove that I was paying rent to Hunsucker all along?

That got his attention.  Hargrave began to calm down.  He took a deep breath and thought for a moment.

Finally he decided to give me a chance.  Hargrave said if I could show him the checks from the last two years and give him a $3,000 deposit plus two months of rent, he would let me assume the lease on a trial basis for six months.

If I came through, then he would consider giving me a lease in my own name.  This seemed fair, so we shook hands. 

There was something I was curious about before I assumed the temporary lease. Just how much would I have to pay per month?  When he named his figure, I was incredulous to find my rent to Glen was larger than Glen's rent to Village Savings. I had to grin.   Glen had jacked up my rent so high that taking over his entire facility would actually save me money. 

Glen had obviously been plowing my money into cocaine instead of paying the rent check.  All the man had to do was turn my check over to Village Savings at the end of each month. What was it about the power of drugs that could strip this keenly intelligent human being devoid of any common sense??  And what kind of people had he surrounded himself with?  No one had the power to save him from himself.

My astonishment began to turn to a cold rage.  Glen's unfathomable negligence had needlessly put my business in extreme jeopardy!!

I had never done anything to deserve to be blind-sided like this.  If Glen wasn't going to pay the rent, he could have at least warned me of the eviction warnings. I hadn't even been given the courtesy of a head's up. Glen's "oversight" could have cost me dearly.  If I hadn't been able to get Hargrave to relent, it would have been months before I could get another facility to handle my program.  I would lost a lot of money, a lot of students and invaluable momentum during the layoff. 

Considering how scared I had been, this was a really close call.  To say I was beyond furious with Glen would be an understatement.

Fortunately my quick action had bypassed any damage to the program. The studio was only closed for a couple of days.  Overnight our space expanded from 2 rooms to 5 rooms. This was a major step at the time, but one I was more than ready for.  My apprenticeship was over.  It was time to fly this thing.

In April I added new classes to fill the extra rooms. I hired Sharon Crawford and Debbie Reynolds as full-time instructors to help teach the expanded program.  I was very nervous, but also incredibly relieved.  My two biggest headaches had been solved.  Now I had the space to accommodate my students.  And now I was out from under the thumb of Glen, Karen, and Hjortis whose coldness had made my life miserable for the past four years. 

And the new financial burden?  I laughed when I discovered my new rent was practically the same as my old rent except of course I now had to worry about the light bill, the air-conditioners, etc. But all of these costs were nothing compared to what owning a building would have cost.  Now I didn't have to buy floors, mirrors, and find adequate parking.   What an enormous break this was for me!  

It was the dawn of a new era for my dance program.  On t
he day we re-opened for business, I put "SSQQ" on the front door for the very first time.  After ten years in the Biz, I was now the Man.  Sometimes there really is a silver lining in times of darkness.

Our Final Moment


As mad as I was at Glen's negligence, I would never have wished him the fate he was about to encounter. The next decade of his life was one of unremitting horror.  His self-destructive battle with drugs would take him further down the ladder than any man I have ever known.

Shortly after I took over the lease and we reopened, Tito came by to ask if I minded if he picked up some of Glen's personal effects. Of course not. Tito told me that Glen had landed on his feet. He found another place to hold his classes not too far away. I rolled my eyes. Glen must have the nine lives of a cat.  Tito told me things were going to be okay. We shook hands and I wished him luck.

A couple days later I was next door at Charlie's Barbeque having lunch when none other than Glen Hunsucker walked in.  I guess he knew I was there because he came straight over to where I was sitting.  He said he had dropped by the studio to pick up some more personal belongings.  Glen looked me in the eye and said there was something he wanted to talk to me about. 

He wanted me to bring my program over to his new building.

I was incredulous. These were the first civil words Glen had spoken to me in years.  Now, after treating me like garbage for four years and jeopardizing my business with his drug problems, Glen was inviting me to step back into his nightmare?  

I no longer trusted Glen.  Considering all the money I had put in his pocket, my cynical side assumed he didn't want to lose his cash cow.  I didn't see any point in talking about it, so I simply said it was time for me to branch out on my own.  Thank you for helping me start my career.  I will always owe you a huge debt.  And just like that, it was over. Glen stood up, we shook hands, he said goodbye and left. 

That day in April 1988 was the last time I ever saw Glen Hunsucker or talked to him

However it wasn't the last time I heard about Glen.  Deep down inside in some irrational corner of my heart I still admired Glen. I could never forget the help he gave me when I needed it.  I kept track of him as best I could through the grapevine. 

The news wasn't good.

After a year or so at his new studio, he left it for another place. I don't know the details. 

I was told by several people that over the next several years, Glen's drug problems led him about as far down the path to Hell as humanly possible.

From his pinnacle as the most widely admired dancer in Houston with one of the finest dance programs, Glen had slipped deep into the abyss. It was unbelievable to think someone with so many gifts could throw it all away. 

Drugs.  What else could explain this incredibly self-destructive behavior?  I have heard of losers who constantly hurt themselves, but how could a man like this fall so far?  Handsome, athletic, successful, intelligent, a widely-admired dancer loved by so many people... why?

If I wasn't scared to death of drugs before, Glen's story serves as the single most horrifying warning I have ever come across.

Dilemma

In October 2002 I was faced with an unusual moral dilemma when a woman named Bonnie McMillian emailed me to complain that I had mentioned Glen's drug problem in one of my least read stories. The reference she cited was a brief one sentence note in a little-read story tucked away in a distant part of the ssqq web site (new building).

Ms. McMillian pointed out that one small reference was enough to put Glen's name and a hint of his troubles into an Internet Search Engine.  This was news to me.  I was under the impression that I had written my story about Glen.

Flabbergasted, I visited my web site to take a look.  That is when I realized what had happened.  When I had originally written the story of my 1987 search for a building of my own, I didn't even know what search engines were!  I made one simple reference to Glen's problem, but that's all it took for Google/Yahoo et al to sniff it out.


Ms. McMillian made the excellent point that perhaps it was wrong to publicize Glen's drugs problems on the Internet at a time when he was trying to rebuild his life.  Read our correspondence for yourself and make up your own mind what is right and what is wrong.

-----Original Message----- 
From: Bonnie McMillian 
Sent: Friday, October 18, 2002 10:56 PM 
To: Rick Archer 
Subject: Glen Hunsucker 

Dear SSQQ - Glen Hunsucker is a fabulous dance teacher and is someone I admire a great deal. I was very active in the Houston dance scene (ballet and modern dance) in the 70s, but never took classes from Glen. Now - after a couple of decades of no dance at all I have recently started taking jazz classes from him.

I was interested in knowing more about his dance history (his company's name etc.. - because some old friends used to dance with him)- so I did an Internet search and found your site. I was really dismayed to read your account of his drug use.

It seems to me that he is trying very hard to get his life back together - and I don't think it helps that his very personal tragedy is here on the Net for anyone to find.

Would you please re-think that section of your otherwise very admirable site? It would be a kindness. I understand you may have personal grievances with Glen - but perhaps he has already atoned for his mistakes - and deserves a clean slate.

Thank you for your attention - and let's keep dancing!

Bonnie McMillian 
Houston, TX 



-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer 
Sent: Saturday, October 19, 2002 7:36 AM
To: Bonnie McMillian
Subject: RE: Glen Hunsucker

You have written an interesting note that brings up mixed feelings. I happen to admire Glen too. Until he went nuts, he was my friend and he helped me greatly with my dancing.

It boils down to responsibility.

If I follow your logic, you seem to think that someone with a criminal past should have their slate wiped clean.  Do you not understand that people who do drugs do terrible things that hurt other people?  With your line of thinking, perhaps child molesters and rapists should have no mention of their name either.  How do you feel about that?  Do you not think other people have a right to be warned about danger?

Glen ruined his life.  Threw it away. His story is a tragedy.

And one of the reasons he got in as much trouble as he did is because people liked him so much they kept giving him another chance or looked the other way until finally he nearly killed himself.

Glen's life is a chilling warning to the rest of us to cherish our talents and not take them for granted.

I am glad Glen is doing well now.  He has a prodigious talent, more talent than I could ever dream of possessing.  I imagine he is happiest when he uses it to serve other people. 

As for my personal grievances, how dare you trivialize when you don't even have a clue what was going on?

His behavior resulted in several years of complete misery for me.  He nearly cost me my career.  I was thrown out of the building because unbeknownst to me Glen was pocketing my rent checks to him and was spending them on drugs instead of paying the bills. I had to scramble desperately to save my job.

I appreciate the guts it took for you to go to bat for the guy, but that is exactly the same enabling behavior that allowed Glen to pursue his path to destruction once before.

An even better story is the truth - a man with enormous talent who wasted it, suffered greatly for his mistake, and then made a comeback. No one can appreciate the rise without knowing about the fall. I respect Glen greatly for picking himself up and making a stand.  His comeback tale is wonderful.

And just out of curiosity, how is he doing?

Rick Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio
Houston, Texas



From: Bonnie McMillian
Sent: Sunday, October 20, 2002 11:39 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Glen Hunsucker

Dear Rick -

Thank you for your reply. I respect your position regarding truth and how veiling it can only enable an addict.
I am a member of Al-Anon - so your points are well taken. 

I also respect your right to warn others by sharing your experience. (and I did not mean to trivialize your experience!) 

The thing is, I have no personal (or business) interest in Glen. I simply admire him as a dancer and a teacher. I heard that he had been "having problems" and was trying to re-build his life - but I (as his student) did not need to (or want to) know about his past. On the other hand, if I was planning to go into business with him - I definitely would want to know.  So perhaps your site provides a service.

Yet it seems sad to me that anyone who wants to know anything about Glen will also learn of his history simply by performing a Yahoo search. However, I do believe that he brought this on himself. So it goes.

"Clean Slate" is a tricky issue (and possibly a bad choice of words). As to how Glen is doing, I don't know him well at all. But he teaches a great jazz class!  I understand he is teaching ballroom classes as well. He looks terrific and seems happy.

He really does not know me - except as a student in his 11:00 class on Saturdays. He has no idea I have read your site or have contacted you - and I have not shared any of this with anyone else.

I don't think it took guts for me to contact you. (email is so anonymous!)

And I am looking at whether I am falling back into enabling behavior.

Perhaps so! Thank you for the reminder.

My best to you and your business - I took some CW classes many years ago.

Bonnie McMillian

Renewed Admiration

This lengthy story you have just read was not on my web site when Bonnie McMillian first emailed me about Glen's history in 2002.

Troubled by her valid point about letting Glen have a clean slate,
I postponed writing this story for one year.  I finally decided to write the entire story for three reasons. 

First, the story of Glen Hunsucker is a major part of the studio's history which I have carefully chronicled in many different articles. With hundreds of pages devoted to different events in the formation of SSQQ, it makes little sense to leave out the story of the man who made the single greatest contribution to the overall success of the program. Glen's story is also SSQQ's story.  And Glen's story is also my story. 

Second, the story of Glen's rise and fall is a fascinating tale that serves as a chilling warning to all of us about the danger of drugs.  That a man with such enormous talent was vulnerable enough to fall prey to drug abuse serves as a powerful reminder to all of us that there are certain paths no one in their right mind should ever take.  Don't play with fire or it will play with you. 

Third, Glen has apparently begun to put his life together. If this is so, then one of the finest Jazz teachers in the city of Houston has returned to recapture his greatness. We can have all the legends we want about Casey at the Bat, but frankly I admire Glen because he is a real person who did it. 

I realize Ms. McMillian made it clear she would rather not have known that her jazz teacher had been a drug user, but he is no danger to anyone but himself. Personally, I admire Glen greatly for getting up again. That takes courage. 

Over the years I have always found it curious that no matter how much trouble Glen got himself into, he never came to me for help. 

As always, I cannot figure him out, but if I was forced to guess, his pride prevents him from saying hello.  He knows very clearly he was always someone I looked up to and I doubt he would be comfortable reversing roles.  I know I would have trouble under similar circumstances.  As they say, sometimes it is hard to go home. 

I do not know how Glen received the publication of this story since I suspect some of what I say will hurt.  I am not excited about adding to his woes.  When the story first came up, Glen's sister did write a very angry letter in protest.  Out of respect, I did not publish her email.  People feel very protective of Glen, that I can say without hesitation.

Glen Hunsucker took me through one heck of an emotional roller coaster ride. Chapter One were my early years of gratitude and hero worship.  Chapter Two were the dark years of my sullen resentment.  Chapter Three was my hot fury when I discovered how he jeopardized my career through drug use.  Chapter Four was my horror at the news of my hero's fall from grace.  Chapter Five was my joy at hints of his comeback - it is my understanding that Glen is teaching dance again. 

I wish Glen Hunsucker every chance at success and happiness. 

I will always feel an enormous gratitude for his help in starting my career.  Wherever you are, I thank you, Glen.  

Rick Archer
October 2003

2008 Update:  An Email Letter from Tess

-----Original Message-----
From: tess
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2008 1:15 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Glen

Rick, A friend told me of your story about Glen and that I might catch up with him through the story.  After reading it my only response is I hope you feel better now.  The rage you feel toward him is sad, understandable but sad that you have not dealt with it - privately. 

It is Glen's story and if he wants it told to the whole world that should be up to him.  Sorry Rick but this is not a history of the studio nor an appreciation for a mentor, it's just dirty laundry.  Grace is a beautiful word that honors the giver more than the receiver. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2008 3:24 PM
To: tess
Subject: RE: Glen

I could not disagree with you more. It is my story. It is the story of this studio. It is the story of my career.

It also happens to be about the only testimony there is to Glen’s greatness on the entire Internet.

 

From: Rick Archer
To:  tess
Subject: RE: Glen
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2008

You never responded, Tess. I can only assume you did not appreciate my answer.

Are you a current student of Glen’s?


From: tess
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Glen
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2008

No Rick, I'm not a student of his.

Glen and I met when we did Summer Stock at Houston Music Theatre after graduating from high school. We became choreographers for TUTS and then both of us moved on to directing.

Glen sang at my wedding and played over the years with my children.  As you can tell Rick, Glen is very dear to my heart.  I saw him several times when he began building a new life for himself.  He is one of the kindest, most honest men I've known.

Like so many of us in that age group, drugs did desperate damage to lives.  But if we're still alive we have become incredibly strong because we know what the bottom looks like and we're never going back.

We're also going to do anything in our power to help others not be as stupid as we were.  God has been so gracious to most of us and Glen is one of those.

I'm sorry if I seemed to snap at you but I have become protective of the wounded in my life.

Many Blessings, tess


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2008 10:17 AM
To: tess
Subject:  RE: Glen

Well, you don't need to apologize Tess.  Your letter did a lot of good. If anything, I should apologize to you for my sharp reply.

I have always had mixed feelings about that story… I had mixed feelings before I wrote it and mixed feelings afterwards!

Glen was a very kind man to me before he snapped.  I loved him dearly, worshipped the ground he walked on in fact.

After you wrote your initial letter, I felt very troubled. So I went back and took another look at that story.  I decided to embellish the good parts and remove references to the bad times after we parted.

I decided the part that involves my studio and my career is fair game.  For one thing, that part of the story is central to the development of SSQQ.  Second, if you get the chance to reread the story, I give Glen all the credit and tribute he so rightly deserves.  You will not find much mention of his contributions anywhere else on the Internet.

But I have to admit you were totally correct… after Glen and I parted ways, I had no right to tell that party of the story. So I deleted it. That really is none of my business, is it?  I am glad you stuck up for your friend.

Scanning the Internet, it appears Glen has moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. I wish him well.

I really appreciate your letter. I feel much better now. You did a good thing.
 

FINAL THOUGHTS FROM RICK ARCHER

I will not lie and say I am comfortable telling a tale which likely upsets my former mentor, Glen Hunsucker, and definitely offends his many admirers. 

I feel tremendous gratitude to Glen Hunsucker.  I always will.  After all, I recognize full well that this man once rescued me from a serious predicament and helped me find the path that would lead my studio to success.

I will continue to maintain this story on my web site for two reasons.

As I said previously in this article, the story of Glen Hunsucker is a major part of the studio's history which I have carefully chronicled in many different articles.  

With hundreds of pages and pictures devoted to different events in the formation of SSQQ, it makes little sense to leave out the story of the man who made the single greatest contribution to the overall success of the program. 

Glen's story is also SSQQ's story.  And Glen's story is also my story. 

Anyone who has read some of my other stories will know full well that I have listed my own mistakes and failings.  As I cast my light on Glen, know full well that I have done so to myself as well.

My second reason to list this story is that it is the only place on the Internet where you can read of Glen's greatness in any detail.  Glenn Hunsucker is much beloved by all his students.  I know it hurts them to know he has a troubled past.

If it helps makes things any better, rest assured that Glen has begun to put his life back together.  

   
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