Friday, March 26,
2004, was Jack Benard's final night as an instructor here at
SSQQ. After his final Martian Whip class we had a going-away Whip party
for Jack that was well attended by over 70 of his friends and students.
I spent most of the party sitting on the couch in Room 2 sipping my wine.
One person after another stopped to chat and ask why I wasn't dancing. I
would give them my usual "I'll be dancing in a couple minutes, blah blah
blah" answer, but inside I didn't even want to move. I was much too
depressed to dance.
Gary D'Antoni came by and said, "Rick,
you are not a happy person. It's my job to read people and I can tell
something is bothering you." I managed
a crooked little smile and said he was correct.
Several people in a row came by to ask permission to take an extra wall
down just to make enough space for all the dancers. I snapped at a couple
of them until finally I crawled off the couch and began to take down the
extra wall that separates Rooms 4 and 5, biting a couple more heads off in
the process. Rick was not a happy boy.
Gary D'Antoni was right. I was in a very bad mood. I hated the very
thought that Jack was leaving. It made me sick in my stomach. I felt like
I was losing my lucky charm. I couldn't help but think how ironic it was
that at this same time one year earlier, no one would have dreamed of
bothering to ask me to take the extra wall down. It wouldn't have been
crowded enough to care.
One year ago practically to the day this room was
deserted. The reason it was crowded tonight was
due to Jack's mysterious
charisma. He was the
main reason this place was rocking.
This is the story of a Magician.
One Year Earlier -
The Whip Program is in Trouble
One year ago in April 2003 I was in another bad mood. I was practically
the only person who had stayed for Whip Practice Night that night.
After the last student left, I went to the couch in
Room 4 and sat down in the darkness to think things over. Whip
had been my favorite dance for over twenty years, but lately interest in
this dance and its companion West Coast Swing had fallen to practically an
I was very worried about the future of this dance program.
Although the overall
registration for our Whip and West Coast Swing program had
healthy numbers - 84 students were registered that month -
practically none of them were staying for Practice Night.
It had been that way for several weeks and
it was getting worse. This fact depressed me a lot.
First of all, Whip and WCS may be a lot of fun to dance, but
it takes a lot of practice to get good enough to hit the
Pleasure Zone. Compare learning to Whip to rock climbing.
It's hard work to get to the top, but once you get there the
view is awesome. Whip and WCS require a certain level of
mastery before they become fun to dance. If no one was
practicing, I was positive they would drop the dance just
short of the moment when the "Fun" would kick in.
Second, what's the point of learning to dance something as
hard as Whip and West Coast if you don't use it? Isn't the
whole point of learning to dance so that you can dance?
Whip/WCS dancing is a lot of fun. Why just take the class
and go home? To me, that's like buying skis, but never
skiing. Same idea.
Something had to be done. My mind turned to Jack Benard as a
possible answer to a huge problem. And when I say 'huge',
maybe 'insurmountable' might be the next suitable synonym.
It was a dark moment for me. Hiring Jack to teach would be a
gamble, but I was running out of options. I carefully went
over what I knew about this mysterious guy.
Jack Benard took Whip lessons from me back in the mid 90s along with
former SSQQ instructor Beth Bowman. He was incredibly tall, ridiculously
shy, and like many people at the studio suffered the handicap of being so
bright that he couldn't move his feet without his brain being heavily
involved. His tall body and overly analytical mind doomed him to be very
mechanical in his early attempts to master the Whip. Another handicap he
fought was his inability to hear the music very well. I remember how he
used to constantly count in hopes of staying close to the beat.
Another problem was his height. With his 6' 7" frame, Jack's partners
rarely came much higher than his chest, something he also felt
self-conscious about at first. However Jack was fairly relentless. He
practiced and practiced his dancing. What nature had robbed him of in
terms of natural dance ability he made up for with a determination that
spoke volumes about his character.
"Determined" was an understatement. Jack had zero
natural dance ability. Nothing ever worked the first time.
Although he may someday mutilate me for telling this anecdote, this is the
perfect example of how hard he would try. One day I was teaching an
acrobatic pattern known as the Backflip. The man and the woman get
back to back, lock arms at the elbows, and then the woman lays up on the
man's back and flips over his head back to the floor. It is not an easy
move. The man has to be very careful not to jerk on the poor woman's
arms. This essentially "crucifies" her for lack of a nicer term.
Instead the secret is for the man to get his butt lower than the woman's
butt and use his butt to literally bump her up into the air. This is where
the momentum needs to come from. If you don't really get the picture
here, don't worry about it.
Instead simply try to visualize a 6' 7" man trying to get his backside
lower than a 5' 1" woman's backside. In order for the man to do this, he
has to spread his legs and bend his knees. When Jack tried to flip
poor Beth Bowman, he failed one time after another. I would explain he was
too tall. I would flip Beth without a problem, but I am only a foot
taller than she. Jack was a foot and a half taller. But Jack
was determined to succeed.
He kept finding ways to push his feet further and further apart. I
swear his legs got so far apart he looked like a ballerina trying to do
the splits. Finally he got low enough to get the proper leverage and
flipped Beth over his head to the relief of everyone. I have never
in my life seen anyone work harder to accomplish something. Now most
people would throw in the towel and move on, but Jack committed himself to
succeeding and refused to quit. That is who he was. It was his
nature to never give up.
So what if the Whip didn't come easy. He was
going to succeed anyway because he had chosen to. Besides, there was a
special reason Jack pursued his Whip with such a passion. Jack has
told me several times that Dancing helped him conquer his acute shyness.
It isn't that easy to get to know him. For example, even though we were
acquaintances for 10 years, I never knew Jack on a personal basis. Jack is
very insular. If you ask him a question, he actually thinks about his
answer for a while, then responds when he is ready to, but not before.
Small talk is not his strength.
My guess is this natural reserve extended to the fair sex as well. Always
awkward around women, Jack said that dancing was his rescue. He developed
so much self-confidence from dancing that he finally escaped a shell of
shyness that had haunted him his entire life.
Jack joined the ssqq staff in the late mid 90s as a volunteer assistant.
He would help me and others teach the Whip. Jack refused to be paid
because he wanted to keep open his option to compete someday. Jack became
Sharon Crawford's assistant in Martian Whip when she taught the class
around the turn of the century.
When Sharon decided to cut back her teaching duties early in 2000, I admit
I completely overlooked Jack as her replacement. Jack was not exactly a
born self-promoter and I had no idea of his teaching talent at the time.
Instead I brought in Michael Stephens and Beth Bowman to take Sharon's
place. At the time, this couple had just won a city dance contest and had
quite a reputation. Jack was nice enough to stick around for a while, but
soon tired of his third-wheel status. It was also at this point that Jack
decided to make a serious career change.
Jack had worked as a chemist for one of the local oil companies here in
town, a job that paid well but one he wasn't very happy with. He never
said anything, but I imagine office politics drove him crazy. Sometime in
late 2000 Jack told me he had left his chemist job and decided to open his
own business, a hypnosis clinic.
I immediately raised an eyebrow. This was a very big gamble, I thought to
myself. My four-year stint as a social worker back in the 70s had taught
me that helping people overcome their problems is a very difficult task.
Furthermore hypnosis is a skill with a somewhat shady reputation. Jack
said he would need to take time off from the staff to devote all his time
to it. I said I understood. People have the right to pursue their dreams
and I wished him well.
Jack drifted in and out of the studio for the next couple years. He loved
to teach West Coast Swing crash courses on Saturday nights, so this is how
he kept his irons in the fire. Then one day early in 2003 he asked
permission to teach a Latin Hustle class here at the studio on Sundays.
Now I raised another eyebrow!
Flashback - The
As a background to this part of the story, the Latin Hustle was once
the love of my life. It is a fluid partner dance that works
beautifully to Disco music. Combining footwork similar to Swing and
hip motion similar to Salsa, it is a very pretty dance. During my
early days as a Disco Dance teacher in the late 70s, I taught
different levels of Hustle classes practically every night of the
When Disco died an early death here in Houston due to the opening of
"Urban Cowboy", I was beside myself with depression over the loss of
my beloved Latin Hustle. But it was doomed! For example, during the
early days of the new 'Urban Cowboy' era, whenever the DJ would
periodically put on a Disco song I would try the Hustle again. It was
not to be.
I vividly remember getting run over by
Western dancers whenever I tried to dance the Latin Hustle. One guy
laughed after knocking me off balance and jeered, "Didn't anyone tell you
Disco's Dead??" Ha Ha Ha.
I can read the writing on the wall. Bowing to the hostility behind the
"Disco Sucks" and the "I was Country before Country was Cool" slogans of
the day, I put away my Hustle and began to master the Twostep and Western
Swing for the next three years. Disco was Dead.
This part of my world was gone.
Once Western dancing had lost some of its challenge, I got interested in
learning how to Whip in 1982. I discovered I loved Blues music far more
than I had ever cared for Disco music. Even better, I loved the sexy,
naughty, intricate moves of the Whip. My Latin Hustle days faded even
further into memory.
Once in a while out of nostalgia I would offer another Latin Hustle class
here at the studio, but I never saw much interest in it. People would ask
for a class and I might get 10 people max. Ho hum. Nor was there any
interest in Intermediate levels. I gave up even bothering to offer another
class. So here was Jack Benard asking permission to teach a Hustle class!
I scoffed. Be my guest. I expected him to fall flat on his face.
So it was with fascination when I noticed Jack Benard was teaching a class
with nearly 30 people in it! How the heck
did he do that? Don't forget, the Latin Hustle was in a highly dormant
state. Some would even say the dance didn't even have a pulse.
I kept my eye on Jack. The next time I looked Jack had an Intermediate
Latin Hustle class with 20 people in it! I was amazed. And Jack had an
Advanced Latin Hustle class as well. I was amazed. It occurred to me I had
seriously underestimated Jack's ability as a dance teacher.
Now as I sat alone on the couch that night in March 2003 staring at my
empty Whip Practice Room, I figured if Jack could breathe life into an
extinct dance, what could he accomplish with a living, breathing, kicking
dance like Whip and West Coast?
I decided it was worth the risk.
The Magic Begins!!
Jack started teaching an Intermediate
Whip/WCS class with Michelle Wann as his partner in April 2003. I can
still remember the Practice night after his first class.
Jack and I
danced with two women. After each song we would look at each other and
say, "Change Partners". There were all of four people. The two ladies
soon became exhausted and left. I think Jack wore them out!
I pointed to the empty room and told Jack this is what I had meant
when I said the Practice Night energy had dropped to an all-time low.
He smiled and said we were going to change that.
I swear I wanted hug the guy at that moment for his support. I was so
grateful to have Jack's strength to lean on. I had been depressed
about the state of things and now I had someone offering to help me
It was like having a buddy in the foxhole ready to take on the
world. I was instantly recharged with the determination to turn this
Four weeks later, the Sleazy Bar Whip Party in April 2003 was one of
our best in years. We started the dance with Whip back in Room 4, but
the attendance was so large that we were forced to move the crowd into
Room 1. It was fun to see a lot of good Whip dancing!
I smiled a lot
throughout the party.
The success of our party was a very good omen.
During the Sleazy Bar Party, I kept my
eye on my new foxhole partner. Every time I looked, there was Jack smiling
while he danced with yet another woman who barely came up to his chest. At
6' 7", Jack was pretty easy to spot. It was never Jack and the Beanstalk - Jack
was the Beanstalk!
Fortunately the women didn't care if Jack was a giant; he was gentle and
fun to dance with. There was actually a line of women waiting to dance
with Jack! In fact I laughed as one woman accused another of cutting in
line ahead of her. I had never in my career seen something quite this
silly happen before! Here were two grown women fighting over the next
dance with Jack!
"No, I'm next!"
"No you're not! I am!"
"You cut; it's my turn!"
"You lost your spot when you danced with someone else!"
"Did not! It's still my turn!"
"You moved away. Too bad."
"Well, I'm back, so tough toenails! He's
Although in some ways I envied Jack his popularity, truthfully I was glad
it was him and not me. I never could figure out where Jack got that kind
of patience and stamina for his Marathon Nights of Whip. The man would
dance non-stop at Practice Night!! He took all comers whether they were
experts or beginners. After he finished dancing with every woman in the room, he
started over! I never had a conversation with him for the simple reason
that he never sat down. Attendance at Whip Practice Night grew and grew.
The women would stay to dance with Jack. The men would stay to dance with
the women. It was awesome to watch.
One night I walked over to dance with a lady who earlier had asked me to
save her a dance. Just as we walked on the floor, suddenly she bolted from
me and ran over to Jack instead. She had noticed that by some miracle Jack
had come free. Calling to me from across the floor, she explained that she
could dance with me any time, but Jack might be tied up for the rest of
Ordinarily I would have been insulted, but for some strange reason I
actually smiled. After all, a dance with Jack was
a Hot Ticket!
The past year was one of the finest years for the SSQQ Whip/West Coast
Swing program in many years. Charlene Tees came along at the same time and
proved to be a terrific addition to our team. Michelle Wann, Anita
Williams, Bethany Daniels, and MG Anseman all contributed a great deal as
well. I can't begin to say how proud I am of all six instructors. In
addition we were fortunate to develop a large team of volunteers to help
This group included Patty Harrison, Jorge Rodriguez, Joe
Cher Longoria, Rey Velasquez, Bruce Hanka, Judy Foster, Gary Schweinle,
and BK Moring. More recently we have been fortunate to attract yet another
level of volunteers such as George Sargent, Milt Oglesby, Phyllis Porter,
and Kerry Pelham. The studio is incredibly fortunate to have this kind of support.
Yet with all this help, you know exactly whom I credit most for stopping
the downhill moment and turning it around.
Jack was clearly the MVP.
To an outsider Jack would be a
tall, ungainly guy who didn't say much or even dance at a
championship level. But to his
students, he radiated warmth and encouragement. Jack quickly became
so popular on Thursday that I decided to ask him to teach on Friday
Sure enough, attendance in the Friday class picked up immediately.
I never audited one of Jack's
classes, so I don't know what his teaching style was. To be honest the
source of his charisma was a complete mystery to me.
But the magic was unmistakably there.
tricks he used, they worked wonders! I teased him that he must be
using some of his hypnosis secrets. Attendance grew and grew, both in the
Whip classes and at Practice Night.
All I knew was that Jack was pure magic.
Then one night in December 2003, Jack showed up at the studio with a long
face. I asked what had happened. He said his hypnotism clinic had gone
Uh oh. A immediate sense of dread came over me. It had long been rumored
that Jack wanted to return to his beloved California someday. This might
be it, I thought to myself. Without a full-time job to hold him here,
might move back to California and start over.
Sure enough, in the middle of March 2004 Jack stopped me before class to
tell me he had accepted a job as a hypnotist at a clinic in Beverly Hills,
California. He looked very upset. I immediately told him it was okay, that
we had a young man named Bryan Spivey who was ready for a promotion. I
told Jack that he had done a magnificent job helping return our Whip
program to health and how grateful I was for his immense contribution.
Humble as always, Jack refused to take any credit for the turnaround. Then
he added the only reason he was still in Houston was because he loved to
teach at our studio so much. Otherwise he would have been gone long ago.
My heart pounded with sadness, believe me, but I decided it would be
better not to show it. Like a kid heading off to college, you know your
going to miss him, but since it's the next place for them to be there's no
sense making him or her feel guilty about it. That's the way I felt about
There was something he needed to do in California, so I had to set him
free. That still didn't make it easy for me. I have been in mourning for
some time now. I felt just like a coach seeing a star high school
basketball player head off to college. He (She) is not only a great
talent, but a great kid too.
You know your gonna miss 'em, but you have to
do the right thing and let them go.
In the year that Jack worked his
Magic, our attendance grew by 50%. In
March 2004, we had 123 registrations as opposed to 84 from March 2003.
Sometimes the attendance in Jack's classes were so big, he had to use Room
One just to fit them all in. Who did Jack think he is, Sharon Crawford?
(inside joke. Sharon Crawford is famous for
having huge Western Waltz classes that fill our largest room.)
Two days ago, I answered the studio phone. The man identified himself as
"Robert". He wanted to know what night Jack was teaching Beginning Whip.
He had Heard It through the Grapevine that Jack was a great dance teacher.
I patiently explained that Jack had just left for California. I heard him
softly cuss over the phone. He began to bitch and moan about his lousy
luck. Finally he stopped for a second, then asked, "Who are you going to
get to take his place?"
Before I could answer, Robert started to laugh. He said it just dawned on
him who he was talking to and that I taught the same class that Jack did.
He said he didn't mean to be so disrespectful! It was sort of like a guy
dating two girls who sings the praises of one girl to the other, a
definite dating No-No. For some reason, I did not feel insulted at all.
After all, I was used to it by now.
Ironically each time for the past year whenever I would go to choose an
"SSQQ Teacher of the Month", Jack was the first person who crossed my
mind. This is the absolute truth. Like an idiot I have watched in awe for
52 straight weeks as Jack has worked his subtle magic without once getting
around to acknowledging his contributions.
There are so many terrific instructors who work here that someone would do
something or something unusual would come along each month that would be
interesting to write about whereas Jack's work was constantly excellent,
but never headline grabbing. It was getting to the point where I figured I
was going to have to create a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for the guy.
Take Cary Grant. Although Grant was one of Hollywood's finest talents, he
never won an Oscar. He was nominated several times, but because he was so
amazingly consistent and effortless in his work, none of his roles really
stood out. Each year another actor would get the nod instead of Cary
Grant. Robert Redford is another excellent actor who suffered a similar
fate. Jack got the short end of the "Teacher of the Month" stick in the
I knew that any month I wanted to, I could choose Jack, but I NEVER chose
him because he was my ace in the hole. Any time it was convenient would be
Jack's turn. Finally it got ridiculous. Last month I decided I was tired
of putting off a story about this talented man. I made a firm decision
after last month's "Teacher of the Month" selection that no matter who did
what, it was Jack's turn hell or high water. Two weeks later he resigned.
The irony stung bitterly.
I just wish I had told him how special he was before I had to write
his goodbye story as well.
At Jack's Going Away Party, I avoided him all night. I just could not bear
to dance in the same room with him or say goodbye to him. Finally after
sitting on the couch for well over an hour, I decided it was time. I went
in, waited for a song to end, then shook his hand. He and I gave each
other a big hug. I honestly think we were both on the edge of tears, but
don't tell anyone.
He and I seemed to think alike - let's make this short
and sweet. With that I said goodbye and left, noting with some amusement a
line of six women waiting for their next dance with Jack.
For any man out there feeling lost, lonely, and unappreciated, Jack Benard
will always be an icon for the wonders that dancing can do for someone's
social life. I hope there are a couple of you guys out there who take
notice of Jack's transformation from Geek to Sleek and realize there's
nothing stopping you from accomplishing the same thing. Women love to
dance and they love the men who make it fun for them.
Despite the fact that I never knew Jack on a personal level, I always knew
that Jack was my friend. Although there was always a definite air of
mystery about him and there were things about him I didn't quite
understand, my lasting memory is that Jack's presence always made me feel
secure. Whenever he was around, I felt stronger.
As long as I live, I will remember it was Jack who picked me up when I had
fallen. For this and all the other memories, I will miss Jack Benard
Letters to the Editor
After publishing this
story in late April 2004, I had quite a few responses. As you will
see, I am not the only person who misses Jack.
Here are some of the
letters I received:
I just wanted to tell you that the article that you wrote on Jack was
really great. I am sad that he left the studio and I was really touched by
your tribute to him. It was so deserving. What a great way to say
I was very touched when I read your article about Jack in your April
Newsletter. I was not aware that Jack was so shy as he was very personable
with me. He will definitely be missed. I always looked forward to the
classes that Jack taught especially Latin Hustle. I too was one of those
ladies who stood in line to practice with Jack on many a Friday night.
I want to compliment you on your writing skills as you definitely have a
way with words.
Thank you for so beautifully expressing the sadness I too am feeling about
losing Jack to the left coast. As you mentioned, Jack is a tough nut to
crack, but to know him is to love him. Occasionally Jack has allowed me to
see a crack or two in his armor, and I was fortunate enough to get a good
look inside. You won't find a man more deep, fair, kind, honest, or
benevolent than Jack Benard. He is a man of integrity and conviction. To
know you are grieving his departure as deeply as I am makes me feel less
Rick, I absolutely
loved your story about Jack Benard.
This man was phenomenal. I was absolutely the worst female dancer
in my entire class. I didn't know my right foot from my left foot,
I was awkward and I could not understand my footwork.
Each week Jack spent extra time with me during Break and at Practice
Night showing me what I did wrong. He gave me tremendous
encouragement. In particular he told me how difficult the dance
was, but to follow the Three Ps: Patience, Persistence, and Practice
till I got it right. He told me to never give up and that I would
I actually cried when I heard Jack was leaving. Don't get me wrong.
We never dated or anything like that. It is just that this man inspired
me to try harder during a tough time in my life. Just having someone
watching over me gave me enough courage to keep on trying.
After Jack left, it has never been the same. All your instructors
are competent as are the people over at Southwest Whip, but I can tell
by their attitude that they really couldn't care less. They see that I
am not a gifted dancer, so they dance with me and move to the next
person. I am just another body in their class.
Please do not print my name. If any of your instructors ever read
this and figure out who I am, I would be mortified. They are good
teachers; don't get me wrong. It is just that Jack was so special
he spoiled me for every teacher since. The guy didn't teach any
clever patterns, he wasn't flashy to watch, and I am quite sure he never
won any dance contests. But for me he was a once-in-a-lifetime
instructor because he cared so much about his students and wanted them
Jack really was a Wizard. I suppose he knew it too. Why else
would he have worn that costume to his last Halloween Party?
Superb and moving story of Jack Benard in the March Newsletter. Thanks for
I really appreciate your headline about Jack in this month newsletter, I
was one of the women who waited for a turn to dance with him....Jack was
always so kind to me and he made me feel great every time I dance with
him, always encouraging. WOW...what a great guy! I will miss him.... I'm
just sorry that I didn't tell him personally, how much I appreciated his
Your article in the newsletter is a great tribute to Jack
Just a comment on your last staff e-mail.
My first class of whip/WCS (3 or 4 yrs ago) was SO overwhelming - I had
taken western swing but I knew the basics of that before I started - so
whip class was totally foreign and it looked like it was going to be as
hard as I had heard it was. I was only in there because the FRIENDS I had
made in western swing said we should try it (proving you right when you
talk about how important it is for the students to feel a camaraderie - I
NEVER would have signed up for whip on my own!)
So anyway I had serious doubts about sticking it out in whip class. But I
stayed for practice night that first night and who should ask me to dance
but, who else, Jack Benard. I didn't know Jack at all - you were my whip
instructor - and was pretty terrified, after all I had only had one class.
But that one dance with Jack changed my attitude completely. He was so
nice and so encouraging and smiled and nodded through the whole thing -
you'd have thought he was enjoying himself! But the bottom line was that
he made it seem possible, and that one dance made me determined to stick
it out for at least the first 4 months - proving you right on a second
point, about how important it is for the instructors to dance with the
Dancing with Jack was always a treat - he was always encouraging, no
matter what level I was in or what kind of night I was having. He
absolutely made practice night fun. Dancing with instructors is always
kind of scary but fun, and I think it makes better dancers out of all of
us. But for me dancing with one of your instructors made the difference in
sticking with WCS at all. And almost 4 years later I'm still at it, for
better or worse.
Hope you guys have a great holiday week,
2006 UPDATE ON JACK BENARD
WHAT'S IMPORTANT IN JUNE
2006 - JACK IS BACK!
Written by Rick Archer on
Friday, May 26
Due to a sudden whirlwind chain of events, Jack Benard, one of the
favorite teachers in SSQQ history, has returned
to the studio. This time he is here
as a full-time member of the staff.
Jack Benard left the studio in April 2004 to move back to his home
state of California. His loss hurt me more than any other single
instructor in history.
I don't think the studio has ever seen a guy with a bigger heart
than Jack. I have never quite figured out how he does it, but Jack
is the person who inspires me to become a better teacher myself.
Putting it another way, I look up to Jack.
Actually, now that I think of it, EVERYONE looks up to Jack. He is
Jack left the studio two years ago because he had unfinished
business in California. The truth of the matter was that he wanted
to study Scientology. Although I personally know very little about
Scientology other than everyone is supposed to be afraid of it but
no one knows why, Jack tells me it is a fascinating discipline. I
will take his word for it.
Jack has always impressed me as something of a mystic. It probably
has something to do with the fact that his head is up in the clouds
all the time. I was sympathetic to his quest since I once did the
same thing. Back when I was an undergraduate in college, I spent
quite a bit of time researching Eastern Religions. So when Jack
looked me in the eye back in 2004 and said he wanted to learn more
about the meaning of life, I told him to go for it with my
And that was the last I heard of Jack. To deal with my feelings of
loss, I wrote the long story
above about Jack and put it on the SSQQ
HOW JACK'S RETURN HAPPENED
On Wednesday, May 3, Jack's friend Maureen Huddleston came up to me
after taking Sharon Crawford Shaw's Western Waltz class that night.
She said she had gotten an email from Jack. It was the first time
she had heard from him in ages.
The week before, Maureen had sent out a "group email" to everyone on
her email list promoting Scott Ladell's upcoming Monday night Hustle
class. Hustle is a dance that has always been Jack's first love.
Maureen certainly did not expect a man who is more mysterious than
Bobby Fischer to reply to her, but on Tuesday, May 2, she received
an email from Jack.
Jack's email response was a doozy! He told Maureen he had been
getting her emails about the Hustle class for some time and it was
driving him crazy with envy. He said he wished he was back at SSQQ
so much when he read her emails.
Jack went on to explain that he had been training at an Arthur
Murray studio out in California for two months with the goal of
becoming a full-time dance instructor. He was involved now in a
year-long training contract. Jack added one more tidbit: he had
gotten this job due to the article I had written about him on the
SSQQ web site. Read it for yourself:
On Wednesday evening,
May 3, a lady taking Western Waltz came up to me to say she had
received an email from Jack.
Apparently, she had
written Jack to tell him how
From: Jack Benard
To: M H
Sent: Tuesday, May 02, 2006 1:52 AM
Subject: New Hustle class
You keep sending me these emails about Hustle Classes at SSQQ. It
drives me nuts. You know I miss you guys a lot and SSQQ for that
matter. I think about it and many times wish I was back in Houston.
But that is not going to happen anytime soon.
Hustle class on Monday? What gives? It should bring in a larger
Isn't that Swing night?
I love dancing so much that that is what I am doing. I am in
training at Arthur Murray Dance Studios.
Been training now for two months, five days a week, from 6:00 to
10:00 PM. I have to learn all the dances, rumba, cha cha, salsa,
samba, mambo, merengue,
west coast swing, hustle, swing, foxtrot, waltz, and tango (might
have missed a couple). I have to learn them so well that I can teach
them blindfolded. The main difference between SSQQ and Arthur Murray
is I will be teaching mostly private lessons. I like teaching group
classes better. But its dancing and dancing is fun, fun, fun. It
won't be long now and they will be putting me to work. In July I
test out on the Bronze II levels. Then I will have to study and
practice for the Bonze IV levels, then Silver, then Gold levels.
That will take a while.
Arthur Murray took me on because of what
Rick Archer wrote me on the internet on his website. It was like a
strong letter of recommendation. I doubt I would have had the
training and job acceptance if I did not have this letter. I have
told Rick so many times "Thank You!" for all the help he has given
me, what his studio has given me too, as well as all the wonderful
people that go there. Now I owe him another big 'Thank
You' for giving me the ticket into Arthur
Hope all is well with you, Jack.
P.S. With all the training I am getting, I made a commitment with
Arthur Murray to stay with them for at
least one year.
When Maureen told me this, I rolled my eyes. Why did Arthur Murray
get to have Jack when I found him first? How
can that be fair? Despite my grouchy mood, I still wanted to say hi
to Jack. After all, I considered him a
friend and missed him.
So I asked Maureen to forward me the email, which she did. So I sent
Jack a 'hi, hello, how are you, come back and teach some time' email
the next day. In other words, I said
something like, 'next time you are in Houston, look me up and I will
hire you on the spot.'
To my surprise, Jack responded immediately. He sent me one of those
"the door is slightly open" kind of replies. For
starters, he said he was locked into a contract with Arthur
Murray. Even more important, he had given them his word. On the
other hand, he asked me what did I have in mind.
I figured he wanted an offer, so I made him one! I
told him if he came back to Houston, I would hire him full-time to
become a dance instructor for me.
Jack's reply was precious: "Your offer is enticing. I will get
back to you soon."
This guy drives me crazy!!! I
figured he wanted to think about it for a while, so I didn't
Two days later I got this note: "I need to handle something on
this end before I can confirm I am coming to Houston. Should find
out within 6 days."
Talk a weird note. Now I was even crazier.
I was way past being cool. So I asked him what the story was. Jack
replied that he intended to honor his contract with Arthur Murray.
They had given him a chance and he respected their position. He
would ask them if they would set him free. If they said yes, he was
coming to Houston. If they said no, he was staying in California.
His word was his bond. That's all there was to it.
So I started to bite my fingernails. Plus that night I had a dream
about Jack. This time he was eight feet tall.
Just about the time I had started to eat my fingers too, Jack wrote
two days later to say he was on his way back to Houston. I smiled,
but only wanly. I would believe it when I saw him. That's what
happens when you deal with the wind.
Jack said he would be back in town on Tuesday, May 23.
I did not dare send out a Newsletter announcement till I saw him.
Tuesday the 23rd passed and not a word.
Wednesday passed and not a word.
told me Wednesday night that Gary Richardson had seen Jack. So I
called Gary and woke him up at 11 pm to ask if he had really seen
Jack. Gary said no, he had told Maureen that I had told him that I
had seen Jack. Good grief. I felt like a dog chasing its tail.
Thursday. Still no word from Jack. This is ridiculous.
He was two days overdue and not a word!
I was fit to be tied because I was leaving for Colorado in two days.
Just as I left the house to go to work at 6:30 pm, I got a phone
call. Jack had just made it to Houston. He had
experienced brake problems on his trip to
Houston and had to stop over in
Phoenix to get them fixed.
He said he would see me at the
Half an hour later, sure enough, there he was in the flesh, all
eight feet of him.
Jack is back.
We owe Jack's friend Maureen Huddleston a big Huddle-Cuddle for her
key role in Jack's return. Without her taking the time to mention
Jack's email to me, I have no doubt his path would have taken him
somewhere else. Thank you, Maureen.