Diane Head was a gracious lady
who taught Swing at SSQQ back in the late 80s. At the time, Diane
was one of the mainstays of perhaps the tightest-knit group of friends
the studio has ever seen. I would say Diane was probably the most
popular girl in the bunch, although her friend Margie Saibara was close.
Diane's decision to move to Dallas became the catalyst for the greatest SSQQ Sock Hop
Party of all time
back in 1988. Practically the entire studio came to this party which
served that year as Diane's "Going Away" party.
Over 200 people danced the night away in Diane's honor while Diane herself
was in for a pretty rough evening!!
This is the story of Diane Head and the most special SSQQ Sock Hop ever!!
Diane joined the studio
in the early-80s.
She started out as a Western dancer. Diane and her sister-in-law Linda were fixtures over at
Texas, one of our big
hangouts after the Winchester Club closed in 1984.
Once she had mastered C&W, like many of her friends, Diane took
up Whip dancing. She was one of the Wild and Crazy Bunch of
characters who joined my Roller-Coaster Ride during the
201 Nights of Whip Dancing back
Diane had a special nickname which fit
her perfectly. Diane
just loved to play Ms. Pac-Man!! We had a Ms. Pac-Man
machine at the studio in those days and Diane spent a small fortune in
quarters playing game after game. The cherry was worth a hundred points,
the strawberry 200, the pretzel was 500, the apple a thousand, the pear
two thousand, but the Banana was worth 5,000 points.
One day at the studio
we heard a blood-curdling scream from Diane.
Worried about her safety, an entire group of people
left class and ran to see what had happened. Rather than finding an
terrified woman, instead we found Diane jumping up and down in complete
ecstasy. Diane had captured her first ever Banana on Ms. Pac-Man.
It was one of the happiest moments of
her life. From then, she was known as "Diana
Banana". It was the perfect nickname and she loved it.
When a Retro Dance Club named Studebakers
opened in 1987, Diane fell in love with the place just like the rest of us
did. As far as the SSQQ crowd was concerned, the Studebakers Club near
the Galleria was the best dance club in
town. Studebakers played OUR MUSIC! Every
generation believes the music they grew up with is the best music ever
recorded and our Baby Boomer group was no exception. One 50s and 60s dance hit after another filled our hungry
ears... "Mustang Sally", "At the Hop", "Peggy Sue", "Jailhouse Rock",
"R-E-S-P-E-C-T", "Tequila"... oh boy did we have fun!
Back then we had as many
people meeting for Jitterbug Night at Studebakers on Mondays as we
later did at the Longhorn in the 90s and Wild West
in the 2000s. It
was an attractive, well-decorated club with a huge Studebaker car in
And don't let me forget the waitresses!! They
were a big part of the decor! These
gorgeous long-legged waitresses wearing short pink 50s skirts made the
place even more attractive. Every now
and then they would all climb up on the counter and dance the Hand
Jive. As they worked their knees to the music, you could see up their
dresses, a fact I am sure they were well aware of. Lord
knows I was aware of it. Yum!
Another big attraction at Studebakers was the scrumptious early
evening buffet. Most SSQQ students would come straight from work to
eat at 6 pm, then dance hard for a couple hours.
There was a guy in our group named Hal Perry who had lost his job. He
loved the SSQQ Studebakers Night because this was the only night of
the week where it was so crowed he could sneak in and bum a free meal.
The rule was you had to buy at least one drink. The waitress would
look for him to place a drink order, but he would see her coming and
immediately ask a lady to dance.
Because our group packed the place, he could quickly lose himself in
the crowd on the dance floor. Once the song was over, he would go back
to eating. Since the place was so busy when we were there, the
waitress never caught on that he was deliberately dodging her.
The only downside to Studebakers was that our group was clearly too
big for their floor. That floor would sure get packed!! The dance
known as the Whip was invented back during World War II as a solution
to the packed floors out in California. Dancing the Whip at
Studebakers to the great Motown sounds of the 60s, I discovered
first-hand exactly why all the people out in California learned to
dance in a straight line! Frequently the Whip was the only way to
actually partner dance in such tight quarters.
Thanks to Studebakers, Swing Classes at SSQQ grew
to huge numbers. But there was another reason too - Diane Head.
Diane became an instructor the same way that
Hall of Fame instructor Sharon Crawford
did - INSTANTLY.
One day in 1987 a long-time instructor suddenly quit the staff in
anger. This meant I had a Swing class that night with no teacher.
We didn't have Assistants in those days. SSQQ was still in its
infancy and there were only three instructors. I had absolutely no
I wondered who I could call on at a moment's notice. Diane was a terrific dancer
and so gentle as a person. I
immediately though of her. I called Diane at work and asked her to substitute teach the Swing class
that night. Even though it is difficult to
"see" over the phone, I could tell Diane
had turned pale.
She said "No way".
I begged and pleaded, "There's nobody else but you,
Finally she gave in and said she would try. She came
directly from work and met me at the studio. We spent the next two
hours getting her ready. Those two hours were tough
on her. Diane quickly realized she
didn't have a clue what the man's footwork was. Indeed, she
exclaimed, "It's hard being a boy!"
Fortunately Diane knew the girl's part well
enough that she picked up the boy's part sufficiently to teach at
the Beginner level that night. She simply demonstrated the
footwork and was smart enough not to reveal she barely knew more
the men she was teaching.
Diane had a lot of guts. She accepted the job even though she
knew she was asking for trouble - she had never danced the
boy's part in her life! After she
somehow she made it
through the first night, Diane
knew she was far
from being out of the woods. After faking her
way through the first class, now there was next week to get ready for. And
then the Intermediate level followed by the Advanced level. She
was looking at three months of pressure. Diane was
panic-stricken. She had not an inkling of how to lead or teach any of
those patterns! Diane tried to quit after
the first night, but I told we would take it one step at a time. We
didn't have to learn everything at once. That didn't reassure
her very much. She said she was terrified, but then she agreed
to continue. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
So for the next three months Diane barely stayed one step ahead of the
law. She was always scrambling to learn how to explain the patterns
well enough and lead them just before class. It
wasn't easy for her to prepare ahead of time. As a full-time
secretary and a full-time single mother to two pre-teenage boys, she
didn't have a lot of free time to devote to her dance teaching
career. Often we would meet on Mondays at 5 or 6 pm, then she
would teach the patterns the same night at 7 pm. One week after another
she was literally learning her patterns right before class. She was
frequently a nervous wreck.
One night it all finally caught up to her. Right before class we
worked and worked on two patterns - the first was
an easy one to start the class and
then a hard one for the second hour. The hard one drove Diane nuts, but at
the last minute she mastered it. Flustered at just barely figuring it
out before the bell, Diane mustered her courage and walked down the
hallway to start her class.
Three minutes later she burst into my room with tears in her eyes. "I
forgot my Easy pattern!" Diane had worked so long on the hard pattern
the first one had just slipped out of her brain. Patiently I walked
her through the first pattern and helped her calm down a little. Diane
dried her tears and forced herself to return to her classroom.
was a brave woman. Diane has my respect for
so many reasons I can barely count them all.
DIANA BANANA REVOLUTIONIZED PRACTICE NIGHT
What makes Diane's story
even more notable is that despite
her obvious lack of experience as an instructor, her Swing
classes quickly grew huge!
Her students signed up for each new level Diane taught at a
rate that was nearly 100%. Since
the usual drop-out rate is around 50% I thought this was
a remarkable accomplishment.
Diane's secret was Practice Night. Diane
had the amazing ability to get practically her whole class
to stay. It turned out that right
from the start, Diane felt so guilty about her lack of
preparation that she thought her students, especially the
men, were being short-changed. As a result, she begged
the men to stay so she could dance with them and work with
them a little more. Because the men decided to take her up
on her offer, the women stayed too.
discovered to her own surprise that she was a born
teacher. For starters, she cared a
lot about what she was doing. Diane wanted every one
of her students to get better.
Even though Diane BARELY knew more than the
men she was teaching, due to her
phenomenal ability at
persuading her male students to stay during Practice Night,
she was able to work with them one on one.
Diane would dance with every man as often
as she could. If they made a mistake, she would correct the problem
on the spot. For example, if they hurt her, Diane had a way of
fixing it. Or if they were too fast or too slow, Diane would count
for them until they found the beat. Diane
didn't always KNOW what the guy had done wrong, but she did know
when it didn't feel right. She would ask the guy to try a move again
until she could figure out what was wrong. Even
though she could not lead the move herself or explain much to the
group class about leads, Diane had a remarkable ability to teach
Swing leads better than any
instructor I have ever had. Diane
did it all through "feel".
Diane was the instructor who actually inspired me to start rotating
partners in class. You see, these were the days when everyone
got a partner and kept them for the entire class. After
watching how effective she was at teaching leads and rhythm, I
thought it wise to have a female instructor dance with the men in
class as well. Combined with another lesson I learned the hard
way, Diane's effectiveness was largely responsible for creating our
tradition of switching partners constantly during class. Of course
anyone reading this story realizes how much sense this makes, but I
had to learn everything the hard way in those days.
Diane's story taught me many lessons about the nature of teaching
group classes that were definite eye-openers. Some of the things I
learned from watching her in action are tactics we take for granted
For example, besides her gift for
persuading her students to stay for Practice Night,
another area where Diane
contributed was her innate gift for explaining mistakes to men in a
way that never hurt their feelings. Perhaps she learned some secrets
about tact in her day job as a secretary. Somehow she learned to
become the consummate politician when it came to explaining mistakes
to the men. Diane was without a doubt the kindest, most patient
Diane found some magic role as part Sister/ part Mom/ part Best
Friend that allowed her to correct the men without making them
defensive. Because she would laugh and smile at their mistakes, the
men didn't feel guilty or embarrassed when they messed up. Rather
than bristle and begin argue like many men do when they feel
inadequate, her students listened to her because she was so kind.
Right from the first night of her teaching career, her male students
made it a habit to stay for Practice Night was that that Diane made
it really worth their while to stick around. Diane would insist on
dancing with any man from her class who stayed for Practice Night.
When they danced with her, they invariably would pick up a variety
of small tips. The men's gratitude for her gentle nature and hard
work in their behalf paid off in a big way - they were proud of
their progress. They could see how much they were improving and
couldn't wait to show up for next week's class. In fact, a major
reason for wanting to get better was just to reward Diane for caring
Usually men improve gradually as dancers.
Not Diane's men. Once Diane
got her hands on them in a manner of speaking,
the improvement would be dramatic after one Practice Night dance.
You see, right after learning a couple
secrets from Diane and correcting a couple mistakes, the man would
immediately find another lady to dance with and practice what he had
learned immediately! This reinforced the improved lead or
footwork right on the spot. Plus all that practice locked the
patterns from that night's class into
his muscle memory.
This rapid progress led to another interesting development…
later on during Practice Night the women
would come up from time to time so they could
compliment Diane on the improvement they had seen in their
husbands/boyfriends. They thanked Diane for her help in making their
men better! In other words, the
women became huge fans of Diane! They
loved Diane because she was turning out great dancers who had
miraculously developed rhythm and good leads. Best
of all, the men had miraculously learned
how to be gentle and never hurt them! Diane
became a huge heroine to the women who sang her praises to me
One thing led to another - the size of her
classes began to grow. The magic that
Diane was creating in Practice Night had another unforeseen effect.
It seems that by practicing together, over time everyone in
the class became friends with each other. They signed up for each
new class just as much to continue to hang out with their friends as
to learn new moves. Diane developed a huge following because they
wouldn't dream of leaving their leader. They signed up for every
class Diane offered as a GROUP because they loved her so much.
No one (certainly not me) could ever have predicted Diane's success ahead of time.
Diane was a good social dancer, but definitely not a competition
dancer. Her technical knowledge of dance was limited. She had never
had a private lesson in her life. Nor was Diane highly educated. She
did not have a college degree. Her day job was secretarial
work. Diane's success had little to do with natural dance talent,
lots of experience, or an overabundance of intellect. What Diane did
have going for her was the biggest heart in the world. She radiated
warmth and concern.
Diane Head was the woman who taught me that for a Social Dance
Studio like SSQQ, a big heart is far more
valuable than technical expertise when it comes
to the Beginner levels. Dance
technique is important at the early levels, but only to a degree.
The ability to MOTIVATE students is far more important.
At the higher levels of dance, obviously
the need for advanced knowledge increases, but for 80% of the people
who take classes here, Diane
Head was just as effective as any world champion
dancer could be.
This point was proven to me in an unusual way.
Several years later we had an
instructor come along who was the
total opposite of Diane Head. This instructor -
Madame X - had a phenomenal talent for dance. She won dance
contests all the time. Her private students
won contests too. I would venture to say she
possessed more dance knowledge than any woman instructor we have
ever had at the studio.
Madame X was
bright, sexy, and alert. When it came to teaching dance,
nothing escaped her eye. One on one
in private lessons, this woman
was a fabulous instructor. She
consistently trained exceptional male dancers.
But when it came to group
classes, Madame X was a black hole
It was her style to be critical and picky. She was
never satisfied. Praise came with
great difficulty. Unfortunately she was
also far more outspoken than common sense called for.
Her style was very effective one on one, but it never transferred
over to any type of success
during group lessons.
Criticism has its place in group lessons, but only in
small doses and only if applied with great care.
To me, the contrast in styles
between Diane and Madame X could be compared to the
difference in how to approach elementary school students and
PhD candidates. Babies need to be fussed over and
encouraged. On the other hand, brilliant students often
need to be yelled at and handled with the same approach as a
lion tamer. Advanced students get cocky and think they know
it all, so someone has to come along and beat their heads in
until they pay attention. Everyone knows that professional
sports coaches cannot succeed without a mean streak and the
same is true with top-flight dancing. But for SSQQ Group
Classes, the soft approach is the only way to go.
In private lessons, Madame
X had developed a rapport with her students. They understood
her criticism was meant to help them and their dance self-esteem was
high enough that they responded positively to the whip. Her
students expected to be fussed at. Therefore Madame X's legendary attention
to detail was quite effective when she worked with talented men.
However when it came to group lessons where tact and encouragement
were more important than technical prowess, she struggled. She
never developed the same rapport that allowed her to take the
chances she did. Her sarcastic style rubbed many people the
Furthermore this lady simply did not have
Diane's patience when it came to the awkward beginners. Often
she let her lack of patience show. At times her facial
expressions and the tone her voice
seemed to convey
irritation. She appeared to have little tolerance for poor dancers.
A smile would have helped, but what they
got instead were frowns and crossed arms.
Night was just as bad - the only people she would dance with were
the very best male dancers. Sorry to say, but the
students picked up on her superior attitude. Over time she alienated one male student after another.
Eventually the students wouldn't touch
Madame X's group classes with a ten-foot
pole. If they found she was assisting in a
class, same result. Even the women
students turned against her too although I do not know why.
Her reputation for negativity became
so prevalent that in her final days at the studio, no one - not even
women who could have learned a lot from her - would take her class.
day I offered a special course
in the schedule. Madame X was an expert
at this dance, one of the best in Houston. Her reputation for
excellence at this dance was known throughout the studio. But
lately there had been some mumblings about her that I was well aware
of. Offering this course was a gamble.
The gamble failed. During Registration I watched in sadness as only
one person signed up.
That is when I knew it was hopeless.
The students had blackballed the
most knowledgeable female instructor the studio had ever known.
Please do not misunderstand my words. I respected the teaching
ability of Madame X immensely. When it came to training top-flight
dancers, she had few peers. I was deeply
impressed with her accomplishments. Any instructor who trains
advanced dancers could use some of her mean streak at those times
when it is called for. Very few instructors have BOTH skills. Some
have the love and some have the lash. It takes an extraordinary
person to have both abilities as an instructor.
Madame X had the lash, but not the love. She was deeply talented as
an individual instructor, but she could not alter her style to teach
Group Dance classes. She was a Round Peg for a Square Hole.
For that matter, Diane Head could never have trained a top-flight
dancer. But her story when contrasted with the story of Madame X
makes it clear that SSQQ Group Dance Classes call for an entirely
different set of teaching skills than training competition dancers.
Diane Head, not Madame X, became an SSQQ Hall of Fame instructor
because she was so incredibly effective at training Beginning-level
male students. Her story serves as the perfect illustration for the
connection between SSQQ Group
Classes and Practice Night.
DIANE GETS CAUGHT!!
There is another story about Diana Banana that has to
As Diane told me during my phone call that started
Diane on her instructor career, she didn't have a clue about the "Man's
Part" in Swing Dancing. Of course I fibbed a little and told
Guy's Part was pretty easy to learn. What else was I going to say?
Later that same afternoon we had an emergency lesson to get her ready for her first
class that same evening. Diane quickly
realized the guy's part was even more difficult than
she had imagined. She frowned at me because it was obvious I had
downplayed the difficulty-level quite a bit on the phone. Diane was next
to lost. She had no idea how to teach the men how to lead or what
their footwork was. She was
discovering she could barely even dance as a man, much less
Like I said, she crawled through the first class by the skin of her
teeth. Now that she had faked her way through her first class, she was worried
sick about next week. What if she wasn't able
to fool the men in the following week? She knew she needed to
practice, but as she told me, she couldn't afford a babysitter for her
two boys. I told her if she needed to practice, she could bring them
with her to the studio.
That's when an idea crossed her mind. With her next class
just a few days away, Diane came up with an ingenious solution.
The following Saturday
morning I arrived early at the studio for another
lesson with Diane. We were meeting to
get her ready for Week Two of her class which was only two days
I heard some Swing music in a far room.
The song playing was "65 Love Affair", her favorite song.
(Diane became infamous for playing that same song over and over
in every class and received much teasing about it).
Curious as to
who could be here so early, I went
down the hall to peek. I slowly opened the door a crack
and saw Diane taking turns
Swing dancing with her two boys Robbie
and Michael (10
It was pretty cute to
watch, so I lingered. I left the door barely
ajar and continued to
watch without being seen.
After 30 seconds, I caught on that something seemed wrong.
So I looked more carefully and was
surprised to discover Diane was the "Lead" and the boys
were dancing the "Follow".
Diane was the Boy and her sons
were dancing the girl's part! I wondered to
myself, 'How did she ever talk them into that?!?'
It was a funny moment. I
had to smile because the boys seemed to absolutely love dancing with
their mother! Blissfully unaware they
were dancing the girl's part, they were having a great time
spinning and turning! I had to hand it to Diane
- she was leading her son perfectly through
every tricky pattern she knew!! Not bad.
Robbie did all kinds of turns
and followed beautifully. Of course the thing I remember best was just
how happy Robbie looked! He was really enjoying himself.
noticed his brother Michael was glaring at them with arms crossed as
he impatiently waited for his turn.
It took every ounce of energy for me to
keep from laughing out loud. I
couldn't believe that these boys were
fighting over whose turn it was to be a girl!
At the time I
wondered how she talked them into it. Didn't they know they were
"girls"? But I didn't bring it up later on when I
danced with Diane because I felt a little guilty for spying on them.
Over the next couple weeks, I
saw Diane and the two boys practicing again on several occasions.
Now the door wasn't closed so I have to be sneaky any more. I could
see the boys were becoming accomplished girl dancers! I didn't
give it much thought until one day I realized I hadn't seen the boys
for a while.
So I asked Diane why I hadn't seen her boys
practicing at the
studio lately. She said they were mad at her and refused to come to
"Oh?" I said. "Well, do you still dance with them at home??"
"No," she replied with a dark look.
I could see I had hit a nerve. "What happened?" I asked.
"Robbie found out I taught them the girl's part!!"
My mouth dropped open. I had not realized the boys didn't know!
under the impression that they had volunteered to help since their mom
was struggling so much.
"How did that happen?"
"One day while I was dancing with Michael, Robbie went to get a
drink of water. He noticed a private lesson in another room
and thought the lady was dancing the same moves as he was."
I laughed at that revelation. "You mean Robbie figured that out by
himself?" I smiled because I remembered it had taken me half a
minute to snap to the role reversal on that first morning. Robbie
was pretty sharp!
"Yes, and then he told Michael. But Robbie wasn't sure, just
suspicious. I lied to them both and calmed them down." Now
Diane's eyes began to well up.
"Why didn't you tell them from the start
they were learning the girl's part?"
"Because I couldn't take the chance of having them refuse to help
me!! I needed to practice and they were the
best partners I could find without having to get a babysitter! Once
I saw how much fun they were having, I just kept using them."
"How did they find out?"
Diane wiped a couple more tears from her eyes and told me the
rest of the story.
Not long after Robbie's suspicious moment at the
studio, Diane took her boys to see "Dirty Dancing".
This was the
awesome Swing dance movie with Patrick Swayze which came out that year. The
boys were amazed at all the great dancing and absolutely loved the
But as they walked to the car after the movie was over, Robbie looked
very sullen. Diane asked what was wrong.
"Mom, are you sure you didn't you teach us the girl's part?"
"What do you mean, Robbie?" From the look
on his face, Diane could feel the cat slipping out of the bag.
As they drove home, Robbie
told his mother that he had watched Patrick Swayze very carefully. Whenever they
danced, Swayze did the arm work and Jennifer Grey did the turns. This
is how Robbie correctly figured out that his Mom had taught him the
Crestfallen, this time Diane admitted the truth. Both boys were mortified and
crimson with shame. Then they got madder than
hornets. Diane said the two boys refused
to ever dance with her again. Diane tried to explain why she had done
what she had done, but they were in no mood to forgive.
Inside I was cracking up, but there was so much guilt written on
Diane's tortured face, I exercised every ounce of self-control to
avoid showing my amusement. I really felt for her and completely
understood her motives. Bless her heart, she was beating herself
up a lot more than I thought she needed to.
I did my best to explain that what she had done was not all that
terrible and that I was sure they would go on to live normal lives. I
even predicted that someday there would be laughter about how absurd
it was. This thought cheered up Diane a lot.
I am pleased to say my prediction came true. One
day Diane pulled me aside to tell me a story. Apparently last night at dinner
Michael started to argue with Robbie about which one of them was the
better dancer without even realizing what he was saying.
Then the two
boys saw the astonished look on Diane's face. Suddenly the boys
changed directions in a flash. They ganged up her and teased her by
saying that they could dance the girl's part better than she could.
Then they all started to laugh. What a goofy bunch.
Let me add, in my opinion, Diane was
just as good as a Mom
as she was as a dance teacher!! The phrase "Heart of
Gold" was meant for Diane Head.
DIANE'S GOING AWAY PARTY - THE 1988 SSQQ SOCK HOP
Despite the mishap with her two sons, Diane went on to become the most
popular teacher at the studio. As I pointed out
earlier, Diane was never very real
strong at explaining all the x's and o's of footwork and timing.
But she was an incredible communicator and
her students absolutely loved her! She made people smile and
laugh all night long. Plus she radiated warmth and enthusiasm.
As I said earlier, Diane's
greatest strength was her ability to convince her students to stick around
for Practice Night. Her motto was "I don't care if you're a boy or a girl.
If you stay, I'm going to dance with you!" And stay they did. Swing
Practice Nights were something to behold in those days.
At the 1987 SSQQ New Year's
Diane met a very handsome man named Ken Parr. They fell in love on the
spot. Soon after, Ken asked Diane to marry him, but there was one
catch. Ken had recently been transferred to Dallas, a common
occurrence for lots of Houston men who worked in the oil industry in
As I am sure you have already figured out, Diane said yes, she would follow him anywhere.
And that's how SSQQ lost the most popular Swing teacher we ever had.
Diane decided to stay in Houston till the end of the school year
before making the move up to Dallas over the summer. She continued to
teach for us right up through the end of June 1988.
June just happens to be the month of the annual SSQQ Sock Hop, so we
made it "Diana Banana's Going Away Party". As the party began, I was
shocked at the swell of people at the door. They were standing out on
the sidewalk in a line that stretched to the end of the building!!
Diane Head was more than a very popular instructor. She was also a
card-carrying member of the SSQQ In-Crowd. The studio has always had
groups of people who bind together and begin to operate as a group
rather than as individuals. Diane was big part of what was definitely
the tightest-knit group the studio has ever seen. These people danced
together, skied together, rented beach houses together, had swimming
parties, labeling parties, planned trips together, and essentially
planned their entire social lives around each other.
Diane's rank was
at the top of this very large pyramid of friends. The studio didn't
have a 'Queen' in those days, but the title of "Princess" would be
Diane had been with us at the studio for probably three years before
she accepted my plea to start teaching. In fact, along with her friend
Margie Saibara, Diane held a huge leadership role and loved to help
organizer different events. For example, Diane and Margie helped plan
the infamous Tom Easley Look-A-Like Night in 1987.
So not only her students come to say goodbye, but all her friends in
the Dance World did as well. Diane was a much-loved member of
Houston's very large dance community. One by one, people kept
streaming into the studio. To this point, our Sock Hops averaged
around 70 or 80 people.
When I finished counting, the number clearly exceeded 200 guests. It
was a phenomenal turnout.
There were people everywhere! And they all wanted to dance every
single song! There was barely enough room for everyone to dance.
Despite 2,000 square feet of floor space, the Curse of Studebakers
lived!! Swing Dancing takes up a lot of room per couple and all night
long people were practically killing each other with elbows, hips,
toes and heels. Thank goodness they were all friends.
And then came the Heat! Room One got so hot from all the dancing in
desperation I had to play back to back slow songs just to force people
to quit moving for a while. I put on Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" and the
Flamingos "In the Still of the Night" to let our aging AC system try
to pull the hot air out of Room One, but the heat stayed with us all
through the night no matter what I did. The crowd complained about the
slow music so much I had to put on the dance music again. They would
rather sweat than be still.
Then came the time for Diane's Farewell Dance. Dozens of men lined up
for the chance to take turns dancing with Diane.
STAY WITH ME, DIANA!!
And what song did we play? One suggestion was "65
Love Affair", Diane's favorite, but I decided a better song was "Diana" by Paul Anka.
schmaltzy love song had been inspired by a real-life sunrise/sunset love affair Paul Anka had with an older woman
before he became a teen idol. Unfortunately the uneven love affair didn't
go well despite Anka's desperate wishes to the contrary.
This incident still carried a lot of pain which explains the
plaintive wail in
his singing voice. With hurt and pain revealed in
every lyric, the song became a huge hit when it was released.
Paul Anka wasn't the only one suffering. Where the SSQQ Diana was
concerned, the plaintive lyrics of "Stay by me, Diana", seemed to
capture my own tortured feelings over her upcoming loss to a T.
As the immortal words of "Diana" accompanied every spin and twirl of our
very own Diana Banana, she wore a big grin as her
Farewell Dance began. Every
30 seconds or so someone new would cut in and immediately take Diane
through the toughest patterns. The men loved to spin Diane silly.
I could see they were giving her a
I'm so young and you're so old
This, my darling, I've been told
I don't care just what they say
'Cause forever I will pray
You and I will be as free
As the birds up in the trees
Oh, please, stay by me, Diana!!
Two and a half minutes later I realized the song was about to end but
the "Dance With Diana" Conga Line was still snaked around the room!! I
had not anticipated this, but in retrospect it made complete sense. A
lot of people had come expressly to see the Goodbye Girl. The only
thing that made any sense was to simply play the song again.
Thrills I get when you hold me close
Oh, my darling, you're the most
I love you but do you love me
Oh, Diana, can't you see
I love you with all my heart
And I hope we will never part
Oh, please, stay with me, Diana
Without even a hitch, Diane continued to dance with all comers. All
the time she kept smiling and somehow managed to make each man feel
special. That was one of her many gifts. I rolled my eyes when I
realized the song was about to end but the line barely had a dent in
it. I don't think Diane was aware of her plight. She was too busy with
her Marathon Dance to look around. Each time the line would get
smaller new people would jump in and make it longer! So I played the
song a third time.
Only you can take my heart
Only you can tear it apart!
Then something really terrible happened - her sister-in-law Linda Head
got in line. Now the women took Linda's cue and they joined the line
too! Amazingly Diane kept going - men, women, aliens - whomever
grabbed her next. So I played the song a fourth time.
When you hold me in your loving arms
I can feel you giving all your charms!
The fifth time I played the song, I could see Diane was on her last
legs. She had not paced herself because she never had an inkling the
entire studio intended to dance with her that night. She had already
been out there for over twelve minutes
without stopping!! Nor did her partners
understand. They jumped out there with energy and enthusiasm while
Diane was just trying to hang on.
Hold me, darling, hold me tight
Squeeze me baby with all your might
Stay with me, Diana!!
The place was already too hot to begin with. Plus there were twenty men and women
still in line. I just couldn't see how Diane would ever
On impulse I jumped in and stole Diane from the next man in line and
practically kept her standing through the rest of the song. Diane was
looking very pale.
She whispered to me, "Is this the last song?" I nodded
yes. Then she smiled.
And guess what? Diane nearly passed out. Like an athlete collapsing at
the Finish Line, Diane's body went limp as the song ended. Bless her
Heart; Diane had danced so hard she gave out at the end. I gently sat
her down in a nearby chair and put a fan on her. Diane had not lost
consciousness; she had just "swooned" a little. Soon her familiar
smile came back much to the relief of us all.
I put another song on. Then I got on the microphone
and told everyone not to worry. I said that Diane was okay,
then I asked
them to start dancing
with each other again. The crowd roared with applause and immediately started
dancing. I went back over to Diane. Margie Saibara and Tom Easley were
at her side guarding
"Are you okay, Diane?"
"I'm fine, Rick." Then she giggled. "But I don't want to ever hear
that stupid song again for the rest of my life!"
We all loved Diane very much. I will never forget her. Without a
doubt, losing Diana Banana was one of the toughest moments of my
entire career. But I would never want to give up the neat times she
and I and the entire group shared.
The time Diane gave to us was cut short, but it was a special time at the
studio. We have never had an instructor with a
(2006 Footnote: Twenty years later, I still
miss Diane terribly. Sad to say, there has never been anyone
else like her since here at the studio. She was special.)