The Legend of the SSQQ - HSDS Feud
This Page Covers Years 1995, 1996, and 1997
Written by Rick Archer
last update: May 2005
Wednesday, June 06, 2001, 7:21 pm
But Carnell, and Rowena are not the demi gods that HSDS keeps setting them up
as. And this makes me sick.
(read complete letter)
June 21, 2001 9:07 AM
And isn't it curious that an Advanced dancer
is signed up for our Saturday beginner class and just happens to
refer people to the HSDS hangout known as Numbers. Sounds
like more HSDS espionage. (read
Wednesday, May 30, 2001 4:29 PM
Rick, I don't
just "like" your newsletter- I love it!
You are most probably in the top ten of
the wittiest newsletter writers in the universe
- not that I know
who the other nine are -
I'm just guessing.
ever heard of the Hatfields and McCoys?
This infamous Kentucky feud
was pretty vicious in its heyday back in the 1880s.
Things are bit more civilized in present day
society, but nevertheless things can still get vicious.
Starting in 1997 and lasting thru 2001, there was a very
ugly feud involving SSQQ and HSDS.
The struggle began in the mid-Nineties and spilled in the 2000s.
Along the way, I lost a wife, a Swing Team, several excellent
instructors, and practically the studio's entire Swing program.
I also learned some lessons about speaking up
You will see what happened when I kept quiet
and what happened when I spoke up. You decide if I
was right to speak.
my own series of defeats, no blood
was ever spilled. Unlike the Hatfields and McCoys, our
battle was fought more or less with words and treachery.
The last shots were fired in 2001, but as you will see the Feud has a way
of coming back to life from time to time. Maybe we haven't heard the
last word between these two organizations.
page, you are welcome to read the SSQQ side of the story. It is
actually a fairly amusing story unless you happened to be one of the
combatants as I was. I didn't think it was very funny at the time,
but you might.
As far as I can tell, there is no HSDS response in
existence to my story. Their silence speak volumes.
About Judy Archer and
Judy Archer began her dance career as a
student at SSQQ in 1989. She became a Swing & Ballroom
instructor later that same year. In late 1990, Judy and
Rick were married.
Rick and Judy have a daughter, Samantha, born in 1991.
Judy Archer played a major part of the studio's expansion period
in the early 1990s through 2001. It was Judy's development
of Swing and Salsa programs at SSQQ that gave the studio a huge
head-start over the rest of Houston.
Rick and Judy were divorced in May 2001 with a promise to try to
remain friends. Judy continued to teach at SSQQ through
On November 4, 2004, Judy resigned without explanation.
Judy Archer's Timeline
Story written by Rick
1995 was a lean time for SSQQ. There was a general lack of
interest in dancing throughout Houston. Like every business, there
are peaks and valleys. 1995 was the deepest valley we had ever
seen. After all the bills were paid, SSQQ finished 1995 with $300
in the bank at the end of 1995.
Little did I suspect a curious discovery made by my friend Lester Buck
would cause an explosion three years later that enabled SSQQ to become
the juggernaut it is today.
- Lester Buck Brings Back
the Sacred Fire to Houston
In June 1995, Lester
Buck, a friend of mine from the studio's Urban Cowboy
Era back in the early Eighties, made a business visit to New York City. While he was there,
Lester investigated various NY dance venues.
He connected with the NY Swing Dance Society
and was fascinated by the group infatuation with a dance called the Lindy
Hop. Lester had never even heard of the dance before, but while he
was there, he picked up a present for me.
return to Houston, Lester walked into the studio carrying videotape
recordings of the 1994 Frankie Manning
Birthday Party. He gave me
copies of the event plus another tape called "Can't Top the
I put the tapes on the studio TV and watched them with Lester and my wife
Judy. It involved a dance previously thought "extinct" known as the
Lindy Hop. I thought the dancing looked fun, but quickly
forgot all about it.
Some visionary I was.
1995 - Judy Archer
Becomes Houston's Lindy Pioneer
Judy Archer was mesmerized!!
She took Lester's
tapes home with her. For days she just sat in
front of the TV watching the dancing over and over and over again. I
honestly thought there was a chance Judy was a reincarnated Lindy dancer
the way she was so instantly hooked.
a little detective work and learned about
Frankie's teaching videotapes. She was
determined to learn this Lindy dance, so she sent away for them.
Soon Judy was studying
Frankie's instructional tapes daily. Nobody in Houston had a clue
how to help her. She was the only person in the whole city working on this
project. Judy didn’t even have anyone to practice with. I would walk in
and see her dancing in the living room with her hand in the air leading an
ethereal partner. I decided everything was too odd.
After four months of watching the Frankie's
tapes, Judy decided she was ready to teach the Lindy at SSQQ. The only
problem was that no one had ever heard of it and didn’t care about it.
After her countless hours studying the dance, she was stunned to find that
not everybody was a Reincarnated Lindy Dancer from the 30s. Should this
knowledge have stopped her? Yes. Did it
stop her? No.
To her credit, Judy talked up the dance to anyone who would listen. She
even found a guy willing to learn - Jack Benard
- and taught it to him so they could demonstrate it to everyone.
Now Houston had doubled its number of Lindy dancers.
Jack and Judy would go into every SSQQ class and do a little
demonstration. Slowly but surely she began to stir up some interest.
In November 1995, Jack and Judy taught the first-ever Lindy course in
Houston. They were not only the best Lindy couple in Houston, they were
the only Lindy couple in Houston! On a Saturday
night, 40 brave SSQQ dancers decided to show up
for her one-night Crash Course to see what the fuss was all about.
They had a great time and asked Judy if she could
expand on her class.
1996 - Judy
Organizes Houston's First Lindy Dance Team
Eager to share her new dance with everyone,
in February 1996 Judy started teaching 4-week Lindy classes as a follow-up
to her successful Crash Course back in November 1995.
About the same time in early 1996, Judy found
out that a group of Los
Angeles Lindy dancers led by Erin Stevens
had organized a weeklong Lindy Swing Camp on Catalina Island off the coast
of California. The featured teacher was none other than
Judy was beside herself with excitement. She
immediately enrolled to take the workshops. That June 1996,
Judy made the dance equivalent of a
"pilgrimage" to Swing
Camp to meet the Master himself, Frankie
While she was there, Judy had the nerve to correct Frankie on a
mistake in his footwork! Knowing
Judy, she probably fussed at him in her previous
lifetime as well.
Inspired by her summer trip
to Catalina, Judy brought back a lot of infectious energy and many
As the result of her Frankie Manning videotape work
and trips to Catalina, when it came to Swing Dancing here in
Houston, Judy was so far ahead of the curve that no one else was even in
Unfortunately this meant the students were out of sight
too - Judy soon discovered that in 1996, there was literally no interest in Swing dancing in the Houston area.
She spent the rest of the summer just trying to drum up
interest here at the studio.
Ever the pioneer, Judy was thrilled when the
Lindy began to catch on on with several SSQQ
students in the latter part of 1996. People throughout
the country were beginning to respond to that terrific
neo-Swing beat of the Big Bad
Voodoo Daddies and Royal Crown Revue and movies like "Swing Kids" and
"Swingers". Now thanks to Judy, Houston only trailed
New York and Los Angeles in the early days of the 90s Swing Revival.
Mind you, this was a year and a half
before the Gap Commercial officially brought Swing to mainstream
(Note: If you are curious
about the 90s Swing Revival in general and more about Judy's
contribution to Houston's role, please visit the History of Swing
1996 was also the year that Judy organized Houston's
first Swing team in 1996. From the
group of people who took her initial
Lindy classes, she formed Houston's first
performing Lindy Dance team. After initially
learning the Lindy from Judy in her classes, several of her students
banded together under Judy’s tutelage to create Houston’s first
performing Lindy dance company in 1996.
the "SSQQ Lindy All-Stars", this merry little band of 10 dancers now
became Judy's best friends and constant companions as they traveled around
the city performing for various events.
The First Low Point
- Betrayal and the Birth of HSDS
1997 this was the year that Rowena Young more or
less confiscated Judy's First Swing Team including its lead dancer
Carnell to begin the formation of the Houston Swing Dance Society.
1997 - The First High Point: Frankie Manning's First Visit
to Houston thanks to an invitation from Judy
This bittersweet moment in April marks Frankie's first visit to Houston.
He came under SSQQ auspices at the invitation of Judy Archer. That
night her SSQQ Lindy All-Stars performed for him at the big dance.
It was sweet because Frankie smiled and complimented Judy on her good
It was bitter because this was the last time this group ever performed
for Judy. After that, their leader -Carnell - switched allegiance
to Rowena and most of the other members followed his lead.
1998 - The
Gap Jeans 'Jump, Jive, and Wail' TV Commercial Starts a
In April 1998, thanks to a huge boost from the
famous Jump, Jive, and Wail Gap Jeans Commercial, Swing and Lindy
suddenly exploded into the public consciousness
throughout America. Houston
went crazy over Swing Dancing.
Since SSQQ's Swing Program was already well-known
thanks to Judy's foresight, SSQQ was flooded with more
students than at any other time in study history to
Suddenly here at SSQQ we were teaching Swing and Lindy practically seven
nights a week! Our classes were huge, our parties were huge, and the
energy was unbelievable.
Judy had every right to be proud of herself. It
had taken three long years from the moment
she first saw Lester Buck's Lindy Hop/Frankie Manning
tape to see her hard work pay off in a
big way, but now the studio was
successful in a way that far exceeded her wildest
Judy's efforts, SSQQ was named as the Leading Swing Studio in Houston in
1998 and again in 1999.
These acknowledgments were made in the
Houston Press "Best in Houston for Swing Dancing" category.
Judy Archer was very grateful to receive this recognition
for her work. Me too. I was very proud of Judy's work.
1998 - The Second Low Point - Harvest Moon
Ball Controversy in October/November
Not comfortable to rest on her laurels, after Judy's
first Swing team defected to HSDS, she created a new Swing/Lindy
dance company known as the Swinging Skirts and
Mugz. As their reputation grew, the team was
invited to perform at the prestigious Harvest Moon Ball at Rice
University. After practicing for weeks to get ready, the
team had the plug pulled on them when Carnell Pipkin accused Judy of
1999 - The Second High Point - The Amazing SSQQ
Swing Extravaganza in January
Despite the Harvest Moon Ball controversy, it was
becoming obvious that the Skirts and Mugz were an incredibly talented group of Swing dancers.
The culmination of
Judy's coaching efforts occurred in January 1999 when over 200 students from across
Houston came to SSQQ to learn to Swing and Lindy at the SSQQ Extravaganza.
That night they stayed for a Swing Party as smokin' as the city had ever seen.
The Third Low Point - August 1999 - Judy's Second Swing Team
- Carnell Pipkin's letter creates a deep rift btw Judy and Rick. Their
marriage never recovers.
Known as the Pizza Rebellion, Judy's
Swing Team was feeling the effects of non-stop practice for a year and a
half. Judy's constant desire to push her team to improve had also
taken its toll. One night over too many beers, the team decided to
ask Judy to ease up. Unfortunately the people who typed up the
letter embarrassed her deeply by forcing her to read the letter in front
of the entire team. Judy told every one of them to get the hell
out of her studio.
However, the loss of the Second Swing Team did not signal an end to the
HSDS-SSQQ hostilities. There were two more years of fighting left.
We will get to this story soon enough. In April 2000, I retaliated
in print against HSDS by writing the original story of the HSDS Feud.
Carnell was so angry he sent a letter in April that surprised even me
with its viciousness.
I still owed Carnell a payback for the way he walked on Judy over the
Harvest Moon Ball incident. I was ready to publish the letter and
give the entire world a peek at the real Carnell Pipkin when Judy told
me stop. She wanted no more part of the fighting.
Judy and I argued for a week about this issue. We finally did
things her way and said nothing. But that didn't mean I agreed
with her. The damage to our marriage was irreparable. In
December we called it quits.
2001 - Stephen Jean's letter in May reignites the Controversy
A silly letter briefly revived
the Controversy. In fact, the argument was so silly that even HSDS
members told Mr. Jean to shut up. This signaled to me that a new
generation was in charge now, a group that was more mature. The
Judy and Rick get Divorced
One year after the fight over how to respond
to Carnell's letter, we called it quits. By coincidence, the fight
with HSDS and our divorce occurred within days of each other.
A Brief Conclusion
to Judy's Timeline
As a result of Judy's efforts, during the 90s Swing
Era, Houston developed a
terrific reputation in national Swing circles. New
York led the way to the
Lindy Reincarnation and Los
Angeles was right behind New York, but Houston was the
city to pick up the early vibes thanks to Judy. Considering
Houston was one of just a handful of cities at the forefront of
the Lindy Hop rebirth and Judy laid the foundation,
that was quite an accomplishment.
Judy Archer had the privilege of starting an
entire dance movement here in Houston. Judy
had the marvelous thrill of
single handedly turning an entire city on to an exciting new
The story should have ended there with Judy wearing
a big smile. Sadly, that's not the way the story ended. In
fact, I think the story ended with a terrible ugliness that to this day
is difficult for me to comprehend.
For the entire year of 1997, Judy was treated miserably by two individuals
- Rowena Young and Carnell Pipkin - who basically exploited Judy's talent,
took her knowledge, stole her dance
team, and stole her class syllabi. As if that wasn't enough, they refused to show Judy even the
slightest professional respect, then later rubbed salt in her wounds by
coming to her studio to steal her Swing students. Does it sound
ugly? You bet it was.
The story of the five year SSQQ - HSDS Feud began right there. The bad blood that started in 1997 continued to rear its ugly head with a
series of nasty incidents over the next several years.
The story ended in May 2001 when Judy and I stood
on the steps of the county courthouse wondering how we ever got here in
the first place.
We had just received our divorce.
This divorce... as you will see... was the direct result of all the
bitterness generated by HSDS.
Am I telling lies? No. But that's for
you to decide.
HOUSTON SWING DANCE SOCIETY
The Houston Swing Dance Society was
formed 8 years ago by a group of dedicated and some would say
addicted “swing-aholics” who met at the Jewish Community
Center’s annual Ballroom dance. Their mutual love of swing
dancing in particular “Lindy Hop” was the catalyst for forming
the troupe called “The Houston Hepcats”.
Under the tutelage and direction of one of our finest dancers,
Carnell Pipkin, the group received overwhelming responses for
performances. They performed everywhere they were requested to,
from Jones Hall as an introduction to the Houston Symphony Pops
to elementary schools in impoverished neighborhoods and from
black-tie gala fund-raising events to the decks of the
Although Carnell, who was the chief choreographer and director
retired from the Hepcats in 2001, his legacy lives on.
HSDS Hall of Fame
Founding Member, Director, Choreographer
The Root of SSQQ Problems with HSDS
Every year since 1997
I have had students who participate
in events at both SSQQ and HSDS ask me, "Why can't you two
friends for the good of the Swing community and work
This is a legitimate question.
I think the time has come to explain our
reasons why the two organizations are on such poor terms.
I would imagine
practically everyone in the Houston
Swing community has heard
at one point or another that "bad blood" exists
between SSQQ and the Houston Swing Dance Society. I am sorry to
say this rumor is true, but I would like to be more specific.
Actually SSQQ only has a problem with
members of HSDS: Rowena Young and Carnell Pipkin.
Other members of HSDS - specifically Brian Olson and Stephen Jean - have
behaved unprofessionally and obnoxiously as you will soon read, but that
was small potatoes compared to the Founding Fathers. It was Carnell and
Rowena who, in my opinion, were unethical.
Most people are unaware of the irony straight
out of a
"Star Wars" plot line: HSDS originated from SSQQ bloodlines.
Darth Vadar and Luke Skywalker, yes, folks, it is true that both
organizations share a genetic history. Don't bother looking on the HSDS
website - you won't find this embarrassing admission there. If you want
to know the story, you will have to read it here.
In the beginning, SSQQ was
the formation of HSDS. It had been Judy's idea all
along to eventually create a Swing Society based on the New York model.
Actually Judy was quite supportive until
discovered the birth of
HSDS was intended to be at her expense.
Indeed every one of the
founding fathers of HSDS had either taken Swing classes at SSQQ, taught
for us, or performed on our Swing team. However once HSDS was started,
all of these people either quit at our studio completely or reduced
their role dramatically.
In other words, until we decided to put an
end to the bleeding, HSDS gain was usually SSQQ drain.
Member, Director, Choreographer in the HSDS Hall of
The primary Villain of this story made his entrance
on the Swing Stage in 1996. If you were to take one look, it would
quickly become obvious that Carnell Pipkin had an amazing talent for
dance. Carnell was a student in one of Judy's 1996 SSQQ Swing classes.
immediately caught Judy's eye due to his grace and quickness. Most
people looked stiff and clumsy with the Lindy. Not Carnell.
He seemed to pick up the dance like he knew what he was doing ahead of
Judy had learned this dance from videotape, then watched it dance out at
Catalina. The moment she saw Carnell, she knew immediately she had
a "Natural" on her hands. Carnell could move in ways that simply
could not be taught. His timing and feel for the dancing far
transcended anything Judy had ever come across. She was impressed.
However Carnell did not know the Lindy system nor any of the patterns.
Judy pulled Carnell aside and asked him if he would like to
learn this dance from 1920s that was just now becoming "fashionable"
again. Carnell enthusiastically said he would love to learn more about
So back in 1996, this is how Carnell got his start.
Judy gave Carnell private lessons at no charge. Each
day she would come home from the studio and tell me how amazed she was
at Carnell's progress. He was a phenomenal dancer; it was so easy for
him to pick up the material. Carnell
became Judy's favorite Swing partner. Judy spent countless hours
teaching Carnell everything she had learned.
Working closely with Judy,
his Swing dancing became phenomenal. As
Judy and Carnell worked together, not only did they become good dance
partners, they were becoming very good friends as well.
Carnell benefited from Judy's tutelage in another way. The SSQQ Swing
and Lindy classes were becoming very popular. As our program
expanded by leaps and bounds, we needed more instructors. Carnell
was an obvious choice. Judy trained Carnell how to teach the
Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Swing and Lindy classes here at the
studio using the syllabuses she had created. She also taught him
how to teach Zydeco. In 1997 Carnell became an SSQQ dance instructor.
Soon he was very busy teaching Swing, Lindy, and Zydeco classes for SSQQ
several nights a week.
Judy took Carnell into her confidence. She had seen how much the
New York Swing Dance Society had accomplished in bringing the Lindy back
to life in New York. Judy said she hoped to accomplish the same thing
here in Houston. Carnell said he was very interested in helping Judy
promote the Lindy. They began to make plans to start a Lindy Swing team
and perform the dance as a way to spread the word just like they had
done in New York. Late in 1996, Judy organized Houston's
first-ever Swing team with Carnell as the star performer for Judy's SSQQ
Lindy All Stars.
Unfortunately their partnership was short-lived. By the end of
1997, Carnell had left the studio to seek his fame and fortune over at
HSDS. His charisma was largely responsible for the mass defection of
practically the entire SSQQ Lindy All-Star team.
The majority of these people kept a type of "dual citizenship" in both
organizations that year, but after April 1997, Judy's team completely
deserted her to followed their leader over to HSDS.
Judy had been right about Carnell's ability. In 1998 Carnell
parlayed his two year head-start and natural ability into a First Place
finish at the American Lindy Hop Championships.
What a shame he had to tarnish his accomplishments by spending these
years constantly bad-mouthing Judy.
HSDS: Rowena Young
in the HSDS Hall of Fame
Rowena Young, founder of the Houston
Swing Dance Association and the second Villain of our
story, engineered the mass defection of Judy's
Rowena had been circulating on the edge of the Swing
Scene for some time. Rowena had been to SSQQ in 1996. I specifically remember
meeting Rowena when she took some Lindy classes
from Judy in 1996 plus a Shim Sham Crash Course.
I realize much of what I will write puts Ms. Young in a bad light.
But let me offer some back-handed compliments.
Rowena had to offer other than her political savvy.
There is no question that Rowena Young was a shrewd operator and a
tireless promoter. Rowena put the team into the limelight by
finding one place for them to perform after another.
But her greatest coup was recruiting Carnell.
Rowena realized early on that key to the entire project was Carnell
Pipkin. She somehow lured Carnell away from his mentor Judy
Archer. I don't know she did it, but she did. Judy had been
very good to Carnell. She taught him everything he knew, she
treated him as a friend, and gave him his start in the dance business.
No studio, no special talent for
performing or coaching herself, no inside knowledge per se of Swing Dancing...
yet she sold Carnell her vision of a Houston Swing Dance Society with his name
in red lights. And you know what? Rowena delivered.
That's pretty impressive when you think about it.
So don't go around saying I do not respect her ability. It is
Rowena's unethical behavior and disregard for Judy that I resent.
I can't imagine why Rowena couldn't have achieved her vision and still
given Judy the respect she was due for getting the party started.
THAT FATEFUL NIGHT IN FEBRUARY 1997 - THE FEUD BEGINS
Our story begins with Judy home sick in bed. At the start
of 1997, Judy
began fighting a near-constant nausea.
The poor woman could barely walk, much less teach. Soon she discovered she was pregnant.
Since it was a difficult pregnancy, Judy was unable to work much with
her First Swing team in January
Unfortunately, as the events played out, Judy's
inability to stand up on her two feet would have a
double meaning. It also meant she was unable to
stand up for her rights when Rowena Young began to pull
the rug out from under her.
Judy's group of Lindy Hop All Stars
were restless and looking for something to do while their leader
recovered. The members of the
dance team had become friends and liked to hang out together.
Maureen Brunetti, one of the
team leaders, heard there was a Big Band Swing dance being held
over at the Houston Jewish Community Center. Maureen suggested
that on Saturday the dance team go there and have some fun.
Maureen's suggestion hit the spot. Dancing Swing to a live band on
a Saturday Night sounded like a good idea to everyone. So the group headed
over to the Jewish Community Center to dance and have some fun.
Judy was invited to join them, but she was
forced to stay home that night due to her nausea.
I remember Judy talking on the phone and telling them she would love to
go, but it just wasn't going to happen.
It is unfortunate that Judy was unable to attend as this turned out to be a very fateful night.
The dance at the Jewish
Community Center was the night Rowena first saw
Judy's SSQQ Swing Team in
As you might gather, the SSQQ
Swing dancers swiftly became the hit of the evening.
For one thing, there wasn't any
competition. Remember that Judy had been flying this Swing airplane single-handedly
for two years up to this point.
The SSQQ dancers were so good
compared to everyone else it must have seemed like they were visiting from
You can imagine every eye in the place was on
them... including the eyes of Rowena Young.
Impressed with their dancing ability, Rowena
went over to their table, introduced herself and asked
if she could join them.
And this became the moment that set in motion the Feud.
I remain flabbergasted to this day at the sanitized HSDS version of the
above event. From the HSDS Web
The Houston Swing Dance Society was formed 8
years ago by a group of dedicated and some would say addicted
“swing-aholics” who met at the Jewish Community Center’s annual
This is clever writing. This kind of writing reminds me of Animal Farm
where George Orwell's symbol for the Communist Party constantly rewrote history to make
themselves look better.
These people didn't
at the Jewish Community Center! They
at SSQQ. Then, months after the Swing Team had been
the SSQQ Swing Team at the Jewish Community Center.
And now you know the real story behind what that statement
After Rowena invited herself to
sit down at the table with the SSQQ swing dancers, she
initiated a conversation.
One thing led
to another. By the end of the evening all the people present were
invited to dinner at Rowena's house
the following week with the intention of discussing
the formation of a Houston Swing Dance group along the lines of the New
York Swing Dance Society.
Unfortunately these talks would never include Judy.
Judy was unable to
participate in these discussions at Rowena's home
due to her problem pregnancy. That's too bad
because if Judy had been present, I imagine things would have turned out
much differently. It was
these talks at Rowena's house that led to the formation of HSDS.
Since she was not present at the first meeting, Rowena inserted herself
as the new leader.
Judy was quickly taken out of the loop.
Judy was paying attention nonetheless. Judy had enough energy to write a very curious letter to Rowena.
Dated February 24, 1997, Judy's letter
had this to say:
Enclosed is a copy of a flyer Jack Benard brought to my attention. It
states that the Houston Swing Dance Society will perform a Lindy Hop
Exhibition. Since Carnell had mentioned you wanted the SSQQ Lindy team to
perform, I can only assume you are attempting to include them in this
Before someone gets their feelings hurt, let me state clearly how things
are so there will be no future misunderstandings.
1. I have been working with the Lindy team (known officially as "The SSQQ
Lindy All-stars") for over a year now. Other than a few regularly
scheduled classes, the time I have spend coaching and dancing with the
team has been free of charge. I have also donated studio time to the team
and have not charged a floor fee of any kind. I have done this simply
because I love and have fun dancing Lindy. The team members are not only
my students, but also my friends and we enjoy being together.
2. I have no objections whatsoever to any member of the SSQQ Lindy
All-stars belonging to the Houston Swing Dance Society. In fact, I believe
the team members to be an important part of the society. However, anytime
members of the SSQQ Lindy All-stars perform, exhibit, dance for a group
(we're into semantics here) in conjunction with the Houston Swing Dance
Society, I will need a direct communication from you to me relating
exactly what it is you wish to do. Verbal or written, your choice.
3. Anytime the SSQQ Lindy All-stars perform, any flyer or copy produced to
announce the performance will need to read: The Houston Swing Dance
Society, in conjunction with SSQQ Dance Studio, presents the SSQQ Lindy
All-stars or something to that effect. As long as I provide coaching and
studio time to the team, as long as I personally dance on the team I
myself formed, they will be known as the SSQQ Lindy All-stars. They are
not dancing as members of the Houston Swing Dance Society unless they wish
to leave my team.
4. Due to my pregnancy, many of the plans I had for the team had to be
postponed or cancelled. To my sorrow, I lost the child; my only solace is
to pick up, move ahead and stay as busy as possible, which is exactly what
I intend to do. Swing Camp at Catalina, a possible road trip to Austin,
dancing out, performances here at the studio are all things I hope to
accomplish this year so we continue to grow as dancers, both individually
and as a team. To keep from having scheduling conflicts I would like to be
kept informed of events the Houston Swing Dance Society is planning (I
assume you will produce some kind of newsletter). Please put me on your
I can appreciate your efforts in forming a swing society and commend you
for it. It is my sincere desire that we work together to promote Lindy Hop
as the dance of choice in Houston.
Very Truly Yours,
Judy K Archer
SSQQ Dance Studio
Judy never heard one thing back from Rowena Young. No letter, no phone
call, no newsletter, no acknowledgment, not one courtesy whatsoever.
did not own" any of the
people she was recruiting.
thereafter I suspected Judy was getting the Runaround Sue treatment.
When I called Ms. Young
in March 1997 to discuss the problems between our
organizations, I was told by Rowena that "
What an interesting choice of words.
When I challenged Rowena's right to have the SSQQ Swing Team perform under the
HSDS banner after Judy had specifically asked her by word
and by letter not to do so, Rowena hung up on me. When I called her back
there was no answer.
I got her message
loud and clear - drop dead. We have
never spoken since.
It was this series of events that led us to
conclude that the founders of HSDS had no desire to work with us,
but rather preferred to take advantage of us. I have little doubt
their rebuttal would be they were simply being aggressive and
broke no laws. I would agree this is correct.
It was at that point that Rowena confiscated Judy's
Lindy All-Stars and made them her own.
After all, we didn't own them, did we? She did.
Things were moving
fast. In April 1997, Frankie Manning
- the Founding Father of the Lindy Rebirth - was scheduled to make his first appearance in Houston.
Judy had arranged Frankie's visit before Rowena had begun to stick
her fingers in the pie. Judy knew Frankie personally from her
visits to his Catalina Island Lindy Workshops.
Now that she lost the baby, Judy had regained her energy and now was able to
spend countless hours in March and April 1997 choreographing a Lindy routine
to celebrate Frankie's visit.
There were workshops at SSQQ all day long. Later that night Judy's Lindy
All-Stars performed in front of the Master himself at a dance party in
his honor held here at the studio. One very nice thing
happened to Judy. After her dance team performed
for Frankie Manning, Judy
was on Cloud Nine when Frankie gave her a very nice compliment
for the good job they did. I remember Judy
cherished his kiss on her cheek for a job well done. Not bad for
someone who learned the dance from a videotape.
(Note: If you are curious
about the 90s Swing Revival in general and more
contribution to Houston's role, please visit the History of Swing
Frankie Manning's triumphant visit and the big
numbers that turned out for the Workshops and the dance afterward
officially put Houston on
the map as a Swing and Lindy hotbed.
However, sad to say, this high point for Judy's
Swing team also marked the beginning of the
end. Trouble was brewing.
For the remainder of 1997 Rowena took it
upon herself to persuade all of Judy's Swing team to join HSDS
("all" that is except for Maureen Brunetti who resisted
Rowena's pleadings to defect, bless her heart.
I don't think Jack Benard stayed long either. I also think Carl
and Margaux Mann jumped off the wagon before it really got rolling).
But the rest Judy's former team members stuck around
to become the Founding Members.
Included in the group
that joined HSDS was Carnell Pipkin, the star of Judy's Swing team.
only one person who really counted to Rowena was Carnell. He was the
Not only was Carnell the dance superstar, but just as important, he had
been trained by Judy how to teach all these dances. Without Carnell,
Rowena would have no one to teach for her new organization. She
went about recruiting him with a passion. Her efforts to spirit
Carnell away from SSQQ led to an ugly confrontation.
You see, these people
from Judy's first Swing Team all liked Judy very much. After all, Judy was their coach and friend. Nor had she done anything to hurt them.
So why were their feet in two camps?
They were told by Rowena that they were helping to form a Society. They
were told they
were dancing for the "good of the Swing movement". It was very
Although Judy's First Swing Team members had Judy's blessings to form a Swing
Society, she had no idea (nor did they at the time) this meant Judy would
be ignored and abandoned in the process.
After the big performance at Frankie's visit in April 1997, this group
that had originally all met at SSQQ tried to walk a narrow line. This meant for
the bulk of 1997, Judy's original Swing team held dual membership at
SSQQ as well as HSDS.
However, after Frankie left town, this group
of dancers increasingly billed themselves as performing for HSDS
despite Judy's strenuous objections.
the point that Judy disbanded her team in disgust.
was sick and tired of doing the coaching and the choreography, but
getting none of the credit.
Stealing the Lindy All-Stars was
Stage One. Rowena was very good at lining up performances. Each time the
group performed, they would stir up interest. Now other people wanted to
learn and other people wanted to join the team. Someone would have to
lead the performers and someone would have to teach the newcomers, yes?
Stage Two was getting Carnell to commit to lead her new organization.
was a gifted dancer. There
no question about that. In 1997 Carnell and Maureen along with Judy were
our top Swing instructors. We depended on Carnell a lot, but
as the Fall approached we heard rumors
that he was teaching for Rowena as well as for us.
Judy confronted Carnell and reminded him that it was against studio
to teach for another organization while he was a member of our staff.
Carnell "assured us" that he wouldn't
violate our understanding.
Despite our concerns that he was teaching behind our backs, Carnell
continued to service both camps. Word came back to us again that Carnell was
teaching for HSDS while still a member of the SSQQ Staff.
Throughout October and November we
continued to confront Carnell about his divided loyalties,
but he always denied it to our faces.
mounted. We confronted Carnell almost on a weekly basis,
especially after he started wearing his HSDS tee-shirt to his SSQQ dance
class. Not very subtle.
Finally he decided the game was up. It was time to end his
charade. At the end of
1997 Carnell made his choice and resigned from the SSQQ staff.
Carnell decided he wouldn't leave gracefully. He decided to do some
damage. One night shortly after Carnell's defection we caught HSDS members here at
the studio handing out flyers to our students promoting HSDS during
Swing practice night.
We caught them doing it red-handed. Incensed, I
the people to knock it off
and leave the studio. In the process I ripped
the flyers out of their hands and confiscated them. The flyers identified
Carnell as the lead
instructor for HSDS in their Swing classes being held at the Magnolia Ballroom. Yes
indeed, Carnell was listed as the
teacher for the same classes he had been teaching at SSQQ.
Carnell had done his Prometheus-imitation by stealing Judy's dance program and cloning it for HSDS.
Clever move. Not very ethical.
You know, as an aside, my story about the Feud has been out there since
2000. To my knowledge, the only person to ever challenge its accuracy
in writing was Carnell Pipkin. Out of respect to HSDS
and Mr. Pipkin, I have posted his April 28 2000 letter
in a later Chapter.
Click Here to
read it in its entirety.
I don't like HSDS very much, but I do
Back to the story. The confiscated schedule made it clear that the rumors about
Carnell teaching elsewhere had been true all along.
After all, how do you get listed teaching Advanced classes if you didn't
teach the lower levels in the previous months?
after catching Carnell's "agents" trying to persuade our students right here
at the studio to follow him over to his HSDS classes, it was likely that
another rumor was true as well - the reason Carnell stuck around the
studio as long as he could was to steal as many students as he could.
I will say one thing - they were good recruiters. A quick glance on my part revealed half the names
on the list of HSDS Alumni were people who started out at SSQQ and
joined the pipeline over to HSDS.
Soon after he was gone, someone from HSDS began to send other people to do
the dirty work. Carnell was adding insult to injury. Not only had he been lying to our
faces for months, now he was raiding our business. Lie, cheat, and
What Carnell did hurt. It wasn't just business, it was personal.
Judy had been a friend to Carnell. She gave her knowledge to him free
and clear. Carnell did not pay her for the lessons. Judy offered
her time for the right reasons - to help get Lindy resurrected and to
get Swing dancing established here in Houston.
Judy's gift of her time paid some wonderful dividends for Carnell.
In 1998 Carnell paired up with a woman named Tena Morales to win the
very first American Lindy Hop Championship.
No one has ever
bothered to point out that Judy's training put Carnell years ahead of
the curve. Of course Carnell is a gifted dancer. But so are a lot
of other people. Carnell had a big advantage because he started
ahead of everyone else and because he had a good teacher.
You have already heard how Carnell repaid Judy's good will in 1997.
I promise you, there's plenty more to come.
First HSDS took our Lindy
team, then they took our instructors. Then they stole
our syllabi. Then they started
coming after our
students too. It was
these ethically-challenged events that planted the seeds of the
The truth is Carnell had every right to
leave us. He
was a grown man and
able to make his own choices.
Nor was there any contract.
As Rowena made clear, we did not own him.
Judy and I liked Carnell very much
in the beginning and greatly admired his dancing
ability. He was an excellent instructor for us and we appreciated his
work. It is no accident that Rowena pursued him - Carnell
had superstar dance
talent. Why he chose to turn his back on us we
I can only say that Judy took Carnell under her
wing and spent
many hours sharing with him the knowledge she had worked hard to obtain
on her own.
To say Judy trusted him is an understatement and to say she
was hurt when he left is putting it mildly. Judy
How does anyone feel when a
trusted member of their organization leaves to help a competitor?
word, Betrayed. But when that
person comes back to steal our business, then it becomes Treachery.
TWO - 1998