HSDS SSQQ Feud
Home Up Controversy 1998

 The Feud Begins: 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2005

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)

Thursday, 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 complete letter)

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.
(read complete letter)

 
   

FORWARD

Have you 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 for yourself.

You will see what happened when I kept quiet and what happened when I spoke up.  You decide if I was right to speak.


Other than 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.

On this 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 SSQQ

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 October 2004. 

On November 4, 2004, Judy resigned without explanation.


Judy Archer's Timeline
Story written by Rick Archer

Forward

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.
 

1995 -  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.

Upon his 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 Lindy Hop".

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

Fortunately 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.

Judy did 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 Frankie Manning!! 

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 Manning.

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 advanced patterns.

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 sight. 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 public consciousness. 

(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.  Known as 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.


1997 -
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 work.

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 National Phenomenon

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 date.

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 expectation.

Thanks completely to 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 racism.  

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.  (Swing Extravaganza)

The Third Low Point - August 1999 - Judy's Second Swing Team Disintegrates

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.

2000 - Carnell Pipkin's letter creates a deep rift btw Judy and Rick. Their marriage never recovers.

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 fight ended.

2001 -
Judy and Rick get Divorced in May

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.   How fitting.
 

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 third major 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 dance!!  

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.  

Rick Archer
May 2005


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 Battleship Texas.

Although Carnell, who was the chief choreographer and director retired from the Hepcats in 2001, his legacy lives on.

HSDS Hall of Fame

Carnell Pipkin
Founding Member, Director, Choreographer

Rowena Young
Founding Member

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 guys be friends for the good of the Swing community and work together?" 

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 two 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.

Like 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 supportive of 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 she 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.


HSDS: Carnell Pipkin
HSDS Founding Member, Director, Choreographer in the HSDS Hall of Fame

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. 

Carnell 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 time.

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 it!

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
Founding Member 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 Lindy team.

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. 

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.

I can't imagine what Rowena had to offer other than her political savvy. 

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 1997.  

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. 

Meanwhile 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 action.  

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 another planet.  

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 Site -

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.

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
meet at the Jewish Community Center!  They met at SSQQ.  Then, months after the Swing Team had been together, Rowena met the SSQQ Swing Team at the Jewish Community Center.

And now you know the real story behind what that statement refers to.

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.
But 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:

February 24, 1997
Rowena Young


Dear Rowena:

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 exhibition.

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 mailing list.

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. 

Soon
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 "
SSQQ did not own" any of the people she was recruiting

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.


Treachery

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 about Judy's 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.  The only one person who really counted to Rowena was Carnell.  He was the key.

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 awkward. 

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. This hypocrisy finally reached the point that Judy disbanded her team in disgust.  She 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.

Carnell Pipkin was a gifted dancer. There was 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 policy 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.

The tension 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. A
t 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 told 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 play fair.


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? 

Furthermore 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 steal.

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 bad blood.

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 don't know.

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 was crushed.

How does anyone feel when a trusted member of their organization leaves to help a competitor?  In a word, Betrayed.  But when that person comes back to steal our business, then it becomes Treachery.

 CHAPTER TWO - 1998

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