Chapter 77 is a very
interesting story, Elsa. I think you will enjoy it.
SUBCHAPTER 342 -
most popular Disco in
the early months of 1978.
However, it seemed like practically every month a new Disco club
was opening somewhere.
Ciao, élan, Uncle Sam's, Tingles,
Foxhunter, Cooters... entrepreneurs
took note of the Disco frenzy and decided the
time was right to open more dance clubs.
The hottest new
Disco of all was the Ritz.
Ritz debuted in May. Located just inside Loop 610
on Westheimer a mile east of the Galleria, this flashy club quickly became the
Houston's best dancers immediately deserted
my beloved Pistachio Club to become regulars at the
fabulous new Ritz.
And why not?
In addition to the most elaborate lighting system anyone had ever seen,
had spent a small fortune to create the largest dance floor and the best
Of course I visited
I was curious to check it out.
In particular, I was impressed by the incredible light system.
strobe lights created all sorts of dazzling special effects.
The most amazing effect
was the power to create night or day with
total ease. One flip of the switch would
plunge the club into blinding darkness while
another switch would return the club to blinding brightness.
One moment the dance floor at the
Ritz would be brighter than the Sun, the next moment the
Disco floor would plunge into total darkness.
After being plunged into total darkness, white lightning bolts would flash across the
ceiling. This was an eerie and quite impressive effect. Very
Light Show alone was a reason to visit the Ritz.
However I could have cared less. Oddly enough,
for all the impressive technology, I did not like the place.
The club felt cold and sterile. Part of the
problem was the immense size of the Ritz. As opposed to the cozy Pistachio Club,
Ritz was a converted warehouse. This meant there was too much capacity. I was no expert, but it seemed like someone
got the space-to-people ratio wrong. There could be two hundred people in the
building and the place would still feel empty.
Some corners were so vast and dark that I felt lost in there.
However, I kept these
thoughts to myself. I didn't see any point in criticizing the
place. I simply stayed with the Pistachio Club.
SUBCHAPTER 343 -
the Ritz opened,
received an invitation to perform there.
his wife Cliann were celebrated Whip dancers, they were
definitely worthy of the
I was excited when Stevens told me
about the invitation. I wanted to watch him
dance with his attractive wife. Cliann
was a tall, dark-haired beauty who
possessed the best
figure I had ever seen on a dancer. When she moved her
voluptuous body, I never took my eyes off her. I
loved to watch Cliann move.
I had come to
learn the Texas Whip wasn't exactly a Disco
partner dance. Most
Disco music was too fast for the Whip.
The Whip was more suited to slow, sensual
Rhythm and Blues music like Marvin Gaye's Heard it
through the Grapevine. Furthermore, the syncopated
Latin sound of Disco music wasn't right for the Whip.
The Whip responded best to nasty blues
Nevertheless, Stevens was so good at the Whip that I was sure people
would enjoy watching him and Cliann perform this unusual dance.
dropped a bomb.
informed me I would be performing too. I
would be his opening act.
excitement turned into gut-wrenching dread. I could not believe
what Stevens had just said. I had never performed at dance
in my life. Actually I had never performed at anything in
dance partner and work up a routine to precede mine.
The Ritz is promoting this
heavily, so I expect a Who's Who of the best dancers in the city to
attend. I am counting on this performance to drum up
some business for my Whip classes, so don't screw it up and
embarrass me. Take this assignment
seriously and don't disappoint me."
Although I was
the busiest Disco teacher in Houston,
I was not
remotely a member of the elite dance crowd.
My talent was 'teaching', not dancing.
I was an okay dancer who knew his
limits. I had no business taking on this challenge. Unfortunately, the way Stevens put it, I
didn't feel like I had the option to say no.
"How much time do I
My heart sank and I was
terrified. Two weeks was not enough time and Stevens knew it. I had a rule
never to talk back to Lance Stevens. However, this assignment was
so far beyond my current skill level that I had to say
this is ridiculous.
I am barely more than a beginner at partner
dancing. There is no way I can possibly improve fast
enough to perform in front of those people. Besides,
the thought of being out there with the city's best dancers
watching scares me to death!"
"Archer, do you teach partner dancing
or don't you?
If you are
going to talk it, then
you better learn to walk it. If you
want to work as a dance instructor, then get used to performing.
comes with the job."
The thought crossed
my mind to point out that 'Performing' had never been part of my
original job description. However I didn't dare snap back at him.
There was always the chance Stevens still had Eric's phone
I did not dare give Stevens an excuse to call.
SUBCHAPTER 344 -
This was quite a
predicament. But it was also an opportunity.
Throughout 1978, each Door of Opportunity
represented a challenge where I would have at best the slimmest
chance to succeed.
So far I had met every challenge, but I was always was
aware failure was a possibility. I had passed my
Crisis and Intermediate Level Crisis by the skin of my teeth.
Now here in June, I was facing my next test.
If I succeeded,
achieve glory and perhaps be accepted into the exclusive club of elite dancers.
If I failed, I would be humiliated in front of the best dancers in the
city. Considering I had never received the slightest bit of training in
how to partner dance, this was a ridiculous task. All I knew was
this simplistic New Yorker dance that I had concocted myself.
Meanwhile Houston's best dancers used the Latin Hustle, the flashy
partner dance I
was dying to learn, but could not find an instructor for.
Once these top-flight
dancers saw me using the New Yorker, the
dance equivalent of a tricycle, I would no doubt be laughed off the floor. Stevens knew full well this
over my head. After all, Stevens spent every
spare moment telling people what a mediocre dancer I was.
I was the dance teacher who couldn't dance. But now he turned
around and ordered me to perform.
Stevens had never
been warm toward me. However this
assignment bordered on downright cruelty. I never understood why
Stevens always bullied me into doing something
I was not ready for. Furthermore, why
didn't Stevens at least offer to help? It was ridiculous enough to
expect a mediocre dancer to suddenly become a performer in
two weeks, but with no help at all it was downright impossible.
an ounce of logic in his decision unless... dare I
say it?... Stevens wished to punish me. That
seemed a real possibility.
I resigned myself to my fate. It was sink
or swim. I fully expected to drown.
This assignment hit
right on top of all sorts of fears. Partner dancing was
a massive weak spot, no doubt about it.
However my true Achilles Heel was my face. I had spent my
entire life avoiding the spotlight because I felt ugly. I was so insecure
about my facial scars that even now I still could not work up the courage
to ask a girl to dance if I didn't know her in advance. I
assumed any woman would take one look at the ruts on my face and
break out laughing. So where was I going
to find the courage to dance in front of Houston's best dancers
with those bright lights highlighting every peak and valley on my broken
I tried to rationalize.
From a distance, maybe the scars would not be so noticeable. If I
danced well, perhaps people would overlook my face. However, it
still made me sick in my stomach to know if I danced poorly, people
would remember those scars as well.
The biggest joke of all was
my partner dancing. I had been
teaching Disco partner dancing for three months,
March, April, May.
Every moment had been an
ordeal as I attempted to learn how to partner dance without anyone to
help me. I taught
beginners how to be average partner dancers so they could at least get
out on the floor. That meant I was just one step better than they
were. The chasm between my level and the
elite level was so vast I had little chance of success.
Now that I had seen Eric in action, I knew just how mediocre my partner
dancing really was.
Therefore I was certain the best dancers would laugh me off the
How could I ever hope to
upgrade my dancing in so short a time?
It was impossible. However I did not see that I had much choice in the matter.
I felt like keeping my job
depended on doing this performance.
Since I wanted this job more than anything else in the
world, I saw no choice but to comply. So much for my
new feelings of confidence. Stevens still had me
under his thumb.
I do not like
bullies. I do not respect people who use the casting
couch in return for the promise of a job. Nor do I respect
people who force people to lie or break laws in order to keep their jobs.
Dangling a job
is a powerful form of persuasion, but
it is highly unethical to abuse the power.
Stevens was so wrong to pull this on me, I
concluded he had an ulterior
motive. I suspected Stevens had decided it was time to expose the Great
Imposter for all the world to see. I hated his guts.
SUBCHAPTER 345 -
BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF MY LIFE
Taking risks was
all I ever did in 1978.
Night Fever had come out of nowhere to create the chance
of a lifetime for me. Although I never anticipated this lucky break,
once the opening appeared, I grabbed the tiger by the tail and held on for
a conscious decision to accept every new opportunity that came along and
see where this Magic Carpet Ride would take me.
Up till now, my gamble to
accept every new challenge had worked like a charm. I had been
smart to accept the risks. The first five months had been
difficult, but by the time June rolled around, I was in control of
my dance curriculum. From this point out, as long as I was allowed
to evolve at a gradual pace, I believed I would be okay. I knew more about what I was teaching
than 98% of my students. The other 2% were my equals as dancers,
but liked my classes anyway. They liked me
enough not to see any reason to embarrass me or desert me for my shortcomings.
I had overcome so much to
get here. The irony was I had survived Eric only to face this. This latest risk
seemed too great to overcome.
It was one thing to hustle hard to stay one step ahead of my most
advanced students. It was another thing entirely to expect me
to magically transform myself into a top-flight dancer without any kind of
instructor to train me. This Ritz situation terrified me more than any
previous challenge because I had
never performed at anything in my life.
not believe I was committed to perform at the Ritz
with all the best dancers watching. I had two weeks.
Locked in the grips of the worst
case of Stage Fright imaginable,
was so nauseous with worry that I wanted to throw up.
Well, I couldn't just quit.
I had to try something. Once I calmed down, I analyzed the
situation. I had three major problems.
I had no one to turn to for help.
I was completely on my own.
Second, I had little
knowledge of dance material flashy enough to impress the best.
Third, I did not
know how to lead.
My inability to lead was the
biggest curse of all. Advanced Partner Dancing calls for
lightning-quick leads and instant reactions. Unfortunately, the ability to lead cannot be acquired overnight. Leads are honed through steady practice
until they turn into 'muscle memory'. No one
can develop muscle memory overnight. That would be against the law
of nature. Since force-feeding
does little good, two weeks was not sufficient time to turn me into an
elite dancer. That meant my only hope was to memorize what I was doing.
But memorize what? I had
no fancy moves to memorize.
My sense of futility was
overwhelming. What was I supposed to do?
I couldn't lead, I had no one to help me, and where was I going to find
material to use in a pattern? How was I going to overcome my fear of
performing? And who was I going to dance with?
Wake me up... this has to be
nightmare! But it wasn't.
This was hopeless. I had only two weeks to prepare
and the finest dancers in Houston would be watching. I was drowning and
there was no one out there to save me. I was certain this was
going to end badly.
SUBCHAPTER 346 -
BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
I couldn't just quit.
Yes, the odds were against me, but I wasn't going to give up
without a fight.
first step was to ask my friend
Suzy to be my partner.
helped me through my Great Partner Dance Crisis and subsequent Intermediate
Class Crisis. So I turned to her again.
Suzy said she was willing to lend a hand.
Suzy's good looks
and dancing ability made her a fine choice to be my partner.
Suzy was also very reliable. Thank goodness Suzy
said she would help me. That said, why she agreed remains a mystery
to this day. My
guess is that like a lot of things in life, Suzy had no idea what she was getting into.
Perhaps she thought I knew more than I did. She soon learned
otherwise. We who are about to die salute you.
Suzy had no
more experience at performing
than I did.
quickly realized we were in way over our heads. To this day, I admire Suzy
for not bailing on the spot the moment she realized how hopeless our
situation was. A lesser human being would have quit and
left me stranded. Instead, God bless her, Suzy was willing to
stay the course. She paid an enormous price to do so.
Suzy soon began to suffer
from the same terror of failure that I did. I am a worrier by
nature and it turned out that Suzy was the same. Suzy was in a
constant state of panic over our impending doom.
As we tried to prepare,
Suzy could never relax and completely concentrate. Her fears
of the coming humiliation
nagged at her incessantly. I felt like I was the one who needed the encouragement,
but Suzy needed it more than I did.
The blind was leading the blind and we were headed towards a cliff. Suzy
should have run when she had the chance. This was nothing short of
a suicide mission.
SUBCHAPTER 347 -
I decided there might be one way we could pull this off.
It was a long shot, but it was worth trying. I had watched a recent Disco
dance contest at the Pistachio Club. I noticed one couple
had been a crowd favorite thanks to their use of acrobatics.
This couple could barely dance a lick, but no one
cared because they performed some incredible acrobatic moves. This
couple had nearly beaten another couple that was far superior in
styling and footwork.
That is when I realized Dance Acrobatics
were far more entertaining than footwork patterns. If Suzy and I stuck
to Acrobatics, maybe our lack of dance technique
could be disguised. Or at least we could be entertaining
enough that our poor footwork would be disregarded. It was
worth a try.
had known for some time I
had a gift for
Three years earlier,
dance teacher Becky had taught me a remarkable acrobatic move
called Side Cars. More recently, my buddy Sam
had given me ideas for two other
Plus I had picked up ideas for two more by careful study during
nights spent at the Pistachio Club. Acrobatics was the one area of dance where I could put my athletic ability to good use. I was
like a poor autistic person who is clueless about
everything, but possesses one remarkable skill. Although I could
not lead a fancy partner dance move to save my soul, I could throw girls in the air
with the greatest of ease.
I showed Suzy
my five acrobatic moves, then warned her I told her I had only the most
rudimentary idea how these flips and dips worked. "These moves might
Do you want to try?"
Suzy smiled weakly.
"Well, Rick, you are big and I am small. I am
pretty sure you can handle me.
If this is the only way to save
my neck, then
I am ready to risk my neck. Let's get started."
This might just work. Suzy and I would
cut the song to two minutes, go thin on
the partner dancing and stick mostly to lifts, drops,
dips and flips.
I smiled grimly.
Suzy's uncommon willingness
to risk paralysis was an indication just how scared we
To my relief, Suzy and I clicked
on the acrobatics. However, we weren't out of the woods yet,
by a long shot.
Scheduling time to
practice was one headache. Suzy didn't work, but I
had my full-time Child Welfare job during
the day. We would practice for an hour before class.
However, since Suzy was married, she was reluctant to return
later after class. Practicing just one hour a day limited
Since I was learning all this stuff on the fly, I could have used a lot
more practice time. However, I was relieved to see the acrobatic idea was paying off. I recalculated our chance of success from one in a million down to one
twenty. With more practice, maybe I could improve those odds.
What a shame time was running out.
As the deadline approached,
Suzy and I realized we had made a major mistake. We had invested
most of our two weeks
racking our brains for dance material. Including the five
acrobatic moves, we had twelve patterns and we knew what order to use them. However we
had never spent any time connecting the twelve patterns together.
the performance just two days away, we tried putting the twelve pieces
together for the first time. Fiasco. We could not put two
patterns together, much less twelve.
We had assumed our
twelve patterns would connect together without a problem. Wrong. I
suddenly realized I did not know how to get in and out of the acrobatics because I did not
know how to lead. This meant everything would have to be choreographed,
a big word that means 'MEMORIZE'.
We had to memorize how to get into each
acrobatic stunt, then we had to memorize how to get back out of it and
then we had to remember how to move
on to the next pattern. This put
tremendous pressure on Suzy to be in
the right place every step of the way. Bad news... Suzy
was terrible at this.
Anyone who knows
dancing will tell you that women hate being expected to memorize
patterns. Women dance the best when they can simply
react. But Suzy and I had no other choice because I
could not lead. Suzy had to be there at the right time or
we were lost.
we tried to integrate the separate patterns into a dance routine, we
discovered neither of could remember the routine! One
would think with a college degree, I had enough intelligence to remember
the sequence of moves. Wrong.
I was so-so at best. To my undying dismay, Suzy was
much worse. Suzy
was at a complete loss to get the order straight.
Constantly forgetting the order of moves, Suzy
would expect a drop and screamed when I lifted her instead. I expected Suzy to fall into my arms and she would
jump instead. Suzy would show up for a dip and get
flipped. No matter how much she fretted and fussed, Suzy
was seemingly unable to master the routine.
Suzy lost her confidence.
She understood that her fear was crippling her memory, but she
was helpless to control it. Suzy was so
worried about making a mistake that her hands were shaking when we
danced. Her body trembled. This drove me nuts. I hated being dependent
on a partner who could not get it right. I cursed my lack
of control. There seemed to be no way I could overcome Suzy's
scatterbrain. I secretly called her 'The Ditz
at the Ritz'.
I felt guilty because I had gotten Suzy
into this fix, but I also lamented because her fearfulness was killing us.
The only solution was more practice, but time was running out.
rehearsed the routine any chance we could get, but things were looking
SUBCHAPTER 348 -
THE PRESSURE MOUNTS
Two days before the event,
Suzy broke down sobbing in
tears. This wasn't just an ordinary boo-hoo-hoo.
Suzy cried her damn head off. We are talking impassioned wailing
and frenzy. The tension was absolutely
unbearable for her.
"Oh my God,
Rick, we will never
be ready in time!"
I didn't know what
to do except let her cry it out. While she cried, I kept staring at my list of twelve moves and tried to go over
them in my head. Once she stopped crying, we got back to
Suzy wasn't the only one whose nerves
were fried with fear. My problem with stage fright
could not sleep because I
knew we were sure to screw up in front of all
these people. I fought exhaustion constantly and
could not find a way to ease the
panic. I had been
nervous before, but I was sweating bricks as the deadline
approached. Nausea had taken permanent residence in my stomach.
As much as I
resented Suzy for her memory issues, I admired her for
continuing to show up as promised. A lesser woman would
have booked a trip to the Caribbean.
One day to go.
Panic stricken, I called in sick at work to free up more time.
The performance was on Thursday night, so we spent all day Wednesday
practicing every spare second. We were definitely
improving, but now I made a crippling new discovery.
For the life of me, whenever we made a mistake, I could not figure how to restart in the
middle of the pattern. My grasp of the routine was so
flimsy that we could only perform it by starting over from the top again. This worried me a lot because I
was certain something was bound to go wrong. This was a fairly easy prediction
to make since our routine had never gone right once.
How would I re-enter the
routine in the middle if and when one of us screwed up?
I had no answer for that.
Since I didn't know how to lead a
move, I had to depend on
get into each acrobatics position
on her own power. We would dance a floor pattern like the Pretzel, then Suzy was supposed to get into position
for the next big acrobatic move.
I would grab her and throw her
up in the air, catch her, put her back on
the floor, then wait for Suzy to get into position to start the next move.
Half the time Suzy would go to the
wrong place and now we had to start all over.
Wednesday became a day-long
comedy of errors.
I kept thinking to myself,
are we going to do if we mess up?' Try as I might,
I could not fathom a way to overcome any kind of serious
mistake. This became my biggest fear. We either
did it right from start to finish... or else.
could do was pray neither of us made a major mistake.
But the odds of that happening were nil, nada, and none.
We were certain to screw up.
Finally I couldn't take the
pressure any more. On Wednesday night before the performance, I
caved in. Panic stricken, I
humbled myself and crawled to Stevens.
The time had come to beg for mercy.
I tried really hard, but I
am not ready yet. I am positive I will embarrass
myself and you as well. Please let me
back out. We have tried as hard as humanly possible,
but there's no way Suzy and I can pull this off."
Stevens gave me the
coldest look I have ever seen.
"Young man, you
aspire to be a professional. You have made a commitment.
I expect you to honor that
commitment. I recommend you go practice
some more. Do not come to me again. I expect you
to be ready tomorrow night."
I had not
expected Stevens would let me off the hook, but I
shook my head in disgust anyway. What was wrong with this
man? Recently he had watched me practice. After
three minutes, he simply walked
away shaking his head. Stevens knew I was in over my
head, so why did he insist I go through with this? I
told myself if I ever survived this ordeal, I would find a
way to exact revenge.
I was sick with worry.
I couldn't sleep. I was so desperate I
wondered if there was a way to break a finger without it
hurting too much. Then I decided a broken finger
wouldn't be enough. Stevens would just make me dance
anyway. This was the worst fear I had ever felt in my life.
They shoot horses, don't they? If so, then shoot me now. Shoot me and put me out of my misery.
SUBCHAPTER 349 -
It was Thursday,
June 22. My personal D-Day had arrived.
I snuck out of the office after lunch to meet Suzy for more practice.
Throughout the afternoon we still had yet to do the routine right
a single time.
One of us would screw up and we would both freeze.
We continued to have trouble deciding how to get it going again
from the middle of the pattern. Our song was Boogie Nights by Heatwave.
With every mistake, I would have to start Boogie Nights
over again and begin the routine
anew. The pressure was unrelenting.
After a particularly
Suzy broke down and cried hysterically.
She was so out of control, I wondered if this was end of it.
"I can't take
any more of this, Rick, I can't take it. Is there any
way you can talk Stevens into letting us out of this?"
I shook my head.
"You know I asked him last night. Stevens is
determined to make us do this."
"I can't do it.
We have never once completed the pattern correctly. I
am so afraid of letting you down and having all those people
laugh at us. The fear is absolutely killing me.
Why am I so stupid? Why can't I remember these moves?"
"Don't be so
hard on yourself. You aren't stupid,
Suzy, this stuff is just too complicated for a couple of rookies to
pull off. We didn't have enough time, so let's just do the
best we can. Don't ask me why, but I get lucky all the
time. Maybe we will get lucky together."
"If I could just
remember the sequence we wouldn't need luck! I have never felt so stupid in
my life. I scream at myself to remember what is next,
but I always guess wrong. What hope do we have?"
At that moment,
I had an
"I'll tell you
what, Suzy. What if I
call out the next
move to you? Someone might hear me, but probably not.
The music will drown out my voice."
With that, Suzy
great idea! Let's try it.
That might work."
So I began to cue
Suzy. We had the first five moves down cold, so after that
I created a short name for each new move. Death Drop.
Roll-out. Flying Flip. Sweetheart. Side Cars.
Cuddles (to Pretzel). Triple Spin (to Death Dip).
Good heavens, what a
verbal trick helped considerably. Now Suzy started
to remember the pattern. Sort of. That was the good news. The bad
news was that neither of us had any muscle memory. Our moves
lacked timing and we took turns screwing things up. When I did it right, she did it
wrong. When she did it right, I did it wrong. But we were
getting closer than ever before.
didn't seem quite as hopeless.
Each time we went deeper into the routine
before hitting a rough spot. I took it as a sign of progress when it took
longer to screw up. So far our best effort had been to hit the 75%
mark before falling apart, but I felt optimistic for the first
time. Best of all, now that Suzy responded to verbal cues,
I had a way to go to the next move in the pattern without having
to start over. We had a chance. That was all I could
After five solid
hours of nerve-wracking afternoon practice, we ran out of steam.
Our minds were fried.
Rick, I'm going to go home,
try to eat something, and change into my costume.
will meet you after your class here at the studio and we can
drive to the Ritz together. I like that verbal cue.
That was a good idea."
I nodded. For
the first time since we had begun, I believed we had a chance. To my surprise, this had turned into a
pretty good routine. We had come a long way. I could not help but think if we had a little
more time to practice, we might have an outside chance of pulling this
off. The odds had improved considerably. I figured we now
had a one in three shot. As it stood, we
were really close. We would have about 30 minutes to practice at
the Ritz. If our last-minute practice time at the Ritz
clicked, we might just pull this off.
fact remained that Suzy and I had still not performed the routine from start to
finish a single time without a mistake. Not once. Given that reality, what chance did we have to make this work? As they say, it would go
down to the wire. Needing a miracle,
wondered where that idea to use verbal cues had come from.
After all, the idea had popped in out of the blue. Was
the Universe preparing another dramatic last-minute rescue?
I certainly hoped so.
The fateful moment
was drawing near. Suzy and I went over to a dark corner
of the Ritz
for our last ditch practice effort. Earlier that afternoon our
come close to working. All we needed
was more time. Just give us more time!
We practiced furiously
for a solid half
hour. People would come over to watch and I would bark at
them to leave us alone so we could concentrate. Then it
happened. Five short minutes before we
were scheduled to perform,
Suzy and I did
the routine from start to finish without a
for the very first time! Then like
did it right a second time! Two
times in a row! Wow! Against all odds, maybe we
could pull this thing off after all.
There wasn't time for a third try... it was just seconds before game time.
Once we heard our
performance being announced, we began the long walk to the dance
I was very
encouraged. Do you believe in miracles?
Hey, we didn't even need a miracle. Thanks to the
verbal cues, we had done the routines two
times in a row and the patterns were fresh in our minds.
We had a legitimate chance to pull this off.
Time to face the firing squad.
With my heart pounding and feeling anxious beyond any
kind of fear I
had ever felt before, I walked with Suzy
out onto the dance floor to the sound of
polite applause. Suzy was just
as frightened as me. I was holding her hand and could feel
it tremble badly.
As I feared, the
Ritz was packed. There were
easily 300 people present that night to witness our performance.
Three hundred people. I was sick with worry. My knees
were buckling and I was sweating despite the overpowering
brilliant spotlights beaming down on
The glare was so intense it felt like
bright sunlight on a cloudless day.
Once we were out
there, I could not
believe how large this floor was. It was just me and Suzy
against the world. We were all alone.
No doubt the
intense light emphasized every scar on my face. I
frowned with bitterness.
Oh well, there was nothing I could do about
that now. Right now my scars were the least of my worries.
I was surprised that I
could not see the faces of the people in the crowd. The powerful lights made it
so bright on the vast floor that
I could see only blackness beyond. The ceiling
in the seating area
was considerably lower than the raised
ceiling on the dance floor. Right now there was no lighting in
the seating area. This created a theater effect...
bright stage, dark audience.
Due to the intense overhead lighting, the faces of the crowd were little more
than shadows. I couldn't see them, but the audience could
see me just fine in the spotlight. It was so weird
that I could not see the audience. How could 300 people
disappear? I wished I could disappear, but no
chance of that.
I looked again and saw something white. I
realized those were the
whites of their eyes
peering at us from the darkened perimeter. I felt like an animal in the jungle
being stalked by an
unseen enemy. My gut-wrenching nausea
was so overwhelming
that I wanted to scream. Now I worried I might vomit. How
could I perform with this kind of anxiety? Then I looked at
Suzy... she was worse than me. Her eyes were rolling up
in their sockets. Riddled with fear, Suzy looked like she was on the edge
of a seizure.
Suzy and I were introduced.
The time had come. We were Christians being fed to the lions in the
That felt like a fitting analogy.
After we screwed up,
the crowd would turn their thumbs down. The last thing I
would hear would be boos and hisses as the lions were
freed to eat us alive.
I was absolutely
We didn't stand a chance. And that is when I
remembered all my lucky breaks. It would take another
SUBCHAPTER 350 -
The music began.
To my surprise and relief, our routine
was executed with complete
Our first tough move, an
aerial where I put Suzie on my shoulders, came off without a hitch.
We got a nice round of applause from the unseen audience. Suzy liked the encouragement
and smiled at me. I smiled back.
Suzy and I
were gaining confidence. I was
encouraged because it felt like
our last minute success over in the corner had magically transferred onto the
dance floor. In fact, feeling the invisible crowd
start to warm up to us, I was right on the edge of enjoying myself. They especially liked our first acrobatic move.
I could hear the oohs and aahs of the crowd. Yes!
smiled for the audience and they responded back. From the
darkness, they began to clap and cheer!
was flush with excitement. Maybe this will work
after all. Forty seconds into our 2
routine, I called out my first cue. 'Rollout to Flying Flip!'
Just as Suzy got into
any warning, the lights
were turned off!
We were instantly plunged into
In shock, Suzy let
go of my hand. Where was she?
The Deejay had done
something unforgiveable. One-third of the way into our routine, the entire dance floor was thrown into darkness.
For whatever reason, the Deejay had decided to switch from
the bright lights to the dark strobe
lighting. The sudden change left
us blind. We had been performing in brilliant light and
our pupils were dilated. Unfortunately, the crowd had been
shrouded in darkness, so they had no trouble seeing us flounder.
disaster happened at a moment where
Suzy and I
were dancing apart.
Without a connection, I had no idea where she was. Although there was some light
from the dark strobes, it did me no good at all. Since the
light had been so unusually brilliant, I estimate I was totally blind
for close to seven seconds. During that time, I
groped for Suzy.
In desperation, I called out "Suzy, where are you?"
Suzy didn't answer.
What a time to be playing
Blind Man's Bluff!
To my dismay, I heard
people begin to laugh at us. Watching me fumble around trying to
locate Suzy had to be quite a sight. This was worse than pin the
tail on the donkey. I could not
believe what the DJ had done to us.
What kind of idiot turns
off the lights while someone is
Now people were really
laughing. Giggles and laughter came from every corner. My futile attempts
to find Suzy made me look like I was blindfolded. I
was furious. I wanted to find the idiot who had
turned out the lights and murder him. I was numb with anger and
frustration! Where is Suzy? Why couldn't I find my partner? Did
she run off the floor?
Losing my cool, I cursed
out bitterly to the Deejay.
"Turn on the
fucking lights, damn it!"
Everyone could hear me
curse loudly in frustration. They thought that was funny too. Now they were hysterical. Our dance routine had
turned into a comedy
routine worthy of an
I Love Lucy sketch where everything
goes wrong. Except that it
wasn't funny to me.
This all happened so fast,
I did not realize my eyes would adjust to the dark.
After seven seconds, the strobe lights supplied
just enough light for me to discover Suzy even in darkness. She was standing right behind me
paralyzed with fear. Compounding this comedy of
errors, I had made a serious mistake demanding the
lights be turned on again. Sure enough, virtually the moment my eyes had adjusted to the
dark strobes, the lights came back on again. Now I was blinded
by the brilliant light!
This was ridiculous.
My eyes hurt like hell and I instinctively covered my
good eye with both hands in pain. With my eyes shut, I started groping for
Suzy again. Every
person in the room
watched in disbelief as I lost Suzy for yet a second time.
However, this time the
The crowd didn't think this was funny anymore.
Now we were too pathetic to laugh at, so instead they groaned audibly. Here we go
think once they realized how upset I was, that took all the fun out of it.
Maybe they should just let the lions loose early. If anyone needed a
mercy killing, that would be us.
Once my eyes adjusted for the second time, I found
Suzy. To be honest, only 14 seconds or
so had passed. There was time to start over. Even better, I still had my wits about
me, so I whispered, "Suzy, Rollout to Flying Flip!
Rollout to Flying Flip!"
Suzy did not hear a word I
said. Glassy-eyed and terrified, she was
in shock. Suzy was just standing
there with that deer in the headlights look. In her dazed state,
any memory of
our routine was long gone.
This time I didn't whisper.
In a loud voice, I barked, "Suzy, Rollout!"
Suzy didn't move.
"Suzy, try the Rollout!"
Suzy just stood there frozen. The crowd groaned again.
Although I was
badly shaken, I
could still remember what patterns came next...
but I didn't know how to lead them unless Suzy got into position.
Without her help,
I didn't have any idea how to recreate the
routine. Too late now. With my partner paralyzed with fear,
I should have
just walked off the floor. Why didn't I think of that? Stupid me, I stayed out there.
did not have the
ability to rescue the routine,
there was only one thing left for me to do. I began to dance my
silly New Yorker dance. I repeated the
Pistachio Step over and over again for the final minute of
the music. Suzy was in a daze and followed aimlessly.
Since acrobatics were out of the question, there I was doing my tricycle
partner dance in
front of all these elite dancers. The groans got audibly
louder. I was certain someone with a hook would come out at any
Dancing the Pistachio Step over and over,
what else was I supposed to do? I have never felt so
humiliated in my life. After an entire minute of throwing this poor, hapless woman
the DJ figured it out and faded the song. I held Suzy's hand and she followed like a
helpless puppy dog as we walked off the floor in defeat. Suzy was in shock.
The crowd turned cold. These people were
expecting a professional
Once they saw how amateurish we were, they were turned off.
Fortunately they were polite in their scorn.
As we crawled off the floor,
no one said a word. There were some snickers
of course and whispers too, but mercifully no one actually booed us.
If they had, I might have died. My
self-esteem was barely able to cope with this. I remember the crowd
separating to let us pass as if we carried disease. They pretended like we didn't
exist, but I could read their faces. Their
tense expressions and pursed lips indicated that we had no business
being out there. It was grim.
I am sure the people realized we were
victims of the Deejay's stupid mistake and cut us some
slack. After all, we had looked pretty good till the
lights went out.
But nothing could
possibly relieve the shame I felt. I felt totally
Lance Stevens and
Cliann passed us on their way out to
They pretended not to know us. God forbid anyone should think
they were associated with
vermin. Cliann's face was taut and uncaring. She
looked rigidly straight ahead. Stevens refused to look at me as well,
but he was shaking his head in disgust.
With my arm around Suzy's
shoulders, I took her as far from the dance floor as I could. It was
just Suzy and me against the cold cruel world as we made our way
to the dark recesses of the building. Once we reached the remote corner
where we had practiced earlier, Suzy
started to cry uncontrollably.
The humiliation was overwhelming.
I didn't cry, but I sure wanted
to. I was so ashamed of myself.
And disappointed too. We were right on the edge of pulling
this damn thing off only to have someone's stupid mistake ruin it for
us. All that work down the drain thanks to some moron.
Right now the pain was unbearable.
There are those who say that
is counterproductive and that
most of the stuff people worry
about isn't going
to happen anyway. So why worry
In my case, it is a good thing we did worry. We would never have
come this close without the panic that drove us to make a super-human
Furthermore, guess what?
Sometimes your worst fears really do come true! In
this case, the events
of the Ritz Disaster actually exceeded my worst possible nightmare. I
concluded that those people who say 'Why worry?' are idiots.
Lance Stevens never said a word to me. Not a
single word. He never asked me to perform again either.
Rick Archer's Footnote:
So far every Door of
Opportunity on my journey had led to
improbable success. Over the past three months, I had survived one
crisis after another.
But not this time. This Door of Opportunity had led to
bloody disaster in the arena. So much for my
The sad thing is
how close we had come to pulling this off until we were sabotaged.
I could not help but wonder if Fate had played a role.
What the Deejay had done was so far outside the realm of
common sense that I suddenly felt suspicious.
Was this another
case of Cosmic Stupidity?
People do stupid
things all the time, things that are seemingly totally out
of character. The philosophers will say 'To
err is human.' I have my own theory... when
something happens that is weird beyond weird, I ask if it is meant
Please give this some more
thought... Who in their right mind turns off the lights during a dance performance??
Let me add some perspective.
During my 40 year dance career, I witnessed several dance contests.
I never saw a light turned off.
What the Ritz DJ had done was highly out of the ordinary.
So what do I think happened? How hard would it be for an unseen being to send a
simple telepathic suggestion to the DJ... "Turn
off the lights." Can I prove
something like this? No, of course not. But I can
wonder. Due to the unusual nature of what went wrong,
I added this curious disaster to my List of potential Supernatural
Events at 48, One Star Rating.
Oddly enough, not one person
ever mentioned this incident to me throughout the
course of my career. With 300
people in attendance, I would imagine someone would cross my path later
in life and remind me, but it never happened. I find that very
In fact, the entire
story of the Ritz Disaster was very strange indeed. Maybe it
was just as well I had no idea what lie ahead.
MAGIC CARPET RIDE
Four: The Ritz Disaster (48)
Three: My worst nightmare Eric
appears, Eric's Cosmic Stupidity (47)
Two: Intermediate Partner Dance Ordeal, I begin work to create the
Advanced Disco class, Scream in the Night
One: Gary-Suzy-Sue Ann-Janie help me create the 'New Yorker'
partner dance system (46)
Set Club, Mrs.
Ballantyne's Surprise visit to Stevens of Hollywood (44), Mr. Salls-Mrs. Ballantyne-Rick Archer Triangle (45)
Effect (41), Incompetence Effect (42), Crossroad
Nicholas at Courses a la
Night Fever debut, Robert Stigwood Synchronicity (40)
Three: Disco Line Dance class at Stevens of Hollywood (39)
Two: Disco Line Dance class at Memorial JCC
|| Graduation Night at Rubaiyat
|| Opportunity One:
Disco Line Dance class at the JCC
Bomb Scare class: substitute dance class in JCC parking lot
(36), I write a
line dance syllabus, Rosalyn's Gift of summer dance class
Dancing with Elena at the Rubaiyat
1977-1979: Magic Carpet Ride
|| Rosalyn's line dance class at JCC
Patsy Swayze explains I do not have enough talent to join her dance
|| Patsy Swayze's jazz class
at Stevens of Hollywood, Roberta's request asking me to
take over her class (35)
|| Gaye Brown-Burke at
Vocational Guidance Service (34), Ted Weisgal, Becky at Sundry School
Line Dance Class
Melody Lane, Mark
says goodbye (33)
|| Sundry School Ballroom class,
Dave ends his class,
Phoney Baloney Dance
Studio, Morlock Dominates Rice Volleyball
Break at Rice
University (31), Manimal
(32), Celeste, Second Office Club
Oaks Seven vanquished (30)
| 1975: January
|| Farmhouse, Mark's
and Lucy, Talk to Elena Project, Mark meets Sean, Stranger in a Strange
(28), Casa Mark, Mark and Donna's Dance Intervention (29)
Dilemma, The Prize
|| Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
Book (21), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (22), Drag Queen Lynn (23),
Rejection Phobia develops, Dance Path Synchronicity (24),
River Oaks Seven, Disco Dave, Dance Class from Hell, Parking Lot Inferno,
Karmic Test of Fire (25), Magic
|| Couch Catatonia
1974-1976: The Lost Years
|| Dismissed from graduate school
I teach my experimental
Debbie and the Cow Eyes Incident
takes me under his wing and tells me to keep trying, Learned
Helplessness, Negative Self-Image, Point of No Return
| 1974: January
|| I begin five months of therapy with Dr. Hilton,
Epic Losing Streak
| 1973: December
|| Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for
Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals
the truth about Vanessa
|| Love Affair with Vanessa begins,
showdown in Fujimoto's office, Vanessa makes one excuse after another
I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (20), butting heads
Arlene, Mental Hospital, Letty and the Cooler incident
Senior at Hopkins
with the Magical Mystery Tour due to problems at Colvig Silver Camp the
summer of 1971
Junior at Hopkins
Counselor Daydream (19), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
Sophomore at Hopkins
Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Depression Realization, Susan and the Witch at
Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
Antares-Astrology eye injury (17), Séance with Vicky, Ghost of Terry
Freshman at Hopkins
at the Train Station (16), Sanctuary at Aunt Lynn's house, Car stolen in
December, Night School Computer class
|| Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns
Mom's Cosmic Stupidity regarding
child support check (09), Little Mexico, Cheating in Chemistry
Eve blowup with mother,
Father gives me Edgar Cayce book at Christmas,
Foot in the Door Strategy,
Father's $400 insult,
Off Limits Chemistry Restroom, Caught cheating in German
(10), Lost Jones Scholarship to Katina, Edge of The Abyss,
fails to connect with me at SJS for 9 years (11), Cosmic Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne at Weingarten's (12),
Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins, Close Call Car Accident
(13), Senior Prom Cheryl (14), Heartbreak with Terry,
Senior Year Blind Spot (15)
|| New identity forms at Weingarten's, I buy a car
|| Locker Room fight,
of weights appears (07), George Broyles is paralyzed, Second skin
Father denies third skin operation, Weingarten's job (08)
1964-1965: 9th Grade
of Mr. Salls, Acne
Attack (05), Basketball strike on swollen face (06), First skin
1963-1964: 8th Grade
unconscious playing football due to blind eye, quit 8th Grade basketball
Caught stealing at Weingarten's,
Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer Basketball Project, Discovery of chess book (04)
Ballantyne joins my class, Illness at Boy
Scout camp leads to invisibility, I feel I don't belong at
SJS, Uncle Dick pays my tuition at SJS
Mom's suicide attempt at the bayou,
Terry runs away in Hurricane Carla, Blue Christmas (03)
1960-1961: 5th Grade
Dad remarries, Obsession with the St. John's
Mother's Guild, Comparisons between my mother and
Mrs. Ballantyne begin
1959-1960: 4th Grade
Divorce, 4th grade at St. John's,
Mom begins to fall apart, Dad abandons me for his girlfriend
Cut my eye out
(01), Near Death experience with Stock Car (02)
|| Born in Philadelphia