Home Up


Chapter 47:  Patsy Swayze... I make a friend.




Written by Rick Archer




Still burning inside over my mistake with Katie in August, I longed for a second chance at connecting with her.  Since I didn't have her phone number or know where she worked, I wondered if perhaps Katie would take another Sundry School dance class.  So I picked up a catalogue.  That is when I noticed a Sundry School class in Disco Line Dancing starting in September.

Hoping against hope, I decided to sign up for the class just in case Katie might be there.  I also took the unusual step of driving all the way to the University of Houston campus to enroll in person rather than do it by mail. 

A man named Ted Weisgal was the only person in the Sundry School office.


Ted was a tall, rather gangly man with red hair.  We were about the same age, so I struck up a conversation in order to seek a rapport.  I had something up my sleeve, but first I needed to get on this guy's good side.

While we spoke, I learned that Ted had created the Sundry School in 1974.  This surprised me because he didn't come across like a go-getter.  Ted was a frumpy, disheveled guy.  Based on his appearance, I would have never guessed that Ted was the boss.  Nor was Ted much of a charmer.   He was ultra-serious and spoke in a monotone.  In addition, Ted offered the shortest answers possible to my questions.  However, as we talked, I changed my mind.  Ted made a striking impression due to his intensity.  This guy meant business. 

Seeing I wasn't getting anywhere with the small talk, I decided to make my pitch.  I asked Ted if he would do me a favor and look up the name and phone number of a lady named Katie from the recent Ballroom dance class.  I explained why it was important, but it did no good.  The moment Ted frowned, I knew I had asked the wrong guy.  Ted was not about to hand out a woman's personal information to a stranger.  Of course Ted had done the right thing, but I was disappointed nevertheless.  Oh well, it was worth a try. 

I could see Ted wasn't the type to budge easily, so I quietly handed Ted my September registration and left.  Feeling a keen sense of disappointment, I consoled myself with the thought that maybe Katie would take the Disco class I had just enrolled in. 

As for Ted, our paths would cross again.




When I arrived at my Sundry School Line Dance class, I was very disappointed.  Katie was nowhere to be seen.  However, there was a nice consolation prize awaiting me. 

My new dance instructor was an ultra-cute young lady named Rebecca, Becky for short.  Becky was a knock-out.  It was lust at first sight.  Becky was built, there was no other way to put it.  I didn't know a thing about Becky other than she was my age, she was seriously good-looking and she had a remarkable figure.  That was all I needed to know.  It took about 30 seconds to develop a huge crush on Becky. 

It turned out that Becky was also a good teacher.  In fact, I liked Becky's class so much that when her line dance class ended in October, I signed up for the same class again in November.  I had an ulterior motive.  I dreamed for some sort of opening that might lead to a romance with my sexy dance teacher.

Becky was 5' 5", blonde, very pretty, amazing body.  Every curve was so perfect, I never took my eyes off her.  In addition to being a former cheerleader, Becky was an athlete.  Becky had an animated way of moving that left me mesmerized.  When she danced, Becky turned into a super-hot Go-Go girl.  Becky took my breath away when she danced.

Since Becky was the sexiest dance instructor alive, I had trouble learning her line dances because I couldn't concentrate.  I would start out watching her feet, then I would lose track and start watching her move instead.  Lost in my fantasies, there were times when I paid no attention to what I was supposed to be doing. 

Becky would notice I was standing there drooling and remind me to start dancing again.  I sometimes wondered if Becky knew why I had stopped dancing.  If so, she never let on.  My guess is that Becky was used to stopping men in their tracks.


Six months had passed since Manimal's attack at the Farmhouse.  Although the past six months had not been a happy time for me, I can at least say my life had become more or less normal.  During this time nothing unusual happened, no coincidences out of the ordinary to maintain my preoccupation with Fate.  Hence my curiosity about Fate had receded into the background.  Now thanks to Katie, I wasn't pondering the mysteries of the Universe at the moment, but rather coping with the fifth serious depression of my life.

Despite my dark mood, my interest in dancing was still there.  Although my adventures with Celeste and Katie had turned out poorly, I recognized that dancing and dance classes had played a major part in meeting these two women in the first place.  In a sense, my time with them had confirmed the dance advice offered by The Courtesan was sound indeed.  So even though my Melody Lane Horror Show had resurrected the Phobia, I vowed to keep taking dance classes as a way to become even better at dancing and perhaps meet someone to take my mind off of Katie.

Becky did me a real favor.  Her class was so much fun that she renewed my interest in the Dance Project.  Now that I had Disco music again, I was pleased to see my Disco Freestyle skills return.  To be honest, I had only signed up for the class in hopes that Katie might appear.  Despite my disappointment not to find her, once I discovered I was the best male dancer in the class, it boosted my self-esteem enough to wish to continue.  My secret crush on Becky did the rest. 

A couple girls in class were better than me, but I blamed that on Becky.  Who could concentrate on line dancing when Becky started moving those hips?  Just the chance to watch Becky strut around was worth the price of admission.  As for my own dancing, Becky never said a word, but I saw her nod approval in my direction several times each class.  I lived for those nods.

Becky was not particularly approachable.  Not that she was mean or stuck-up or anything like that, but Becky was not one to let her hair down.  She always remained firmly in charge of her class and maintained a professional demeanor.  Nothing wrong with that, but her matter of fact style left me with no obvious openings to speak to her.  She kept her dance teacher mask on at all times and gave me no encouragement to cross the line from 'student' to 'friend'.  I did not have a clue how to bridge the gap other than simply approach her before or after class.  Unfortunately, that was out of the question.  I was still in mourning for Katie and had not an ounce of courage. 

As always, my ever-present Phobia prevented me from approaching any attractive woman unless she made the first move.  Repeating the same mistake I had made with Katie, I was too terrified to flirt or ask Becky out without any prior encouragement.  Some men might have the guts to approach a woman of Becky's caliber without fear of rejection, but that wouldn't be me.  I kept hoping some situation would pop up to allow me to break past the student-teacher barrier.  I was dying to see what Becky was like behind the teacher's mask, but I never once dared show Becky I was interested in her. 

It aggravated me no end to see myself repeating the same mistake with Becky as with Katie.  But then one day something unusual happened.  Becky and I shared a fascinating moment together. 

During class the previous week, Becky mentioned she had been a cheerleader in college and how she was usually the one they threw up high in the air.  The following week, before class started, two students, a man and a woman, approached Becky to ask if she knew anything about dance acrobatics.  The man explained that they were getting married soon and wanted to do something spectacular at the end of their wedding dance.  Perhaps Becky knew something about a certain move from her days as a cheerleader. 

Becky said she would help if she could.  While I watched from afar with curiosity, Becky asked what the man had in mind.  This guy knew exactly what move he wanted, but he had no idea how to make it work properly.  Becky asked the man to demonstrate.

So this guy and his fiancée got into position.  They didn't have a clue what they were doing, but Becky saw enough to figure out what they were after.  Becky called it Sidecars.  Becky said she knew Sidecars from her cheerleader days.  Sidecars had four stages.  First the woman clasped her hands behind the man's neck while the man put his hands on her hip bones. 


Part One started with the man swinging the woman up from the floor into the air in front of him.  At the highest point, the woman twisted her body to land against his left hip on her way down.

Part Two had the man swinging the woman back up in the air to allow her space to twist her hips again to land on the man's right hip.

Part Three sent the woman back up to a high point in the air in front of the man.  At the high point, the woman spread her legs and came down to straddle the man with her legs on either side of his waist. 

Part Four was called the Jackknife.  From the Straddle, the man swung the girl up to the ceiling. 

If they did the move poorly, the man could simply let the woman came back down and the move would be over.  However, if they nailed the move, she could come to a brief stop.  The woman would be upside down facing the floor with her toes pointed straight up in the air.  She would be balanced upside down with her cheek pressed against the man's face.

The danger of course is that woman would not stop at that balance position, but rather potentially sail past the balance point and fall to the floor on the other side of the man.  This was a very risky move and Becky was well aware of the danger.  Without warning, Becky abruptly turned and looked at me.


"Rick, I want you to try this move with me.  Let me show you how it works."

I was shocked.  This was the first time she had spoken to me in two months.  Nor did she give me much choice.  Becky didn't ask, she just told me to participate.  I said I was game to try, so Becky gave me 5 minutes of coaching.  She decided I was ready, but just before we began, she hesitated.  Becky took a step back and looked me right in the eye.

"Rick, you will not drop me.  But if you do drop me and I somehow survive, you need to run.  Run very fast.  Because if I catch you, I will kill you.  Do not... repeat... do not drop me!  Do you understand??"

As Becky stared straight into my eyes, I promised I would not drop her.  That said, I thought she was pretty brave putting her life in the hands of a complete stranger. 


Without further discussion, Becky grabbed my neck with both hands while I put my hands on her hip bones.  As she jumped into the air, I pushed her hips as high as I could.  Once her hips were at eye level to my face, we began the progressions.  In mid-air Becky twisted her body to my left, I brought her down, then up again and over to my right hip.  Now it was time for the Straddle.  I swung Becky high into the air.  Since Becky was very light, I had no trouble handling her.  Becky hit the high point and spread her legs to allow to straddle my waist on the way down. 

That is when something unusual happened.  I threw Becky high in the air one more time.  She kept going up and up.  When she was directly above my head, Becky swung her legs and hit the dramatic Jackknife balance point with her face down and toes pointed up to the ceiling.  Since Becky was under control, I held her still for a moment.   One chimpanzee, two chimpanzee, three chimpanzee... after several seconds of pause to display her skill, I brought Becky safely back to earth.  Becky landed perfectly and bounced up triumphantly. 

The onlookers were amazed.  They rewarded us with huge applause.  I almost applauded as well.  I was astonished at our success.  Becky and I had executed this complicated, quite dangerous move to perfection on our very first try.  Not bad considering I had never even seen this move before. 

Most of the credit belonged to Becky.  Becky knew exactly what she was doing.  She had a technique using her arms on my neck which made her body very easy to control.  Even though I was the one lifting her, it felt like Becky did all the work as she used her powerful arms against my neck to maneuver her body.  I could not believe her athletic ability.  This woman could really fly.  Only a great athlete could have pulled off that trick like Becky did.  Becky instantly joined Rachel in my mind as a fellow Olympian.

When I put her down, Becky stared at me with a new appreciation.  Not only was Becky happy to be safe, I could see she was impressed.  First Becky smiled, but then her expression changed.  "How did you know to hit that Jackknife position?  I didn't show that to you because it is too dangerous."

"You are light a feather, Becky.  When I swung you up, I suddenly felt you balance yourself above me.  Your body was still and under control, so I saw no reason to rush bringing you down."

Becky nodded thoughtfully.  "I had no idea you were that strong, Rick.  I didn't expect to hit that pose up top, but you threw me so high I decided to stick it.  You are very good at this."


I was flush with excitement.  I could not believe Becky had trusted me to perform this very dangerous move.  Let me add it had been quite a treat to have this voluptuous woman in my arms.  I could not believe what an amazing body Becky had!  I smiled just thinking about it.  I would certainly love to have the chance to put my hands on that incredible body again some time.  Nor did I feel any guilt over my impure thoughts.  Hey, I earned the right!  It crossed my mind that partner dancing did have its advantages.

I noticed Becky kept looking at me longer than necessary.  She said nothing, but I got the feeling she was sizing me up.  Maybe she was just as surprised as I was at how well we had just clicked.  Would we click in other ways? 

Or maybe she was waiting for me to say something.  A woman who looked like Becky did not need to make the first move.  Was her lingering gaze a secret encouragement?   If so, I didn't have that kind of courage.  I was terrified of making the first move.  If she had just said a single word, anything, I would have acted on my crush and my life might have taken a very different path.  But just as I was trying to think of something to say, the window of opportunity closed.

Without warning, Becky put her dance teacher mask back on.  She abruptly turned her attention back to the dance couple.  The moment was lost.  A wave of futility overcame me.  In a manner identical to Katie, I had developed a case of cold feet.  I was ashamed of myself for not taking advantage of the situation.  I had been praying for an opening, the Universe had granted my wish, and I had impressed the girl with my athletic ability.  But at the critical moment, I had blown my big chance.  The shame I felt was powerful.

Beset by my latest surge of self-loathing, I disappeared to the back of the class.  When no one was looking, I turned and walked out of the room so I could begin hating myself some more.  Becky had picked me for this difficult move without hesitation.  That indicated that she had her eye on me the entire time.  How much more encouragement did I need? 

I returned the next week, but Becky never said a word.  I was invisible again.  Did I ever ask Becky out?  Are you kidding?  Hell, no.  I wouldn't dream of asking a woman out that I might develop feelings for.  Since Becky was perfect for me, that meant she was automatically out of my league. 

Here is what irritated me the most.  I had now been dancing virtually non-stop for two solid years.  I imagine there was at most a handful of heterosexual men in the city who could dance to Disco music as well as I could.  The dance floor was meant to be my Stage, a place where I could impress a woman.  So why did I panic when the perfect opportunity came along? 

Here was a woman I wanted to impress.  Becky loved to dance.  What was I waiting for?  On the day we performed Sidecars, if I had the courage to stick around, I could have gone up to her after class and started a conversation about acrobatics.  If she frowned, I could have taken the hint.  If she smiled, I could have made a suggestion we practice acrobatics or go Disco dancing together. 

All I needed was just a sliver of courage and imagination.  If I had a brain... which I didn't... I could teasingly suggest I was just the kind of guy who could throw her into orbit on the dance floor.  Of course Becky was a better dancer than I was, but so what?  I didn't have to be better than her, I just had to good enough to hold my on.  At this point, I was certainly good enough to hang with Becky on the dance floor.  That I could do.  I was probably a better dancer than any guy Becky knew, I am sure of it. 

For crying out loud, I had invested two years in dancing just so I could impress a woman like Becky.  Who knows what would have developed from there?  We had something in common, so why didn't I take advantage of it with Becky? 

My cowardice made me sick.  Like any other guy, I wanted to date the prettiest girls, but I was terrified of having a pretty girl turn me down.  Even worse, I was afraid of competition.  The memory of losing Emily, Vanessa, Rachel, and Katie to other men burned holes in my psyche.  I assumed that Becky was dating some super-jock professional football player, so what chance did I have?  As usual, I gave up without even trying.

If Becky had given me any encouragement... which I believe she was considering in that one brief instant when our eyes locked... maybe I would have screwed up the courage to say something.  However, a special woman like Becky... and Katie for that matter... did not need to make the first move, did she?  That was the man's job.  Everyone knew that, even me. 

Bottom line, Becky was just another one of my many lost causes.  Gaye's words rung in my mind, "I have never met anyone with more talent but less confidence in my life."




It was now January 1976.

When Becky's second class ended in December, she decided not to teach for while.  During my four months with Becky, my interest in becoming a better dance had been renewed.  I looked around for another dance class to continue my progress.  I noticed a January Disco line dance course in a new adult education program titled St. Thomas Courses a la Carte.  Oddly enough, the words in the description were almost identical to Becky's class.

I did not know it at the time, but this was not a coincidence.  Behind the scenes, Ted Weisgal from the Sundry School had left in a huff to take a new job at Courses a la Carte.  Ted knew from experience that Becky's Disco Line Dance class had been a good money-maker, so he called a nearby dance studio named Stevens of Hollywood in search of a new instructor. 

The University of St. Thomas was located in the Montrose area just a few blocks from my apartment.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to walk to my next dance class?   So I registered.  When I got my receipt in the mail, I noticed the location had been switched from the St. Thomas campus to a dance studio called Stevens of Hollywood.  Once I realized this place was only a mile further away, I decided to take the class anyway.  Close enough.


This particular dance class was a serious disappointment.   I took one look at Roberta and doubted I was going to learn much.  At age 40, Roberta did not look the part of a dance teacher.  She was a matronly woman who wore a preposterous belt 5 inches tall to disguise her thick waist. 

They say don't judge a book by its cover, but my initial hunch was spot on.  The poor woman had probably never been to a Disco in her life.  She was not much of a dancer.  Furthermore, due to four months of Becky's classes, I was in the odd position of knowing more line dances than Roberta did.  Bored out of my mind, I am ashamed to say I did something very disrespectful.  There was a pretty girl standing next to me who complimented me on how well I danced the first two line dances.  Given this opening, perhaps I could impress her.  After all, she was so pretty, how could I resist?  

In a low whisper, I said, "I know a really nifty line dance.  Would you like to see it?"

Obviously the young lady was just as bored as I was because she nodded yes.  We moved to a far corner of the room.  I kept my voice down and tried to be inconspicuous, but Roberta must have spotted us.  To my surprise, Roberta came over to me and tapped me on my back.  I jumped out of my skin because I didn't see her coming.  Startled, I assumed I was in for a major scolding, but I was wrong. 

Roberta commented, "I like that dance you are doing.  Why don't you come show it to the rest of the class?"

I was hugely embarrassed.  I had not realized Roberta had been watching.  Furthermore, I couldn't believe how forgiving she had been in response to my rude behavior.  Ashamed of myself, I did what she asked and began teaching Becky's favorite line dance to the class. 

One would think Roberta had put me on the spot.  In fact, maybe that was her intention.  But I was unfazed.  Without any preparation, I broke down the steps in a logical order.  The students caught on quickly and seemed to appreciate my step-by-step explanation.  For those who got stuck, I had no trouble explaining away any confusion.  All in all, I made a very effective presentation.  After I finished, Roberta played some music and we all danced. 

Afterwards, I stepped back into the ranks and behaved myself for the rest of the hour.  Several students whispered they really liked my line dance and thanked me.  I beamed at the compliment.  The odd thing is that I had never taught a line dance in my life.  Noting how naturally this had come to me, I realized I had a knack for explaining line dances.  Interesting. 

During the remainder of the class, I mulled over Roberta's peculiar request.  Why would an instructor hand control of her class to an unknown, untested student?  I was not sure what Roberta's motivation was.  Maybe Roberta thought I would embarrass myself.  If so, she guessed wrong.  The other possibility is that Roberta wanted to learn something new, but that seemed unlikely.  I was at a loss to understand her motive.

At the end of class, an imposing couple strode out onto the dance floor.  The man introduced himself as Lance Stevens and said he was the owner of the studio.  Stevens was a husky guy, 5' 10", age 50.  He was clean-shaven with a thick mane of white hair styled in a giant puffed-up pompadour.  Stevens was a good-looking guy, but he was a gruff man who exuded arrogance.  His demeanor suggested that he was better than anyone else.  I had a feeling Stevens would get along with the River Oaks Seven just fine. 


His wife Jillian, 36, was a fetching black-haired woman who was nearly as tall as her husband.   With long jet black hair and an amazing hourglass figure, Jillian was a dead ringer for Elvira, the campy Mistress of the Dark, in both face and figure.  Jillian was quite a beauty, but her perpetual scowl hinted at unhappiness.

Jillian was wearing all black with a short skirt and a form-fitting leotard top.  With her teased-up black hair and her husband's puffed-up pompadour, together they formed a striking couple with their contrasting black and white hair.

Unfortunately, there was something ominous about the woman.  Unable or unwilling to smile, Jillian seemed angry about something.  Feeling a mixture of lust and fear, I could not take my eyes off Jillian.  The woman was mesmerizing to behold. 


Stevens said he and Jillian would perform a partner dance known as the Whip.  I gathered Stevens was attempting to drum up interest for his upcoming Whip class starting next week.  The Whip turned out to be a sexy partner dance meant to be used to Blues music.  Dancing to a song called Brick House, I took note of the lyrics...

She's a brick house, she's mighty mighty
The lady's stacked and that's the fact!!

The Whip featured a woman's hip motion that was sinuous and provocative.  Seeing this good-looking move her incredible body in such a highly suggestive way was disconcerting.  I could see why Stevens had chosen this particular song... Jillian was stacked all right.  Too bad she didn't know how to smile.

I was very interested in the Whip.  This was much different than Ballroom dancing.  I had never seen any kind of partner dancing like this before.  The Whip looked complicated, but it was eye-catching, especially when a woman built like Jillian performed it. 

As for Roberta, I did not return to her class.  Besides my embarrassment over my rude behavior, I doubted there was anything to learn I didn't already know.  However I did not forget the Whip demonstration.  I wasn't ready to learn partner dancing at the moment, but I filed the demonstration away just in case I changed my mind. 


I thought this class had been a total waste of my time.  However, hindsight would prove me wrong.  This visit would prove fateful for two reasons.  First, my success teaching that line dance in Roberta's class is where I first got the idea that I might teach a line dance class someday.  Second, the Whip demonstration would also prove to be significant.

How far out of the ordinary was Roberta's request for me to take over her class and teach my line dance?  I didn't really give it much thought at the time.  My overriding concern was my disgust over Roberta's mediocre teaching.  However, much further down the road,  I was able to look back and see just how critical this visit had been.  

In my career, I would teach for over 40 years.  Not once... repeat, not once... did I ever consider asking a student to come forward and teach a move in my place.  I wouldn't dream of asking a complete stranger to take over my class.  Would a professor ask some student to come forward and speak to the class?  Of course not.  Would a coach ask a new player to come forward and explain how to execute a fast break in basketball?  Of course not.  The idea of handing control to an unknown person was so ridiculous, it bordered upon stupidity.  In fact, it was so absurd that maybe... just maybe... this had been a case of 'Cosmic Stupidity'. 

It is my contention that during certain 'Fated Events', a person can have their common sense temporarily removed. 

"What was I thinking?  I must have been out of my mind to do that!"

The concept of Cosmic Stupidity had not become part of my outlook yet.  However, future events would cause me to look back on my life and identify events such as Roberta's strange request as potential examples.  For this reason, Roberta's request goes on my List as Supernatural event #27 with a one-star rating.  I am not saying her curious behavior was truly supernatural.  What I am saying is Roberta's request was so over the line that it deserves to be considered as a possible hidden intervention. 




Three months had passed since I gave up on Roberta's class.  Despite several phone calls to different dance studios, try as I might, I could not find another Disco dance class.  I figured I had reached the end of the line.

One day in April 1976, I saw a jazz dance company perform on stage at a Houston outdoor festival.  The dancers were teenage girls who moved like seasoned pros.  Once I noticed how similar Jazz Dancing was to Disco Dancing, I was instantly hooked.  I wanted to learn to move like that, so I asked one of the pretty dancers where she had learned to dance.

The young lady said this was the Houston Jazz Ballet Company.  She added they were taught by a lady named Patsy Swayze.

I liked how this jazz dancing looked.  I imagined if I could learn to jazz dance, it would probably help me become a better Freestyle Disco dancer.  On the spot, I decided to take a jazz class.

I called the studio the next day.  Patsy herself answered the phone.  Patsy explained that in addition to classes for her dance company, she also taught jazz classes for adults.  That was what I wanted to hear.  Sign me up.

So I began taking classes at the Houston Jazz Ballet Center.  

They say when the pupil is ready, the master will appear.  Patsy Swayze would become the teacher to put the finishing touch on my Freestyle dancing.  I took lessons from Patsy for an entire year. 

Patsy's instruction was wonderful.  I loved the way she taught.  She was full of enthusiasm and encouragement.  I remember the first piece of advice she ever gave me - 'Rick, suck in your tummy when you dance!

Apparently I had a tendency to slouch when I danced.  Patsy's suggestion alerted me to the problem.  From that point on, I made sure to be more conscious of my posture.  This gave me my first clue why Patsy was considered a master.  Patsy knew how to help people improve and how to look their best when they danced.


Patsy took a shine to me right from the startI didn't pick up these jazz moves very fast, but I refused to give up.  I later learned Patsy admired my stubborn work ethic.  Like many great teachers, her heart went out to the ones like me who might not have the most talent, but tried hard anyway.  She got a kick out of my persistence in face of constant frustration.

Although Jazz dancing was considerably tougher than Disco line dances, I enjoyed myself.  It was challenging, but I liked what I was learning.  The tricky footwork was a definite boon to my Freestyle dancing.  I learned all sorts of clever footwork combinations.  Patsy taught me how to move my body as well as my feet, an element completely missing in Line Dancing.  I could see the improvement.

Considering I admired Patsy so much, I began to nurse a desire to join her dance company.  One problem was my age.  At 26, I was considerably older than the high school girls who formed the bulk of her company.  In addition I could see my skill level was at least three cuts below the level of the two men who were on the team.  However, they obviously needed more men.  I imagined my shoulders would come in handy for lifting those tiny girls high into the air like I had once lifted Becky.  How much did I need to improve to join them?  I decided to find out.

Sensing a growing rapport with Patsy, one day I came early to her dance studio.  Patsy was in her office.  Noting she didn't seem busy, I asked her if she would like to go get some coffee.  There was a coffee shop a couple doors down in the same strip center.  Patsy was surprised, but to my delight, she agreed to go with me.  I was tickled pink at Patsy's broad smile.

"What a great idea!  No one ever takes me to coffee, Rick.  Maybe I won't pick on you as much tonight.  On second thought, maybe I will pick on you extra.  Coffee makes me feisty!"

We really hit it off over coffee.  Over the next year, coffee became a bi-monthly tradition for us.  That was how I got to know Patsy.  In my job as a social worker, I had the freedom to set my own schedule to make home visits.  On the day I had jazz class, I would deliberately finish a home visit around 4:30 pm.  Rather than head back to the office, I would drive directly over to Patsy's studio instead.  I would drop in at 5 pm and ask Patsy if she wanted to have coffee.  Since her Introductory Adult Jazz class started at 6 pm on Friday evening, this gave us 45 minutes to talk.

Patsy always had a smile for me.  She began to look forward to my visits.  It was fun to take a break before the long evening of classes.  One afternoon Patsy surprised me by saying I had an uncanny way of reminding her of her son.  Patrick Swayze was not yet a household name, so I had no idea who Patsy was talking about.

Patsy said I could be Patrick's brother.  We had the same height, same build and we were about the same age.  Apparently we both had the same smart-ass personality as well.  I asked her to tell me about him. 

Patsy said that Patrick had grown up in her dance studio.  Patrick had been her student from the moment he could walk.  I asked Patsy why I hadn't met Patrick yet.  With a wistful smile, Patsy replied, "Oh, Patrick is off seeking his fortune.  Patrick is in New York performing in Grease on Broadway right now."


I had never heard of Grease.  In fact, I knew nothing about Broadway.  So I smiled and naively commented, "Boy, that must really make you proud, Patsy.  What role does he play?  Is Patrick one of the backup dancers?"

Patsy was incredulous at my ignorance.

"Hell no!!  Where have you been?  Patrick has the lead!  He is already a star on Broadway and who knows what might come next!"

From that point on, I made sure to ask Patsy for more details about her famous son.  It was a sure way to get her talking.  One day, Patsy exclaimed, "You really do remind me of Patrick.  You can be so sarcastic sometimes.  Patrick is the exact same way!  Patrick says some really wicked things."

I grinned.  "Gosh, Patsy, if I am so similar to Patrick, does my dancing remind you of him too?"

Now Patsy grinned. "Oh, tough one, uh, probably not."  We both laughed.  I really liked Patsy and didn't mind letting her tease me.  In a manner similar to Gaye, my therapist, she was Mom, teacher and friend all rolled into one.

I am sorry to say I never had the chance to meet Patrick.  However, I learned quite a bit about Patrick from listening to Patsy describe him.  Patrick was nicknamed 'Buddy' or 'Little Buddy' after Big Buddy, his father.

I had no idea what Patrick looked like, so one day I asked.  Patsy's eyes lit up.  Swelling with pride, Patsy revealed how big and handsome her son was.  Patsy was quick to say that Patrick was a serious high school heart throb.  Patsy called Patrick her 'Big Hunk'She said enrollment in her dance company tripled just from all the teenage girls who wanted to get near him. 

Indeed, one of the girls Patsy taught was Lisa Niemi, the woman Patrick would later marry.  Patrick met Lisa in his mother's dance company.


One day I got nosy and asked if Patrick dated much considering how well Patsy kept the hen house stocked. 

Patsy grinned, "Hell, no, he sure wanted to, but I kept him too busy!"

During high school, Patrick kept a busy schedule indeed.  Patsy made sure to schedule her dance company rehearsals around his football practice or his track practice.  Patrick went to Waltrip High School just a few blocks down the street from Patsy’s studio.  Every afternoon, Patrick would finish a strenuous two hour football practice, then race over to his mother's dance studio.  Then he would practice dance for two more hours deep into the evening.  Then he would do his homework. 

"The poor boy was surrounded by all those cute girls wearing their crush on their sleeves, but he was too tired to do anything about it.  Even if he found the energy, where would he find the time?  It drove him nuts!"

Patsy added that she made sure her practices were grueling

"I would yell at him if I caught him slacking off.  I taught serious technique and expected Patrick to pay attention!"

Patsy said she saved her strongest criticism for him.  Patsy expected Patrick had a future career in dance ahead of him, so she held her son to the highest standard.  Then with a wistful smile she said she carried a secret guilt for being so hard on her son. 

"In some ways, it broke my heart to be fussing at him all the time.  Patrick wanted so hard to please me and he worked so hard.  But I was afraid if I showed my soft side, he would ease up.  It wasn't easy being taskmaster to my own son."

I had a question. "Patsy, you say you yelled at Patrick and criticized him all the time.  You never yell at me or anyone else for that matter.  I have never seen that side of you before."

Patsy nodded. 

"Consider yourself fortunate, Rick.  But no, you're right.  As a teacher, I have a soft side and I have a mean side.  For most of my students, all I ask is that they try hard.  If they do that, then I give them praise. 

However, for my dance company, I have a much different problem.  Some of those kids are so good they could be professional dancers if they choose to.  The problem is that they know they are good.  It's my job to keep them hungry.  The moment they think I am satisfied with them, those little monsters slack off.  I cannot be nice to them or they will eat me alive.

With this group, I have to criticize them, insult them, intimidate them.  That's the only way they are going to get any better.  I feel like a lion tamer.  It's crack the whip or lose control.  No matter how much they snarl about how hard I work them, I have to snarl back at them.  I have a saying, 'From the best, demand the best, expect the best, don't settle for less.'"

As for me, Patsy never once chewed me out.  Never.  I was the type who thrived on encouragement, not criticism, and Patsy sensed this.  But when it came to her talented son, Patsy's choleric personality was in full display.  Patsy made sure to drive him to be the best

Patsy confided in me that Patrick was by far the best male dancer she had ever seen.  She considered it a gift to be given such a talented son.  Once she saw the kind of talent Patrick had, Patsy dreamed that Patrick would become a professional dancerPatsy was intent on giving him the kind of training that would prepare him for the real world of stage and screen.  

Patsy never lost sight of that goal.  She said there was a part of her that wanted very much to coddle her son, but decided it would be a mistake.  She believed it was her responsibility to make sure her son stayed humble.  Patsy admitted she would sometimes chew him out in front of everyone.  To her delight, Patrick always accepted the criticism in stride.  With Patrick, it was always “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am.”  

"Of all the reasons I am proud of Patrick, I think the fact that he never lashed back impresses me the most.  Patrick was hard-headed in many ways, but he always showed respect for me in dance class.  I love him so much for that."

Patsy smiled broadly as she shared that story with me.  I could see how proud she was of her talented son.  Patsy added one more thing. She said her son's attitude was the real key to his success.  His work ethic was what had landed him this huge role on Broadway.  At the time, Patsy had no idea of the eventual fame that would come to Patrick.  However, when Patrick did achieve his worldwide fame, I knew better than anyone that his mother was responsible for giving him the greatest foundation in life a son could ask for. 

One day over coffee Patsy told me about the time she nearly lost her mind.  Patsy prefaced her story by saying said Patrick was a terrific athlete.  He was a gifted broad jumper and a heck of a football player who played running back.  Patsy said for years she had forbidden Patrick to play football.  Considering the time and effort Patsy had expended preparing Patrick for his dance career, she worried that Patrick would get hurt playing football.  On the other hand, Patrick was all-boy, lean and rugged.  He wanted to play football in the worst possible way.  She and Patrick had some serious arguments over the issue.  

Eventually Patsy relented, especially since her husband sided with Patrick, but she wasn't happy about it.  Patsy was sure she would rue the day she gave in.  Unfortunately, her premonition was proven correct.  Patrick was well on his way to becoming an all-state running back when he got badly hurt.  Patsy was at the game when Patrick landed awkwardly after a tackle.  His cleats caught in the grass and his knee twisted badly.  Patsy said she saw it happen and knew her son was badly hurt even before Patrick did.  She could tell by the way his knee bent that he was in trouble.

Patsy screamed bloody murder.  Everyone in the stands thought she had lost her mind.  The people nearby were terrified as Patsy wailed like a banshee.  Then Patrick began to scream bloody murder as well and everyone knew what Patsy had reacted to.  Patsy was beside herself.  She rushed to the field and had to be restrained by one of the coaches as her crippled son writhed on the grass.  As she feared, this was very serious injury.

I watched silently as Patsy began to cry.  In fact, she would cry every time she spoke of this story.  Patsy had been training this young man since he was a child for a dance career in the theater.  Now his entire future was in jeopardy… thanks to a stupid game like football no less!   Patsy would always roll her eyes.  Football, ugh!  I gathered Patsy wasn’t much of a football fan.


Patsy said Patrick worked hard to rehabilitate his knee, but in her opinion he would never again be the dancer he was before getting hurt.  She said Patrick always favored his bad knee. 

As a footnote, our conversations took place in 1976 and 1977.  Years later when I saw Dirty Dancing in 1987, I tried hard to spot what Patsy was talking about.  I was amazed at what a good dancer Patrick was.  He was so good that I had no idea what Patsy was referring to.  Bad knee?  No way.

I had to smile.  Maybe the injury was there, but no ordinary person like myself would ever draw a conclusion like "Patrick was never again the dancer he once was."   Obviously someone would have to be Patsy Swayze to see the defect.

A couple years later, I bought a video copy of Dirty Dancing.  Using the luxury of rewind and slow motion, this time I noticed something.  When Patrick was dancing with Jennifer Grey up on the stage in the final scene, he suddenly jumped off the stage.  The camera cut away and picked Patrick back up as he landed down among the audience.  Why had the camera cut away in mid-leap?

I became suspicious.  Why would the camera avoid capturing such a dramatic leap?  It shouldn't be difficult for an athletic guy like Swayze to jump from the stage unless...

.... unless of course his weak knee threatened to collapse upon full impact.  

Aha.    So that is what Patsy had been talking about.  Now I had my answer.


One thing Patsy demanded of her son was that he 'dance like a man'.  I don’t know how one would teach this, but there was certainly nothing effeminate about the way Patrick Swayze moved.  This was an era when any man who danced was assumed to be gay, but Patsy got her wish. 

Swayze had a virile style of dancing that captivated audiences in Dirty Dancing.  The women absolutely swooned at his masculinity.  I admit to being envious as all the women screamed throughout the movie.

When Patsy wasn’t talking about Patrick, she liked to talk about her dance school and her dance company.  She took great pride in her role as a teacher.  These were the days before HSPVA (High School for Performing and Visual Arts) was established here in Houston to train future dance professionals  Until HSPVA came along, Patsy had the finest reputation.  Practically every aspiring teenage dancer came to her for advanced training.  Patsy knew some of these kids hoped to be professional dancers someday.  Due to her sense of responsibility, she took her job very seriously.


Patsy liked to discuss issues related to running her dance studio.  Patsy said it wasn't easy to pay all the bills since jazz and ballet students were not in great abundance.  Plus she hated all the distractions that came from running a business.  If Patsy had her way, she would teach jazz all day long and never answer the phone.  Patsy definitely preferred being an artist over being a businesswoman.  Of course I had no way of knowing this, but Patsy was giving me ideas about running a dance studio that would one day come in very handy.

Owning a dance studio was a thought that had never once crossed my mind.  What I wanted to do was join Patsy's dance company.  With that in mind, I decided to nibble at the edges of this dream.  One day I brought up my frustration over my lack of natural dance ability.  I mentioned how slowly Freestyle had come to me and about my struggles with Ballroom dancing.  Now I was struggling with jazz dancing as well.  It was irritating to notice how quickly these moves came to the kids in her company.  I asked Patsy if she could guess why this stuff was so difficult for me.  In other words, why was I such a slow learner?

Patsy was supportive, but frank as well. 

"Of course I have noticed you have trouble picking up dance moves quickly.  My guess is that you are probably too analytical.  I have learned that some people take more time to acquire dance skills because they have to think about what they are doing all the time.  The kids in my company have an instinct that allows them to see a move and instantly copy it.  But not you.  People like you see a move, think about it, try it seven different ways, then eventually figure it out.  By that time, the dance prodigies are well onto the next move just as you are catching on.  Don't be so hard on yourself.  This doesn't mean you are inept, it just means that you don't have the gift.  You are a good dancer, Rick, just not as good as someone like my son.  Not everyone is meant to be a performing dancer just like not everyone is meant to be a brain surgeon.  Find your talent and develop it."

Patsy had just confirmed something I had come to believe myself.  When it came to dancing, my brain was always getting in the way.  I accepted that I was a slow learner and there wasn't much I could do to change that.  However, even a turtle makes progress.  Now that I had been dancing pretty much non-stop for two and a half years, I was becoming a fairly good dancer.  But was I good enough to join Patsy's company?

One day I finally worked up the courage to ask what I needed to do to improve enough to perform someday.  I hoped she might say I was good enough to join her dance company. 

"Patsy, how long would it take me to become a top-flight jazz dancer?"

Patsy smiled at me, then clasped my hand.

"Rick, you know I love you.  You try as hard as any student I have ever had.  But hard work can only take you so far.  To excel in my world, you have to bring natural ability to the party in addition to a work ethic.  Plus you got such a late start.  Most of the kids in my company started with me in grade school.  I encourage you to pursue your dance dreams, but I think you might want to reserve jazz performing for your next lifetime."

In other words, my learning curve was too slow to pursue the highest levels of the World of Dance.  I could not pick up moves fast enough to ever be a performing dancer.  Oh well.  Tell it like it is... that was Patsy for you.  I wasn't mad because I knew she was right.  In fact, she had let me down about as gracefully as it could be done.  Performing at dancing just wasn't in the cards. 

In a sense, Patsy had just done me a favor.  I had to know if there was any hope of joining her dance company.  Although she didn't enjoy disappointing me, by closing the door on that idea, Patsy had just freed me to look in another direction. 




Shortly after Patsy Swayze dashed my fondest hopes of joining her jazz company, I noticed a Jewish Community Center catalogue similar to the Sundry School and Courses a la Carte.  Curious, I took a peek.  Sure enough, there was a Disco Line Dance class starting in October.  On the spot I decided to take this class in addition to my jazz training with Patsy Swayze. 

Throughout the Lost Years, the JCC was my second home.  For nearly three years, I continued to play sports a minimum of three times a week, sometimes more depending on the ups and downs of my sporadic and largely unfulfilling social life.  Thanks to Gaye's ongoing advice, I was getting a little bit of my confidence back.  I was still a crippled human being in this Post-Katie era, but I noticed it took women a week or two longer than before to figure out what a mess I was.  I suppose this was a sign of progress.  

My new dance instructor was Rosalyn, 34.  I enjoyed her instruction, but was disappointed not to see any dating prospects in the class.  Oh well.  It had been a year now since my failure with Katie and I still wasn't over her.  Katie had ruined me in a way.  No other woman could compare to her.   With a sigh, I turned my attention back to the class.

It did not take long to realize Rosalyn's patterns weren't much different than Becky's.  I should have anticipated this.  Becky knew more line dances than anyone on the planet.  However, Rosalyn was competent and I was happy to find a new class, especially one here at my JCC home base. 

The following week I found myself going through the motions.  This line dancing wasn't doing much to improve my dance skills.  After six months of Jazz dancing with Patsy Swayze, I was light years ahead of the other students.  So I amused myself by watching how Rosalyn conducted her class.  Comparing Rosalyn's style to that of Becky, the Go-Go girl, and Roberta, the klutz who could barely dance much less teach, I analyzed what Rosalyn did that was most effective.

After a while, I became aware of what I was doing.  This class had resurrected my idea of teaching my own line dance class someday.  Nine months earlier, Roberta had asked me to take over her class and teach a line dance she saw me doing with another student.  After I nailed the cameo, the thought of someday teaching a line dance class of my own had lingered until it had been replaced by my dream to perform in Patsy's jazz company.  However, with that door closed, I realized my desire to teach a line dance class had returned.   

Rosalyn's Line Dance class seemed like a promising place to start.  I needed to make myself known to her and develop a rapport.  If I could make a connection, maybe she could help direct me to a place where I could have my own line dance class. 

Unfortunately, as always, I got cold feet about approaching Rosalyn.  I just assumed she would see right through me and laugh.  To my surprise, it was Rosalyn who made the first move.  Rosalyn stopped me at the end of our third week class. 

"Hi there, I noticed you are unusually good at these line dances.  I thought I would say hello and learn your name."

"Thank you, Rosalyn, I enjoy your class.  My name is Rick Archer."

"Please to meet you.  The reason I stopped you is because I was curious how you came to know the material so much better than anyone else."

"Oh, I have been taking line dance classes on and off for the past two years.  Since the Jewish Community Center is practically home to me, your class is a perfect fit."

"Where did you learn to dance so well?"

"A lady named Becky taught every line dance under the sun at the Sundry School.  I took her class for four months about this time a year ago.  When I saw your class, I thought I would take another line dance class for old times sake.  I like dancing to Disco music a lot "

"Okay, things are beginning to make sense.  I don't get many men in my class to begin with and I certainly never expected a man to be my best student.  That has definitely never happened before."

I laughed.  "I see your point.  I can't really explain why, but about three years ago I made a promise that I was going to learn to dance if it killed me.  Although I can honestly say it nearly did kill me, my dancing has definitely improved.  Thank you for the compliment.  What a nice birthday present."

"Oh, it's your birthday?  How old will you be?"

"I will turn 27 in four days."

"Uh oh, a Scorpio.  Dangerous.  Remind me to stay on your good side."

We both laughed.  I went home in a very good mood.  I had made a friend.


I liked Rosalyn, but not as a potential girlfriend.  Rosalyn was seven years older.  She related to me like an older sister.  In a way, the absence of fireworks worked in my favor.  Since I wasn't interested in Rosalyn like I had been with Becky, I wasn't afraid of her.  In other words, my Phobia was deactivated.  Excellent. 

Recalling how much I had learned from Patsy Swayze over coffee, I began to stay after dance class and ask Rosalyn questions.  I began with simple stuff like where she had learned these dances and how she got started.  One night in December, it was our last class of the year, so I stayed late to chat.  I wanted to know if Rosalyn taught dancing for a living.   Patsy had shown me it was possible to make a living as a dance instructor.  Now that teaching dance was on my mind, I wondered if Rosalyn did so as well.

Rosalyn laughed and said of course not.  Rosalyn said she would starve if she relied on dance classes.  No, she worked for the Welfare Department during the day.  I grinned.  No kidding?  Now that was a coincidence!  I told her I worked for the Welfare Department too, but in a different area.  We both got a good laugh out of that. 

We were immediately less formal with each other.  That was what I needed.  Our connection gave me the courage to finally take a risk.   So I swallowed hard and asked Rosalyn if we could go to lunch sometime and swap notes. 

Rosalyn said she would enjoy that. 


I met Rosalyn for lunch one afternoon soon after.  Christmas was right around the corner and the restaurant was aglow with lights and decorations.  We spent most of the time talking about working for the Welfare Department.  Then Rosalyn asked me some questions about my interest in dancing and I told her about Patsy Swayze.  Rosalyn got a kick out of that story.  She had never met Patsy, but she had heard of her.  No surprise there.  Patsy was the best known jazz teacher in the city.

Lunch had been a good idea.  We were acquaintances before, but now we were friends.  I noted with quiet satisfaction that Gaye's attempts to humanize me might finally be paying off.  This had been my first lunch date since Vanessa three years ago.  Gosh, had it really been that long??  Recalling Gaye's lecture about Cassie, I made sure to pay for Rosalyn's lunch.  Rosalyn demurred, but I insisted. 

"Don't give me a hard time, Rosalyn.  Lunch was my invitation."

Rosalyn smiled at me. "Thank you for lunch.  By the way, will I see you in dance class next year?"

"Of course.  I am having too much fun to quit now." 

"Good.  That makes me happy.  Have a nice Christmas!"

We hugged and parted.  I was very pleased when Rosalyn invited me to continue her class in January.  You never know.   Maybe, just maybe, my newly-formed dance dreams would pay off.  As 1976 drew to a close, I sensed a direction for the first time since I had been thrown out of graduate school two and a half years ago.  I had a strong hunch my Lost Years were finally behind me. 






   1976: October   Rosalyn's line dance class at JCC
   1976: September   Patsy Swayze explains I do not have enough talent to join her dance company
   1976: April   Patsy Swayze's jazz class
   1976: January   Lance Steven's Whip demonstration at Stevens of Hollywood, Roberta's request asking me to take over her class (27)
   1975: September   Gaye Brown-Burke at Vocational Guidance Service, Ted Weisgal first meeting, Disco Line Dance with Becky
   1975: August   Katie Disaster at Melody Lane
   1975: July   Sundry School Ballroom class, Katie
   1975: April   Phoney Baloney Dance Studio
   1975: March   Visit to Rice (25), Celeste, Manimal (26), Love Triangle Rupture, Second Office Club
   1975: February   Love Triangle develops problems, I decide to make a visit to Rice University
   1975: January   Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle, River Oaks Seven vanquished
   1974: December   Stranger in a Strange Land, Mark meets Sean
   1974: November   Rachel (23), Casa Mark, Mark's Dance Intervention (24)
   1974: October   Gloria, Mark
   1974: September   Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August   Magic Mirror (22), Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
   1974: July   Child Welfare job, Courtesan Book (19), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (20), Drag Queen Lynn, Rejection Phobia develops,
   Decision to Learn to Dance, River Oaks Seven, Dance Class from Hell (21), Parking Lot Inferno, The Dance Project begins
   1974: June   Couch Catatonia
   1974: May   Dismissed from graduate school
   1974: April   Debbie and the Cow Eyes (18), I teach a Psychology class
  1974: January    Therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason suggests I study Learned Helplessness, Phantom of the Opera
  1973: December    Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November    Love Affair with Vanessa begins, Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
  1973: October    I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (17)


   1959-1968   St. John's
   1968-1972   Johns Hopkins
   1972-1973   Interlude
   1973-1974   Colorado State
  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
  1959-1968   Nine year career at St. John's
  1959-1960: 4th Grade   Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me, Feelings of inferiority begin to develop, fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
  1960-1961: 5th Grade   Terry runs away for over 2 days
  1961-1962: 6th Grade   Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond 6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
  1962-1963: 7th Grade   Fred Incident - Illness at boy scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
  1963-1964: 8th Grade   Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, Caught stealing candy at Weingarten's , Discovery of chess book (03),  
  Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer basketball project
  1964-1965: 9th Grade   Acne Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
  1965-1966: 10th Grade   Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set of weights appears (06), Mr. Ocker hires me out of nowhere (07)
  1966-1967: 11th Grade   Weingarten's Resurrection, I buy a car
  1967-1968: 12th Grade   Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Little Mexico, Father's $400 insult, Cheating in Chemistry,
  Caught stealing gym clothes, Caught cheating in German (08), Jones Scholarship lost to Katina,
  Parking Lot Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne (09), Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins,
  Close Call Car Accident (10), Senior Prom Cheryl (11), Mr. Salls Blind Spot (12)
  1968-1969: Freshman at Hopkins   Emily at the Train Station (13), Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
  1969-1970: Sophomore at Hopkins   Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
  Antares-Astrology eye injury (14),  Séance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
  1970-1971: Junior at Hopkins   Camp Counselor Daydream (16), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1971-1972: Senior at Hopkins   Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
  1972-1973: Interlude   Mental Hospital, Arlene



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