elsa
Home Up

 

Chapter 77 is a very interesting story, Elsa.  I think you will enjoy it.

 



DESTINY


CHAPTER SEVENTY SEVEN: 
THE RITZ

Written by Rick Archer

 


SUBCHAPTER 342 -
THE RITZ

 

The Pistachio Club was Houston's most popular Disco in the early months of 1978.  However, it seemed like practically every month a new Disco club was opening somewhere. 

Annabelle's, Spats, 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.  The Ritz debuted in May.  Located just inside Loop 610 on Westheimer a mile east of the Galleria, this flashy club quickly became the new in-place. 

Many of 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, they had spent a small fortune to create the largest dance floor and the best sound system.

   

Of course I visited the Ritz.  I was curious to check it out.  In particular, I was impressed by the incredible light system.  The fancy 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 disorienting!  The 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, the 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 -
INVITATION

 

Shortly after the Ritz opened, Lance Stevens received an invitation to perform there.  Because Stevens and his wife Cliann were celebrated Whip dancers, they were definitely worthy of the honor. 

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 music. 

Nevertheless, Stevens was so good at the Whip that I was sure people would enjoy watching him and Cliann perform this unusual dance. 

Now Stevens dropped a bomb.  Stevens informed me I would be performing too.  I would be his opening act.  Instantly my 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 my life. 

 

"Get a dance partner and work up a routine to precede mine.  The Ritz is promoting this performance 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 have?"

"Two weeks."

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 something.

"Mr. Stevens, 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.  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 number.  I did not dare give Stevens an excuse to call.

 


SUBCHAPTER 344 -
PREDICAMENT

 

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 Partner Dance Crisis and Intermediate Level Crisis by the skin of my teeth.  Now here in June, I was facing my next test. 

If I succeeded, I would 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 assignment was 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. 

Lance 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. 

There wasn't 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 face? 

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 stage.

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 -
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF MY LIFE

 

Taking risks was all I ever did in 1978.  Saturday 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 dear life. 

I made 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.  I could 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, I 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.  

  First, 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 a 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. 

My first step was to ask my friend Suzy to be my partner.  Suzy had 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.

Unfortunately, Suzy had no more experience at performing than I did.  We 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 -
ACROBATICS

 
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.

I had known for some time I had a gift for Disco acrobatics.  Three years earlier, my line 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 acrobatic moves.  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 be dangerous.  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 both were.

 

To my relief, Suzy and I clicked on the acrobatics.  However, we weren't out of the woods yet, not 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 our progress.  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 in 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.  Now with 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.

As 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.  We rehearsed the routine any chance we could get, but things were looking grim. 

 


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 work.  Suzy wasn't the only one whose nerves were fried with fear.  My problem with stage fright was inescapable.  I 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 Suzy to 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, 'What 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.  All I 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. 

"Mr. Stevens, 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. 

On Wednesday night 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 -
GAME TIME

 

It was Thursday, June 22.  My personal D-Day had arrived.  On Thursday 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 bad screw-up, 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 inspiration. 

"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 stopped crying.

"That's a 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 difference!  This 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. 

Suddenly things 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 us 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 ask for. 

After five solid hours of nerve-wracking afternoon practice, we ran out of steam.  Our minds were fried. 

"Okay, Rick, I'm going to go home, try to eat something, and change into my costume.  I 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.

However, the 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, I 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 routine had 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 hitch for the very first time!  Then like magic we 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 floor.  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 air-conditioning.  There were brilliant spotlights beaming down on us.  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 Roman arena.  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 terrified.  We didn't stand a chance.  And that is when I remembered all my lucky breaks.  It would take another miracle. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 350 - DEBACLE OR TRIUMPH?

 

The music began.  To my surprise and relief, our routine began flawlessly.  Each move was executed with complete precision.  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! 

We smiled for the audience and they responded back.  From the darkness, they began to clap and cheer!  I was flush with excitement.  Maybe this will work after all.  Forty seconds into our 2 minute routine, I called out my first cue.  'Rollout to Flying Flip!'

Just as Suzy got into position, without any warning, the lights were turned off!   We were instantly plunged into darkness.

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.

This 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 performing?  

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 laughter stopped.  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 again.  I 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.

Since I 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 moment.

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 around, 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 dance performance.  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 disgraced. 

Lance Stevens and Cliann passed us on their way out to the floor.  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 Worry is counterproductive and that most of the stuff people worry about isn't going to happen anyway.  So why worry so much?  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 effort. 

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.

 
 


SUBCHAPTER 351
-
SUPERNATURAL EVENT 48

 


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 winning streak.   

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 to be. 

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 curious.

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

CHAPTER SEVENTY EIGHT JENNY 

 

015 030 045 060 075 090 105 120 135 150
INTRO CSU HUBRIS MOONDANCE CATASTROPHE TREACHERY COINCIDENCE DR. HILTON CHILDHOOD TERRY

001

002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 010
ABANDONMENT ST. JOHN'S FATE TWO MOTHERS INFERIORITY BASKETBALL MR. SALLS LEPROSY PAINT IT BLACK COMEBACK
011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 019 020
LOSING MY MIND LITTLE MEXICO COLLEGE FEARS SELF DESTRUCT ABYSS VISITOR M BALLANTYNE TWILIGHT ZONE PROPHECY FINISH LINE
021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 030
HEARTBREAK JOHNS HOPKINS BLIND SPOT SUSAN & WITCH MAGIC MYSTERY RIDERS STORM GOOD BAD LUCK LRNED HELPLESS CONFRONTATN COURTESAN
031 032 033 034 035 036 037 038 039 040
PHOBIA LOVE POTION RIVER OAKS 7 PROPOSITION KARMIC TEST REMATCH HELEN GLORIA MARK RACHEL
041 042 043 044 045 046 047 048 049 050
INTERVENTION STRANGER LOVE TRIANGLE MORLOCK MANIMAL CELESTE KATIE BLACK JACK WANDERER GODZILLA
051 052 053 054 055 056 057 058 059 060
PATSY SWAYZE ELENA YEAR OF CAT RUBAIYAT OPPORTUNITY SNF CROSSROAD MAGIC CARPET JET SET CLUB KINDNESS
061 062 063 064 065 066 067 068 069 070
TALE 2 CITIES BROTHER SISTER GEORGE MITCHELL PISTACHIO CLUB SCREAM IN NITE ERIC THE RITZ JENNY    
071 072 073 074 075 076 077 078    
                   
 
  TIMELINE
   1978: June  Crisis Four: The Ritz Disaster (48)
   1978: May  Crisis Three: My worst nightmare Eric appears,  Eric's Cosmic Stupidity (47)
   1978: April  Crisis Two:  Intermediate Partner Dance Ordeal, I begin work to create the Advanced Disco class, Scream in the Night
   1978: March  Crisis One:  Gary-Suzy-Sue Ann-Janie help me create the 'New Yorker' partner dance system (46)
   1978: February  Jet Set Club, Mrs. Ballantyne's Surprise visit to Stevens of Hollywood (44), Mr. Salls-Mrs. Ballantyne-Rick Archer Triangle (45)
   1978: January  Spotlight Effect (41), Incompetence Effect (42), Crossroad Synchronicity (43), Nicholas at Courses a la Carte
   1977: December  Saturday Night Fever debut, Robert Stigwood Synchronicity (40)
   1977: October  Opportunity Three: Disco Line Dance class at Stevens of Hollywood (39)
   1977: September  Opportunity Two: Disco Line Dance class at Memorial JCC
   1977: August  Graduation Night at Rubaiyat (38)
   1977: June  Opportunity One: Disco Line Dance class at the JCC
   1977: April  Bomb Scare class: substitute dance class in JCC parking lot (36), I write a line dance syllabus,  Rosalyn's Gift of summer dance class (37)
   1977: February  Dancing with Elena at the Rubaiyat
 

1977-1979: Magic Carpet Ride

 
   
   1976: December  Lunch with Rosalyn
   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: June  Godzilla plays volleyball
   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 (35)
   1975: September  Gaye Brown-Burke at Vocational Guidance Service (34), Ted Weisgal, Becky at Sundry School Line Dance Class
   1975: August  Katie Disaster at Melody Lane, Mark says goodbye (33)
   1975: July  Sundry School Ballroom class, Katie
   1975: April  Disco Dave ends his class, Phoney Baloney Dance Studio, Morlock Dominates Rice Volleyball
   1975: March  Lucky Break at Rice University (31), Manimal (32), Celeste, Second Office Club
   1975: February  River Oaks Seven vanquished (30)
   1975: January  Farmhouse, Mark's Love Triangle
  1974: December  Juicy and Lucy, Talk to Elena Project, Mark meets Sean, Stranger in a Strange Land
   1974: November  Rachel (28),  Casa Mark, Mark and Donna's Dance Intervention (29)
   1974: October  Gloria (27), Mark
   1974: September  Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August  Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
  1974: July  Courtesan 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 Mirror (26)
  1974: June  Couch Catatonia
 

1974-1976: The Lost Years

 
   
  1974: May  Dismissed from graduate school
  1974: April  I teach my experimental Psychology class
  1974: March  Debbie and the Cow Eyes Incident
  1974: February   Jason 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
  1973: November   Love Affair with Vanessa begins, showdown in Fujimoto's office, Vanessa makes one excuse after another
  1973: October   I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (20), butting heads with Fujimoto
 

1973-1974: Colorado State

 
   
  1972-1973: Interlude  Arlene, Mental Hospital, Letty and the Cooler incident
   
  1971-1972:
  Senior at Hopkins
 Disillusionment with the Magical Mystery Tour due to problems at Colvig Silver Camp the summer of 1971
  1970-1971:
  Junior at Hopkins
 Camp Counselor Daydream (19), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1969-1970:
  Sophomore at Hopkins
 Connie 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 (18)
  1968-1969:
  Freshman at Hopkins
 Emily at the Train Station (16), Sanctuary at Aunt Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
 

1968-1973: Johns Hopkins

 
   
   1967-1968: 12th Grade  Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Mom's Cosmic Stupidity regarding child support check (09), Little Mexico, Cheating in Chemistry
 Christmas 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,
 Mrs. Ballantyne 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)
   1966-1967: 11th Grade  New identity forms at Weingarten's, I buy a car
   1965-1966: 10th Grade  Locker Room fight, Set of weights appears (07), George Broyles is paralyzed, Second skin operation,
 Father denies third skin operation, Weingarten's job (08)
  1964-1965:  9th Grade  Profile of Mr. Salls, Acne Attack (05), Basketball strike on swollen face (06), First skin operation
   1963-1964: 8th Grade  Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, quit 8th Grade basketball team, Caught stealing at Weingarten's,  
 Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer Basketball Project, Discovery of chess book (04)
   1962-1963: 7th Grade  Katina 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
   1961-1962: 6th Grade  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
 

1959-1968: St. John's

 
    
   1955  Cut my eye out (01), Near Death experience with Stock Car (02)
   1949  Born in Philadelphia
 

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