Patsy Swayze... I make a friend.
- TED WEISGAL
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.
BECKY at the SUNDRY SCHOOL
When I arrived at my Sundry School Line Dance
I was very disappointed.
Katie was nowhere to be
However, there was a nice consolation prize awaiting me.
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.
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
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.
was 5' 5", blonde, very
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
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.
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
girls in class were better than me, but I blamed
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
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
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
student-teacher barrier. I was dying to see
what Becky was like behind the teacher's mask, but I never once dared
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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."
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??"
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
Without further discussion,
Becky grabbed my neck
with both hands while I put my hands on her hip bones.
jumped into the air, I pushed her hips as high
as I could. Once her hips were at eye
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.
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.
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,
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 instantly joined Rachel in my mind as a
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."
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."
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
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
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
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.
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
had blown my big chance. The shame I felt was
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?
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?
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.
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
on the dance floor. That I could do. I was probably a better dancer than any guy
knew, I am sure of it.
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
had something in common, so why
didn't I take advantage of it with Becky?
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."
ROBERTA at STEVENS OF HOLLYWOOD
It was now January 1976.
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
Courses a la Carte.
Oddly enough, the words in the description were almost identical to
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.
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
scolding, but I was wrong.
Roberta commented, "I like that
dance you are doing. Why don't you come show
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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...
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
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
As for Roberta, I
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
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.
was I thinking? I must have been out of my mind to do that!"
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
- PATSY SWAYZE
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 start.
I 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
"Boy, that must really make you proud, Patsy.
What role does he play? Is Patrick one of the
Patsy was incredulous at my ignorance.
Where have you been? Patrick has the lead!
He is already a star on Broadway and who knows what might come
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."
"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
Patrick was nicknamed 'Buddy' or
'Little Buddy' after Big Buddy, his
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
Patsy grinned, "Hell, no, he sure
wanted to, but I kept him too busy!"
During high school,
kept a busy schedule
Patsy made sure to schedule her dance company rehearsals around his
football practice or his track practice. Patrick went to
High School just a few blocks
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!"
added that she made sure her
practices were grueling.
at him if I caught him slacking off. I
taught serious technique and
expected Patrick to pay attention!"
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."
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.
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 dancer. Patsy was intent on giving him the kind of training that
would prepare him for the real world of stage and screen.
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
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
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
Patrick was well on his
way to becoming an all-state running back when he got
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.
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
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!
always roll her
eyes. Football, ugh! I gathered
a football fan.
Patsy said Patrick worked hard to
rehabilitate his knee, but in her opinion he
would never again
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
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."
someone would have to be Patsy Swayze to see the
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
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.
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.
knew some of these kids hoped to be professional dancers someday.
Due to her sense of responsibility,
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.
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?
supportive, but frank as well.
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
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
"Patsy, how long would it take me to become a
top-flight jazz dancer?"
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
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
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.
JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER
after Patsy Swayze dashed my fondest hopes of joining her jazz
I noticed a
Jewish Community Center catalogue similar to the
Sundry School and Courses a la Carte.
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.
nearly three years,
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.
instructor was Rosalyn, 34.
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
find a new class, especially one here at my JCC home base.
following week I
found myself going through the motions. This line dancing
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.
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
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
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
there, I noticed you are unusually good at these
line dances. I thought I would say hello and
learn your name."
Rosalyn, I enjoy your class. My name is Rick
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."
did you learn to dance so well?"
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 "
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
"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."
it's your birthday? How old will you be?"
"I will turn
27 in four days."
a Scorpio. Dangerous. Remind me to stay on your good
laughed. I went home in a very good mood. I
had made a friend.
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
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
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
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.
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
Rosalyn if we could go to lunch sometime and swap notes.
Rosalyn said she would enjoy that.
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
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 demurred, but I insisted.
me a hard time, Rosalyn. Lunch was my invitation."
smiled at me. "Thank you for lunch. By the
way, will I see you in dance class next year?"
I am having too much fun to quit now."
That makes me happy. Have a nice Christmas!"
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.
PART SIX: 1977 -
Rosalyn's line dance class at JCC
Patsy Swayze explains I do not have enough talent to join her dance
Patsy Swayze's jazz class
at Stevens of Hollywood, Roberta's request asking me to
take over her class (27)
Gaye Brown-Burke at
Vocational Guidance Service, Ted Weisgal first meeting, Disco Line Dance
Sundry School Ballroom class,
Phoney Baloney Dance
Visit to Rice (25),
Manimal (26), Love Triangle Rupture, Second Office Club
Love Triangle develops problems, I decide to make a visit to Rice
Love Triangle, River
Oaks Seven vanquished
Stranger in a Strange Land, Mark meets Sean
Rachel (23), Casa Mark, Mark's Dance Intervention (24)
Dilemma, The Prize
Magic Mirror (22),
Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
|| 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
Dismissed from graduate school
Debbie and the Cow Eyes (18), I teach a
Therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason suggests I study Learned Helplessness,
Phantom of the Opera
Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for
Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals
the truth about Vanessa
Love Affair with Vanessa begins,
Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (17)
Cut my eye out
(01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
Nine year career at St. John's
Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me,
inferiority begin to develop, fascination
with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
runs away for over 2 days
Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond
6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
Fred Incident - Illness at boy
scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
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
Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set
of weights appears (06), Mr. Ocker hires me out of nowhere (07)
Resurrection, I buy a car
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)
Freshman at Hopkins
Emily at the Train Station (13),
Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer
Sophomore at Hopkins
Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr.
Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
eye injury (14), Séance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
Junior at Hopkins
Camp Counselor Daydream (16),
Colvig Silver Camp
Senior at Hopkins
Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
Mental Hospital, Arlene