Magic Carpet Ride
Home Lightning Strikes Again






Written by Rick Archer 



Rick Archer's Note:

Magic Carpet Ride is a sequel to my first book, the Hidden Hand of God.

The Hidden Hand of God outlined how a series of 60 extremely unusual events led to my belief in the existence of God and Fate.  Covering a period which included high school, college, graduation school, and my 'Lost Years', the culmination of these events resulted in the start of my unlikely career as a dance teacher. 

Magic Carpet Ride picks up right where I left off.  In addition to sharing 40 subsequent events which led to the creation of my dance studio SSQQ, I explain why I believe I was given sizeable Divine help along the way.




A brief synopsis of the Hidden Hand of God will help refresh our memories plus give new Readers an idea of what happened in my previous book.

Born an only child in 1949, the major influence of my childhood were the nine years I spent St. John's, a private school located in Houston.  Considered the top academic school in Texas, St. John's turned out to be a mixed blessing.  Although I will always be grateful for my excellent education, spending nine years as the poor kid at a rich kid's school left me with a sense of inferiority that haunted me all the way to adulthood.  


My presence at St. John's was a complete fluke.  The constant arguing between my parents on their road to divorce turned me into an angry, acutely disturbed boy at age 9.  Due to my discipline problems and low marks in 4th grade of public school, my parents sent me to their psychiatrist to be evaluated.  His conclusion surprised both of them.  It turned out I was not as stupid as my father thought.  The psychiatrist recommended sending me to St. John's.  In his opinion, the academic challenge plus the strong discipline would bring out the best in me.  When my father balked at the expensive tuition, my mother made a devil's bargain.  My father could have the divorce he needed in order to marry his mistress.  However, in return he would send me to St. John's for 3 years.  Sad to say, the tuition was far above my father's pay grade as a salesman for electrical supplies.  His mistress was so bitter over the exorbitant tuition that she bullied my father into abandoning me the moment they were married.  When my father refused to keep paying after three years, I received a scholarship for the remaining six years.  As for my mother, she fell to pieces after the divorce.  Unable to hold a job or find a man, the unpaid bills, depression and loneliness left her on the verge of nervous breakdown many times throughout my childhood.  So I gained a school and lost a father and mother.  This forced me to pretty much raise myself.  I didn't do a very good job. 

Academically I did quite well at St. John's.  However, once my status as a scholarship student from a broken home became obvious, I became socially isolated for nine years.  Growing up as a lone wolf with limited social skills, I was doomed to pay a heavy price in graduate school.  Hoping to become a therapist, the problems of my past reared their ugly head.  Dr. Fujimoto, head of the Psychology Department at Colorado State University, decided my deplorable social skills and emotional problems were too serious for me to ever be of value as a therapist.  He threw me out after one year.  So much for the career I had hoped for.

Age 24, I returned to Houston locked in the worst depression of my life.  Lonely, friendless, I floundered badly.  Robbed of any courage to continue my education after my graduate school set-back, I got a job investigating child abuse and neglect.  Stuck at Rock Bottom, I believed if I could just find a girlfriend, maybe I could snap out of this inescapable depression.  Only one problem.  Due to a total loss of confidence, I could not even approach a girl my age, let alone talk to her.  Considering I had never picked up a girl in my life (we will get to that shortly), I would not even know where to begin.  My dilemma led to a lucky break.  Maybe there was a book out there that could suggest a simple way to approach a pretty girl.  Visiting a bookstore, I ran across a mysterious paperback called The Mistress Book.

The Mistress Book contained an interesting suggestion.  When it comes to approaching a girl a man does not know, the fastest known way to get her in his arms is ask her to dance.  The book added that it might help to learn to dance first.  Taking that advice to heart, I began dance lessons soon after.  Bad news.  I quickly discovered I could not dance a lick.  I was so atrocious that I should have quit.  However, that is when another mysterious thing took place.  My intuition was convinced that God had led me to that strange book on purpose.  For this reason, my intuition insisted 'dance lessons' would one day lead me to the light at the end of the tunnel.  For that reason, I made a promise to God that I would continue dance lessons until I became a very good dancer. 

This is a good time to explain that a lifetime of extremely unusual events had led to my firm belief in the existence of God.  I did not grow up in a religious environment.  Giving little thought to God, it was not until I had mystical experience in my Senior year of high school that I began a concerted effort to verify God's existence.  This spiritual journey was explained in great detail in my previous book.  That said, a belief in God will not be necessary to appreciate the twists and turns of the unusual story I am about to tell.  All you need to know is that I was already a firm believer in Divine Intervention when the Mistress Book came along. 

And so I made a firm vow to God that I would pursue dance lessons.  I realize this must sound very silly on the surface.  I mean, who would pin all their hopes on dance lessons to survive a life crisis?  However, given the sad state I was in, I was willing to grasp at even the smallest ray of hope.  If God thinks 'dance lessons' will save me from this awful fix I was in, then I am willing to try.  Putting things into perspective, it wasn't like God wanted me to jump off a cliff to prove my devotion.  We're talking 'dance lessons', big deal, six months max.  However, I had no idea what I just gotten myself into.  It would take me three years to learn to dance.  THREE YEARS!!  That alone should reveal what a mess I was.  But here is the crazy thing.  At the end of those three years, I was handed a surprise job as a line dance teacher at the exact same time Saturday Night Fever hit town.  The next thing I knew, I was an overnight success despite virtually no experience as a teacher.  What would explain this?  Not only was I in the 'Right Place at the Right Time' to take advantage of the sudden interest in dance lessons, my situation was made even more unusual by the fact that I was the ONLY DISCO TEACHER IN HOUSTON when the movie made its debut.  

I am not exaggerating.  For the entire month of January I had the entire city to myself!!!  Standing in the right place at the right time, by some bizarre quirk of Fate I found myself placed squarely at the Crossroad of this enormous social phenomenon sweeping across the nation.  As a result, practically overnight 250 students made their way to my 5 classes.  This, my friends, was the kind of head start that smacked of Divine Intervention.  It was impossible to overlook the connection between my 1974 Leap of Faith promise to learn to dance and the 1978 arrival of the movie that presented this profound opportunity.

One part of me was completely in awe at this development.  Was this lucky break the start of a possible dance career?  Or was it just an accident?  Maybe once Houston's other dance teachers caught the scent, they would put me at the back of the line where I belonged.  Nope.  That never happened.  Despite my status as an unknown rookie dance teacher, once I was given this lead, a series of subsequent lucky breaks allowed me to maintain my advantage.  Over the next two years, I would operate the largest Disco program in the entire city.  What were the odds?  A million to one sounds about right.  Why a million to one?  In a city with a population well over a million, I was the only person standing here at the Crossroad.   Now you know why I believe in Destiny.

So now it is time to begin.  But first a funny story.  I began writing Magic Carpet Ride at the end of my dance career in 2010.  I was making good progress when one morning my wife said something that hit me with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  As Marla and I took an exercise walk around the neighborhood, I mentioned the book was coming along pretty well.

Marla smiled.  "That's good to hear.  But I have a question.  Where did you start your book?"

"Oh, graduate school," I replied.  "The problems I experienced at Colorado State indirectly led to my dance career."

With a frown, Marla asked, "Why didn't you start with your childhood?"

Taken aback, I replied, "Because that would make my book too long.  No one would read it."

Marla stopped in her tracks.  Making eye contact for emphasis, she proceed to chew me out.

"Oh, Rick, you cannot start there!  No one is going to ever understand your story unless you tell them what happened to you when you were a kid.  If you want people to grasp the enormity of just how lost and confused you were, you have to start your story back in childhood.  Otherwise no one will understand why you were so screwed up when you started your dance career."

Stunned, I stammered, "What do you mean by that?"

"I mean that you were so unlikeable at that stage of your life that no one will want to read your story."

Ouch!!  That's Marla for you.  Blunt, direct, and... uh... as usual, correct.  As it turned out, Marla was not referring to the start of my dance career, but rather the miserable state I was in after being thrown out of graduate school.  Nevertheless, I saw her point.  I would need to to write two books, one to explain why I was such a mess, the other to explain how I overcame my rough start.  Although I had made progress in the four years since my failure in graduate school, I was still facing long odds here at the start of my dance career. 

Did I have a sterling reputation?  No.  No one had ever heard of me.

Did I work at a successful dance studio?  No.  The place was completely deserted until the movie came along.

Did the studio advertise like crazy?  No.  Not a cent.

Did my boss give me training?  No.  My boss despised Disco.  There was no one to explain the finer points to me.  I was completely on my own. 

Was I brilliant as a teacher?  No.  I was an inexperienced rookie.  I barely knew what I was doing.  Fortunately, one need not be a brain surgeon to explain line dancing.

Was I a great dancer?  Not really.  I was barely better than many of the students I taught.  Some were even better than me.

Given the uphill struggle facing me at the start of my dance career, how did I succeed in spite of all my handicaps? 




Saturday Night Fever was the movie that got America dancing again, but you would never know it from the frown on the face of my boss.  Lance Stevens was so inherently grouchy, he could not even smile for his portrait.  Stevens was an intense, serious guy.  His constant bitterness made no sense to me. As one Disco student after another rolled into his studio courtesy of the movie, one would imagine Stevens would have been thrilled. After all, this was the most business to come his way in ages.  No matter. Stevens just sniffed in disgust.  He despised Disco music and he didn't care much for the dancing either.  And he certainly did not care for me.  Stevens made his disdain obvious.

I never understood this man.  If it was me, I would be grateful for any opportunity that would help me stay in business.  Lance Stevens was just the opposite.  Lance Stevens was a Ballroom dance champion who won dancing competitions all over the United States.  He made it clear to anyone who would listen that Disco was beneath him. 

Lance Stevens was old enough to be my father.  When I met him, I was 28, he was 58.   Stevens was born in Oklahoma in 1919, but made his mark out in California by winning several 'Harvest Moon Ball' competitions.  I suppose he operated out of a studio located in Hollywood, California.  Hence the odd name of his studio, Stevens of Hollywood.

I do not know what brought Mr. Stevens from California to Houston.  I believe he opened his dance studio sometime in the mid-Sixties.  Although I disliked Stevens due to the way he treated me, I respected his accomplishments.   Mr. Stevens was a good teacher and an excellent performer.  My friend Dorothy Piazzos told me Stevens won five consecutive 'Teacher of the Year' awards in California.  She added Stevens once danced on the Ed Sullivan Show and shared a TV dance with Dinah Shore.  Besides his dancing, Stevens was a frequent extra in Western movies and did some professional singing as well.  Lance Stevens was a talented man. 

Unfortunately, despite his talents and accomplishment, Stevens was unhappy.  The term 'Grouchy Old Man' was invented for Lance Stevens.  Considering he led a life marked with so much success, I have no idea what turned him into such a bitter guy.  Truth be told, I have never met a more negative person in my life.  Stevens was gruff and hard to approach.  He wore a perpetual frown and was always complaining about something.  Stevens was unusually sarcastic.  Since I too am sarcastic, this should have been the start of a rapport.  Unfortunately, since much of his sarcasm was directed at me, we didn't exactly hit it off.  Stevens picked on me unmercifully.  


My relationship with Lance Stevens was rocky from the start.  In early October 1977, I showed up three weeks late to learn a dance called the Whip.  Stevens nearly bit my head off because he figured I would slow his class down.  He summoned a lady named Dorothy Piazzos to be my partner and told her to keep me up to speed.  Dorothy was surprised to see me pick up the footwork faster than normal.  Ordinarily I am a slow learner when it comes to learning a new dance, but for a change I did okay.  When Dorothy complimented me on my progress, I mentioned that I taught a Disco line dance class elsewhere.  Dorothy gave me an odd look, then excused herself for a moment.  As it turned out, the woman who taught a similar class at Stevens of Hollywood had just quit.  After Dorothy informed Stevens, he walked over and hired me on the spot.  Considering he asked no questions, the whole thing was very odd.  I later figured it out.  My gut told me Stevens hired me simply because he didn't have to lift a finger.   Since Disco lessons were hardly a source of profit at the time, why bother looking for someone with a stronger dance background?   Stevens would have hired a homeless man just to fill the position.  I just happened to come along at the right time.

As it turned out, my lucky break came at a bad time.  Disco was on its death bed.  Disco music had been around since 1974, but recently interest had been fading.  Noting the sharp decrease in sales, music experts predicted a new sound would replace Disco in the new year.  Based on the low energy in the small class I inherited, the enthusiasm for Disco was definitely missing.  I was down to 5 students in the last class held in mid-December.  Stevens met me at the door when the class ended.  Handing me my paycheck, Stevens said he doubted there would be a class in January.  "Don't call me, I'll call you."  Oddly enough, one day after I thought my dream of being a Disco teacher was over, Saturday Night Fever came to town to breathe new life into Disco.  Sure enough, in early January Stevens gave me a call.  However, I felt very insecure.  Since Stevens had hired me on a whim, I was well aware he could just as easily fire me on a whim. 

Following my dismissal from graduate school, Disco was just starting to catch on when I signed up for Disco Dave's Freestyle class in 1974.  I was not much of a dancer, so I stayed with Dave's class for a year.  Over the next two years I learned line dances at several other places.  I also learned useful Freestyle patterns from Patsy Swayze, Patrick's mother.   So let me put things into perspective.  When the deluge of Disco students appeared in January, I probably knew more line dances and Freestyle patterns than anyone else in Houston.  For that reason, I was qualified to teach Disco classes during the January-February honeymoon period. 

However, Lance Stevens judged me by different standards.  He was upset to learn I knew nothing about Ballroom dancing.  He had never heard of a dance instructor who lacked Ballroom training.  He also judged me lacking in the Whip, his pet dance.  My problem was that I had no one to practice with, so I had never made much progress.  Stevens was alarmed by my lack of knowledge about the finer points of dancing.  For example, he chewed me out for my failure to remind my students to never let their arms dangle when they dance.  In his opinion, even an idiot like me should know that much.  But his biggest complaint was my lack of grace.  Although I was a better dancer than most of my students, he judged me clumsy by the standards of a professional dance teacher. 

The straw that nearly broke the camel's back came in late January.  That was when Stevens made one brief stab to train me.  On Saturday, January 28, Stevens insisted I meet him at the studio for a private dance lesson.  Earlier in the week, Stevens had observed me teach one of my Disco line dance classes.  Later that evening, Stevens pulled me aside.  He said he had been watching me dance and decided it would be a good idea to begin a 'training program' for me.  I was all for it.  Anything to improve my dancing.  When we met that morning, Stevens began with Latin hip motion.

"Latin motion is used in Cha Cha, Salsa and Rumba.  It is important that any Disco dancer learn how to properly move their hips.  For that reason, I expect you to teach Latin motion in your class.  But first you require a strong knowledge of Latin motion in order to do a more professional job of teaching."

The funny thing is that I knew how to move my hips just fine.  Disco Dave had taught me Cuban hip motion three and a half years ago.  My problem with Stevens developed when I began to 'think about it.'  Latin motion requires a person to move their hips and slide their feet at the same time.  I struggled.  Always way too analytical for my own good, I tried to think about my feet and my hips as they moved.  When I thought about my hips, my feet stopped working.  When I thought about my feet, my hips stopped working.  I was so clumsy and mechanical that Stevens grew disgusted.  It was written all over his face.  Stevens proceeded to chew me out for one thing I did wrong after another.  The more he criticized, the worse I did.  I do not do well when someone picks on me in harsh way.  Under Stevens' critical gaze, I was so worried about how to move my feet, move my knees and work my hips that I froze up. 


No one can dance properly when they think about what their feet are doing, but that is what I automatically do when I get nervous.  Stevens' eyes were full of contempt as I moved across the floor with all the grace of an elephant skidding on ice.  The lesson ended prematurely because Stevens concluded I was a complete waste of his time.  Stevens was disgusted because he expected a certain skill level would already be present.  Furthermore, he could not understand why it took me so long to pick up something that, in his opinion, was a piece of cake.  20 minutes into our lesson, Stevens decided it was not worth his time to work with me further.  His parting words were so painful I would never forget them for the rest of my life. 

"Archer, you have the least ability of any person to ever attempt to teach dance..."

Dr. Fujimoto was the man who tossed me out of the Clinical Psychology program at Colorado State.  The similarities between Fujimoto and Stevens were uncanny.  Both men used the lash to teach, not praise.  I was not programmed that way.  I respond to encouragement, not criticism.  What angered me was that Stevens did not give me much of a chance.  I could move my hips just fine when I wasn't thinking about it.  But I found myself unable to learn quickly that morning because I thought too much about what I was doing, especially when I was nervous.  As Patsy Swayze once explained it, my analytical brain often gets in the way my 'learning to dance' process.  That is why I am a slow learner.  Stevens' criticism just made things worse.  Stevens was a bully.  He was the sort of man who built himself up by making me feel smaller. 

Once Stevens discovered how long it took him to teach me the most basic moves of Ballroom, he lost patience.  From that point on, he gave up on me just like Fujimoto did.  Every day Stevens had something nasty to say to me.  Through constant criticism and snide remarks, Stevens made it clear he was unimpressed with my dance ability.   In his opinion, I had no business teaching dance... except perhaps Disco.  After all, we all know Disco should not be considered actual dancing.  Or at least that's the way Stevens saw it.

Considering how inept Roberta, his previous Disco instructor, had been, this was a very serious insult.  I honestly thought I was about to be fired.  No doubt Stevens considered it.  Sensing his low opinion, I constantly worried that he would send me packing.  After all, I believed I was easily disposable.  Fortunately I kept my job, but that Saturday morning fiasco was the end of my training program.  From that point on, Stevens refused to help me again.  Why bother?  Stevens' continual disdain for my poor dancing reinforced my belief that my presence here was hanging by a thin thread. 

To my further dismay, I discovered Stevens had a nickname for me.  Behind my back, he called me "the Dance Teacher who couldn't dance.Dorothy had overheard Stevens refer to me that way and decided to pass it on.  Dorothy tried to soften the blow.  She didn't want to hurt my feelings, but thought I should know.  Since Stevens was talking like I was expendable, Dorothy warned me to stay on his good side.  In hindsight, the only thing that saved me was the scarcity of Disco instructors, but I did not know that at the time. 

I was terrified of losing the best thing that had ever happened to me and began to worry constantly about losing my job.  I also deeply resented his treatment of me.  If Stevens had been more patient, I would have eventually caught on to whatever he wanted me to learn.  I was definitely headed in the right direction, so what was the hurry?  But that wasn't his way.  Stevens figured anyone with an aptitude for dance as slow as mine was not cut out to be a dance teacher.  Why bother with me?  His time was too valuable. 

Now that I had stumbled, I was convinced Stevens was re-evaluating his decision to hire such a mediocre dance teacher in the first place.  Given that Disco was bringing in serious money, perhaps Stevens had decided he should bring in an actual professional and milk this fad for all it was worth.  Consequently I lived in constant fear of losing my Dream Job.  Every night before I went to bed, I prayed someone with actual dance talent never appeared to tempt Stevens to replace me. 

Fortunately, the phone kept ringing off the hook.  I decided to make Lance Stevens so much money that he would allow me to keep my job.  I was hungry to succeed.  Due to my long string of disappointments during the Lost Years, 'Ambition' was my middle name.  I accepted every new opportunity without hesitation.    However, I felt like I was walking a tightrope.  There were times when the pressure was unbearable.

Was I as mediocre as Stevens made me out to be?  Yes and no.  Looking back, the first two months were the honeymoon period.  My three years of practicing line dances and freestyle paid off handsomely.   Everything went so smoothly that I thought this is how it would always be here at my Dream Job.  Then one day the Honeymoon was over.  Stevens had just announced it was time for me to begin teaching Disco Partner Dancing like Travolta in the movie.  Only one problem.  I had never partner danced in my life.  Nor did I have a teacher.  Nor did Stevens give me enough time.  We will get to this story in due time, but first let's meet an old friend of mine.



the hidden hand of god



previous chapter


SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ