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Story About Samantha Archer

Rick's Gabfest with Gertrude
Written by Rick Archer, March 2006

Chapter Four:

First Generation

1977 -1979

Saturday Night Fever Disco Era

Second Generation

1980 - 1984

Urban Cowboy Western Era, Winchester Club

Third Generation

1985 - 1987

201 Nights of Dancing, Tom Easley Look-a-Likes

Fourth Generation

1988 - 1997

Studebaker Gang, Sharon Crawford, SSQQ Staff

Fifth Generation

1998 - 2000

Millennium - The Daryl Armstrong Experience,  Heartbeat, Swing Kids!

Sixth Generation

2001 -2007

Love Boat

The Fourth Generation

"So it's the Nineties now.  You have started a new decade at SSQQ.  Who took the place of the Third Generation leaders like Tom, Jim, Diane, and Margie?"

"My new set of instructors took over the studio.  This group was drawn mainly from the people who loved to hang out at Studebakers.   I usually refer to them as the Studebaker Gang or the Fourth Generation.

After the twin "death comets" of Southwest Whip and Houston's Economy wiped out my entire Third Generation, into the enormous leadership vacuum stepped the new leaders -  Maureen Brunetti, Donna Ruth, Linda Rooks, Ben Liles, Susie Allen (Merrill), Ben Liles, Debbie Reynolds, Judy Stidham, and of course Sharon Crawford - always Sharon, my rock.  Another important leader, Linda Cook, came along in the early 90s.  Daryl Armstrong came along in the mid 90s. 

These instructors were the people who supplied the heat throughout the 1990s.  This talented group of people were the true leaders of SSQQ.  Yes, I contributed, but not nearly as much as I used to.  It was more of a team effort now.  I was very grateful to have these fine people to help shoulder the load.  As they say, I couldn't have done it without them.

My name was synonymous with SSQQ all the way till the end of 1987.  Over half the classes were taught by me.  At some point, everyone ended up in one of my classes during the Eighties.  However when we took on the additional space in late 1987, this important detail changed quite a bit.  I was still the public face of SSQQ, but now I taught only 20% of the classes.  From this point on, many people came through the studio who never actually took a class from me. 

Naturally each new person bonded with their first instructor.  And let me tell you something - I had some good instructors!

Going from 2 rooms to 5 rooms created an instant growth spurt. During this expansion, I tried hiring experienced dance instructors who had received their training elsewhere.  Unfortunately I had one miserable experience after another hiring people from outside our program to work here.

We discovered the outside instructors had trouble adapting to our format because SSQQ is so unusual in its approach to the dance business.  The outside instructors could teach just fine, but they were baffled by the importance I placed on our social program.  They didn't understand why I considered Practice Night to be so important.  All they cared about was talking students into private lessons.  They were not a good fit.  As a side note, of all the outside instructors, only Debbie Reynolds was able to adapt.  She was the single exception to the rule.  Debbie was popular, funny, and very responsible.  I really regretted losing her in the late Nineties. 

With one headache after another finding new instructors,  I remembered how well things had worked out when I took my best students - Sharon Crawford, Diane Head, and Jim  Smith - and turned them into dance teachers.  I concluded bringing people up within the organization was my best bet.  From now on, I would hire the most talented dancers among our own students and train them to be teachers. This was one of the best decisions I ever made - grow my teachers from within the studio. 

Starting in 1988, whenever a Staff Member left, I would pick the best student and convert them practically overnight into an Instructor.  We would work with them right before class, then throw them into the water and hope they could swim.

If you think this is a little brutal, you might be right.  This method was very stressful for the new teachers. As you remember from Sharon Crawford's experience, Sharon got so nervous during her first class that she could barely speak above a whisper.

Sharon of course survived, but afterwards she suggested there had to be a more humane way to train dancers teachers than simply throwing them to the wolves like I did with her.  After her horrible experience, I agreed there might be a better way to do this "new teacher" thing, but it took me a while to figure out how to do it.

Starting in 1992, I began to train new teachers using the “Apprentice System”. These people were basically my 'next in line' instructors. The most talented students were hired to help to veteran Instructors. Called “Assistants”, they learned via on-the-job training. When someone would resign, we would simply promote one of our Assistants to become an Instructor. This system worked much better.

However our "Assistant" innovation brought with it new problems.  I will simply admit our 'Assistant' program in the early 90s became a major pain in the butt for me.

As our program continued to grow, Assistants became so valuable that the Instructors began to fight over who got to have an Assistant and who didn’t. At first we had one Assistant on a Friday night. Then we had an Assistant on every night. Then we had two Assistants on every night. Then on some busy nights we went to 3 Assistants. 

However with 5 rooms each night, the economics prevented SSQQ from hiring an Assistant for every Instructor.

That meant that the Assistants were a limited resource.   With 2 or 3 Assistants for 5 Instructors, the Instructors began to argue over who deserved to get an Assistant and who didn't.  Sometimes it got pretty testy.

Meanwhile, SSQQ finished with $300 in the bank at the end of 1995 due to our bloated payroll.

This pathetic showing for 1995 meant we had more instructors than at any time in studio history producing less results. 

Surely there was a lesson there.  I decided I didn't need an economics degree to conclude we were paying too many people to do the same job.

So in 1996 I introduced the “Volunteer Program”. I encouraged our Instructors to recruit one or two students to help them teach their classes.  These people would basically volunteer their free time to help our instructors teach their class. 

Believe it or not, we soon found out the spirit of Tom Sawyer lived! 

People lined up to volunteer.   We didn't pay them a cent, but they didn't care.  They weren't in it for the money.  Some wanted to become a dance teacher.  Some liked helping people.  And some wanted to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend.  Or all three...

The big hit song in the movie Urban Cowboy was 'Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.'   Obviously that song writer could not have been referring to SSQQ.   If finding love was the goal of a volunteer, they were definitely looking in the Right Place here at SSQQ. 

Throughout the decade of the 1990s, we married our instructors off at a phenomenal clip. That energy filtered right down to the assistants and volunteers as well. 

In fact, if you were a female and absolutely determined to get married, all you had to do was become my Assistant.  At one point I lost six assistants and volunteers in a row to Engagement and Marriage (Paula Yerks, Amelia Cate, Hannah Baker, Mary Collins, Kathleen Alexander, Kathleen Labounty). 

I don't know if these six lovely women gave me any credit for their marital success, but this phenomenon did seem to be more than mere coincidence.  In fact, this situation actually got to be a little ridiculous.  Just when I got them trained, someone proposed to them!  Thanks a lot.

So finally I started asking married women to be my assistant.  Good move. That solved my problem nicely.  Finally I got to keep an assistant for more than a couple months!

Starting as early as 1990, it was the SSQQ instructors who made SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance Magic hum at a steady clip.

Here is a statistic that should catch your eye:  During the Nineties, 33 different SSQQ instructors found husbands or wives at SSQQ.

When you add in Volunteers, the number climbs well above 40 but I am unsure of the exact number.  The problem was that I didn't keep the names of the volunteers.  Hmm.   

Adding in the Staff and Volunteer numbers from the 2000s, I discovered an amazing statistic - One SSQQ instructor got married every three months!

List of SSQQ Instructors Who Got Married in the 1990s

Peter Shores
Paula Yerks (no picture)
Arlene Phillips
Tony Graham
Amelia Cate
Brian Swanson
Nancy Faulkner
Reid Faulkner
Mike Hitzhusen
Hannah Baker
Lisa Starnes
Mike Fagan

Richard McDonald
David Vining
Tonya Binig
Tom Binig
Michael Stephens
Suzy Kish
Larry Carlton
Liliana Ashley (no picture)
Terry Johns (no picture)
David Bagesse (no picture)
Jeff Hieber (no picture)
Wil Coulbourn (no picture)

Heidi Moynihan (no picture)
Mary Collins
Beth Hentges (no picture)
Allen Hentges (no picture)
Linda Rooks
Rad Decker
Sylvia Kay (no picture)
Renee Reisinger
Janet Wukman (no picture)
Kathleen Alexander
Ben Liles
Daryl Armstrong

"What did the SSQQ Instructors do to get so lucky?"

"These people had three things going for them. 

First, these were very sharp people.  I always hired the people with terrific personalities who just happened to be my favorite advanced students.  These students were good dancers, good-looking, and most of all, blessed with terrific people skills.  The new Staff members were invariably people who were leaders in other walks of life besides the studio.  In other words, they were very attractive people to begin with. 

As one lady (who will remain anonymous) once said to me after her wedding to one of my male instructors, "I figured if he was good enough to impress you, he was definitely going to get a second Interview from me."  That odd compliment brought a big smile to my face.

Second, they became the SSQQ-equivalent of Rock Stars.  They were the best Dancers.  They were the Teachers.  They were the Leaders of the new In-Crowd.  Most of all, they were on their "Turf", a concept I introduced earlier.  Wherever they went, eyes were sure to follow.

Third, they had the pick of the litter if I may be so crass as to describe it that way.  The Instructors would line up to survey the new crop of students each month the same way a high school basketball coach looks for the tallest kids in each freshman class.

SSQQ attracts 1200 students a month, many of whom are people who are recently out of relationships and looking to find new romance.  Let's just say the Instructors had a huge head start on everyone else and leave it at that.  They would look for the cream of the crop and use their position at the studio to get the inside edge.

My instructors knew what they were doing.

PICTURES OF SSQQ STAFF MARRIAGES FROM THE 1990S  (Please note the 'Years' are guesses)

Mike and Hannah Hitzhusen, 1995

Brian and Amelia Swanson, 1993

David and Arlene Vining, 1994

Nancy and Reid Faulkner, 1992

Mike and Lisa Fagan, 1995

Michael and Kathy Stephens, 1994

Mike and Hannah Hitzhusen

Tom and Tonya Binig, 1992

Trina and Tony Graham, 1993

Joanne White and Daryl Armstrong, 1998

Mike and Hannah Hitzhusen

Richard MacDonald, Peter and Lesley Shores, 1992

Linda and Rad Decker, 1998

Diana and Ben Liles, 1999


"Any other Instructors who met their spouses at SSQQ to write about?"

"Well, I suppose you should add my name to the group above.  Judy and I were married in 1990.

1989 was a brutal year for me.  I became hard, bitter and cold.  I felt disappointed.  I was so damn mad at the world that I finished up 1989 with a computer chess game as my best friend.

In 1990, I snapped out of my funk from the previous year.  I forgot about Janet.  I decided it did no good to brood about Southwest Whip Club.  I started to pay more attention to my business again.

I finished my twelfth year as a dance instructor at the end of 1989.  Unfortunately, I had to admit SSQQ had finally become a business to me.  The pain of the previous year had taken a lot of the fun out of running a dance studio.  Too many friends had gone somewhere else.  A shift took place in my mind.  Maybe it was time stop making a bunch of fickle single people my family.  Maybe I needed a family of my own.     

Maureen Brunetti and Judy Archer

SSQQ had grown to become the largest dance studio in Houston.  The continued economic success of the studio seemed likely enough that I could consider raising a family.

The first twelve years had been an exciting time. Not that it had always been easy.  I had more than my share of ups and downs.

I wasn't lonely. Unless you wall yourself off like I did in 1989, how can you be lonely when you are surrounded by a sea of people? 

But I did feel terribly alone.  My life was time-shifted. When the rest of the world was having fun in the evening, I was working.  When I had time to play every weekday morning, the rest of the world was working.  Some of my best friends had become the waitresses at Denny's who brought me coffee while I worked the crossword puzzle each morning. 

I had no trouble finding girlfriends, but my unusual lifestyle made it difficult to sustain relationships. 

Like Gail who broke up with me in 1987 just so she could get some sleep, women with day jobs were risky prospects.  I was whipped cream and lots of fun, but when it came to the steak and potatoes role of 'being there most of the time', I came up short.

Other people's children were a problem.  Like Janet in 1988 and other women I dated previously with school age children, my weird hours made it tough to fit into any traditional parenting role with a stepchild.  This same lesson had haunted me in five different relationships over the years.  Let me put this another way.  Of the five women with a child or children whom I dated seriously, children proved to be the obstacle that ended each relationship. 

My unconventional lifestyle did not allow these women to think of me as good Step Dad material.  I worked nights.  Mothers would have to stay up very late to see me.  This took away time not only from their job, but from their children as well.  In the beginning, the women were able to sacrifice a little sleep to see me and still have energy to tend to their children, but over time, this always became a problem.

I began to wonder.  What if I had my own children?  Maybe then 'adapting' wouldn't be quite so difficult for the kid, the mother, or me.  They would grow into my weird lifestyle over time.

So 1990 was the year I decided to look for a wife to have kids with.

I didn't have to look very far. I already had someone in mind.  Not surprisingly, I married one of my dance teachers.  Judy and I had dated some in 1989 after my breakup with Janet.

Actually Judy brought up the idea first.  One day she pulled out some childhood photographs.  Out of nowhere Judy blurted out, "Wouldn't I make some really beautiful babies!?"

I stared at her for a moment, then nodded.  Once Judy told me she wanted to raise a family and become a dance teacher to boot, that was exactly what I wanted to hear.  Finally I would have companion who lived the same lifestyle and hours that I did.  So towards the end of 1990, we tied the knot.

I didn't have to wait very long for children.  In 1991, Judy and I were blessed with the birth of our daughter Samantha.  


Sam, my favorite Rugrat at age 4. This picture was taken at an SSQQ Sock Hop

Sam led a very odd life as a 'Studio Kid'.  There was no one in our neighborhood to babysit, so Sam spent six nights a week of her childhood right here at the dance studio.   With no neighborhood children to play with and no siblings, Sam was never around children her own age at home.  My dance studio was even worse.  It was advertised as a 'playground for adults'.  That meant there were no other children at the studio. 

Sam had no choice but to spend her nights hidden away in the studio office by herself.  Sam could hear my voice as I taught in the room next to the office and knew she was welcome to come out of the office whenever she wished.  However, she preferred to stay in the office and read or watch TV.  Sam passed her time reading books about the Berenstein Bears and watching every Disney movie ever recorded.  Later it was 'Rugrats' on Nickelodeon.  As she grew older, like her mother, Sam became a big fan of 'I Love Lucy'.

However, Sam wasn't a complete hermit.  Desperate for a little human contact, Sam would come out of the office at Break Time and walk around chatting with the adults she had made friends with.  There were many dance students who recognized her and went out of their way to talk with Sam whenever she made an appearance.  The positive side of this unusual upbringing is that the adults Sam grew up around were always kind to her.  As a result, at an early age, Sam lost her shyness around adults completely. Sam wasn't afraid of strangers.   Quite the contrary, Sam became very outgoing.  Sam was unfailingly polite and respectful with the adults who stopped to speak with her.  I might add she became quite the conversationalist.   Sam would talk to anyone about anything.

Unfortunately, kids her own age were the problem. As an only child, it took Sam a while to catch up to kids her own age.  Sam had trouble handling the inevitable childhood teasing because she led such a cloistered existence.  Sam was perplexed about what to do when kids bullied her or teased her.  We decided to send Sam to Duchesne Academy for a pre-kindergarten program primarily to get her around more children.

Sam loved Duchesne so much that she spent 14 years at the school.  Duchesne was a beautiful school located in a pine tree forest in the Memorial area.  With modern buildings surrounding a lovely inner courtyard, this place felt like a sanctuary from all strife.  

Sam attended all the way from Pre-K through graduation from high school.  I loved the quality of Sam's education.  Duchesne was an academic powerhouse.  Only the smartest students were admitted.  Class sizes were small, maybe 15 students at most.  Sometimes I got the feeling that Duchesne operated more as a family than as a school. 

I suppose it was a little weird going to an all-girls school for 14 years, but I will let the results speak for themselves - Sam developed tremendous self-confidence.  Even better, she developed a big heart.  Sam's graduating class was only 54 students.  Sam was popular with all of her classmates although her parents were not rich enough to afford to let Sam hang with the wealthier students on a social basis.  Oh well. 

Fortunately there was a significant group of girls who could not have cared less about money either.  Sam fit in with this group perfectly.  Sam benefitted tremendously from the close interaction with her classmates.  Sam thought of many of these girls as more than just friends.  They were her sisters. 

One year I taught the entire school to dance for
Go Texan Day.  That's me up there in the far corner

Duchesne was always one big family. The student body was only 700 girls, so this is practically the whole school

 That's Sam dancing in the middle of the throng along
with Sister Dunn, Headmaster of Duchesne.

Sam was about 8 when Judy and I began to have our disagreements.  Our home was not a horrible place to live during this time, but Sam was aware her parents weren't doing very well.   Things became rather formal between Judy and I for two years culminating in our divorce in early 2001.  It broke my heart to see Sam suffer because I went through the exact same thing at the same age.  The irony was not lost on me.

The Duchesne family really came to Sam's aid. Throughout this tense time (4th and 5th grade), Sam's teachers and friends at Duchesne helped Sam immensely.  Nor did the support end after the divorce. Throughout high school, the support Sam received at school really helped keep her glued together.

Duchesne Academy was the center of Sam's existence.  Duchesne reached out to help Sam for a simple reason - Sam's teachers loved her.  All that poise Sam had developed in her early years at the dance studio helped make Sam the ideal student.  Sam was polite, respectful, warm, and inquisitive. 

Unfortunately Sam didn't come out of the divorce unscathed.  For the next six years Sam divided her time evenly between my house and her mother's house.  Back and forth, back and forth.  I felt tremendous sympathy for my suitcase kid.  However I wasn't about to give up my 50% share of time with my daughter unless I thought it would be for her own good.  I asked Sam what she wanted to do and she said to keep it the way it was.  So for six years till HS graduation the three of us made the best of the strange situation. 

Sam no longer had the perfect home life.  Her grades plummeted.  Due to her teenage difficulty getting homework assignments in on time, Sam became a stranger to impressive academic scores.  Sam and I had several discussions about her haphazard work ethic, but to no avail.  I wasn't happy about her decision to coast through high school, but I accepted it.  Things were tough enough as it was. 

Homework problems aside, I was consistently thrilled at the quality of her education. Whenever we talked about what she was learning, I could see that the lights were definitely turned on.  This school didn't just drill in the facts, it taught Sam to think for herself.  Sam learned early on to look past stereotypes and question assumptions most people take for granted.  That pleased me no end. 

Her grades aside, during her HS career, Sam won several major writing and speech awards.  These awards plus the fact that Sam generally got her work done helped keep me at bay.  Nevertheless I constantly frowned at the disconnect between her grades and her talent.  And then there was Senior Year. What a mess. A serious case of Senioritis led to a wildly exciting final two months of Senior Year.  Sam's highly dramatic finish left me wondering if she would ever be a success at the college level.

Despite her academic rollercoaster, once Sam discovered her talent for Drama, she really hit her groove.  During her high school years at Duchesne, Sam had the lead in several plays.  I admired Sam up on stage.  I know a Father is always supposed to think his daughter is wonderful, but I honestly thought she was an excellent actress.  I wasn't the only one who thought that way.  Thanks in large part to her stage talent,  Sam's promise as an aspiring actress helped her get into the University of Texas via their Fine Arts Department.  I might add that I put Sam's acting talent to use in a unique way - Sam and her friend Maddie played monsters in the SSQQ Halloween Haunted House throughout HS.  Pretty scary duo.

Sam entered UT in the Fall of 2009.  She immediately began to thrive at at UT. To my absolute delight, Sam started to do some homework.  Lo and behold, she made the Dean's List her first semester.  Then she did it again.  Amazing what Sam can do when she tries a little. 

Although Sam has changed her major several times, her grades have stayed high.  In addition, Sam has become a real leader at school.  I could not be more pleased with her progress.

And now it is time for a pictorial tribute to SSQQ's Original Studio Kid. 

Let's watch Sam grow into a young lady before our eyes.


Sam's first Halloween Party 1991, 3 months old


La Princessa Age 2


Age 2


Hey Sam, next time put on the skis AFTER you get outside


The Alien.  Do I have to admit she's mine?


Maybe we should have adopted


Age 3 on Dad's shoulders as usual


Hey kid, can't you find somewhere else to sit?


Snow White and friend Priya


Age 4 with Sam's dog Amy


Wake up, Dad!  It's time to have some fun!


My upside down Pickleworm


Age 2, doing the Stroll at a Sock Hop


Age 7, the Life of the Party. OMG is that a Rice logo?


Why can't I look more like Shirley Temple?


Field Day, Fourth Grade


Fourth Grade


Fifth Grade


Dance class, Age 8


Judy and Sam.  See any resemblance?


Age 7.  Sam is helping us put down the new studio
dance floor at SSQQ over Christmas Break 1998

I once asked Sam if she wanted to own the studio some day. Sam replied, "No way. You and Mom have to work too hard."

Sam wasn't kidding either.  Sam never once changed her tune.  She had no interest whatsoever in inheriting the studio.  Oh well.

Emily and Nicholas at Sam's Easter Egg Hunt


Emily and Nicholas Mann were Sam's second family


The Harry Potter Kids at the 2001 Sock Hop


Tommy, Sam age 9, Ashley,


Halloween Age 14


Halloween Age 15.  Sam and Maddie
were the Monsters in the SSQQ Haunted House


Dancing Queen


The shocking Smooch!!

That's Dad wrapping his arms around the PE teacher...
Sam's most traumatic grade school moment ever


You need a new hairstyle, Dad


Sam and Mom.  Sam's first cruise trip, age 7


You get a lot of attention when you're the only kid on the trip


Dad and Sam, 1998 Cruise


After the 2001 divorce, some wistful times


Cousin April and Sam, 2001 trip to Virginia


Starting to cheer up a little


Renaissance Festival 2001, Age 10


A fateful day - Sam meets Marla, Dad's new girlfriend


Marla, Rick, Sam on a 2003 cruise to the Cayman Islands


Sam turns 11


Acting school.  Is that the Hand Jive?


Born to be a Diva


Age 11.  Dad's little girl is growing up


Seventh Grade


Eighth Grade


Sam, 14, with Marissa at Rick and Marla's Wedding 2004


Unusual fact - Sam and Marissa were both 'only children'
By the way, Sam has a secret - she just got braces


Uncle Larry and Aunt Roz


Glenn and Marissa's Wedding 2008. 
Glenn became a neat brother who loves to tease Sam


Christmas 2009 in Keystone Colorado
Marla just stuffed a snowball inside Marissa's jacket


One year later. Christmas 2010. 
Welcome to the family, Lucas!


Thanks to Marla's cruise magic, Sam got to see the world. Sam, Rick, Marissa, Marla in Alaska 2005


Greece 2008, Age 17.  Ah, I see teeth again.
Judging by the smile, the braces must be off.


A cruise to Italy 2008. 
That is Rome's beautiful Trevi Fountain in the background


High School Play - The Man Who Came to Dinner
I feel sorry for the guy who ever has to face that look.


High School Play - The Prodigious Snob


Sam was in two plays a year throughout high school. 
Her skill as an actress became her ticket to UT


Maddie and Sam, Best Friends Forever


Sam, 17, in Stage Door


Sam, 16, The Man Who Came to Dinner


The heavy price of popularity


Sophisticated Lady at the Prom with Tom


Sam, Emily, Nicholas. The Harry Potter kids have grown up


Emily and Sam... friends for so long they are almost sisters


Margaux and Carl Mann are Nicholas and Emily's parents.
They are also wonderful parents to Sam. They both played a key role in helping Sam overcome her Senior Year crisis.


HS Graduation Present - a Trip to France and the Louvre
Thank you, Carl and Margaux!


A proud moment indeed - the end of a 14 year career
Graduation from Duchesne May 2009


Tom and Margaret, another set of remarkable parents.
They say you need a village to raise a child.
There's a lot of truth in that.


The Queen, Sam's favorite teacher.  This school taught my daughter to question everything.  I cannot begin to say
how pleased I was with Sam's education


Remember Priya? 
Well, take another look at her


Isn't it amazing what swans our little girls turn into
with just a little love?


The Duchesne education was the greatest gift
Judy and I could give our daughter. 
I thank the SSQQ Community for helping us
afford to send Sam to this fine school.


Packing up for college


Making progress


Sam's room after she's gone.
Not exactly the Empty Nest Syndrome


Freshman year.  Sam in her UT dorm room, 18


Sam home from college with Peanut for company.
Sam's own bed was too cluttered to sleep on


It should be no surprise I wanted Sam to go to Rice,
but if Sam is happy, I am happy.


Sam in her HS Senior Year


Sam Freshman Year at UT


Sam Sophomore Year at UT.


Sam Sophomore Year at UT


Sam Sophomore Year at UT


Sam Sophomore Year at UT


Throughout childhood they always said Sam looked
just like her mother Judy.   Now that I see the finished product, I would have to agree.

Judy promised me she would have a beautiful baby. I would have to say promise delivered.


Sam, age 13, and Dad
No matter how old she gets, Sam will always be my girl

Sam, age 16, and Dad 
Gee, Dad's hair just keeps getting whiter

I think it is pretty obvious just how much we love each other
I might add I am very proud of Sam.
She has turned into quite a young lady.

Rick's Note: 
On July 23, 2011, Sam celebrated her
twentieth birthday.  Her first two years at the University of Texas have been productive.  In addition to making excellent grades, Sam earned a coveted Rapoport scholarship in her Freshman year.  As part of her scholarship, Sam is expected to do community service.  In her first year, Sam worked for the Texas After Violence Project, a program that fights injustice in our legal system.  In her second year, Sam did volunteer work at a school for underprivileged students.  Last time I checked, Sam was the official Chess Instructor in addition to many other duties. 

Sam has become a leader at the University of Texas.  Although she decided a career as a Theater Major would probably not pay the bills down the line, Sam continues her acting career through the Madrigal and Improv programs at the Student Events Center.  Sam was so impressed at the impact of the Student Events Center on student life, Sam became involved in the SEC at the administrative level as well.  For her Junior year, Sam will be a vice-president in charge of planning Student Events throughout the year. 

In her Freshman year, Sam was hired for a summer job as an Orientation Advisor for incoming students.  Sam also did volunteer work helping parents with special weekends at UT.  One afternoon Sam went out of her way to help a lost set of parents locate their children on the massive campus.  Unbeknownst to Sam, a woman in the Admissions Office noticed this simple act of kindness.  This lady encouraged Sam to apply for a job in the Admissions Office.  She got the job.  As a result, throughout her Sophomore year, Sam served as a representative for the University of Texas.  In her job as counselor for the Office of Admissions, Sam answers hundreds of calls each week from parents who need information about how to send their children to UT.  In addition,  Sam conducts daily tours escorting potential UT students and their parents around campus when they visit UT.   

Sam appears to be a natural in this role.  She is confident without being obnoxious.  Sam is respectful and extremely gracious to all people.  I might add that Sam doesn't have a prejudiced bone in her body.  Race means nothing to her, religion means nothing to her, nor does a person's homeland.  Sam took Arabic in her Freshman year.  Her roommate is from Tunisia. 

Interestingly, Sam's best friend Freshman year was a girl from College Station.  As a result Sam visited the A&M campus several times and made friends there as well.   Sam is mature in ways that are well beyond her years. 

When I said earlier it takes a Village to raise a child properly, I credit her unusual early years at the dance studio for helping Sam become a born goodwill ambassador.  I think back to all the kindness Sam received at the dance studio while growing up.  Sam learned not to fear strangers.  She began enjoy wandering around the studio greeting people and soaking up well-meant attention. 

I watched from afar as people went out of their way to be nice to my daughter.  Not one evening passed when an adult didn't take the time to engage Sam in a serious conversation.   Sam would answer their questions without hesitation.  She was so good at expressing herself and welcoming people that as early as the Eighth Grade Duchesne gave her a recurring role their own "Visitor's Day" for prospective students.

Now the University of Texas has put her in the exact same role.  Sam is perfect at an international campus like the University of Texas.   She loves being a walking talking United Nations-style tour guide

And it all started at SSQQ.   Sam is the original studio kid. 

I always used to fret that our dance studio might not be the best environment to raise a child.  I could not have been more wrong.  The people who came to my studio on a nightly were intelligent, educated decent people who had children of their own.  They enjoyed befriending my daughter.

And now look how she turned out.   Please join me in being proud of her... after all, if you were part of the Village, then Sam is your kid too.  Maybe you never met Sam, but if you ever took a dance class at SSQQ, then you helped her receive her remarkable education at Duchesne. 

Indeed, I thank you all so much for helping me to raise such a great young lady.    RA




"Okay, Rick, you have told us about your daughter Sam.  Now what about her mother? What happened between you and Judy?"

Judy Archer made enormous contributions to the dance studio during the Nineties.  We were good business partners.  And of course we helped each other raise a wonderful daughter.  Throughout the Nineties, these two areas of our life turned to gold. 

During Judy's years at the studio, her greatest strength was creating dance programs. 

Judy was way ahead of the curve on Swing Dancing.  She was the person who literally brought the Lindy Hop to Houston in the mid-Nineties.  The Lindy rebirth started first in New York and then out in Los Angeles.  Thanks to Judy, Houston was probably the next city in line to greet the Swing Era.  You don't believe me?  Go read the story -
The History of Swing Dancing.  Judy deserves a lot of credit.

During the Swing Era, Judy created two excellent Swing Teams.  Her second Swing Team was simply incredible.  These talented dancers blew people away with their performances at 1998 and 1999 dance parties.  (read about it in
Extravaganza).  Unfortunately, some pretty messy politics put an end to this great group of dancers far sooner than I would have preferred.  They disbanded just when they were hitting their stride.

Frustrated by some really nasty politics in the world of Swing Dancing, Judy turned her attention to Salsa in 1999.  Salsa wasn't even on the map when Judy got started.  She was learning Salsa patterns way in advance of "Living La Vida Loca", the Ricky Martin song that marks the start of the Salsa Era.   Thanks to Judy's head start, she built the SSQQ Salsa program into the largest salsa training program in the city.  Judy struck gold again.  Judy deserves a lot of credit for repeating her Swing success with Salsa.  She was also the person who first introduced Zydeco and Night Club to the studio.

Judy's creativity was not confined to dance.  I can think of many contributions.   Judy was the person who added the Haunted House to our Halloween Party.  Judy had a clever idea how to create a very good amateur haunted house.  She suggested we buy some six foot black felt curtains and hang them from the ceiling.  Her idea worked like a charm. 

Then Judy set about decorating the Haunted House.  Judy was uncanny at designing monsters.  Her first effort was Dracula complete with an impressive coffin.  Then Judy added Mother Bates from Psycho.  For good measure, Judy created a Mummy that was incredibly authentic.

Judy's favorite monster was a truly amazing 8-foot Frankenstein.  No one who ever walked through our Haunted House will forget that massive monster lit up by lightning flashes and thunder in the eerie claustrophobic darkness.  Thanks in large part to Judy's genius, the SSQQ Halloween Party became the talk of the town. 


Judy was the guiding force behind acquiring our beautiful dance floors at Christmas 1998.  Judy's Swing program had made us so much extra money in 1998 that she suggested we plow our profits back into a dance floor.  Judy's floor was a stunning addition.

That marvelous Dickens Village we used to display at Christmas time was also started by her.  Judy had many talents.  Many of the wonderful things at SSQQ Dance Studio that people took for granted were created by Judy Archer."


"It sounds to me like you and Judy were a pretty good team.  So what went wrong?"

"You're right.  Judy and I were a very good team.   Judy and I worked hard together.   We were raising an exceptional daughter and building our business together. 

At the very end of 1995, Judy paid every single bill SSQQ owed.  The studio was completely debt free.... and we had $300 left in the bank.  That was ridiculous.  Once Judy got her Swing program going, she not only rescued the studio financially, she made enough extra money to buy a $100,000 dance floor as well.  Trust me, that got my respect.  Judy had tremendous talent.

Judy was a good mother and good for the business.  So it doesn't make much sense that we didn't make our relationship work.  Our downfall was related to our inability to agree on how to combat serious business problems created by HSDS (Houston Swing Dance Society) over a three year period.  Looking back, maybe we fell victim to the Curse of the Mummy.

A lengthy article known as the HSDS-SSQQ Swing Feud details how two unethical people combined forces to essentially pirate Judy's Swing Dance achievements for their own purposes.  Obviously Judy and I could see what was going on, but we disagreed terribly on what to do to stop it from happening. 

To understand me is to understand that I have not one, but two children.  SSQQ is not just my business, it is my career, my legacy, my achievement... whatever you want to call it.  I take great pride in first creating this dance studio, then building it up over thirty years into an amazing place. 

So when someone comes along and attacks my studio, they are attacking my baby.  I am ready to go to war. 

Judy prevented me from standing up for what was right.   I was so incredulous that Judy would allow these people to smear our reputations and walk off with our business that I was never able to forgive her.

I can offer the short story or the long story.  If you want the long story, go read Harvest Moon Ball.

The short story is that Judy took a man named Carnell Pipkin under her wing in 1997.  Carnell was black, but the color of a person's skin has never meant anything to Judy nor me.  All that mattered was that Carnell came to SSQQ as a student.  Judy recognized his talent and asked him to be on her Swing team.  Carnell was a gifted dancer.  He quickly became the star of Judy's first Swing Dance team.  Judy liked Carnell on a personal level.  She made him her protégé.  Judy taught Carnell everything she knew about Lindy and East Coast Swing, the two dances that Judy had singlehandedly resurrected here in Houston.  I am not exaggerating by the way; Judy personally put these two dances back on the map.

In the early part of 1998, Judy became sick with a problem pregnancy.  She had to withdraw from her Swing Team activities.  At the same time that Judy was crippled with pain, Carnell and some of his Swing Team friends went to a dance at the Jewish Community Center.  They put on quite a show.  Later that night a a woman named Rowena came over to their table to introduce herself.  Rowena had her own agenda.  Sensing that Carnell was the key, over the next couple months Rowena persuaded Carnell to help her form a Swing Dance Society.  Judy vaguely knew what was going on, but was too sick to do anything about it.

For reasons I will never understand, Carnell switched loyalties.  That was Carnell's right.  However, Carnell behaved unscrupulously.  He didn't tell us what was going on.  Instead Carnell continued to teach for SSQQ while also teaching for Rowena and lying about it.  Even more serious, Carnell would quietly suggest to his SSQQ students that they should also try his other class over at the Magnolia Ballroom.   Carnell was a traitor.

We heard rumor after rumor, but Carnell said they weren't true.  Finally Carnell got tired of lying about it.  He had an unusual way of announcing his true loyalties.  One day Carnell had the nerve to wear an HSDS tee-shirt to his SSQQ Swing class.  When Judy saw him wearing that tee-shirt while teaching his class, she got angry. After class, Judy confronted him.  What's going on?  An argument ensued.  In a huff, Carnell quit and left the building never to return. 

But the damage was done.  Carnell took Judy's knowledge, some of the members of Judy's Swing Team, and Judy's course syllabi along with him.  He and Rowena set up shop.  Now we had a competitor on our hands.  And they didn't play nice either.  Pretty soon members of the new HSDS organization were coming to SSQQ practice dances.  These 'spies' would ask various students to dance with them.  If they developed a rapport, they would pull the student aside and begin the sales pitch.  They would suggest that if this student wanted to learn dance Swing the "RIGHT WAY", they should try out the new HSDS program led by the best Swing/Lindy dancer in Houston, Carnell Pipkin.  Or they would simply get an email address and invite students to check out HSDS activities.  Unfortunately, this email trick worked like a charm.  Curious, people would indeed visit HSDS dance parties. 

SSQQ started to lose students.  Judy and I were infuriated by this nasty infiltration technique, but we had no way of identifying who the culprits were.  Meanwhile Judy lost the pregnancy, lost her Swing team, and lost her protégé.  She had been betrayed.   Why I don't know.   It was a very stressful, ugly period.

Judy eventually picked up the pieces.  Thanks to the famous Gap commercial, in 1998 Swing exploded on the American landscape.  Despite HSDS inroads, SSQQ was still the city's leader in Swing Dancing.  Overnight hundreds of new students began dancing with us.  Soon there was so much talent that Judy decided to create a second Swing Team and start all over.

Judy's second Swing Team was good.  Very good.  Furthermore business was good, very good. 

We decided to hire a live band and let the new Swing Team perform at a huge Swing bash.

The day before the big party, Judy came home to see there was a message on our answering machine.  It was from Carnell.  Judy had not heard from him in months.  What was this about?  Carnell's message warned Judy that he intended to come to our party.

Judy looked at me.  I looked at Judy.  There was no way in hell we were going to let this guy crash our party.

Judy called back and left a polite message that basically said, "Carnell, you aren't welcome."

The party was a huge success.  Meanwhile, Carnell saved the tape of Judy's message.

So Carnell turned around and told the world that SSQQ had racially discriminated against him.  That was a lie.

Now it was true that we asked this man to please not come to our dance party at the studio.  However our reasons had nothing to do with race.  Heck, the man was once Judy's protégé, her most trusted second in command.  If we were such bigots, why would  we have hired him in the first place and train him for free?  The real reason Carnell was not welcome was easy to explain - this was the man who had stolen our Swing program from us and given to HSDS.  We didn't trust him. 

But there was one problem.  No one knew the story of Carnell's betrayal except Judy, me, and Carnell.  Judy had kept this entire brouhaha a secret.  No one knew the real reasons behind our snub but us and Carnell certainly wasn't going to share the reasons. 

Once Carnell played the tape to the Executive Board at HSDS... without bothering to explain the history of course...  these people turned around and screamed "Judy and Rick are Bigots" to the whole world.  Well, the whole world bought Carnell's story.  On the surface, it appeared we had told a black man he wasn't welcome at our studio!  

Once Judy and I realized Carnell had used the tape to sell his story, we realized the man had set us up.  Carnell knew full well we would not want him at the party, so why did he call in the first place?  Because he wanted to see what we would say.  Judy and I had thought it was weird to call us on our unlisted home phone number to tell us he was coming.  If he intended to come to the party, why not just show up and see what happens?   Why phone ahead of time and warn us?  Unfortunately we had let our guard down.  We had played right into his hands.  What a pair of chumps we were.

The rumor that Judy and I had snubbed a black man because of his race raged through the entire dance community.  That made people very angry... and I don't blame them.  No one deserves to be treated that way.  Except that Carnell had lied. 

Judy explained the circumstances to her Swing Team, but it didn't do much good.  Any time they tried to defend us, they got shouted down in the dance clubs.  We were losing this PR war badly because the world only heard one side of it.

So you say, "Gee, Rick, why didn't you just tell everyone the truth behind the incident?"  

Well, that's what I wanted to do.... but Judy wouldn't let me.

Judy's decision allowed the rumors to go unchecked.  Since we said NOTHING to refute the allegation, people continued to believe we were racists.  I had a student ask me to my face why I didn't let the man come to my party.  What was so awful about letting a black man come to a dance party?  Why was I such a bigot?

I seethed with resentment at this insult.  I tried to explain what the truth was, then gave up when I saw he wasn't listening.  We had let the story stay out there far too long.  People had made up their minds.

Having learned my lesson from my 1986 slugging experience with my first wife Pat, I wanted desperately to tell the world about his past treachery and the real story behind the snub.  I knew that our silence allowed the other side to manipulate the spin.  But Judy wanted no part of the controversy.  Her private nature made her recoil from the threat of a nasty public squabble.

Meanwhile back at the house, I would not take 'no' for an answer.  Every day for 3-4 days in a row, I begged Judy to let me do something.  But Judy was adamant.  She didn't want any more mud thrown at her. Judy refused to permit me to tell the true story at the time it was happening.

I could see she was in tremendous pain.  Finally I just gave up asking.  A huge sense of futility swept over me. 

I did eventually tell the entire story several years down the road, but by this time it did little good.  What I wrote served no other purpose than to act as a history lesson." 

"What were the consequences of your silence?"

"Since we did nothing to refute the false rumors when it would have mattered, a tremendous amount of damage was done to the studio's reputation.  Emboldened by our weakness, HSDS continued to claim to be the superior Swing organization.  Since we seemed to be incapable of defending ourselves against their verbal attacks, the HSDS organization continued to send secret members to our studio to suggest to our students (behind our backs) to try their program instead.  One night Judy and I found a discarded HSDS flyer left behind at my own studio.  Someone had been recruiting our students during Swing Practice Night under our very noses.

This raid on our students caused a déjà vu experience.  Memories of how I lost dozens of students to the SW Whip Club ten years earlier haunted me.  I found this new situation impossible to tolerate.  I was furious.  Get your head out of the ground and take my handcuffs off, Judy.  Let me fight back!

I was ready to counter-attack this ethically-challenged organization, but again and again Judy refused to give me permission to retaliate.  I was dumbfounded.  As I watched Judy lose her first her Swing team, then her Swing instructors, and then many of our Swing students to the HSDS organization, I could not believe Judy refused to permit me to speak my mind.  What were her motives?  What on earth was Judy thinking?  It was all a mystery.

Look at this from my point of view.  My two worst experiences in the Eighties were the loss of my Whip students to Southwest Whip Club in 1988 and the lies I allowed to be spread about me after getting slapped in the face by my ex-wife Pat in 1986. 

Now right here under my nose, I was seeing a vivid repeat of my two worst nightmares from the Eighties. 

But this time I had the experience and the sense to fight back... only to chafe at my shackles because Judy refused to let me retaliate." 

"If you were that upset, why didn't you simply tell Judy to sit back and do it anyway?"

"Without Judy's permission, any fight would have been a wasted effort.  Sure, I could have said something anyway, but Judy would have felt betrayed. 

Without Judy's permission, this was a No-Win situation.  To defy her like that would have cost me my marriage and my best dance teacher. 

Besides, it was her Swing program more than it was mine.  She built it up from nothing.  Who was I to tell her what to do?  

So I threw in the towel.  Judy's reluctance to fight forced me to sit back and watch my studio be exploited. 

Unfortunately all that anger inside me that should have been directed at Carnell stayed inside to fester.  I began to feel a resentment towards Judy that I simply could not shake."

"Did you ever figure out why Judy kept your hands tied?"

"No, I didn't.  I was completely baffled by Judy's position at the time.  Years passed, but no information was ever revealed to me to cast any new light.  I knew that Judy had a very rough childhood.  I assumed she had reasons of her own to shrink from this fight, but I was unable to decipher what they were.

I could not find a way to forgive Judy for backing down.  It was so completely against my nature to shrink from a fight. 

For crying out loud, we held the moral high ground.  They were lying, not us.  All we had to do was cry 'foul' and things would have been much different.  But Judy was afraid to appear in public with all these nasty people thinking nasty things about her or saying them to her face.  Judy doesn't handle open conflict well.  She said it was her that was going to suffer, not me. 

So I backed off.  Judy was my wife.  I felt I had to honor her wishes above what was good for the studio. 

The consequence of Judy's aversion to controversy was that HSDS was allowed to siphon off students who were once loyal to SSQQ and smear our reputation in the process.  I estimate we lost 40% of our Swing students due to Judy's decision.  What a fiasco. 

Not surprisingly, our constant arguments over how to deal with this major threat to our business drove us far apart.  I am sorry to say this, but our inability to reach any kind of accord on how to handle the problems generated by HSDS cost us our marriage. 

Judy had felt betrayed by Carnell and now I felt betrayed by Judy.  Judy's behavior made no rational sense to me.  First a depression set in.  Then I grew bitter and cold.  I began to pull away from Judy.  I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I couldn't stop myself.  As the rift grew, Judy felt betrayed by me.  Who could blame her?

And yet who could blame me either?   What if you had a small child and some playground bully slapped your baby in the face?  Every ounce of your being would want to retaliate and get justice.  Well, that's how I felt.  I blamed Judy for letting these nasty people hurt my studio, my baby.

We not only lost customers, we let a liar and a traitor call us 'bigots' to the entire world and get away with it.  Every ounce of my being hated slavery, hated racism, and hated the ignorance of people who thought less of someone for the color of their skin.  And yet thanks to Judy's bizarre refusal to fight, there were now people in Houston who believed Rick Archer was a racist. 

I blamed Judy.  I didn't care what demons she was fighting.  Judy refused to explain her 'reasons' to me in a way that I could understand.  All I knew was that Judy had shown kindness to this man who in turn had betrayed us not once, but twice.  For no legitimate reason, this man hurt Judy, he hurt me, he hurt my dance studio and now Judy was letting him get away it.  In this world, you have to stand up for yourself!  

Let me write an open letter to my dance students saying the very same things I have just explained and this incident would have turned out much different.  Yes, it might have been ugly for a little while, but we would have won.

That's right, we would have won.  I am convinced if Judy had set me free, Judy and I would have prevailed in the end.  But I stayed muzzled. 

First we lost the battle with HSDS.  Then we lost our marriage.   There was absolutely not one thread of silver lining in this event.  Nothing good came out of it, just puss and slime and the foul odor of infection.... all because we didn't stand up and fight for what was right.   

I am not a forgiving person.  It is this character flaw that cost me my marriage.  In my mind, Judy had opened the door to let a really bad person cripple MY STUDIO and then she had deliberately prevented me from standing up for our reputation and closing the wound. 

If I could have understood her reasons, I might have been able to forgive Judy.  However, as it stood, her behavior seemed inexcusable.  I punished Judy by turning cold as ice, something I am not proud to admit.  I stayed in the marriage for the good of our daughter and the good of our studio, but mentally I retreated into a world of my own.

About this time, the SSQQ web site came to the Internet.  Angry at Judy, I withdrew to my office and began to work on the web site at all hours of the day and night.    Thanks to my passive aggressive shenanigans, Judy and I began to lead separate lives.  This went on for two entire years. 

Whenever I went to the studio, Judy stayed home to watch Sam.  Whenever Judy went to the studio, I watched Sam.  Judy took Sam to school in the early morning while I slept late, then I picked Sam up in the afternoon.  Judy went to bed early because she had to get up early.  I stayed up late. 

I found ways to avoid Judy for days on end.  We were rarely seen in public together.  For that matter, we were rarely seen at home in the same place either.  I was mad and refused to forgive her without an explanation.  The Cold War had begun and neither of us had the answer to thaw it out. 

Finally at Christmas 2000, Judy said she was tired of being shut out.  She wanted a divorce.  I said okay.  I didn't blame her one bit for feeling shut out.  After all, it was the truth. 

I didn't hate Judy.  In fact, I admired her in many ways.  Judy had overcome a lot to get this far in life.  She was brilliant at the studio and dedicated as a mother.  I just couldn't forgive her enough to go through the awful struggle of saving our marriage.  To me, it was easier to break it off and move on. 

That said, I didn't wish for Judy to leave my life.  It wasn't like she had been a bad person.  If anything, I was the one who couldn't find the answer.  I did not have the wisdom or the spiritual strength to find a solution to our impasse.  I was a very angry man.  Angry at Judy, angry at myself, angry at the world.

The uncontested divorce moved swiftly.  Five months later it was over.  It was actually very amicable.  Judy said she would like to continue to work at the studio.  That was fine with me.  We hugged on the courthouse steps and promised to remain friends. 

Judy and I did our best to work together at the studio after our divorce in 2001.  Things were tense at times, but for the most part I was glad she was there.  Judy had just as much loyalty to SSQQ as I did.  I guess the only downside is that any time we disagreed on something, Judy wasn't about to take orders. 

I met my future wife Marla in August 2001.  Out of respect for Judy, Marla kept a low profile at the studio.  However, once Marla began organizing cruise trips for the studio in 2003, Marla assumed a larger role at the studio.  This became a new source of tension. 

I married Marla in October 2004.  One month later Judy decided it was time to move on.  In November 2004, Judy quit without notice.  Considering Judy's vast number of responsibilities at the time, her decision to leave in this manner left us in a serious bind.  No Swing teacher.  No Ballroom teacher.  No bookkeeper.  What about payroll?  What about registration?  Her decision to leave suddenly forced us to scramble to fill gaping holes. 

Under those circumstances, Judy's departure could hardly be described as amicable.  I got the message loud and clear. Maybe she was punishing me like I had punished her.  The games people play are not always pretty.

Looking back, I still think it is a shame that Judy left the studio.  Judy belonged here.  Judy was an extremely gifted woman who used her talents to make a big difference at SSQQ.   The SSQQ Halloween Party doubled in size thanks to her creativity.  For example, that gruesome Dracula in the picture was yet another one of the exquisite monsters that Judy created to set the mood.

Unfortunately, like many highly creative people, Judy had her quirks.  Judy absolutely detested controversy.  Unfortunately a dance studio is a very public place and there will always problems of some sort when there are that many people to deal with.  You can't hide from people in a public business.

There is no doubt in my mind that Judy loved the dance studio just as much as I did.  You have no idea how hard Judy worked to keep the place clean and looking nice.  You only work that hard if you love something. 

No one can compare to Judy for the genius she displayed in creating dance programs for SSQQ.  The glory days of SSQQ in the late Nineties and early 2000s would never have been possible without the Swing and Salsa dance programs that Judy introduced.  Thanks to Judy, at the turn of the Millennium SSQQ was making money hand over fist.  The extra money generated by the EC Swing program paid for our beautiful dance floor.  Then the Salsa Program paid for Sam's college education.  Judy was dynamic. 

It is a shame that Judy and I were unable to remain friends during Sam's high school years, but we were both pretty mad at each other.  We both had our axes to grind.  Judy was angry at me for giving up on the marriage and not being more understanding about her fear of public dispute.  I was angry at Judy for leaving the studio since I depended on her so much.

I have to say that Sam suffered quite a bit from the divorce.  The constant tension between her parents was surely unbearable at times.  I still feel a lot of regret that her high school years were affected by all her parents' bickering.  Sam never did well academically in high school because she didn't do her homework.  And yet the moment she made it to college, Sam made the Dean's List.  Considering the extent of the turnaround, I have to assume the constant drama of her suitcase lifestyle had a lot to do with her underachievement.

Fortunately, Sam turned out more or less intact.  I am sure she is angry about a lot of things that occurred in this period, but hopefully time will heal the wounds.  There is one thing I am sure of - despite our quarrels, Judy and I have always loved Sam completely.

SSQQ owes Judy a huge thank you.  The glory days of SSQQ in the late Nineties and early 2000s would never have been possible without the Swing and Salsa dance programs that Judy introduced. 

I am more than happy to give her credit.  Judy deserves it.  Maybe someday we can be friends again.  I would like that."



Flying under the radar

"Getting back to the studio, did anyone else get married in the Nineties or was it just the Instructors?"

"This turns out to be an awkward question for me.  The answer is that I think lots of people got married at the studio, but I probably only know of about half of them.  Quite a few people eluded detection.

I called this phenomenon "Flying Under the Radar".

Most of the SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance from the Nineties would have to be summed it up this way - If I can't find your picture on the Halloween Poster or a Sock Hop poster during the Nineties, you don't exist.  Nor was getting your picture taken any guarantee.  Three parties were photographed a year, 100 pictures each, 10 years in the decade.   3,000 pictures makes it tough to look through and make sense of it all.

Let's face it, the Nineties were a largely undocumented era. There were a lot of marriages that may not be found.  Here are some of pictures I was able to spot."  

(By the way, Readers, please feel free to contribute any information on missing marriages.


Virginia and Gareld McEathron, 1994

Jan and Steve (last name?),  1994 ??

Gina and Mike Dorman, 1998

Bill Stumph and Diane Huber, 1992

John Sarabia and Danee Hamilton, 1989

Stacy - Ms Raisin Dance - Steve (last name??), 1993

His name is Peter.  Her name is Patty.  1992?? 

Barbara and Jim Hordern,  1992

Chuck & Mystery Lady. Chuck was engaged to this lady, then changed his mind.  He later married Stephanie on the right.

And this is Stephanie.  No picture exists of
Stephanie and Chuck together. 1997?  

Unknown Mystery Couple 1992

Mike and Donna Maresh, 1996

Joe and Jackie Clark (Jackie is the gypsy)

This lovely couple only made it through a couple years.
Too bad, I really liked them both.

1990, John Goode and Pam Thomas

1990, John Goode and Pam Thomas

The Beautiful Couple. 
No one got their name.

Brokeback Mountain. 
They are actually both quite straight, but I couldn't resist.

"Well, Rick, that is certainly a lot of couples.  Are you satisfied with that count?"

"Not really.  How many couples have their picture up there?  I count 17 couples.  Seventeen couples in ten years?   That is an average of a little more than one couple per year. 

C'mon, in 2005 we had 15 couples get married in one year alone!!  So you can't expect me to believe the seventeen couples up there are the only ones who met at the studio and got married in the Nineties.

I bet there are 30 more couples from the Nineties I will never know about.  A lot of couples flew under the the radar in those days!

There is no other way to describe the Nineties other than it all boiled down to whether a couple got their picture taken or not.  My entire memory is locked into pictures.

If you weren't on the SSQQ Staff or didn't get your picture taken at a Halloween Party, you did not exist.  Much of the Slow Dance and Romance scene from the Nineties remains undocumented to this day."


August 2007 Update from Rick Archer.

Since the Matchmaker Article was originally published in January 2006, twelve more couples from the Nineties that once flew under the radar have resurfaced. 

  1. Judy Horton and Scott Lee (Eighties)
  2. Stuart and Dianne Raef (Nineties)
  3. John and Danee Sarabia (Eighties)
  4. Chris and Karen Whitaker (Nineties)
  5. Kelly Keiser and Sandy Butcher (Nineties)
  6. Bob & Sharon Manning (Nineties)
  7. Mary Collins and Mike Moore (Nineties)
  8. Carl Gray and Mira Frosolono
  9. Jon Monteith and Linda Wade
  10. Dave Issac and Connie Ware
  11. Bob and Jenny Bailey
  12. Bill Stumph and Diane Huber

Judy and Scott's story is included in the previous Chapter - click here  The other stories are covered below.

Stuart and Dianne Raef

"Rick, what makes you so sure there were other people getting married during the Nineties that you didn't know about?"

"Funny you should ask that.  When I contend that a lot of couples flew under the radar during the Nineties, the story of Stuart Raef and his lovely wife Dianne serves as a perfect example of what I mean

I knew Stuart because he dated Linda Rooks, one of my instructors, for a while.  But I did not know him very well.  I have a hunch I met Dianne at the studio, but I didn't get to know her.  Dianne's picture was familiar.

Stuart and Dianne got married in 1997, but I never heard a thing about it.  Even though this couple had very strong SSQQ connections, I remained completely in the dark until Dianne wrote me in 2006. 

At this point we struck up a conversation and I learned the entire story.

-----Original Message-----
From: Stuart and Dianne Raef
Sent: Thursday, October 19, 2006 6:12 PM
Subject: dance step instructions

Rick, I am Dianne Raef and my hubby, Stuart Raef, and I took dance lessons from you for several years, back in the 90's….in fact that is where we continued our romancing until we decided to make our last name's the same….in 1997…since then we have retired and moved to the country….we are trying to help some friends learn a few dance steps but neither of us can find any of the handouts from the two steps and waltz lessons we took. Would you mind sharing those with us?..we think we have most of them correct but thought it would be great to check them out to see if we are helping or hurting our friends…thanks so much….

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, October 20, 2006 10:41 AM
To: Stuart Raef
Subject: RE: dance step instructions

I doubt seriously the syllabus from these two classes will do much good, Diane, but you are more than welcome to them.

Your name is very familiar to me, Diane. Did you and Stuart meet at the studio or just enjoy your courtship there?

The truth of the matter is that I did not recognize the name at all.  I was just fishing.  Fortunately Dianne helped me out.

From: Stuart and Dianne Raef
Sent: Friday, October 20, 2006 12:21 PM
Subject: slow dance and romance dance step instructions

You are a sweetheart…thanks so much…we met dancing at the Long Horn…Stu was with Linda Decker and and Gareld and Virginia McEathron and another gal, small blond, that danced a lot with your studio…Stu was part of the Lindy Hop group…I enclosed a photo…I am sure You remember stuart more than me…(a little greyer but still dancing….) thanks again… by the way, my son, Tony Lazarine, has taken Salsa from you a couple of times too…great place to learn and meet folks….

Gareld and Virginia?  You have to be kidding.  I know both of them well because we have shared a half-dozen cruises together. 

I remembered that Virginia and Gareld were dating about this same time before getting married.  Gosh, why didn't Virginia or Gareld ever tell me about this couple?

While I was puzzling over my ignorance, I looked at the picture Dianne had sent. Once I saw the picture, I remembered Stuart immediately.  Like a lot of people, he was a big part of the studio Western group for a couple years.  Then one day he stopped coming and I was so out of it I never even noticed.

A couple minutes later I got a second email from Dianne

-----Original Message-----
From: Stuart and Dianne Raef
Sent: Friday, October 20, 2006 12:51 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: dance step instructions

It was Linda Rooks…and Kaye Reed that we knew…finally remembered….

Kaye Reed?  She was a big part of the studio in the Nineties.  I knew her well.  Kaye was easily one of the top three female Western dancers and a friend of mine as well.  I had to ask myself why the heck didn't Kaye tell me about Dianne and Stuart?  This was getting ridiculous. 

The straw that broke the camel's back was when Dianne named Linda Rooks.   Now I was really frustrated at my ignorance.

I knew Linda had dated Stuart for some time, but both had moved on amicably.

After Stuart and Linda went their separate ways, a new man named Rad Decker entered Linda's life.  Linda and Rad were serious about each other from the word "GO".  You could tell they clicked well.  I was happy for Linda.  I had known her for eight years and she was one of my best instructors.  I had the greatest respect for this talented woman.

Linda only had one weakness - she went nuts whenever a camera appeared.  Why I will never know because I thought she was very attractive. Nevertheless Linda would panic every time I tried to photograph her. This Halloween picture on the right is probably the best picture of Linda I ever took... and that picture is not exactly a prize winner.

But why didn't Linda, a close friend of mine, bother to mention Stuart and Dianne's wedding?  This was turning into a mystery.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, October 20, 2006 1:17 PM
To: Stuart Raef
Subject: RE: dance step instructions

Dianne, now that I see the picture, I remember you both very well.

Kaye is a longtime friend of mine. You know what, Dianne, that does it… you and Stu have an SSQQ marriage unless you talk me out of it.

Look at it from my point of view: I taught Stu to dance. Stu used dancing to meet you. And many of your friends during the courtship were SSQQ dancers.

Okay, you didn’t meet in dance class, but those were SSQQ moves that got things going ;-) 

I intend to claim you guys as another SSQQ romance!

-----Original Message-----
From: Stuart and Dianne Raef
Sent: Friday, October 20, 2006 3:48 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: dance step instructions

I see your point, Rick…the times we had there were great times…too bad we are so far from there now or we would return often…we could use some refresher courses….

we have sent many a folk your way since then, but maybe Stuart and I can sneak by one of these days.

I was frustrated that no one told me about Stuart and Dianne's wedding.  Linda my instructor did not tell me.  My friend Kaye Reed didn't tell me.  Gareld and Virginia didn't tell me.  I languished in the dark. 

Actually, it probably isn't a mystery why no one told me.  I think I know why no one told me - back then I wasn't keeping track of weddings.  There was no newsletter and no web site.  They didn't know I cared, so why bother?

This story serves as a perfect example why I am convinced there are many SSQQ marriages from the Nineties that I will probably never know about.   This was a period in my life where I just wasn't paying very good attention.  Now that I write this story, I feel tremendous regret.  I wish I had known better.   Oh well.


John and Danee Sarabia

While I am at it, here's another story.  John Sarabia and Danee Hamilton were card-carrying members of the Studebaker Gang.  In fact, Danee even made it to the Bahamas with her friend Liz Perry on Sharon Crawford's 1988 trip.

John and Danee got married in 1989.  And guess what?  I attended their wedding!  (you can even see me in the picture.) 

But did I list them as one of my married couples when I originally wrote the Matchmaker story in 2006? 

Heck no.  Like I said, if I didn't have a picture, I didn't have a brain. 

Fortunately one day John and Danee read my Matchmaker article.  They loved the story, but couldn't imagine how I managed to omit mentioning them, especially since I was AT THEIR WEDDING (look in the picture; that's me in the background). 

John was kind enough to send me the following email:

-----Original Message-----
From: john sarabia
Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 1:15 AM
Subject: Howdy from the Studebaker crowd!

Rick,  Danee and I were looking up some information on the net and found your website. We spent the next 2 and a half hours reading about all the articles and thinking back to the days we spent with you and SSQQ. Danee is even in a couple of pictures you have posted of the Bahama trip of '88. Seeing pictures of you and Diane Head (Archies "Sugar, Sugar" ) Maureen, Liz Perry, and Sharon Crawford brought back memories.

Danee and I initially met at Studebakers as we were both part of the THE GROUP but didn't know each other at the time. We then began taking classes together. You were at our wedding and reception in Sept of 1989. We pass by the studio from time to time and we've talked about going back and taking lessons. So far, our dance has us moving to a different song.

Love and Marriage is a dance, Rick, but a dance within a dance. We wish you all the best. Who knows we may surprise you and pop in on you one day.

God Bless,  John and Danee Sarabia

So here we have another couple who was once a big part of the studio who flew under the radar because I simply didn't keep track in those days.  Now I wish I had!

However the nice thing is that I can continue to update and add to my story as more information comes in.  The Fourth Generation just added another marriage!

So my point is this - if I left you out on the first run (2006) and the second run (2007), there is still plenty of time.  If you want to be added to the story, email me some pictures and add whatever details you wish. 

In this regard, I am grateful to Danee and John for helping to make my story even more complete. 

Thank you to both of you!


Chris and Karen Whitaker

On Saturday, July 28, 2007, I was scheduled to teach a Western Crash Course on Synchronized Polka.  There was a couple in my class that seemed very familiar.  I stared at them a little too long and they noticed.  They smiled back at me and walked over to say hi.

That's is when Chris and Karen Whitaker reintroduced themselves to me.  They told me they met in my Western class back in the early Nineties.  They took lessons for a year or so, then disappeared to get married and start a family.  'Marriage is the death of dance'...

Now fifteen years later Chris and Karen had a free evening.  So they decided to drop by, say hello, and see if their Polka still worked.   There was a little rust, but they did great.  Dancing is just like riding a bicycle!


Kelly Keiser and Sandy Butcher

-----Original Message-----
From: Kelly Keiser
Sent: Friday, September 21, 2007 1:22 PM
Subject: 90s Wedding

Dear Rick,

Thanks for all the fond memories... dancing at Studebaker's, 4th of July and Halloween costumes, etc.  After years of volunteering in beginning classes, when I met Sandy in September, 1990 at a Wednesday night practice, the room blurred around her.  I could see no one else in the room.  We married a year later!

We are now retiring to be with our Grandson and watch the construction of our new home in Schertz, just North of San Antonio. Although we will now have the time to resume dancing, unfortunately it will not be here in Bellaire with SSQQ.

Best Wishes,

Kelly Keiser and Sandy (Butcher) Keiser


Bob and Sharon Manning

-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Manning
Sent: Saturday, August 25, 2007 9:00 PM
Subject: Matchmaker Article

Hi Rick and the Gang,

I was on your website because Sharon and I are looking to take some more dance lessons. I was looking at your “Romance” section and noticed the weddings only went back to 1999.

Sharon and I met taking Jitterbug/Swing classes at SSQQ in 1991 and got married in 1994. Your organization has a formula for romance. We stopped taking lessons because of the distance to the studio (and we got busy, the sun was in our eyes, we tripped on a rock, …). We hope to start and see all of you again soon.

Bob & Sharon Manning – SSQQ Students 1991-1994

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 10:49 AM
To: Bob Manning
Subject: RE: Matchmaker

Gosh, your names are familiar. Hmm.

Your romance falls into the era I refer to as 'Flying under the Radar'.

Unless I took a picture at one of the dance parties that prompts my memory, the Nineties are now a complete and total blur.  You see, in the Eighties I taught all the classes and I knew everyone. But in the Nineties when the studio expanded to five rooms, I couldn't keep track of everyone's story any longer.  Believe me when I say I am filled with a lot of regret about this period in the studio's history!

I will add your story to the Matchmaker Saga immediately.  In the meantime, I am very grateful that you have shared your story with me.  Feel free to add any more information.

Thank you!  Rick


Mary Collins and Mike Moore

In October 2007, as I entered the studio I was greeted by a familiar face.  My wonderful friend Mary Collins... now Mary Moore... was at the studio to take a dance lesson.

Mary Collins was my assistant in Western classes for about two years in the late Nineties.  I believe she met her husband Mike while dancing at a Western club.   He took several lessons here at the studio during their courtship period.  Not only was Mary a great assistant, she was also my friend. I was very happy for her when she married Mike in November 1998.

However, as I feared, like many couples Mike and Mary faded into the sunset not long after they got married.  As I have said repeatedly, marriage is such a big step that people's priorities and lifestyles go through radical changes.

So it was quite a surprise after nine years to see Mary's smile again as I entered the studio.   Apparently Mike's grown daughter by a previous marriage wanted to learn some Western dancing, so Mike and Mary not only signed Melissa up at the studio, they came along with her! 

Guess what was the first thing I did when I saw Mike and Mary?  I took their picture, of course!  These guys are SSQQ celebrities after all. 

So how did Mary (Collins) Moore manage to fly under the radar when I knew her so well?

Mary's wedding doesn't completely qualify as a marriage that escaped my attention.  I have her marriage listed in two previous places on this page.  What I didn't have, however, were any pictures!  Even though Mary was a mainstay at the studio for several years,  I guess she wasn't a Halloween person.  I could not find a picture of her to save my soul.

However, Mary's wedding to Mike did have a special distinction.  I mentioned her upcoming wedding as part of the first
SSQQ Newsletter I ever published at the end of 1998.  And now I get to add their picture to the story.  Welcome back!


Carl Gray and Mira Frosolono

From: Carl Gray
Thursday, May 21, 2009 11:01 AM
Is there going to be a party this weekend at the studio?

Mira and I will be traveling to Houston this weekend and was wondering if there was going to be a party (practice night) this Saturday, May 21, 2009?

Rick Archer
Thursday, May 21, 2009 11:40 AM
Carl Gray
RE: Is there going to be a party this weekend at the studio?

Good to hear from you, Carl. Unfortunately, we are winding down for a week's vacation so nothing is going on. Wild West is where everyone plans to hang out.

My memory is super-fuzzy. I have forgotten Mira's last name. plus I can't remember when you guys got married? Didn't you move to Arkansas? Help me out!

Carl Gray
Sent: Thursday, May 21, 2009 12:00 PM
To: 'Rick Archer'
Subject: RE: Is there going to be a party this weekend at the studio?

Mira’s last name is Frosolono (she kept it after we got married).

We met at the studio (per Mira) in 1992, when you had me go dance with her at one of the parties.  (This is what Mira tells me happened.  I do not remember that, so many women so little time).  But, I do remember her coming across the floor at the Rose on Richmond in a little black mini skirt and asking me to dance (selective memory).

I moved to Arkansas in 1993 and got married in 1996.

Where is the Wild West these days?  Maybe, we will go there a do a little dancing.

BTW, Rick, you are the reason I stuck with dancing.  I had just about given up on learning the pretzel, and was going to quit.  But, since I had already paid for the class, and  only had one more class to go.  I went to it anyway, I could just hide in the back.  Then you made me dance with you to demonstrate the move to the class!  And guess what?  I got it (with a lot of back leading from you). 

Have not stopped dancing since.  Even after I shattered my heel working around the house (almost lost my foot).  Long story.

Glad to hear from you, miss the SSQQ!

Carl and Mira

RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:  As you can read for yourself, Carl and Mira met at SSQQ in the early Nineties.  A year later, they moved to Arkansas.  In 1996, they got married.  Their marriage occurred about as far under the radar as possible.  When they got married, Carl and Mira had been gone from the studio for three years and were living in another state.  Their story is just another example of why I say the true number of SSQQ marriages will always be under-reported.   I suspect there are many other couples like Carl and Mira out there with similar stories. 


Jon Monteith and Linda Wade

Rick Archer's Note:  On Wednesday, March 4, 2009, I got this email from my wife Marla

From: Marla
Sent: Wednesday, March 04, 2009 9:36 AM
Subject: 2 New Names for Barcelona

Jon Monteith
Linda Wade

My eyes grew wide.  I had not heard from these two for over twenty years!   And now they had just signed up for the 2009 Barcelona Cruise.  Cool!  

I first met Jon Monteith back around 1981.  Jon was instrumental in helping me put an emerging new dance - Western Swing - into a format that would make it easier to teach.  During a four-month stretch, Jon and a lady named Belinda would frequently meet with me on Saturday mornings at the studio to share new patterns and figure out how to lead them. 

I immediately dashed off an email to Jon.

picture of Linda and Jon Monteith
taken on the 2009 Barcelona Cruise

On Mar 6, 2009, at 3:08 PM, "Rick Archer" wrote:

Hi Jon and Linda! Welcome aboard!

Gosh, you guys go all the way back to the very start of the Eighties.

I didn't even realize you got married!  I knew you were dating, but… you know… I can't keep track of everything.

I am really happy I will get to see you again! Do you guys dance much these days?

From: Jon Monteith
Sent: Saturday, March 07, 2009 8:26 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: 2 New Names for Barcelona

We got married in 1992. Still dance on occasion. These days I am mostly into very long distance bicycle riding. We are looking forward to the trip. It will be good to see you again 

On Mar 8, 2009, at 10:03 AM, "Rick Archer" wrote:

 1992!  When did you guys meet?  Wasn't it sometime around 1982?   No wonder I had no idea you got married!

-----Original Message-----
From: Jon Monteith
Sent: Sunday, March 08, 2009 11:16 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Re: 2 New Names for Barcelona

Linda and I met in 1987. But if you remember, I started taking lessons with you earlier with Belinda Holley.

Well, there was my answer.  I remember that Linda and Jon were dating in the Eighties.  Those were the days when they were here at SSQQ all the time.  In fact, I ran across a picture of them at the 1989 Halloween Party just the other day.  Then I found the picture on the right from the 1988 Christmas Party.

Like many couples, as their relationship deepened, their interest in dancing faded into the background.  That's when Jon and Linda moved onto other things.  As I have said repeatedly, "Marriage is the Death of Dance."

As you can see, Jon and Linda's 1992 wedding is another classic Flying Under the Radar SSQQ Marriage from the Nineties.  I first wrote the story about my problem keeping track of Nineties Weddings back in 2006.  When I found out about Jon and Linda in 2009, that meant nine couples had resurfaced in the space of just three years to fill me in on the news.  That makes me pretty happy!

By the way, I would again like to credit Marla for her work with the SSQQ Cruise Trips.  In 2009, we had 15 SSQQ Wedding couples join our two cruises for the year. That is quite a number!  On the Barcelona Trip alone, we had 9 SSQQ wedding couples.  Jon and Linda, of course, were one of the nine couples.  I was so impressed by the number of SSQQ Wedding Couples aboard our cruises that I wrote the following newsletter brief about Marla and her work with the cruises.

"Back in the old days of SSQQ, people would marry and drift away. These couples might make an occasional reappearance at the Halloween Party, but by and large they were gone for good. It hurt at first because these people invariably had become my friends as well as students. However the same thing kept happening again and again, so eventually I had no choice but to grow philosophical about this development. I didn't like it, but I learned to accept it. Their priorities had changed and importance of dancing in their lives had diminished.

That phenomenon has changed quite a bit here in the 2000s. The nice thing about the SSQQ cruises is they give SSQQ wedding couples a pretty neat way to stick around after the ceremony. These days, SSQQ wedding couples discover our cruises give them a way to hang with the studio and have fun in the process. Whether dancing is still important or not, everyone enjoys taking trips with a great group of people.

I might add, to their surprise, once they are here they frequently discover dancing is still fun!  Marriage might be the Death of Dance, but Cruises bring Dance back to Life!"

1988 Christmas Party at SSQQ


Dave Issac and Connie Ware

On Wednesday, December 23, 2009, I had just finished teaching my final dance class of 2009.  It was time for Christmas break!

Just as I was headed to the door, someone tapped me on the shoulder. 

That is when I was re-united with Dave Isaac and Connie Ware, two of my friends from twenty years ago.  Now living in Colorado, they were in town to visit children and grandchildren for the Holidays.  Wouldn't it be fun to stop by SSQQ while they were here?

Back in the Eighties, Dave and Connie were part of the Studebakers Era where every Monday night the group met for Swing Dancing at a posh Fifties Retro Club over in the Galleria.  While they were here at the studio, Dave and Connie took every Swing class, Whip class, and Western class we had to offer.  

And then one day they mysteriously disappeared!

Now twenty years later, Dave and Connie returned to say hello and reassure me they had not been alien-abducted after all. 

Dave started dancing at SSQQ in 1986.  Connie started a year later.  They met at SSQQ during Practice Night.  Although my memory is fuzzy at best, I am pretty sure they started out as friends.  It probably wasn't until 1988 that they were definitely a couple.  I believe their dance career at SSQQ lasted another year, then they drifted on to other activities and interests.

The problem with this slow fading of interest is that it never occurs to people to say they are moving on.  After all, they don't even realize it themselves.  They assume they will be coming back to the studio for the Halloween Party or maybe a dance class further down the road.  But that day never comes and meanwhile they join the parade of discontinued faces and disconnected names that roll around in the back of my mind. 

Of course I had no idea where they got to.

In 1992 Dave moved to Michigan.  If I remember what they told me, Connie went with him.  Then in 1996, Dave moved again, this time to California.  That is the year they got married. 

In the 2000s, Dave and Connie decided to move to Manitou Springs in Colorado near Colorado Springs.  Although both Connie and Dave are retired now, Dave goes into Denver periodically to do volunteer math teaching in the public schools. 

Dave and Connie's return to the studio gave me a real lift.  It is so wonderful to connect to friends who were once an important part of my life.   Yes, I admit it gets old getting attached to people and having them move on.  That is one part of the business I have come to accept, but it still makes me wistful that people have to leave.  However, when they are nice enough to come back and say hi, that's pretty special.  I have had a big smile on my face for two days since our neat talk. 

Here again is another Nineties marriage that flew under the radar for twenty years. 


Bob and Jenny Bailey

From: Bob Bailey
Sent: Friday, December 11, 2009 12:52 PM
Subject: Reminder for Bob and Jenny Bailey

Rick,  per our phone conversation, Jenny and I will plan on being there this Sunday (13th) from 7 to 9 PM for a refresher on Whip/West coast Swing (heaven knows we need it).  We need a dance refresher badly to prepare us for a cruise next week.

If you do a real good job, and don't laugh at us too much, then we promise to pay you.

Bob and Jenny Bailey
SSQQ Class of 1998

From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, December 13, 2009 10:56 PM
To: Bob Bailey
Subject: RE: Reminder for Bob and Jenny Bailey

There won't be any charge.  I just hope you remember enough of this stuff for the cruise!

From: Bob Bailey
Sent: Monday, December 14, 2009 10:00 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Reminder for Bob and Jenny Bailey

Rick, Thank you again for the refresher.

We are going to practice more at home this week and hopefully remember all that stuff you showed us.

Jenny and I are already planning a return visit to the studio next year for a crash course in jitterbug (another one of our favorite dances).


December 15
Christmas Card to Rick from Jenny Bailey

Rick, thanks so much for the free Whip class! We really appreciate it!

Bob and I are practiciing on our living room floor. Hopefully after our cruise we will see you in 2010.

By the way, here's a photo of us and our two boys (ages 7 and 10) from our trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, this past summer.

I know you warned us, but that Whip class really did us in.

Have a Happy New Year!

Rick Archer's Note:  Bob called me on the phone in mid-December 2009.  He and Jenny were going on a cruise and wanted some dance lessons at the last minute to use on the trip.  Since I am well aware how ineffective last-minute lessons are, I was too skeptical to charge them anything.  My reward was simply getting to see Bob and Jenny again after 11 years.   During our phone call, Bob explained that he and Jenny had gotten married in early 1998. 

I swear that somewhere I have a story about Bob and Jenny from 1998, but until I run across it, I will just have to stay aggravated. 

In the meantime, Bob and Jenny got married just before the SSQQ Newsletter came online in October 1998.  I am thrilled to add their story to our collection of memories.  Let me add how great it is to see two more SSQQ Kids!  


Bill Stumph and Diane Huber

from the April 10, 2009, Newsletter



From: Bill Stumph

Sent: Sunday, March 29, 2009 9:45 PM


Subject: Visit Friday, April 17


Hi Rick!!


My lovely wife Diane (Huber) and I will be in Houston and would like to come by the studio for Practice Night on Friday, April 17.  We are hoping you will be there so that we can say Hi and catch up on the last 17 years or so.  Will you be at the studio that night?


Diane and I got married in 1992.  We still live in San Diego and are still dancing.  Hope to see you!  Let us know.


Bill Stumph




Long ago, back in the days of the Winchester Club, Gilley's and "Urban Cowboy", Bill Stumph was the undisputed Waltz King here at the studio.  We are talking about 1981.


Bill was way ahead of the rest of us guys and that includes me.  We had no idea of the awesome effect that dancing a Waltz had on women.  There were no Western Waltz dance classes in those days.  Bill must have taken a Ballroom Waltz class or something behind our backs and figured out how to adapt it to the Western floors. 


There was no denying his success.  Women pestered Bill all night long for a Waltz.   We would have a party.  All night long women would ask me when the next Waltz was coming on.  They would announce to me that they were "Waltz girl number six" on Bill's dance card.  What a racket!  The seriousness in these women's eyes made me realize Bill was really on to something.  In my idle moments, I wondered if he was charging for each dance.  Maybe I could get a cut.  Play some extra Waltzes, get a kickback.


You know how you say to yourself, "If I only knew back then what I know today?!"  Such a lament!   Gee whiz, Bill cleaned up with his Waltz ability.  He only knew a few steps, but that still put him miles ahead of me and everyone else.  Bill is a pretty nice guy, so I think he will forgive me for saying this, but I don't he knew any super-duper Waltz patterns to compare with Sharon Shaw's modern day course.   I think "Crossovers" was his biggest go-to move.  But that was enough to put him way ahead of the rest of us stiffs.

It didn't matter than Bill's Waltz moves were Intermediate at best because the rest of us were too stupid to even learn the basic step.  It's like the old joke about the two men in the tent with the growling bear outside.  As one man puts on his shoes, the other guy says, "What are you doing?  You can't outrun a bear!"  "Maybe not, but all I have to do is outrun you!"


Bill was the first guy I ever met who understood that all women are transformed into Cinderella at the Ball whenever a Waltz comes on.  Women absolutely love to Waltz and they are helpless to resist the Mythology!

I was so amused by Bill's prowess on the dance floor that I later wrote a story about him on the web site.  That is when I named Bill the "
The Waltz King".   You guys in particular should go read the story!   It will definitely help you with your love life.


Another man who was pretty famous at SSQQ for his Waltz dancing was JOHN JONES.


In the mid-Nineties, a friend of Sharon and mine named John Jones began to study the Western Waltz in earnest.  Thanks to a fledgling new industry known as "dance tapes", John ordered Western Waltz videotapes from around the country.  Every Wednesday night John would practice his new moves with his wife Mary down in Room Three. 

John quickly became the greatest Waltzer in the history of SSQQ.   He was more graceful and knew more patterns than any man in studio history.   However, John was a complicated guy.  He never danced the Waltz on a social basis like his counterpart Bill Stumph.  Bill clearly used the Waltz in the same practical way the Three Musketeers used their swords.  Bill enjoyed the attention of the Fair Sex and realized the Waltz was the perfect vehicle to gain an advantage.  John Jones, however, might dance with Sharon and Mary and no one else.   John wasn't shy, but he was kind of a loner.


That didn't keep the rest of us from noting how good John was.  Whenever I would go to the drink room, I would see two or three people lingering in the doorway to watch in awe as John and Mary danced around the floor in Room 3.  Mary of course looked like Ginger Rogers.  What amazing dancers John and Mary were and what a lovely dance!  


So many people asked John Jones about where he had learned so many awesome moves that he decided to suggest to his friend Sharon that she teach a course.   And that is how Sharon (Crawford) Shaw's wonderful Western Waltz program got its start.  Sharon will be the first to tell you that John deserves much of the credit.  John Jones was the inspiration!


Sad to say, John passed away a couple years ago.  He was the toughest guy I ever met.  We are all in great debt to John for helping Sharon create the SSQQ Western Waltz program.  I miss him and I know Sharon does too.  To this day I think about him whenever I dance a Waltz at the studio.  You would definitely enjoy the story I wrote about John Jones.


Today thanks to Bill Stumph, John Jones, and Sharon Shaw, today's SSQQ Western Waltz program is enormous.  That is quite a legacy. 


"Rick, What do you remember about SSQQ Romance in the Nineties?"

"Well, one of the best Romantic Stories in the long history of SSQQ has remained untold for over fifteen years. 

Back in 1993, Gareld McEathron became the first person to ever propose to his girlfriend here at the studio.  He popped the question to his girlfriend Virginia right in the middle of an SSQQ dance class!  They got married about a year later in 1994.  To this day, in the 30 plus year history of the studio, Gareld and Virginia remain the only SSQQ couple to get engaged on the studio premises and go on to get married.

This was a very touching story, but at the time very few people knew what had happened since there was no newsletter in those days.  As a result, their wonderful story went completely unreported.

Unfortunately, Gareld and Virginia's story took place so long ago that I am a bit fuzzy on the details. I think I will simply ask Gareld to tell the story himself."

Gareld McEathron's Recollections on Meeting and Marrying Virginia

Virginia and I met at SSQQ with both arriving via different paths with the same thoughts of learning to dance.

Virginia worked for MD Anderson Hospital as a teacher with the responsibility of keeping children cancer patients up to date with their studies. One year the hospital organized a party at Eddie's Country Ballroom south of Houston. Virginia attended the party.  However, due to her strict Baptist upbringing, she did not know how to dance. An instructor from SSQQ was there and gave beginning lessons early in the evening. Virginia enjoyed the experience and decided to take lessons at SSQQ, which was near her home.

I learned to dance at age twelve. I was shining shoes after school and on Saturdays in the local barbershop in a small town in South Dakota. The recently widowed barber was dating a young lady who was caring for her sixteen year old sister while her parents were away. The barber wanted to take his girlfriend to a dance on Saturday night but she couldn't leave her sister by herself. He told me that he would pay our way if I would escort the sister. She wasn't too happy to be seen with a twelve year old as her date but, since there was an oversupply of young ladies, my "date" spent much of the evening teaching me to dance.

My family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, the next summer.  This put a brief end to my dance career.  I did not get back to dancing until the middle of my junior year of High School. At that time, I was a district route manager for the newspaper and had my own car, a rarity for a teenager during World War II. This was during gas rationing and I was issued "C" ration stamps which should provide just enough gas to service my district in addition to the standard "A" stamp book provided to each vehicle for personal use (about five gallons per week).

I strapped a bicycle to the front of the car and would ride it to check that all of the paperboys had made it out of bed in the mornings. This, along with an occasional can of cleaning fluid dumped in the tank, left me with gas for occasional dates, etc. However, since I had a car, I had plenty of requests to double date. My standard reply was, "I will be happy to take you and your girlfriend if you can talk your family out of a five gallon stamp from your family allotment".  This was great for me. The only problem was explaining to the rationing board how I could wear out so many tires on the gas I was allotted.  Things were a bit different back in those days.

My best friend's girlfriend had taken ballet lessons as a child and liked to dance. He only liked Country Western music and didn't like to dance.  When we double dated to a dance at her insistence, she and I started working out jitterbug steps from what we saw on the news clips at the movies as well as what others were doing.  There was no such thing as dance lessons; you watched it and tried to copy it.  Then you stepped on a lot of toes till you figured it out.

As time went on, I found girlfriends to dance with.  I seldom missed the Friday night Twix-Teen dance. When I was dating my first wife, Ruth, dancing was a big part of our courtship. The dancing came to an end when she contacted polio while she was pregnant with our daughter, Deborah (pregnant women were nine times more susceptible to polio than were the general population).  Polio was a huge problem here in America during the late Forties and throughout the Fifties. 

About the only time I danced for the next forty years was at occasional parties where there were wives with husbands that didn't dance. However, during most of the last six years I worked, I had several projects in France. I spent a good deal of time in the same hotel in the small town of St. Dizier.  The hotel proprietor and his family started inviting me to dinner parties in their home and to local social functions which frequently involved dancing. I only remember Waltzing one time as a teen-ager and could not do so with the French ladies. None the less, I had a great time with the swing and foxtrot dances..

I retired at the end of 1991.  Sadly, my first wife Ruth passed away the next summer.

My children gave me a certificate to Leisure Learning for Christmas that same year.

1993 was my year to try some new things.  The first thing I did with the certificate was go to a class to become EPA certified to handle Freon so I could continue to maintain my car and home air conditioning systems.

The second thing was to go to cooking class. Ruth had complained to her sister that since I never cooked, I wouldn't be able to take care of myself when she was gone. I had never had a need to learn since Ruth was such a good cook.  As the oldest child in a family of working parents, out of necessity she had become an accomplished cook by the time we were married.

The third thing was to go back to France for a visit during the party season but this time I wanted to learn to Waltz first. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, there were no Waltz classes offered.  So I delayed going to France and took Swing, Tango and Western Polka classes.

In the third month, I took a Rumba class in which there was an excess of men. Paula Stegemeier, the teacher, recruited women from her previous classes to come and fill in for the balance of the month. Virginia was one of those women.

The next week, Virginia organized a group to go dancing at the Inn on the Lake. I signed up. The Inn turned out to not have a dance at that time so the event was cancelled.

However, Virginia now had my telephone number.

About a week later, Virginia called me and said that there was going to be a birthday party at Eddie's.  Virginia said that she and her friend Dee were going.  Virginia invited me to join them. I offered to drive. I hung up and called my daughter Deborah to see if she knew anything about Eddie's.  I also asked if wearing a white shirt be appropriate attire. Deborah informed me that my plaid shirt would be betterI said "Oh no! That one is not ironed".

Deborah promptly came over and ironed the plaid shirt. We went to the dance and stayed to the end. On the way home, I offered to stop at a diner and buy breakfast but the place I knew about was already closed. Virginia offered to cook breakfast at her house. Dee said she was tired and wanted to go home so we dropped her off. When we got to Virginia's, there were only two eggs in the refrigerator and some bread for toast, which was our breakfast.

The next week, I was practicing my newfound cooking skills.  I invited my daughter, Deborah, to come for dinner.  When she accepted, I called Virginia on her cell phone while she was driving home from work and invited her to stop by for dinner.  I assured her that my daughter would be there as well (in case she felt the need for a chaperone).  

The dinner went well.  No one was poisoned. 
Deborah discretely left after dinner. I played my WWII Hit Parade CDs so we could practice our dance steps.

From that beginning, Virginia and I dated frequently.  We took the time to meet each other's families. I took Virginia to Dallas to meet my late wife's sister, Roberta. They immediately became friendsRoberta remarked, "Whew! That takes a load off of me.  Ruth made me promise that I would find a suitable woman for Gareld and he did it on his own!"

When I decided that I was going to ask Virginia to marry me, I asked my children's opinions. Deborah was quite happy with my decision. My son Ross said, "Thank God, I thought you were going to screw around and let her get away".  The unwavering support from both of our families has been wonderful.

Virginia had given me a card that said, "I love you, I need you, I want you". The envelope was addressed with a bold red "G". I casually asked where she got the card.  Later I went to the shop and bought a card identical to it.  Inside, I wrote in bold, red letters "Will you marry me?" and put it in her original envelope.

By chance, Paula was teaching a Rumba class again. I signed us up to repeat the class.

 I informed many people of my intentions to propose in the same class as the one in which we first met. To allay Virginia's suspicions when family members and friends appeared toward the end of the class, I told her that they were meeting us to go Country Western dancing after the class and that my son had his video camera to take movies while we were there.

I arranged with Paula to call Virginia to the end of the room to be in camera range. When she arrived, I pulled the envelope out of my coat pocket and said to Paula, "You know we first met in your Rumba class and I want to show you how far this relationship has progressed."

Virginia, on recognizing the envelope, started to protest and said, "What is going on here?"

I handed Virginia the card and suggested she read it to Paula. She was obviously flustered.  When she opened the card and saw the message her immediate reaction was to exclaim, "I didn't write THAT!"

Then it soaked in. In an instant, I got a big hug, kiss and a resounding "YES!"


"It seems like Gareld and Virginia didn't need your help.  Is it always necessary for you to be directly involved for the Romances to flourish?  Do you have to be in the picture for Cupid to operate at SSQQ?"

"Probably not.  My major contribution is maintaining a Fun Playground.  The Birds and the Bees do the rest of the work.  I have very little direct contact with most of the wedding couples.

As you can see from my previous story about all the unreported marriages, obviously the Magic was still there while I snoozed a decade away.  SSQQ Romance Magic was definitely alive in the Nineties despite my total ignorance!   I have another story to prove my point. 

The picture at the right is from the 1991 Dogpatch Dance Party.  His name is Richard, but I cannot remember the lady's name for the life of me.  They met at SSQQ and eventually got married. Together they are another "unreported Nineties Wedding" that flew under the radar.   The only reason I remember them is because I ran across this picture taken during their courtship.  After their marriage, they disappeared and I never saw them again.  Marriage is the Death of Dance.  

I also found a group picture from the same party (see picture with red circles).  What makes the group picture so unusual is that I circled 11 people in this picture who met their husbands or wives through the studio.  That's right, 11 out of 28 people in the picture got married to someone from SSQQ.  That's 40% if you like percentages.  

Since I have no statistics to compare this picture to, maybe I am guilty of over-exaggeration, but isn't 11 out of 28 a ridiculously high number of marriages?

All 28 people are single.  I don't see one married couple in this picture.  Richard and his pretty girlfriend are the only two people who got married 'within' the group picture.  The other 9 people circled in this picture would eventually meet someone else at SSQQ who was not present in this picture.

The Dogpatch Picture represents 11 people who met their spouses through SSQQ.

However so far I have only reported the names of 5 of those marriages - Richard McDonald (instructor), Arlene Phillips (instructor), Sharon Crawford (instructor), and Reid Faulkner (instructor).  The lady in red was Stephanie who married a guy named Chuck.

The other six don't have their names anywhere.

Romance was obviously alive and well at SSQQ during the Nineties. 

Another aspect that makes this Dogpatch picture unusual is I only know the names of 14 people out of 28.  In the 1990s, the studio had grown so big, I barely knew half the people at my own dance party.  I knew them by face only. 

This picture pretty much says it all - There was plenty of SSQQ Slow Dance and Romance Magic in the 1990s, but since I wasn't really counting or writing down names, a lot of it flew under my Radar. 

Obviously I did not have to be directly involved for Love to flourish.  I think Dancing as always was the real ice breaker.  Dance is a direct road to Romance."  

"About this Flying Under the Radar problem.  Doesn't that make it a little difficult to write a story about SSQQ Romance in the 90s?"

"Tell me about it!  Back when I was 'Leader of the Pack' I knew everyone's name and everyone's story.  Now that I had become CEO of Houston's largest dance studio, I was lucky if I knew 30% of the names of the people who took classes.  It wasn't until Daryl Armstrong started using name tags during dance classes in the late Nineties that I started to learn names again.  I scoffed at Daryl's idea at first as an invasion of privacy, but then I realize people really liked it!  So I started supplying name tags for all the classes.  That was a good move thanks to Daryl.  

As the studio grew, in a large way, the studio became more impersonal.  There was no real 'Center'.  If I wasn't in the mood to get the party started, our guests would often drift around rudderless like any bar crowd.  The people would search for someone cute to dance with, but leave the moment they decided the pickings were slim.  In other words, people didn't get to know each other like they used to because the family atmosphere had dwindled somewhat.  'Anonymity' might be the ugly word to best describe the problem.  The studio had become like a bar where people come and go.  Some of the homey feel of the studio had disappeared.

Whereas back in the Eighties there had once been a single 'In-Crowd', now the studio had 'The Staff' and 'Various Students Hanging Around'.

Just as a simple example, let me analyze this 1994 picture.  There are four instructors in the picture - Larry Carlton on the left with his hand on Kaye Reed's shoulder.  Debbie Reynolds is smiling the very center of the picture (Debbie was one of my most important instructors during the Nineties). 

That is Instructor Tony Graham at the bottom plus his new wife Trina in red on the far right.  They had just gotten married.  So four members of the picture were SSQQ Staff.  Kaye Reed was an off-and-on member of what little In-Crowd we had. 

In this picture is a Third Generation couple Chuck and Laurie Gray. Laurie is standing next to Trina with Chuck peeking over their heads. 

Chuck had dropped in because Laurie wanted him to take her dancing.  He and Laurie came to the studio partly to dance and partly to see their old friends. 

This was the party where Chuck came up to me and asked me where all the 'Old Gang' was.  Remember that story from the previous chapter?  I had to explain to Chuck how the old crowd had moved on.  Once Chuck and Laurie realized they would never see their old friends at SSQQ, one of their major incentives to return was removed.  That was 1993.  I think they came to a 1994 Halloween Party, but I haven't seen Chuck or Laurie at a party since.  

The other six people are 'faces in the crowd' as far as I am concerned. I don't remember their names.  Thirteen people; I know about half of them because they worked for me.  In some ways, the studio had grown too big for its own good. The studio was struggling for a new identity.

To be more honest, SSQQ was struggling for a Leader in the early and mid-Nineties. I wasn't really doing my job."

"What did you do about SSQQ's 'Identity Crisis'?"

"To be frank, I let the social side of the studio drift.  I was suffering from my own 'Marriage is the Death of Dance' burnout.

'Leader of the Pack' is a difficult role to sustain day in and day out for a lifetime.  Don't forget my official job title was 'dance teacher', not 'social director'.  I did my social director thing because I wanted to, not because I was paid to.

At this point, I was busy raising a child now.  And my wife Judy did not enjoy socializing in our free time.  Since I am basically a loner as well, I found it easy to drift into the 'Family Thing'.  The three of us - my daughter Sam, Judy, me - did things as a family which cut down my time at the studio.  Increasingly I left the singles to find their own happiness.

In my defense, every time one of my instructors got married, they either resigned or trimmed their own 'Life of the Party' roles back to the bare minimum.  History has shown that once you become a 'Double', it is hard to maintain your wild and crazy 'Single' persona.  Once people get into relationships, they settle down.

For example, as I write this story in 2006 I am thinking of three guys who love to go on our dance cruises - George, Gary, Steve.  At different times in previous years, they were definitely the Wild Men on the cruises.  They did all sorts of crazy things to generate energy and have fun.  They were clearly the life of the party.

But the moment each man got into a relationship, on the next cruise they were so tame and well-behaved, you had to blink twice to make sure it was the same guy. 

It is tough to be a Singles Leader when you are in a Relationship.

During the Nineties I admit I felt guilty about neglecting the social side of the studio.  I hated the dilemma I faced - whenever I pursued my own happiness in a relationship, the studio drifted.  Whenever I was lonely, I turned to the Group for companionship and immediately the studio prospered. 

Take the Misery side of the dilemma.  In 1986, I channeled my misery after my divorce from Pat into the 201 Nights of Dancing story.  The energy I created during that strange year transformed SSQQ into a supernova.  The studio was so hot in 1987 that the effects of the Streak could still be seen on into the Studebaker Year of 1988.  I was miserable; the studio did great.

Then came my 1991-1995 Married With Kid years.  No Saturday Night dancing in the clubs for me.   On a Saturday Night, I took my family to the movies. Titanic, Jurassic Park, and the Fugitive took precedent over the Longhorn and Melody Lane.  During the week, I showed up at the studio, taught classes and went home. 

The energy at the studio dwindled.  The classes got smaller.  Practice Night tapered off.  5 years of neglecting my business took its huge toll.  1995 was the year that after we finished paying every single bill, we had $300 left in the studio checking account.  That shows you just how far the energy had dropped.

Is there ever a happy medium?  That is a great question.  I'm not sure.  Let's talk about it again later."

"During the Nineties, didn't you do anything?  You didn't lift a finger to help with the Social Side?"

"Unfortunately people don't have the luxury of knowing the effects of their decisions until it's too late. 

I knew I was taking a gamble getting married back in 1990.  I had enough experience to know the worse my love life was, the happier my studio was.  The cynic in me believed that seeking happiness was bad for the studio.  On the other hand, this lonely stuff gets old.  I hoped that maybe having a large Staff would mean the social side of the studio could flourish without me.

And I suppose most people would agree I had a right to have a family.  I had a right to take a couple nights a week off from the studio.  I had a right to think my staff could do just as good a job as I could.  Unfortunately I had to find out the hard way that I am the heart of the studio.  No one ever seemed to get the party started when I wasn't around. 

One of the new developments - perhaps good, perhaps bad - was that now I ran all the social activities at the studio which I began to call 'Fort SSQQ'. 

My days of dancing in the 'Real World' as I called it were few and far between.  People would say, 'Gosh, Rick, there's a big dance contest this weekend at Melody Lane. So and so is competing!!  Let's go cheer for him!"  

Out of guilt sometimes I did show up for the dance contest on a Saturday night.  I had worked the night before at the Friday Night SSQQ Practice.  Saturday was my night off, but here I was watching people dance.  I resented every single second I was spending at the dance contest.  I knew Sunday was my toughest day of the week with five hours of classes and practice.  Going to that Saturday contest on what should have been my night off would practically ruin me for Sunday! 

Now look at it from my students point of view.  Good things happened when I showed up.  The first thing that happened would be my Pied Piper duty of rounding everyone up.  You see, there were always little pockets of SSQQ people all over the room, but they didn't know each other so they didn't sit together.  Once I showed up, all the little pockets of people would come join me where I sat.  They would be happy to see me because I was their leader and they recognized me.  Suddenly little groups of one, two, or three people became two tables of thirty people! 

Once I got my tables organized, I would begin my social butterfly duties.  I would ask students to dance with me or I might ask someone to go dance with a beginner.  I would greet new people when they got there and invite them to sit with us, then I would introduce the newcomers to some interesting people who in turn would look out for them and continue the introductions.   Within the safe haven of our group, people would be less shy about introducing themselves.  Pretty soon conversations would develop between strangers because they had something in common - dancing at SSQQ.  Pretty soon they would ask each other to dance and the ice was broken.   At this point a group spirit would develop for the evening.  I had done my job of getting the party started.

Good for the studio, bad for Rick.  I had made a contribution, but at a sacrifice.  I had worn myself out in the process. I would definitely be exhausted the next day from four hours of dancing the night before.  While my students could goof off the next day if they were tired, I was facing my longest day of the week on Sunday.  Furthermore, I never had fun at these events.  I simply wasn't interested.  I suppose I shouldn't admit this, but I don't enjoy watching dance contests.  Dance Contests may be entertaining for my students and I understand their interest, but from my point of view, who wants to watch dancing on their day off?  Furthermore, I hate the politics of dance competitions.  I often got aggravated because I often think the judging in dance contests is suspect.  Frequently the crowd favorite would lose to some boring couple was technically perfect

Since I rarely had much fun at the dance contests, I would skip the next contest.  My little pockets of students would stay scattered throughout the evening.  Left with no main SSQQ group to attach themselves to, they intermingled with people from other dance studios.  The following week I would discover half a dozen students went to the contest and someone recruited them to take classes from someone else.  "Learn from so and so and you will get good enough to win dance contests too!"  Since SSQQ was about social dancing and not competitive dancing, any SSQQ student interested in competing was easy pickings.  Invariably the students I lost were my best dancers.  As you can gather, losing students at dance competitions was a headache that never ended.

So there was no Win-Win for me.  It was always a trade-off.  It usually boiled down to whether I was single or in a relationship.  If I was single, I didn't mind going to contests as much because it was a way to hang with the Gang.  But if I was married or in a relationship, I usually preferred to skip the event only to fret as my business would suffer.  Obviously being single was better for the studio, but it meant I would be lonely. 

Throughout the Eighties when I was usually single, the studio thrived.  Throughout the Nineties when I was married, the energy at the studio dropped perceptibly.   Throughout my marriage in the 90s, my attitude was, 'I am married.  I will not be Leader of the Pack on my day off'.  And sure enough, I had to learn the hard way my business suffered for that attitude.  You snooze, you lose.

I am certain politicians, religious leaders and lots of other professionals who work with large groups of people have similar trade-offs.   Doing what you want to do is fun.  Going where the people are is good for business but maybe not so fun.  So you try to find a balance.

I think there was something to be said for the good old days when we had ski trips, Bahama Mama trips, volleyball parties, Charades, Jigsaw Puzzle Parties, Hill Country trips, and so on.  Of course we had the major dances at the studio, but we also did a lot of things outside the studio which helped our group establish its spirit.

But my attempts in the early 90s to recreate those earlier years were met with failure.  The studio had grown so big that intimate events like a Charades Party just didn't get off the ground.  I would suggest a jigsaw puzzle party only to see four people show up. 

One time in the early Nineties I scheduled a Trivial Pursuits on a free Saturday night.  We had maybe a dozen people show up.  Attendance in dance classes that month was around 1,000.  12 people out of 1,000... not very good.

In the old days of the Third Generation when we were a close-knit group, we would get 40 people out of a student body of perhaps 200 for a Charades Party because that's where the action was.  

You get my point.  Social Groups are not like faucets.  You cannot just turn them on and off.  Social Networks have to be built gradually. 

The Momentum of a dance studio is built one step at a time.  In 1980 I got it going with Urban Cowboy.  I stoked the fires with the Winchester Club.  Then I super-charged the studio with 201 Nights of Dancing and kept the energy going in the late Eighties with Studebakers, the Bahamas Trip, and the Banff Ski Trip.  Our mega dance parties like the Halloween Party, the Sock Hop and the Sleazy Bar Party kept the studio rolling strong right through to the end of the decade.  

And then I started to coast.  The first half of the 90s was not a strong period for the studio.  By the mid-90s, there was no In-Crowd.  There was no Core Group.  Even the instructors weren't that close.  SSQQ was no longer a Singles Club.  It had grown so big that it was only a business now.  The social side was barely flickering.

It didn't help much that dancing in general had hit a lull. The rap music of the day killed interest in Whip dancing.  Western dancing had been strong for a long time, but it was hitting a long overdue dry spot.  Salsa dancing had not come along yet.   Swing Dancing had faded once Studebakers closed down.  Houston's interest in Ballroom dancing was pretty quiet. Obviously the studio was stuck in a big muddy rut. 

After Judy finished paying every bill at the end of December, we finished 1995 with $300 in the SSQQ checking account.   When Judy showed me the checkbook, I turned white.  It was time to get back in the saddle whether I wanted to or not.  The studio was in trouble.

In our next Chapter, we learn how SSQQ got the energy going again.  Read Comeback Kids

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