After 30 years in the dance business,
I think it safe to declare that Glen Hunsucker will forever remain the single most
influential person in my career.
Written by Rick Archer, October 2003
Updated February 2008
Glen was my dance teacher for
six years from 1978 to 1984.
Not only did Glen give
me the valuable training I needed to become an effective dance teacher,
it was Glen who saved my skin in 1980 when I was thrown out of my first dance
By offering his own studio as a safety net, he stepped in to
offer me a place to land at a time when I had
no other options. For the next
eight years following the rescue,
I subleased space from Glen at Dance Arts. These years
marked a period of great expansion for my business.
I compare the Dance Arts
Era to the protective
time a parent
gives a child to grow up and prepare to take care
of himself. Under the shelter provided
by Glen, I was able to mature as a teacher and a leader.
In an odd twist of fate, Glen indirectly donated his
studio to me in 1988, the pivotal move that opened the door for SSQQ to become the
largest dance studio in the city of Houston.
Unfortunately this was also an unhappy time that marked a
parting of our ways.
I never saw Glen again. Nor did I speak to him again. Here
is the story.
Introduction: The Man Who
Fell From Grace
In the late 70s and
throughout the 80s
Glen Hunsucker was considered the finest male jazz
dancer in Houston. He was at the very top of his profession. Glen's jazz classes were legendary.
The best dancers in the city all came to learn from him. Glen was
not only the city's most popular jazz instructor, he was the
choreographer and director of the Glen Hunsucker Dancers, the leading
jazz dance team in Houston. Although Jazz was his first love, Glen
was also an excellent Ballroom teacher.
Basically, when it came to dance,
Glen could do it all.
In my opinion, Glen
was the most gifted dancer and the most gifted teacher in our town.
And Glen was a nice guy too. He was very dedicated to his students
and wanted them to improve. I admired Glen so much in so many
But Glen lost it all. He was
the Man Who Fell From Grace.
Here is a mystery for you. Long-time readers of the SSQQ Newsletter and the SSQQ Web Site know I
love to write about every imaginable event that ever
has occurred during the studio's long
30 year history. A
quick glance at my list of topics reveals stories about mud
volleyball, broken toilets, balloon racing, Sadie Hawkins races,
plus many other random and trivial events, humorous perhaps, but
definitely not very important.
The story of Glen
Hunsucker is at best the 100th story I have written.
So ask yourself this question - Given that
Rick Archer writes about everything, why would he delay telling
the story of the
who was the single most important influence in
Good question. By all rights, Glen's story
should have been the first story, not the
hundredth. The reason I have avoided writing about this episode in my life is
that I have mixed feelings. While you will read again and again of
my admiration and gratitude, this story contains a great deal of bitterness and pain
as well. It was my constant uncertainty over the correct path to take
that explains the delay.
I always wanted this story to be a tribute.
But starting in 1984, the events in our relationship took a dark turn.
Telling this story means revealing controversy and
tragedy that I have never completely come to
grips with. Unlike many of my stories which include elements of
humor and irony, my story of Glen Hunsucker is mostly one of pain and
unresolved feelings. I wanted to tell the world
great ability. Like everyone else, I
also wanted to protect his
But after all the other stories I have told about this
studio, it didn't make any sense to start making up tales now or
covering things up. If my word is to retain its credibility, I
have to tell the whole story, warts and all. I either tell the
story correctly or I don't tell it at all.
In 2003, I decided it was finally time to write the story
about this man who was so pivotal in my
dance career. One
word of caution - many people think this is a story about Glen
Hunsucker. That is only partially correct. This is
really the story of how I got started in the dance business and the
contributions that Glen made along the way. Please keep that
1978: The Pistachio Club
One evening in August 1978 I had the
witness the finest exhibition of Disco partner dancing I have ever seen in my
life. The Pistachio Club was Houston's favorite Disco in those days.
That night I was standing by the railing with my dance partner
As Victoria and I talked, I noticed something unusual was going on at
the other end of the dance floor. People were leaving the
dance floor in droves only to turn around and
line its perimeter.
and I moved to get a clear view of two people dancing with the floor all to themselves.
Our mouths dropped open in awe.
were amazed by their phenomenal dancing! A tall, handsome man was dancing the Latin Hustle with his pretty blonde
teenage dance partner. They were poetry in motion. What
it was to watch them dance!
This dancing easily eclipsed anything I had seen in
Fever. They were incredible!!Judging
by the faces, I wasn't the only person
who felt this way. Out of respect for their excellence, all the other dancers had cleared the
floor. Now they lined the floor to better
appreciate this wonderful show.
I don't think anyone in that building felt they had the right
to be on the floor at the same time as these two
talented dancers. Everyone in
the building instinctively knew
they were watching the finest
dancing they had ever seen.
This was my first chance to see Glen Hunsucker and Paula Abbott
in action. Unbelievable! They danced three songs in a row, then sat down and did not
dance again for the rest of the night. Their impromptu performance electrified the crowd. Everyone in the building was in awe. I was mesmerized. This is the only time in my life I
had ever seen a dance floor cleared and it has never happened again
Such a performance!
After they walked off the dance floor,
Victoria and I stared at each other in disbelief. We
could barely believe what we had just seen. Finally after we confirmed
what we had just seen was not a mirage, we began to wonder who this man
was. Victoria nudged me. "Rick, why don't
you find out who he is? Maybe he is a dance teacher!"
So I approached the man before he could
sit down. I asked if he taught dance. He said yes and handed me his
business card. This is how I met Glen Hunsucker, the man who would
teach me practically everything I know about dancing
over the next eight years.
Victoria, Glen, and Me
Two weeks later
on September 7, Victoria and I
began taking private dance lessons from Glen. Back in
1978 Glen's dance studio was located at Westbury Square.
Dodging heavily padded poles throughout Glen's upstairs
studio, Victoria and I would practice the Latin Hustle to our
The Latin Hustle was my first love in dance. With footwork
similar to Swing, the Hustle was a fluid, graceful partner
dance that worked perfectly to Disco music. Those were
the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end...
As we learned the Hustle, Glen also taught us acrobatics.
Victoria had a lot of guts. I have to hand it to her - there
were moves where I threw her in the air and sometimes didn't
catch her very well on the way down. I guess we were too
young to know how stupid we were.
But I will tell you what - thanks to Glen's expertise,
Victoria's courage and athletic ability, and my broad
shoulders, we looked pretty good for a while there.
Victoria and I became terrific dancers, good enough to be hired
to perform on many different occasions. Glen had
taught us very well.
Unfortunately Victoria and I were more
than slightly cursed when it came to performing. We
had one horrible mishap
Once Victoria almost broke her neck in a fall
- with her feet straight up in the air, a ceiling fan we hadn't
noticed caught her feet and toppled her over. A miraculous
catch on my part literally saved her life. Another time
during a performance she flew face-first into a corner
- this time her skin-tight Disco pants was the culprit as she
slipped right out of my arms. A third time
during a performance she nearly collapsed a woman's throat
with an accidental karate chop. As we danced, a woman standing next to the floor
accidentally stepped into the blow.
Although all of our mistakes
were of the "freak accident" variety, they
nonetheless more frequently than seemed
normal. Each accident was very discouraging.
Plus Victoria had a lot on her mind
that prevented her from putting in the extra time and
concentration needed to overcome our jinx. Sometimes things
are simply not meant to be despite the best of intentions.
Victoria and I parted ways in 1982. The story is chronicled in
a rather bizarre tale known as Risky Business.
One on One
After Victoria moved on to other
adventures, l thought about finding another dance partner.
Finally I decided to continue the private lessons with Glen all by
For one thing, at this point the
Fever-inspired Disco Era was over and the
Urban Cowboy-inspired Western
Era was in full swing. Now that Disco had bit the dust, I didn't
have much need for a dance partner any more.
I thought it made more sense to concentrate on improving
my own dancing and learn more about the different dances such
as Ballroom dancing and Whip.
Glen was an excellent teacher. Not only did he teach me the steps
and the rhythm to all the important dances, he helped me improve how I
looked when I danced. This is the mark of an excellent dance
teacher. Most instructors can give you the facts and figures to
each dance, but only the really good ones can impart style and
grace. In my case I initially moved with the fluidity of a dump
truck stuck in reverse, but with his help over time even I was
able to learn how to make my steps smaller and improve my balance
I took lessons from Glen twice a week for six years. Glen taught me the Whip, the Latin Hustle,
West Coast Swing, Acrobatics, Tango, Cha Cha, Waltz, Foxtrot,
Samba (I was a failure at Samba), and East Coast Swing. In
addition I also took two group lessons a week from Glen
in Jazz dancing.
About the only thing Glen didn't teach me was Western (which
he hated), but
once in a while he even offered to help me with C&W too if I
was trying to figure out a pattern and asked nicely enough.
The standing joke was he would help as long as I
promised not to turn on the music.
95% of the time Glen danced the "follow" part while I
danced the "lead". Watching
us dance must have been a pretty strange sight since we were both
tall athletic men with large shoulders and tapered
muscular bodies. By coincidence, we even
developed prematurely gray hair at the same time. We were so similar in age, size, build and
appearance that I was asked if I was his brother or related to
Glen on more than one occasion.
Since we were well-matched, I was even mistaken for his
boyfriend once or twice. During our very first solo
lesson, I was worried about dancing alone with another man, but by
the end of the first hour I got over it. I never gave it another
advantage from my years of dancing with Glen is that I became
completely de-sensitized to dancing with men.
My students ask me from time to time how I feel
about dancing with men in class. They are surprised to find I
don't enjoy it much for two reasons. First I don't enjoy getting
knocked off balance or forced to dance off the beat.
However my main concern is the obvious discomfort it creates for my
Although I may be used to dancing with men, my male students clearly aren't.
I don't enjoy
putting these men ill at ease, but I will do it anyway if there are
too many men in the class. I always laugh
at their surprise. The first thing they say, "Gosh, you're easier
to dance with than the girls are!" What they discover is
that even though I weight 200 pounds, I weigh less to dance with
than a 110 pound woman who is off balance. They don't have to move
me; I move myself.
I soon noticed a huge
benefit of dancing with Glen alone - I learned to lead
phenomenally well. If I made a mistake, Glen would
immediately show me what I had done wrong. When you watch
students dance, you often have to guess what went wrong. But by
dancing with Glen he could tell me exactly what I needed to do to
correct the problem.
Most Dangerous Man in Houston
Although there were many benefits to
learning to dance with the finest male
dancer in all of Houston, there was one very peculiar disadvantage -
I became the most feared
man in Houston on the Whip dance floor.
Today I am considered a gentleman on the dance
floor as well as a "gentle" man. That was certainly not
true when I first started. As always, I had to learn
things the hard way. For a while there, women would run in terror
whenever they thought I was coming to ask them to dance.
I had originally learned the Whip back in 1977, but had abandoned
this dance for the Latin Hustle when Disco came along.
It was now
1982. Disco was dead and I had mastered Western,
so I needed a new
hill to climb. I asked Glen to help me pick
back up where I had left off
with the Whip.
For about a year Glen was the only person I ever danced the Whip
with. Country-Western was big at the time and I still
preferred to dance the Hustle if by chance a disco song was
played. But Lance Stevens had made a big
deal about the Whip and I was still curious to learn more.
During my private lessons, month after month I practiced my Whip dancing in
secret with Glen.
This had two consequences.
First, my leads became
Let's face it, Glen was a phenomenal dancer and very
light on his feet, but he still weighed 180 pounds. I had to
learn how to use my strength to move him.
He taught me how to put my 'follow' exactly where I
wanted him/her to go. If that meant using my
shoulders to make it happen, well, then that's what I
did. I was taught to be firm.
learned to help when needed. Glen was a
gifted turner. If a song was fast, he just turned
a little faster and kept
up with the beat. No song was too fast for
him. Once in a while he encouraged me to use a little more
speed in my lead to help him stay on the beat. Throw
more wood on the fire! I
learned that no matter how much power I used, he could handle
it. Glen was faster than a speeding
bullet when he turned.
One day in 1983 I decided I was ready to dance the Whip in the
Real World with Real Women. Back in those days I was
reluctant to learn how to dance the traditional way, i.e. by getting
out on the floor and making mistakes. My
self-esteem with women was so poor I couldn't bear to screw up
leads and patterns for fear my partner would laugh at me.
It was my dream to learn
my lessons in private, then suddenly appear on the scene already
wonderful. This strange attitude explained why I appeared on
the Houston Whip scene out of nowhere. Everyone
asked me how I had learned to dance the Whip so fast. Most
good Whip dancers take years to develop. I
lied and said I was a fast learner. How pathetic.
Why not just tell the truth? In reality I had been
dancing Whip with Glen completely out
of sight for a year.
This meant in a sense I was a "Whip Bubble Boy".
I only knew how to dance with
one person!! And not just any person either - at the time
Glen was likely the best dancer in the city.
I had learned to dance with Apollo and now I prepared to dance
among the mortals.
Boy, was I in for a surprise!
The first time I got out
on the floor, I nearly sent my lady partner through the roof with my
leads!! I had learned to pull and push a "woman"
who weighed 180 pounds and now these 110 pound women were in for
the terror ride of their lives.
Yes, I admit I was a beast that first
night, sort of a Hulk Learns To Dance episode. It might have been
funny to watch from the sidelines, but I definitely hurt or
frightened many women who danced with me with
realized my first mistake. As I practiced, I began to adjust my leads to the size of my
partner. It took me longer to overcome my second problem.
I was using too much power on spins,
but I wasn't aware how much women disliked what I was
quickly discovered no woman I ever danced with could turn as fast
as Glen did, a fact which increased his already Mythic status in
my eyes. And since Glen had encouraged me to use force to help
him catch the beat, I assumed this was okay for all women as
Having trouble turning fast enough? Here, let me help
you turn faster!!
when I would
pump up the volume.
I had no idea what a
brute I was. I was simply dancing the way that Glen had
No matter how fast the song, my dance
partners ALWAYS ended on the beat
whether they liked it or not. I had been taught this was the way
it was meant to be. My partners quickly
became terrified. Women are
always complaining to me in class
that men are clueless as to their strength on the dance floor.
Well, let me raise my hand.
Guilty as charged. I was dancing
like a Beast and never even realized it.
I was a big, powerful, 6 foot tall, 200 pound lean mean dance
machine. If I wanted to turn a woman faster, I could. And
did. I just cranked
up the juice to spin her as fast as needed. Every woman
I danced with may have finished their turns right on the beat, but
what I didn't realize was their eyeballs were also spinning around in
the sockets. Ladies began to dart for the restroom when I
came walking to their table. I was really getting a complex!!
Finally one night a woman named Linda stopped in mid-song and said, "Slow
Down!!" Linda told me
point-blank on the floor to ease up. I stared at her in confusion.
What do you mean?
She said I was just too powerful and that she didn't appreciate
being man-handled. I was turning her faster than she wanted to
turn. It just wasn't any fun being muscled like that.
Normally I would get defensive with this sort of tongue lashing.
But I was actually grateful. Linda had just cleared up all
the mystery! In a flash,
I understood what she was talking about and
why women had been so reluctant to dance with me.
wanted the muscle, but all women preferred I be gentle.
Aha. As usual, another important lesson learned the hard
way. Did any lesson in Dance ever come easy to me?
What I learned from this experience is when
to use power and when not to. It turns out if a woman
turns well, she doesn't need much power. If a women
doesn't turn well, then power makes her lose her balance.
The woman will tense up her arms and body in self-defense.
The power only makes her worse. Therefore, power is rarely
of much use on the dance floor.
The ONLY time power is justified is when the woman can turn
well, but the music is so fast that she WANTS you to turn her
faster (just like Glen asked me to do). But social dancing
is no place to use power. Let her turn at her own speed
and burn an extra beat. Who cares if her turn takes a
little longer as long as she feels safe. No woman ever
thanked me for muscling her on the dance floor.
By the way, I hope any of you men
reading this story will take a moment to examine your own
dancing for signs of unintentional uses of power.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could
bypass the kind of embarrassment I
Further Insights and
One day during our
lessons, I noticed something unusual about dancing with Glen.
It bothered me that he never seemed to be out of breath and he never
showed any sign of sweat. Glen was
always dry as a whistle. No moisture, no glistening, no dampening
of his shirt. I don't sweat much
either as a rule, but his workouts were an ordeal for me.
By the end of the lesson, I would
Furthermore my shirt would be soaked through and
through by the end of an hour. I looked like the
Sweat Monster. Finally I got up the nerve to ask Glen about the
mystery of the missing perspiration. Did he have sweat glands or
Glen laughed. He said the reason he didn't sweat as much as I did
was due to his balance. Since his body had already mastered the
secrets of every move he taught, his body moved in precise,
efficient, energy-saving ways. On the other hand, because I was
learning, my body was constantly wasting extra energy correcting my
mistakes. In other words, even though we were dancing the
same moves, I was working a lot harder than he was.
I thought this was one of the most interesting observations Glen
ever made. I thought about Glen's Sweat Theory for several
weeks. Then one night in a Western class I noticed that
every guy in the room was soaking wet while I was completely dry.
Interesting. I had been dancing just as much as the
rest of them. One of the women even pointed this out.
That was when I realized that Glen was
Glen may have been brilliant, but he definitely
had his sarcastic side
too. One day I was having a particularly hard time combining
some tricky footwork with precise leads. I had been knocking Glen
off balance all day long with this move. Finally towards the
end of our hour, he went over to put the music on. This
surprised me because typically he played the music as a reward
only when I had thoroughly mastered a pattern.
I asked Glen why the change in policy. His response was a classic.
"I doubt the music can possibly make
Glen taught me a reverence for dancing on the beat. He could not
tolerate any drift away from the music's cadence. If I danced off
the beat, he would stop and make me start over. Or he would ask me
to count the beat out loud. It didn't take long before I
developed the same attitude. If I was dancing with a student who
couldn't keep the beat, it would drive me nuts. My body had
to be on the beat or it wouldn't move. I also discovered that
dancing with someone who dances on the beat makes it easier to
acquire a sense a sense of rhythm. This is one huge advantage of private
dance lessons over group lessons where you dance with people at
your own beginner level, a sort of 'blind
leading the blind' situation that prevents rapid progress.
Glen had some interesting training methods.
One incident that
comes to mind was the time I had fits learning the Compression technique in
Waltz. I have to
confess I am not a natural dancer. I
learn slowly. Nothing ever comes easily to
me on the dance floor, a fact that has
embarrassed me all my life. I wish I
could move gracefully without having to work at it so hard.
But if persistence is the only way I can
learn, then that's what I will have to do. Slowly but
surely... that's me.
In the case of
the Waltz, I really struggled more than usual.
Glen had already invested two hours in previous lessons trying to
teach me the intricacies of first step
in Waltz. He
told me to lower my weight into my supporting leg
as I simultaneously took a long reaching step
with the other foot.
I wanted to transfer
my weight to the foot that was moving, but the technique called for my
weight to stay over the original foot. This did not feel
natural. How are you supposed to get somewhere if you don't move
your body with your step??
Exasperated, Glen went to
the storage room and found a 2 by 4 board.
At first I thought he was going to beat me with
it. Instead he told me to
get up and stand on the board. My job was to touch the
floor with one foot while remaining on the board
using my weight-supporting leg. If I did it
wrong, I fell off the board. This is how I finally learned how to
Not satisfied that this motion was locked
into my muscle memory, he put on a Waltz and told me to practice
by dancing around the floor all by
myself. He added with a smile I wasn't worthy yet to dance with
him. I am not sure he was
kidding, by the way.
So for nearly an entire
hour Glen sat and smoked cigarettes while I Waltzed by myself
practicing "Compression". I quickly developed
"compression depression" over the stupidity of my
As I danced I thought about the scene in the
Karate Kid where Ralph Macchio learns karate by
practicing special painting and sanding motions. I made a
small joke to myself that maybe I was also secretly learning
karate by dancing alone.
I look over in disgust. He was talking
to someone who had come in the room. I frowned.
Half the time he wasn't even
watching me. I couldn't believe I was paying Glen $30
to sit on his butt smoking a butt for
But you know what? That was the day I
learned how to "compress" correctly.
So many Memories. I am eternally grateful to Glen for his
masterful job of training me how to dance.
- October 1980: Stevens of Hollywood
In October 1977 I accepted a small one hour
a week job teaching Disco line dances for Lance Stevens, an
insignificant move at the time that would lead to stunning changes
in my life soon after.
In October 1978 I met Glen Hunsucker at
the Pistachio Club.
In September 1979 I took a dangerous
gamble that paid off, allowing me to eventually become
the city's best-known
Western Dance teacher.
In September 1980, Glen and his business partner Bill Tucker moved their
Dance Arts studio from Westbury Square over to 4803 Bissonnet, an address you might
recognize as today's SSQQ location.
September 1980 was
also the month I was fired
from Stevens of Hollywood. I was incredibly
fortunate when Glen stepped up to offer me a spot at his new
location on Bissonnet, a move that basically saved my career.
By offering me this life-saving
parachute, Glen's timely rescue elevated
him to Hero Status in my
The stories of Glen and Lance
Stevens ran parallel for two years starting
in October 1978 to October 1980. The only way to
for me to explain the
significance of Glen's help is to first explain how much
trouble I was in.
Here is the story of my stay at Stevens of Hollywood.
During the entire time I had been
dancing with Glen over at Dance Arts in Westbury Square I had also
been working at another studio called Stevens of Hollywood.
Owned by Mr. Lance Stevens, this studio was located across the
street from St. Anne's Catholic Church on Westheimer one block
west of Shepherd.
Mr. Stevens had given me my second big
break when he hired me to teach Disco at
his studio starting in October 1977. Saturday Night
Fever released a month later. As most of you remember, this
unheralded, un-hyped low-budget movie came out of nowhere to
strike a nerve in the American consciousness. SNF quickly
triggered a tidal wave of interest in Disco Dancing. I was
basically minding my own business teaching two little Disco Line
Dances per week at the time when the tidal wave came to sweep me
away. Overnight Saturday Night
Fever created an
explosion of interest in Disco that served to hurtle me at a fever
pitch into an unexpected career as a dance teacher.
To fully appreciate the folly of my adventure you need to know
that quite frankly my dance skills were about as limited as
humanly possible. I was a good Disco freestyle dancer and I knew
about 20 line dances. That was about the extent of my
I couldn't partner dance to Disco music which was a big problem
since SNF had created a lot of interest in "touch
dancing". I knew nothing about Ballroom or Latin
dancing. Nor did I know any Western dancing either although
it didn't matter back then since Country-Western was at most a
single blip on the Houston dance radar screen. I didn't know dance
acrobatics. I had no experience performing and very little
I found myself in way over my head from the very start.
Overnight I had been propelled from a comfortable spot as a big
duck in a very small pond to a little duck in a mighty
ocean. I had three things going for me. One, I had been
learning Disco line dances for the past two years. Two, I already
was in position as the Disco dance teacher when the SNF tidal wave
hit at Stevens of Hollywood. Three, I was too stupid to see what I
was getting myself into.
Overnight the phone starting ringing at Stevens and students
poured in out of the woodwork. Stevens would look at me and ask if
I could teach another class. I would always say yes. Then he would
ask me if I wanted to try an Intermediate level. I would gulp and
always say yes. Teaching dance was the most fun I had ever had in
my life and I intended to ride this wave as far as it would take
And what saved me from being exposed as a dance fraud?
Although my dance knowledge may have been limited, I was fortunate
enough to at least know more than my students did. I always
tried to stay one step ahead. Like any good surfer I knew I
had to scramble to stay at the front of the wave or get drowned in
That doesn't mean it was easy. I struggled desperately for an
entire year to learn how to Disco partner dance. By hanging out in
clubs and watching carefully, I had been able to figure out enough
on my own to develop a silly little walking dance called the
"New Yorker" that was an odd cross between Merengue and
Aggie Jitterbug. For the moment the New Yorker was enough to keep
me barely ahead of the wave, but I remained a woefully inadequate
Nor did I escape unscathed. My vast inexperience cost me dearly
when I was basically ordered by Mr. Stevens to perform at the
opening of a new club called The Ritz in August 1978.
Trapped into performing at a level way beyond my ability, my
humiliating crash and burn at the Ritz remains the single worst
moment in my dance career.
Now that I think of it, this miserable moment was also the
single worst moment of my life too. I was in a lot of pain
over that one.
Thank goodness Glen arrived in my life not long after the Ritz
Fiasco. There is an old saying in Hindu Philosophy that the
teacher will appear when the pupil is ready. I doubt the Hindus
were thinking of Disco Dancing when they coined the saying, but
Glen definitely made his unexpected entrance into my life at the
time when he was most needed.
The reason Glen's instruction was so important was that I had no
other way to develop my dance skills. Many of my students were
beginning to leave because they sensed I couldn't take them any
further. And Mr. Stevens was no help at all. Mr. Stevens hated
Disco so much he never bothered to learn enough about it to help
me beyond the basics. Furthermore Mr.
Stevens had no interest in training me either. He made it clear
to me right from the start he was not interested in a mentor role.
He could not have cared less. Mr. Stevens kept me around because I
made a lot of money for him teaching something he didn't want to
Stevens' attitude really left me hanging. I was so insecure
about my dancing, but I didn't know who to turn to!! Here I
was considering a career as a dance teacher and the only thing I
knew how to do was teach a couple line dances. I knew the day would come when I
would need a much better dance education that that!!
Fortunately Glen stepped in at the right time. Once I had his
help, my knowledge of dance increased dramatically. I no longer
had a problem staying ahead of the advances in Disco although I
did have some traumatic moments when Western
dancing came along 9 months later. Glen didn't know a
thing about Kicker Dancing and hated it too much to learn.
Fortunately I was able to learn most of what I needed to know
about the Twostep and Polka on my own and Glen helped me figure
out the rest.
Glen was a marvelous ace in the hole the entire time I was at
Stevens of Hollywood. Not only did he save my skin with his
knowledge, he acted as a sounding board whenever I was having
trouble getting along with Mr. Stevens. Unlike Stevens, Glen was
quite willing to become my mentor. He counseled me in ways that
transcended an ordinary teacher-student relationship, a fact that
was not lost on me.
And let me add that it was Glen's arrival into my life that gave
me the final boost of confidence necessary to get up the nerve to
quit my full-time day job. I knew I could count on Glen to give me
the extensive training that over time would allow me to become a
well-rounded, well-trained instructor. In other words,
without Glen, I would not have been willing to take the next step
forward. This is one of the main reasons that I say I owe my dance
career to Glen.
Meanwhile over at Stevens of Hollywood I continued to have a lot of problems getting along with Lance Stevens.
Mr. Stevens was a grouchy guy to begin with. Thirty years my
senior, Stevens and I never really clicked. Over
the years I knew him, Mr. Stevens showed me little warmth despite
the fact that I made a ton of money for him.
In those days it was common to for me to teach 20 Disco classes a
week with an average of 50 students. This meant I was teaching 1000
students a week at Stevens of Hollywood. I was putting
$5,000 a month into his pocket in return for a salary
After putting that kind of dough in his
pocket, you would think he would have appreciated
my help, but I
can't remember one compliment the man ever gave me.
Stevens often took pleasure in belittling my ability.
He loved to
point out I never taught "style". And I admit he was
right. You can't teach what you don't know.
Despite my commercial success, Stevens' contempt for my limited
dance skills was no secret. Mr. Stevens let it be known I was there
strictly because I
helped him pay the rent. He figured once Disco was over, I would
be on my way. This attitude was certainly his right.
the business world - Mr. Stevens was the boss, I was the
employee and we left it at that. I came, taught my classes, and
left. No hanging around at his studio. It was not a very happy
place for me.
One year into the Disco era of my life I was at a crossroad.
Despite my problems with Mr. Stevens and with my self-esteem, I
was still having a lot more fun teaching dance than I was
investigating child abuse.
However, a full year of working two jobs day and
night had taken its toll. I was now making almost as much money
teaching dance as I did as a social worker. Finally I worked up my
courage and decided to try to make a living strictly as a dance
teacher. I resigned from my day time social work job at the end of
was a huge gamble for me at the time because leaving my day job
created a huge hole in my finances. I knew I had to quickly find
ways to supplement my income.
The Negotiation that
Changed My Life
Bill Gates credits a
clever deal he made
with IBM as the starting point for Microsoft. Gates was hired by
IBM to develop an operating system for a new line of personal
computers they wished to market. Gates got permission to keep
exclusive rights to the operating system. In simple terms, this is
like Detroit making cars and having to buy a separate key for each
car from Bill Gates before they can sell them. In a
nutshell, once the fledgling PC industry came on board, Bill Gates
owned the key to the door of every computer
I was fortunate to negotiate an angle of my own that proved to
be the just as important to me as MS-DOS became for Mr.
Gates. Back when I first considered leaving my day job, I asked Mr. Stevens permission to
teach some group classes at his studio on my own while paying him rent
for his room in return. This meant that not only would I continue
to teach any class for him that he asked me to, but when I wasn't
working for him, I could teach my own classes during any gaps in
my schedule. Simply put, I would work for Mr. Stevens first and
for myself second.
I am not sure Mr. Stevens gave this any serious
thought. Since he only asked one question and it took him
about 10 seconds after that to give me permission, he couldn't
have analyzed it too deeply. On the surface, the rent for my new classes
meant more money for Mr. Stevens' pocket.
Mr. Stevens asked where my students would come from. I said I would find my
own students through my Class Factory listings (a Leisure Learning
predecessor). This eased his understandable concern that I
wasn't planning on stealing his own students
to take my classes.
At the time Mr. Stevens
had a lot of under-utilized space. Furthermore he had another instructor
named Alicia Lopez who frequently did the
same thing. Teaching little classes here and there with six or seven people in
them, Alicia was able to pick up some much-needed extra income to
make ends meet. I am sure Mr. Stevens
assumed my suggestion would take the same path. Therefore, on the surface, this deal was a no-brainer. Mr. Stevens gave it no
more than a passing thought before he granted me his permission.
However I don't think either of us thought through the
long-term consequences of his decision. Or maybe he thought
them through, but simply underestimated me. Do you blame
him? I barely knew what I doing half the time. I might fool
my students, but I didn't fool him.
But what Mr. Stevens didn't know was how hungry I was to
succeed. I had been thrown out of graduate school in 1974. I
had wasted four years of my life in a no-results, dead-end,
hopeless job as a social worker. I considered myself a failure up
to this point in my life.
But now I had discovered I had a gift for teaching.
I wasn't a great dancer, but I was a great teacher. It
felt like teaching dance was something I was born
to do. I was enthusiastic, I was funny, and I expressed myself
well. I had the ability to motivate
people to practice. My students actually improved before my very eyes.
Plus they knew I cared.
I was a popular teacher.
I was also smart enough
to know exactly how far I could go without exposing my woeful
lack of knowledge about dance. Each new step I took was carefully
calculated like a move on a chess board. Every time I acquired
enough new patterns, I planned another level of classes. Without
any help from Mr. Stevens, I was constantly adding Intermediate
this and Advanced that. When line dances began to fade, I taught
free style instead. When students had learned everything there was
to know about freestyle, I added partner dancing.
When they started to tap out my limited knowledge of partner
dancing, then I taught
them dance acrobatics.
I stayed one step ahead of the posse.
One reason the posse never caught me was my
aggressive pursuit of knowledge. I was young and full of energy. A
regular Johnny Hustle, I was in the clubs every night scouting for
new moves and new students. Bringing my
students along for company, this allowed me to turn my
current students into my friends.
Then they made friends with other students. This marked
all-important formation of a social program.
Dance classes became a way to hang out with friends.
Plus I offered as many classes through the
Class Factory as I could think of. Teaching all of these
Beginner classes at Stevens of Hollywood, when each class finished, I would
Intermediate level, then an Advanced level and so on.
At first, Mr.
Stevens thoroughly enjoyed seeing his previously empty rooms now
being productive. He was making more
money than he ever had in his life.
I noticed there were still rooms empty, so I hired Victoria to teach
some classes too. Now I was an employer,
self-employed, plus an employee at the same
time. How weird was that?
As Stevens assumed, things were very modest at the start with six or seven people
per class as he expected.
But I was pushing my program 24/7 and constantly looking for new
sources of students. My search led to an
My biggest break of all came in
June of 1980. A lady
named Linda Schuler gave me permission to teach Western dance
classes for her singles organization TGIS (Thank God It's
Sunday). TGIS was Houston's leading singles group at the time,
so quite a few people assumed the name really stood for
Thank God I'm Single. This group met every Sunday morning at
Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.
Urban Cowboy had not been
released yet, but it was just around
the corner. We all knew it was coming since the movie had
been filmed here in Houston and Pasadena a year earlier. A
lot of people were asking me about Western lessons.
Thanks to a
gamble back in September 1979, I was practically the
only person teaching Western dance (although I didn't know it at
the time). But I didn't have any students. That was
about to change.
One Sunday I wandered over to TGIS
for the first time because one of my Disco
students hinted my dance classes would be just what this group
needed. I gasped when I saw how many people there were.
200...300...400... Who knows how many?
People stretched as far the eye could see.
TGIS claimed to have several thousand members.
You wouldn't get any argument from me. This
group was definitely a dance teacher's
land of milk and honey. I felt like an Indian
who had just located a huge herd of buffalo. Or perhaps a
prospector finding a mother lode of gold. I had found a
potential gold mine here.
However there was something
that baffled me. I couldn't figure out
why TGIS didn't already have a Western instructor.
Urban Cowboy had
been creating a
lot of interest in Western dancing in
Houston for over a year now.
A year is a long time.
I asked this exact question and found out there had indeed been
classes fairly recently, but the instructor had been so bad the
classes fell apart. This did not sound very encouraging, but I
wasn't going to give up that easily.
I asked who was in charge. A woman named
Linda Schuler was pointed out to me.
She was the acting president. I
approached her after the morning sermon was over.
I explained who I was and what I wanted to do.
Ms Schuler just looked at me for a moment.
Then she asked where I would hold the lessons and how much I would
charge. She must have liked my idea.
Ms Schuler said okay right on the spot.
I was incredulous.
Ms. Schuler did not know me from Adam. She didn't even know
someone who knew me. She didn't know if I could teach or not.
Maybe I was con artist. I
was a total stranger. Maybe I was a
crook. No bidding
necessary. No resume needed. No one
needed to vouch for me. No committee to propose
the idea to. No questions. No time needed to think it over
or sleep on it.
After Linda Schuler made her snap
decision, she added it sounded like fun.
She told me to create a flyer and bring it to her the following
week. She would sign it and give me permission to
hand out my flyers on the premises. Then she turned to talk to
someone else who wanted a moment of her time. And that was
that. I was knew something incredible had just
happened. I was in the right place
at the right time.
Starting the following week each Sunday morning for the
next month I was at TGIS pushing my upcoming class. I promoted my
class as hard as anything I ever did in my life. I put a flyer in
the hand of every person willing to receive it. I answered
questions patiently. I drew maps for people. I answered phone
calls. As they say, I did whatever it took.
One month later it was June 1980. It was time for the first night of class. I had no idea how
many people would show up. I was gratified to see 10 people walk
in fairly early. This was a good start. Remember I was used to classes of 6 or 7
students so this indicated an immediate improvement. Then
10 more showed up. And 10 more. And 10 more. People kept
streaming in as my eyes bulged with astonishment. I ended up with 120
students!! And every one of them were Mine, All
Mine!! At $25 a student, I was looking at a payday of $3,000.
My rent was $20 an hour. Even after I subtracted out my rent
payment of $200 for a 10-week class, this left quite a chunk of
money in my pocket.
Now factor in the multiplier effect - this class went on to an
Intermediate, Advanced, and Super-Advanced level. Plus referrals from
the first class led to another bonanza one month later. The
eventual benefits from working with TGIS helped me create easily
the largest Country-Western dance program in the
city. And this reputation only helped to bring me more
What an incredible stroke of fortune. I will always owe Ms.
Schuler a huge debt of thanks for her trust in me.
Someday I hope she gives me the chance to repay her in some way.
This kind woman gave me the chance of a lifetime.
Beginning of the End at Stevens of
Once the TGIS Era began, Mr. Stevens was fit to be tied.
It was one thing for me to rent the place for six or seven people, but
he had not banked on sixty or seventy... or a hundred for that
mater. My classes were enormous. Any time
Mr. Stevens walked near me, I could feel him seething
with resentment and hostility towards me.
It doesn't take a lot of
math skill to see what a good deal my arrangement with Mr. Stevens
had turned out
to be for me. Maybe
"good deal" is an understatement. Let's call it an
deal. Based on our arrangement,
every one of these students were considered mine. All I
had to do was pay him rent.
After one year using this arrangement, I
now taught more classes and had more
students than Mr. Stevens did. This did not mean I was a better
teacher. Hardly. It just meant that while he taught
Cha Cha, I taught
Disco. While he taught Foxtrot, I taught
Western. I had the benefit of teaching the more popular
curriculum. I was also hustling a lot
harder than he was. Mr. Stevens had already made
his mark and wasn't that far from retirement.
He wasn't that interested in hitting the clubs and the singles
groups for business. Do you blame him? Of course
But my sun was rising. I had something to prove. I
intended to make a career out of this!
Mr. Stevens was disgusted. Here was
this pathetic young kid half his age who had to be worst dancer
for a dance instructor he had ever seen. I didn't have
one-tenth his knowledge about dance. Yet this miserable
excuse for a dance instructor had made the biggest score
imaginable while he, the master teacher and winner of many
professional awards, plugged along with much smaller classes.
There were Western students all over the place. Where was
the justice? It had to rankle him when my monthly rent check to him was larger than his payroll check to
me. After all, I was supposed to be working for him, right?
I don't blame Mr. Stevens one bit for being unhappy with this situation. If the tables were turned on me, I would be
miserable. Here Mr. Stevens had been teaching for 30 years only
to be forced to co-exist with some mediocre
talent kid who ran a program
bigger than his own. Whenever he was
grouchy... which was most of the time... and he was chewing me
out for something, his pet phrase was "The name on the door
doesn't say Rick of Hollywood."
He made his point loud and clear.
I knew I was crowding him, but I didn't feel guilty. I was hustling as hard as I could to expand
my end of the business using permission he had given me.
This was my golden opportunity and I wasn't going to fumble it
I was sensitive to the problem.
I understood his resentment at how badly the
agreement had backfired. I wished there was a way to even the
score and find a way to work together, but Mr. Stevens was never an easy person to approach.
He was far too gruff to sit down and iron things out with.
Nevertheless, I tried several times to clear the air. It
No matter how much I bent
over backwards to appease Mr. Stevens - offering to pay more rent, working
more hours for him - there was nothing I could do to make such an
awkward situation palatable to him. The damage to his ego was
I knew I was living on borrowed time.
Roxanne, Stevens' wife, hated me. Alicia Lopez,
another instructor, hated me. Stevens himself
hated me. I did not have one ally in the
entire building other than the cash I put in his
pocket. Mr. Stevens' pocketbook wasn't hurting,
that's for sure. Stevens of Hollywood
experienced its greatest era of affluence
during this time. I may
have hurt his feelings, but never his bottom line.
How long would the money be enough to keep me
here? If I had a brain, I would have been looking for space of my own.
idiot I clung to this shaky situation despite warning signs
of danger everywhere
in early September 1980,
occurred that proved to be the straw that
broke the camel's back. This was the point of no
I was on the main
dance floor teaching yet another
massive TGIS class.
One class had led to another. Thanks to word of
mouth, this particular group was the third incarnation of the
original mega class back in June.
Without warning, Lance
Stevens simply walked on the floor along with his ex-wife Roxanne
and interrupted me right in the middle of class.
He told the
students that he was the owner of the studio, that the place was
named for him, that he was the "King of Whip"
and that he would be
starting a Whip class next week. Now he
was going to perform.
Incredulous at being shoved aside in
my own class, quite frankly this was the same mean
arrogance that had
characterized much of our relationship.
As I stood aside fuming at the
discourtesy, Mr. Stevens put on a recording of
"Brick House". He then proceeded to
dance a three minute Whip
exhibition with Roxanne Stevens. Lance and Roxanne put on an awesome
show although it might have helped if they smiled.
had been one of the leading Whip dancers in Houston for a long
time. Furthermore Roxanne with her awesome figure and mouth-watering hip
motion was always a sight to behold.
My students clapped enthusiastically. I
completely understood. I had long
admired Mr. Stevens for his Whip dancing ever since he had been
my first Whip teacher two years earlier.
These guys could really dance.
But that didn't keep me from being furious that he had decided
to interrupt my class without asking. Attendance in
classes had been dwindling steadily for some time.
He needed a
fresh supply of students. I suppose he figured that since it
was his studio, he could do whatever he damn
There is a right way and a wrong way. The right way would
have been to ask permission. I would have been more than
happy to cooperate. I would have introduced him and his
wife, put in a plug for Whip dancing, yielded the floor, offer
to put on the music for him, then clap the loudest before and
after the performance. But Stevens had chosen the wrong
I wish I had better control of my temper.
After class, I made the stupid mistake of letting my anger get the
best of me. I confronted Mr. Stevens about his unprofessional
interruption of my class.
I told Stevens I would have been happy to help him if
he had simply asked me ahead of time. I told him I would have introduced him
myself, explained why he was there and helped promote his class. I
added that with my blessings the students would likely have been
more receptive as well.
Of course doing things the right way would have made a huge
difference. I was definitely right.
Standing up to authority isn't always the smartest thing to do.
As you may have already gathered, sometimes my mouth has a death wish.
Back in 1973-74, I had gotten
myself thrown out of Graduate
with behavior similar to this.
You would think I had learned my lesson. However, faced with
inexplicable rudeness, I obviously had still not
learned my lesson.
Mr. Stevens lost his temper.
He said something along the lines
of "No one talks to him like
his Studio and Maybe it was About Time for Me to Hit the
Road, Jack." He gave me two weeks.
The next day I tried as hard as I could to
grovel my way back into his good graces. I brought him a
bottle of expensive wine and told him how wrong I had been to
say the things I said.
That cleared the air a little. He wasn't quite as mad at
me any more. But he did look me in the eye and say it was
time to go. He said it in a way that I completely
understood. This isn't working; this place isn't big
enough for the two of us. One of us has to go.
Now the clock was ticking.
The following week
I did have a moment of dark pleasure when the infamous
Whip class started. Overall
Stevens had maybe 10
students, far below his expectations. In the
old days he would have 30, 40 students. It didn't help that no one was interested in Whip
at the moment. No surprise
there; Country-Western was
the order of the day. I noticed
only one couple from my TGIS
class showed up in his class.
Mr. Stevens' nasty Whip
performance hadn't done him a bit of good.
Hmm. Served him right.
After that class
ended, Mr. Stevens was in a foul
Not only was
interest in his favorite dance dwindling, but the poor
attendance and the obvious lack of talent meant he was committed
to teach a very mediocre class for the next two months.
No one wants to be obligated to teach a
class with little energy. As he
walked by me, maybe
I should have wiped that smug look off my face. Mr. Stevens
scowled at me and grumbled it looked like the curse I
had put on his class had worked. He
reminded me I had two weeks.
I was scared out of my wits.
I was angry at myself because my own mouth had created this dilemma.
several hundred students, but I had absolutely no idea how to run a studio on my
I had teaching been at Stevens of Hollywood for three years
but never had to worry about the details. The cost of renting space, putting up mirrors and
putting down floors was intimidating enough.
My head was spinning thinking about all the
things I would need to do. Insurance, light bills,
air-conditioning, telephone, music equipment, etc, et al, ad
infinitum, ad nauseum, ad disgustum!
Nor would two weeks even remotely be
enough time to make a smooth transition to some
new place. The pressure was
What made me even angrier
with myself was there had been plenty of warning.
I knew this was coming sooner or later.
I should have prepared a backup
plan and gotten out of Europe before the Nazis took over!
In my defense I was
still a rookie in this business. Everything took me by surprise in
I was in a lot of trouble. Where was
I going to go?
During my private lesson the next day I mentioned my problem to Glen. He thought about it
for a while and said he had an idea. Maybe I could move over
to his place.
I tried not to appear too anxious, but I was
ready to explode with joy. My savior! What a break!
This was one of the happiest moments of my life.
I got a call from Bill Tucker, Glen's business partner. Bill
invited me to move over to Dance Arts and sublease their two
backrooms. How long do you think it took
me to accept?
So in October 1980 I moved my program from Stevens of Hollywood
over to Dance Arts Unlimited. My program
didn't skip a beat. My Stevens of
Hollywood students loved the place! They had the same
amount of room, but best of all the tension was gone. As
one Leisure Learning class and one
TGIS class after another rolled in,
I adapted quickly to my new
There was no loss of momentum.
I hit the ground running. My program began to resemble an avalanche.
The next four years
became the happiest times of my career.
headaches were small and the profits were big. The rent was fair
and my responsibilities
were limited. I didn't have to pay light bills,
liability insurance, worry about the
fire marshal, the roofing people, the air conditioners, cleaning
the studio, the broken floor tiles, the broken
toilets, the broken mirrors, payroll taxes, corporate taxes,
etc. Personnel problems
were non-existent. My staff was usually one or two women who
worked part-time. What a dream life!!
All I had to do was show up and teach, then go
out dancing afterwards, chase girls and have fun.
This is not to say I don't enjoy the modern era of the studio, but
things were definitely less stressful in those days.
It really helped that my relationship with Glen was terrific. Although we both taught
dance, I was so relieved to find that his interests and my
interests did not compete.
I definitely didn't want a repeat of
the tense situation at Stevens. As I had
anticipated, our worlds were totally different.
Glen's main interest was teaching Jazz
and building his dance company. I taught mostly Western dancing.
This arrangement worked like a charm.
Not once did we ever compete for the same
students. Neither of us was a threat to the
other. We both
wished each other complete success under the same roof.
We were able to be supportive of each other.
was all that stress. I was free to develop.
And develop I did!!
Under Glen's protective umbrella, my program grew by leaps and
bounds during these years. I was
happy. My students were happy.
Utilizing Glen's training and his sponsorship, my program
developed into a two-ton monster. And I owed this phase of
my success to Glen.
What a shame a snake would come along to force us out of this
I am not sure exactly why, but Glen and I
were never buddies. Glen grew very close to the famous
Whip dancer Mario Robau, another protégé of his. It is my
understanding they went out drinking and hitting the bars
Despite my daily proximity I
was never close to Glen. We never went drinking or hung out together.
Nor did our paths ever cross in a night club. His dance
spots and mine were totally different. I
would go to see his company perform on many occasions, but I was
never allowed into his inner circle.
Glen and I were friendly, but
we were not 'friends'. Despite our many hours
alone together during lessons, he never confided in me
about his career or his personal life.
wished I could get to know Glen better because frankly I had a bad
case of hero worship, but he always kept a wall between us.
As long as I knew Glen, he made sure
our relationship was student/mentor or renter/landlord. Whatever I learned about Glen
came from observation and
from what people told me about him.
His personal life and business dealings stayed hidden from me.
Since I respected Glen, I never pried. Too bad.
Maybe I should have! As you will see, my ignorance cost me
dearly further down the road.
Glen grew up in Pasadena. He graduated from either Pasadena High
School or perhaps Dobie. I believe he went to college at the
University of Houston. I know for sure that Glen entered a Fred
Astaire Ballroom training program as
one of his first steps in his dance
teaching career. One mystery I wish I knew the answer to was
where he received his extensive jazz training.
At some point Glen met Bill Tucker.
Bill was at least twenty years
older than Glen. They were mismatched by age and by beauty - Glen
was an extremely handsome man with a muscular sculpted dancer's
body - but somehow they connected. Bill became Glen's
business partner as well. It was Bill's money and business background
that set Glen up at the Westbury Square location. When I came along
in 1978, I was told that Bill and Glen were very much an item, but
in all the years at Dance Arts I never saw any indication that
they were anything but business partners.
Bill Tucker may have been gruff,
blunt, profane and sarcastic, but he always treated me fairly.
Although I was very intimidated by him,
he really didn't push me around.
He seemed like a tough guy and someone I never
wanted to cross, but I can't remember one time that
Bill and I ever got into an argument.
Bill and I always got along well.
Although Bill stayed out of sight most of
the time, I could tell he was running the business end. This
freed Glen up for what he did best - teaching and choreography.
Oddly enough, I don't even know when or why
Bill Tucker left Dance Arts. That's
a pretty solid indication of just how much I was kept out of the loop. Not only did
Glen play things close to the vest where I was
concerned, so did the people who worked
for him. Bill was replaced by two tough
women, Hjortis and Karen Pons. These women were just as
secretive as Glen was.
I was always treated like an outsider.
But you know what,
for the most part this was okay with
me. My attitude was if it wasn't any of my business, then it
wasn't any of my business. I had my own
business to run.
Glen's star performer Connie Beth
Glen's passion was his dance
company, the Glen Hunsucker Dancers.
Glen ran an extremely successful jazz dance program.
He had many talented young women and several young men as
well who took his classes on a regular basis.
At the time I first met Glen in 1978, Glen had
just attained a major rung in his climb to stardom.
Earlier in the Seventies, the leading jazz instructor in
Houston had been Patsy Swayze, mother of
Patrick Swayze... yes, the Patrick Swayze
of Dirty Dancing fame.
By chance, I had taken jazz lessons from Patsy in
the mid Seventies and knew her very well. We would
go get some coffee. I would listen as Patsy told me
about her talented son. Patrick was appearing in
Grease on Broadway during this period.
As Patrick hit it big in Hollywood, Patsy began
to lose interest in her own dance studio, the
Houston Jazz Ballet Studio. Patsy got involved
in Urban Cowboy, then moved to Hollywood
At this point, Patsy passed her mantle onto Glen.
Glen Hunsucker was now the biggest name in town when it
came to the performing arts.
Many of Glen's jazz, tap, and ballet students
were graduates of HSPVA, High School for
the Performing and Visual Arts. Dance Arts
became the next step on the road for all the gifted
dancers being turned out by HSPVA's talented dance
director Mary Martha Lappe.
These young people were
trying to make a career out of dance and Glen's studio was the
place to be in those days. Not only was Glen a magnificent dancer whose
performing ability was
by everyone, he was an excellent, highly
respected teacher as well.
One of Glen's strengths as a teacher
was his ability to constantly criticize his dancers without
alienating them. These dancers wanted to be pushed hard and
that's one thing he gave them. Glen cracked the Whip
and watched with satisfaction as their skills
improved under his tutelage.
Many of the young
men and women in Glen's regular jazz classes
auditioned to become members of his dance company.
dancers in action resembled scenes from the
movie Fame. What a talented group of
dancers they were!
Glen's dance company trained
every night starting at 9 pm in the area
After I was done teaching my own
classes, I would
often stick my nose
through the door and watch in awe.
What I would have given to have their talent. My envy
was so apparent.
I went to as many shows as I could. I was one
of the biggest fans of Glen's dance company.
My favorite dancers were
Pam Spira, Connie Beth,
Donna Hull, Paula Abbott, plus
Keith and Jerry Lynn
Glen's choreography was very sexy. The picture you see
is from an African dance
number that raised the passions in any
man fortunate enough
to watch it.
I hired Glen's
Dance company to perform
at my infamous
Halloween Party from Hell back in 1981.
I had no idea they were
going to dance their African Frenzy dance routine.
That was a provocative
performance to say the
least. The hot-blooded males in the
audience went a little crazy to say the least.
Meanwhile the women stared angry darts at me for inviting
these scantily clad dancers to the party and getting their
guys all worked up. That was one wild night!
My biggest regret is that Glen
did not personally
dance in his own shows. I
could never get enough of his incredible talent;
I thirsted to see him in action! He preferred not to
dance because he always ended up stealing the show with his
incredible dance ability.
I was always an outsider with the dance company.
I had nowhere near the kind of
dance ability these kids had and I was also 15 years older.
My role was
strictly that of an "onlooker". Most of the
dancers called me the "Western Guy", but at least
they were nice about it. With the exception of a woman named
Hjortis who never missed
a chance to be rude to me, the rest of the company members
were unfailingly polite and friendly.
Then came the Magic Moment when I miraculously found a way to
hang with the group!!
for a Night!
My single favorite memory of
my years as a dance company groupie came
in 1983. Glen's
dancers were hired to perform at a huge society bash at a
private ranch in the hills outside of San Antonio. The rock
band Johnny D and the Rocket 88s would be performing
two acts. Glen's dancers would perform when the
Band took their
I begged Glen for permission to tag
along. He rolled his eyes and said okay.
I took my girlfriend Judy
Price with me on the trip. We rode up in
the car with Glen and his
boyfriend Tito, who was also a star dancer.
am not usually envious of rich people, but my eyes bulged
when I saw the
This place was tucked way off
the highway in a secluded valley with trees and natural
There were lovely rock cliffs above
overlooking three sides and a
stream ran through
the property. Most
people have fences around their yards, but this
ranch had beautiful rocky hills instead
Judy and I spent the whole afternoon walking around
exploring the lovely terrain. Oh,
what a beautiful place!! Such a paradise!!
I had more fun at the party
that night than I ever thought
First of all, I have to say Johnny D and
his group were the greatest live band I have ever danced
to! They played great rocking oldies music like Elvis
and Jerry Lee Lewis. Their music was perfect for Swing and Jitterbug
Second, I loved watching the dance company
Third, I loved the open bar with its endless supply
of beer, wine, and mixed drinks.
Fourth, I loved not having
any responsibility. That meant I didn't have to stay sober...
Johnny D was awesome. The guests loved the music. They were
clapping and stomping and hollering. But
the dance floor in front of the stage was
deserted. The guests weren't
drunk yet and didn't have the guts to get
out there and dance.
So the guests people were treating it like a rock
concert. Despite this awesome
dance music and the huge open
air dance floor,
there was no one dancing!!
Out of politeness, I waited for other
people to get out there. Finally I couldn't stand it any more.
The music was so good
that Judy and I had to get out
there and Jitterbug.
There we were, the
only people on the floor. Who cares? We
wanted to dance.
Judy and I warmed up fast. Then we started
I threw Judy in the air, between my legs, over my back,
around my waist, flipped her, dipped her and best of all
didn't trip her. It may have been impromptu, but
some of the
best dancing of my life. I was loose and having a great time
out there. The crowd started to clap for us! We were
smokin'! What a blast!
That's when we
realized that we had become part of the show.
We had inspired the
people were clapping for us too! Too
After our big solo, the guests started to
join us on the floor for the next
song. We had broken the
and I continued to dance and dance and dance until finally
the band had to take a break. That was when Glen's
dance company came on and performed wonderfully. This
was one great party!!
As the evening continued,
several of the guests at the party came
over to Judy and me
to compliment us on our dancing.
They said they were so glad that we were part of the dance
group hired to entertain them that night!
Then a very nice
Then this incredibly nice woman came up to me and introduced
herself as the hostess of the party. She
wanted to personally thank
the two of us for getting the dancing started. She said
she was aghast when the music began
and no one responded.
At the time she worried about what she
could do. Right about this time, Judy and I got out and performed.
That solved the problem
perfectly. She was so glad Glen had brought us along to help!
I didn't tell her that Glen never had our performing in mind
when he gave me permission to come along. That said, I was certainly glad to make a contribution.
the years of feeling inferior to Glen's dancers, I think you
can imagine what an elixir this kind
woman's words were for my fragile
Plus there was still more fun to come! When Johnny D
came back on for Act Two, I got the surprise of my life when several of
Glen's beautiful dancers came over and begged me to dance
with them. Now
this was new!
Whoa, be still my beating heart. I had crushes on several of
these beautiful young ladies. However, despite all the times I
had come to watch them perform, these girls had barely
acknowledged my existence. I was
always the Country Dude or something to that extent.
But Swing Dancing was my turf - I was the
only boy around who knew how to Jitterbug!
So with Judy's
permission, I danced with one gorgeous jazz dancer after
another. With their own performance
over, these girls were ready to let loose! Pretty soon
they were drunk
too! They went nuts out there dancing with me.
They barely knew a thing about partner dancing, but these
were dancers! Thanks to a good lead
and some whispered advice, they picked up
Swing Dancing fast.
I didn't sit out one song the whole night.
Can you imagine that kind of fun? To be the most
popular boy with all these pretty girls?
Even Johnny D himself complimented me on my dancing over the
microphone. I had become the Star
of the Evening. My ego was swelling to
I had the best damn night of dancing in my whole entire
Too bad it had to end. The
music was over. Suddenly I realized I was so
tired I couldn't lift a finger or an eyelash. Judy and I
crawled into the back seat and collapsed. And you know
what? Glen drove the entire way home for three hours
nonstop. I couldn't move and here he was with the energy of
a Titan. The man never ceased to amaze me.
Looking at him through my puppy dog eyes, it never dawned on
me there may have been another explanation for Glen's
The Year it Fell Apart
Something went wrong with Glen in 1984.
He seemed to be angry at everyone, me included. Things
deteriorated quickly. By the
latter part of the year, Glen had stopped talking to me.
From that point on, Glen
communicated with me through his three assistants: Hjortis,
his arrogant right hand man, Karen, his accountant, and
Tito, his boyfriend, star dancer, and assistant.
Since no one was willing to talk to me, I ended up writing a lot of letters.
I also filed away copies for future reference. For the purposes of this story, I reviewed
16 letters in all. Therefore I am very clear on the
details regarding our problems.
Something happened in 1983 between Bill and Glen.
I think 1983 had to be the
year they called it quits in their personal
life because that is when Tito entered
the picture. Bill and Glen tried to continue as
business partners. Then sometime in
1984 Bill disappeared altogether. Don't ask me
what happened to Bill or when;
no one ever told me anything since I was always the
"outsider". All I know is that in Bill's absence,
there were really dark vibes around the place.
a telling passage from a letter I wrote to Judy Price on
August 29, 1984:
I am so disgusted at Glen - he is a good
teacher, but seems to be turning meaner.
I have pointed out to you how he treats
people like a tyrant. Recently 2 or 3
part-time staffers at the Dancing Duds
clothing store were fired. One of them
was Hjortis, although it looks like she got
her job back. Diana was threatened
with being fired and replaced by Glen's
boyfriend Tito as manager. If you
look, you will see neither Hjortis or Diana
is saying much these days. They are
walking around with their tail between their
is gone on some sort of 'emotional illness'
leave. Too bad. He used to look
out for me.
The point is, I don't have a lease.
And I don't feel safe here any more.
Here is a paragraph
from an apology letter to my students Ed and Dee written on
September 7, 1984.
I am writing to apologize. I am aware that
you get aggravated with people constantly
interrupting our private lessons.
In regards to being pushed around with
people walking the room during our lessons,
I swear I have no control over that.
You may not realize this, but I have no
lease at Dance Arts. The two owners
know that they can intimidate me with this
fact. They have constantly used their
control over my program to treat me, my
staff, and my students like illegal aliens.
Since dance studios are not the easiest
things to pick up and move, I am forced to
put up with their BS until I am established
enough to leave on my own terms.
I think much of the rudeness is directed at
me. But my students are affected too.
This means for now we all have to put up with
being treated like second class citizens.
Grumpy gruff Bill Tucker had been gone a long time
before I even knew he was gone. My
first clue came in 1983 when Glen became open about his
relationship with Tito. I think Glen definitely missed Bill
on the business end.
Without Bill's astute business acumen
and perhaps his ability to
keep Glen focused, the jazz classes and Glen's dance company began to go downhill.
started losing students and some of his best dancers as
early as 1984. A downturn in
Houston's economy didn't help much either.
Perhaps Glen simply did not have the ability to be a creative
artist, a teacher, and a businessman too. That
would be too much talent in one human being. It just
seemed that in Bill's absence,
Glen became incredibly
neglectful of details and responsibilities. Often
things such as the air conditioner or the plumbing got fixed
only after they had been run badly into the ground.
Finally these devices completely shattered and there was no choice but to get
My hunch is that Glen intimidated his
assistants so much that none of them had the guts to tell
him what he needed to hear.
Throughout 1984, I
felt a lot of tension between Glen and
me. But he never spoke
his mind. I was constantly in the dark as
to what caused his foul mood. He just went around frowning all
Glen's program and mine were doing a
seesaw. As his program eroded, mine just kept
growing. The previous 4 years had been so tranquil
I was able to
build my dance program to an incredible size. But
at the same time the growing number of students
in my program became a source of friction.
A situation eerily reminiscent of the Stevens days began to
develop as my students seemed to be everywhere during the
evening. My program now had
far more students than Glen's
did. Even though we taught completely different types of dance
classes, it did seem odd that the pupil's
program outnumbered the mentor.
However, at least this time
it could not have been an ego thing. Glen
and I did not compete in the slightest.
There was friction though. Glen did not
like having my students get in his way. He
had been flexible in the past, but now the
slightest frustrations seem to set him off.
With memories of my eviction at Stevens of
Hollywood haunting me, I worried the same thing
was about to happen again.
As his marginal Tap classes and Ballet classes
off the schedule due to poor attendance, rooms would come available
in the evening.
I would pressure Glen to rent me any rooms that weren't
being used, but he resisted because he wanted to save the
for future use. He knew once he
rented to me, that room would be mine forever. Frustrated, I would have to back down. I
fumed inwardly as I walked past empty rooms at night while my
own rooms were crammed with students. It
wasn't my studio. What was I supposed to do?
Then there was "The Artist Thing".
began to act as if the world owed him a living.
It was my impression
Glen treated me and my students as a sort of
irritating but necessary evil. He acted
like an irresponsible, inconsiderate Diva with
constant his lack of respect for anyone's
needs but his own. It was
kind of the world revolves around me
A favorite trick of his
was to run the AC at 80 degrees,
especially whenever he was mad at me.
He liked to keep his
dancers hot, fearing muscle pulls at colder temperatures.
Plus he personally never perspired anyway.
Unfortunately, at this temperature, my dancers
about the heat. They had
clothes on and they were miserable.
I begged Glen to simply put in a baffle up in the main vent
to block air to Room 1 to allow the AC to cool the rest of
the studio while keeping his room hot. He refused.
Increasingly his attitude seemed to indicate that he could
care less about my students. In
fact, at this point I honestly believe Glen
resented us being there.
Finally Bill Tucker stepped in and did exactly as I
requested - put in the baffle. It took a couple hours.
It was that simple! Problem solved.
I agreed to pay $100, half the
expense. Bill always called me "The Asset".
was his nickname for me which I took as a compliment. I
guess in a lot of ways Bill and I had more in common than
Glen and I did. Bill and I were businessmen; Glen was the
The petty stuff was rampant. Each incident was small, but
added up the damage was devastating.
Looking back on my letters from 1984,
there is one stupid story after. One night Judy Price
discovered a couch in the room she was about to teach in.
So she had a couple students move it back into the hallway
where it came from. When Glen discovered the couch had
been moved, he chewed me out. That couch was there for
a reason! Lord only knows what the reason was, but I
was not to move furniture again without consulting him
first. Oh great, we were crowded to begin with.
Now we get to dance around a couch
in the middle of the dance floor because it is inconvenient
to Glen to let us move it out. How weird is that
One of my dance rooms - today's Room 3 - connected
the dance studio to the Dancing Duds
clothing store. Although there was another
way around, Glen's staff would constantly walk back and
forth through this room while my classes were being
held. Hjortis, Glen's
assistant and a member of the dance company, was something of a petty tyrant.
She delighted in walking through the room. Hjordis was
clearly the main offender.
Her arrogance was hard to take.
knew exactly how I felt about her
constant needless interruptions, but she did it anyway.
It was too much for her to take the long way.
In fact she
smiled at me sometimes as she took her
sweet time walking through my room.
My students didn't like it either.
Too bad I never called her on it. If I had to guess,
Hjortis overestimated her own importance to Glen. If
push came to shove, I have a hunch I was more valuable.
But that was too big a chance to take given Glen's
mysterious moods. So Hjortis had her way with me while I seethed at the disrespect.
Some idiot friend of Glen's tried to use my Caliphone record
player as an amp for his clogging class. He
played his music too loud and blew it up.
When I spoke up, Glen said tough.
Glen never reimbursed me the $200
to replace it.
Then there was yet another one of the endless Kotex/Tampon incidents.
I have many mysteries about women.
One mystery is my
perpetual amazement that this same problem shows up once
every two months. Women get mad at
men for not putting down the lid, but then they turn around
and show total disregard on this issue. Don't women
know those things expand in water? Why won't they use
those containers on the floor? The number of
times the toilet would get stopped up for this same problem
drove me to despair.
someone just kept flushing the damn toilet thinking that
would solve the clogging problem. That did not work. Then
something broke. I personally spent four hours mopping up the mess.
Furthermore I paid the
emergency plumber out of my own pocket.
Although I was not
responsible for repairs, I didn't let that stop me from
handling an emergency. There was no thanks and no
Several times I scheduled private lessons in the rooms that
were owed to me as part of my rent only to find one of
Glen's dancers was using the
room for some reason.
When I protested, I was told I
would have to wait until the dancer was finished.
I did not appreciate being treated like a second-class
citizen nor did my students.
One night Judy Price lost her voice. She was teaching a
class in Room C. Next door in
another room beside hers, a group
of ten men known as "The Dianas" were practicing
their singing for a Gay Pride Day performance.
Judy had no
choice but scream to be heard over them
for the entire hour.
Increasingly, we were made to feel
like unwelcome guests in our own home.
What We Have Here
is a Failure to Communicate
Early in our relationship Glen had been
so wonderful to me
in so many ways. He was warm, helpful, and enthusiastic
about improving my often limited dance skills. But now something
had changed in the man. Glen was always short with me, irritable, and sometimes downright rude. He
would forget things that he promised to do (like get things
fixed when they broke!!)
Few things bothered
me more than his perpetual lateness for our lessons.
I would show up for a lesson only to see him Waltz in twenty
minutes late. That irritated me no end. Once in
a while is not a problem, but this happened continually.
Why was his time more important than mine? Then
suddenly the problem got worse - he stopped showing up
altogether! Imagine how angry I felt about his new trick - skipping the
Something was wrong. Over the past several months I would show up for our regular private lesson
on Tuesday or Thursday at 11 am only to realize Glen had stood me up completely.
This happened about one in every
four lessons. I would wait for an
hour or half an hour, then finally give up in disgust and
drive back home. My entire morning
was wasted. When he finally did
appear for evening classes he always had an excuse, but I fumed at the
Over the ten years of our relationship, I paid Glen in the
neighborhood of $20,000 for private lessons and $100,000 in
rent. I had never missed a lesson in my life.
But recently I was driving across the city in the middle of the
day just to get stood up when all he had to do was call.
Lift a finger
and dial. Or ask an assistant to do it.
What the hell made him think his time was any more valuable
I am certain that Glen had legitimate beefs towards me,
but he always kept things bottled inside.
One night Glen was furious when I ran my class over my
allotted 9 pm time slot in Room 1. Unbeknownst to me, Glen
had scheduled a special 9 pm rehearsal.
He was waiting with 20 members of
his company out in the hallway for me to get out of there.
The door was closed. I had no
idea they were out there. All he had to do was send someone in to say something!
That would been the graceful way to handle it, but no such
luck. Instead at 9:05 pm 20 of his dancers simply walked into the
room and started their warm-ups while my students stared at them
in confusion. Glen walked right past me but avoided eye
contact. He looked furious.
I told my students it was time to go. I was embarrassed, but
didn't see the point of making a scene. Glen had a right to
the room. One of the dancers said Glen assumed I was running
my class over to deliberately spite him. This was not true, but as usual
there was no communication. I was so busy teaching I
was unaware of his presence.
Most of the time Glen
preferred to hold his anger in and avoid confrontation. As
anyone knows, this leads to Cold War.
The fact was that Glen felt
increasingly frustrated that my students and my classes
always seemed to be in his way. He resented the
inconvenience of working around us and preferred to just
have it his way most of the time. He resented it when we
complained about his friends singing or his staff walking
through our room. Rather than fix the problem, he avoided it
with angry silence.
I have no doubt
there were other things that bothered him. But how could I
correct them if he never talked to me??
For example, one time my students
carelessly stacked chairs in front of his office door,
forcing him to move them the next day to get in
to his own office.
This time Glen did say something
and I promptly had them moved. Just tell me what's
On the other hand,
Glen's instructors would always leave their moveable ballet
dance barres in the middle of our rooms, forcing us to move
them out of our way to start class. Stuff
like this should have been easy to solve. Dance Arts was like a big home with a lot of
people who often got in each other's way. But with manners
and courtesy, most problems could have been solved
All Glen had to do was say something. In a family,
that's how you get the small things ironed out. But
that was not Glen's style.
Glen set the tone. If he acted rudely towards me, then
his assistants felt entitled to behave the same way.
Instead of getting his problems off his chest,
chose to treat me, my staff, and my students like
should have stood up to him, but I depended on
the use of his studio which meant I had
little choice but to swallow my anger and carry on.
The truth is I lived in constant fear of making the man
angry. But as the year went on, even the smallest
indiscretions seemed to make Glen angry.
Looking back, there were three
explanations for Glen's anger.
He had lost Bill Tucker, the man who kept things glued
together. Either Glen did not have the ability to run
his studio himself or he didn't have the inclination.
Whatever the reason, the place was falling apart and Glen
Second, Glen had bills coming out of his ears. The
money pressure on him was probably intense.
Third, Glen was using drugs. I was totally ignorant of
this, but in retrospect it explained EVERYTHING that made no
sense this year. The drug use explained his lack of
attention to details. The drug use explained why he
didn't have any money. And the drug use explained his
constant missed appointments and all the times he lost his
temper for seemingly no reason. Glen was falling
1984: The Infamous Piano Incident
Saturday, August 25th,
1984, is a day which will live in infamy. On this day, a very curious incident
occurred that changed the nature of my
with Glen permanently.
Things would never be the same again.
Glen had a
piano on wheels that he moved back and forth depending on where he
needed it. One afternoon he sent Tito, one of his assistants, to come get the piano from a room where I was
teaching a private lesson. I
offered to help Tito push it, but Tito said no, he could handle it.
didn't think Tito could handle it because it usually
took at least two people to move this big piano, but I held my tongue and went
back to my student.
So Tito rolled the piano into the hallway. I heard a huge crash. He
had accidentally hit a table with the unwieldy piano.
In the process, a valuable picture
of mine being displayed on the table
fell to the floor. The glass frame
I ran out to see what happened and make sure no one was hurt. The first thing I saw
was that broken glass was scattered everywhere. Then I saw
my pictures were in ruins. Upset, I said,
"Jesus Christ, Tito, what happened!?"
Tito was a friend of mine, but at
the moment I was pretty mad at him for such a careless mistake.
I was just letting off steam.
I was already over my anger. It
wasn't that big a deal.
Down the hall from another direction, Glen had also heard
the crash. Glen was coming up from
behind me to investigate. Hearing me raise my voice
with his 19 year old protégé/boyfriend, Glen exploded in rage!
I can only guess his protective instinct
built-up resentment he had been
carrying towards me kicked in all at
To my utter shock, from my blind side
me away from Tito. Mind you I hadn't
even remotely threatened the young
man. It wasn't like the kid was in
any danger. But that wasn't how Glen saw it. He
put both hands on me and pushed hard.
Hit from behind, I lost my balance and
fell against the wall among the broken glass.
I ended up sprawled on the floor. It was
I wasn't hurt but I was stunned. Now
that he had me laying helplessly on the floor, Glen towered
over me and screamed down at me. At the top of his lungs he said I had no business
talking to Tito that way.
He said if I had a problem, I should bring it to him
directly. The man was crimson with anger way beyond proportion to
the severity of the incident. It made no sense
for him to lose it like this over something so silly.
I stared at Glen in shock. Then I noticed my dance
student staring fearfully at Glen,
Tito and me. She had her hand covering her wide open mouth and
her eyes were bulging
in horror. She got her purse and ran out.
couldn't have cared less. He was too busy screaming
I had never seen Glen
behave like this before. I had seen him lose his temper once
or twice, but nothing like this. Mount Vesuvius was blowing
its top. Glen had been angry with me a couple times in the past,
but he had never raised his voice like this before and he had certainly never been
physical with me.
our relationship deteriorated to this point?
I was totally clueless. I had known this man for six years. For most of
this time I had worshipped him like a rock star
groupie. Even despite our recent troubles,
I still felt so much gratitude
Glen was the single
most important authority figure in my life.
I owed my dance career to him!
But now I
felt exactly like a dog who had been kicked by its master.
I was seething
inside. Had it been anyone else, I would have gotten
right up in his face.
But something warned to show restraint. In my mind I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, but
Glen was too out of control to confront. At
this point, I saw him as an
irrational landlord who might be
mad enough to tell me to pack my bags.
Remembering my mistake with Lance
Stevens that got me thrown out of his studio 4 years ago, I decided it was better to
appease Glen with a slapstick "sorry, masta" routine than
say what I really thought.
I got up and apologized first to Tito, then to Glen for my
mistake. Then I slunk off to lick my wounds.
Did you notice that for the first time in my life I bit
my tongue? Maybe I was growing up.
Glen Raises the
Rent; I cancel my lessons
Four days after the Piano
Incident, I was handed a
letter raising my rent immediately to $1800 a month, a $750
increase from my current $1050. By comparison in 1980
had started at $600.
Glen was demanding a 70% increase in my
Feeling keenly that this increase was
mostly about revenge, I made an appointment with Karen Pons,
Glen's accountant. As far as I was
concerned, this amount of this increase was uncalled for.
went over the bills, figured out what percentage of the
studio I was using, how much I was making, etc.
During our negotiations, Karen spoke openly that Glen's
diminishing enrollments were a real problem. During
our negotiations, Karen excused herself to use the restroom.
She had been quoting figures from several documents to
explain the rent increase. So I took a look myself.
From what I saw laying around on Karen's desk, money
was pretty tight for Glen.
Karen and I decided to split the difference.
settled on a $450 increase to round it off at $1500 a month.
Even this amount stung. I
was seething at the 50% increase, especially because I
had still not forgiven Glen for the piano incident.
Judging by the
way he stuck it to me, Glen was
still angry with me. Too bad I didn't have a clue
what it was.
I needed to be respected. Glen had humiliated me for
no reason. I decided to retaliate. I wanted to fight back. Now
that I knew money was his weakness, I knew right where to
hit. I canceled my 2 private
lessons a week with Glen.
This move that would save me $225 a month.
I didn't feel the slightest guilt. After being shoved
to the floor, what was the point of continuing
lessons the way I felt now?
The magic was definitely gone.
There is a right way to handle things and a wrong way.
Although obviously the drug use was the real reason, I had
no way of knowing what the truth was. All I knew was
things were being handled poorly around here.
Glen had already stood me up six times that year
for private lessons.
Now the respect I had felt for Glen had been shattered
by the shoving incident.
The threat to increase my rent by $750 was absolutely the
didn't grieve too much over the loss of my once beloved
They had long ceased being
productive. For some time now, we had just been
going through the motions. Glen's concentration was simply not there.
He didn't seem interested in my development as a dancer any
more. Or perhaps his built-up resentment prevented him from
effectively teaching me at this point.
In hindsight, my guess is the drug use had ruined him as a
person who cared about people anymore.
Glen never replied to my
decision to drop the private lessons.
I imagine if he had spoken with me, I was more than willing
to patch things up. A compromise could have
been reached like one lesson a week instead of two.
But on the other hand, maybe he agreed it was time the
lessons ended. Who knows?
Air Conditioner Extortion
It quickly became
was obvious Glen
wasn't happy about the loss of
his private lesson income.
One month later Glen fired another salvo.
On October 11th, just one month after completing the rent
negotiations, Glen had Karen Pons write me a letter
demanding a special payment of $300 due to an
"unusually high electric bill".
This move rankled me no end.
I saw this AC demand as personal,
not business. I was so frustrated I was ready
to leave and told him so in a letter. Why a letter?
Glen wouldn't speak to me.
After a month to cool off from the
piano and the rent incidents, I was ready to see if Glen and
I could clear the air and maybe even resume the private
lessons. What could possibly be eating at him so
much? This guy could really carry a
I wrote Glen a letter asking to speak with him and left it
on his desk. No phone call, no letter, no conversation, no
Next I asked Karen and Tito to
intercede in the matter.
PLEASE tell Glen I
wanted to speak with him. No reply.
Not one response to any of them. This
was ridiculous. There wasn't going
to be any powwow. Glen made it clear with his body language that I
was NOT to approach. His scowl towards me could have frozen
This was not how people were
supposed to run a business.
Did I pay the $300?
First, technically I didn't owe the money.
Karen Pons had
specifically said my rent increase included all utilities. I
had it in writing.
Second, the excessive light bill wasn't my fault to begin
with. In August, Glen had let some friend of his use the
studio all month long during the
weekends to prepare for a dance performance.
This guy, the Bum as I referred to
acted like he owned the place. This guy wrote the
book. Talk about Attitude! I don't dislike a lot of
people, but I really disliked this man.
definitely didn't share Glen's love for
heat. Glen and his dancers weren't
around on Saturdays and Sundays this month. Since no
one was looking, the Bum would turn the AC down
to 70 degrees. That
meant the Bum was at the studio every Saturday and Sunday for a
month running the AC at 70 degrees all day long. Normally the AC
either stayed off at these times or was set to 75. There's your
electricity increase right
But there was actually an even more compelling
reason for the
"unusually high electric bill".
One Saturday night The Bum got drunk. I came in the next day
on a Sunday
afternoon for my regular classes. The moment I opened the
door to the studio, I realized the AC was
The whole place was really cold. As I walked by AC
thermostat, I saw that it was set
to 70 degrees, a huge No-No.
Curious as to
who might be there ahead of me, I
looked around. That's when I found The Bum passed out face down on the couch in
Glen's office. One arm and one foot hung over the
couch. The guy reeked from dried vomit. There on the
floor beside him lay two empty bottles plus perhaps a
million cigarette butts scattered everywhere.
It's a wonder he didn't
burn the place down. The air conditioner had likely been
running ALL NIGHT LONG. And I told Glen this.
Well, let's put it another way.
I never spoke to him, I put the details in a letter.
I was damned if Glen expected me to pay for a bill caused by
Third, I was angry that Glen did not have the decency to
speak to me. I was feeling very defiant.
I didn't want to
But the real reason I didn't pay
the $300 surcharge was that I no longer feared getting thrown out.
During the recent rent negotiations, Karen Pons had
her hand when she revealed just how shaky the Dance Arts finances
were. Houston's economy was in the midst of a sharp
downturn due to problems in the Oil and Gas industry.
Money was very tight.
I smiled at the irony of it. $1,500 a month was a lot of money in those
days. Glen needed my money so much
he probably couldn't afford
to get rid of me. No matter how much
Glen hated me, he was stuck with
So I decided to call their bluff. I stood my ground and didn't pay
the Air Conditioner surcharge.
After a week of nothing happening and no further
communication, I knew I had won this round.
The balance of
power had shifted permanently. Although Glen still had some
leverage as my landlord, we were now
basically Even Steven.
I am sorry to say that after the Piano/Rent/AC episodes, Glen hardly ever spoke
directly to me again. If there was some reason to contact
me, he used Karen, Tito, or Hjortis as intermediaries.
Tito was the only one who was ever civil to me,
but he landed a job performing in Vegas. Now that he
was gone, things were always tense from this point
To me, the unforgivable thing was when Glen refused to even sit down and talk
it out. We had known each other for six years.
I was not the
enemy. How could we ever iron out out our differences
a while, but I finally got the message.
Glen didn't want to talk. Fine. I
can play cold shoulder too. From this
point on, Glen and I
had an unspoken agreement to avoid each other
like the plague. For the next
4 years this
plan worked for him and it worked for me.
Glen's unwillingness to even speak to me caused my final
loss of innocence where he was concerned. It was time to
drop the rose-colored glasses and grow up.
Glen had become a first-class jerk.
Something was wrong here, but I didn't have a
clue what the real problem was.
Fortunately for me, the balance of power had
shifted. If he wanted to get rid of me, he
would have done it by now. Glen and I stood on equal footing from here
on out. Having weathered the crisis of the rent increase and
the AC extortion, I was pretty sure he needed me just as
much as I needed him.
snapped inside. Glen was no longer this towering
authority figure that I worshipped. After the
way he behaved during this tug of war, I had lost a lot of
respect for him. This was the end of my
Puppy Dog Eyes.
This man had once been my friend. As far as I could
tell, the only thing I had done to offend Glen was to
discontinue the private lessons. If he was upset about
that, the right thing to do was to talk to me, not slap me
his air conditioner bill.
going to follow him around any more looking for approval and
a stray smile.
The days of Hero Worship were over.
Having seen a side of Glen that I definitely didn't
care for, his fall from the pedestal was now complete.
Interestingly, in the next four years I was never again asked
for more money or rent increases. My rent did go up, but
only because I kept renting more rooms as they came
available. Every time Glen lost
another class, I gained another room.
Things would never be the same between us.
1984 - 1988: The
The Cold War had begun. A sullen peace developed between the
two of us.
On the bright side Glen and I never again
exchanged harsh words. On the dark side we never exchanged
anything but uneasy glances from afar.
We co-existed in separate rooms.
Dance Arts was a big place. It had two entrances and
doors to each room. This made it easy for me to avoid Glen
and vice versa. For the next four years Glen and I taught in
rooms right next door to one another.
I could hear him teaching.
But we never spoke and
rarely saw each other. Personally I liked it this way just
fine. My bitterness ran pretty deep. I found the further I stayed away
from him the better we got along.
My personal life wasn't all that great.
Parallel to my Cold War period with Glen, I was in a very
unhappy marriage. Believe me when I say I had more
could handle. My wife and I divorced early in 1986. If you are curious, a good account can
be found in
As a way of coping with my divorce,
1986 became the year I went Whip Dancing 201
nights in a row. Affectionately known as The
Streak, I left the studio
every night at 9 sharp to go out dancing. I discovered
it was an effective way to stay as far
away from Dance Arts as I could.
I was miserable at Dance Arts. Although I was not longer afraid of
getting evicted, this didn't stop Glen or his two assistants
Karen Pons and Hjortis from treating me like the village leper.
was like Chinese Water Torture, one little drip at a time,
one little petty incident after another.
Something else was going on that I couldn't put my finger on.
One reason Glen and I never fought any more is that he just
didn't seem to care enough anymore to even want to fight.
looked worn out. Not only did he leave me alone, signs of his apathy were
tangible. The place had deteriorated into a dirty, run-down
dump. The dance floors had been ripped up so badly from
the metal tips of clogging
and tap shoes that splinters were becoming a
Tripping in the ruts while dancing was another!
Nothing ever got fixed. My students were constantly
treated like second-class citizens. I was sick and tired of
these prima donnas who made my life miserable at Dance
At the end of 1986,
I went skiing over Christmas with a group. I kept to
myself most of the time. After
my 1986 Dance Streak ended on New
Year's Eve, I spent the following
day holed up
in my hotel room for a day of
reflection. I decided it was time to go. I did not
want to allow myself to be treated like this
any longer. I was worried
that finding an affordable escape
route wouldn't be easy. My dance program had grown so large
that only a very large facility would do. I wanted a
building to call my own.
Without telling Glen I asked a real estate agent to look at
commercial properties. I needed a good location, I
needed a lot of space, and I needed a lot of parking. I
could only afford a building of $300,000. You would
think at that price I could have come up with something, but
it was not to be. Often it
was the parking issue that did me in.
I spent the entire
year of 1987 trying to buy one building after another. I wanted out
of Dance Arts so badly!! What a preposterous waste of time this
turned out to be. I put contracts down on
buildings including one bizarre deal on The
Castle at Greenridge that nearly cost me my
entire life savings.
The fact that I even entered into such
an incredibly risky deal shows how desperate I was to escape
Dance Arts. But there must have been something in the cards because one business deal after another fell
Besides the nine places I put contracts down on, I looked
seriously at a dozen
other buildings. I even toyed with taking over Al Marks' lease at
Melody Lane Ballroom. I had $100,000 saved up for a down payment,
which should have been more than enough seed money.
Furthermore a terrible economy was depressing the price of buildings.
But no matter how hard I looked, I could not find one place to
I hated being at Dance Arts,
but I didn't want to move out just to rent some place.
Wherever I moved to, I wanted it to be my studio's permanent
home. I had so many ideas and dreams!
1984 was one of the worst years of my
1985 was one of the worst years of my life
1987 was definitely one of the worst years of my life.
would deliver the biggest shock of my life.
1988: The Day I Got
One afternoon in March 1988 I arrived
at Dance Arts to teach a private
lesson. I was stunned to find a chain and padlock on the door. I also
discovered the door lock had been changed.
Panic-stricken, there was no one to call. I realized for the first time
that in all these years I had never even been given Glen's home
There had been no previous
warning of trouble. This lockout came totally out of the blue.
I stood there staring at the padlocked door stunned out of my mind.
What in the hell was going on?? At first I wondered if Glen had
decided to lock me out, but then I discarded this thought as overly
paranoid. We hadn't had a fight in ages. In fact I barely ever saw
him any more. He was sort of a ghost these
No one was in sight to explain
what was going on.
No one in the other stores
knew anything. I was paralyzed with
uncertainty. What was I supposed to do now?
When my student showed up, her appearance forced me to snap out of it.
I pointed to the door and apologized. What else could I do?
I had more students coming for classes that night. Should I wait for
them or should I simply put a sign on the door? I decided to
I had an hour before my group class would start which gave me time to
reflect. I had a lot of dark thoughts to deal with. As I sat
drinking coffee in my car waiting to see who would show up, I thought about how miserable I had been for
The problems with Glen Hunsucker went all the way back to 1984.
Last year I had
tried to find another place, but to no avail.
Now it looked like it was too late to escape gracefully. As a symbol of how bad the relationship had fallen
between Glen and myself, there had been no warning of financial problems.
had any of Glen's cronies clued me in either. But then concern for my
well-being had never been one of their strong points.
I cringed with embarrassment as my students began to
show up. They asked a lot of questions I didn't have answers for and I
took a lot of heat. When would I be open again? How could
they get their refund? I told them all I didn't know what was
going on and that I would put a daily message on my answering machine with
updates. What else was I supposed to do?
Glen's students showed up too but he was the great artist,
didn't bother to show up nor did he send an agent. They were all very
worried about Glen which of course rankled me no end.
Worried about Glen? Hell, I was out of business.
I had 20 classes a week
with 400 students and nowhere to go. Caught off guard, I had no backup plans.
I was SICK WITH WORRY.
As I sat in my car, I noticed there was a store for rent in the same shopping
center. It said to call "Village Savings" for
information. This is how I got the phone number of the shopping
center landlord. Unfortunately it was after 5 pm so I had to wait till
the next morning to call.
After a long sleepless night, it was time to make my move.
was no use, I would have to find out why the studio had been closed by
The receptionist transferred my call to Gary Hargrave, the man who was responsible for the property.
He made it clear he did NOT want to meet with me. I had to be very
persistent just to persuade him to give me an appointment later that day.
I was baffled by his cold-shoulder treatment. What in the hell was going on?
Two hours later I showed up for my appointment. The moment I
walked into Mr. Hargrave's office, he closed the door and immediately
went into a tirade over Glen. I quickly discovered that
Glen had not paid his rent in over a year!! Glen had broken one
promise to Hargrave after another. He had lied to Mr. Hargrave's
face. Glen had made appointments and consistently stood
Hargrave up. That
sounded vaguely familiar. Hargrave said at first he felt sorry for
Glen and had bent
over backwards to help him work his way out of the hole.
But after one
evasion tactic after another, Hargrave realized
Glen had no intention of ever paying another cent of rent.
Hargrave was left with no choice
but to legally evict Glen. He said the eviction
process was a pain in the butt, but it had to be done. At this point his attitude towards Glen was deeply personal
- Hargrave told me he detested the man!
This was all news to me. In my wildest dreams,
I never expected this meeting would have me playing therapist to a man I
had never met before. This guy had so much anger towards Glen it
was unbelievable. Nor did I have any clue
that Glen wasn't paying the rent.
But there was yet another shock in store for me.
Mr. Hargrave told me it
wouldn't bother him a bit if Glen killed himself from a drug
It seems Mr. Hargrave apparently had been contacted by one of Glen's
assistants after the door was found locked. When he obstinately
refused to give Glen one more chance, the woman had told him about
Glen's cocaine problems in hopes of gaining some sympathy. But the
well of human kindness had completely run dry. No way, Jose.
In a blinding flash, I suddenly realized here was the reason why Glen had gone
Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde on me. I had never once suspected the man was on
drugs. I was floored. This thought had never crossed my mind.
Looking back, now it made all the sense in the world.
I had never
been around a person with a drug habit in my life and frankly I had been
totally fooled. The missed appointments, the constant lateness, the
stupid excuses, the neglect of his business, the tendency to hold things
in, the screaming episode,
the reclusiveness... it
all made sense now.
The constant self-centered behavior I attributed to
"The Artist's Right to Be Rude" had in reality been created
by a serious drug habit. I was caught so
off guard I could barely make sense of it.
And it was pretty obvious I wasn't the only person mad at Glen.
This Hargrave guy was beyond angry. It wasn't business at this point, it
was very personal.
Hargrave didn't know me from Adam, but he had a huge
list of grievances that were eating him up so badly he had to tell
someone. Glen had managed to drive him crazy! Hmm, welcome to the
I listened as Hargrave continued to rant and rave about how poorly Glen had treated
him. I shook my head at one horror story after another.
Theoretically Mr. Hargrave held the cards. I could not for the life of
me figure out how Glen had gotten so deeply under his skin. Finally
stopped ranting long enough to take a breath. He was through venting.
Deciding it was now or never, I asked Mr. Hargrave if he would rent the place to me.
My heart sunk with fear. But why not?
Because I was one of Glen's associates.
Now I understood. Glen had
taken him for a ride. Hargrave wasn't about to make the mistake of trusting
anyone associated with Glen for fear it might be Glen's backdoor way of
sneaking back into his studio. What if I were
to turn around and lease to Glen?
I replied that while it was true I
shared the building with Glen, I actually
ran an organization independent of
Hargrave didn't believe me. He had been so badly
burned he was not in an open frame of mind AT ALL. He said
again, but for some reason this time I wasn't worried any more.
Now that I understood what he was worried
about, I was
even beginning to smile.
I had an idea. What if I could prove our two operations were
different? What if I could prove that I paid my
Hargrave looked at me. How was I going to do this?
I replied that it was actually fairly simple.
For starters, I could show him my schedule of classes
which would show we were two separate operations.
Then I had an even
better idea. What if I could produce monthly checks
from the past eight years
that would prove that I was paying rent to Hunsucker all along?
That got his attention.
Hargrave began to calm down. He took a deep breath and thought for
Finally he decided to give me a chance.
Hargrave said if I could show him the checks from the last
two years and give him a
$3,000 deposit plus two months of rent, he would let me assume the lease on a trial basis for
If I came through, then he would consider giving me a lease
in my own name. This seemed fair, so we shook hands.
There was something I was curious about before I assumed the temporary
lease. Just how much would I have to pay per month?
When he named his figure, I was
incredulous to find my rent to Glen was larger than
Glen's rent to Village
Savings. I had to grin. Glen had jacked up my rent so high that taking over his
entire facility would actually save me money.
Glen had obviously been plowing
into cocaine instead of paying the rent check.
All the man had to do was turn my check over to Village Savings at the
end of each month. What was it about the power of drugs
that could strip this keenly intelligent human being
devoid of any common sense??
And what kind of people had he surrounded himself with?
No one had the power to save him from himself.
My astonishment began to
turn to a cold rage. Glen's unfathomable
negligence had needlessly put my business in extreme jeopardy!!
I had never done anything to
deserve to be blind-sided like this. If
Glen wasn't going to pay the rent, he could have at least warned me of
the eviction warnings. I hadn't even been
given the courtesy of a head's up. Glen's "oversight" could have cost me
dearly. If I hadn't been able to get Hargrave to relent, it would have
been months before I could get another facility to handle my program.
I would lost a lot of money, a lot of
students and invaluable momentum during the layoff.
Considering how scared I had been, this was a
really close call. To say I was beyond furious with Glen would be an understatement.
Fortunately my quick action
had bypassed any damage
to the program. The studio was only closed for a
couple of days. Overnight our space expanded from 2 rooms to 5
rooms. This was a major step at the
time, but one I was more than ready for. My apprenticeship was
over. It was time to fly this thing.
In April I
added new classes to fill the extra rooms. I hired Sharon Crawford and Debbie Reynolds as full-time instructors
to help teach the expanded program. I was very nervous, but also
My two biggest headaches had been solved. Now I had the space to accommodate my students.
was out from under the thumb of Glen, Karen, and Hjortis whose
coldness had made my life miserable for
the past four years.
And the new financial burden? I laughed when I discovered my new
rent was practically the same as my old rent except of course I now had
to worry about the light bill, the air-conditioners, etc. But all of
these costs were nothing compared to what owning a building would have
cost. Now I didn't have to buy floors, mirrors, and find adequate
parking. What an enormous break this was for me!
It was the dawn of a new era for my dance program. On the day we re-opened for business,
I put "SSQQ" on the front door for the very first
time. After ten years in the Biz, I was now the Man.
Sometimes there really is a silver lining in times of darkness.
Our Final Moment
As mad as I was at Glen's negligence, I
would never have wished him the fate he was about to encounter. The next
decade of his life was one of unremitting horror. His self-destructive
battle with drugs would take him further down the ladder
than any man
I have ever known.
Shortly after I took over the lease and
we reopened, Tito came by to ask if I minded if he picked up some of
Glen's personal effects. Of course not. Tito told me that Glen had landed on his feet. He found another place to hold his classes not
too far away. I rolled my eyes. Glen must have the nine lives of a
cat. Tito told me things were going to be okay. We shook hands
and I wished him luck.
A couple days later I was next door at Charlie's Barbeque having lunch when none other than Glen
Hunsucker walked in. I guess he knew I was
there because he came straight over to where I was sitting.
He said he had dropped by the studio to pick up
some more personal belongings. Glen looked me in the eye and said
there was something he wanted to talk to me about.
He wanted me to bring my program over
to his new building.
I was incredulous.
These were the first civil words Glen had
spoken to me in years. Now, after treating me like garbage for four years
and jeopardizing my business
with his drug problems, Glen was inviting me to step back into his nightmare?
I no longer
trusted Glen. Considering all the money I had put in his pocket, my cynical side
assumed he didn't want to lose his cash
cow. I didn't see any point in talking about it, so I
simply said it was time for me to branch out on my own.
Thank you for helping me start my career.
I will always owe you a huge debt. And just like that,
it was over. Glen stood up, we shook hands, he said goodbye and left.
That day in April 1988 was
the last time I ever saw Glen Hunsucker or talked to
However it wasn't the last time I heard about Glen. Deep down inside in
some irrational corner of my heart I
still admired Glen. I could never forget the help he
gave me when I needed it. I kept track of him as best I could
through the grapevine.
After a year or so at his new studio, he left it for another place. I
don't know the details.
I was told by several people that over the next several years, Glen's
drug problems led him about as far down the path to Hell as humanly
From his pinnacle as the most widely admired dancer in Houston with one
of the finest dance programs, Glen had slipped deep into the abyss. It was unbelievable to think someone
with so many gifts could
throw it all away.
Drugs. What else could explain this incredibly self-destructive
behavior? I have heard of losers who constantly hurt themselves,
but how could a man like this fall so
far? Handsome, athletic,
successful, intelligent, a
widely-admired dancer loved by so many people... why?
If I wasn't scared to death of drugs before, Glen's story serves as the
single most horrifying warning I have ever come across.
In October 2002 I was faced with an unusual moral
dilemma when a woman named Bonnie McMillian emailed me to complain that
I had mentioned Glen's drug problem in one of my
least read stories. The reference
she cited was a brief one sentence note in a little-read story
tucked away in a distant
part of the ssqq web site (new building).
Ms. McMillian pointed out that one small reference was enough to put Glen's name and a hint of his troubles
into an Internet Search Engine. This was news
to me. I was under the impression that I had written my story
Flabbergasted, I visited my web site to take a look. That is when
I realized what had happened. When I had
originally written the story of my 1987 search for a building of my own, I didn't even know what search engines
were! I made one simple reference to Glen's problem, but that's
all it took for Google/Yahoo et al to sniff it out.
Ms. McMillian made the excellent point that perhaps it was wrong to
publicize Glen's drugs problems on the Internet at a time when he was
trying to rebuild his life. Read our correspondence for yourself
and make up your own mind what is right and what is wrong.
From: Bonnie McMillian
Sent: Friday, October 18, 2002 10:56 PM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Glen Hunsucker
Dear SSQQ - Glen Hunsucker is a fabulous dance teacher and is someone I admire a great deal. I was very active in the Houston dance scene (ballet and modern dance) in the 70s, but never took classes from Glen. Now - after a couple of decades of no dance at all I have recently started taking jazz classes from him.
I was interested in knowing more about his dance history (his company's name etc.. - because some old friends used to dance with him)- so I did an Internet search and found your site. I was really dismayed to read your account of
his drug use.
It seems to me that he is trying very hard to get his life back together - and I don't think it helps that his very personal tragedy is here on the Net for anyone to find.
Would you please re-think that section of your otherwise very admirable site? It would be a kindness. I understand you may have personal grievances with Glen - but perhaps he has already atoned for his mistakes - and deserves a clean slate.
Thank you for your attention - and let's keep dancing!
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Saturday, October 19, 2002 7:36 AM
To: Bonnie McMillian
Subject: RE: Glen Hunsucker
You have written an interesting note that brings up mixed feelings. I happen to
admire Glen too. Until he went nuts, he was my friend and he helped me greatly with my dancing.
It boils down to responsibility.
If I follow your logic, you seem to think that someone with a criminal past should have their slate wiped clean.
Do you not understand that people who do drugs do terrible things that hurt other people?
With your line of thinking, perhaps child molesters and rapists should have no mention of their name either.
How do you feel about that? Do you not think other people have a right to be warned about danger?
Glen ruined his life. Threw it away.
His story is a tragedy.
And one of the reasons he got in as much trouble as he did is because people liked him so much they kept giving him another chance or looked the other way until finally he nearly killed himself.
Glen's life is a chilling warning to the rest of us to cherish our talents and not
take them for granted.
I am glad Glen is doing well now. He has a prodigious talent,
more talent than I could ever dream of possessing. I imagine he is happiest when he uses it to serve other people.
As for my personal grievances, how dare you trivialize when you don't even have a clue what was going
His behavior resulted in several years of complete misery for me.
He nearly cost me my career. I was thrown out of the building because unbeknownst to me Glen was pocketing my rent checks to him and
was spending them on drugs instead of paying the bills. I had to scramble desperately to save my job.
I appreciate the guts it took for you to go to bat for the guy, but that is exactly the same enabling behavior that allowed Glen to pursue his path to destruction once before.
An even better story is the truth - a man with enormous talent who wasted it, suffered greatly for his mistake, and then made a comeback. No one can appreciate the rise without knowing about the fall. I respect Glen greatly for picking himself up and making a stand.
His comeback tale is wonderful.
And just out of curiosity, how is he doing?
SSQQ Dance Studio
From: Bonnie McMillian
Sent: Sunday, October 20, 2002 11:39 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: Glen Hunsucker
Dear Rick -
Thank you for your reply. I respect your position regarding truth and how veiling it can only enable an addict.
I am a member of Al-Anon - so your points are well taken.
I also respect your right to warn others by sharing your experience. (and I did not mean to trivialize your experience!)
The thing is, I have no personal (or business) interest in Glen. I simply admire him as a dancer and a teacher. I heard that he had been "having problems" and was trying to re-build his life - but I (as his student) did not need to (or want to) know about his past. On the other hand, if I was planning to go into business with him - I definitely would want to know.
So perhaps your site provides a
Yet it seems sad to me that anyone who wants to know anything about Glen will also learn of his history simply by performing a Yahoo search. However, I do believe that he brought this on himself. So it goes.
"Clean Slate" is a tricky issue (and possibly a bad choice of words). As to how Glen is doing, I don't know him well at all. But he teaches a great jazz class!
I understand he is teaching ballroom classes as well. He looks terrific and seems happy.
He really does not know me - except as a student in his 11:00 class on Saturdays. He has no idea I have read your site or have contacted you - and I have not shared any of this with anyone else.
I don't think it took guts for me to contact you. (email is so anonymous!)
And I am looking at whether I am falling back into enabling behavior.
Perhaps so! Thank you for the reminder.
My best to you and your business - I took some CW classes many years ago.
This lengthy story you have just read
was not on my web site when Bonnie McMillian first emailed me about
Glen's history in 2002.
Troubled by her valid point about letting Glen have a clean slate,
I postponed writing this story for one year. I
finally decided to write the
entire story for three reasons.
First, the story of Glen Hunsucker is a major part of the studio's
history which I have carefully chronicled in many different articles.
With hundreds of pages devoted to different events in the formation of
SSQQ, it makes little sense to leave out the story of the man who made
the single greatest contribution to the overall success of the program. Glen's
story is also SSQQ's story. And Glen's story is also my
Second, the story of Glen's rise and fall is a fascinating tale that
serves as a chilling warning to all of us about the danger of
drugs. That a man with such enormous talent was vulnerable enough
to fall prey to
drug abuse serves as a
powerful reminder to all of us that there are certain paths
no one in their right mind should ever take.
Don't play with fire
or it will play with you.
Third, Glen has apparently begun to put his life together. If this is
so, then one of the finest Jazz teachers in the city of Houston has
returned to recapture his greatness. We can have all the legends we want
about Casey at the Bat, but frankly I admire Glen because he is a real
person who did it.
I realize Ms. McMillian made it clear she would rather not have known
that her jazz teacher had been a drug user, but he is no danger to
anyone but himself. Personally, I admire Glen greatly for getting up
again. That takes courage.
Over the years I have always found it curious that no matter how much
trouble Glen got himself into, he never came to me for help.
always, I cannot figure him out, but if I was forced to guess, his pride
prevents him from saying hello. He knows very clearly he was
always someone I looked up to and I doubt he would be comfortable reversing
roles. I know I would have trouble under similar
circumstances. As they say, sometimes it is hard to go home.
I do not know how Glen received the publication of this story since
I suspect some of what I say will hurt. I am not excited about adding to his woes.
When the story first came up, Glen's sister did write a very angry
letter in protest. Out of respect, I did not publish her email.
People feel very protective of Glen, that I can say without hesitation.
Glen Hunsucker took me through one heck of an emotional roller coaster
ride. Chapter One were my early years of gratitude and hero worship.
Chapter Two were the dark
years of my sullen resentment.
Chapter Three was my hot fury when I
discovered how he jeopardized my career
through drug use. Chapter Four was my
horror at the news of my hero's fall from grace.
Chapter Five was my joy at hints of his
comeback - it is my understanding that Glen is
teaching dance again.
I wish Glen Hunsucker every chance at success and happiness.
I will always feel an enormous gratitude for his help in starting my
career. Wherever you are, I thank you, Glen.
2008 Update: An Email
Letter from Tess
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2008 1:15 PM
Rick, A friend told me of your story about Glen
and that I might catch up with him through the story. After reading it
my only response is I hope you feel better now. The rage you feel
toward him is sad, understandable but sad that you have not dealt with
it - privately.
It is Glen's story and if he wants it told to the whole
world that should be up to him. Sorry Rick but this is not a history of
the studio nor an appreciation for a mentor, it's just dirty laundry.
Grace is a beautiful word that honors the giver more than the receiver.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2008 3:24 PM
Subject: RE: Glen
I could not disagree with you more. It is
my story. It is the story of this studio. It is the story of my
It also happens to be about the only testimony there is to Glen’s
greatness on the entire Internet.
From: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Glen
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2008
You never responded, Tess. I can only assume you did not appreciate
Are you a current student of Glen’s?
To: Rick Archer
Subject: RE: Glen
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2008
No Rick, I'm not a student of his.
Glen and I met when we did Summer Stock at Houston Music Theatre
after graduating from high school. We became choreographers for TUTS
and then both of us moved on to directing.
Glen sang at my wedding and played over the years with my children.
As you can tell Rick, Glen is very
dear to my heart. I saw him several
times when he began building a new life
for himself. He is one of the
kindest, most honest men I've known.
Like so many of us in that age group, drugs did desperate damage to
lives. But if we're still alive we
have become incredibly strong because we know what the bottom looks
like and we're never going back.
We're also going to do anything in our power to help others not be
as stupid as we were. God has been
so gracious to most of us and Glen is one of those.
I'm sorry if I seemed to snap at you but I have become protective of
the wounded in my life.
Many Blessings, tess
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2008 10:17 AM
Subject: RE: Glen
Well, you don't need to apologize Tess. Your
letter did a lot of good. If anything, I should apologize to you for
my sharp reply.
I have always had mixed feelings about that story… I had mixed
feelings before I wrote it and mixed feelings afterwards!
Glen was a very kind man to me before he snapped. I
loved him dearly, worshipped the ground he walked on in fact.
After you wrote your initial letter, I
felt very troubled. So I went back and took another look at that
story. I decided to embellish the
good parts and remove references to the
bad times after we parted.
I decided the part that involves my studio and my career is fair
game. For one thing, that part of
the story is central to the development of SSQQ. Second,
if you get the chance to reread the story,
I give Glen all the credit and tribute he so
rightly deserves. You will not find much mention of his
contributions anywhere else on the Internet.
But I have to admit you were totally
correct… after Glen and I parted ways, I had no right to tell that
party of the story. So I deleted it. That really is none of my
business, is it? I am glad you stuck up for
Scanning the Internet, it appears Glen has moved to Raleigh, North
Carolina. I wish him well.
I really appreciate your letter. I feel much better now. You did a
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM RICK
I will not lie and say I am comfortable
telling a tale which likely upsets my former mentor, Glen
Hunsucker, and definitely offends his many admirers.
I feel tremendous gratitude to Glen Hunsucker. I always
will. After all, I recognize full well that this man once
rescued me from a serious predicament and helped me find the
path that would lead my studio to success.
I will continue to maintain this story on my web site for two
As I said previously in this article, the story of Glen Hunsucker is a major part of the studio's
history which I have carefully chronicled in many different articles.
With hundreds of pages
and pictures devoted to different events in the formation of
SSQQ, it makes little sense to leave out the story of the man who made
the single greatest contribution to the overall success of the program.
story is also SSQQ's story. And Glen's story is also my
Anyone who has read some of my other
stories will know full well that I have listed my own mistakes
and failings. As I cast my light on Glen, know full well
that I have done so to myself as well.
My second reason to list this story is that it is the only place
on the Internet where you can read of Glen's greatness in any
detail. Glenn Hunsucker is much beloved by all his
students. I know it hurts them to know he has a troubled
If it helps makes things any better, rest assured that Glen has
begun to put his life back together.