Diane Head
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Diane Head

Diane Head was a gracious lady who taught Swing at SSQQ back in the late 80s.  At the time, Diane was one of the mainstays of perhaps the tightest-knit group of friends the studio has ever seen.  I would say Diane was probably the most popular girl in the bunch, although her friend Margie Saibara was close.

Diane's decision to move to Dallas became the catalyst for the greatest SSQQ Sock Hop Party of all time back in 1988.  Practically the entire studio came to this party which served that year as Diane's "Going Away" party.

Over 200 people danced the night away in Diane's honor while Diane herself was in for a pretty rough evening!! 

This is the story of Diane Head and the most special SSQQ Sock Hop ever!!

Diane joined the studio in the early-80s.

She started out as a Western dancer.  Diane and her sister-in-law Linda were fixtures over at Texas, one of our big hangouts after the Winchester Club closed in 1984. 

Once she had mastered C&W, like many of her friends, Diane took up Whip dancing. She was one of the Wild and Crazy Bunch of characters who joined my Roller-Coaster Ride during the 201 Nights of Whip Dancing back in 1986.

Diane had a special nickname which fit her perfectly. Diane just loved to play Ms. Pac-Man!!  We had a Ms. Pac-Man machine at the studio in those days and Diane spent a small fortune in quarters playing game after game. The cherry was worth a hundred points, the strawberry 200, the pretzel was 500, the apple a thousand, the pear two thousand, but the Banana was worth 5,000 points.

One day at the studio we heard a blood-curdling scream from Diane.

Worried about her safety, an entire group of people left class and ran to see what had happened. Rather than finding an injured, terrified woman, instead we found Diane jumping up and down in complete ecstasy. Diane had captured her first ever Banana on Ms. Pac-Man.  It was one of the happiest moments of her life.  From then, she was known as "Diana Banana".  It was the perfect nickname and she loved it.


When a Retro Dance Club named Studebakers opened in 1987, Diane fell in love with the place just like the rest of us did.  As far as the SSQQ crowd was concerned, the Studebakers Club near the Galleria was the best dance club in town. Studebakers played OUR MUSIC!   Every generation believes the music they grew up with is the best music ever recorded and our Baby Boomer group was no exception.  One 50s and 60s dance hit after another filled our hungry ears... "Mustang Sally", "At the Hop", "Peggy Sue", "Jailhouse Rock", "R-E-S-P-E-C-T", "Tequila"... oh boy did we have fun!

Back then we had as many people meeting for Jitterbug Night at Studebakers on Mondays as we later did at the Longhorn in the 90s and Wild West in the 2000s. It was an attractive, well-decorated club with a huge Studebaker car in the back.

And don't let me forget the waitresses!!  They were a big part of the decor!  These gorgeous long-legged waitresses wearing short pink 50s skirts made the place even more attractive.  Every now and then they would all climb up on the counter and dance the Hand Jive. As they worked their knees to the music, you could see up their dresses, a fact I am sure they were well aware of.  Lord knows I was aware of it. Yum!

Another big attraction at Studebakers was the scrumptious early evening buffet. Most SSQQ students would come straight from work to eat at 6 pm, then dance hard for a couple hours.

There was a guy in our group named Hal Perry who had lost his job. He loved the SSQQ Studebakers Night because this was the only night of the week where it was so crowed he could sneak in and bum a free meal. The rule was you had to buy at least one drink. The waitress would look for him to place a drink order, but he would see her coming and immediately ask a lady to dance.

Because our group packed the place, he could quickly lose himself in the crowd on the dance floor. Once the song was over, he would go back to eating. Since the place was so busy when we were there, the waitress never caught on that he was deliberately dodging her.

The only downside to Studebakers was that our group was clearly too big for their floor. That floor would sure get packed!! The dance known as the Whip was invented back during World War II as a solution to the packed floors out in California. Dancing the Whip at Studebakers to the great Motown sounds of the 60s, I discovered first-hand exactly why all the people out in California learned to dance in a straight line! Frequently the Whip was the only way to actually partner dance in such tight quarters.

Thanks to Studebakers, Swing Classes at SSQQ grew to huge numbers. But there was another reason too - Diane Head.  

Diane became an instructor the same way that Hall of Fame instructor Sharon Crawford did - INSTANTLY.

One day in 1987 a long-time instructor suddenly quit the staff in anger. This meant I had a Swing class that night with no teacher.  We didn't have Assistants in those days.  SSQQ was still in its infancy and there were only three instructors. I had absolutely no back-up. 

I wondered who I could call on at a moment's notice. 
Diane was a terrific dancer and so gentle as a person.  I immediately though of her. I called Diane at work and asked her to substitute teach the Swing class that night.  Even though it is difficult to "see" over the phone, I could tell Diane had turned pale.

She said "No way".

I begged and pleaded, "There's nobody else but you, Diane!!"  

Finally she gave in and said she would try. She came directly from work and met me at the studio. We spent the next two hours getting her ready. Those two hours were tough on her. Diane quickly realized she didn't have a clue what the man's footwork was. Indeed, she exclaimed, "It's hard being a boy!"

Fortunately Diane knew the girl's part well enough that she picked up the boy's part sufficiently to teach at the Beginner level that night.  She simply demonstrated the footwork and was smart enough not to reveal she barely knew more than the men she was teaching.

Diane had a lot of guts.  She accepted the job even though she knew she was asking for trouble - she had never danced the boy's part in her life!  After she somehow she made it through the first night, Diane knew she was far from being out of the woods.  After faking her way through the first class, now there was next week to get ready for. And then the Intermediate level followed by the Advanced level.  She was looking at three months of pressure.  Diane was panic-stricken. She had not an inkling of how to lead or teach any of those patterns!   Diane tried to quit after the first night, but I told we would take it one step at a time. We didn't have to learn everything at once.  That didn't reassure her very much.  She said she was terrified, but then she agreed to continue.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

So for the next three months Diane barely stayed one step ahead of the law. She was always scrambling to learn how to explain the patterns well enough and lead them just before class.  It wasn't easy for her to prepare ahead of time.  As a full-time secretary and a full-time single mother to two pre-teenage boys, she didn't have a lot of free time to devote to her dance teaching career.  Often we would meet on Mondays at 5 or 6 pm, then she would teach the patterns the same night at 7 pm.  One week after another she was literally learning her patterns right before class. She was frequently a nervous wreck.

One night it all finally caught up to her. Right before class we worked and worked on two patterns - the first was an easy one to start the class and then a hard one for the second hour. The hard one drove Diane nuts, but at the last minute she mastered it.  Flustered at just barely figuring it out before the bell, Diane mustered her courage and walked down the hallway to start her class.

Three minutes later she burst into my room with tears in her eyes. "I forgot my Easy pattern!" Diane had worked so long on the hard pattern the first one had just slipped out of her brain. Patiently I walked her through the first pattern and helped her calm down a little. Diane dried her tears and forced herself to return to her classroom.

This was a brave woman.  Diane has my respect for so many reasons I can barely count them all.


What makes Diane's story even more notable is that despite her obvious lack of experience as an instructor, her Swing classes quickly grew huge!

Her students signed up for each new level Diane taught at a rate that was nearly 100%.  Since the usual drop-out rate is around 50% I thought this was a remarkable accomplishment.

Diane's secret was Practice Night.  Diane had the amazing ability to get practically her whole class to stay.  It turned out that right from the start, Diane felt so guilty about her lack of preparation that she thought her students, especially the men, were being short-changed.  As a result, she begged the men to stay so she could dance with them and work with them a little more. Because the men decided to take her up on her offer, the women stayed too.

Soon Diane discovered to her own surprise that she was a born teacher.  For starters, she cared a lot about what she was doing. Diane wanted every one of her students to get better.

Even though Diane BARELY knew more than the men she was teaching, due to her phenomenal ability at persuading her male students to stay during Practice Night, she was able to work with them one on one.

Diane would dance with every man as often as she could. If they made a mistake, she would correct the problem on the spot. For example, if they hurt her, Diane had a way of fixing it. Or if they were too fast or too slow, Diane would count for them until they found the beat.  Diane didn't always KNOW what the guy had done wrong, but she did know when it didn't feel right. She would ask the guy to try a move again until she could figure out what was wrong.  Even though she could not lead the move herself or explain much to the group class about leads, Diane had a remarkable ability to teach Swing leads better than any instructor I have ever had.  Diane did it all through "feel".  

Diane was the instructor who actually inspired me to start rotating partners in class.  You see, these were the days when everyone got a partner and kept them for the entire class.  After watching how effective she was at teaching leads and rhythm, I thought it wise to have a female instructor dance with the men in class as well.  Combined with another lesson I learned the hard way, Diane's effectiveness was largely responsible for creating our tradition of switching partners constantly during class. Of course anyone reading this story realizes how much sense this makes, but I had to learn everything the hard way in those days. 

Diane's story taught me many lessons about the nature of teaching group classes that were definite eye-openers. Some of the things I learned from watching her in action are tactics we take for granted these days.
For example, besides her gift for persuading her students to stay for Practice Night, another area where Diane contributed was her innate gift for explaining mistakes to men in a way that never hurt their feelings. Perhaps she learned some secrets about tact in her day job as a secretary. Somehow she learned to become the consummate politician when it came to explaining mistakes to the men. Diane was without a doubt the kindest, most patient woman imaginable.

Diane found some magic role as part Sister/ part Mom/ part Best Friend that allowed her to correct the men without making them defensive. Because she would laugh and smile at their mistakes, the men didn't feel guilty or embarrassed when they messed up. Rather than bristle and begin argue like many men do when they feel inadequate, her students listened to her because she was so kind. Right from the first night of her teaching career, her male students made it a habit to stay for Practice Night was that that Diane made it really worth their while to stick around. Diane would insist on dancing with any man from her class who stayed for Practice Night. When they danced with her, they invariably would pick up a variety of small tips. The men's gratitude for her gentle nature and hard work in their behalf paid off in a big way - they were proud of their progress. They could see how much they were improving and couldn't wait to show up for next week's class. In fact, a major reason for wanting to get better was just to reward Diane for caring so much!

Usually men improve gradually as dancers.  Not Diane's men.  Once Diane got her hands on them in a manner of speaking, the improvement would be dramatic after one Practice Night dance.  You see, right after learning a couple secrets from Diane and correcting a couple mistakes, the man would immediately find another lady to dance with and practice what he had learned immediately!  This reinforced the improved lead or footwork right on the spot. Plus all that practice locked the patterns from that night's class into his muscle memory.

This rapid progress
led to another interesting development… later on during Practice Night the women would come up from time to time so they could compliment Diane on the improvement they had seen in their husbands/boyfriends. They thanked Diane for her help in making their men better!  In other words, the women became huge fans of Diane!  They loved Diane because she was turning out great dancers who had miraculously developed rhythm and good leads.  Best of all, the men had miraculously learned how to be gentle and never hurt them!  Diane became a huge heroine to the women who sang her praises to me constantly.

One thing led to another - the size of her classes began to grow.  The magic that Diane was creating in Practice Night had another unforeseen effect. It seems that by practicing together, over time everyone in the class became friends with each other. They signed up for each new class just as much to continue to hang out with their friends as to learn new moves. Diane developed a huge following because they wouldn't dream of leaving their leader. They signed up for every class Diane offered as a GROUP because they loved her so much.

No one (certainly not me) could ever have predicted Diane's success ahead of time. Diane was a good social dancer, but definitely not a competition dancer. Her technical knowledge of dance was limited. She had never had a private lesson in her life. Nor was Diane highly educated. She did not have a college degree. Her day job was secretarial work. Diane's success had little to do with natural dance talent, lots of experience, or an overabundance of intellect. What Diane did have going for her was the biggest heart in the world. She radiated warmth and concern.

Diane Head was the woman who taught me that for a Social Dance Studio like SSQQ, a big heart is far more valuable than technical expertise when it comes to the Beginner levels.  Dance technique is important at the early levels, but only to a degree. The ability to MOTIVATE students is far more important.

At the higher levels of dance, obviously the need for advanced knowledge increases, but for 80% of the people who take classes here, Diane Head was just as effective as any world champion dancer could be.  

This point was proven to me in an unusual way.  Several years later we had an instructor come along who was the total opposite of Diane Head. This instructor - Madame X - had a phenomenal talent for dance. She won dance contests all the time.  Her private students won contests too.  I would venture to say she possessed more dance knowledge than any woman instructor we have ever had at the studio.  

Madame X was bright, sexy, and alert.  When it came to teaching dance, nothing escaped her eye. 
One on one in private lessons, this woman was a fabulous instructor. She consistently trained exceptional male dancers.  But when it came to group classes, Madame X was a black hole of misery.  

It was her style to be critical and picky. She was never satisfied. Praise came with great difficulty. Unfortunately she was also far more outspoken than common sense called for.  Her style was very effective one on one, but it never transferred over to any type of success during group lessons. Criticism has its place in group lessons, but only in small doses and only if applied with great care.

To me, the contrast in styles between Diane and Madame X could be compared to the difference in how to approach elementary school students and PhD candidates.  Babies need to be fussed over and encouraged.  On the other hand, brilliant students often need to be yelled at and handled with the same approach as a lion tamer.  Advanced students get cocky and think they know it all, so someone has to come along and beat their heads in until they pay attention. Everyone knows that professional sports coaches cannot succeed without a mean streak and the same is true with top-flight dancing.  But for SSQQ Group Classes, the soft approach is the only way to go.

In private lessons, Madame X had developed a rapport with her students.  They understood her criticism was meant to help them and their dance self-esteem was high enough that they responded positively to the whip. Her students expected to be fussed at. Therefore Madame X's legendary attention to detail was quite effective when she worked with talented men.  However when it came to group lessons where tact and encouragement were more important than technical prowess, she struggled.  She never developed the same rapport that allowed her to take the chances she did.  Her sarcastic style rubbed many people the wrong way.

Furthermore this lady simply did not have Diane's patience when it came to the awkward beginners. Often she let her lack of patience show.  At times her facial expressions and the tone her voice seemed to convey irritation. She appeared to have little tolerance for poor dancers.  A smile would have helped, but what they got instead were frowns and crossed arms.

Practice Night was just as bad - the only people she would dance with were the very best male dancers. Sorry to say, but the students picked up on her superior attitude. Over time she alienated one male student after another.

Eventually the students wouldn't touch Madame X's group classes with a ten-foot pole. If they found she was assisting in a class, same result.  Even the women students turned against her too although I do not know why.  Her reputation for negativity became so prevalent that in her final days at the studio, no one - not even women who could have learned a lot from her - would take her class.

One day I offered a special course in the schedule.  Madame X was an expert at this dance, one of the best in Houston.  Her reputation for excellence at this dance was known throughout the studio.  But lately there had been some mumblings about her that I was well aware of.  Offering this course was a gamble.

The gamble failed.  During Registration I watched in sadness as
only one person signed up.  That is when I knew it was hopeless. 
The students had blackballed the most knowledgeable female instructor the studio had ever known. 

Please do not misunderstand my words. I respected the teaching ability of Madame X immensely. When it came to training top-flight dancers, she had few peers. I was deeply impressed with her accomplishments. Any instructor who trains advanced dancers could use some of her mean streak at those times when it is called for. Very few instructors have BOTH skills. Some have the love and some have the lash. It takes an extraordinary person to have both abilities as an instructor.

Madame X had the lash, but not the love. She was deeply talented as an individual instructor, but she could not alter her style to teach Group Dance classes. She was a Round Peg for a Square Hole.

For that matter, Diane Head could never have trained a top-flight dancer. But her story when contrasted with the story of Madame X makes it clear that SSQQ Group Dance Classes call for an entirely different set of teaching skills than training competition dancers.  

Diane Head, not Madame X, became an SSQQ Hall of Fame instructor because she was so incredibly effective at training Beginning-level male students. Her story serves as the perfect illustration for the connection between SSQQ Group Classes and Practice Night. 


There is another story about Diana Banana that has to be told.

As Diane told me during my phone call that started Diane on her instructor career, she didn't have a clue about the "Man's Part" in Swing Dancing.  Of course I fibbed a little and told her the Guy's Part was pretty easy to learn.  What else was I going to say? 

Later that same afternoon we had an emergency lesson to get her ready for her first class that same evening.
Diane quickly realized the guy's part was even more difficult than she had imagined. She frowned at me because it was obvious I had downplayed the difficulty-level quite a bit on the phone.  Diane was next to lost. She had no idea how to teach the men how to lead or what their footwork was. She was discovering she could barely even dance as a man, much less teach!  

Like I said, she crawled through the first class by the skin of her teeth.  Now that she had faked her way through her first class, she was
worried sick about next week.  What if she wasn't able to fool the men in the following week?  She knew she needed to practice, but as she told me, she couldn't afford a babysitter for her two boys. I told her if she needed to practice, she could bring them with her to the studio.

That's when an idea crossed her mind.  With her next
class just a few days away, Diane came up with an ingenious solution.  

The following Saturday morning I arrived early at the studio for another lesson with Diane.  We were meeting to get her ready for Week Two of her class which was only two days away!

I heard some Swing music in a far room. The song playing was "65 Love Affair", her favorite song. (Diane became infamous for playing that same song over and over in every class and received much teasing about it).  Curious as to who could be here so early, I went down the hall to peek. I slowly opened the door a crack and saw Diane taking turns Swing dancing with her two boys Robbie and Michael (10 and 12).

It was pretty cute to watch,  so I lingered.  I left the door barely ajar and continued to watch without being seen.  After 30 seconds, I caught on that something seemed wrong.  So I looked more carefully and was surprised to discover Diane was the "Lead" and the boys were dancing the "Follow".

Diane was the Boy and her sons were dancing the girl's part!  I wondered to myself, 'How did she ever talk them into that?!?'

It was a funny moment.  I had to smile because the boys seemed to absolutely love dancing with their mother!  Blissfully unaware they were dancing the girl's part, they were having a great time spinning and turning!  I had to hand it to Diane - she was leading her son perfectly through every tricky pattern she knew!!  Not bad.

Robbie did all kinds of turns and followed beautifully. Of course the thing I remember best was just how happy Robbie looked!  He was really enjoying himself.  Then I noticed his brother Michael was glaring at them with arms crossed as he impatiently waited for his turn.   It took every ounce of energy for me to keep from laughing out loud.  I couldn't believe that these boys were fighting over whose turn it was to be a girl!  

At the time I wondered how she talked them into it. Didn't they know they were "girls"? But I didn't bring it up later on when I danced with Diane because I felt a little guilty for spying on them.

Over the next couple weeks, I saw Diane and the two boys practicing again on several occasions.  Now the door wasn't closed so I have to be sneaky any more. I could see the boys were becoming accomplished girl dancers!  I didn't give it much thought until one day I realized I hadn't seen the boys for a while.

I asked Diane why I hadn't seen her boys practicing at the studio lately.  She said they were mad at her and refused to come to the studio.

"Oh?" I said. "Well, do you still dance with them at home??"

"No," she replied with a dark look.

I could see I had hit a nerve.  "What happened?" I asked.

"Robbie found out I taught them the girl's part!!"

My mouth dropped open. I had not realized the boys didn't know!  I was under the impression that they had volunteered to help since their mom was struggling so much.

"How did that happen?"

"One day while I was dancing with Michael, Robbie went to get a drink of water.  He noticed a private lesson in another room and thought the lady was dancing the same moves as he was."

I laughed at that revelation. "You mean Robbie figured that out by himself?"  I smiled because I remembered it had taken me half a minute to snap to the role reversal on that first morning. Robbie was pretty sharp!

"Yes, and then he told Michael. But Robbie wasn't sure, just suspicious. I lied to them both and calmed them down."  Now Diane's eyes began to well up.

"Why didn't you tell them from the start they were learning the girl's part?"

"Because I couldn't take the chance of having them refuse to help me!!  I needed to practice and they were the best partners I could find without having to get a babysitter! Once I saw how much fun they were having, I just kept using them."

"How did they find out?"

Diane wiped a couple more tears from her eyes and told me the rest of the story. Not long after Robbie's suspicious moment at the studio, Diane took her boys to see "Dirty Dancing". This was the awesome Swing dance movie with Patrick Swayze which came out that year. The boys were amazed at all the great dancing and absolutely loved the movie.

But as they walked to the car after the movie was over, Robbie looked very sullen. Diane asked what was wrong.

"Mom, are you sure you didn't you teach us the girl's part?"

"What do you mean, Robbie?"  From the look on his face, Diane could feel the cat slipping out of the bag.

As they drove home, Robbie told his mother that he had watched Patrick Swayze very carefully. Whenever they danced, Swayze did the arm work and Jennifer Grey did the turns. This is how Robbie correctly figured out that his Mom had taught him the girl's part.

Crestfallen, this time Diane admitted the truth. Both boys were mortified and crimson with shame.  Then they got madder than hornets. Diane said the two boys refused to ever dance with her again. Diane tried to explain why she had done what she had done, but they were in no mood to forgive.

Inside I was cracking up, but there was so much guilt written on Diane's tortured face, I exercised every ounce of self-control to avoid showing my amusement. I really felt for her and completely understood her motives. Bless her heart, she was beating herself up a lot more than I thought she needed to.

I did my best to explain that what she had done was not all that terrible and that I was sure they would go on to live normal lives. I even predicted that someday there would be laughter about how absurd it was. This thought cheered up Diane a lot.

I am pleased to say my prediction came true. One day Diane pulled me aside to tell me a story.  Apparently last night at dinner Michael started to argue with Robbie about which one of them was the better dancer without even realizing what he was saying.

Then the two boys saw the astonished look on Diane's face. Suddenly the boys changed directions in a flash. They ganged up her and teased her by saying that they could dance the girl's part better than she could. Then they all started to laugh. What a goofy bunch.

Let me add, in my opinion, Diane was just as good as a Mom as she was as a dance teacher!!   The phrase "Heart of Gold" was meant for Diane Head.


Despite the mishap with her two sons, Diane went on to become the most popular teacher at the studio. As I pointed out earlier, Diane was never very real strong at explaining all the x's and o's of footwork and timing. But she was an incredible communicator and her students absolutely loved her!  She made people smile and laugh all night long.  Plus she radiated warmth and enthusiasm.  

As I said earlier, Diane's
greatest strength was her ability to convince her students to stick around for Practice Night. Her motto was "I don't care if you're a boy or a girl. If you stay, I'm going to dance with you!" And stay they did. Swing Practice Nights were something to behold in those days.

At the 1987 SSQQ New Year's Eve Party, Diane met a very handsome man named Ken Parr. They fell in love on the spot. Soon after, Ken asked Diane to marry him, but there was one catch.  Ken had recently been transferred to Dallas, a common occurrence for lots of Houston men who worked in the oil industry in those days.  

As I am sure you have already figured out,
Diane said yes, she would follow him anywhere.

And that's how SSQQ lost the most popular Swing teacher we ever had.

Diane decided to stay in Houston till the end of the school year before making the move up to Dallas over the summer. She continued to teach for us right up through the end of June 1988.

June just happens to be the month of the annual SSQQ Sock Hop, so we made it "Diana Banana's Going Away Party". As the party began, I was shocked at the swell of people at the door. They were standing out on the sidewalk in a line that stretched to the end of the building!!

Diane Head was more than a very popular instructor. She was also a card-carrying member of the SSQQ In-Crowd. The studio has always had groups of people who bind together and begin to operate as a group rather than as individuals. Diane was big part of what was definitely the tightest-knit group the studio has ever seen. These people danced together, skied together, rented beach houses together, had swimming parties, labeling parties, planned trips together, and essentially planned their entire social lives around each other.

Diane's rank was at the top of this very large pyramid of friends. The studio didn't have a 'Queen' in those days, but the title of "Princess" would be close enough.

Diane had been with us at the studio for probably three years before she accepted my plea to start teaching. In fact, along with her friend Margie Saibara, Diane held a huge leadership role and loved to help organizer different events. For example, Diane and Margie helped plan the infamous Tom Easley Look-A-Like Night in 1987.

So not only her students come to say goodbye, but all her friends in the Dance World did as well. Diane was a much-loved member of Houston's very large dance community. One by one, people kept streaming into the studio. To this point, our Sock Hops averaged around 70 or 80 people.

When I finished counting, the number clearly exceeded 200 guests. It was a phenomenal turnout.

There were people everywhere! And they all wanted to dance every single song! There was barely enough room for everyone to dance. Despite 2,000 square feet of floor space, the Curse of Studebakers lived!! Swing Dancing takes up a lot of room per couple and all night long people were practically killing each other with elbows, hips, toes and heels. Thank goodness they were all friends.

And then came the Heat! Room One got so hot from all the dancing in desperation I had to play back to back slow songs just to force people to quit moving for a while. I put on Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" and the Flamingos "In the Still of the Night" to let our aging AC system try to pull the hot air out of Room One, but the heat stayed with us all through the night no matter what I did. The crowd complained about the slow music so much I had to put on the dance music again. They would rather sweat than be still.

Then came the time for Diane's Farewell Dance. Dozens of men lined up for the chance to take turns dancing with Diane.


And what song did we play?  One suggestion was "65 Love Affair", Diane's favorite, but I decided a better song was "Diana" by Paul Anka.  This schmaltzy love song had been inspired by a real-life sunrise/sunset love affair Paul Anka had with an older woman before he became a teen idol.  Unfortunately the uneven love affair didn't go well despite Anka's desperate wishes to the contrary.  This incident still carried a lot of pain which explains the plaintive wail in his singing voice.  With hurt and pain revealed in every lyric, the song became a huge hit when it was released.

Paul Anka wasn't the only one suffering.  Where the SSQQ Diana was concerned, the plaintive lyrics of "Stay by me, Diana", seemed to capture my own tortured feelings over her upcoming loss to a T.

As t
he immortal words of "Diana" accompanied every spin and twirl of our very own Diana Banana, she wore a big grin as her Farewell Dance began.   Every 30 seconds or so someone new would cut in and immediately take Diane through the toughest patterns. The men loved to spin Diane silly.  I could see they were giving her a workout!!

I'm so young and you're so old
This, my darling, I've been told
I don't care just what they say
'Cause forever I will pray
You and I will be as free
As the birds up in the trees
Oh, please, stay by me, Diana!!

Two and a half minutes later I realized the song was about to end but the "Dance With Diana" Conga Line was still snaked around the room!! I had not anticipated this, but in retrospect it made complete sense. A lot of people had come expressly to see the Goodbye Girl. The only thing that made any sense was to simply play the song again.

Thrills I get when you hold me close
Oh, my darling, you're the most
I love you but do you love me
Oh, Diana, can't you see
I love you with all my heart
And I hope we will never part
Oh, please, stay with me, Diana

Without even a hitch, Diane continued to dance with all comers. All the time she kept smiling and somehow managed to make each man feel special. That was one of her many gifts. I rolled my eyes when I realized the song was about to end but the line barely had a dent in it. I don't think Diane was aware of her plight. She was too busy with her Marathon Dance to look around. Each time the line would get smaller new people would jump in and make it longer! So I played the song a third time.

Only you can take my heart
Only you can tear it apart!

Then something really terrible happened - her sister-in-law Linda Head got in line. Now the women took Linda's cue and they joined the line too! Amazingly Diane kept going - men, women, aliens - whomever grabbed her next. So I played the song a fourth time.

When you hold me in your loving arms
I can feel you giving all your charms!

The fifth time I played the song, I could see Diane was on her last legs. She had not paced herself because she never had an inkling the entire studio intended to dance with her that night. She had already been out there for over twelve minutes without stopping!! Nor did her partners understand.  They jumped out there with energy and enthusiasm while Diane was just trying to hang on.

Hold me, darling, hold me tight
Squeeze me baby with all your might
Stay with me, Diana!!

The place was already too hot to begin with. Plus there were twenty men and women still in line. I just couldn't see how Diane would ever make it!

On impulse I jumped in and stole Diane from the next man in line and practically kept her standing through the rest of the song. Diane was looking very pale.

She whispered to me, "Is this the last song?" I nodded yes. Then she smiled.

And guess what?  Diane nearly passed out. Like an athlete collapsing at the Finish Line, Diane's body went limp as the song ended. Bless her Heart; Diane had danced so hard she gave out at the end. I gently sat her down in a nearby chair and put a fan on her. Diane had not lost consciousness; she had just "swooned" a little. Soon her familiar smile came back much to the relief of us all.

I put another song on. Then I got on the microphone and told everyone not to worry. I said that Diane was okay, then I asked them to start dancing with each other again. The crowd roared with applause and immediately started dancing. I went back over to Diane.  Margie Saibara and Tom Easley were at her side guarding Diane carefully.

"Are you okay, Diane?"

"I'm fine, Rick." Then she giggled. "But I don't want to ever hear that stupid song again for the rest of my life!"

We all loved Diane very much. I will never forget her. Without a doubt, losing Diana Banana was one of the toughest moments of my entire career. But I would never want to give up the neat times she and I and the entire group shared.

The time Diane gave to us was cut short, but it was a special time at the studio. We have never had an instructor with a bigger heart. 

(2006 Footnote: Twenty years later, I still miss Diane terribly.  Sad to say, there has never been anyone else like her since here at the studio. She was special.)

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