|September, 1999 Reviews|
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Review of Dance Events During September, 1999
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Wednesday September 1, 1999
We have no Reviews for this date
Thursday September 2, 1999
We have no Reviews for this date
Friday September 3, 1999
It was good to get back out to America after almost a week off. The Cunningham Band was in good form and there was a lot of room to dance: The Labor Day weekend made a slight dent in the early crowd. By Jam Time, however, most of the regulars had arrived and the floor became crowded once again. My personal thanks to Deb Brooks for once again getting me back into the Jam. We had a fairly large Shim Sham, and it looked like everone had a great time.
Saturday September 4, 1999
Andy's Wedding and Whitlow's
At the very heart of the Labor Day holiday there were very few options for serious Lindy Hopping. Let me express my heartfelt gratitude to Andy Wallo and Jacki Lapp for providing a wonderful evening of dancing at their wedding reception. Best of all, the Bill Eliot Trio was on hand to provide their amazing brand of Goodmanesque swing. The Knights of Columbus hall in Sterling Virginia (so far beyond the beltway that my nose began to bleed...) had a great floor and EXCELLENT air conditioning. Better yet, a vast army of Lindy Hoppers, both young and old, showed up. We had a very good Jam and a surprisingly large Shim Sham. I am a tad miffed at Cameron for grabbing Heather before I could for the jam, but he probably looks better than me, anyway. Seriously, it was a lot of fun, everyone looked great and "Thanks a Million, Jacki and Andy!"
At the conclusion of the event, a group headed off to Whitlows to hear Roger Edsall and the Top Dogs, a jump blues combo. When we arrived, there were a few "Johnny Swingers" out on the floor. I asked one of the more space-consuming couples if we could "Try to Dance..." It only took about five minutes to intimidate the Johnny Swingers off the floor. After that, the band picked up and played a whole bunch of very uptempo jump stuff and management obliged the rest of us by moving tables. I really liked this band when they swing --- someone ought to think about booking them for a gig somewhere...
Sunday September 5, 1999
Today's antique treasure hunting was focused on Frederick, Maryland.
If you want to start off with a great breakfast, the Barbara Fritchie Candy Cane Restaurant on US 40 west of town is hightly reccommended. Everything is fresh cooked and the pastries are home-baked. The prices aren't bad either!
Frederick does not lack for antique hunting opportunites. The best concentration of material was found at The Antique Station at the Motter Street exit on US 15. The Emporium on Patrick Street and Cannon Hill Place were also very worthwhile. I came home with a "Brannock Device", the gadget that they use to measure your foot size in a shoe store. This was a great nostalgia item, a really nice aluminum casting with art deco lines.
Hurricane Dennis (or its remains..) drove us indoors around dinner time, and we were lucky to find Jennifer's at the corner of Bentz and Patrick Streets. Very nice atmosphere and the Cobb Salad can't be beat
Monday September 6, 1999
A Natural Ball in Atlanta
From: Rosemary Storey
I was in Atlanta for only about an hour when I started to hear all the stories about Elizabeth Benjamin...how she didn't want the Atlanta Lindy Hoppers to perform on Sunday night, yada yada yada, and how disorganized she was, how much debt she was in, and I thought to myself, we'll see if these stories are true. They were.
Friday night, the DJ was supposed to start at 8pm, and he was an hour late. While we all waited for him to arrive, they played some West Coast/beach music stuff which no one liked. The DJ finally showed up and he was cool, until Elizabeth Benjamin interrupted the music (actually faded out a song, which turned out to be a common occurrence over the weekend) and started talking over the microphone. She announced that the performers/instructors would give demos of the styles that they would be teaching over the weekend. I had never seen anything so disorganized in my whole life. There we were...all ready to dance...WATCHING shagger after shagger after shagger...then a Lindy hopper....then a shagger and another shagger. Because we had to wait x minutes for her to get the music ready and figure out which performer was next, the demonstration took -- it must have been at least 2 hours. I lost track. But when the demo was over, I found the Hollywood corner of the dance floor and danced for a few more hours with cool people from Dayton, Minneapolis, Orlando, etc. etc. Everyone was so friendly ( except Elizabeth Benjamin). Even the non-Southerners were very hospitable.
The workshops on Saturday and Sunday were great! Everyone was disappointed that Erik and Sylvia didn't make it, but they sent Min and Corinna, who did a great job representing LA. Jonathan Bixby and Sylvia Sykes were there ready to indoctrinate people with Balboa (and they did a great job). Their Hollywood workshops were very informative and certainly popular. Also extremely popular were Marcus and Barbl's workshops (do I need to explain that?). The Flying Lindy Hoppers, Rhythm Hot Shots, Minnie's Moochers, Big Apple Lindy Hoppers, the Jivin' Lindy Hoppers, and more that I can't remember, all gave workshops as well. And of course Frankie. If it weren't for the workshops and the dancers who attended the event, it would have been a total disaster. But being able to meet dancers from around the country and learn from people that I've only heard about saved that weekend.
Saturday night was another disaster. The ab-fab Count Basie Orchestra was there (ON TIME) and they were awesome. I was on cloud nine until Elizabeth Benjamin interrupted the band to babble on in her southern drawl. She actually INTERRUPTED THE BAND. The funny thing is, I can't remember what she was saying either...then she handed the mic to Frankie who said "Let the band play" so they did. After the first set, she started "the show" which was being videotaped and was more organized and formal than Friday's show. There was still a lot of waiting for lights and music and cameras. The performers were great but there were TOO MANY of them!! The show was supposed to last an hour and a half and it lasted for almost three hours. At eleven-thirty, when it became obvious to the band that they would not get a chance to play their second set, they started packing up and went home. No chance to say goodbye! No last song! No second set! I was soooooo frustrated. People were leaving. They played some DJ music after the show and we danced until 2am trying to make up for all the time we lost...but it just wasn't at all like dancing to Count Basie Orchestra.
More workshops on Sunday...but this time I took a lunch break! The performers were overheard complaining about how they were being treated. There was no time to eat lunch (or dinner, as far as I'm concerned), and when you dance till two, and Marcus and Barbl are waiting for you at 9am, there's no time for breakfast. Despite being famished we continued to soak up the instruction of Min and Corinna, Frankie, Jonathan and Sylvia, and Marcus and Barbl.
Sunday night was better but didn't make up for losing CBO. The Embers played and the performing groups did short sets during the band breaks. The Embers is an R&B/beach music band. They're good, but they didn't satisfy my Lindy cravings. Bunches of people wernt to Masquerade, a local club, for swing night. I was too tired.
Overall, it was an interesting and disorganized mix of Lindy, West Coast, and Carolina Shag. Hollywood was severely underrepresented despite the best efforts of Min and Corinna. There were a lot more Carolina Shag performers than Carolina Shag dancers. Hollywood style was what everyone wanted to learn. If it weren't for the talented instructors with their good sportsmanship and the attending dancers with their Southern hospitality, A Natural Ball would have been a complete disaster.
From: Lurene Haines
Rosie has provided an excellent and outstandingly accurate review of the event, with one small exception: "Hollywood style was what everyone wanted to learn." The folks I attended with, and the ones I took classes with, were all avid Lindy Hoppers with little-to-no interest in Hollywood. But we were equally underrepresented. Shag ruled the day in Atlanta. There was some satisfaction in picking up new material from some of the talented East Coast Swing teachers, and if it weren't for Frankie and Louise Thwaite and Tena and Carnell, among the many other talented dancers and instructors, it would have been a Lindy-waste.
The taping Rosie mentions on the Saturday was Elizabeth Benjamin's purpose for the whole event I found out. She revealed that she wanted to propose a television show for swing dancing to the TV networks and was using the gathering of talent (who likely didn't realize they were being exploited for her gain) to create a swing dance "extravaganza" The only silver lining there is that the organization and execution were so amateurish that the resulting video will most likely be useless. If it already hasn't been done, Elizabeth Benjamin - that self-absorbed, unpleasant woman - should be run out of town on a pole! Her feigned sycophantic familiarity with Frankie Manning, and uniform rudeness to performers and paying participants alike made her the villain of the day in my opinion.
Tuesday September 7, 1999
We have no Reviews for this date
Wednesday September 8, 1999
Dr. Zoot and Eric Felten
What a spectacular night! Things began at about 9:00 when I threaded my way to Mr. Days, an unusual sports bar in an alley behind 1111 Nineteenth Street, sort of in the middle of the "bar-scene neighborhood on 19th between L and M. Surprisingly, the place had a moderate size dance floor that was in reasonably good shape.
The attraction was my own really FAVE band, Dr. Zoot the swing gurus from Pittsburgh. I really love these guys!
Things looked a bit grim at the beginning as I was the only attendee. Then Susan Lusi and Lisa Schwartz showed up, followed in turn by a deluge from the beginner and intermediate classes at LuLus. I think that the place would have been jam-packed if it had been easier to find. The guys in the band appreciated the turnout and, personally, I had a really great time. I have heard some fairly good buzz on the event in the past few days, so I hope that we get to see Dr. Zoot back here real soon. These guys are Tremendous
At about 11:30 the dance floor was actually crowded! So, after a little Shim Sham demonstration, it was time to move on to Felix to catch Eric Felten's last set.
If you are into retro --- even the slightest --- you HAVE to do Wednesday night at Felix. Yes, the dance floor is tiny, but Eric Felten's septet makes up for any mere physical problems. Get dressed up --- get out the vintage tuxedoes and cocktail dresses. Don't spare a thing! This is the place to show off your vintage duds. Go there with your sweetie and make good use of those Fred Astaire moves when Eric sings Witchcraft!
Thursday September 9, 1999
Tom and Debra's party at Nick's
A fairly large and lively crowd attended Tom and Debra's Thursday night session at Nick's. The music was pure Koerner -- songs with a lot of rhythm with heavy emphasis on the 1950s. The crowd seemed to have a good time. When Great Balls of Fire was played, I let out a serious whoop of approval; then, someone (I think it was Tom... but I can't be sure...) said "Weren't you going through puberty when this song was popular?" Well, I may be old, but I am not that old.
It was very good to see Lurene Haines, back from the Labor Day event in Atlanta. We CERTAINLY hope that she writes a review of that event!
On balance, this is a darned good way to spend Thursday!
Friday September 10, 1999
Taking Stock, Monroe's Restaurant, and America
This was my birthday and cause for a little stock taking. On balance, everything is pretty darned good --- Lindy is stronger than ever and lots of very fine people read the website and send stuff in. So, in looking back on the year, the very first thanks go to all of the Loyal Readers of, and Erudite Contributors to Lindy Week in Review. Thanks, guys!
On the personal side, my special thanks go to my good friend Karen Scott who has been ultra-ultra helpful during some of the less than pleasant aspects of the summer. Karen has been a real princess. She's taking Lindy lessons at LuLu's on Wednesdays, so I hop that all you guys get to meet and dance with her. Nicer people they don't make anymore.
On the dance side, my heartfelt appreciation goes out to Deborah Brooks for getting me back into the Jam. She certainly had her work cut out for her --- she was very patient in getting my version of Lindy into sync with current reality. Thanks so much for everything, Deborah!
On the HTML front, I have a whole lot of people to thank, but three come immediately to mind: Gay Shepardson spent a lot of time on the phone convincing me to keep up with the website by myself (those of you out there who would like to see LWIR go away now have Gay to blame as well as me...) Lurene Haines and Bill Puschman have worked tirelessly to educate me in efficient HTML --- the fact that our pages look sharp and download quickly is attributable to the considerable efforts of Lurene and Bill. Thanks, guys!
Karen took me to dinner at Monroe's (1603 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, 703-548-5792). This very American sounding restaurant is actually a first class trattoria with very reasonable prices. I was thoroughly impressed. Karen had some wonderful cannelloni and I had orrechette. The service, food and ambiance were primo. This place is very nice and is "on the way" to Nick's (although it is far from "next door". I strongly reccommend that you give Monroe's a try.
After a lengthy trip on the Beltway, we arrived at America just in time for the second set. The band was in good form, but I missed Brent Sessions. There was a nice crowd and by Jam time a considerable crowd had gathered. A good Jam it was, too!
At the beginning of the third set, we were lining up for the Shim Sham and it seemed that Debra had got things backwards, because we normally face away from the band. As I stepped up into the first row, Robin grabbed me and sang "Happy Birthday" to me. What a thrill! So, let me end this review with big thanks to the Cunningham Band, especially the lovely Robin
It has been a wonderful year and once again, thanks to all of you for supporting Lindy Week in Review. I, for one, hope that this goes on forever, because the warmth and friendship of the Lindy Community is a truly refreshing alternative to the nihilistic and narcissistic atmosphere of "Bar Culture". Here are my resolutions for the next year:
I hope y'all join me in these!
Saturday September 11, 1999
Tune Inn, Nick's
Saturday is always a good day for hitting estate sales and today was no exception. The jackpot was a sale on the GW Parkway down near Mount Vernon. Karen and I found a couple of very nice hand made aluminum trays, a ravioli cutter and a scimitar tie clasp that I was able to take away for less than $6.
Since estate sale shopping is hard work, one requires nourishing sustenance, and waht could be better than the Tune Inn on Capitol Hill, possibly the city's very last working class bar. And, speaking of Capitol Hill, no visit is complete without dropping in on the Reverend Arnold Taylor. (The Reverend Taylor is extremely tolerant about visits from Lindy Hoppers, but don't abuse the privilege...) Alas, Arnold was not able to join us at the Tune Inn, but he did spend some time showing us photographs that he took in the 1950s and 1960s when he was a photographer with the Washington Star. Of interest was his "Low Budget" approach to dramatic lighting --- since the Star was notably impecunious (...downright cheap, actually). Arnold explained that several of his photos were taken with a time exposure on his Speed Graphic while he roamed around the room setting off flashbulbs to light the scene dramatically. Those of you with automatic digital cameras may not appreciate the subtlety of this approach; it is sort of the photographic equivalent of the way I do the website in Notepad...
Great thanks to Arnold and Lil for putting up with our visit!
It turns out that someone actually cleaned the Tune Inn. Nothing had really changed, although the place was eerily clean. This is a bad sign --- the layers of accumulated grime are truly missed because they were doubly beneficial:
On the other hand, our waitress was appropriately surly, a positive sign. Alas, the juke box was broken and we were unable to play Ring of Fire. Well, you win some and lose some. If life had no pain, we would either be dead or in Reston.
The next stop was Nick's to celebrate Alicyn Van Duyz's birthday. A nice crowd indeed. Alicyn had some very impressive birthday cakes offered to her, one of which had thes unusual things that looked like eyeballs on top (they were filled with peanut butter...) Very unusual...
Air Mail Special was SPECTACULAR. These guys were just wonderful and they really kept everyone dancing. Of special note, their version of Flying Home is very, very close to my "78" of the Goodman Quartet doing the same song. (NOT the brassy version in Malcolm X) For all intents and purposes, it was Goodman, Krupa, Lionel Hampton and Charlie Christian playing Flying Home at Nick's tonight. At least in my humble opinion...
I really had a good time and it seemed like the old Lindy Axiom of "Everybody dances with everyone" really was true. The whole gang really seemed to have a great time. I danced with a whole bunch of ladies who had considerable Lindy skill that I had never seen before. It turns out that Nick's is a place where students from all of Tom and Debra's disparate classes can all get together.
By Jam time, the whole pantheon of Lindy Stars had arrived and the action was tremendous. Once again, I am indebted to Deborah Brooks for getting me out on the floor to make our small contribution. It was a whole lot of fun, Deb!
In the back room, someone had the idea of organizing a Birthday lineup, so Alicyn and I got to have a lineup. I was stunned to note that the batting order for me was Nina, Naomi, Gay, Cherri, etc, etc, right down through all the real Star-time Lindyettes. I had a great time, thank you, Ladies!
This was a really wonderful gathering! Go see Air Mail Special any time you can!
Sunday September 12, 1999
La Salle, CCB
So what do you do on a nice lazy Sunday afternoon after you have put in about ten hours of dancing on Friday and Saturday?
For the Lindy Hoppers, the answer is simple: GO DANCING, dummy!
The day began with a visit to Ellen Engle and Marc Shepanek who have a 1920s tea dance once a month at the Spanish Ballroom. This usally features the LaSalle Fox Trot Orchestra, that is one of the "brainchildren" of Frank Guldseth of New Columbia Swing. This is a very fun dance which focuses on the moderate tempo end of Swing -- the tunes are taken from the 1920s and really help you polish Fox Trot, Charleston, Collegiate Shag, Black Bottom, Peabody and in general all the "Root" dances that went into Lindy Hop.
I had such a good time that I am going to make a radical suggestion --- I really think that Lindy Hoppers owe it to themselves to become a whole lot more familiar with the above- mentioned dances, particularly Fox Trot. It is somewhat painful to watch people try to do Lindy to slower tempo songs, when Fox Trot is both elegant and appropriate. Just as Shag and balboa wwwwork very smoothly as adjuncts to Lindy at very Fast tempos, Fox Trot can be a very nice adjunct at the low end. This is a specacular way of showing off some of those Fred Astaire moves.
Marc and Ellen do a great job with their Sundy tea dances and you ought to give some serious thought to attending. Very nice
After the dance, I went over to The Inn at Glen Echo to chat with Brooks Tegler who has a sort of "listen only" gig where most of the swing musicians in the city gather to jam. It is really a shame that there isn't a whole lot of room to dance (actually, there is hardly any room to sit...). This is a good gig and you ought to consider it.
By the time that the musicians had packed their instruments away, it was time to head over to Chevy Chase Ballroom for Tom and Debra's Sunday night open dancing. This was very nice --- Charlie Wyler was on hand for an interesting discussion of the diversion of jazz from dancing in the late 1940s. Tina Connor was on hand, looking spectacular, by the way. Sean and Barbara were practicing a number of very interesting comic variations on classic Lindy moves. They looked good.
The music was good, there were a whole lot of people and the gig was a lot of fun.
Monday September 13, 1999
Chevy Chase Ballroom
Lindy does not seem to have a law of diminishing returns --- there is apparently never too much of a good thing. I walked into CCB at about 9:00 and who should be there but Tina Connors, Sean, Barbara, and Charlie. "Didn't you guys go home?" was my first thought...
Actually, the place was absolutely packed and simply radiated a whole lot of energy that I haven't felt for a long time. There were a whole lot of good Lindy Hoppers there, and I don't think that I danced with the same person twice --- and I think that I danced to every song. It was a whole lot of fun. Even though the air conditioning was working, my khakis were soaked well below the knees, indicating that I got quite a workout. This was a really good time!,/P>
Tuesday September 14, 1999
This was billed as either &old timer's night" or "Mature Night". It was an attempt to get some of the "Pre Gap Ad" Lindy Hoppers back to the grille for a reunion. By and large, it worked -- I haven't seen folks like Elizabeth Magin or Diane Hutson-Wiley for what seems to be an age.
This was really a great time -- we had a Jam and did Jitterbug Stroll and it seems that the new Holywood crowd mixes very well with the Savoy crowd. This was a very interesting night. Caroline Westhaefer was a real treat --- we spent quite some time reviewing "archaic" (i.e. pre 1996) moves. I really enjoyed doing all the (nearly forgotten) Saint Louis Shag moves to Little Bitty Pretty One. Thank you, Caroline!
Wednesday September 15, 1999
Eric Felten at Felix
Yes, it was another Wednesday and I wound up at Felix. Is this an unnatural addiction? I tried to kick the habit cold turkey, by sitting at home with a self-improvement manual. Then I played Sinatra's Capitol albums gradually increasing the volume. After 110 decibels, you can only do 8-step programs, necessarily limiting self-help to 2/3 the normal pace... So, why not head down to Adams-Morgan and hear the real thing...
Of course that isn't what happened. Cherri Harris has been sending me e-mails about the Eric Felten gig for a few weeks. [Background: Cherri was one of the dancers at the original (1997) BET swing gig featuring Eric Felten] We had been talking about doing one of these gigs but one "work" thing or another had gotten in the way. Today was no exception -- I finally got a call at 7:30 from Cherri indicating that she had put out all the brushfires at her office, including counseling employees who had hoped to get Thursday off just in case Hurricane Floyd swept through. The manager's lot is generally a hard one. Lindy is the easy part of life.
Cherri wore the red dress as illustrated
If my meager photography does not do this dress justice, let me say that the real thing is at least ten times more spectacular than the photo... and, of course, the dress reaches its full potential when Cherri is actually wearing it. [My content checking software reminds me that I am about to write an article about how great it was to escort a dress to a nightclub, so let us be clear --- Cherri really looked extra special]
Even though the torrential rains and several missed turns on my part led to a number of delays, we actually arrived at Felix in time for Witchcraft the first song of the evening. The rain had delayed everyone, with the possible exception of a crowd of "Johnny Swingers". Alas, we had to resort to Code Red dance floor clearing techniques to get enough space to dance. [Example: "May we have just a teensy little bit of the floor?" followed by a long toss-out.]
By hook, crook, and coordinated body-checking, we managed to carve out enough space to show off some Godzilla Lindy hop. On the other hand, years of practice in keeping it small also paid off. Balboa also helps out a whole lot. Nevertheless, the evening's dancing was very enjoyable -- we had a great time clowning with Eric on numbers like More,Luck Be a Lady,Mack the Knife,Cheek to Cheek,Wham, Bam, Alakazam, and others, including some artfully faked Latin dancing. We even managed to get in a little shim-sham to Tuxedo Junction
But wait! there's more. At the end of the first set, Geraldo Rivera walked in, creating quite a stir among the ladies in the crowd. Actually, since this Mr. Rivera is not on American Movie Classics, Turner Classic Movies, or the History Channel, I will have to admit that his celebrity sort of went right by me. However, I received a quick education in the sources of Mr. Rivera's notoriety. So, not only did we get to do about three hours of really great dancing, but we also got to meet a genuine celebrity. And, that's the whole thing about Felix -- you never reall know what is going to happen...
Our sincere thanks to Cherri Harris for gracing this evening with her presence
Thursday September 16, 1999
Foiled by Floyd, Saved by Felix
The game plan was to go to the once-a-month gig at Timpanos featuring the Radio King Orchestra. This is always a great time because the band is good, the crowd is enthusiastic and all those great smells of Italian cooking emanate from the kitchen
In order to save $$$, I even volunteered to cook a similar Italian dinner for a group of friends. As we gathered in the kitchen, a call came in from Cherri --- the gig at Timpanos had been cancelled, and Hurricane Floyd was cited as the culprit. Indeed, the rain was coming down in great sheets, blowing almost horizontally and lots of Montgomery County was without power. On balance, little things like that might cause some dancers to stay home. But you and I know that Lindy Hoppers are different.
At this news, some of the assembled multitudes chose various paths. For example, Gail decided to head off to Phantasmagoria where her son Toby was playing trumpet with the Pietasters, an alternative group. Much as we respect Gail's son, Deb Brooks and I headed off to Felix (yet one more time) where John Coombs and the Red Hot Swingin' Johnsons were playing. This evening, the "Johnsons" included Don Lodgson (of the J Street Jumpers) on drums and Chris Watling (of the Grandsons) on Baritone and Tenor Sax.
We waited patiently for the guys to set up. Patience is very important in Lindy... We had a nice chat with several of the folks at Felix. We watched several scenes from Diamonds are Forever in the James Bond Martini Room. We watched the guys set up. We changed our shoes. Geez, time moves slowly when you are waiting for the band to start.
Finally, John Coombs gave the downbeat and played a really great version of Caldonia just for us. We got into it with some very expansive moves to claim as much dance floor as possible. Our preemptive strike was not necessary, because it looked like we were the only dancers there. So, from about 10:00 to midnight, we had the floor and the band to ourselves. It was a lot of fun and we hammed it up well beyond our specailty in Lindy. This particular version of Red Hot Swingin' Johnsons has my sincere approval for Lindy. I think that Deborah feels the same, but I shall not venture to speak for her...
Friday September 17, 1999
Decatur House Benefit
When I got home on Thursday, I was stunned to find an e-mail from Peaches O'dell --- she invited me to give a lesson and sort of "emcee" a dance event at Decatur House. What an Honor!
The event took place at Historic Decatur House, located at the Northwest corner of Lafayette Park, near the White House. There was a lovely cocktail reception within the house followed by an al fresco dinner in the courtyard and then dancing in the carriage house.
THe organizers had "seeded" the event with some folks in vintage and I was very pleased to find Scott Halliday and the Hall-Reis's (Mike and Chrissy) there. The staff of Decatur house were very helpful and we had a wonderful time
Peaches used the even to try out some additions to her book -- - and I felt that her arrangement of Swingin on a Star is a real keeper! I really enjoyed the evening's music and dancing; we had a large group for the beginner lesson and there were a number of folks who were pretty good at swing dancing. One lady did a VERY accomplished version of classic Charleston. This was a whole lot of fun.
All our thanks to Decatur House and to Peaches for a wonderful Friday evening!
Saturday September 18, 1999
Easton, Big Flea, Winchester, Whitlow's
The Easton Gig
I have a work collegue who has a summer cottage at Tilghman Island. Since the Tom Cunningham Orchestra was playing in Easton this weekend, we figured it was time to hop on out to the Eastern Shore. The weather was crystal clear and cool. Perfect for Lindy hopping. Despite an early mix-up on directions, which caused us to miss the Fly Cats' performance, we did find the Easton Armory. It's actually on Rt. 50, well on your way to Cambridge, not actually in Easton proper.
The band was great and it was nice to see a whole bunch of people we knew. Louise (aka Gingerella) was there with some of her students; the newlyweds, Andy and Jackie; Andy's brother (sorry, I forgot!); Erica, her mom and her grandmother; and a whole slew of Fly Cats.
We danced on one of the nicest portable floors I've ever danced on. Usually, these things are sticky as all get out because they are freshly varnished. This one, however, was well used and worn down to an almost dangerous fastness, if you in leather soled shoes, as we were. The real plus to this floor was that somehow, where the joints came together, someone carefully matched the sections in the manufacturing process. Very seldom did I find a heel or toe "catch" a joint where the sections came together. I found out later that it was Andy's floor. He purchased it used and is rather meticulous about its installation and removal. He, his brother and his new wife were carefully puttying the screw holes shut as each screw was removed. I guess this garantees a tight fit next time the floor is laid.
We enjoyed a nice dinner at Denny's with Tom and Robin after the dance. OK...it was nice in terms of company and nice that Tom reminded me that Denny's serves vanilla Coke. We ate and gossipped mercilessly about other bands. Tom used to play for a Cuban bandleader who sounded like Ricky Ricardo. Ask him sometime to do his rendition of "It's Impossible" or "Eees Eeemposibol". And yes, Tom K, we not only talked about your hernia (which Debra told me was a mandatory after dance dinner topic) but we also talked about your laser eye surgery as well.
When we returned to the cottage on Tilghman, I noticed that the night sky was unusually clear. You could see millions of twinkling stars. We walked some distance away from the street lights, closer to the bay. It was like being in outer space. It's so good to know that with all the junk we spew into the air, there are still occaisionally a few clear nights in a few undeveloped places where you can see the Milky Way and pick out all the constellations. If the ground hadn't been so wet, we could have laid on our backs and looked up at the light show for hours.
Let's face it...32 oz of vanilla Coke made me more wired than George W. Bush during the days of his alleged "youthful indescretions". Not being able to sleep at all, I stayed up and watched "Ocean's 11", a hideously stupid Rat Pack movie. The biggest disappointment, apart from the awful acting, was that there was no close up of Louis Prima and Keely Smith while they were performing.
Big Flea, etc
This was a big day -- the Big Flea was being held in Centreville, so far out in the suburbs that it makes your nose bleed. In order to justify this trip, we said "we are really going to Winchester and we will stop off at the Big Flea on the way." Well, we started for Winchester at 9:30 am and got off I-66 at the Route 50 exit and made a beeline for the Centerville version of Anita's restaurant and a healthy serving of breakfast burritos. These are a VERY good way to start the day (or to end the evening, because there is a 24 hour a day Anita's on Maple Avenue in Vienna, just a hop skip and a jump away from America.)
The Big Flea was a held in the Expo center and featured zillions of dealers. The event was a bonanza for chicken collectors and a bust for art deco. This is kind of an in-joke. My good friend Karen collects chicken things, or more precisely, any objet d'art with a poultry motif. Some of this is really hilarious and I am going to do a photoessay on chicken collecting in the near future.
Karen was very successful in adding to her trove and the "catch" of the day was an Italian ceramic chicken pitcher that had been originally made for something called the "Hamlet Gardens". Very interesting.
On the Art Deco side, there were a few tie pins and miscellany. Some vintage clothes for women, none for men. The high point was a display of 1920s and 1930s toasters. This was absolutely breathtaking, but so were the prices. I have not yet met the $300 toaster that I want to buy.
After roaming around the Big Flea until about 2:00 pm, we continued westward and made a brief stop in Middleburg to check out the thrift stores there. Sad to say, the horsy set had not chosen to part with anything of much consequence. Thus, we hit the road and continued on to Winchester. This is a very pretty town with a lot of nice thrift, vintage and antique store. Alas, most of them were closed by the time we got there. However, we had a great time walking around. We had a nice snack at Brewbakers a sports-bar kind of restaurant, chosen largely because it was open. Most of the better places are only open during weekdays
We ended our trip west by stopping for some ice cream at the 1940s vintage Royal Dairy. There was not a single swing song on the juke box, so we had to be content to just eat the ice cream without dancing
After travelling back, the dance choices were bleak. Glen Echo offered the spectre of a pickup band and 20 minute "jams" (the buzz has it that our fears were justified). Finally, we decided to try some of the off-beat venues. Sadly, we found that the Lucky Bar has cancelled Swing and that Politiki is no longer doing Saturday rockabilly. So, we headed out to Whitlow's to catch Charlie Sayles and Memphis Gold. This is a funk/blues band that has been around for some time. A little prodding from us induced them to get into the jump blues portion of their repertoire. So, we had about an hour of fairly decent dancing, given allowances for the condition of the floor at Whitlows
Sunday September 19, 1999
Set 'em Up Joe
The weekend came to a spectacular close when Set 'em Up Joe took the stage at Chevy Chase Ballroom. Lot's of people cheered when someone yelled out "Where were you guys last night?", apparently an allusion to the dismal showing at Glen Echo on Saturday.
Well, the hot sounds were at CCB --- the band gave us a very good New York swing evening. This included some real barn- burner/killer dillers as well as some sexy grind stuff with a good mixture of mambo/rhumba. In the latter category, Gino Goes Crazy is a fantastic tune and ought to be more than incentive to learn Rhumba!
I had the very distinct honor of dancing more than a few times with Lurene Haines who is really developing a unique style. Thanks, Lurene -- it was a whole lot of fun!
In my humble opinion, we ought to have B>Set 'em Up Joe back real soon!
Monday September 20, 1999
Deborah Brooks and I signed up for an aerials class at the DC Dance Collective, taught by Thomas Iveson and the very lovely Christi Etcher. Some administrative foul-ups in getting out the release forms cut pretty far into the instruction time. Thomas and Christi did a very very good job of teaching.
Tuesday September 21, 1999
I attended the regular Tuesday night Lindy session at Vienna Grille. The crowd was rather small, at least small compared to last week. However, they made up in enthusiasm for force of numbers. This is still a great place to dance and practice. You should seriously think of going just to keep the gig alive.
Wednesday September 22, 1999
It has been some time since I dropped in on Tom and Carolyn's Wednesday night gig at LuLu's. I was very pleasantly surprised at the size of the crowd and the selection of music. The evenning was very pleasant and I had a great time. Since I was last there, it seems that at least two more dance floors have been opened up, so there is plenty of room to dance and practice.
Thursday September 23, 1999
The Towering Bouffants
What might have been a dreary Thursday evening of dance practice turned out to have a delightful ending. On a whim, Cherri and I decided to look in on the Towering Bouffants, Diana Quinn's tribute to the "Girl Groups" of the 1960s. The event was held at the Luna Park Grille, a restaurant noted for two things: (1)Something about Elephants and (2) the total absence of a dance floor. Worse yet, the place was packed to the gills. We were glad to see Jo Anne Garrison, Erika Rubel, and Dave Elliot, folks that I (at least) haven't seen in an age. There was a small strip of clear floor in front of the band and we executed what must have been the "Worlds's Smallest Lindy" --- at least 90% of the credit goes to Cherri --- we got in every Savoy Lindy move we could think of, including Travelling Charleston within a space that was about three feet square. ( If you could call something like that a "space".) For the rest of the set, we found a long, narrow strip in the back that was more suited to Hollywood. But --- the band was great! If you check out the Towering Bouffants at a place that has a dance floor, you won't be disappointed!
Friday September 24, 1999
Wildwood, New Jersey Car Show
This weekend was supposed to be devoted to non-dance business. For a well-deserved break from these mundane concerns, we travelled to Wildwood, New Jersey for dinner at Chiarella's Restaurant, a Jersey shore institution that has been pleasing folks for nearly fifty years. If you eat meat, you have to try the Veal Sinatra. If (like me) you do not eat much meat, try the Chiarella Family Salad and a little order of Pennne, aglio-oilio. After a great meal, I found out that a truly major Hot Rod Show was going on in town.
If you don't know, Wildwood is sort of like the 1950s in aspic. There are a zillion cheesy motels with rocketship decor and names like "The Crusader", "Sans Souci", "Kona Kai", and generally any fantasy of far-away elegance that could be conjured up for the denizens of South Philadelphia seeking a little sun and fun on a budget. Given the "success" of Atlantic City in drawing this crowd, Wildwood has fallen into disuse and disrepair. Since economics prevent "yuppification", Wildwood remains as thoroughly 1950s as Cape May is 1880s. Perhaps the preservationists should think about Wildwood as a place to forever capture the unusual optimism of the period 1946-1956 when poor folks (like my family) finally got enough spare cash and spare time to actually go to the seashore. At the time, we were deliriously happy to get to the shore and we had no idea that everything around us was in hideous taste. Wildwood is cheesy, but I still love it.
Well, tonight in the temple of Cheese there was another attraction --- this was a MEGA Hot Rod Show. Like, the whole town was full of hot cars. There were more '57 Chevys on the street than in 1957! Every period and style was represented from rail dragsters to a '53 Mercury that had been chopped, lowered, lovered, Frenched, and generally massaged into a true wonder of lead and candy-apple paint. One could have walked around town for the whole night and not seen it all. It was truly spectacular. It was too bad that there was no dancing to go with it.
Saturday September 25, 1999
From: Elizabeth Engel
First of all, it's good to be back writing reviews for Jitterbuzz. During my APSA annual meeting business trip to Atlanta, I unfortunately did NOT have time to check out the swing scene, which was PARTICULARLY sad since that was the Everybody Dances swing camp weekend - and because I missed our very own "local " Buffalo Gap weekend as well. The next time I managed to get out dancing was for Jimmy and the Blue Dogs at Glen Echo on September 18 (!!!), but I had no time to write a review. Fortunately, things have finally calmed down a little - Jim's back from his month long business trip to Pennsylvania, and the level of work at my job has ratcheted back down from "out-of-control insane " to the normal "managable chaos. " WHEW!
So Saturday night, Nancy and Cory Baird, Sue Fedor and Steve Devoney, and Jim and I found ourselves in West Chester at my folks' place and wanting to dance. Usually when I'm at home, I go into Philly to dance. Sadly, however, according to my Philly connections, Ronnie James had to cancel at our favorite Eden Roc supper club on Saturday night, and we weren't relishing braving the crowd and the hard floor at the Five Spot.
According to Pennsylvania 6-5000, the Philly stand in for Jitterbuzz, Cafe Chicane in my very own hometown of West Chester was going to have a live jump blue band called "The Mighty Rhythm Kings ". My curiosity was piqued - West Chester hosting live swing? Will wonders never cease? I had no idea what the venue or the band would be like, but the cover was only $5 and it was only 10 minutes away. How could we lose? Jim and my dad drove down to St. David's to collect Mara Levy, we all piled into the Baird Party Van, and off we went.
What a pleasant surprise! Cafe Chicane offers an elegant cigar and martini bar in the downstairs front, a small restaurant in the downstairs back, and a great dance space on the second floor with a floor that's nearly as good as Chevy Chase Ballroom. As we arrived, the band was hoppin' in the middle of their first tune, and Mara recognized a few of the people on the dance floor.
The band played a mix of originals, classics (Louis Jordan tunes, some of our early 50's faves like "Buzz, Buzz, Buzz, "), some Lavay Smith tunes - a really good variety, all swingable. Soon we were dancing away to the amusement of the band and bystanders. We danced lindy, balboa, the famous (or was that infamous?) Buffalo Gap slow & steamy, two gal couples, double bug (including Jim performing a double dip with me and Mara - you double bug fans will have to ask for a demo the next time you see him), a handful of aerials, swapping and stealing moves, and generally had a great time.
Dance-deprived Mara didn't sit out a single song all night, our gals danced with lots of the other fellas who were there, we got to chat with the band members a bit during the break, and we were able to polish off the evening with tea and homemade chocolate-peanut butter rice krispie treats at my mom's kitchen table.
According to the Cafe Chicane web site, they offer swing lessons and dancing on Thursday nights, live bands Fridays and Saturdays, and Sinatra Sundays. So if you're ever in West Chester, make sure to drop by. According to the Mighty Rhythm Kings web site, the perform all over the Philly area, with frequent stops at the Bacchus Bar in Atlantic City, Cafe Chicane, the Five Spot, and other venues around Philly. If you're ever in the City of Brotherly Love, definitely check them out.
Sunday September 26, 1999
We have no Reviews for this date
Monday September 27, 1999
Chevy Chase Ballroom
From: Cherri Harris
Monday night was off to a great start when I got a parking spot right in from of CCB, and also realized that I now live only 8 miles away. What an omen! Chevy Chase on Monday nights continues to be the best dance venue around, so says several of us girls who were chatting about it last night. Bernstein played some particularly nice tunes last night, I think, not too fast, and lots of jump blues, which I like. The crowd was thick, but pretty well spaced. I got Dave Shepardson all to myself who was generous enough to let me practice all (two) of my Buffalo Gap moves that I learned (and could remember). There was a nice syncopation move that Sean helped us with (Thanks Sean!) Sean and Barbara were looking really great on the dance floor, by the way. Eric Celerier, who I hadn't seen in awhile, brightened the night just by showing up and then practiced a few moves with me.
Tuesday September 28, 1999
We have no Reviews for this date.
Wednesday September 29, 1999
Swing Speak at Glen Echo
With the changing temperatures, I ventured back to Glen Echo to join Marc and Ellen's presentation of Swing Speak at the Spanish Ballroom. This is one of my favorite bands --- I used to teach when they played at the old gig at Eleventh Hour. I was just a bit disappointed to see a low turnout. This is really a great band on a fantastic floor. Last year, we used to get 100+ people come down to 14th and P and pay $10 to dance to Swing Speak on a marble floor... It was really sad to see all that great music and dance floor space going to waste.
There were some bright lights, however. Dan Steeples brought some of his relatives from Texas and it looked like they had a very good time. Ellen and I got to do Shim Sham. And, the Rockabilly contingent was there, including William and the very lovely Danielle, both of whom I have not seen in an age! The brightest light, however, was the band --- the music just sparkled the whole night.
Marc and Ellen will be ending the Wednesday series on October 20 with the Rockin' Bones --- the heat isn't going to be a problem, so I want you all to think very hard about getting out to the Spanish Ballroom for this gig.
Thursday September 30, 1999
RKO at Timpanos
Well, the September RKO gig got postponed twice, and ended up smack in conflict with Indigo Swing. A group of value-conscious Lindy Hoppers went to Timpanos to dance to the very swingin' sounds of RKO at NO COVER (compare with Indigo Swing at $15). The very lovely Deborah Brooks greatly honored me with her presence and she looked very stunning. Slowly, but surely --- with Deborah's prodding --- my Lindy Hop is being upgraded to current standards.
Sean and Barbara taught a great lesson. I thought it was particularly gutsy, because they tossed in "Messin' Around" along with your garden variety "Triple Ste, Triple Step, Rock Step". Normally, I would not even think of leading -- much less teaching -- quot;Messin'" in a bar situation. It seemed to work very well. My congratulations to Sean and Barbara!
In addition to showing off with Deborah and Gail, I got to do a little one step with Barbara, Balboa with Nancy Baird, and waltz with a lady named Janet (who back led the whole time so I looked good!)
This was definitely a fun evening. Check it out when it happens again in October!
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