What gay publication would be worth it’s salt without a little gossip?
Don’t you just hate to look at past fee schedules!
The bad news is fees for regularly scheduled club events (club nights and Friday’s A/C dances) are going up. The club’s continued financial problems have made this necessary. The good news is, if you support a lot of club activities, you won’t even notice it. Here’s how the new fee structure (effective June 1st) will work:
- Member admission rises to $7 (from $6)
- After you’ve come to seven events, the eighth is free!
- Non-member admission rises to $0
- Half-year membership renewals will be available for only $15
If you have any comments or concerns on this new fee structure, please speak to a member of the Board. Your input will be used when we meet in July to set fees for the next teaching year.
At Christmastime, some of the men dressed in drag. One of the newer dancers, Mickey Pearl, was dressed up like Minnie Pearl. He looked just like her, except for the mustache. He had on the little hat with the price tag hanging down in front. His dress was the typical country ladies dress. The skirt was black, and the blouse was white cotton, with a round neck bordered with lace over ample bosoms. Over that was a red and white checkered apron with a bib front. The shoes were flats with ankle socks. Mickey Pearl was a typical picture of rural life at its best.
Bob, on the other hand, was dressed very exotically. He had to. He was the queen. He had on a blond wig, his trade mark, and a gold lame square dance dress, trimmed with tons of lace. The dress had lots of lace around the low-cut neckline with puffed sleeves and a tight-fitting bodice under a tasteful bust line. His square dance crinoline was huge and stuck out in every direction. You couldn’t get anywhere near him. He had on gold lace hose and lacy sissy pants He just oozed glamour.
The Gays don’t choose their partner as the straights do. At a straight dance, the girls sit around and wait for the men to come and ask them to dance. There are never enough men, so the extra girls do a lot of sitting. The Gays go one better. When everyone gets up to dance, they just partner up with whoever is standing.
Adrian and Ron, a couple getting married, were perfect together. If you could say it, theirs was a marriage made in Heaven. They were totally devoted to each other. It was a jot to see. They only just me at the beginner’s class the year prior but to look at them you’d think they had been together for years.
When I first met them, Adrian had been crocheting a wedding dress for himself. They had decided by then that they would get married. In light of that I told Adrian it would take him years to finish the dress. He had been crocheting it with small needles and using very find thread. I could recognize that such fine work would take a long time, and near the time of the wedding, I teased him “Why aren’t you crocheting anymore? I thought you were getting on with it.”
“I decided to buy a dress,” he responded. “I could see I was never going to finish it in time.”
As soon as Adrian had decided to play the woman’s part, he bought himself a pair of red square dance shoes. Right after he would get to the dance, he would change his shoes and dance in high heels. To me, heels were a pain in the neck, or a pain in the feet!
Ron told me that they had decided to get married in their church in the spring. He wanted to make sure that I would come. Finally, spring arrived, and I went to Adrian and Ron’s gay wedding. They had prepared for it properly at the church my mailing out invitations.
The church is The Metropolitan Community Church of new York, a church of the Lesbian and Gay Community. They were in the process of cleaning it up and refurbishing it. You could see where they had finished and where they had not. Everyone sat o folding chairs.
During the ceremony, the couple exchanged rings and kissed and were declared married. After that they cleared away all the chairs, square danced, drank punch and ate cake. It was a very ice wedding. Adrian wore a dress, but all the other participants wore trousers. It was all very tasteful. All went off very smoothly.
After the wedding, a group of us dancers went over to SAGE and rehearsed our convention exhibition dance before a live audience. SAGE is a senior group of lesbians and gays who get together once in a while. The SAGE members thought the performance was very good. It is to be performed at the New York Square Dance Convention. I was in love with new York and square dancing and would have done anything to help them.
Click here for the first part of Doris’ memoir of dancing with Times Squares.
On Valentine’s Day I found myself with a group of young men readying themselves to perform. The group had been practicing since Christmas. It was to be their premiere performance, a Valentine’s Day party. Our group was to be the star attraction.
Long ago the men knew we needed an act for the party, but they could never agree on just what it should be. They settled on a dance to a recording, and they asked me if I would help them. It was a great honor for a straight female.
Every club dance night the men and I would go upstairs in the school to a large hallway and practice. A really imaginative session with the men resulted. Some of the men danced and some of them directed. The men changed lines and cues to the demands of everyone during the constant reception. I behaved myself (which was hard among all those handsome young men) and did what I was told. In the end it turned out to be a pretty good performance. In fact, it was a show-stopper. Nothing else would have sufficed.
The performance was held at the Lesbian and Gay Community Center. The Center, as it was lovingly called, was an old New York City School that the gay community had renovated.
In addition to rehearsing for the performance, the men all had to scavenge for the costumes and props. My assignment was to get myself a black leather jacket. Carl, a dancer who lived near me, said he would loan me his. Mark, one of the best artists ever, painted a picture on a piece of cloth of a skull and crossbones crowned by a bat above, on which he printed “Bats from Hell”. Below the skull and crossbones, he printed “NYC CYCLE CLUB”. This picture was fastened to the back of the jacket. The appearance was so real that Carl, the owner of the jacket, almost fainted. Mark located a little black hat for me to wear. There were chains across the back of the hat to match the chains draped over my shoulders and in my hands. I could have been one of the Hell’s Angels for all anyone knew!
The club had rented a room at the Center, just off the dance hall, where the actors were to change their clothes. The men had not worn their costumes to the hall, finding it a little too hard to wear dresses around town … even in as liberal a city as New York
The men’s costumes were fantastic. They had wigs, most of them blond. They also had pantyhose, some of them very fancy like the ones you see in the Frederick’s catalogue, and high heeled shoes. A couple of them had on decollate dresses and Frederick’s of Hollywood underwear, garter belts – the whole works. The men were all dressed like “Women of the Night,” complementing my motorcycle gang member attire. I looked more like a Gray Panther than the biker I had tried to emulate.
The dance hall was decorated to the hilt. Mark and Paul had hung red and white streamers from corner to corner and side to side in the hall. There were Cupids shooting arrows all over the place. In another room, off the rear of the dance hall, there were refreshments.
The cast danced in a circle. The first time I came around the circle they all clapped. There were over on hundred men there. The second time I came around, the men were all on their feet screaming. It was the one and only time in my life that I received a standing ovation.
Read the May minutes. September 0utreach event: Fun Dance at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), which serves the NYC LGBTQ community. Weekend Mainstream Blast Class in October. International Friendship dance with visiting Japanese dancers in October.
Read the June minutes. Memorial gathering at the IAGSDC Convention set. More Mainstream Blast Class information. What about a Plus Class?
Doris Nixon became everyone’s grandmother as she joyously danced with Times Squares. Here, in three parts, is her story.
Before moving to New York City, I was an elementary school teacher in California. The year I retired, my son and daughter-in-law asked me to live with then in Manhattan. They needed someone to stay with their children and watch them during the day.
Square dancing had always taken up all my spare time. I danced every evening of the week and on some Sunday afternoons. I mistakenly thought dancing did not exist in Manhattan. I’d looked everywhere until I read a flyer posted n my church bulletin board. I could barely believe what I had read. A social club in the church I attended announced they were having a square dance on Friday night. I could hardly wait for Friday night to arrive.
To my delight, they had hired a live caller. While the caller set up his equipment, I talked with him. I saw several records in his collection that were familiar to me. From this I gathered he was a caller attuned to the type of dancing I did best.
Once the caller began, a woman asked me to be her partner. Secretly I had hoped one of the men would ask me. The woman who asked me was a good dancer, but nothing beats dancing with a man. There are always so many women at most of the dances I attend.
As I looked around the room at the other squares, I discovered that men were dancing with men and women were dancing with women. I thought this was unusual, but it didn’t yet register. I kept right on dancing, hoping one of the men would ask me.
When I asked Ron the caller, about this, he said he was a teacher, so it was natural for him to teach square dancing. He said most of the dancers were men. Then he invited me to come and dance with his club, called Times Squares, and explained that the club was a lesbian and gay club.
At first, I was taken aback. I had never suspected such a thing existed. When lesbians and gays dance, the disregard gender. The man’s part is called the lead part and the women’s part is called the follow part. Most of them can dance either. This saves a lot of confusion when acquiring a partner. I saw squares with all men and squares with all women dancing together. I also saw squares with about half and half, but none of them were dancing in the traditional positions. One square I danced in was composed of seven women and one man, and he was dancing in the follow position.
Once time when I came back from vacation, after I had been dancing with the club for a while, Dick, another dancer, called me and volunteered to pick me up and take me to a dance. I was happy about that as it is so much easier to have someone drive me to the dance than to go by subway. Dick said his lover, Gene, was going to nursing school and was too busy studying to go dancing. Dick was already a nurse and had inspired Gene. Dick and Gene had been together for twelve years and were prone to brag about it.
At one dance I was surprised to see Ken. He looked great. He was in remission of AIDS. Ken had sparked the creation of the Times Squares dance club. In the beginning, Ken traveled the city on his bike, posting flyers at the Center and in the bars and bookstores. Thirty-five people showed up for the first dance.
When the Times Squares Club first started, they danced in the Times Square area of Manhattan, hence the name. later they moved their dances to a public school near Christopher Street, in the Village.
While dancing on the Christopher Street Pier on Sunday, a nice, older couple watched for a while and then announced that they were square dancers, and immediately were invited to join in. After a false start or two (mainly caused by the Times Squares, in a state of shock, dancing with a woman who was not wearing balloons or a mustache) things went very well, and two sets were danced with gusto. It was quite wonderful to dance with this friendly couple, maybe happenings like this will occur more often. Turns out that the couple dance with the KING SQUARES, a Brooklyn group, they were delighted to know that there is a Manhattan based Square Dance club. Addresses were exchanged, and this may be the start of a cultural exchange!
Here’s an article from very early in our history when we were dancing to records. I can’t imagine having to dance up to speed from the very beginning. Or that you’d have to go back to the beginning of the record every time you broke down.
Since most professional square dance callers reside in suburbs and small towns, we mainly dance to recorded calls by “name” square dance callers. For the past year we have relied on Evan Schwartz, Dick Scott and, for Plus, Ken Pollack, to sort through the mass of square dance records in the club library and put together a coherent evening of dancing each week. While most of us dancers may take the music for granted, a great deal of thought and planning goes into each program. Putting together an evening of dancing usual requires about three hours. The first selections are generally easier warm-up dances followed by calls with more challenging combinations until later in the evening, as dancers tire the pace eases, sometimes ending with a few familiar old favorites. In selecting the program, the DJs also look for balance and variety so that most of the calls we know come up at some point in the evening. They also check each selection to see if there are any particularly tricky sequences than they want to point out to us before we start to dance.
Putting together a Plus program requires somewhat less time since there are fewer selections available. While Plus is a more advanced level of dancing there are actually many more challenging Mainstream combinations available on record. That is one of the reasons why an evening of recorded Mainstream dancing can be just as much fun – and or satisfying to get through without a breakdown – as dancing at the Plus level
Howard does such a great job as an experienced caller it’s hard to think of him just starting out.
Thanks to the continued support of the Times Squares, calling opportunities are beginning to unfold before me! I have joined the NJ Callers’ Association and am now a listed NJ Caller. This has gotten me two bookings so far. Thanks to Chick’s recommendation, (and Peg and Barry’s trust in that recommendation) I found myself calling my first upper level dance outside the gay community! Eight squares were present at the Sind Fun Timers Plus and A-1 dance Friday April 5th. Thanks to Patrick, Sheldon, Mario, Chick, Geo, Jim … friendly faces are always nice! I was so nervous the needle almost missed the record for the first tip. The dancers didn’t quite know what to make of me the first two tips, but by the end of the third hast her were rolling! People started to come up and ask for my calling schedule where I’d be in the coming months. Not wanting to embarrass myself saying “You’re the first outside club who’s booked me” I said I’d be at the NJ Convention and then in Grand Rapids.
Most clubs are not familiar with “all position dancing” and feel awkward even when executing the moves correctly. The Singe Fun Timers are good dancers and after assuring two men that it was alright to be holding hands at the end of an ocean wave. And that I wanted them there (on purpose, too!) the material I was using began to work. To sum up the dance, before the end of the evening they had invited me for two more dances!
On to Grand Rapids to call for the Grand River Squares fly-in! A very small club (two squares almost) Friday evening saw just the locals for an intense workshop for some of the dancers I was the first live caller they’d ever heard (what s shock dancing to my Madonna numbers!) I had been picked up by Patrick at the airport (without a sing out with my name on it as requested though) who played host for the afternoon. I was then dropped off with official host John Chapin where I stayed in beautiful accommodations for the weekend. … I think having a live caller has put some extra enthusiasm in the Grand Rapids club plus my visit got me two invitations to all at upcoming fly-ins. I’m on my way! So exciting!
In this article by Harry Simmons we are reminded of the horror of the AIDS epidemic and its effect on the gay community.
The contrast in our monthly newsletter between the fun and humor of the square-dancing article and the pain and sadness of the tributes to those lost in AIDS remind me of a remarkable day during which I experienced intensely both the joy of the dance and the pain of bereavement.
I was in Washington DC for the final AIDS Memorial Quilt display in October 1989, and spent a full Sunday morning with the quilt, locating the two panels I had contributed for two lovers (lost in 1984 and 1986), and experiencing all the old grief and sadness at their loss as well as the overwhelming impact of the vast expanse of the quilt itself, representing the thousands and thousands of people I didn’t know.
That afternoon the DC Lambda Squares held a dance in honor of the Quilt Weekend and I went and spent several hours surrendering to the joy of square dancing, two-stepping, and boot-scooting, with the customary abundance of socializing, warm hugs, and smiling faces. It certainly was a fun dance in and of itself, but my sense of enjoyment was heightened by the contrast with my hours spent with the quilt! By the time I walked back to my car my senses were those of physical tiredness, but with my mind racing and whirling in a sense of dream-like unreality!
Finally, on my drive back to New York that evening, I was able to calm down and reflect on such a remarkable, intense day and conclude that it represented “both sides” of the extremes of life- my quilt experience was a confrontation with pain, suffering, and death, while the square dancing was (and actually continues to be for me) a celebration of the joys of living! I cannot remember a day when I experienced both so intensely and for such prolonged periods within hours of each other!
I was also reminded of the following incident that occurred in the PS 3 gym one evening during the past year. Another of the sad announcements was made about a Times Squares member lost to AIDS, and this was followed by a brief awkward pause and the comment “It’s always difficult to know what to say next after such announcements.” After a briefer pause, a response came from one of the listeners, “Square ‘em up!” I was delighted to hear that! Not only did I wholeheartedly agree, but I felt that my whole Washington DC quilt-plus-dance experience and all that it represented had been neatly summarized in just two minutes! It occurred to me that perhaps I should change my will to read that square dancers would be allowed to visit my own final resting place only in groups of eight – or in groups of seven and I could be a phantom dancer (unless they were seven beginning dancers and I could then be an angel!)