As Seen In Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine
This article appeared in the
Jan./Feb. 1999 issue of Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine
This article is courtesy of Tammy Francis, Publisher, Swivel: Vintage Living Magazine
Blinking lights beat the rhythm of the Hollywood street as the Seven Star Motel beckoned us into the underbelly of it's structure. We scrambled to our dingy room, careful not to walk on the coagulated carpet in bare feet, we donned vintage dress for our first night at Camp Hollywood. We slipped into the Women's Club of Hollywood greeted by friendly faces, white plastic hospital wrist bands, and information-filled envelopes. The club, a simple war-era building with multi-paned windows, tiered molding, and high ceilings, made me feel like a hostess at a USO dance, "Servicemen Welcome."
Peter Loggins dimmed the lights and humorously narrated a montage of rare dance footage from the golden age of Hollywood. We saw Dean Collins whip Jewel into perfect swivels, Jean Veloz smile and bounce across the screen with Arthur Walsh and Lenny Smith, and many others that Peter expertly named and I've forgotten. The lights came up and we were face to face with our living idols and Lindy Hopping legends. Seated at a table in the front of the room were; Jean Veloz, Freda Angela, Lola Cole, Hal & Marge Takier and John Mills.Vitaly MC'd as we awe-struck students asked questions and listened to stories about how the floors where just as crowded then as they are now; How most the dancers then were pretty average with a few shining stars, (just like now). I felt the past rushing up to meet the preset and the future sneaking into the drafty dance hall. I pictured myself re-telling this story to wide-eyed grandchildren of how I listed to stories from the innovators of an American dance called Lindy Hop.
After a sleepless night of bumping and thumping from the room above, (over-zealous dancers practicing at 4am), I clad my feet in my favorite forties wedges and headed out for a day of dance instruction, my sleepy man at my side. Of course, being the die-hard vintage collectors, we had to make a morning detour to some of our favorite shops. We returned in time for the Balboa lesson with Jimmy & Joanne. Finally after months of pestering David, my husband/partner, he decided he likes Balboa! The class moved fast without much emphasis on the basic. It was a little difficult at first since we had originally learned the Bal with a rock-step, hold, step, step, step and Jimmy & Joanne taught it with just the hold, step, step, step. Once we got past that is was smooth sailing as heads bobbed around the room like ocean buoys.
That night we walked into a room of vintage attired dancers spinning to the sounds of The Eddie Reed Big Band, "Welcome to Hollywood 1940." Eddie was in rare form, feeding off the energy of hopping bodies, his favorite kind of audience. Reed watched the crowd and played with the dancers as jam after jam exploded across the wood. Erik and Sylvia swung in their original Hollywood style with their personal, "ba-dumping" flair. Peter and Lisa epitomized Dean and Jewel with added goofiness and crowd appeal. Vitaly threw Hilary around with a violent whirl and other nameless hoppers strutted, sugar-pushed, shagged, boogied, and slid to the delight of the less experienced.
The Jitterbug contest turned out some pretty competitive dancing. My favorite was Adam Velez and Trina Sissen who knocked out the house with fun Shag, Bal and slip-outs mixed in their Lindy. They rightly took first place. Russ Olsen and Marissa Slotterbeck, coming in second, gave them a run for their money with a spontaneous lead and follow ( I don't think these kids planned anything, nor do I think they're regular partners?).Coming in at a smashing third were, Richie Roca & Debbie Smith.
The next day had Erik & Sylvia's Styling class at the same time as Peter & Lisa's Dean & Jewel styling class, which made for a rough choice.We went with Erik & Sylvia since we'd had a few lessons with Peter & Lisa. It turned out to be a great class. The leads learned the flying Lindy free spins and styling. We gals learned sugar-push variations, swing-out syncopation and an over-rotated swing out. Talk about cool! The next class we took was Boogie which Sylvia had to teach by herself (mean ole Eric bailed on her). It was good. It put a lot of breakaway Boogie steps into one routine for easy retention. I heard from friends that the Speed Swing class was fun with a lot of secrets for smooth, fast Lindy as taught by Peter and Lisa. Yet another class, with more Peter & Lisa with Footwork Variations. This class broke down some of those moves you see in the old movies, but can't quite figure out. I especially liked the Irene Thomas footwork variation out of the Sugar-pushes.
To wrap up the weekend, Dean Mora's Modern Rhythmists graced the stage in tuxedos and brass with a lovely canary. I've got a new favorite band, and it's Dean Mora's, so authentic and fun I thought I'd stepped into a1930's dance hall with dime-a-dance girls and bath-tub gin. The first Shag contest in 50 years was killer diller! The dancers danced to Dean Mora's band, taking 30 second in and out of the circle to strut their stuff, much like a swing jam. This was very effective for judging and watching. I think they may have started a new trend with this style of contest. There was some great Shaggin' mixed with Balboa and a little Boogie thrown in 'taboot! It must have been tough for the judges, but here's how it went down. First, Shawn Carter & Cassandra Bugg; Second, Buddy Gallienne & Joanna Contreras; Third, Adam Velez & Adrienne Weidert.
Last but least, Hilary Alexander, adorned in fabulous vintage both noon and moon, was the perfect hostess. She masterminded, organized and promoted the hell out of this event. The variety, expertise and enthusiasm made up for any small glitches that might have occurred over the weekend. Overall, the first Camp Hollywood was a tremendously fun, and successful event. So what I want to know is: Hilary, what do you have up your lovely sleeve next?
Article Copyright © 1999 Tammy
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This Page Last Revised: February 25, 1999.