The Semper Fidelis Dances: DWDr
I know, I know it’s past the middle of November. But sometimes it’s hard to write this newsletter. Oh there are the usual reasons of too much work and not enough time and my general tendency towards television-compounded laziness. And there are the somewhat more ingenuous excuses like, does this newsletter even matter anymore after all these years, which seem to arise usually after I try my best to promote some terrific event only to find the attendance to be less than stellar. And sometimes it comes down to just plain burnout when I can’t think of anything new to write about that hasn’t been already well covered in the more than a decade that this newsletter has been going out. But all of those are easily reconciled with the cure that Cher’s Loretta Castorini employed on Nic Cage’s Ronny Cammareri in the film Moonstruck when she first heard the bad news that he was in love with her… (i.e. a sharp slap to the face and the shouted command “Snap out of it!”).
But it’s hardest to write this newsletter when I take on the persona of the town crier and have to break bad news to people of the loss of yet another hero of dance like Frankie Manning who showed more than a few generations that when it came to dance gravity could be more of a suggestion than a law, or Tami Gower who had an idea for a different kind of dance club in Los Feliz and turned the world upside down (sometimes quite literally with all the aerials that used to occur in the back room of The Derby). But as sad as those departures made us, for the most part they didn’t really come as surprises due to age and ill health. But every now and then the Grim Reaper likes to play hop-scotch just to keep us on our toes. This is one of those times.
So we’re more than halfway through November and I’m only sitting down now to put out a DWDr because I just didn’t want to write the words that at the tail end of last month we lost Mark “Torch” Tortorici: lead singer of bands like Jumpin’ Jimes and the Torchlighters, swing/blues/roots impresario, and all around great fellow. Although it’s pretty much old news now to most of the recipients on this list, and although he’s been memorialized all over social media and had an actual memorial in his hometown of Thousand Oaks that was so well attended that had we all been teenaged girls you would have thought it was a sneak appearance of some hot young boy band, and although it’s close to a month since I first heard the news and it should have fully sunk in by now, somehow, writing it down in this newsletter for all the world to see would mean that it was actually real and not some really bad joke thrown at us by a trickster universe.
For those of us who knew Mark, this loss is staggering in its capriciousness that he should be plucked out from amongst us in so untimely a fashion. It’s also staggering because in more than a few ways, he wore a lot of cool shoe and hats in this community we’re not likely to fill them any time soon. But we will remember the guy who always met you with a smile, worked his butt off to keep swing/blues/rockabilly dancing to live music kicking and alive, and also found work for other bands by booking them in various venues around town. We will miss the guy whose love for this genre was so infectious that he was determined to spread his version of dance fever to whomever he encountered. We’ll remember his mission give the unsuspecting public a glimpse of what joy dancing to live music can bring in crazy spots from Burbank to Simi Valley and beyond (Sunset Farmer’s Market anyone?) And we’ll smile when we think about how he loved to introduce us to new musicians from all over the globe and also re-introduce us to giants of the art from days gone by who still had a lot to show us, and did. We’ll also remember his incredible generosity and determination to look after others in his family of musicians and dancers, such as the time he worked tirelessly to help put together a benefit dance for a popular dance teacher who’d been injured in an accident. The fact that he was also a veteran of the USMC isn’t lost on us either. If anybody ever lived up to their motto of semper fidelis, it was Torch. But he wasn’t faithful to just his band of brothers and sisters, but to anybody who wandered into his circle. And so we must in return be faithful to him.
At Mark’s memorial, there was music playing after the primary service and as is wont when there are dancers in the mix people wanted to dance. But it was a memorial service so many were unsure about the appropriateness of it. Then I thought about what Mark would have wanted, and realized that for almost 20 years, my friend had gone out of his way to make sure that people could dance, so he’d damn sure be disappointed if they didn’t at his send off. And I truly believe he’d want us to keep on dancing and continue his mission of being semper fidelis to live music and dance. So I decided it’s was high time to sit down and write this DWDr.
While I still can’t quite get my mind around the fact that he’s no longer with us and I can’t bug him to update his calendar so I can tell people where there’ll be good dancing, or hear his latest scheme that at first sounds crazy but slowly dawns on me that it could actually work, I realize there’s a reason for that. He is still with us. I know this because I know whenever in the future I wander into Joe’s in Burbank, or any other venue he used to haunt, I’m going to feel his presence. And I also know I’m not the only one. As long as there’s still one of us still feeling that, Mark will be here trying to make sure everybody has a good time. So we can do no less in honor of his memory. Thanks buddy, and thanks to his family, thanks for raising such a guy. You did awesome because he was AWESOME.
To all of you out there whether you knew Mark personally, just benefitted from his mission to spread the joy and magic of music and dance, or never crossed paths with him in any way shape or form, I just have two words for you…
Keep dreaming and keep dancing. And remember to check the website of venues for last minute changes before driving down to Patagonia for a dance that’s not happening that evening.
Note: Sometime in the near future there will be a dancer’s memorial for Mark where everybody can come out and dance and remember. I will keep you informed as soon as it comes together.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2014
PHAT CAT SWINGER gets you swinging tonight at MAXWELL DEMILLE'S CICADA CLUB - 617 S. Olive St. Los Angeles, CA 90014 http://www.cicadaclub.com/weekly_schedule.asp
THE LEFTOVER CUTIES are back at playing the “game of life” at CASA DEL MAR. If you’ve seen them before, you know how much fun they are. If you haven’t, then get down to CdM to check them out while you still have the chance. THE LEFTOVER CUTIES performs live WIACAIG music from 7pm-11pm this evening in the lobby lounge at HOTEL CASA DEL MAR - 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica - (310) 581-7714. http://www.hotelcasadelmar.com/los-angeles-hotel-lobby Please note that the schedule at CdM can be extremely fluid no matter what the online calendar states. So if you’re coming there for a specific act, it wouldn’t hurt to call ahead to check and make sure they’re still there. Of course, the upshot is even if they aren’t the music is generally good and there’s no cover.
And it’s time for your monthly helping of DO SOMETHING BLUE with sweetly canned blues at the PASADENA CITY DANCE CENTER - 1368 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena, CA 91104 - www.dosomethingblue.com
The RICHARD SHERMAN TRIO and Grammy Award-winning vocalist BILI REDD play all of your favorite jazz pieces while creating a romantic atmosphere from 7 to 11 p.m. at THE SKY ROOM, 40 S. Locust Avenue (upstairs in Breakers) Long Beach, CA 90802 www.theskyroom.com/new/theskyroom
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2014
Get your big band R&B with BLOWIN’ SMOKE AND THE FABULOUS SMOKETTES tonight at HSM. Although they take up a quarter of the dance floor space with their horn section, the music provided by the Fabulous Smokettes will more than make up for your suffering for space. BLOWIN’ SMOKE tonight at HARVELLES SANTA MONICA- 1432 4th Street (near Broadway) Santa Monica, CA 90401 - 310-395-1676 http://santamonica.harvelles.com
In P’Dena, LIL' MO & THE DYNAFLOS make one of their semi-annual stops at PBDA – at GRACE HALL (behind the church), 73 N. Hill Avenue, Pasadena, 91106 www.pasadenaballroomdance.com
THE TINO PRODUCTIONS ORCHESTRA play a perfect balance between traditional music and modern instrumentation from 8 to 12 a.m. at THE SKY ROOM, 40 S. Locust Avenue (upstairs in Breakers) Long Beach, CA 90802 www.theskyroom.com/new/theskyroom
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2014
DOÑA OXFORD brings her bluesy, brassy, ballsy brand of boogie-woogie soul to JOE'S GREAT AMERICAN BAR & GRILL - 4311 W. Magnolia Blvd, http://joesgreatbar.com/calendar.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2014
JOHN REYNOLDS wraps you up in this evening’s edition of Happy Feet Mondays at built at JOE'S GREAT AMERICAN BAR & GRILL - 4311 W. Magnolia Blvd, http://joesgreatbar.com/calendar
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2014
Straight outta’ Texas, DEBRA WATSON and her SMOKIN’ ACES comes home to the stage that Mark built at JOE'S GREAT AMERICAN BAR & GRILL - 4311 W. Magnolia Blvd, http://joesgreatbar.com/calendar.
Nestled in the heart of the newer, hotter version of downtown Culver City is a time portal back to a different era of cool, class, sophistication and munchkins. Part of that magic is that the little jewel of a lounge at THE CULVER HOTEL features live music to help you digest the food and drinks, and maybe you can find a space for a little dancing. This evening’s offering is traditional swing, jazz and novelty tunes from SYLVIA AND THE RHYTHM BOYS who play from 7:30 to about 11 at THE CULVER HOTEL – 9400 Culver Boulevard, Culver City. www.theculverhotel.com
You can opt to hop down to El Segundo for some WIACAIG West Coast Swing at THE HACIENDA HOTEL - 525 N. Sepulveda Blvd. El Segundo, California 90245 - http://www.haciendahotel.com/
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2014
Queen Rustina is having a THANKS-SWINGING DANCE with music provided by TIM GILL'S GIN MILL GRIFTERS this eve at RUSTY'S RHYTHM CLUB, in the Elks Lodge, 8025 W. Manchester, Playa Del Rey, (park and enter in the back.) CMoNFo at http://rustyfrank.com
THE CULVER HOTEL features live music to help you digest the food and drinks, and maybe you can find a space for a little dancing. This evening’s offering is either Prohibition Pop and ‘30s tunes from DAVE STUCKY, or on alternating weeks, New Orleans style Jazz from THE CALIFORNIA FEETWARMERS. Whichever band is up, they play from 7:30 to about 11 at THE CULVER HOTEL – 9400 Culver Boulevard, Culver City. www.theculverhotel.com
Downtown , I don’t know if they’re dance-worthy but the DIRTY MARTINIS JAZZ TRIO commandeer the stage tonight at THE EDISON - 108 West Second Street (enter on the alley next to the Brickhouse pizza and remember the dress code) LA 90012. For more info about THE EDISON, check out their website at http://www.edisondowntown.com/
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2014
Happy Thanksgiving, unless you are a member of genus Meleagris. If so, then run turkey, run!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2014
PBDA puts the “Ballroom” back in the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association moniker with an evening of bona fide Ballroom Dancing featuring a Freestyle Foxtrot Lesson from 7:30-8:00pm, followed by a canned Ballroom tunes from 8:00-10:00pm. Admission is $15 but the dance lesson is included which is a much better deal than you’ll likely get at Arthur Murray!) AN EVENING OF BALLROOM DANCING tonight at PBDA – at GRACE HALL (behind the church), 73 N. Hill Avenue, Pasadena, 91106 www.pasadenaballroomdance.com
THE TINO PRODUCTIONS ORCHESTRA play a perfect balance between traditional music and modern instrumentation from 7 to 11 p.m. at THE SKY ROOM, 40 S. Locust Avenue (upstairs in Breakers) Long Beach, CA 90802 www.theskyroom.com/new/theskyroom
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2014
In P’Dena, go big band crazy with THE FABULOUS ESQUIRES BIG BAND at PBDA – at GRACE HALL (behind the church), 73 N. Hill Avenue, Pasadena, 91106 www.pasadenaballroomdance.com
In Downtown Los Angeles, it’s an evening of Tango, Cha-Cha, Rumba, Samba, Mambo and great Latin tunes of the 1930s and '40s plus a little Swing with DEAN MORA'S LATINAIRES tonight at MAXWELL DEMILLE'S CICADA CLUB - 617 S. Olive St. Los Angeles, CA 90014 http://www.cicadaclub.com/weekly_schedule.asp
The Duo of OLIVIA & ARAGORN give you acoustic Jazz, Rock, and R&B from 8 to 12 a.m. at THE SKY ROOM, 40 S. Locust Avenue (upstairs in Breakers) Long Beach, CA 90802 www.theskyroom.com/new/theskyroom
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2014
It’s a Sunday night full of rockin’ blues with BIG DADDY T this evening JOE'S GREAT AMERICAN BAR & GRILL - 4311 W. Magnolia Blvd, http://joesgreatbar.com/calendar.
RRC December Schedule:
PBDA December Schedule:
- Wednesday, December 3 - NO DANCE (Dance is Friday this week)
- Friday, December 5 - HOLIDAY DANCE! with the LADD MCINTOSH SWING ORCHESTRA
- Wednesday, December 10 - RRC Jill & Jack Contest (men follow, girls lead) with music by JUMPIN' JOZ
- Wednesday, December 17 - It's the last RRC dance of 2014 with a performance by the Egg Nogg Class and music by the FABULOUS ESQUIRES SWING ORCHESTRA
Cicada Club December Schedule:
- Saturday, December 6 - No Dance (The church is using the hall)
- Saturday, December 13 - BIG BUTTER JAZZ BAND $15
- Saturday, December 20 - PBDA’s "HOLIDAY BIG BAND DANCE" with THE LADD McINTOSH SWING ORCHESTRA!
- Saturday, December 27 - PBDA’s "PRE-NEW YEAR'S PARTY" with PETE JACOBS WARTIME RADIO REVUE SWING ORCHESTRA! Wear "Black and White" for this special event.
- Sunday, December 7- RICHARD HALPERN'S HOLLYWOOD CAVALCADE
- Friday, December 19 - THE JOHNNY HOLIDAY SHOW HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR
- Tuesday, December 30 - DEAN MORA AND HIS ORCHESTRA NEW YEAR'S "EVE" EVE PARTY
- Saturday, January 17 - MAXWELL DEMILLE'S WEDDING
Other notable possible Dance Dates:
On Friday, December 12 at 6:30pm, Indigo Swing's JOHNNY BOYD Returns to Southern California to do a show at the CULVER CITY ELKS LODGE - 11160 Washington Pl, Culver City, California 90232. See more info at https://www.facebook.com/events/711826282228083/
If you have anything for next week’s list (and please first check to make sure it’s not already listed [ya wouldn’t believe how often that happens!]) then send it along to me and I’ll try to get it in. Also, I’m looking for some new dance places, preferably live, but canned will do as well. It can be hotel lounges, dive bars, or brand new clubs where the music we love to move to is played and people won’t have to mortgage their grandparents just to visit for an evening’s frolic. So if you know of any and you want to see them added to this list, send them along.
You can stop reading now.
Now, for the acronymically impaired, here's this week's glossary:
BYOP = Bring Yer Own Partner
DWDr = Darrell's Weekly Dance Report
PBDA = Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association
TSCoCM@LG = The Sweet Cacophony of Canned Music at LindyGroove
WIACAIG = Free (Which Is As Cheap As It Gets)
The DWDr Final Quote
“Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human.” – Admiral James T. Kirk Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
DWDR was another Mamakehimstophe'sdoingitagain Production. No Aardvarks were harmed in the writing of this newsletter. DWDr: serving the LA Dance Community since 2002. Are we there yet?