Desert City 2013 – Update #3

You might have heard that we had a bit of a mishap at Desert City. “Bit of” as in the entire Desert City staff (30 people? 50?) got food poisoning from undercooked pork served as Friday night’s staff dinner in the Hospitality Suite.

I can only say that I feel sorriest for the poor cooks who made this mistake.

Okay on second thought maybe I don’t feel sorriest for the cooks.  Many of the pro staff spent from shortly after dinner on Friday until – well, some of them are still sick today and it’s Tuesday as I write this – crawling between their beds and the bathroom, in miserable pain.

And there are long-term consequences to worry about.

So I guess I feel sorrier for them.

But I do sympathize with the cooks. How awful they must feel!

What it meant for the event was that Saturday’s workshops and private lessons were almost all cancelled; and Saturday night’s (and Sunday’s) activities were hampered by the fact that many pros had been up sick for many hours.

It’s worth saying that if you didn’t know this had occurred you probably wouldn’t have noticed any difference. These guys are stand-up professionals and showed up – if they were at all able – to dance, smile, perform, and do what they were hired to do, running back to bed as soon as they were done. Yet again they make me proud to be part of this community.

Also: Jordan threw out his back. Thanks to his good health and physical condition, and Patty Vo’s kindness and talent as a massage therapist, Jordan’s back is almost completely healed in just these few days. But what this meant for the event was that Jordan couldn’t teach or dance at all on Sunday. Which is why Chris Dumond danced in his place in the Champion Jack and Jill finals.

Today Benji threw out his back, too.

I’m guessing both back injuries have more than a little to do with the food incident and violent physical reaction.

Then Kellese fell during Champion JJ finals. She’s not hurt, don’t worry. But she really fell, made a big boom. On a hip catch I think, or a shoulder-blade catch, happened so fast I couldn’t make out. Dancing with Benji, a gorgeous dance up to that point and a gorgeous dance again the moment they recovered one sixteenth of a second later. Oh my gawd, the physical and emotional strength of these people. Who knows if they were not still sick – if not completely drained, dehydrated, and exhausted – at this point. I guess it helps that they’re used to falling during practices every day of their lives. It’s Benji and Kellese after all – not the most timid people. I’m sure they’ve fallen before. They probably fall fourteen times every day. Wish I had the guts and talent to dance, and live, to the edge of falling. They’re an inspiration.

I fell Sunday night, running up marble stairs in flip-flops. Hit both kneecaps, knocked my head on a door, and was afraid I gave myself whiplash – because I am not Benji or Kellese and am not used to falling. Think I’ll be fine – I’m feeling much better today.

So who came to Desert City this year from outside the US?

Brasilians Diego and Jessica were here this year, a petite coterie of Frenchies, arba Israelim, one Singaporean, zwei Deutschen, and a small gruppa of Russians.

And Steve Hunt! How I’ve missed him! Had the most delightful breakfast with Steve, his long-suffering Rachel, and his patient, uncomplaining friends Steve Hall and Kate Lovegrove. They sat politely and watched while which Steve spat chunks of pancakes at me, spraying jokes, insights, impressions, insults, and witticisms across the tables so loud and so fast the silverware was rattling, in thick-as-treacle Queen’s English.

I didn’t understand a single word he said.

I love every minute I spend with this man. He and Rachel haven’t been stateside for two years! An unfortunate consequence of the vibrant international community is that non-USers don’t have to travel here anymore.  Not “like.”

Corrections! Because sometimes I am only 346% accurate.

1. Nickolas de Vre tells me he is actually Nickolas de Vore.
2. Kellese tells me Veektor is already on a deejay “Dream Team,” the original Dream Team, with Cher and Ruby. So Victor and Louis – they’re the Other Dream Team. Or the Mean Team, Caffeine Team, Unclean Team, or Supreme Team.

Any other corrections?

It’s been pouring here at this waterpark resort. It was ominous and damp during Desert City and, because I decided to extend my stay, it’s been thunderstorming ever since. Except just before sunset, when I’ve already given up. For three days it’s been charcoal gray, humid as a dog’s breath, flash-flood warnings on my phone, the muggiest raining-est all the hotel staff say they’ve ever experienced here in famously dry Phoenix. Then every evening around 7pm – clear blue skies and a lovely sunset.

Our waitress says in all her life here she’s never experienced so much rain.

That’s nice.

Even during Monsoon Season she says, which is what this is.

Monsoon season?

That’s nice.

She says up in Sedona the weather is cooler but here in Phoenix it’s either hot, or too hot. Those are your choices. She says in addition to cooler weather Sedona also has healers, real ones based in Indian and Mexican ancient herbal and healing arts, not New Age hippy fake healers. But also some of those, too. And artists, Mormons, and beautiful houses.

We like our waitress. We like the lobby restaurant here which is a good thing since that’s where you eat unless you want the pricey steak house overlooking the golf course, the Mexican restaurant which is not in the abandoned parking lot next to the highway where the signs lead you, the Starbucks in the golf shop, the Denny’s which we were told one shouldn’t walk to after dark, or the Whole Foods ten minutes away by car.

We ate all our meals in the lobby restaurant. Breakfast buffet $20 for not much so we ordered breakfast from the menu; decent chef for lunch and dinner, no buffet. I’m sure there are Phoenix restaurants reachable by car but we’re always short on time so eat at the hotel restaurant, whatever it is.

Our waitress says Phoenix closes down at 10pm. Nothing stays open – no food stores, drugstores, restaurants, clubs, nothing. Friday and Saturday clubs stay open till midnight, maybe 1am, everything else is closed at 10 even on weekends. No public transportation or taxis so drunk driving is a problem she says. Nothing To Do – plus – No Public Transportation – equals – Lots Of Drunk Driving. Never thought about that connection, being from the crowded east coast where everything stays open and there’s always public transportation.

She says Phoenix has a weird thing about hiding its culture and history which she says is primarily Mexican, with important Mexican history and Mexican cultural influences, behavior, attitudes, the arts.  You see ancient Indian stuff but nothing Mexican – just tacky mass-produced copies of Indian stuff, the same pictures and artifacts everywhere – which she says feels fabricated and oddly disjointed from anything real.

I was fascinated – ran back to the room and googled Phoenix and Arizona history and wow! What a wealth of information I didn’t know.

The famously controversial famously outspoken Sheriff Joe is right here in Phoenix. (Our waitress is proud of Sheriff Joe and his tough stance on drunk driving, illegal immigrants, breakfast cereals, everything.)

And his very famous and hugely contested bill, a measure attracting national attention as “the most thorough anti-illegal immigration measure in decades within the United States.” (Our waitress says when she travels abroad she’s asked for her papers and doesn’t see why asking for papers should be a problem here in this country, either. Especially in a border state.)

Arizona, and Phoenix, are the heartbeat of America’s Wild West. And the soul of the American Outlaw. Wyatt Earp, Tombstone, The O.K. Corral, infamous madams and brothels – that’s all local history.

Our waitress says you walk into any Wal-Mart (with 40,000 employees Wal-Mart is the largest employer in Arizona) and there are guys in cowboy hats and boots pushing shopping carts down the toothpaste aisle – holsters and loaded guns on their waists. They like their guns here.

Arizona is about as red as a Red-State can be.

What does any of this have to do with west coast swing or Desert City?

Nothing hahahaha why am I talking about this.

Much more important subject: Strictlys! Who danced and who won:

(Judges: Nathan, Martin, Angel, Katie, Barry, Carrie, Yvonne, Ch J Phil)

Ryan Crutcher and Yenni
Diego and Deborah Szekely
Miguel De Sousa and Rebecca Ludwick
Rome and Laureen
Chris Dumond and Hayley Minkin
Kris Swearingen and Nicole
Brad Whelan and Tessa
Chuck and Malia
Nick King and Alyssa Glanville
Pete Green and Jessica Pacheco
Jordan and Jessica
Kyle and Torri
Maxence and Tara
Benji and Jen
John Lindo and Brandi
Parker and Sarah
Arjay and Melissa
Ben Morris and Tatiana
Brent and Kellese

(Judges: Nathan, Martin, Angel, Katie, Barry, Carrie, Yvonne, Ch J Phil)
(DJ: Louis)

Brent and Kellese to … didn’t know the song. Slow sexy rap, Prada-Louis-Gucci-Fendi something or other

Jordan and Jessica, “Love Club” (Lorde)

Maxence and Tara, “Wahoo” (Bachiri & Lenny Martinez)

Kyle and Torri, “Royals” (Lorde)

Diego and Deborah, “Dope Bitch” (The Dream)

Ben and Tatiana, “Lay It On Me” (Kelly Rowland)

Parker and Sarah, “Night Call” (Kavinsky), oh my goodness such sweet, smooth, soulful, swing! Pure west coast swing – so elegant it gave me chills.

Benji and Jen, “Lunagirl” (Lunaman)

Brad and Tessa, “Forest Gump” (Frank Ocean)

Rome and Laureen, “No Other Love” (Common Kings)

Arjay and Melissa, “Compromise” (Joe)

John and Brandi, “On The Rocks” (Grieves)


1ST PLACE Arjay and Melissa
2nd Kyle and Torri
3rd Ben and Tatiana
4th Jordan and Jessica
5th Parker and Sarah


(Judges: Nathan, Angel, Katie, Buddy, Barry, and Ch J Phil)

(Genieboy’s partner for the Advanced Strictly, beautiful 11-year-old Shelbie Nelson, wore a nerd outfit for the Strictly (Saturday night was Nerd Night) with a sign on her back saying “Kick Me.” So Genieboy kicked her. Which made her laugh and kick him back. Hard. This girl! Attitude to spare. Pirouettes, drops, slides, you name it. Another Schwimmer kid! One more up-and-coming dancing beast. What do they feed these kids, to make them so fierce, so confident, so early? What are they eating? I want what they’re having.)

Julien Vallier and Maddy Finley
Thomas Carter and Mikki Finley
Keith Stremmel and Maria Ford
Tony Schubert and Irina Puzanova
CJ Caraway and Anyssa
Steven Van Nguyen and Kendra Zara
Mark Pablo and Kristen Arienti
Joshua Baime and Ellyn Brady
Steve Hall and Beverly Brunerie
Robert Campos and Jenell Miller
Mike Anderson and Delphine Grivel
Matt Richey and Victoria Henk
Warren Pino and Shannon Tobin
Scott Mason and Chevy
Mike Davis and Angie Jones
Christopher Matsuno and Colleen Concannon
Brandon Gautreaux and Sharon Her
Connor Goodmanson and Kara
Blaise Tamo and Jennifer Edwards
Bob Tucker and Anastasia Tsimbdis
J. Erik Thompson and Amanda Thompson
Patrick Plagens and Laurie Shafer
Josh Williamson and Larisa Tingle
Michael Miller and Kristen Humphrey
Matt Nichols and Hannah
Alex Kosiorek and Tracy Preston
Mark Blume and Susan Brown
Alex Waller and Laura Mackie
Reginald Beeson and Daria Miklaukhina
Bret and Joelle Noire
Genieboy and Shelbie Nelson
Nick De Vore and Allie Strong
Brandon Manning and Liana Claxton
Koichi Tsunoda and Rebecca Savoca
David Hemmerich and Rehanna Loncar
Kevin Bretney and Jessica Murray
Edwin Li and Mackenzie
Jason Taylor and Samia Amrani
Kyle Patel and Ashley Yorek
Patrick Toepel and Bella
John Piper and Lara Deni

(Judges: Martin, Angel, Michael Kiehm, Katie, Barry, Laurie, Yvonne, Ch J Phil)

Julien and Maddy
Mark and Susan
CJ and Anyssa
Steven and Kendra
Bret and Joelle
Brandon and Liana
Steve and Beverly
Matt and Henk
Scott and Chevy
Edwin and Mackenzie
Connor and Kara
Piper and Lara


1ST PLACE Julien and Maddy
2nd Steve and Beverly
3rd Matt and Victoria
4th Steven and Kendra
5th Brandon and Liana


(Judges: Nathan, Katie, Buddy, Angel, Laureen, Ch J Phil)

Gabe Toepel and Phallon Tillis
Adrew Shellard and Karine Fresneda
Jeremy Govert and Rachel Kumar
Joshua Lee and Tracy Preston
Andy Morley and Allison Shiu
Shay Patel and Kate Harmin
Rick Barfield and Maren Slater
Matthew Lietzke and Samantha Burnes
Aaron Selfridge and Jessica Green
Jonathan Rogul and Britny Delp
Tip West and Teveya Dovbish
Kevin Williams and Elizabeth Sosseder
Blake Norrish and Sammi Sekhon
Austin Kios and Karla Catana
Mike Carringer and Rose Thormahlen
Sean Carney and Erica Piper
Don Bennett and Sylvia Burman
Julian Lange and Tiffany Reken
Peter Elliott and Olga Hermann
William Stalker and Christy Parker
somebody who’s name I can’t read with Lauren Assaf
Devin Guiliano and Chesea Palmer

(Judges: Martin, Angel, Katie, Barry, Laurie, Laureen, Deborah, Ch J Phil)

Gabe and Phallon
Andrew and Karine
Jonathan and Britny
Jeremy and Rachel
Mike and Rose
Blake and Sammi
Devin and Chesea
Austin and Karla
Sean and Erica
Julian and Tiffany
Peter and Olga


1ST PLACE Mike and Rose
2nd Jeremy and Rachel
3rd Andrew and Karine
4th Gabe and Phallon
5th Jonathan and Britny


(Judges: Nathan, Katie, Buddy, Dawn, Angel, Ch J Phil)

Brent Walker and Susan Durrant
Mick Conrad and ?
David Cronin and Andrea Osbon
Raye Lai and Denise Jeong
Gordian Gossen and Henriette Bertemes
Campbell McKenzie and ?
Allen Ulbricht and Heidi Dezell
James Linden and Ali Ankeny
Sean Sommer and Carsen Calano
John and Jennifer Kennedy
Ed and Mindy Halliday
Daniel Sinkan and LEslie Kittredge
Scott Larson and Donna Amato
Joseph Gleason and Shantel Shaver
Andrew Cheung and Adrienne Drigs
Andrew Tai and ?
Raymund Byun and Trista Eazell
Cayman Preston and Karissa Bondeson
Marquis Campbell and Christie Oldham
Josh Entz and Cassandra Stathas
Jason Abner and Morgan Karns
Ray Vogel and ?
Benjamin Meyer and Lauren Glaub

(Judges: Martin, Angel, Katie, Barry, Laurie, Laureen, Carrie, Ch J Phil)

Gordian and Henriette
Alen and Heidi
James and Ali
Ed and Mindy
Scott and Donna
Joseph and Shantel
Andrew and oops
Raymond and Trista
Marquis and Christie
Sean and Carsen
Josh and Cassandra
Jason and Morgan


1ST PLACE Ed and Mindy
2nd Raymond and Trista
3rd Joseph and Shantel
4th James and Ali
5th Josh and Cassandra


MASTERS STRICTLY (Straight to Finals)
(Judges: Martin, Angel, Katie, Barry, Laurie, Laureen, Deborah, Ch J Phil)

Patrick Plagens and Michelle Dittfach
Robert Robinson and Kelly Wentling
Warren Pino and Laurie Shafer
Martin Brown and Glenda Smith
Gary and Laura Thompson
Ed and Mindy Halliday
Genieboy and Beverly Solazzo
Don Bennett and Sylvia Berman
Alex Vlahos and Joann Podleski
Michael Krause and Kay Cooper
Warren D’Aquin and Peggy Allen
David Walkup and Darlene Graziano
Michael Booth and Cheryl Gramp


1ST PLACE Gary and Laura
2nd Warren and Laurie
3rd David and Darlene
4th Martin and Glenda
5th Patrick and Michelle

Much more to tell! Next Update!

Wildly heaving stuff into my suitcase now to rush to the airport – flying to San Diego for “ESS,” Endless Summer Swing Camp!

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