Liza May

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:



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



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)


  1. Arjay and Melissa
  2. Kyle and Torri
  3. Ben and Tatiana
  4. Jordan and Jessica
  5. Parker and Sarah



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



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


  1. Julien and Maddy
  2. Steve and Beverly
  3. Matt and Victoria
  4. Steven and Kendra
  5. Brandon and Liana



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



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


  1. Mike and Rose
  2. Jeremy and Rachel
  3. Andrew and Karine
  4. Gabe and Phallon
  5. Jonathan and Britny



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



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


  1. Ed and Mindy
  2. Raymond and Trista
  3. Joseph and Shantel
  4. James and Ali
  5. Josh and Cassandra

MASTERS STRICTLY (Straight to Finals)


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


  1. Gary and Laura
  2. Warren and Laurie
  3. David and Darlene
  4. Martin and Glenda
  5. 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!

Filed Under: Desert City

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