May 23, 2014

#83: MJ or Coke?

The Birth and Widespread Use of
Marijuana, Cocaine and Heroin in WCS
Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. -Carl Jung

In the famed movie The Labyrinth, which I still love to this day, the entire movie pivots around a single moment in Jennifer Connelly's performance. It's when she says, "You have no power over me."

She says it with such revelation - such surprise - as if she couldn't believe David Bowie's character ever did have power over her.

I understand that line now. I can finally relate to her. In fact, I feel as if that's me standing there, looking up with wondrous yet completely certainty at her abuser. You have no power over me... 

That's me. That's today. Because, up until a few mornings ago, I never would have said certain swing dancers had any power over me. But they did. 

They don't any longer. To the monsters in our community of both swing and of abstract, I say to you: 
You have no power over me.
Katherine Krok Eastvold
(ps - No one in The Ten, my loves. I'll explain soon.)


It's been awhile, but I'm on another road trip. Again.

But this time, I've made an effort to drop in where you dance. I've tried to hit the studios or dance venues where my readers are. It's always been last minute and it's always been when people least expect it but...

I've been lucky. I've caught three places in three different states already. And they had a lot in common. You had the same questions, the same ideas and the same concerns.

I loved meeting with you all. Thank you for sharing your time and your cities with me. And thank you for being honest about where things really stand.

If you hadn't, then I wouldn't have been to say what I'm about to.

It's certainly nothing I was expecting to write about... ever. I'm spontaneous, as you well know, with my Weekly WCS Notes, these days. But still, I've been sitting on a number of articles, just waiting for the right time to share them with you.

But then this road trip happened and you happened and they all flew out the window. Spontaneity turned into conviction.

Here's what I learned: you are in need.

You need names.
You need clarifications.
You need specifics.

And I'm FINALLY going to give them to you. I think it's finally time because I finally think you're ready. I think you'll hear me instead of fear them and you're tired of people lying to you. You just want to know the truth. All of it. Once and for all.

You're done with the ones who don't care. The ones who want to kill your love of dance AND your dance to boot. And you're tired of people who say they love swing but only behind the scenes. They only want swing if abstract hands it over to them without a fight.

It's confusing. You're tired of it all... and I am too. In short, you are ready and I am ready.

Let's do this.


The drugs. When I have spoken of drugs in our community, I have never, not once, meant marijuana! Never.

Are you kidding?

Do you really think I would risk my life and my income over a bit of weed? I've never touched the stuff, but let's face it - it's being legalized all over the place in small amounts. Do you really think my life would be threatened several times over because I started talking about our community and... pot!?!

No. Whenever I mentioned drugs, I was not referring to marijuana.

Of course MJ is widely used in our competitive community. It's practically in a 50/50 race with cigarrettes. I don't care. I never have. I should have, I suppose, but I didn't.

Yesterday someone made a point I had not thought of. They said marijuana, used at such an astounding level before a competition, gives an unfair advantage to the competitors. They are not nervous. They are calm. It's unfair.

Wow. True. I get that. I just hadn't thought of it before. And I think they are right. Very right.

When I was competing, I was told to have half a glass of wine before taking the floor. I tried it once, even though everyone knew I didn't drink. Holy cow did it ever help. But back then competition actually meant something.

Back then I was really competing. Because we had real judges with real competitors and nothing was fixed. Not in the way it is today anyway.

The few times I bothered with competition in the last five years, I didn't take anything. I was almost bored taking the floor. Especially at the new venue at the US Open. Dancing at the Burbank venue felt like dancing in a litter box. Ugh. I don't miss it at all.

But I digress. Let me tell you exactly what I mean when I say drugs: I mean coke. Cocaine. White powder. And other drugs.


The number one thing I was taught at both UCLA and as a teacher in the Inner City Schools, was tha marijuana is a gateway drug. It's the number one gateway drug, behind alcohol.

Well, alcohol was already a requirement in WCS by 1995. I'll never forget the warning I was given. "Mario never let Royston into the big leagues until he sat down at a bar with him and threw back shots of Crown. That was his induction."

I say that I was warned because at the time I didn't drink alcohol. I just didn't. Even when I was legal. When I wasn't legal, that was fine. It was acceptable. The young people weren't supposed to drink. They were banned from the "pool parties" and expected to do their own "clean" things during that time. If they didn't drink, man... we all heard about it. And it wasn't good.

But when I was legal, it was very clear that I was supposed to take shots of Crown, (or Crown Royal, for you non-drinking folks). I already knew about all the hard-core drinkers and had heard all the stories about the teachers who did shots of crown and could do anything at all on it.

One of the "funniest" stories was of Martin Parker, who, when pulled over after an event, had said to the cop "You want me to walk on the line? Shoot. I'll dance on it." And we would all laugh as he showed us just how he danced WCS along that white line (because WCS DOES have a slot, people).

Kenny Wetzel didn't drink, however. He had family history, so he never touched the stuff. And I think that's the only reason I was spared. I was a favorite of his and he loved me and I loved him like a grandfather and that was that.

But after Kenny Wetzel retired, and Mario retired and Royston went off to broadway, the only people left with any power was the council, and the council bent their ear to only two people: the newly arrived Szekely and old-timer Sarah Vann Drake.

These ladies were the recent heavy hitters that introduced the WCS community to marijuana, and they had their crowd that joined in on it... But when the big dogs left, the girls had time to play. And play they did.


When they wrote up their first event (you seriously didn't think SwingDiego was Earl's invention, did you???), it was there I was first invited to join in on the heroin. I was always invited by the men though. And they always thought, for some strange reason, that because it was no longer alcohol or marijuana that they were using, but heroin, that I would finally join in. I still don't get it. Or maybe they knew that with heroin, they might actually score with me.

I mean, I'd already heard all about their previous conquests and I was famously NOT on any of their conquered lists, but hey? why not get her with heroin? Or maybe they thought they were just being nice by letting me join in. I know that these invitations were considered a "big gift" back then. Oooooh, let me tell you!

So many women since then have wanted to be included in those parties, but were never invited. They were angry and frustrated that I was. But at the time, honestly, all I thought was, "Heroin? Really? Well, no thanks," and went on my way.

Because the entire community did not worship at this small group's feet. Not yet.

They soon did. No one's hands are clean today. But during that transition, the heroin proved too great a force. It made it hard to travel. Their twitches started to show in competition. They lost weight. TONS of weight.

I still remember the event and the year when Mary Ann Nunez turned to me and said, "Boy, I don't want to break up with anyone for this!" and we discussed the sudden "skinny" craze.

Turns out she was referring to the fact that one of the new women to the group finally dropped a ton of weight to match the other women. She did not do it through heroin, but by a divorce. I don't know why Mary Ann didn't put it together that NO ONE else up there had broken up with anyone else lately, but I was suddenly aware that Mary Ann Nunez.... MARY ANN NUNEZ!!! mind you, the flat out smallest women to ever swing at a swing contest, was feeling overweight against these women!!!

Today I would have done a major swirl-around and set her straight, instead of my standard head-tilt and listen. Oooh no. I would have spoken up.

But back then I didn't even smack my forehead. I just tucked away the information that Mary Ann Nunez didn't know (or didn't want to know) that all the weight loss by everyone was heroin based and that she felt pressured to lose weight... to fit in.

Why? Why in the world did she want to fit in? She was the epitome of dance that we all inspired to be. She beat us all, everyday, hands down!!! Mary Ann Nunez is truly a queen of swing.

Later I learned that the Szekelys and Vann Drakes managed to get Mary Ann to stop competing for an entire year, just "to give the rest of us a chance."

And I think that was the year we lost everything. We lost swing. We lost respect. We lost love, joy and freedom. All because they got her to step down... and no one else has ever stepped up since.


But a few years of heroin proved too much for the huge dance schedule they now dominated. Before they only taught here or there, but with Sun Tzu's The Art of War to guide them, they took down everyone, one by one, and owned every single slot at every single event there was.

They were terrifying. And the event directors and council cowered at their feet. They pushed Jordan and Tatiana onto the podium in hopes that these good and lovely children would defeat Sarah and Deborah, but Jordan's pride got the better of it all, and he asked Deborah what he should do (heck, he even told ME to go bend my knee and listen to her plans for me... but I bend my knee to only ONE King).

By then the heroin had been switched to cocaine. It's a much less obvious drug - their bodies didn't show signs of it nearly as much - and the arrogance and energy it gave them only fed those characteristics that took them to the top. And so it kept them... kept them in so very many, many ways. At the top.


It's been cocaine every since. Watch a documentary about cocaine and what people on cocaine act like. I insist. It's almost imperative. You need to know. You will see the entire landscape of heroes you worship before you on that screen.

Their church/cult followers will tell you "it's funny," "it's not that bad," and that "they have it under control." Or they will tell you I am lying.

But we all know that isn't true.

I've never lied to you once. Not ONCE.

But them? They're nothing BUT lies.

Have fun putting the puzzle pieces together.

Until next time,
Peace out,

From Weekly Note #83: MJ or Coke? Revised and Updated. Released February 2014. This piece, as stated in all of my writing, is my own personal story. It reflects my own opinions and experiences over the last 20 years in all strata of the community.