Harlem Week

Harlem Week
Every August, belongs to Harlem. It used to be a week, now they extended it to take in the whole month, there’s been a lot of changes since my days in HARLEM, it’s where I was born, Harlem Hospital. It’s where I stepped on the Apollo stage for the first time, as an amateur, I won my first Lindy-hop contest at the Apollo, and the winner was given a week at the Apollo, I was in show business. I played hooky from school to appear at the Apollo, I was walking on air.And so my beginnings in Harlem started me on the path of dancing, and It was all I ever wanted, my dreams had come true It was a happy time, I was Fourteen, going on thirty ,little did I know where this journey would take me.
It was 1934, and the lindy –hop had become the dance of the day, as kids we would go to the Rennasance Ballroom on Sunday afternoon, from 3p.m. to 9p.m. young people would put on their dancing shoes and dance at the Renny, [that’s what we called it] In the meantime we heard there was going to be a lindy-hop contest at the Apollo In those days I was dancing with my high school partner, Sonny Ashby ,we were considered the best dancers around, So Billy Leach.who was a class mate of me and Sonny, suggested that Sonny and I should sign up to dance at the Apollo theatre’s first lindy-hop contest to be held at the theater. Little did we know what that would mean. The top dancers at the Savoy would be the other contestants, you know we were dumb kids,We didn’t know anything, we just was excited about dancing at the Apollo. And so we got ready to go to the contest at the Apollo, The contest was held on Thursday that was the closing night of the show that was appearing there. So Sonny and I got ready to go to the theater, When we got to the theater, wow, there was the dancers from the Savoy Ballrom, the dancers who created the Lindy=hop and looking down at Sonny and me, wondering what are we doing here.I guess being young had it’s asdvantages, we were to dumb to be scared The contest was on, and Sonny and were ready, We were good and we were good that night, Ralph Cooper was the emcee and his famous words were, Nagasaki which meant the show was on,We won the contest, that night,which meant we would be book to appear for a week at the Apollo Theater. We were elated we were the best, The next morning while preparing to go to school, a knock was at the door, When I opened the door, there stood a man with two men behind him,When he spoke he was very polite, He said’Good morning, My name is Whitey, and I saw you dance last night, I would like to invite come to the Savoy. I would rather you dance with us, than that against us,’, And that was how I met Whitey.

Many years have passed since those days at the beginning of the Savoy, So I decided it would be good to get back to my roots where it started,So I decided to go back to the Apollo, as I said, times have changed in Harlem, which I hadn’t taken in consideration,, and so we decided we would return to HARLEM, but Harlem didn’t remember me.We booked the Theater,had the date all set,Larry Shultz put up part of the deposit, and so I signed my first contract, to appear at the Apollo,Darlene design the Plastic screen, it was beautiful,I was elated, I was coming back to Harlem,I attended the Mayors dinner, which is invitational, and prestiges, I had my workshop, at the Dwyer Center, and everything was ready, but no one remembered me, The tickets didn’t sell, enough , for the theater to carry me, and so we decided it was best to cancel, So we rebooked another venue in Harlem, The Shoenburg and showed the Queen of Swing in the Langston Hughes, Theatre, thanks to the wonderful Phoebe Jacobs who rearranged everything for us, and so The Queen of Swing was saved and we had a great time coming back to Harlem.

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One Response to Harlem Week

  1. Howard Gregory Jr. says:

    Hey I remember you so vividly as a kid, I will not forget hearing stories about your hey days from my Mom Anita, Neets as you call her. I also wish I had taken you up on your invitation to go to Las Vegas to visit. My fear of flying negated that opportunity. If you can reach out I would love to catch up with you.

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