By Ginanne Brownell Mitic July 2017
The Tuesday night teen dance memories of my youth have congealed together in my head. I can’t remember one specific night per se but I remember certain distinct moments. Like, I can recall Tim Royle, wearing a green and white Benetton rugby, getting really excited when the opening beats of a Police song—maybe it was the remixed version of “Don't Stand So Close to Me” or maybe it was “King of Pain”—blasted through the speakers. I also remember, years later, grabbing his sister, Megan (Carrella), and our friends Martha Errthum (Evans) Sarah Brown, Molly Bazzani (Campbell) and other friends as we headed for the middle of the dance floor when Moby Disc (aka Bill Howard), popped on a song like Erasure's "A Little Respect."
After my freshman year of college, when I should have had one foot vaguely planted into adulthood, I still went to the teen dances partly because my younger friends were still going and also because it still remained the place to get the best gossip for who was dating who and what was going to be happening after the dance. Each week the teen dance was social Mecca for my generation—and for many generations before and after me. “When you're a teen up north for the summer, you have the occasional bonfire, maybe you're lucky enough to stay out late and go to the drive in, or tell your parents you're going to the drive-in just to stay out later, but those Tuesday nights were a great excuse for everyone to be out between 9-11,” recalled Andy Campbell. “And you got to get down too. If you like music and enjoy dancing, which I do, having a once a week venue to do that? Pretty sweet.”
Judy Stewart Rodes recalled that as a 12-year-old, she could not wait to be 13 so she could attend the teen dances back in the early and mid-1960s. “It was super crowded,” she told me in an email, “and I remember it being very hot and swimming in the lake after.” She says the songs she most looked forward to—which were played by local bands—were ones by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, especially “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Judy, like many teen girls and boys from all generations who attended teen dances, also said she remembered taking time deciding what to wear. That was especially important if you had a crush that you knew would also be attending the dance.
Back in the earlier days of the teen dances (post-record players and pre-DJs), it was all about local bands that would come and play. “The teen dances I attended were 1965-1969, and were absolutely mobbed,” recalled Jep Gruman. “Young people from as far as Glen Lake, Torch Lake and Petoskey would come down for them, have picnics on the Crystal beach or in the woods by the ball field. Glenn Schulz would try to discourage beer, but usually to no avail. The State Police parked their cars at the Crystal View. The ball field was filled with cars. The music was VERY loud and kids were dancing out among the cars.” He says he remembers cover songs being played like “Light My Fire” by The Doors, “Summer in the City” by Lovin Spoonful and “Wild Thing” by the Troggs.
Dean Rusch, who owns the Freeland-based Rusch Entertainment (the company that Bill Howard still works for) asked me in an email: “Do you remember Jim Buzzell? He started hiring my band CEYX in the summer of 1971 and we played through the early 1980s, then switched to the DJ format.” It was likely CEYX who would play songs like Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” that Holly Freeburg recalls almost literally bringing the Assembly building down back in the early-1970s. “Everyone was stomping on the floor so hard that there was talk of having to shore it up,” she said. “I can’t hear that song today without smiling and thinking about going to the teen dance.”
Jim Buzzell was a fixture at the teen dances for generations, stamping people’s hands when they came in and he somehow had a sixth sense if people were getting up to something they weren’t supposed to be getting up to. He had some sort of internal honing device and could miraculously track where to find what was not supposed to be happening. In the 1980s and 1990s admission was $2, but often people, if they knew the right people, could sneak in—a teenage version of getting on a VIP list at a popular club. “When I was on the CSA staff I worked at the door to collect the cover charge,” recalls Beth Congbalay. “Two friends (who will remain nameless), always got in for free. I felt a little bad about that but they were CSA kids too and we were very loyal to our friends.”
Over the last few years, some CSA friends and I would joke about setting up an adult “teen” dance, with the two major components being it had to be held when most of our friends be up and finding Bill Howard, who seemingly had his finger on the pulse of 1980s and 1990s music. Molly Bazzani recalled his name and Megan Carrella remembered he was based in Bay City. A few searches on Google later and I found Rusch Entertainment. When contacted, Dean Rusch told me that Bill, when he found out the CSA wanted to hold a nostalgic “teen” dance on Friday July 28, he cancelled the wedding he was booked to DJ that Saturday in Detroit so he could come spin the tunes for us.
Though the dances petered off in the early 2000s when young people wanted to hang out more in the parking lot and chat, the teen dances still had some solid years in the mid and late 1990s as well. “Songs like ‘Feels Good’ by Toni, Toni, Toni, the “Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground, and “Poison” by Bel Biv Devo were mainstays,” recalled Andy Campbell. “Super Sonic" by Salt 'N Peppa always got Sarah Brown going. In 1993 “Daisy Dukes” was a big jam, and anything by Naughty by Nature was in the mix. 'Rump Shaker' by Wreck'n Effect always put me in a good mood. As always Moby Disc would finish with 'You Spin me Round' by Dead or Alive. Lots of folks at the CSA don't like change and somehow he understood that and closed every dance with that song regardless of year.”
Jep recalled that the fun of the dances did not stop when the bands packed up their equipment: "After the dances a bunch of us would go up onto the knoll above the Crystal View and play music (guitars), or go down to the CSA Michigan beach for a bonfire for more guitars and singing and star gazing...we would sing Donovan or Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Tom Rush, Joni Mitchell, not the pop music we'd just been dancing to. Not so much pairing off but rather as a large pile of puppies. Then wandering back to the cottage, darkly, without flashlights because it was not cool to have a flashlight. Somehow we were supposed to find our way without them... lots of stubbed toes!” The songs may have changed over the generations but the fun times that have been had, and the memories made are one of those great continuities of the CSA. Here’s to more memories being made on the 28th!