Frankie95 Thanks

It’s a shame a more formal Thank You didn’t go out after the Frankie Manning 95th Birthday Festival, so I’ll repost the one I did on my own on June 3, 2009.

The following list is by no means complete, and it’s not the official list. I only had a small part in this event, so I’m sure there are quite a few other unsung heroes of Frankie95 out there. However, I wanted to thank everyone that I came in contact with over the weekend or otherwise helped out that I can remember.

First off, even as a big fan of live music I can say that 14 bands in 5 days is probably too much. Figuring out a plan for getting then on and off the stage and transitioning the sound equipment in a prime time venue like the Manhattan Center is no easy task especially when you have to juggle the MC, contests, videos, and performances. If you think that sounds hard then multiply the difficulty level when you’re handling 4 bands in one night or three big bands sharing the stage all at once.

George Henick is the technical general who talked with all the bands about their sound needs, plotted out musician placements to the inch, and helped make sure that the equipment on stage was ready to go for each band.

Steven Wexler also helped with sounds and was our liaison with the professional sound company we brought in to provide the equipment and make sure everything sounded good. He was mainly responsible for making sure they didn’t kill us after the second night.

Lori , whose last name I don’t even know, was the stage manager we hired in to make sure every thing ran smoothly and relatively on time. She’s not a dancer so her calm demeanor and ability to put up with our nonsense was a huge advantage.

Emily Vartanian coordinated this motley crew to make sure no one tripped over each other scrambling between the stage and the green rooms, and probably had the most upbeat attitude out of all of us.

Christine Tse initially helped out with sponsorships for the festival, and then jumped right into the weekend to wrangle the performers. A tough challenge when you’re dealing with up to 40 people at a time for four nights straight, and each night is a completely different group of people from the other nights. She also provided some much needed kick in the pants during the time we were trying to get the people downstairs the best view of the show on Sunday.

Iris Dolowitz & Kirk Tarou took care of our small army of musicians each night from communicating with them leading up to the festival to getting them to and from the stage when it was time for them to do their thing.

Joel Domoe, Aurelie Tye, and Tony Tye were responsible for managing all aspects of the competitions. Registering and tracking over 400 contestants for the Jack & Jill was no small feat and they all did incredibly well under the gun on Sunday night when the night was running way behind to move the J & J semi-final as quickly and fairly as possible.

This was the platoon of people that I worked with the most and made the backstage operations of Frankie95 run so well. Even when it didn’t, they made sure that it didn’t show on stage or on the floor. I haven’t met a more pleasant group of people. We were also supported by some dedicated volunteers including Sonia Kuchuk, Noelle Gray and Jodie Goodnough. There were a few others, so I hope other people will chime in with there names.

Michelle Postles was in charge of hospitality and ably catered several functions for our special guests through out the weekend. It’s amazing how high class a person can make a few choice items from Costco.

Jesse Miner coordinated our DJ’s and made sure all the shifts were covered. He also selected the music for the Hellzapoppin Wildcard Round. Rayned Wiles did the Hellzapoppin Semi-Finals. Over on the Jack & Jill side Tomo Tanaka did the music for the Preliminary round in Central Park and Ryan Swift chose the music for the Semi-Final Round and also left the Frankie Show early to start DJ’ing for the gather masses in the Hammerstein Ballroom on Sunday. All of our DJ’s including Bill Borgida, Greg Avakian, Dan Newsome, Mike Marcotte, Larry Kang also took their turns supporting all our performances.

I have to give a special shout out to Mike Marcotte who went above and beyond and got performance music for his shift a few days ahead of time and had it loaded on to his laptop. This came in handy when the CD for the Ninjammerz performance on Saturday didn’t work. In his haste to switch to his laptop, the audio engineer was a split second behind him to bring up the volume on the line connecting the laptop. I think they got unfairly blamed for fading the music in, but the fact is that if Mike hadn’t taken that initiative, it’s probable that the Ninjammerz would not have performed at all on Saturday.

George Gee was our hero. Not only did he play twice that weekend and had the original Hellzapoppin music transcribed and recorded just for the Show, but he was instrumental in the success of getting all three big bands to work together on Saturday. It probably would not have happened at all if he wasn’t there to help convince the other band leaders that this was an idea worth doing. He was also a sport by having his band take the least desirable position on the stage for the finale, the one furthest from the rhythm section. Without George, Saturday would not have sounded anything like it did.

If you took any of the classes during the day then you might have wondered how the teachers got shuffled to and from each location, none of which were very close to each other. That logistical masterpiece was managed by Lori Montanga and Laurie Kasloff who not only mapped it out, but were up early each and on site each day to make it happen.

At the registration desk for 95% of the weekend was Patty Holmes, Leah Eckstrom, and Joan Gelin to make sure that everyone got what they needed and managed that corps of volunteers at the desk all through the weekend, up until the bitter end. Patrick Poon and Gavin MacDougall did the same over at the store.

Veronica Wong took on the task of recruiting and scheduling our army of volunteers. Thanks also to Joy Arico for jumping in mid-event to help out with this.

The Show is a source of a lot of pride and heartbreak and I want to give a special acknowledgment to everyone who worked on and performed in the show especially Naomi Uyama, Amber Adams, Matt Bedell and Kathy Rollo.

Every time I saw Naomi we just looked into each others eyes and knew there was way too much to talk about to say anything to comfort each other. They all did the best they could under the circumstances. One of my main regrets is not being able to help them out more. I’m hoping the person responsible for this comes forward and apologizes to everyone because the only reason the Sunday show went off at all is because of the efforts of this dedicated crew.

Naomi also gave me my most memorable Frankie95 moment. A week before the event I IM’d her a question. She told me to hold on a sec, and then my phone rang. I picked it up and it was her wishing me a happy birthday. I had been swamped at work, and dashed home to put in basically another 8 hour day working on Frankie95 stuff. So it was a small but very significant gesture to me to have that time out just to chat and catch up for a little while before the madness caught up with us again.

There was also a pretty sizable group of people who worked in the months before the event to publicize it and to get everything and everyone ready for us on the ground. I didn’t have much contact with these people, but I want to acknowledge them and their hard work.

  • Amy Winn Housing
  • Richard Kurtzer Videography / Photography
  • Rik Panganiban Marketing, Community Outreach
  • Daniel Bosse Website – Design
  • Eli Pritykin Website
  • Heather Flock Website – Text, Misc Operations
  • Kim Jacoby Facebook Manager
  • Larry Castro Website – Registration
  • Debbie Gitt Program / Birthday Greeting Sales
  • Judy Cohen Public Relations
  • Laura Jeffers Program / Birthday Greeting Sales
  • Akemi Kinukawa Frankie Week Festivities / Video Editing
  • Leslie Lee Video Assistant to Akemi / Community Outreach
  • Lynn Redmile Frankie Week Festivities / Photo birthday card

I can’t say enough about Akemi’s work on the Shim sham video. What a labor of love not just for frankie but for the global Lindy Hop community.

Not everyone volunteered, but there’s no way we could have done this without professional help. The two main contractors were Dave Moldover & Dance Jam Productions for providing the huge dance floor and Glen Forest & EG Audio for getting us the sound and video equipment needed for the event. Both groups put up with a lot of crap from us amateurs, but they came through big time when we needed them. In the case of Dave, I’ve never seen such a huge amount of dance floor put together and taken apart as quickly as his team did on Thursday, Friday, and early Tuesday morning. Special thanks to BJ for staying behind on Friday to help finish the floor when the rest of his team had to go back to DC because we were running so behind.

In the final stretch, there is Yvonne Evrard who pretty much caught every detail that had to be caught just as we were being overwhelmed in the last month leading up to the event. She did this despite planning a wedding that was happening the same weekend as Frankie95. She caught a bus up as soon as that wedding ended very early Saturday and was in New York City first thing that morning to jump right into the fray.

Then there is the executive committee, guided with a lot of input by the people who knew Frankie the best, Judy Pritchett and Cynthia Millman who helped us despite their grief in this difficult time to put together an event that would have made Frankie proud.

Everything started with Myron “Buddy” Steves, the visionary who initiated the idea for the whole festival.

David Jacoby of Jelly Roll Productions was the man that did most of the leg work because he was the only organizer in New York City. He was also the crazy man that crammed in all that live music into the event. It seems like he knows every jazz musician in New York City, and got them all to play that weekend.

Elliott Donnelley had the job I envied the least. This community has a large number of people with incredibly huge and/or delicate egos, and we had to deal with all of them at the same time, under one roof for five days. Anytime I bumped up against one of these I immediately referred them to Elliot. However, he paid me back every time he opened his mouth and made the event bigger than I thought possible.

Then there is the woman who got me involved in this craziness, Tena Morales. When I heard about the initial plans for Frankie95, I was both excited and very skeptical that this could be pulled off without creating a giant mess. However, Tena has been responsible for some of the most fun and well run events in our community. If she says we can do it, then I’m in. No questions asked. There are very few people that can marry an idealistic vision with a pragmatic approach, but she does it somehow, and does it with flair. I’d like to say I love working for her, but it’s not work when you’re called to do it.

And this is the reason why I had to separate my thanks from my thoughts. I’m not very concise.

On a personal level, I’d like to thank my on and off roommates for the weekend, Luke, Kristen, and Dianne for keeping my hotel costs down and putting up with me getting in late and getting up early every day. Also for those of you who thought I cleaned up real nice on Saturday and Sunday, you can direct your compliments to Kristin Hershberger who is the best at finding ways to look good at bargain prices. And those Josephine Baker cuff links were borrowed from Luke.

Thanks again to everyone else I forgot but especially to my friends who kept me sane leading up to the event and have done me the favor of not talking too much trash about it. 🙂

Jerry

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