It was at the peak of the disco craze and..... in the heart of the city.
The year was 1979 and dance contests were as common as three piece white suits.
Everywhere you turned, there was a contest and the popularity of the disco phenomenon attracted big time sponsors: Coca Cola, Paramount Pictures, Six Flags Great Adventure, Newport Cigarettes and even Playboy Enterprises. In honor of their 25th anniversary, the Playboy Club, in New York was hosting the Playboy International Classic Dance Contest. Winners would go onto a national competition where the grand prize winners would receive a contract to perform. The contest was the grand daddy of them all. This put, head to head, some of the top couples in hustle. The turnout was incredible. Nearly 50 dance teams signed up to showcase their routines. Couples from near and far showed up to display their talents. This was the best of the best. Some competitors, coming from out of state, were set on putting their skills to the test against the dominating New Yorkers.
The place was a buzz.... Playboy Bunnies and all. The dance was still fresh and couples were pushing the envelope. Creativity was running wild. Costumes ranged from futuristic to down right... nude. The lifts and tricks were growing in the degree of difficulty. Each couple was given the opportunity to dance solo, center stage. When the couples lined up for the judges....it looked like a scene out of Star Wars.
Derrick Allen & Lilia, Miquel Marrero & Annette, David Padilla & Baby, Arte Phillips & Lisa Nunziella, Ricky Quintana & Lee Rofrano, Lucas Jaime & Kathy Young, Michael & Deidra, David Husney, James Stanford, Billy Fajardo & Sandra Rivera, Floyd Chishom & Nelly Cotto, Juan and Donna, Barry Douglas, Scott Nurse & Elaina, Kenny Gonzales & Ronnie Chase, Roma Moon & Joseph, Eddie Vega & Lourdes Jones.....
Each team was given only 2 minutes to strut their stuff. Since there were so many competitors the judges eliminated the group down to a second round inviting back only 20 couples. The quality of dancing was golden. The judges then invited back 10 couples to dance again (third time) to make their final decision.
The 10 finalists were given the opportunity to dance to their own selection of music.
Dancing to "Haven't Stop Dancing Yet," Derrick Allen and Lilia captured first place.
Second place honors went to the late Eddie Vega & Lourdes and third place went to Billy and Sandra.
It was a time that will live in infamy, Thursday Oct 18th, 1979, the same day the sick "Son Of Sam" captivated the country.... with his talking dog that commanded him to kill ladies of the night in New York City. Derrick and Lilia picked up their first place prize money, $1,500.00 and now prepared to jet set to California for the next step. Honored with a write up in the NY newspapers the couple was off to LA to represent New York in the Grand finals. Winning dance teams from other states all descended on LA including the winning teams from London, France, Japan, South America and the Philippines. A couple, representing Manila, was disqualified because the young lady was underage. The finalists were wined and dined at the infamous Playboy Mansion owned by Hugh Hefner himself. They were all teated to a Los Angles NHL hockey game and closed out the night dancing in some of the finest night clubs. The final event was hosted by Dick Clark to a standing room only audience of thousands.
Not to be denied, Derrick and Lilia won first place. Bringing the gold back to New York with some spending change... $15,000.00
On the way they were contracted to perform at the Playboy Casinos in the Bahamas and in Puerto Rico.
What a time, what an era, what a great dance.