A fella who I didn’t know – name of Randy Forrester – died yesterday in Santa Fe, and I’ve been thinking about him. So I figured I’d share some of my thoughts with you. They might interest you, particularly if you’re a New Mexican, or wonder why anybody would choose to be one.
I guess I should say that although I didn’t know Randy, I did know some things about him. I knew he was a single guy who’d danced with damn near every woman in the state, who spun records (or whatever it is that radio DJs do these days), worked cheerfully and diligently on a number of arts and cultural projects and programs (I’m told he once helped to get some money for a small library up the road from me in Abiquiu), played a mean game of Scrabble, and was an accomplished cook who regularly snacked on powdered Little Debbie doughnuts and washed them down with Mountain Dew (“good combination,” he’d say, “you ought to try it”).
And, oh yeah, he liked to dance. He did like to dance. Four to five times a week, it was said. If I’m to believe what I’ve heard, there aren’t many dance floors in the Land of Enchantment that haven’t been two-stepped, twirled on, slid over, polkaed, promenaded and waltzed across or otherwise worn shiny by the soles of Randy Forrester’s boots. I’ve heard tales that he’d drive far and wide in search of yet-another band in yet-another dancehall, barroom or barn. And when he wasn’t dancing, he was emailing people, making sure they didn’t forget who would be playing where and when and for how much.
I can attest to first-hand knowledge of what Randy did when he got to the dance floor, because I witnessed him practicing his craft a number of times in a number of places strung out along the road from the Sagebrush barroom up in Taos through the meetin’ hall motif of Casa del Rancho west of Pojoaque to the sardine-can confines of La Fonda’s tourist-trapping lounge on the plaza in Santa Fe. He’d escort any woman who would accept his invitation and lead her on to the dance floor, and into the counterclockwise stream of two-steppers, and take her through a routine of twirling, dipping, sliding, sashaying, stomping, and overhead-underarm contortions that would dazzle even the most jaded of Olympics gymnastics judges. And then he’d deposit her — weak, weary and wilted — in her seat at the side of the dance floor and move on to the next willing contestant.
Despite his non-stop evening-long workout, which would qualify as cardio-to-the-max at St. Vinnie’s Hospital Heart & Lung Repair & Reconditioning Parlor, Randy would always look fairly fresh, probably because of his cooling, sleeveless shirts that he’d change whenever the band took a break. There was never a time he wasn’t smiling, except maybe that night up at the Sagebrush Inn, when two overly testosteroned Taos types decided they didn’t like Randy’s sliding steps and his vocalizing with the band, and actually banned him from sliding and singing at the Sagebrush. And then there were those times when Randy’d find a partner willing to engage in the sometimes controversial butt-bump (for lack of a better term), which inevitably caused certain buttoned-up participants to point their noses skyward in disapproval. Even I once had something snippy to say about the sleeveless shirts. Most of the time, though, everybody welcomed Randy and his moves into their midst.
I have had the good fortune, over the past few years, to become acquainted with a number of ladies who actually experienced the Randy Forrester Dance Method first-hand, and lived to talk about it. Most of them — those who liked to have fun — were happy to have had the experience. “Randy is a really nice person,” one wrote to me awhile back. “I have known him for a long time… I love dancing with him because he’s creative… he gets out there and does what he loves. And that’s dancing. All over the state. He’s always been a really nice guy to me.” That’s only a sampling. On his Facebook page, as his mourners started weighing in, there were nothing but praises and sadness over his passing.
“Randy will be greatly missed, on and off the dance floor,” wrote one old friend. “I loved his energy, spirit and love of life in general. So many talents — great cook, Scrabble player, dancer and promoter of the dance scene. A big loss to our community for sure. Shine on Randy.”… “Randy taught me life is short,” wrote another, “dance hard…” And, from another, came “Dance with the angels, my friend. You will be light on your feet, I will keep you warm in my memories. My next dance is for you!” …The leader of one of Randy’s favorite bands, Don Richmond of the Rifters, was “so sad to hear of Randy’s passing, and so glad we got to play for him and his effervescent dancing for these years. We will miss him very much.”… And from Cathy Faber, another local musician who played and sang for Randy: “This one’s for you, Randy. We will surely miss you, and the joy you brought to the dance floor. Rest in peace, my friend.”
I had the opportunity the other night to have a nice long chat with Randy’s brother Terry, who says the family has been flooded with emails and telephone calls from all over New Mexico and points beyond, all expressing their deep condolences and sadness at the news of his brother’s passing. Terry told me that another of New Mexico’s legendary musicians, an old guitar picker named Bill Hearne, had brought his guitar into the intensive care unit, where Randy lay, semi-comatose, and played and sang 40 minutes worth of Randy’s favorite music. Randy, Terry recalls, was pretty far gone, but he was still moving his toes in time with the beat.
Terry told me, however, that Randy didn’t always dance to another man’s beat. Back in the days of the Vietnam War and the flower children, Randy was in the Army, and showed up at the base PX on one of his days off, wearing granny glasses and flip flops, which weren’t what you would call Army issue. Somebody told him that he couldn’t wear that stuff on the base, and he demanded to be shown where it said that in the Army’s regulations. He didn’t stop there: He complained about his treatment to the nationally syndicated rabble-rousing columnist, Jack Anderson, who passed the tale on to his thousands of readers. The result of all that: Randy lost the argument and the Army sent him to cool his heels for a year in Vietnam.
So, you’re asking, what the hell does this have to do with me or anybody else being a New Mexican? Simple. Randy Forrester — DJ, doughnut eater, envelope pusher and dancer — was just one example of the thousands of people who come from around the world to settle in this Land of Enchantment, just one of those guys who “gets out there and does what he loves.” This place is crawling with Randy Forresters – who wouldn’t want to be here to enjoy it with them?
R.I.P. Randy. I’m sorry I didn’t know you. Wherever you’re now tripping the light fantastic, I’m sure there are no rules against sleeveless shirts, singing with the band, butt-bumping or sliding across the floor. Dance on!
(Note, 8/19: I originally posted a version of this Aug. 14 and since have added a few things and cleaned up some klutzy language. That’s the beauty of blogs.)
Saturday (8/18, 8-11p.m.): Kevin Yockers, the owner of Casa del Rancho, says Saturday night’s shindig with the Rifters (Aug. 18, 8p-11p) will be dedicated to the memory of Randy, and he asks you to bring pictures, momentos, and other memories you might have to share. (Directions to Casa del Rancho: From Hwy 285/84 in Pojoaque, take the Los Alamos exit — Hwy 502 west — drive 3 1/2 miles and turn right at the “El Rancho” sign and park at the stop sign at the bottom of the hill.)
Sunday (8/19, 2-5 p.m.): Viewing at McGee Chapel, Berardenelli Funeral Home, 1399 Luisa St., Santa Fe.
Monday (8/20, 1 p.m.) Service, McGee Chapel, burial following at Santa Fe National Cemetery. After the services and burial, there will be a reception, dance and potluck at Santa Fe Brewing Co., 35 Fire Place, Santa Fe. Bring your favorite dish to the potluck, but remember that Randy was a gourmet cook. Little Debbies powdered doughnuts and Mountain Dew would be fine, but lay off the hotdogs, willya?
And who knows, some other friends might be planning another memorial dance somewhere, sometime down the line. You’ll just have to keep your eyes open for details.