In many ways, I’ve always considered Mike Blizzard the flagpole center of Chi-Town Squares. Now Mike would have a fit if he were to hear me say that because he had this thing about flagpole centers in square dancing.
I’ll never forget when Sandie was teaching a class – I’m pretty sure she was working on counter rotates. She talked about the flagpole center of a square or formation and sometimes, in split formations, there would be two flagpole centers. Well Mike was having nothing to do with this concept – he just wasn’t going to consider it. He proceeded to launch a tirade where he ranted on & on for at least 5 minutes about flag poles – it was truly something to behold. Needless to say, like so many other times with Mike, I almost bust a gut laughing so hard at his goings on. Years later, just mentioning flagpole centers in Mike’s presence was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.
Nonetheless, it is with utmost respect and affection for Mike that I still consider him the flagpole center of Chi-Town Squares. He seemed to be at the center of everything. The first years I attended classes and dances, Mike was always there, opening and closing the hall (this was when we were based at the church on Wellington, just west of Broadway). He worked the door, helped set up equipment, angeled the classes, served refreshments, cracked jokes and dished the most delicious gossip. In all my years of attending Chi-Town events, I can never recall Mike sitting off by himself. People just congregated around him, the center of attention.
But one never really realized what a center of attention was until Lois Carmen D'Nominator bust out onto the scene. I always marveled at Lois’ aesthetic when it came to makeup, hair, dresses, pumps, & accessories. For Lois, more was never enough – excess was not possible. I was there in 1995 when Lois finally was crowned Honky Tonk Queen. Things were never the same again. For years it was Lois & Tami who were the center of attention at Honky Tonk queen contests. And after hours at the bar where Lois was enjoying, as she put it, a cocktail or five, she was always surrounded by friends and admirers as she kept everyone in stitches with her wit and banter. Yes, even Lois could be flag pole center in a bar.
I have so many other fond memories of Mike.
One year he rode with Steve Miller & me to my first fly-in in Grand Rapids. Hours passed like minutes as he chattered away and we missed our exit to the interstate. Not to worry. As Mike side, “I did time in Michigan.” And sure enough, he knew all the backroads and, of course, all the truckstops to easily navigate us to our destination. I recall attending a Christmas party that Mike & Dana hosted. Their entire apartment was decorated with huge multi-colored crinolines hanging from the ceiling – the biggest, most wonderfully gaudy ornaments I’ve ever set eyes on.
Few people knew that Mike was a surprisingly good clarinet and baritone player. For several years he performed with the Great Lakes Gay Pride Band. I regret that Mike & I never (as he called it) played do-its together.
Not only was Mike a master of gay, bitchy banter. He was also able to put such insanity down on paper, writing many articles for our club newsletter (Spread & Circulate). He often reported on fly-ins and other square dance goings on, producing columns that were laugh out loud funny.
I always respected Mike for being a very good square dancer and it was always a pleasure dancing with him. Even at the C1 level, he was more than able to hold his own, as much as he might protest to the contrary. And Mike learned to dance C1 the hard way, back in the old days, with Bad Fruit – and it wasn’t always pretty then. That’s a whole other chapter waiting to be written.
Mike Blizzard was a kind, sensitive soul who, with boundless energy, self deprecation and razor sharp wit, dedicated himself to gay square dancing as well as all things Honkey Tonk and She Devil. He was always a joyful center of attention.
There will always be flagpole centers in square dancing (like it or not) and Mike Blizzard will always be flagpole center in our hearts and minds.
We love you Mike.
We’re going to miss you something awful.
Rest in peace.