Western Star Dancers
Admitted to IAGSDC:
History: Western Star Dancers, one of the founding members of the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs (IAGSDC), was organized in March of 1982. Western Star was the first club in San Francisco to use the CALLERLAB format. Founding members were Scott Carey, Ron Douglass, Agnes Smith, Roger Perry, and Dennis Ficken
- The First Western Star Dancers by Russ King, Lifetime Member (Published in the The Western Star newsletter February 2005)
- From the Program Book of the 1st IAGSDC Convention, held in Seattle in 1984:
- Since March, 1982, Western Star Dancers has grown from its five founding members to both a club and class of over 150 square dancers. We are a non-competitive club which seeks to (1) promote square dancing as a national activity, (2) provide an identity for Mainstream dancers, and (3) provide and promote opportunities for Mainstream calling and instruction.
- Although WSD is for dancing, it is our constant objective to achieve a harmonious balance bet ween satisfactory dance experiences and the general social needs of its members. Our stated policies are to: (1) promote fellowship within the group by square dance and other activities, (2) pursue a spirit of cooperation, support, and positive encouragement, (3) enhance the lifestyle of our members and their friends, and (4) encourage the sharing of responsibilities and duties by all members.
- We teach the 68 Mainstream calls as currently defined by CallerLab. Our graduates are at the Mainstream program, and knowing the Mainstream calls enables us to comfortably dance not only at our own club but also at other clubs and square dance gatherings across the United States.
- The monthly newsletter, The Western Star, is an integral part of WSD's communication with its members. In addition to articles of general interest, it announces special activities such as monthly dances featuring tips through the Plus program, a luncheon group formed to provide a social activity for those who work in the Financial District in San Fransisco, and pot-luck dinners and parties just for fun.
- In 1985 Larry Brown interviewed Russ King about the early days of the club
From Freeman Stamper:
To my recollection, Dennis Ficken, made the prototype of the WSD vest. By the time it was adopted and went into “production” for club members, the grey corduroy welting in the prototype was no longer available. It had irregular welting widths, but all subsequent vests were made with a darker grey corduroy with small, regular welting.
Dennis Ficken and Freeman Stamper made the original WSD flag(s) and the IAGSDC banner. They were made at the same time and both were debuted at the same San Francisco pride parade. Scott Carey is the one who insisted on having a gay square dance contingency of all area clubs in the parade dancing behind a common banner. Thus, the banner was completed to span across Market Street. WSD paid for the first banner.
Both and banner and the flag were sewn by Freeman under Roger’s watchful eye in Freeman's apartment above St. Clair Liquor at the corner of 24th and Sanchez Streets in Noe Valley.
Anna Damiani remembers: "I had an interesting start to square dancing. I started in 1986, in the basic class with Foggy City that began in May or June. During that time, it was leading up to the Gay Games being held in San Francisco , and every gay square dancer that could be rounded up was sought for the opening ceremonies. El Camino Reelers was looking to fill out a square for the ceremonies, and so Brenda Peuker asked Bill Whitefield if I could join, and I was selected to dance in the Gay Games opening ceremonies. I started practicing with El Camino Reelers, but a lot of the calls in the program were Mainstream, and as a newer dancer, I was only about a month into Basic, so I started taking not only the Foggy City class, but also the Western Star Dancers class, AND was practicing with El Camino Reelers all during the same period. So my public dance debut was at the Gay Games in San Francisco. It was fabulous, and then I got to dance at convention that same year, and danced the whole time at convention. At the SF convention, Paul Marcum gave a class level workshop for one square of people that were in Basic class."
by Ronda Swerer, wife of caller Bert Swerer (1933-2018), who resides in the San Francisco Bay area.
In 1984 or 1985, not too long after Western Star Dancers started dancing, they were looking for callers to come to their club in San Francisco. Bert Swerer was asked if he would be one of the callers. It was something that we had to talk about. He was a local Bay Area caller, we owned BRS Square Dance Records & Engraving. At one of our local Square Dance Callers Association of Northern California (SDCANC) meetings, one of the local callers had said that no one should go help the gay clubs. Basically, they were on their own. So, we had to talk. We sold our records at the caller's meeting each month, we made a lot of the local caller's badges for their clubs. Did we want to jeopardize our business? Did we want to get blackballed? Did we want to help a club keep going? What was more important to us? Honestly, we didn't know. We talked about it on and off for about a week. One of the things that finally made up our mind was, James Ozanich. We knew him, his parents were in our club, he danced with us, he was a special friend. I asked Bert if he would call at a gay club if James was there and he said yes. So then I asked if he would call at a gay club if James wasn't there? And he finally said, why not! So we decided we wouldn't advertise it, but if we were "found out", then we'd deal with it then. Our first night for Bert calling at Western Star Dancers was wonderful. They gave me a bouquet of flowers, they wore arm bands so he'd know which person was the male dancers. It took some learning on his part with so many men dancing together. They ended up giving us Honorary Badges, which touched us very much. That also started Bert calling for Foggy City Dancers quite regularly. One of the clubs in Oregon (this has to be Rosetown Ramblers) flew him up to do a dance in Oregon one year. For the Rose Parade? So long ago, I don't remember. He went there and I went to my nephew's wedding. We had made a lot of friends and business customers, we had lost a lot of them too with their passing. It's funny, every few months Carlos Mosca pops into my thoughts, he was one of my favorite customers, whom was a friend. Not all customers are friends, but Ren Brown, Carlos Mosca, and Bill Whitefield were three very special people to me besides customers. Bill Whitefield would let Bert park in his driveway, then we'd schlep the stuff over to the Foggy City Dancers dance hall which wasn't far from where he lived. And I've still got James Ozanich and Ren Brown that I count as wonderful friends for over 30 years. I might not see them often, but there are right there in my heart. We made the right decision to help keep square dancing alive by calling for the clubs in San Francisco.
Western Star Dancers Memorial Quilt
The 25th Anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt was commemorated in the San Francisco's Castro district during February, 2012. The original 12' x 12' block created by members of Western Star Dancers in 1987 ("Block 57") was selected for inclusion in the 2012 display. It was made at the original Market Street location during the first months of the Names Project by Freeman Stamper, Scott Carey, Carolyn Matthews and other club members, with the assistance of Gert McMullen, the "mother hen" of the facility, and was displayed in Washington D.C. that October. It honors the first six WSD members we lost to the disease--Kurt Stutzman, Richard Clayberg Dan Druid, Steve Perry, Ron Cohen and Henry Shernoff.
Excerpts from a documentary about the 1988 (2nd) Washington, DC, National Mall display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In conversation, you hear the voices of Freeman Stamper, Anna Damiani, and Scott Carey. You can also hear the reading of the names in the background and near the end the voice of Quilt Founder, Cleve Jones. The video was shot and edited by John Conley.
Western Star Dancers included: Richard Clayberg, Henry Shernoff, Dan Druid, Ron Cohen, Steve Perry, Kurt Stutzman
Dancers from other clubs included: Amador Gonzalez, Capital City Squares (time stamp 1:31), Ramon Smith, Western Star Dancers (1:51) Gary Way, Puddletown Squares (2:16), Bill Depew, Puddletown Squares (2:50), Murray Lush, Squares Across the Border (3:38), Kevin Floen, Squares Across the Border (3:42), & Fred Lyons, Squares Across the Border (3:50).