CEO AT LEISURE: The Chiefs Of Cha Cha
April 1 1990 by Amiad Josef Finkelthal
It doesn’t take much to get Arista records President Clive Davis bopping on the dance floor at a party. “He’ll dance to anything that’s Arista music,” notes deejay Bob Pileggi. “Anything.”
Davis and his employees were dancing up a storm at the party in the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel when Pileggi took a wireless microphone and shouted, “All right everyone, let me see your hands up in the air, come on-let me see ‘em!” “At the same time, the Broadway show Me and My Girl was performing in the theater next door,” Pileggi recalls. Suddenly the stage manager appeared at the party and ran over to the deejay booth, pink faced and breathless. “Listen,” he cried, “your wireless mike is transmitting to our theater. Every time you shout, let me see your hands up in the air,’ the theater audience thinks they’re being asked to applaud, and for the last 10 minutes, they’ve been interrupting the most important scene in Me and My Girl with thunderous standing ovations!”
A worried caterer approached Pileggi at a Shearson Lehman party in
But let’s not get carried away: For many CEOs, dancing is a serious business. Says Martin Turk, CEO of National Equity & Development,
Turk became convinced he should take dance lessons when he let his wife dance with an 80-year-old man at a party and in exchange, the man told Turk, “Take my old lady for a whirl.”
“I didn’t know how to dance, and after a couple of minutes, the old lady got annoyed and shouted, ‘Listen, boy: You got two feet-use ‘em.’ “
Back then, Turk never dreamed his passion for dancing would drive him to build a 1,000-square-foot ballroom adjacent to his house. But the project has just been completed, making Turk perhaps the only person in the world with his own personal ballroom. Turk apparently had no problem getting neighbors and community leaders to approve his plans; National Equity & Development specializes in zoning, land development and assemblage. The ballroom should end his worries about being cramped for space.
Richard Parker, CEO of Gulf Coast Pipeline in
Parker became so enamored with dancing that he cofounded a new chapter of the U.S. Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association with Brooks Watson, CEO of Building Engineering and Greenwood Realty of West Melbourne, Fla. The
But the rewards can be great, too. After only four months of dance lessons, Watson won nine first prizes at the Houston Pro-Am. Exclaims he: “At first I thought I was just lucky, but when I soon went to another contest and won nine more prizes, I started thinking someone was pulling my leg. I believe some judges give out prizes just for showing up.”
Turk says some judges’ decisions mystify him. “I won all the dance categories at Arthur Murray’s northeast regional championships except for the tango, which I thought I really had nailed. I don’t understand the judges’ decision-I was right on the music and I was snappy and sharp where I had to be. But judging dance is very subjective-it’s judging art. When you win a dance contest, the judges don’t tell you what your strong points are-it’s not like pulling off a business deal and knowing exactly why you succeeded.”
Turk learned the tango at his local Arthur Murray dance school, where students celebrate their progress by dressing in frilly costumes like people in an Argentine tango house. In keeping with Arthur Murray’s belief that students express their passions through dance, Turk also learned “Dirty Dancing,” a Hollywood version of Latin dancing emphasizing erotic hip gyrations. It’s based on the movie Dirty Dancing, in which Patrick Swayze plays a dance instructor oozing raw sexuality as he leaps about in a black cutaway tux. Turk is equally dashing in a sequined, puffy-sleeved Latin shirt that makes him look like a veritable Don Juan.
Latin dances were “dirty” even before Dirty Dancing’s 1987 premiere. The mambo began in
There’s also renewed interest in ballroom dances from the 1920s-as evidenced at the B’Nai B’Rith Anti-Defamation League’s recent fund-raiser. What could have been a dull charity event turned into a Roaring Twenties bash when the party producer, Chez-Zam Entertainment of Deer Park, N.Y., released its “dancing girls” on the CEOs in attendance. The normally staid Irwin Greenberg of Hess’s department stores approached a woman in a Great Gatsby getup, flung his arms around her, and swept her up in a spontaneous
But at a Broadway-style salute for Loews Hotels, President Jonathan Tisch took the lead while his dancing girls merely followed. Tisch came out dressed like Fabian and danced the twist before leading a chorus line of long-legged beauties around the ballroom, while deejay Bob Pileggi played “One Singular Sensation” from the Broadway show, A Chorus Line.
Even Donald Trump and Mew Griffin are getting into the nostalgia trip. Their role: backing the establishment of a Big Band Hall of Fame in Palm Beach, Fla. Helen Boehm, chairman of Boehm porcelain and a longtime supporter of the proposed hall of fame, says she’s amazed at how quickly CEOs have caught on to big hand dancing once again. “It seems like only yesterday I was dreaming of being Ginger Rogers,” she remembers.
The following planners can choreograph your show: Mickey Harmon Productions, (212) 541-4700; Bob Pileggi’s Disc Connection, (516) 351-6471; Howard Lanin Productions, (212) 752-0960; Capricho Inc., (504) 525-2801.