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Hall With a Familiar Swing to It : Where the Band and the Crowds Are Big

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Rumor has it that big bands are back. The only question is: Where are they?

“They’re not playing that music on TV or radio anymore,” points out John Peace, whose John Peace Super Band can be found every Thursday night at the Women’s Civic Club of Garden Grove.

“Occasionally there’s a jazz concert with a big band. In fact, I think there’s more interest in big bands right now because they are such an odd commodity,” Peace said. “The only place to find them is at ballroom dancing events.”

More than 50 people showed up for the Civic Club’s first Big Band Dancing event two weeks ago, fox trotting and Lindy hopping the night away on a newly refinished 2,500-square-foot dance floor.

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Organizer Lee Laitz of the California Lindy Swing Dance Club was ecstatic with the turnout: “It blew me away! Something like this doesn’t build overnight. We could pay the band!”

The band was formed five years ago by Peace and Jack Wheaton. According to Peace, the name “Super Band” was inspired by the credentials of the 18 musicians, most of whom have worked with bandleaders on the order of Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and Lionel Hampton.

Wheaton has since moved to San Diego, where he is president of the Musicians Union.

Attendance doubled at the second Civic Club event. Laitz credits the venue for at least part of the success. “My wife are I are inveterate ballroom dancers, and I can tell you, this building takes us back to the ‘40s. When I saw it I thought, ‘What a beautiful place to have a real dance!’

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“We’re offering every type of dancing people might possibly want, though primarily the big band sound of swing,” he added--then reconsidered: “Of course, no rock ‘n’ roll, no guitar music, no screaming and absolutely no disco whatsoever.”

Peace believes there are other reasons the weekly dances will continue to grow in popularity.

“There’s an enormous number of people 35 and up who know the correct way to dance with this music. It’s boring to do this with canned music. The interest is in live big band music--that’s the key word. But only if the price is right, not $10 cover plus drinks.”

According to Laitz, who noted that “you put the same musicians at the Marriott at $20 or $25 and they pack the place,” the price at the Civic Club is right: He’s charging $5, including parking and refreshments.

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* What: Big Band Dancing.

* When: Thursdays, 7:30-10:30 p.m.

* Where: The Women’s Civic Club of Garden Grove, 9501 Chapman Ave.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the Brookhurst Street exit and head north, and turn left onto Chapman Avenue. Or take the Santa Ana (5) Freeway to the Brookhurst Street exit, head south, and turn right onto Chapman Avenue.

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* Wherewithal: $5.

* Where to call: (714) 539-3134.


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