Recently we celebrated New Year’s Eve 2022, and I’m always taken back to one specific night, Flippo’s last dance at Green Valley, Arizona, on New Year’s Eve 2017.
Here’s an excerpt from Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo describing that memorable night:
Green Valley, Arizona—New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017
At the end of November 2017, Jerry Junck asked me in a phone conversation if we were going to Flippo’s New Year’s Eve dance in Green Valley, Arizona. Lin and I weren’t sure.
He added, “I think Gary and I are going to drive down.” I had heard that this would be Flippo’s very last calling.
“That’s what he claims.”
I added, “It sounds to me like it might be the place to be on New Year’s Eve.” Flippo was asked four years earlier to sign a contract to do the Green Valley New Year’s Eve dance, and he refused a couple of times. Dean Capes, a member of the club, finally arrived with a contract in hand, so Flip couldn’t refuse any longer.
As Flippo signed it, he stated, “I doubt if I will be here in four years!” But he was, and what a wonderful celebration it was.
Ann Salwaechter, a dear friend, called him the Sunday afternoon of the big event to see how he was feeling.
Flippo told her, “I’m nervous with all these professional callers coming tonight.”
Ann exclaimed, “Flippo, you taught them all to call!”
When we arrived, Flippo met me at the door with a kiss, as usual. He always had a kiss for the ladies. He was greeting all the dancers as they came in and let me know about a man in attendance who wanted to talk to me about this book.
Numerous callers came from all over the USA, as well as many local callers. Larry Letson, a dear friend and caller from Indiana who had stopped calling, came in the door right after the announcements. It felt like a family reunion!
During the festive evening, the Green Valley square dance club gave Flippo a plaque thanking him for all his years of support.
Flippo called a memorable dance to faithful dancers and callers. Groups of callers gathered around the dance hall. Ken Bower, Gary Shoemake, and Wade Driver huddled together and shared a story (possibly a favorite Flippo), and belly laughs and deep laughter came from each of them.
Another time I saw Jerry Junck leaning up against a wall with eyes riveted on Flippo on stage. His expression stated everything—admiration and love for his mentor for decades, mixed with deep sadness. Often throughout the evening, the callers’ eyes were glued to Flippo on stage with admiring expressions. Their teacher was done.
During the evening, he announced this book from the stage and asked a question he’d wondered about often in our interviews, “Who would want to buy a book about me?” In no way did he ask this question in a solicitous manner—he could not imagine anyone wanted to read a book about him. The crowd roared!
Several people came up to me after his announcement, querying when it would be done, wanting a copy.
Patty Greene, then chairperson of CALLLERLAB, exclaimed, “How are you going to edit out the X-rated stuff?”
During the amazing night, Flippo handpicked his music. He sang, “Another Square Dance Caller.” He shared a heartfelt thank you to everyone in attendance and ended his final dance with the song, “I’m Leaving Here a Better Man.” I’m sure that’s how he felt that night!
Here’s the chorus to his last song with a profound message:
Still, I’m leavin’ here a better man
For knowin’ you this way
Things I couldn’t do before now I think I can
And I’m leavin’ here a better man
When Flippo stopped calling and the music ended, people gathered around him after the traditional big thank you circle. So many wanted to thank him personally with a final hug and kiss. Flippo and his fans lingered, exchanging stories. No one wanted the evening to end.
I’m sure that a sizable group of callers and friends took Flippo to a local drinking establishment to end the night with drinks, camaraderie, and stories to mark the end of an era in the square dance world.
To see the caller list of attendees for Flippo’s last night, see Appendix G.
Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography: Marshall Flippo, (2020): 326-329.
APPENDIX G – LIST OF CALLERS WHO ATTENDED FLIPPO’S LAST DANCE, DECEMBER 31, 2017
- Ken and Dee Bower, Palm Desert, California
- Bob Lottie & Dee Dee Dougherty-Lottie, Mesa/Casa Grande, Sun City, and Florence, Arizona
- Wade and Healy Driver, Spring, Texas
- Patty Greene, Monroe, North Carolina
- Jerry Junck, Mesa, Arizona
- Vic and Shauna Kaaria, Redlands, California
- Larry Letson, Lafayette, Indiana
- Tony and Kim Oxendine, Sumter, South Carolina
- Mike and Lisa Seastrom, Thousand Oaks, California
- Mike Sikorsky, Apache Junction, Arizona
- Gary Shoemake, Sevierville, Tennessee
- Glenn Condit, Tucson
- Tom and Gina Crisp, Sonoran Stables, Tucson
- Rick Gittelman and Patty, Tucson
- Don Haney and Sandy, Voyager RV Resort, Tucson
- Wendy Krueger, British Columbia, Canada
- Juanita Portz, Sierra Vista
- Janet Shannon, Tempe
- Mike Smithers, Sierra Vista
- Harue and Bryan Swift, Sierra Vista
- Bill Reinders, Green Valley
Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography: Marshall Flippo, (2020): 515.
I hold on to this memorable night as a once-in-a-lifetime experience! What an emotional New Year’s Eve that was—tears and laughter overflowed! Flippo’s last dance was a historical night in square dancing with the ending of a legend. I felt privileged to be there to witness Flippo’s last dance. Were you there? If so, how did you feel?
~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A
~Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com