Gold Rush

From IAGSDC History
Jump to navigationJump to search

Location: San Francisco, CA, USA


Started: 1986

Admitted to IAGSDC: 22 Aug 1986 as Associate Member

Status: Folded, 1997

History: Gold Rush was a square dance performance team based in San Francisco from 1986 until 1997. They performed high-energy singing calls and were known for high-precision, highly choreographed numbers. The numbers were painstakingly rehearsed. The group created its own choreography, calling, and costuming. The final performance was at Wheel & Deal in Las Vegas in 1997.

Gold Rush performed at IAGSDC conventions, gay rodeos, and fund raisers for various organizations.

The Official Biography (1996)

Gold Rush was formed in March of 1986, as a performance/exhibition team composed of members from local square dance clubs. The team blends together different styles of square dancing with country-western dance; and often has a surprise of two in store for the audience.

Gold Rush has given exciting performances throughout California, and has appeared at IAGSDC (Square Dance) Conventions in Chicago, Washington DC, Seattle, Albuquerque, Miami, Vancouver, and New York; and at Gay Rodeos in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Reno.

Many clubs and organizations have hosted "Learn to Square Dance" nights featuring Gold Rush. The team does not accept money for these events; but asks the host to make a donation to various Bay Area AIDS ofganizations: including Project OpenHand and Rita Rockets' Sunday Brunches on Ward 5A.

GOLD RUSH is.....
....A family that has laughed together over forgotten calls and miscues.
....A family that has dried together with the loss of nine members to AIDS
....A team that has a lot of FUN with the "Specialty" numbers they perform
....Always looking for new members who enjoy dancing and interacting with others
....An Associate Member of the Int'l Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs
....A Member of the Int'l Assoc. of Gay & Lesbian Country/Western Dance

Media Features


by Joe Sobiesiak circa 1996

I've been a member of Gold Rush since February, 1989. These are some of my thoughts of the Team Members I knew. I have other memories that I relive every time I dance. I loved each and every one of them in ways that words cannot describe.

I moved to San Francisco in September of 1988, and started a Square Dancing class shortly after my arrival. I had seen an ad in the B.A.R. for lessons and decided to try it out; figuring it would be a way to meet people. This was Western Star Dancers. I walked into the Y.M.C.A. on Golden Gate and was greeted by a large group of men and women. Most of them were like me, wanting to learn to dance. They were all very nice and made me feel at home. We were given name tags and waited for instructions. On stage were our teachers: Bob Bellville and Bill Whitefield.

BOB BELLVILLE and Bill were very patient. They walked us through so many moves we thought we'd never remember them all. Bob would do the "Hash" part of the night and Bill would do the "Singing". Thank God! Bob's voice was not the best. But, I'll never forget his favorite song, "Black Coffee". Towards the end of the lessons Bob became ill. While living in New York, I wasn't exposed to AIDS or HIV. This was the first time that someone I knew got sick. Bill told us that Bob would appreciate cards or a visit while he was in the hospital. I brought him a small bag of "cheer-up stuff". Little puzzles, coloring books, a porno magazine, etc. He enjoyed it all a great deal and recovered enough to come back to Western Star for a short while. During this time, I was asked to join Gold Rush. Bill was one of their callers and other Western Star members were also on the Team. Bob was also made an honorary member of Gold Rush and briefly called for the Team. As we were getting ready for the 1990 Square Dance Convention in Vancouver, Canada, Bob took a turn for the worse. While we were at the airport we received word that he had passed away.

Time went on and the Team grew to be a "family". Some members left to go on to other things. KEITH BISHOP was a fun guy. He was a Leatherman. He was the first "Leatherman" I knew. Keith introduced me to motorcycles and the "Cal Eagles". I talked to him about getting a small bike to get around the city and he said he'd take me around when I was ready. So, on Memorial Day weekend of 1990, we went bike shopping. Next thing I knew he was driving home a bike that I bought. He was a handsome man and was a shy man. One memorable event was at a L.A. Rodeo breakfast. The waitress was bringing out our orders. She called out: "Who's the scrambled eggs? Who's the pancakes? Who's the Fruit-Cup?". As we all turned to Keith we saw his head sliding under the table. Keith was also the first "slut" of the group. I don't know why he got that title. Anyway, Keith was the first friend I lost to AIDS. He and I not only shared Gold Rush, but also the Cal Eagles Motorcycle Club. I'll never forget him and all the good times we've had. Keith, I love ya and miss ya!

RICK WHEELER was the lover of Monte. They were both Team members when I joined. Rick was one of our callers. He had a good voice and I remember him singing 'Bill Bailey', which is one of my favorite songs. Rick would come out and "party hardy" with us at the Rodeos. On one side trip to Disneyland, the Team was going to stay at Rick’s moms place. The Team was split into two vehicles with Rick as one "pilot" and Monte, the other. Well, Monte's group arrived with no problem. Hours later, Rick's car showed up. Rick had gotten lost! And, the guys never let him forget it! Rick surprised us another time by showing up at the last Rodeo rehearsal on crutches! Rick was a very happy guy. He was always smiling and laughing. After Rick passed on, Monte moved back to Ohio for a few months to settle his head. At Christmas time, I received a package from Monte. I opened it and inside was a card and present from the both of them. Rick had picked out my present before getting ill, and Monte sent it to me. Rick was a very generous and thoughtful man.

CHRIS BOLTON was a very strong dancer. He was one that could walk through a number once, and remember it. Chris was a very kind guy. He helped me through a couple of boyfriend problems. He was a great listener and gave good advice. Chris was another of our callers. He lived here in The City and dated Corky who lived in Sacramento. At this time, rehearsals were alternated between Thursday and Saturday so Chris could spend weekends in Sacramento. Eventually, he moved to Sacramento with Corky. When this happened, the Team was invited to come and spend weekends with them. I would go up as often as I could and we would "paint the town red". When Chris became sick, I was working free-lance. I would go up for three or four days to spend time with them. Chris would always have a funny story to tell. He was always making sure that people were having a good time. Even when he was in pain. Corky asked me to be a pallbearer at Chris' funeral. It was the hardest thing for me to do, but I felt so honored to be asked. One of my fondest memories will be the last State Fair we went to.

EDDIE SMITH was known as "Mother". Eddie was the leader and choreographer of the group. He'd come up with great ideas and music. Eddie was also a very creative person. He was always working on different projects: needle-point, quilting, making dresses. He also kept us all in line. We all knew that if we got out of his "good graces" we'd be in trouble and he'd claim he didn't know us. For our birthdays, the guys would go out to celebrate. On Eddie's 39th, he decided he wanted to keep it quiet. So, Don and I rented a tour bus, bought 30 yards of the most horrible material we could find, and surprised him with a tour of The City with over 40 people. I'm so glad we have that event on video. Every time we watch it we laugh and cry at the same time. Eddie was very quiet about his illness and was found in his apartment, in a coma, a few weeks before the L.A. Rodeo. He never came out of it. We decided to go to the Rodeo anyway. We knew he'd want us to - "The Show Must Go On". On Sunday morning we received a call at the hotel that Eddie had passed away. I figured he waited for all of us to be gone. Mother, we all love you! And, don't worry. Don's doing a good job - you taught him well.

MAX ROBB is the latest one we've lost. Max and I started in the same Western Star class and were asked to join Gold Rush together. Max was a lot of fun. He would be one of our drivers on trips, and boy, when he drove you held on for dear life. Not saying he wasn't a good driver, but he just felt he was the only one on the road. When I first moved to The City, I wasn't working much and Max tried to help me. I worked with him at Podesto's, at the Macy's Spring Flower Show, and on Macy's Christmas decorations. I felt he was always looking out for me and I met a lot of nice people through him. We shared many great memories of Rodeos, Convention, Class and Work together. On his last three birthdays, his friend Alice would rent a limo, and we would all go out to dinner and hit the town. Those were very special times Max, thank you for all you've done for me!  

by Monte Roush circa 1996

I must start off by saying that I wasn't planning to contribute to this project. Those who know me, know I'm a very private person. I didn't think that anything I printed here would have meaning to anyone other than myself That, is wrong! After reading the items submitted by my Friend, and Team Member, Joe Sobiesiak, I have changed my mind. His memories mean so much to him - and to me!

I'll start with the obvious, my lover, RICK WHEELER. Rick and I met in West Hollywood on June 10th, 1983. At the time, we were both members of the LA Gay Freedom Band. We took up Square Dancing in September '85 and moved to San Francisco on Thanksgiving weekend, 1987. Upon arriving in “The City" we became members of the Foggy City Dancers. In July, 1988, we were both asked to join Gold Rush; and I was asked to join the Foggy City Performance Team. [It turned out that FCD was planning to ask Rick later on, but at the time, rejected him because they thought he was a different Rick]. For the first couple of years, Rick was very active with Gold Rush. He enjoyed both the dancing - and being able to do singing calls for the group. He especially like singing duets with Bill Whitefield. As he became weaker from AIDS, he tried to withdraw himself from the group, but many members wouldn't let that happen. They tried to keep him involved in various ways and I am eternally grateful for that. During the final stages of his illness, Rick was visited by every Team Member while in the hospital. He even received phone calls from our friends in Sacramento, Chris and Corky. Rick passed away on July 16, 1992; one day after his 36th birthday. Good night Augie-Doggie. Doggie Daddy misses you!

My opposite (in Square Dancing), and a great person, was CHRIS BOLTON. He and I had a great understanding for each other. We both loved dancing; and the Team! Although there are many memories that I could share, the one that I'll always remember, is the time Gold Rush performed at a fund raiser for the Gay Softball League. We were doing a number that we'd done "forever" when, out of the blue, the caller (Keith Bishop) sung out the wrong calls. The look on Chris' face was hysterical! We both knew it was wrong; everyone knew that the number was memorized; and the ongoing joke was that we "Never listen to the Caller" ... so what did Chris and I do? Without a second thought, we did the move that was called. This broke down the square and brought the number to a dead stop - and in front of an audience! I don't think we laughed over anything as much! Chris also did some singing for Gold Rush. I remember the first time he sang before an audience. It was at Western Star's 7th Anniversary and he was NERVOUS! You could hear it in his voice - and see it in the shaking hands. He eventually called several numbers for the group and constantly improved. We miss you, Chris! But, I know you're up there dancing away and having a great time!

And speaking of KEITH BISHOP. I always thought he was a very sexy looking man! He liked to wear leather - and it looked good on him. When he wasn't practicing or performing with Gold Rush, Keith was usually involved with the Cal Eagles Motorcycle Club. He was the recording Secretary for them and it seemed like he was always going on a "run", or at a meeting, or helping out at a fund-raiser. It took a lot of his time, but he was more than willing to do it. Keith was also a pleasant man (Seems that virtually every Gold Rush member has that Quality!). He never bad-mouthed anyone. And, what a voice! It was so clean and pure. The first time I heard him sing was at the Gay Games in 1986. He was part of a Quartet for the Opening Ceremonies. Bill Whitefield was one of the other callers and when he and Bill got together on a number it was a "Show-Stopper". The two sounded wonderful together! The funniest times I recall with Keith were at rehearsals. Not only did he call for the Team, he also danced - and both parts! There were many times that he danced the "Man's" part in one number and the "Ladies" part in the next. I think this is where I first heard a dancer muttering "I'm a Girl, I'm a Girl" throughout a number. Keep smiling, Keith!

Our other Keith, KEITH PILIPOVICH, was not able to dance with the group for long. The disease strikes everyone differently and for him, it was like a slow paralysis. He was bedridden for over six months. Never complained, but always wished to be able to dance again. He was a very shy, quiet man. Never a bad word about anyone! He was also a Teddy Bear. He loved to hug! But his biggest asset was his "Bedroom Eyes". Everyone mentioned that it always looked like he was just "waking up". Keith always gave it 100 percent. He would come to rehearsals with his work sheets in hand and study his parts while others were talking. He didn't want to make any mistakes - and took it hard when he did. Keith was one of those people who stayed in the background while helping others out. He was good with a thread and needle (always a bonus with this group), and came to the rescue many times. He was also a waiter at The Cove restaurant. This was another bonus - especially when Gold Rush needed to "borrow" kitchen items for Fund Raisers, Beer Busts, and other get togethers. We're still going strong down here, Keith, and I hope you're having a great time up there! HUGS!!!

And what can you say about Mother? EDDIE SMITH was the person that nominated Rick and I to Gold Rush. The group was always Number One with him! No doubt about it! His passion, and my bull-headedness, for items involving the Team, came to a head more than once. Yeah, he always won! And, Yeah, he was (almost) always right! Eddie was a theater major and brought that talent to the group in many ways. At rehearsals you'd better pay attention to him or you'd pay later. Now, don't get me wrong. Eddie was tough. But, he was also like a "Mother Hen". He'd take you under his wing and help you out any way he could. Be it costuming or choreographing, he was one of the best! It was his imagination and persistence that started the changes in Gold Rush. First, from regular numbers to more specialized ones, and second - and most important - from just another Performance Team - TO A FAMILY. He truly cared about people, and it rubbed off on others. His influence is still with the group today. I have never been with another organization that cared about its members the way Gold Rush does. I know you're up there, Mother, and I can only imagine the dance group you've got going! You've got great talent - and a lot of great talent with you.

At later dates other members included: Howard Neckel, Andy Shore, Loren Almeida, Jonathan Domash, Jeff Smith, Eddie Smith, Bill Whitefield, Monte Roush, Don Greco, Max, Rick Wheeler, and others.


Gold Rush pics on Flickr
Can anyone identify which rodeo and which convention the pics where taken at?


  1. Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco, CA) Thursday, 05 Mar 1992, p.3