By Laura Latzko, September 2016 Web Exclusive.
In a historic Dancing with the Bars milestone, Mark Howard and Tim Bishop walked away champions of both the dance competition and the fundraising competition.
As part of the one n ten fundraiser, Aug. 7 at Tempe Center for the Arts, 14 contestants raised more than $36,000.
Howard, the partner/co-owner of FEZ and Bliss/ReBAR, brought in $12,040 through pool parties, individual donations, a drag brunch, specialty drinks and raffles.
In the dance competition, 2016 Miss Phoenix Pride Naomi St. James and Freddie Maese (representing BS West) took second place, and Brandie Reiner and Kyle Farr (representing Harley’s Italian Bistro/Toasted) placed third.
During the contest, Howard and Bishop, a professional dancer for Fred Astaire Dance Studios, did a lifeguard-themed number to Pitbull’s “Fireball” and “Does Your Mother Know” from Mamma Mia.
This marked Bishop’s second consecutive win; he also took first place with Travis Shumake in 2015.
This wasn’t Howard’s first time taking center stage, either. What most don’t realize is that he has musical theater, performing with Up with People and performing in a show at SeaWorld on his resume, too.
Echo caught up with Howard to find out more about his DWTB experience and his double victory.
Echo: What made you decide to do Dancing with the Bars 2016?
Howard: I have loved this event for a very long time, [since] back to when Gary Guerin [of SWAY Events] started it. I always wanted to participate in it, but the timing wasn’t ever right … This year came around, and it was suggested to me that perhaps I might want to think about doing it, and I said, “You know what, I have wanted to do this a very long time, and I absolutely want to do it.” It is a personal challenge for me, from a physical standpoint, but it’s also a cause that I believe in greatly.
Echo: How did you choose your songs and style of dance?
Howard: “Does Your Mother Know” is really about having a younger guy have the hots for an older, more mature person. We thought that would play well with Tim and I, and it just moved into, “Let’s make this number sexy.” So, “Fireball” fit that perfectly because it is about heating it up. The little comedic play in between with the oxygen tank was a play on the fact that I was oldest competitor in the competition.
Echo: Had you ever done ballroom before this?
Howard: Back in my high school and college years, I had taken some ballroom classes. My mom and dad even put me in a ballroom class, probably when I was in middle school. It was back in a time when there were cotillions. … my personality fits more to swing and cha-cha.
Echo: What was it like to both lead and follow in the dance?
Howard: I’m usually the one that is dipping, so to be dipped is kind of nice … I’ve always been the lead, in any dance I’ve done in the past … It’s kind of nice to be on the other side of that coin sometimes.
Echo: Your number put a smile on a lot of people’s faces, especially coming after very heartfelt numbers from Eddie Broadway and Daniel Cordova.
Howard: Both Eddie and Daniel had very touching performances and moving stories. I was actually backstage getting a little welled up and kept thinking, “Oh my god, I’ve got to get ready for my performance. I’ve got to start thinking about getting into character here.” Anyone who knows me knows that [my] performance is probably exactly me. I would love to be able to pull off and do something as serious as Eddie and Daniel did, but me, I’m the Lucille Ball. I just like to have a lot of fun. I like to smile. I like to make people smile, and if it’s at my expense, I don’t mind that either.
Echo: In your video, you said that this was very hard for you. What was the most challenging part of it?
Howard: It’s physically difficult. It’s exhausting. It’s tiring. If you are not a dancer, you are using muscles you haven’t used in a while. It’s also mentally challenging, just from a memory perspective, to remember the steps, remember the moves and try to remember that you also need to perform, smile, look at the audience and play up the character … I’m a bit of a Type A personality. I like perfection and I want to do things exactly how they should be done. Tim gave me a very challenging routine, and there were moments that I said, “I cannot do this,” and he would just kind of go, “That’s fine. We’re going to do it anyway. Let’s do it again.” He just kept pushing me, which is awesome because that’s really what a Type A person wants.
Echo: What was it like working with Tim – another Type A personality?
Howard: We are friends. We were friends before. Actually, Tim worked for FEZ and at another restaurant called Metropolis in Scottsdale. I’ve known him as not only a friend and employee but now as a dance teacher. There were definitely a few days where I would be like, “You know, I can’t do that right now,” “I’m not getting it” or “Could you just give me some more,” and he would just kind of look at me. Eventually all of those little moments led to laughter.
Echo: What were some of the most memorable moments during rehearsal?
Howard: In most instances, you are not practicing in a room by yourself. You are practicing in a ballroom where several lessons are going on around you … You are running into people, and you feel bad about it, and you are hearing other music that has nothing to do with your dance … It was a great environment to work in, but it didn’t prevent Tim and I from having these hysterical moments where we were just laughing our guts out. There are a lot of arms and legs that end up in places sometimes that you don’t want them to necessarily end up, and that can cause some chuckles.
Echo: What was it like taking on a different community role for this competition?
Howard: For me, it’s kind of nice because it introduces me to people that maybe I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. They may know me because they know I own FEZ or own Bliss Rebar, but they might not have come up and said something to me. Whereas after our performance, it was so great to have people come up and say, “Oh my god, it was great to see you in this. It really made me smile…” It’s created a different connection with those supporters and patrons.
Echo: What was your secret to fundraising?
Howard: You’ve got to really try to attack it from different angles, and I’m blessed and humbled that I had so many people who joined me in making it happen … You hit different communities; you hit different donor bases.
Watch the full performance that won Dancing with the Bars 2016 HERE.