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Subject: Archive: Frank (Killer Joe) Piro, Feb. 5, 1989


Author:
Dancer
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Date Posted: Monday, February 05, 01:56:30pm

Frank (Killer Joe) Piro, a dance instructor to high society and popularizer of many of the steps of the discotheque era of the 1960's and 1970's, died of kidney disease Tuesday at Lenox Hill Hospital. He was 68 years old and lived in Manhattan.

Mr. Piro, a genial man whose short, sinewy body was likened to a chimney sweep, had followed a whirwind schedule performing on stage or television, instructing at his studio at 54 West 55th Street and making a nightly round of parties and clubs, where he was called ''Killer Joe'' because he easily exhausted every partner on a dance floor.

Invariably keeping a step ahead of trends, over the decades he taught the mambo, the cha-cha and the merengue, then the twist and later the frug, the frog, the watusi, the mule and the hully-gully. His students included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Maharani of Baroda, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Ray Bolger, Luci Baines Johnson and, by 1965, more than a million other Americans.

'I Like Things The Way They Are'

Asked why he had not opened his own discotheque, he replied, ''I like things the way they are. I don't want to be watching a cash register, watching the waiters - it would take all the beauty of dancing away from me and I would get old.''

Mr. Piro was born in East Harlem, the son of an Italian tailor. He was, he recalls, ''skinny and ugly,'' and, to meet girls, took up dancing at a neighborhood social club with a jukebox where the weekly dues were 15 cents. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade and worked at construction jobs and plastics designing while entering - and repeatedly winning -Harlem dance contests, including the 1942 National Jitterbug Championship at the Harvest Moon Ball.

In World War II, he served in the Coast Guard. After the war, he started winning dance contests at the Palladium in Manhattan with such frequency that he said they ''offered me $15 a week to be a teacher and stay out of the contests.''

Mr. Piro, a former board member of the Friars Club, is survived by his wife, Lucienne; a daughter, Jodie Householder, of Dallas; a stepson, Carlos Salgado, of Sao Paulo, Brazil; and two sisters, Marie A. Grill and Frances Delli Paoli, both of the Bronx.

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"Killer Joe"The Rocky FellersMonday, February 05, 01:57:31pm


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