Rocci Fisch

Random Thoughts

Rocci Fisch watches what's out there and has a lot to say about it. "Random Thoughts" is a quick-read, running commentary column which features his observations about the news, pop culture and the media, zested up with Rocci's unique humor.

DICK CLARK AND AMERICAN BANDSTAND: THE EARLY DAYS

April 19, 2012
  1. . . . America’s Oldest [Living] Teenager” died Wednesdayin Santa Monica, Calif., of a heart attack at the age of 82.
  2. . . . CNN dragged Larry King out of the mothballs to talk about him. He remembers everybody.
  3. . . . Clark got the “teenager” moniker because of his perpetually youthful appearance (not sure who exactly penned the nickname). He later copyrighted it.
  4. . . . The original “Bandstand,” as it was called in 1952, was first hosted by deejay Bob Horn, who later was fired due to a drunk-driving conviction.
  5. . . . After that, management at WFIL-TV/Channel 6 (46th & Market) in Philadelphia installed the clean-cut Dick Clark to take over the teen dance party show and renamed it “American Bandstand.” That was 1956.
  6. . . . Originally the show was two hours! The first half-hour was local and then the show went national/coast-to-coast on the ABC Television Network.
  7. . . . (Over the years the show was reduced down in length and went from daily to just Saturdays but back in the day it was a marathoner and something that kids hurried home from school to watch.)
  8. . . . The show was shot in black and white. Color, when it came around, was too expensive and the cameras were unwieldy to use in the studio to follow the dancers around the floor.
  9. . . . It opened with the song, “Bandstand Boogie,” which was a big band instrumental recorded by Les Elgart. (Over the years various incarnations of it were used, including a vocal version by Barry Manilow.)
  10. . . . (It always puzzled me why they used such a hard-to-dance-to song like that for modern teenagers. It seemed more attuned to the grownups.)
  11. . . . The opening shot showed dancers who were seen through a graphic map of the United States that surrounded them on the screen.
  12. . . . Further into the open the map zoomed out to reveal more of the dancers who packed the floor.
  13. . . . Eager teens.
  14. . . . Then came Clark who stood at a high-up podium which resembled a bandstand.
  15. . . . The show’s title was inscribed on a half-circle name plate with “American” on top and “Bandstand” on the bottom which sat on the edge of the podium.
  16. . . . A telephone sat on Clark’s left - the old ones with the curled cord. He was often seen using it after he introduced a record for the kids to dance to.
  17. . . . Chances are he was probably talking to his long-time producer, Tony Mammarello, or his director, Ted Yates.
  18. . . . On the walls behind him were cutouts that resembled 45 rpm records, album covers, award plaques and other teen music memorabilia.
  19. . . . To the right were bleachers where all the teenagers sat-just like in a gymnasium. Pinned to the side wall were high school pennants from the various schools in the area.
  20. . . . The dancers were often identified in a roll call, where they’d say their first names, their age and where they were from: North Philly, South Philly, Upper Darby, etc. . .
  21. . . . Those kids from Philadelphia were the best dancers around - better than in Baltimore-if you ask me.
  22. . . . Buddy Deane’s (“The Buddy Deane Show”) dancers couldn’t hold a candle to those kids from Philly.
  23. . . . The Top Ten records of the day were displayed on a sandwich board with cardboard slide-ins which had the hit songs printed on them (1-10) and which were revealed by Clark when he did the count-up from the bottom to reveal the #1 hit.
  24. . . . There was a dress code: The boys wore ties and suits and sports jackets and the girls wore dresses and skirts - no blue jeans or other casual wear.
  25. . . . People from all over came to the show but Bandstand had its “regulars,” who rapidly became “stars” in their own right.
  26. . . . Favorites were Bob and Justine, Arlene and Kenny, Joanie Buck and Jimmy Peatross, Frani Giordano, Pat Molittieri, Bill Cook, sisters Carmen and Ivette Jiminez, Carole Scaldeferri, Mary Beltrante, Frankie Vacca. (Italian anyone?)
  27. . . . 16 Magazine often featured the show’s most popular dancers on their covers with stories inside covering all facets of their young teenage lives.
  28. . . . Most of the couples on the show were the standard boy/girl combination but many times girls danced together as they used to do sometimes parties back then outside of the TV show, often in their basements.
  29. . . . Mostly the kids jitterbugged and the camera stayed wide and panned the floor. Often the regulars gravitated to the same positions each day so viewers would get used to where they’d normally dance. (Justine and Bob were always on the left of the screen.)
  30. . . . Some of the dancers were camera hogs.
  31. . . . Clark, it’s been reported, would often tell the director to turn off the red on-air lights on top of the cameras so that the regulars wouldn’t know which camera was “hot” and therefore couldn’t “play” to it, like they were prima donnas.
  32. . . . The black and white cameras had turret lenses (usually three) that were awkward and unwieldy. Camera operators had to switch lenses as the director called for different shots on the live broadcast, all the time keeping their eyes on what they were shooting and their fellow cameramen.
  33. . . . Those guys really had to maneuver.
  34. . . . The director (Yates) used close-ups for the slow dances and longer, wider lenses” for the fast dances.
  35. . . . The program was integrated and blacks were not relegated to special days, as sometimes occurred on other dance shows. Bandstand was unique in this respect.
  36. . . . Rate-a-Record was a feature of the show in which two or three teens would give a numbered score between 35 and 98 to new releases. The keeper of the numbers was another teen who had to do the math and average the three scores.
  37. . . . Sometimes it wasn’t an easy feat and Clark was seen more than once jokingly banging his head up against the wall when the score keeper couldn’t do the arithmetic.
  38. . . . It’s from this segment of the show that the expression “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it,” came about, often said by the young judges when they liked one of the reviewed song contenders.
  39. . . . The musical guests (teen idols) appeared right on the dance floor (no stage) and were often introduced by Clark who sat in the bleachers along with the kids, often holding up a picture or an album of said entertainer.
  40. . . . All of the performances were lip-synched, nobody sang live.
  41. . . . Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon (“Tallahassee Lassie,” “Palisades Park”-on Swan Records, 1959 and 1962), interviewed by phone on CNN, said that he had just spoken to Clark about a month and a half ago and that he sounded good.
  42. . . . They talked about Cannon’s book (now in paperback), “Where the Action Is,” the title a takeoff of Clark’s on-location music/variety show of the same name which ran on ABC from 1965 through 1974.Clark did the introduction to the book.
  43. . . . Cannon sang the theme for the show: “Action” (Warner Bros., 1965)
  44. . . . Cannon was also one of many Italian-Americans who appeared on Bandstand (10 times) through the years.
  45. . . . His real name was Frederick Anthony Picariello. Others in that “contingent” included Frankie Avalon (Avallone) and Fabian (Forte), Bobby Rydell (Ridarelli), Bobby Darin (Waldon Robert Cassotto) - all Philadelphia kids who appeared frequently on the show.
  46. . . . Connie Francis (Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero) was another favorite of Clark’s, appeared many times and debuted “Who’s Sorry Now,” her first hit (MGM Records, 1958) on Bandstand.
  47. . . . Chubby Checker sang and danced and got his start on the show with The Twist (Parkway Records, 1960). The record and dance took off, swept the nation.
  48. . . . INCIDENTALLY. Dick Clark’s wife Kari gave Ernest Evans the stage name “Chubby Checker,” likening him to a “junior Fats Domino, the very popular , multi-hit rhythm and blues singer.
  49. . . . As in Fats (“Chubby”) Domino (“Checker”).
  50. . . . Dee Dee Sharp sang “Mashed Potato Time”-Cameo Records, 1962), which became a huge hit and spawned a dance craze but when the song came out Sharp really didn’t know how to do the dance, couldn’t get all the moves down.
  51. . . . In some performances of the song/dance she was shot by the TV cameras without showing her feet.
  52. . . . The kids not only jitterbugged; they did the stroll, the bop, the Bristol Stomp, the Chalypso (cha cha + calypso), the strand, the pony, the fly, the hully gully, the watusi, the continental, the bunny hop, the rock-a-conga, the South Street, more.
  53. . . . It was 1964 and the show was getting bigger.
  54. . . . And time to leave the City of Brotherly Love and move to Los Angeles, the “entertainment capital of the world.”
  55. . . . The show had gone big time.
  56. . . . L.A. was happening.
  57. . . . Clark was branching out and doing more shows and the network was interested.
  58. . . . The West Coast was much more casual, reflecting the laid-back California lifestyle.
  59. . . . The Bandstand dancers were different now, anonymous.
  60. . . . The dancing itself was more free-form; everyone did his or her own thing.
  61. . . . It wasn’t as good as it was back in Philadelphia.
  62. . . . Times changed.
  63. . . . UH . . . Because They’re Young”-Dick Clark’s first movie in which he played a young high school teacher trying to make a difference in the lives of his students. Released by Columbia Pictures in1960.
  64. . . . Because They’re Young” was also the movie’s title song which was performed by Duane Eddy (His ‘Twangy’ Guitar) and The Rebels (Jamie Records, 1960) and who had a cameo part in the film.
  65. . . . And Bobby Rydell’s Swingin’ School” (Cameo Records, 1959) was featured prominently in the movie’s soundtrack.

Add new comment