Myrna Horowitz was not a great dancer. Nor was she a great dresser. She never had a regular dance partner on American Bandstand. There was never a Myrna and Harvey or Myrna and Eddie fan club, yet Horowitz was one of the most popular teenagers to ever appear on the show.
You may remember her as the girl with the leg brace, a nagging reminder of her battle with polio at age 6. She loved Bandstand when it was a local Philadelphia program, but her parents were opposed to her appearing on the show, fearing her physical limitations would open her to ridicule from her peers.
In 1957, close friend Harvey Robbins persuaded her to attend. The big draw? Her favorite actor, Tab Hunter. By the time of her 16th birthday in February 1958, Horowitz was invited to join the show's prestigious Committee. Her parents' fears about reaction from Horowitz's peers were borne out, but in terms of jealousy rather than ridicule.
She became president of the Freddy Cannon fan club and, when she was bedridden for 16 weeks following leg surgery in late 1958, Dick Clark regularly reported updates on her recovery to his American Bandstand audience.
Another regular, Eddie Kelly, persuaded Horowitz to enter the teen magazine wars, competing against Pat Molittieri at Teen and Arlene Sullivan (and a rotating cast of regulars) at 16. In 1960, Horowitz started a monthly column for Teen Screen, pocketing $25 a month for her writing and $5 for every photo publisher Sheldon Heiman decided to print. Horowitz helped the magazine triple its circulation before it wend under three years later.
Through it all, Horowitz enjoyed a close relationship with Clark. That was apparent, even when Modern Screen arrived to do a story on her at the same time news broke that payola fears had forced Clark out of the music business and threatened his television career. The "Myrna story" morphed into another "Dick Clark story," but this time through the eyes of a much-revered regular.
In the story -- headlined "Dick Clark I Love You" -- Horowitz told of meeting Clark for the first time and how he encouraged her to step onto the dance floor. She told of meeting and making friends with many of the regulars. She spoke of meeting stars like Pat Boone, Connie Francis and Annette Funicello. "I even danced with Fabian," she said.
Before the interviewer left, Horowitz said she'd heard all the payola buzz and wanted to say something about the matter.
"I, for one, am behind Dick Clark, no matter what," she said. "All right? Would you please print that in your magazine."
After Bandstand, Myrna worked at Swan Records and for the City of Philadelphia before relocating to California. She died in 2009.
Author Larry Lehmer is putting the finishing touches on a book about the Philadelphia years of American Bandstand. The book is called Bandstandland. It has lots of details about the show you've never read before. If you have any stories about American Bandstand or Dick Clark that you'd like to share in the book, contact Larry.
Photo: Myrna Horowitz at Bandstand reunion party at Bunny Gibson's house in Marina del Rey, California, in 1997.