In last week's post, I wrote about some of the non-dancing reasons that viewers tuned into American Bandstand. This week, I want to give a shout out to the kids who were, indeed, interested in the dancing.
At its core American Bandstand was a teen dancing show, a very successful one at that.
Marvin Brooks, a cameraman on the show, also did occasional duty as a Bandstand doorman. While most of the show's doormen were of stocky build, Brooks was not, weighing just 140 pounds. He was cautious whenever opening the door to allow kids into the studio.
“The girls from West Catholic High School got out early and were the first in line," he said. "When I opened that door, they ran right over me, they trampled me. So I had to open the door and step out of the way, fast."
Mary Ann Collella was an early regular in the Bob Horn era. She considered herself a born dancer.
“It’s in my genes, I guess. My mother used to sneak out and get punished for going to dances. My uncle’s a great dancer, my father’s a good dancer so it’s in my genes," she said. "I used to practice with the wall. I went to dances even before I went to Bandstand, like the school dances and stuff. We traveled to all the different parishes to go to the dances. It was just something that kids from South Philly and North Philly did when they were teenagers.”
Rick Fisher, who was a semi-regular during Dick Clark's later years in Philadelphia, agreed that dancing was definitely a Philadelphia specialty.
"Philadelphia had its own style of dancing that nobody else was ever able to duplicate," he said. "New York kids thought they were great dancers, but they did not dance as well as us. We just had a style in Philadelphia that I thought was just wonderful and we seemed to pick it up quickly. Outsiders that would come in never seemed to get it, the way we picked up things.”
Barbara Marcen, who won a jitterbug contest on Bob Horn's Bandstand, said she didn't know how to dance at all when she first arrived in the WFIL-TV studio.
"You just learn. You watch the other ones dance," she said. "The other Committee members taught me how. It was just like a family. Everybody knew one another, especially among the regulars.”
Visitors to the show were sometimes intimidated by the Bandstand dancers. Like Bruce Aydelotte of Vineland, N.J., who sharpened his dancing skills on the Barbary Coast of the Jersey Shore where Joe Grady and Ed Hurst frequently hosted record hops at the Palm Garden dance hall.
When Aydelotte finally stepped onto the Bandstand set, he became anxious when he realized he could actually fulfill his fantasy of dancing with Pat Molittieri, one of the most popular dancers on the show.
“I just remember she was really sharp and that I was shaking in my shoes walking up to her to do a slow dance," Aydelotte recalled. "That was the days when you touched somebody when you danced.”
Another regular, Dorothy Bradley, said she wasn't the only family member interested in the show. "My Mom would watch Bandstand every day and dance right along with us," she said.
Author Larry Lehmer is writing 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.