Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Still Dancing to a Good Beat

June 28, 2004

Dick Clark has no memory of Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address in Pennsylvania. But the Methuselah of music-emceeing does vividly remember television's early days, and an institution that gripped a generation of 1950s teens every weekday afternoon. It was, of course, "American Bandstand," one of network TV's longest-running shows. It featured clean-cut teens who'd stop by a Philadelphia TV studio after school to dance, be seen and rate new songs. Pretty cool stuff for its time.

"It was a fun time of change," Clark says. "Kids were stretching, getting their own music, money and styles."

Now those 1950s teenagers and their far-flung fans are filling out somewhat larger jeans, and many even survived having their own teens. So "American Bandstand" is returning for a new generation of young people who might think the original Ike had something to do with Tina Turner.

Clark and Simon Fuller of "American Idol" are designing a new "Bandstand" for 2005. Safe to say, the new AB will include pop music, dancing, profitable product placement and, this being the 21st century, some kind of forced competition that won't involve the Stroll or Swim.

When Clark came on the scene in 1957, Philadelphia was no longer the nation's capital. But Ben Franklin's hometown soon seemed quite hip anyway thanks to "Bandstand," which gave teens nationwide a place to gather after school before cellphones and the Internet. Clothes worn and dance moves made by Clark's unpaid audience of regulars silently set styles and fueled chatter for millions. Distant boys admired certain girl regulars they'd never meet, and female viewers did the same with the boys. Both genders monitored the moves and moods of the show's steady couples -- Bob and Justine, say, or Kenny and Arlene. Then came South Philly's two Rosalies, Little Ro and Big Ro.

"American Bandstand" was, in a sense, an early "reality" show, performed live without rehearsal or script. Clean-cut Clark presided with cool affability, introducing guest performers or interviewing suddenly serious teens rating new Frankie Avalon songs from 35 to 98 (the theory being that nothing was perfectly good or bad). A prime criterion: a good beat you can, you know, dance to.

Clark, 26 back then, turns 75 in November, looking 40. He will not be hosting the new AB -- "wrong demographic," he says with a smile. Anyway, he's too busy producing music shows, blooper shows, award shows and rocking New Year's Eve shows. Not to mention a pop music hit parade still on KOST-FM 103.5. It's not South Philly, of course, but then, so what?

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|