Oh, what a night, Tears on the pillow, lipstick on the collar, laughter in the rain. Ponytails, ducktails, belts on the back of pants. The bop, the bump, the stroll, the frug. Jan and Dean, Les and Mary, April and Nino and "Ike and Dick - Sure to Click."
And Johnny Ray sobbing tng from a bad dream, don't you sometimes think it's real?"
"American Bandstand's 25th Anniversary," a two-hour ABC special at 9 o'clock tonight on Channel 7, is not to be mistaken for a musical event, Or even a rock event. It is a celebration, of other things - of rites of passage and rites of packaging, of peer group models supplied by mass media, of tribal communication through the movement of body parts. Of California Dreamin' on such a winter's day.
Through what we often call It All - through Vietnam and Watergate, Dallas and Memphis - Dick Clark has stood there, ever the univolved and nontattling chaper-one, while the kids continued to dance-dance-dance and shake-shake-shake. In the global village, we don't stage our puberty rights by moonlight. We put them on television.
Taped last month in Santa Monica. Calif., the "Bandstand" 25th anniversary show is at its best during fleeting clips of kids, past and present, dancing at network hop that began as a Philadelphia daily and became a Hollywood weekly. "Regulars" who danced often sometimes became stars of sorts, identity symbols for those at home, and some of today, in recently recorded interviews. They share the screen with black-and-white ghosts of their odolescent selves.
The fun is rather relentless, tightly edited into a seamless scream, but as another nostalgia orgy, even in territory well explored by "Happy Days." "Grease" and endless LP anthologies, it's an irresistible and creepily moving show. Yes, we really wanted to look like that. Yes, we really wanted to dance like that.
Clark, now 47, still looks much as he did in the '50s, os boyish and bright-toothed that he makes The Carpenters seem smarmy by comparison. "Bandstand" has become a small part of his professional life; he has his own production company headquartered on Sunset Strip and is the host of ABC's daily "20,000 Pyramid" game show. But he continues to be the perfect host for "Bandstand" - the respectable sanction standing watch to see that rock 'n' roll corrupts the morals of minors only minimally.
Dick, you've done a great job. But how have you maintained that incredible credibility? "Tenacity," says Clark by telephone from his "Pyramid" dressing room in New York. "Tenacity has a lot to do with anything. Add another thing - I stay the hell out of the way."
Clark has made a lifestyle out of being noncommital. It doesn't seem to have hurt him. On the special, he is his usual bland and bouncing self. "Oh, those swingin' '60s," he says. "Oh, those '50s were really something," he says. In a burst of philosophical daring, he also ventures to declare, "The big wheel turns; nothing changes."
We asked Clark if "the kids" haven't changed over the years. He said they haven't. "Of course, they look so much more interesting now. When we started as a local show in '52, there weren't any 'teen-agers.' They were just miniatures of their parents. They didn't have their own styles, they didn't have their own music, they didn't have their own money. And now today, of course, the whole world is trying to be a kid."
Although rock came from jazz and jazz was essentially black music, and although black artists appeared on "Bandstand" from the beginning, the dancing teenies weren't integrated until "'56 or '57," Clark recalls. "It was only a matter of time."
Surely, though, the kids on the show have changed - they've become much, much sexier. Clark laughs at such a suggestion. "That observation, my friend, puts you in the ranks of ther dirty old men," he says. "We have a very large barrom audience of old codgers."
So that's the way it is. The television generation of the '50s marks its passages by the tube - graduating from "The Mickey Mouse Club" to "American Bandstand" and then, years later, returning to "The New Mickey Mouse Club" and to "American Bandstand" again. Only this time with lust in our hearts.
"Some where there's music," sing Les Paul and Mary Ford. "How faint the tune."
We have our melancholy memories. Clark has hi repeatedly hauled before Congressional committees during the payola scandals. He looks back on this period with anger.
"I lost a great deal of respect for things I held near and dear and cherished," Clark says. "All that patriotic stuff wasn't quite what it was cracked up to be. What I learned about politicians was pretty shocking to me back then. Of course, in the 70s, it wouldn't shock anybody."
He doesn't want to dwell on this, Clark says.
On the special, naturally, such things are not mentioned at all. It's not a reality show. Nor is it a history of paop music - a rock "Roots." Key figures are conspicuously absent. But right there, nearly live, are many memory stirers - Chouck Berry, Gregg Allman. Bobby Rydell, Johnny Rivers, Patti Page, Frankie Valli, Annette (Annette!), Fabian, and many too mediocre even to mention. Chubby Checker, who by now should be called Fatty Checker, does the twist in silver pants and an open black shirt, joined briefly on a runway by Cher. They dance under an auditiorium sky hung with glistening congealed balloons.
Other names and faces pass by en film and kinescope; The Mamas and the Papas, Otis Redding, the Right-eous Brothers, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Brenda Lee, Clyde McPhatter and - stop! In the name of love. Before you break my heart.