I acn sya it now, 17 years later: Detroit Bandstand was . . . the pits. One awful room, a little platform at one end where Motown's answer to Dick Clark stood jaw-jiving, and two measly TV camers. The floor was linoleum and your penny loafers kept getting stuck all the time just when you were doing a perfect Pony in a spotlight. The heat was incredible. I mean, sometimes when your partner went to grab your hand to pull you back through his legs after one of those super nifty slide numbers your little hand would just slip out of his grasp from all the sweat and you'd whap right down on the floor - in front of all the cooler-than-ice kids watching at home and, (RATS!), in front of the American Bandstand talent scouts you knew were lurking in the viewer's balcony. It was the pits. Double pits.
You were never going to get on American Bandstand. Dick Clark's grandchildren were going to get on before you did. But - dream baby dream - you never gave uny. Marion & Bob. Marion . . . and . . . Bob? Certainly not Bob
He was not my boyfriend. No way. I was seriously in love with the captain of the football team, who dsn't anybody. I'm sure now he's a very rich doctor, but back then he was just the guy who I danced with as a regular on Detroit Bandstand. He was the slickest dancer I knew, though, and if he hadn't had one of the worst cases of acne in the Midwest things might have been different. But he also wore the thickest glasses this side of Mr. Magoo, which, routinely, he would whip off - ahhh, Showbiz - right before air time each day. I still wonder how in God's name he could dance so well when I knew for a fact he couldn't see one single thing.
Anyway, it was a short career, and the ending was nasty. We had been regulars for about a month when things began to get tense on the show. It was a mixed group of regulars. Half of us wer from Grosse Pointe, a snooty all-WASP suburb of Detroit, (See RUMBLE, B6, Col.4) (RUMBLE, From B1) and the other half were inner city . . . Italians. No blacks. We grew up dancing to unknown Detroit groups like the Supremes and the Four Tops and all the fabulous black music that would eventually be Detroit's only cultural claim to fame, bintegration. (Still is.) So there were no blacks.
Back then I guess it was dangerous enough mixing Italians with WASPs. Every day, outside the studio before the show went on, a lot of name calling went on. They called us "Cake Eaters" and we'd ask them what pancakes did when they hit the ceiling. Then we'd run in the building. It was disgusting and shameful and the only thing I can say in our defense was that during that year of 1960, thanks to West Side Story romanticism, rumbles were in vogue.
Once on the air, though, we are all sweetness and stellar youth. They danced on one side of the room. We danced on the other. We wore kilts and button-downs, circle pins and khakis, McMullen blouses and knee socks. They wore synthetic sweaters and straight black skirts. pants with no cuffs and taffeta shirts. And Piottoes. These were the black, real shine, extremely long pointed-toed shoes the Italian boys wore.
After a while, the emcee, a jolly plump fellow who bounced along to the music all the time and had about as much class in his whole body as Dick Clark had in his pinky finger, sensed there was something nasty building up out there on the linoleum floor. He gave us a pep talk after the show one day, told us we were all great kids, better than Philadelphia, and that it didn't look right on TV for the inner city kids to be dancing in one corner and the suburb kids in the other. From then on, he told us, we were going to have to dance among each other. HE then assigned us regular places to dance.
Well, by that time, he may as well have asked the Diggers to waltz with the Stompers. We were already at the kindling point, our mental stilettoes poised for the showdown. Bob (who, thank God. couldn't see anything) and I would be doing the stroll by our neighbor couple and I's look over and the girl would give me one of those up-and-down looks right out of "Rebel Without a Cause." I'd quick cross my eyes and give her one of my killer looks, making sure the camera wasn't on me, and then we'd stroll on by each other all smiles.
As I say, the end was nasty. And quick. I still remember the song: Buddy Holly. "That'll Be The Day." We were doing a dance. semi-jitter bug, we called The Detroit Routine. and she and I bumped into each other. I gave her a deadly look, glanced down at her boyfriend's Piottoes, and then I looked her right in the eye and said "Nice shoes." Real quiet.
"What'd you say, Cake Eater?" she said.
And then I said, this time very loud, "I said Nice Shoes."
She grabbed me by the collar and ripped my circle pin right off, so I pushed her, and the next thing I knew poor innocent blind Bob was locked innd the whole place had broken out in a Class A riot, everyone screaming bloody murder and kicking and punching and tearing into each other like wild wolves. The cameras clicked off.
I ran out of there, propelled past the speed of light by sheer fear, the biggest chicken you ever saw, and the last thing I remember, like it was yesterday, is throwing myself through the ladies room window onto a sr, and diving onto the floor of the back seat.
I darted up once to lock all the doors, and waited.
After a long ss. We were no longer regulars on Detroit Bandstand, he said.
I watched a few times after that. They no longer had any regulars, though, and Motown's answer to Dick Clark just didn't make it. He was too nervous, for one thinrmal, drippy kid did after school. I ate everything in the refrigerator and then went down to the recreation room in the basement at 5 o'clock and anced all by myself in ool kids on American Bandstand.