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''American Bandstand'' is back from the grave

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John Travolta can blush all he likes over his recently unearthed singing appearance on American Bandstand. But since Jan. 1 — when VH1 began broadcasting a decade’s worth of episodes spanning 1975-85 — it’s been the former Bandstand dancers who are doing the slack-jawed double takes. ”I feel like I’m back in the ’70s,” says Louie Novoa, who danced from 1972 to ’79 and is now a choreographer for Beverly Hills, 90210. ”Jason [Priestley] and everybody have been talking about my hair, the platforms, and the New York hustle.”

”You couldn’t miss me,” says Jo Ann Orgel, the girl wearing the ”Packaged in America” T-shirt in all the VH1 promos. ”You look at yourself and say, ‘What was I thinking?”’

Gone are the effortlessly skinny bodies of yesteryear. ”I was 15 pounds lighter,” moans Peaches Johnson, an actress and 1975-80 regular. ”Remember those really short shorts called Dolphins? No way could I let my big behind walk around in those today!”

In the case of ”Rico Suave” sensation Gerardo, who appeared on Bandstand in 1984 (before he had a recording career), there are fashion atrocities and break dancing to justify. The singer, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Ashland, KY., has endured tireless ribbing. ”[Friends] were all laughing about the parachute pants, those sparkly black leg warmers, the bandanna, and, of course, my big pompadour,” says the singer, 30, whose second Spanish-language album, Derrumbe, came out last year.

For some dancers, seeing themselves shaking their booties wasn’t such a shock. ”We haven’t changed much,” says Brad Joblin, who met Barbara, his wife of 12 years, on the show in 1980. But they and their fellow dancers are amazed at how far they’ve come since the days when — for no pay and a lunch of Kentucky Fried Chicken — they’d pack six changes of clothes, head to ABC’s Hollywood studio, and do the hustle over a full weekend of taping. ”I felt a little sad thinking about how much fun we had and how innocent it all was,” says Debbie Chaffin Paré, Novoa’s dancing partner, whose tenure on the show once led to a chaperoned date at age 17 with Merrill Osmond. These days, though, she’ll be found in baggy Gap pants, not ultra-tight jeans. Unfair as it may be, the Bandstand dancers can’t avoid the one thing host Dick Clark continues to outwit: age.

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