THURSDAY THOUGHTS –
Many are unaware that tangible press coverage for the American Bandstand Regulars did not begin until well into 1959, and substantial coverage until the beginning of 1960.
‘Teen magazine’s first feature article was an exclusive on Pat Molittieri. It was June of 1959.
16 Magazine’s feature article on Kenny Rossi was not until January of 1960 – over a year after he was off the show. What about those cover issues of the Regulars from ‘Teen magazine? That would be 1960.
All of this is understandable when one makes a clear distinction between popularity and press.
In August of 1957, the country was introduced to something called American Bandstand. Its uniqueness and charm sent a popularity punch that knocked Dick Clark and the Regulars out of the Philadelphia ring and into the lap of a national audience.
Many will tell you – and Dick Clark himself in interviews attests – that a sizable slice of the fourth estate thought Bandstand wouldn’t last. We’ve learned they were wrong.
To a great degree – some would say the greatest degree – it was the Philadelphia American Bandstand Regulars who made Bandstand a success, but the magazines didn’t get on the Bandstand wagon until well after the viewing audience awareness. That lack of press coverage of the Regulars was due to a compilation of circumstances; and you’ll learn all about that in The Princes and Princesses of Dance/The Follies of Fame.
Plausibly, the average teenager of the time the (adults of today) would be unsuspecting of that fact. Their perspective was derived — more than not — from their television screens, chats with their school chums, Bandstand yearbooks, and responses from fan club presidents and their teenage American Bandstand idols – the American Bandstand Regulars.
For the most part, those Bandstand related articles featured Dick Clark and/or American Bandstand as a whole. For an example, in July of 1958 in 16 Magazine Dick Clark is shown with Frani Giordano and Regular Angel Kelly. The photo does say he is with Regulars, but no mention of who they are. In November of 1958 16 Magazine published an article titled Dick Clark Top Tune Spotter. Not an American Bandstand Regular is mentioned. In August of 1958, with Dick Clark on the cover of ‘Teen magazine, editor Stephan Kahn gives a brief quote from Tex Connor, Myrna Horowitz and Mary Beltrante and a mention of Pat Molittieri but the article is titled Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and its focus is Dick Clark. Then a year later, in November of 1959, who would be honored in 16 Magazine with the first portrait by Josh King? The answer: Dick Clark. Josh King was the preeminent resident artist for 16.
Josh King’s first portrait of a Regular was in January of 1960 – that former Regular at the time was Kenny Rossi. Josh then rests his pen until March of 1960 when he artfully attributes Arlene Sullivan. Months go by before he picks up his pen again for Pat Molittieri in August of the same year; again months elapse until he portrays American Bandstand Regular Barbara Levick in January of 1961. Only thereafter did his pen go on a pantheon parade with the remaining Regulars, all of whom may be seen in the Portraits album on our website.
It was rare that the Bandstand Regulars were mentioned outside the teen magazines of the day. One exception was Eddie Kelly and Tony Porrini in an article in a May 1959 issue of Photoplay. Photoplay was almost exclusively devoted to Hollywood stars, music idols and the related dish of the day. Eddie and Tony lament, Girls you’re wonderful but….
Don’t ask. You have to read the magazine. Personally, I was shocked!
In November of 1959 – now in competition with Pat Molittieri in ‘Teen magazine – a roving reporter for 16 contributes an article about her visit to Bandstand. A number of Regulars are mentioned in the piece and identified in photos. Then ‘Teen grabbed the ring with Pat’s two specials, Bandstand Buddies and Bandstand Blast.
Yes, there was a mention here, there was mention there, but, as you can surmise, the in-depth coverage of the Regulars — their on and off the show lives — was not affected until almost two years after the show went national.
Again, we turn back to popularity versus press. Many of the Regulars featured were off Bandstand before the articles. All those early portraits by Josh King of Kenny and Arlene and Pat were after they were off the show. Certainly this speaks volumes with regard to the impact the earlier Regulars had on their fans.
Another gauge to be factored in is that the number of local networks increased as the show gained popularity, so coverage was a growing process as the show became more established and the press slowly became aware that the Regulars were the main draw of the show.
A little tidbit: The most widely covered national American Bandstand contest was not until early in 1961. That contest was The Pony Contest, and those winners were Mike Balara and Frani Giordano, Norman Kerr and Joyce Shafer, and Frankie Vacca and Carmen Jimenez. The contest was the most photographed, the most publicized, and the most controversial of all the contests.
Albeit, Justine Carrelli and Bob Clayton were said to have received somewhere in the vicinity of a million votes as winners of the first national dance contest on Bandstand in 1957, but there is no record of the votes counted for any of the contests that followed. What is to be said for the mountain of mail which can be seen in that ubiquitous photo of Frani in front of bags and bags of votes on the momentous occasion of the announcement of the winners of the aforesaid Pony Contest? That photo is sending a message.
When I was called to collaborate on The Radio Hits of 1958 Broadway revue, I presented them with a choice of dances and Regulars. Along with The Stroll and the Hand Jive, they opted for The Mashed Potato and The Pony. It is what the director and producer and choreographer remembered, and what they thought the audience would relate to as American Bandstand dances – and the audience well did.
As adviser of the Bandstand mural (residing in the original American Bandstand studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) with regard to my core concept of couples, the exceptions are two individuals who received equal attention in the fan world and were as popular as their couple counterparts and were of two distinct periods: Pat Molittieri in the Fifties, and Carmen Jimenez in the Sixties.
On this very website, there is an enormous amount of reception for the years of 1961, 1962 and 1963 and the front end tip of 1964, along with 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960. In emails comments apart from the blogs, I receive as many requests for Regulars from the Sixties as I do from the fifties.
Claims to individual Regulars’ popularity can lean toward the subjective. But clearly, attention is to be paid to the weight of the premise that the American Bandstand Regulars did not lose their vast well of fans and friends at any given period of the Philadelphia Bandstand years. Mike Balara, for one, is an example. We all have our personal favorites (faves) but….
Now to the other important issue. Would someone please wake up Dick Clark? It’s time for the Everly Brothers….
Ciao for now….