Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Dick Clark yet lives. Bandstand dancer doesn't.

On Jan. 1, 2006, newspapers across America (and possibly elsewhere) gave reports of Dick Clark's appearance on his annual televised New Year's Eve program.

His having missed the previous "Rockin' New Year's Eve" after suffering a stroke generated the special media attention. (In case you didn't read about it or see America's oldest teenager on TV, he's looking pretty good, but his speech is somewhat distorted and he can't walk without help yet.)

On Jan. 2, 2006, Claire Martin wrote an obit for Alan Levin, a 60-year-old man who used to dance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand.

Claire got some cool comments through her interviews with his friends, starting with: Alan I. Levin, who died of brain cancer Dec. 25 at age 60, jitterbugged alongside other south Philadelphia teen idols on the early days of "American Bandstand" and never lost the kinetic animation that led one friend to characterize him as "a party on feet."

She worked in that he was one of United Airlines' first male flight attendants, which back in the day would have suggested that although he danced with girls, he might not be attracted to them. She confirmed readers' suspicions of his sexual orientation by throwing in a quote from Levin's life partner, Don Hughes.

Reading the obit made me nostalgic. It made me realize that I have forgotten much of what I thought was paramount in my youth. It also made me realize that my recollections of American Bandstand would not be the same as folks who grew up under Dick Clark's influence in other generations.

I faithfully watched Bandstand in the 1950s, when it was in its infancy and I was in elementary school. Back then I could have identified about a dozen Philadelphia teenagers, who danced on the show. I can still see their faces, but I can't recall their names.

I tried to place Alan Levin, but couldn't. Then I realized, he wouldn't have been old enough to be a dancer during the time that Bandstand dominated my life. Rock and roll music, performers and Rate-the-Record still held my attention, but I no longer cared about the dancers.

I remember late in 1963, when Clark introduced a song on Rate-the-Record that didn't seem to impress the teenagers who rated it on the show as much as it impressed me. It was "She Loves You" by The Beatles. Several weeks later, the song and the Fab Four topped the Bandstand Top Ten.

Do you have any Bandstand memories to share? Do you remember the names of other dancers or know what happened to them?


Claire Martin said...

OMG, Alana, I didn't know that Dick Clark's teens had (+/-) dissed the Beatles. I wonder exactly how free those kids were to really voice their opinions. The pop magazine stories I read for this obit took pains to make the dancers sound vacuously wholesome.

Alana Baranick said...

the dancers probably were vacuously wholesome in the early 1960s. otherwise, i might remember some of them.