Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dick Clark Goes to the Great Spotlight Dance in the Sky

News that Dick Clark died today at the age of 82 brings me back to those Saturdays when I watched, with deep envy, the people dancing on the set of "American Bandstand."

Looking back, I have no idea why I was so envious, but consider the scenario. It was the 1970s. I  was sitting alone, again, in West Rutland, Vermont, in my usual  "husky boy" jeans and ill fitting  t-shirt, stained with Hershey's chocolate ice cream.

The dancers on "American Bandstand" were the cool kids in fashionable, dazzling L.A.  I was the dorky kid going nowhere in Vermont.  They were the stars. I never would be.

That's the strange thinking of a 14 year old kid. As much fun as I had with American Bandstand, I'm so glad I was never one of those cool kids on the show.  I look back on the clips now, and the kids weren't so cool. The clothes they wore maybe weren't the latest fashions. They were just what people wore back then. The kids couldn't even dance that well.  I was under selling myself.

Looking back,  I now realize it was more cool that I could walk out the back door, and lose myself hiking in the mountains in back of my house for the day. I didn't realize it at the time, but the fact that I could do that made me way cooler than the homogenous, bland Ken and Barbies dancing on American Bandstand.

I loved the music, though. I always loved pop music. Still do. I mean, check the clip below. "Don't Leave Me This Way," by Thelma Houston remains as delectable as Dick Clark said it was back in 1977 or whatever.  The clothes the dancers wore are so ugly. The kids weren't dancing well at all, like I thought they were when I first watched the show.  The clip is hilarious. Why isn't anyone really moving?!?

I'm almost 50 years old, and I can dance to any Lady Gaga song better than these American Bandstand kids could do to any of the best and wildest disco songs.

I used to get a kick out of the Spotlight Dance, where three couples on American Bandstand danced on three separate pedestals. They were the alpha kids, supposedly. The best dancers, the most popular, the best dressers. Now, they look and move no better than the two figurines atop a wedding cake during a minor earth tremor.

I don't mean to put down all those people who were on American Bandstand. They were all good. They had different lives than I did. I used to think that was to my disadvantage, they were better than I.  But no, they weren't better than me. Just different.

So anyway, Dick Clark, thank you for setting me off on this weird little journey of self discovery. I hope you're somewhere, introducing Abba or the Human League or Andy Gibb or Donna Summer,  to some of the best Spotlight Dancers in the universe.

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