Friday, May 31, 2013

USA! USA!

Like any red blooded American teenager the second I got home from school, the television went on.
In the tenth grade there were two shows that absolutely could not be missed:

General Hospital
and
DANCE PARTY U*S*A

General Hospital was just filler until my beloved Dance Party USA came on at 4:00. With my half-gallon (yes, half-gallon) of ice cream and spoon in hand I was on the couch ready to “party” with all of my dancing “friends.”


For those of you not familiar with the show it was a lame 80’s version of American Bandstand. Teenagers dancing to popular music of the time with "regulars" dancing their asses off as my ass made an deeper indentation on our living room couch.

You felt like you knew the kids who were on there every week, well…at least I did.
I dreamed of being one of them even though my dance skills were questionable.

The most famous alumni from the show is Kelly Ripa who had enviable gigantic hair, enviable cute outfits and an enviable boyfriend named Chris Kelly. If she would have married him her name would have been KELLY KELLY. Don’t think I didn’t lay awake in bed at night thinking about that.


Warning: White people dancing and lip syncing like fools.

Kelly was just another dancer on the show at that point, along with a few other standouts:

Heather “Princess” Day – Heather, excuse me, Princess was in love with...guess who…Huey Lewis!
Just kidding, Heather loved Prince. She dressed like Prince, wore a lot of spandex and lace and went nuts when a Prince song would come on. OH AND SHE WORE A TEAR ON HER FACE EVERYDAY OF HER LIFE THAT SHE SAID SHE WOULDN'T TAKE OFF UNTIL THE DAY SHE MET PRINCE.



Phil Ferrara – Phil had a last name that was soooo close to mine - just off by one little letter. In my demented mind Phil and I were related. We had to be. Phil was not the cutest and not the best dancer by any means and had super curly hair. Further proof we toootally could have been related.

My cousin Phil.

Eddie O’Neill – Ok, here we go. So Eddie O’Neill was my Dance Party USA crush/obsession. I would tape the show and pause when they focused on Eddie dancing and look into his bedroom eyes, trying to make some sort of cosmic connection with him through the television. When commercials came on I would get back to my pecan praline ice cream and the storyline in my head of us spending our lives together and what our children’s names would be.

Yup - here's my guy.
I had that same blazer.

I wrote Eddie a love letter and mailed it to the USA Network. He wrote me back. I have desperately gone through old boxes of notes/pictures/love letters looking for Eddie's letter which I know is here somewhere - never in a million years would have thrown something that important away.

It was a form letter that looked like it was typed out on a word processor and had been photocopied 900 times.
It told of Eddie’s likes and dislikes and was signed at the bottom, in what I believe could have been actual ink.

But he wrote me back. Well, he signed the bottom of a piece of paper. It happened.





I DIED! He's 24!
I'm sure he was thrilled that I wrote him back.

And so begins my love affair with older men. He was 24! I was 16! He had to have been the oldest guy on the show by a long shot. While the other kids were going home after the shoot to do their homework ol' Ed was heading out to the bar.

I still think about you Eddie, especially when I eat ice cream straight from the carton with a spoon while listening to Klymaxx or Shannon or Teena Marie. Which isn't that often. Not really. Well, sometimes.

I went to a Zumba class last night and I danced like a maniac in the back row. I had Dance Party USA on my brain.
I imagined being sixteen years old again, the camera panning over to me and I smiled as I did a little robot-like move that would have killed it on the show. Then I gave the camera my best sexy-ass-shake as it panned up and away from me.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Dance Party wasn't in the same league as American Bandstand but it was far superior to Top of the Pops and anything else England had to offer. I watched the show almost every day from 1987 to 1989. I never considered being on the show until a regular named Jessica mentioned my name on the air. I was trying to win a poster with the regulars on it. The producers must have picked up a postcard with my name on it and told Jessica to read my name on the air. Right then I decided I had to be on the show. Then I realized I didn't dance as good as the regulars who had logged thousands of hours of dance time on the show. I practiced in front of the tv for months before I flew to Philadelphia. It was thrilling to meet my favourite regulars: Julie, Cindy S, Princess, Annette, Tara as well as Jessica who I thanked for inspiring me to be on the show. There were three, one-hour episodes shot in ten hours on a hot, claustrophobic airless set with what smelled like 120 sweaty soccer players. Those '80's hairstyles drooped under the hot lights. The show wasn't broadcast live. It was shot on video with three cameras, edited and broadcast weeks later. That meant many takes and cheering for ten takes with painted smiles took a lot of effort. Floor producer Rennie Harris tried to maintain discipline and shouted "You! Off the set for talking!" to regulars and guests alike. That's how I met Jimmy Jam, Ed and Chris Tully. I asked Jimmy, "Did you and Lillian dance together because you liked each other or did the the producers pair you up for ratings?" He said "We liked each other." Chris said he had Sabian cymbals on this drums. I preferred Zildjians. He played matched grip, I was military grip. God rest his soul, along with his Dance Party girlfriend Anne Ware, designer Phil Ferrara and Justine Michaels. I reckon the four late regulars are cutting up the dance floor at the Pearly Gates with Phil at his sewing machine running off brilliant designs for everyone in the afterlife. Oh, the picture of Eddie is not Eddie O'Neil but a 1989 regular Eddie Camacho. And I have two letters. One, from Annette was more of a form letter with photocopied photos. The other, from Jessica was handwritten with a lipstick print, probably because i sent a photo of her and me on the set. That tv studio, Channel 57 WGBS is now a 24 hour fitness centre. The show was on an upswing during the late '80's pop boom of Stock-Aitkin-Waterman and New Kids on the Block, but the bottom fell out when Nirvana came along and bang went '80's pop for '90's grunge. What the heck, the show would have been way over the hill if it had stuck around for Britney-Backstreet-N'Sync. There have been good dance shows in America and England over the years but for my generation there will never be another "Remember! We need YOU to make it happen!"

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