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Original Bandstand Members Back In Philadelphia To Boogie

August 26, 1988

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ They twisted, coffee-grinded and jitterbugged their way into the nation’s living rooms on the original ″American Bandstand″ in the 1950s. Now, older and a little less svelte, they’re back in the city where it all began to recapture their glory days.

On Thursday, for the first time in a quarter century, 27 of the original Bandstand dancers, including Joe, Kenny, Arlene, Carole, Flossie and Jim, reunited to rehearse their steps for a rock ‘n’ roll celebration over Labor Day weekend in Philadelphia.

″Any place there’s dancing, I’ll still go,″ said Joe Fusco, who was 15 when he joined the show.

Fusco, now 46, of south Philadelphia and Lis Braun of the Hot Foot Agency, a talent agency for dancers, cooked up the idea of bringing the gang together to dance, gossip and reminisce at the rock ‘n’ roll event, called Rock ‘A’ Rama.

Fusco developed the two-hour show with Braun, contacted the dancers and helped with the choreography.

″American Bandstand″ started life as a Philadelphia TV show in 1952, with Bob Horn as master of ceremonies. Dick Clark took over as host in 1956, and the show made its network debut on ABC-TV on Aug. 5, 1957.

Clark moved the show to California in 1964, but many fans remember it as a Philadelphia phenomenon.

The Bandstanders invented steps that are still given a whirl: the bunny hop, the chalypso and the stroll.

″You were like a big star. Girls chased ya; the guys hated ya,″ said Fusco.

So in a dance studio Thursday night, remembering the glory days, they practiced their jitterbugs and coffee-grinding and listened to Bobby Darin, Frankie Avalon and Neil Sedaka.

The dancers have aged, some have gained weight or grown mustaches, but they continue to follow what’s hip in fashion and dance steps. Several wore miniskirts, others donned sneakers and pedal pushers.

During breaks, they grabbed cameras and cigarettes and tried to catch up with each others’ lives before Joe called them back for another try at ″Rock Around the Clock″ or ″Oh, Carole.″

The reunion gossip even included a love story.

Philadelphia’s Carole Scaldeferri, a regular on the show from 1957 to 1961, met Richard Spada in 1957, when he was a fan who traveled to Philadelphia to see the show in person.

In 1977, Carole appeared on a Dick Clark television special, where Richard spotted her. With the help of Clark and his wife, Richard contacted Carole and the two were married six months later.

″Now I only dance at weddings,″ said Carole, 42.

Bobby Baritz, a little out of breath from a fast jitterbug, said he now runs a food and gift shop in New York City. He said fans often spot the ″American Bandstand″ display in his store and gawk at photographs of their favorite Bandstanders.

Recalling the days when a secretary handled her fan mail, Arlene Sullivan of Washington Township, N.J., said, ″They still remember, they still remember.″

And they do.

David Frees of Ephrata is president and founder of the American Bandstand Fan Club, which has more than 800 members in the United States, Europe and Japan.

″You better believe I’ll be there,″ Frees said of the Rock ‘A’ Rama appearance. There are no plans to televise the event.

And it was Frees, not any of the original Bandstanders interviewed Thursday, who remembered the words to the show’s theme song, written by Barry Manilow.

″I’ll jump and, hey, I may even show ’em my handstand, because I’m on the American Bandstand.″

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