The teen dancers on “American Bandstand” became the equivalent of “reality TV stars” with their own fan bases.
According to the Associated Press obit, Clark made rock music acceptable because he “knew how to make wary adults welcome this odd new breed of music in their homes.” Reporter Lynn Alber included an old Clark quote that revealed part of his strategy: “The boys wore coats and ties and the girls combed their hair and they all looked like sweet little kids into a high school dance,” he said.
The show’s teen dancers became the equivalent of “reality TV stars” with their own fan bases. But they were just normal kids, many of whom, in the early days, made their way daily from their respective high schools in Philadelphia to the televised dance party,
The “American Bandstand” dancers ended up living all across the United States and followed a variety of careers. As we remember Dick Clark, we’re highlighting a few Bandstand dancers who’ve died in recent years.
“American Bandstand” dancer Richard Pierce served in Vietnam before settling in Anchorage, Alaska, in the early 1980s. There he worked for Anchorage Chrysler “as a mechanic specializing in air conditioning and electrical,” according to his obituary in the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News. According to his obit, “Rick was one of the first ASE certified mechanics in the United States.”
A “man of many talents,” Rick loved “to hunt and fish” and even worked at one point as “a commercial halibut fisherman and a gunsmith.” Before moving to Alaska, Rick was involved with the National Hotrod Association (NHRA), racing from the late 1960s to 1981 as driver of his own Rick Pierce Funny Cars. He died Jan. 19, 2009, at age 64.
Like Rick Pierce, Bandstand dancer Sandra Mae Dawson, who died Feb. 25, 2008, at age 66, was into car racing. In fact, she was “the first female car racer at Cecil County Drag Strip,” according to her obit in the Delaware News Journal.
Sandra worked as a nurse at Riverside Hospital for over 30 years. After retiring, she relocated to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where she was a hospice volunteer.
After “American Bandstand,” Charlie Hayes served in the U.S. Air Force and as mayor of Tolleson, Arizona, according to his obit in the Arizona Republic.
An entrepreneur, Charlie, who died Sept. 6, 2011 at 68, was also “an ardent supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs and helped build the club in Tolleson.” And his obituary offers this excellent advice:
“Charlie would like everyone to know that he loved life, that you should always greet each day with optimism and an open mind, and finally, the one those closest to him heard the most, listen with your ears, not your mouth.”
After dancing on Bandstand, John Martin Lance “formed a popular local singing group that was known as the ‘Royal Lads,'” according to his obit in the Bridgeton News of New Jersey.
As a young adult, John “joined his father and brother in the operation of the family farm which included over 50 acres of peach trees, corn and melons.” Later, “Johnny changed careers,” entering “the world of fashion” as a dress cutter and pattern maker.
He later founded “Marlo’s,” a retail clothing store in Millville, New Jersey. John Lance died Dec. 24, 2010 at age 67.
For 30 years Richard John Gotham made his home in Las Vegas where he was a dealer, according to his obit in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Rick’s “greatest love was golf.” He “played on the Golden State Mini Tour” and also “loved teaching golf and making clubs for his friends.”
But Rick, who died Jan. 4, 2008 at 61, had fond memories of his years as a Bandstand dancer: “One of Rick’s most memorable times was dancing on American Bandstand for three years, way back when . . . “
This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She was the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers before she passed away in 2015.