Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-12-11
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Gays behind the American Bandstand
By Sari Staver
2017-07-12

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


When The New York Post published a story that a new coffeetable book, Bandstand Diaries, revealed stories about the secret gay lives of some of the dancers, sales of the book went through the roof. Beginning at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, March 12, when the Post story by tell-all journalist Jerry Oppenheimer was published, "We could barely keep up with the flood of orders," said publisher Sharon Sultan Cutler, co-author of the 175-page book that includes more than 700 pictures from American Bandstand as well as interviews with many of the regulars.

"Who knew that the LGBT angle would be so powerful?" asked Cutler rhetorically in a telephone interview. Cutler, an ally, co-wrote the book with two LGBT Bandstand dancers, Arlene Sullivan and Ray Smith. While Sullivan, one of the most popular dancers on the show, and Smith, a longtime NBC-TV Today Show producer, had included information about their sexual orientation in the book, "We never intended to publicize it," said Cutler. But when the Post put the news in a headline, "We had the largest day in book sales."

The cover of Bandstand Diaries proclaims it's "the book you've waited over 50 years to read." For me, the hype was true. Like many adolescents growing up in the 1950s, I ran home from middle school every afternoon to tune into the ABC show hosted by Dick Clark, featuring rock-and-roll stars as well as the "regulars," dancers who became famous and were featured on teen magazine covers. I went overboard as a fan, writing to many dancers and launching a national fan-club for regular Barbara Levick, who was the best friend of co-author Sullivan.

So I adore the book, as I believe others would if they grew up watching the program. For LGBT people, reading about the show from the perspective of two LGBT dancers makes it even more fun. A chat with LGBT co-authors Sullivan and Smith offers some clues about why the program, which also launched the career of media mogul Dick Clark, was such a longstanding success.

"I never thought of myself as any sort of celebrity," said Sullivan, 75, modest and soft-spoken. Sullivan, who spent most of her adult life as a blackjack dealer in Atlantic City, has been an "out lesbian" since her late teens. "We were just ordinary middle-class kids in Philly," she said in a telephone interview. "Kids watching might've identified with us. I was totally shy and wasn't even a good dancer" when she first went on the show.

Sullivan, who received hundreds of fan letters every week and had fan-clubs formed in her honor, said the attention didn't phase her. "I was really just an ordinary kid," she said. She dated boys on the program, including her longtime dance partner Kenny Rossi ( "still to this day a very close friend" ) and Joe Wissert, who also turned out to be gay, and went on to become a successful Hollywood producer. But she "always knew I was a bit different," although she didn't act on any of her lesbian fantasies until she was 17 and had graduated from high school.

Smith, the third co-author, was an occasional dancer on the show, always in awe of the "regulars," he said in a phone interview. He went on to have a longtime career as a producer on NBC-TV's Today show.

In 1952, Bandstand went on the air locally in Philadelphia, backed by an advertising push. More than 1,000 kids lined up to get into the show. By 1956, with its audience growing, the producers hired good-looking Dick Clark to take over the show, renamed it American Bandstand and sold it to the network. The two-hour, five-day-a-week show got strong viewer ratings, and the brand took off.

Through the power of television, average teenagers from Philadelphia became "teen idols," said Smith, as recognizable as movie stars and with more fan mail than Hollywood celebrities. The program had a seven-year run until 1964, when Clark moved the program to Los Angeles, where it aired until 1989. In 2004, Clark announced plans to revive the show in time for the 2005 season, but this did not occur, due at least in part to Clark suffering a severe stroke.

Sullivan and Smith look back fondly on their years on Bandstand, and took the opportunity to revive their memories when publisher Cutler approached them about writing the book. Cutler put the book together because she was convinced there were "many untold stories" people her age would want to read. The book, updated for its third printing in time for the show's 60th anniversary celebration, continues to sell briskly, with a bump in sales every time it's featured online or in print. Asked whether she'd consider including a new LGBT section, Cutler said, "Yes, absolutely. What a great idea."

This review originally ran in the Bay Area Reporter.

Fans can order autographed copies of Bandstand Diaries atBandstandDiaries.com .


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Joffrey's Chicago-set 'Nutcracker' through Dec. 29 2019-12-14 - The Joffrey Ballet's reimagined classic, The Nutcracker, by Tony-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, returns to open the holiday season at the historic Auditorium Theatre, ...


Gay News

Joffrey Presents 'The Times Are Racing,' a mixed rep program 2019-12-13 - Dec. 13, 2019 ( Chicago ) — For its winter engagement, The Joffrey Ballet presents The Times Are Racing, a mixed repertory program ...


Gay News

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater includes Midwest premieres, Ailey classics 2019-12-12 - ( CHICAGO, IL ) — The Auditorium Theatre announces programming for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's March 4-8, 2020 performances in Chicago, featuring ...


Gay News

Renee Fleming in rehearsal with Lyric Opera for The Light in the Piazza 2019-12-11 - CHICAGO ( December 11, 2019 )—Rehearsals are underway for Scenario Two's presentation of the beloved Tony Award-winning musical The Light in the Piazza ...


Gay News

WINDY CITY TIMES annual Holiday Gift Guide, Part Two 2019-12-11 - I'll drink to that Inspired by TV host Giuliana Rancic, Giuliana Prosecco ( $14.99; TerlatoWines.com ) is smooth, with a fruity scent and ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW A Xmas Cuento Remix­­ 2019-12-11 - By: Maya Malan-Gonzalez At: 16th Street Theater, 6420 16th St., Berwyn Tickets: 708-795-6704 or 16thStreetTheater.org; $22-$32. Runs through: Dec. 29 You've ...


Gay News

Critics' Picks 2019-12-11 - The Tall Boy, Stage 773, through Dec. 15—The celebrated talent behind this touring show ( Tandy Cronyn, Kay Boyle, Simon Bent ) create ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: Gay spy movie, Santa Suite and more 2019-12-11 - —London Spy: In this British-American series that originally aired in 2015, devil-may-care Danny ( played by a fantastic Ben Whishaw ) meets the ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Neil Patrick Harris, Mary J. Blige, Jane Lynch, Pet Shop Boys 2019-12-11 - Neil Patrick Harris and husband David Burtka are in Walgreens' new #TrueHolidayStory campaign, which finds the beauty and humor in memorably imperfect moments, ...


Gay News

'Nat King Cole' holiday show Dec. 16-17 2019-12-10 - Writers Theatre, in partnership with Artists Lounge Live, will present a limited engagement of An Unforgettable Nat King Cole Christmas, starring Evan Tyrone ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.