American Bandstand and KCET?

American Bandstand | Photo by Cathy Bower 1988

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at kcet.org/50.

"American Bandstand" was not a KCET production, but since the staff of KCET had the honor to shoot its final season, it's worthy of a post.

Dick Clark needed a new home for "Bandstand" when ABC dropped him and he went into syndication back in the fall of 1987. He came to KCET with the proposition that we build his set on our huge Stage B at out Sunset Boulevard lot. The thing was massive, with three levels for the kids to dance on. We called it the jungle gym, and due to the fact that the Whittier quake had just recently occurred, we always worried about it. We especially were worried about the kids if another earthquake happened while they were dancing. Luckily, no earthquakes struck while we were taping the shows on those Saturdays.

Dick Clark and the Dancers - American Bandstand | Photo by Cathy Bower 1988

The shows were shot on one Saturday a month and we did four shows each time. We had a break at the halfway point for lunch and other than that, we pretty much worked non-stop (minus the union breaks, of course).

I worked two jobs for this show: I loaded the electronic graphics for the credit roll ahead of time and then, when taping time came, I pulled cable for the floor camera, who was usually Luis Fuerte of "California's Gold" fame. It was a difficult camera to handle, because the kids were all in the way, dancing their hearts out and totally oblivious to the cable that was attached to that camera that they wanted to get in front of.

Dick Clark was all over the place, as producer of the show and talent in front of the camera, and it showed. He would be putting out some fire, like the script not being right or the reset not going as fast as expected, and then he would suddenly have to be in front of the camera, a smile on his face. I did not envy his job. Dick Clark's wife, Kari, was a very nice person and a pleasure to work with. You could tell they were a good team, because she helped with whatever needed to be done, to keep things running smoothly.

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The dancers were amazing. Hour after hour they danced their hearts out, doing whatever they were instructed to do -- all for some KFC at lunch.

I am a big music lover, and so the many acts that graced our soundstage would routinely make my day. The biggest act that season was INXS, with Michael Hutchence singing the band's No. 1 hit "Need You Tonight." It made it onto the "Bandstand" anniversary show that came out years later. Michael wore spandex pants, and the teenage girls just went wild for him.

In other performers I was privileged to see, was teeny-bopper acts like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. Rap had a presence with LL Cool J and his band and mainstream was represented with acts like Michael Bolton. Christian rock even got represented with Stryper. It was a little bit of everything and for me and the rest of the crew -- an unforgettable year working with America's oldest teenager.

This is another in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read more entries here.

About the Author

I am a Broadcaster by day and a blogger by night. I love to paint, cook and travel with my family. I am also the owner of a rescued cat, who rules our lives.
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