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Forty years after ‘Bandstand’ debut, Clark and dancers celebrate

August 6, 1997

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Justine and Bob were a popular teen couple from Philadelphia who flickered on black-and-white TV screens in the late 50s, wearing the latest clothes, doing the latest dance steps, listening to the latest rock `n’ roll.

Tuesday, Justine Carrelli and Bob Clayton took another spin in the same studio, where they joined more than two dozen other middle-aged teen dancers from ``American Bandstand.″ Host Dick Clark and former teen idols such as Chubby Checker and Connie Francis also made it to the 40th anniversary celebration.

Bobby Rydell and Fabian, two other rock ’n roll celebrities with Philadelphia and ``Bandstand″ roots, recalled how a gig on the nationally broadcast show meant enormous exposure that led to movie contracts and other TV appearances.

``You knew when you were on `American Bandstand’ something good was going to happen,″ Rydell said.

``Bandstand″ first aired for a national audience on ABC on Aug. 5, 1957. The show, which moved to Los Angeles in 1964 and was cut to one day a week in the mid-60s, stayed on ABC until 1987. Clark produced it briefly in syndication and on cable.

Besides launching singers, ``Bandstand″ propelled its regulars from obscure adolescents into trendsetters.

At the end of each school day, they trooped to the former WFIL-TV studio in West Philadelphia, while young viewers across the nation tuned their sets to watch them.

Carmen Jimenez, a regular from 1957 to 1961 who now works as a social worker, remembered the strange sensation of having fans, including one who started sobbing at the sight of the dancers in a hamburger joint. Her sister, Ivette Jimenez, recalled the thrill of having an admirer from Seattle send her a check for a car.

``We didn’t know what impact this would have on people,″ said Carmen, 52, who arrived with a trademark blonde streak in her hair.

Some regulars had a hard time adjusting after leaving the show.

``While I was caught up in the magic of it, it was fantastic,″ said Justine, who at 12 1/2 used her older sister’s birth certificate to get onto the show. ``It was like having a New Year’s party every day, and when it was over I missed it _ the camaraderie, the dancing _ there was a void.″

Of all the regulars, Carole Scaldeferri Spada may have realized the longest lasting effect.

When she was 13, a boy the same age became smitten with her from his living room in Middletown, Conn. Richard Spada drew a picture of Carole and sent it to the show; Dick Clark held it up on the air.

In 1972, after a divorced Carole appeared on a reunion show, Spada sent a letter to her and they married later that year. The couple, born again Christians, run a no-smoking, no-gossip beauty shop in the Philadelphia suburbs.

To recognize the anniversary, Gov. Tom Ridge and Mayor Edward G. Rendell helped unveil a state historical marker outside the studio after dancing ``The Twist″ with Checker.

Davey Frees, president of the American Bandstand Fan Club, never got to the studio while the show was on the air. But he arrived Tuesday, beaming in a pink Dick Clark novelty tie.

``This is like I died and went straight to heaven,″ he said. ``I just hit 50 and I feel like I’m 14 today. If this is what 50 is like, who cares?″

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