Whenever I tell a baby boomer friend I’m writing a book, BANDSTAND DIARIES, about the Regulars who danced on American Bandstand in its Philadelphia heyday – 1957 to 1963 – I see a big smile appear. Fans of the daily dance show distinctly remember the names of teens like Arlene and Kenny, Bob and Justine, Carmen and Ivette, Frani Giordano, Carole Scaldiferri, Pat Molittieri, Billy Cook and the rest of the Regulars who danced and romanced across our grainy black-and-white television sets. This was the first time in American history that teenagers were so prominently featured for young and old to enjoy.
And the one question on everyone’s lips is “Whatever Became of…?” That’s what I set out to answer some three years ago when, through the magic of Facebook, I was able to contact Arlene Sullivan. I told her that millions of Bandstand fans were still interested in those popular teenage dancers, even though it was over 50 years since they captured our hearts and minds.
Arlene was receptive to chatting about my book idea, and we met in Atlantic City when I was on a media press junket. So getting to know Arlene clinched the book idea. As my co-author, she has written an amazingly candid Diary about her life and the many celebrities she’s met throughout the years.
We then asked her friend, Ray Smith, to join us as a co-author. Ray, who worked at NBC’s Today Show, was also a writer for Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, a book published in 1997.
Fast forward three years. BANDSTAND DIARIES will be published by Coney Island Press, a publishing house I created, in September, 2016. The Regulars are very careful of their reputations, and I had to be vetted as a responsible journalist before many Regulars agreed to be interviewed. Even now, I’m still locating Regulars who want to be included in this coffee-table book.
I had the most fun interviewing Bob Clayton (of Bob and Justine fame), because I had a wild crush on him when I was 11 years old. I’ve interviewed him three times already, each time adding a detail or two.
The book features over 40 interviews with the Regulars, most of whom are in their late 60s to mid-70s. Sadly, a few have passed away since I spoke to them, including Carole Scaldiferri, who died one week after our interview. Pat Molittierri, who fans remember for her exuberant hopping and bopping across the television screen, died in her mid-30s of a heart attack, but her two daughters spent many loving moments helping me to create a special tribute to her for the book. Unfortunately, we do have a big chapter in the book we call Tributes, to honor those dancers who have passed on.
It’s been a detective game for me trying to reach some of the Regulars. A few declined to be included in the book, but most were delighted to share stories about themselves, their families, their 15 minutes (or more) of fame on television, and especially, re-connecting with their fans from a half-century ago.
BANDSTAND DIARIES is going to be a nostalgic journey back in time to a special place in the 1950s and early 1960s, where ordinary Philadelphia high school kids became overnight celebrities. They actually were America’s first Reality Stars. Both fans and the Regulars sent us hundreds of photos which will be featured in this photo-packed oversize book. We also have many current photos of the Regulars – all grown up with children and grandchildren of their own.
Arlene, Ray and I will go out on a book tour (with a little dancing perhaps?) after the book is published. We hope to bring smiles and enjoyment to many baby boomers and seniors who remember when…
Sharon Sultan Cutler is Co-Author, BANDSTAND DIARIES: The Philadelphia Years 1956 – 1963. The book is available for pre-order at www.BandstandDiaries.com . The Facebook page is Bandstand Diaries. and email is BandstandDiaries@gmail.com