Do you remember American Bandstand? It was a popular dance program that ran from 1952 –1989. When I was a senior in high school, Louie, a friend, invited me to go tape some shows. As a 17-year-old this was beyond exciting. We had to take several changes of clothing for the tapings. Trendy hot pants and the English model Twiggy were all the rage. I had a part-time job and was always shopping for clothes, so I had enough changes for the show. We lived in Colton, a little more than an hour south of where the show was being taped in Los Angeles. We didn’t have to worry about lunch because it was provided by the studio. What I did worry about was all the cool L.A. kids who were regulars on the show. The camera liked them because they were natural, they knew how to play to the camera. I, with my shag haircut, was a little intimidated. I was in great shape and looked good in my attire, but when I heard that the camera added ten pounds I was nervous about looking fat. My body image has been my love/hate relationship my entire life.
I had no idea that a nationwide dance contest was about to take place. I loved to dance and I felt confident enough to participate. Today I can still vividly hear the song in my head as we headed to the dance floor. “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” by Marvin Gaye was playing as Louie and I hit the dance floor. I remember the outfit too; I wore hot pants with a matching top. As Louie and I danced our hearts out, we were quickly eliminated. The couples chosen were part of the regulars. They had more experience on the show and were much better dancers than we were.
Seeing Dick Clark for the first time was like Toto pulling the curtains on Oz. “This is Dick Clark?” I said to myself. This giant on television quickly became a small, life-sized man. I was not disappointed, but the reality of television really sank in because his charm was bigger than his frame. He was poised and professional and talked to everyone like a friend. Our audience was made up of several races: Blacks, Whites, and Latinos with a sprinkle of Asians. We were all there to dance. The show was staged with risers that elevated other dancers. The producers selected the dancers who were regulars to showcase their moves because they were much better dancers than the rest of us.
For hours, I looked through the archives of American Bandstand in search of our tapings, but I could not pinpoint the exact date or the precise year. I was thinking it may have been the beginning of my senior year. It could have been between 1969-1970. To my recollection, the shows were taped weeks in advance. The sad truth is that I never saw myself on television because one of my cousins was killed in a car accident. The show was to play the weekend we traveled to the funeral. I found it disrespectful to bring up the show while my family was in mourning.
My cousin Elvia was living in Illinois, so I believe she was the only family member who saw me on the show. There were no options back then, no recording devices; so if you missed the show, it was history. I believe that Louie and I appeared on several tapings.
Years later I had another brush with fame. I was getting my hair cut in Los Angeles at Vidal Sassoon, where I met a young man who would later introduce me to his mother. Carole, his mother, was the creator of “Facercise.” She had developed an ingenious series of face exercises to keep your face firm. Carole was interviewed by 60 Minutes and has worked with many famous clients. I was asked to participate in a seven-day program. Every morning I drove to Carole’s home in Redondo Beach for the sessions. This was a major sacrifice for me because the traffic was horrendous both ways. At the end of the program we had to drive to Thousand Oaks to take the “after pictures.” I learned to tone my facial muscles. This is a program that Carole still teaches for a hefty price. Around 2002 she was interviewed by NBC; my “before and after pictures” were shared but I never saw that program when it aired. Another cousin, Delia , told me about the show. Thank God I have a ton of cousins.
I am still good friends with Carole’s son Brit; we keep in touch through Social Media. I baptized Brit and Jazmina’s son Noah, and they are included in my daily prayers.
I am loved by my family, and I have a good corps of friends. I love my brothers and sisters and keep in contact with them on a regular basis. I have a handful of cousins who remain my dear friends. We watch over our Tia Maria and, when we get a chance, we get together and take her to lunch. I am famous in my family because I serve as the “Family President for Life.” Though this is a self-appointed position and my cousins always attempt to overthrow my dictatorship, I will always remain their loyal president! I’m here to serve.
Lord, I thank You for my family and all the opportunities You have bestowed on my life. I pray for every member of my family, that they may be blessed, and always serve You. I pray for all families who are suffering from strife and have not mended their relationships with one another. Father, You are their Creator and nothing is impossible with You. Heal all broken the hearts in these families due to separation or strife. May Your peace and understanding fall on their hearts. Amen.