A regular bunch of grownups, the old gang gathers 'round. They don't want to look like dweebs out there at Penn's Landing during the three-day Rock-a- Rama, where they'll be performing Sunday in front of their kids and everybody else those ancient Philly folk dances, the Circle Dance and the Cha- lypso.
These people, some gray now, some overweight now, invented these dances back in the late '50s and early '60s when they were students at Cardinal Dougherty and Bartram and West Catholic and taught them by example to all of the teen-aged United States as dancers on "American Bandstand," the world's first TV rock 'n' roll show.
These are the few, the proud, the regulars, the rock pioneers who carried actual wallet cards from Dick Clark himself designating them members of The Committee, those popular-crowd "Bandstand" insiders who got to go to the head of the line at the old WFIL studios at 46th and Market and make the whole known adolescent world hip to the way things were done in Philly.
The kids were there to push the music and became stars themselves. They got bags of mail and tons of presents. Everybody watched what they wore and who they Slopped, Bopped and Strolled with. Some of them, like Arlene Sullivan and her steady and partner, Kenny Rossi, the Sweethearts of Bandstand, rated their own fan clubs and write-ups in the teen magazines.
The gig at 4 to 5 p.m. Sunday, in which 26 of the 30 or so Philly dancing stars of those days will be participating, is history in the making. It's the first time since the show split to California in '64 that the originals will be dancing together again. And, old fans take note, from 5 to 6 p.m., their public will be able to mingle with the first teen-agers of the modern era.
As "Little Darlin"' and "Short Shorts" blasted away at the rehearsal the other night and the old-timers danced with that same blank-faced concentration they made the essence of cool so many years ago, Fusco, himself a Committee member and the guy who pulled this whole thing together over the last six weeks, ticks off the names.
Diane d'Santo, Flossie Epstein, Jimmy Peatross, Joan Buck, Richard Orlina, Frankie Levins, Larry Brumbach are all alive, well, living in the area and participating in the show. Frani Giordano couldn't make it - four kids, her hands are full. Carmen Jiminez will be there, but it was too far to come from Miami for her sister, Ivette. Bobby Durkin is in Houston and won't make it. Ronnie Vervit's in Florida.
Justine Carelli, one of the really big names in those days, is in real estate all the way out in Las Vegas and also her mother died not long ago. Her old partner, Bob Clayton, nobody hears from. Then there are those who have passed away - Frankie Lobis, who's been gone two years now, and Pat Molitierri, who died of stroke when she was only 36.
Fusco, 45, a professional party planner, South Philly born and bred, had saved all his "Bandstand" memorabilia all these years waiting for this chance. ("I saved everything imaginable. I saved it all from Day 1. I always thought we would be marketable.")
After Lis Braun of the Hot Foot dance agency put an ad in the papers calling for an old Bandstander roundup, Fusco's phone rang, and he was off to the races. He's got a guy videotaping the rehearsal. He's hoping for gigs at the casinos. He's holding a cold cloth to his face and yelling at his old friends as they move their pelvises and feet with vigor and grace unbowed by age.
Arlene Sullivan, who's co-emceeing the show with her old boyfriend Kenny, on the other hand, isn't worried. But then, Arlene doesn't worry.
She's 45 now and has gone, as she says, from doing her thing for Mr. Clark to doing it for "Mr. Trump." She's a blackjack supervisor at Trump's Castle who's living in Turnersville, N.J. Divorced, no kids. The old long black hair is cropped short, a burnished strawberry blond. She's wearing a bright red shirt with the collar turned up, a snug pair of jeans, Reeboks and a smile that seems only to dim when she says that she and Kenny broke up when he went off and left her to try to become a recording star.
She'll laugh and squeeze your arm as you look over her shoulder at the manila file folder of pictures from those days she's brought with her.
"There's Paul Anka with his old nose," she says mirthfully.
She didn't try to turn pro, she says, "because I didn't have any talent, or at least that's what my mother told me.
"I didn't take much seriously then and I still don't. Arlene Good Time," she calls herself. "I'm doing a lot of laughing."
Arlene looks around the room and gives you a rundown on the dancing gang.
Carole Scaldeferri (Spada now) is married to her second husband, a guy who vowed he'd make her his own when he saw her on "Bandstand" when he was 15. The guy saw her again on a "Bandstand" reunion show in '75, got Clark to give him the address, wrote Carole and now the two of them own a beauty salon in Upper Darby.
"I love that story," Arlene says, "It's like a real love story."
Jimmy Peatross is a hairdresser, as is Larry Giuliani, who also owns a couple of Thoroughbred hunters out in Lancaster County. Barbara Magallianes is a bartender at the Franklin Plaza. Dottie Horner (for whom Danny and the Juniors sang "Dottie") is a sales rep for a publishing firm. Lenny Natale, the only guy to marry another Bandstander (Betty "Betty Boop" Romantini,
from whom he is now divorced), owns a restaurant in Voorhees, N.J. When Natale, who went to Wilson in Camden, can't remember where Romantini went to school, Arlene clues him in. (West Catholic).
Arlene's Kenny, 44, who's living in Wynnewood with his second wife and running a company that cleans the outsides of buildings, sidles up, grinning at his old partner.
Where did he go to school?
"West Catholic." He pauses. "Boys. The horniest school in the world. They had no sense of humor there."
Arlene starts talking about how she used to sneak out of her last-period music class to start the 36 trolley and 46 bus ride to Studio B.
She nudges Kenny in the ribs.
''I asked him to dance. Can you believe I had the nerve?"
"I was cute then," Kenny says.
He breaks into one of those beautiful Italian boy smiles that got him 100 pairs of cuff links one Christmas almost 30 years ago.
A BLAST FROM THE PAST
It'll be bop and eat 'til you drop this weekend at the Second Annual Rock- a-Rama festival the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau has put together at Penn's Landing.
The three-day event - Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Labor Day) - is a big, fat Dagwood sandwich of events built on a '50s rock 'n' roll nostalgia theme. Here's what you'll be digging, man:
SATURDAY. 7-Up Stageteria: 1:30-2:45 p.m. - Doo Wop Revue with the Shangri- Las, Del Vikings, Marvelettes; 4:30-5:50 - Carl Perkins; 6:15-7:15 - Lou Christie; 8:30-9:30 - Ben E. King.
South Street Stage: 12:30-1:15 - Orlons; 3:10-4:10 - Lou Christie; 5:30-6:15 - Orlons; 7:15-8:30 Doo Wop Revue with the Shangri-Las, Del Vikings, Marvelettes.
SUNDAY. 7-Up Stageteria: 1:45-2:45 p.m. - Little Anthony; 4:30-5:40 - Johnny Rivers; 6-7 - Bill Haley's Comets; 8:30-9:30 - Little Anthony.
South Street Stage: 12:30-1:30 - Bill Haley's Comets; 3-4:15 - Doo Wop Revue with the Shangri-Las, Del Vikings and Marvelettes; 7:15-8:30 - Doo Wop Revue with the Shangri-Las, Del Vikings and Marvelettes.
MONDAY. 7-Up Stageteria: 12:30-1:15 p.m. - Clovers; 2-3:15 - Doo Wop Revue with the Shangri-Las, Del Vikings and Marvelettes; 4-5 - Fabulous Greaseband; 6-7 - Bobby Rydell; 8-9 - Chubby Checker.
South Street Stage: 1-1:45 - Duprees; 3:15-4 Clovers; 5-5:45 - Duprees; 7:15-8 - Doo Wop Revue with the Shangri-Las, Del Vikings and Marvelettes.
A Senior Prom-on-the-Plaza, complete with "chaperones" and a ''principal" (Saturday, 7:15-8:30 p.m., WIOQ Studio Stage); 26 of the original "American Bandstand" dancers doing the Slop, the Stroll, the Cha- lypso and the Coffee Grinder, the original "Dirty Dancing" (Sunday, 4-5 p.m., WIOQ Studio Stage); an exhibition of vintage cars (all weekend at the Port of History Museum parking lot); plus dance contests and exhibitions; '50s makeovers; actors cruising in Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Doris Day and Howdy Doody getups; a beehive hairdo competition; a bubble-gum blowing and trivia contests.
Burgers and all that goes with them; those other staffs of life, the cheesesteak, the sausage sandwich, the hoagie and the Sloppy Joe, french fries and pirogies, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, chicken wings, ribs, pizza, foot-long hot dogs, onion rings and ice cream novelties, shakes, rolls, no rattles
THE TIMES & THE COST
Gates open at noon each day. The fest goes on rain or shine, till 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; till 8:30 p.m. Monday. Adults, $6 each day; children, $1 each day.
INFO - 636-4464.