Out Of Step They Danced Their Way To National Prominence, But For Many Of The Early Teen Regulars, Adjusting To Life After ``american Bandstand'' Was Not Easy.

Posted: August 03, 1997

There are those who hate standing in line. And there are the old American Bandstand regulars, who really loathe it.

They can remember sashaying in front of the young crowds that eagerly lined up outside a West Philadelphia television studio for a chance to stroll and bop and jitterbug on the televised dance show. With the flash of the coveted membership card, they were in.

Sure, they paid a price for that right 40 years ago. Classmates would sometimes hiss, make fun, chase them down hallways, all because their coiffed hairdos and swiveling hips were beamed in black and white to living rooms across the country. Some had to transfer to other schools. Better that than to lose their status as the standard-bearers of the youth movement whose faces adorned magazine covers, advice columns and fan club handbooks.

American Bandstand, celebrating its 40th anniversary as a national phenomenon this week, was more than just a television show. It helped to create teen culture, says Philadelphia native Ray Smith, who helped put together Dick Clark's American Bandstand, a coffee-table book of photographs published in May by HarperCollins.

``When it went national, it was the means by which teenagers all over the country could experience the same language, the same dress, the same dances,'' said Smith, who danced on the show whenever he could get into the studio. ``The music was new, and here was the one place where kids all across the country were hearing [it] at the same time.''

But there was hell to pay for the local kids whose celebrity status plummeted once they were off the show.

When they were asked to leave the show for breaking the rules, or because they turned 18, when the hundreds of fan letters that came each day dwindled to a few, when they no longer had a place to go after school, being just another face in the crowd was tough.

``Having all that attention and, then, having to wait in line,'' recalled the former Carole Scaldeferri, who danced on the show from 1957 to 1961, ``that was hard.''

She's one of the former dancers profiled in a documentary, Bandstand Days, premiering Tuesday at 9 p.m. on public television's New Jersey Network. The hourlong film, which looks at the lingering effects and the social implications of having been a regular on the show, will be shown to a group of them at NJN's Trenton studio during a public television fund-raiser that will also star musical groups the Shirelles and the Duprees.

Philadelphia's WHYY will show the documentary Aug. 16 at 8 and 11 p.m. and Aug. 20 at 8 p.m.

The Trenton premiere dovetails with other events celebrating the day in 1957 on which the show, after running locally for five years, went on the national airwaves.

At noon Tuesday, Dick Clark, Chubby Checker and other celebrities from the bobby socks days will join Gov. Ridge and Mayor Rendell for the unveiling of a marker at 46th and Market Streets, former site of the WFIL-TV studio. That was the show's home from 1952 until 1964, when Bandstand moved to California. The site is now occupied by the West Philadelphia Enterprise Center.

Several dance parties have also been planned, including gatherings that night at Tony Clark's restaurant in Center City, the Egypt nightclub in Spring Garden, and Rio Nightclub in Conshohocken.

Bandstand, as author Smith notes, helped teenagers everywhere find a voice. But how the teens on the show interpret its impact is what fascinated the documentary's producer.

``I heard everything from Dick Clark is a demon to Dick Clark is a saint,'' said Sharon Baker, whose Wilmington production company, Teleduction, chronicled the show's Philadelphia years.

``I heard everything from `We were held up on a pedestal, to `We were exploited.' The truth lies right in the middle.''

Don't look to hear the dish, though. ``I didn't think any of the dirt was germane,'' Baker said. ``I didn't think anyone's gender preference was germane. The only thing that mattered was the experience they had in this window of time and their reactions to it.''

So, there are Bob and Justine in fuzzy black and white. There are also Little Roe and Betty and one of the dark-haired Jiminez sisters, Carmen, sans the blond streak. They're all grown up. A few are grandparents, to boot.

``I just thought it would be a kick,'' said Bob Clayton, 56, now a Wilmington shop owner. He was 16 when he first drove from Wilmington to Philadelphia to twirl Justine after seeing her on the show.

They danced and dated for four years. He held her close, kissed her neck, nibbled her ear, all on national television.

And while viewers closely followed the couple's every swing, theirs was not the only relationship that intrigued the public. In the thousands of letters that came each week addressed to the regulars - most opened by their mothers or studio secretaries - fans would ask questions such as how come someone wasn't dancing with her customary partner, or where could they find the rounded collar that the Catholic school girls donned.

``People sort of wrote their own soap opera,'' said Dick Clark, who hosted the show for most of its 37 years on television. In fact, he's looking to produce a movie with Danny DeVito about just such stories, a fictionalized version following over four decades the kids who danced on the show.

A few of the dancers who lived it, too, are trying to sell their own versions. Justine Carrelli, who was on the show from the time she was 12 1/2 to 16, has already fired two agents who did little to promote a screenplay she wrote about her life.

``When the lights went out,'' said Carrelli, now 54, ``I went through a period of time where I felt abandoned.''

She was kicked off the show for recording a song with Clayton; it was against the rules to get money for anything associated with the Bandstand affiliation. She then took voice lessons and starting shopping for clothes at exclusive New York City shops. She hired an agent, who booked her in less-than-upscale clubs on the Vegas-Reno-Tahoe circuit. She married a band leader in 1963 and gave up show business to raise two children.

Today, Carrelli splits her time between Las Vegas and a small Arizona town 70 miles away. She is remarried, to a musician who makes his living impersonating Jerry Lee Lewis. They recently cut an album, a New Age world fusion project recorded in the mobile home the couple turned into a recording studio.

And her relationship with Bob? Carrelli says she caught him cheating with another woman and called it quits.

Bob recalled that the woman in question was a dead ringer for Kim Novak and worked at a radio station the couple had visited while promoting their record. The two never dated.

``Here's another bombshell,'' he said, admitting to having had a roving eye. Remember Carole Scaldeferri, the dark-haired fashion plate? He went out with her during their tenure on the show.

``I remember he told the waitress he was from Hong Kong, or some made-up place like that, and I thought, `Oh, my God!' '' recalled Carole, whose last name is now Spada.

Justine still thinks about her relationship with Bob and has even written a screenplay that ``tells about that big first hurt.''

It was just too much too soon, believes the former Carole Scaldeferri, 52, who lived in Overbrook and went to West Catholic High School as her face appeared in Modern Screen, 'Teen and 16 Magazine. ``Not that I didn't appreciate it. I just didn't understand it.''

She remembers going with a group of Philadelphia regulars to New York City for a Saturday night dance show. ``It was actually a scary thing for us. People were swarming all over us. . . . We didn't know what we did.''

It was about this time that she realized how popular the regulars had become, these average kids from working-class homes whose major reason for being chosen was to ensure that somebody showed up to dance. It was, after all, a five-day-a-week show that had to go on even in snowstorms.

When they weren't being harassed in Philadelphia, they were largely ignored. But to their counterparts across the country, these average teenagers were stars.

``I had no idea what was happening to me until years later,'' Spada said during a recent interview in her Lansdowne, Delaware County, home.

Spada floundered after leaving the show in 1961. She married a man who was seven years older and had never watched the show. ``It was such a pleasure not to have that, `Oh, are you Carole?''' The couple divorced three years later.

The girl who rubbed shoulders with singer Paul Anka and dated Frankie Avalon would try modeling professionally. She sold clothes. She worked as a prop girl at a theater. ``I started trying to fit into the world and seeing where I belonged,'' she recalled, ``and nothing was working.''

Today, she sells real estate and works with her husband, Richard Spada, at their Christian beauty parlor, Born-Again Salon, in Upper Darby. They have one daughter and two grandsons.

``It took a lot of years and a lot of reflection as to whether it was a positive thing or a negative thing,'' she said of her Bandstand days.

``I decided it was not a bad thing for people to know me, or think they know me.''

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