Recalibrating the Brand of American Bandstand

New York Post raises media profile of revealing 2016 memoir

Coney Island Press

The book Bandstand Diaries was published last fall. But sometimes, in this era of news aggregation, it takes a belated bit of coverage to kick-start media attention.

In this case, the kick-starter was a weekend New York Post feature by Jerry Oppenheimer. The contributor’s gathered comments from co-author Ray Smith, a retired Today show producer and one-time teenage dancer on the Dick Clark-hosted program, have since reverberated across the Daily Mail, Gay Star News, Out magazine and several other outlets.

Smith appeared on the show as a dancer from 1956 through 1960:

While Smith knew he was gay, he was “shocked” to learn that “most of the guys on Bandstand, so many of them, were gay,” he told The Post. “And the one thing that really shocked me was that those boys who were 14 and 15 and 16 were sleeping with each other.”

Clark was “determined” to keep the homosexuality of popular Bandstand regulars a secret, Smith said. Years later, when Clark was asked whether any of the dancers had died of AIDS, he stated that one had, Smith recalled. “That really annoyed me because quite a few of the Philadelphia dancers on Bandstand died of AIDS,” Smith said.

One of Smith’s two co-authors, fellow show dancer Arlene Sullivan, is also gay and talks candidly in the Post article about her conflicted early life. Amazingly, all these years later, she regularly attends a weekly dance “hop” put on by a fellow former American Bandstand alumnus, Philadelphia radio and TV personality Jerry Blavat.