“American Bandstand” was the first reality show craze for high schoolers in the ’50s and ’60s who would rush home to watch their favorite couples dance on screen. Although all the pairings were heterosexual the truth was that when the cameras switched off the dancers, both male and female, were living gay double lives.
Arlene Sullivan, one-half of the popular Arlene and Kenny dance couple, and Ray Smith have written a tell-all memoir “Bandstand Diaries” about their days as the coveted “Bandstand” dancers. Sullivan and Smith say that most of the dancers were gay.
“I knew I was different early on, but being with all these [‘Bandstand’] friends, I came to terms with my feelings. I kissed a girl, and I liked it!” Sullivan, 74, told the New York Post.
Smith, who knew he was gay when he joined the show, found himself in a similar situation and said he was “shocked” to find his fellow dancers were also gay.
“The one thing that really shocked me,” Smith told the New York Post, “was that those boys who were 14 and 15 and 16 were sleeping with each other.”
Sullivan says the dancers would hang out at Rittenhouse Square, the “Gayborhood” in Philadelphia. However, host Dick Clark never wanted anyone to know about his dancer’s secret lives possibly for fear of the show getting canceled. Sullivan and Smith even believe Clark sent members of the production team to spy on the teens and come back with a list of who was suspected to be gay.
“Parents across America would never, NEVER have allowed their kids to put ‘Bandstand’ on,” Sullivan writes.
“Bandstand Diaries” can be purchased here.