Sunday, May 07, 2006

We're back...with more STUFF!

Mark Evanier shares the miracle that was Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine:
Then I went down to the floor to watch the next episode being taped...and something happened during it which I still remember with a tiny tingle. It was a regular bit they did involving a stagehand named Gene Patton who'd come on and dance under the name, "Gene Gene the Dancing Machine."

The minute they started playing his music -- "Jumpin' at the Woodside," I think the tune's called -- the studio positively erupted. Barris started dancing and the panelists jumped up and started dancing...and you could feel how much Gene Gene enjoyed what he was doing. Okay, fine, they're performers. It's part of the act. But the crew also started dancing -- people not on screen. The guy operating Camera 1 was operating Camera 1 and dancing at the same time. Grips were dancing, lighting guys were dancing, the members of the band were dancing as much as they could and still play their instruments. And of course, the audience -- an odd mix of younger Gong Show fans intermingled with old ladies who couldn't get in to the Hollywood Squares taping down the hall -- simply had to leap up and boogie. Some of the show's performers and staffers were a little (shall we say) under the influence of something...but the crew wasn't and the audience wasn't. It was just an honest "high" of excitement.

I've been on many TV stages in my life. I've seen big stars, huge stars -- Johnny, Frank, Sammy, Dino, Bob, you name 'em. I've seen great acts and great joy, and if you asked me to name the most thrilling moment I've witnessed in person, I might just opt for two minutes of the Gong Show electrifying Stage 3 for all of 120 seconds. Maybe it was because it came so totally out of nowhere that it stunned me but everyone, including the stone-cold sober people, was suddenly just so...happy. There was something very, very invigorating and enjoyable about being in the midst of all that sudden happiness, however frivolous it may have been.

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