BIRTHDAY: December 6 GREW UP IN: New Jersey APPEARANCES: February 65 - July 65
DALE VANN is often referred to as the prettiest GAZZARRI DANCER, which is certainly a tall compliment considering the competition. DALE'S story does not have a happy ending, but for herGAZZARRI years she was a steady presence in a most impressive lineup.
DALE MARGARET VANDENBERG was born in December 1947 in New Jersey. Her mother, Margo, was an aspiring model and she had a very young DALE also modeling as early as 1952. (See box below about DALE'S modeling). DALE proved to be a very talented young lady and was destined for show business. She appeared as a dancer in the road company of the Broadway production of "Bye Bye Birdie" in 1960-62. (See box below about DALE'S theatrical career). The show took them to several cities around the country. After appearing in Chicago they moved to Denver sometime in 1963 and stayed until late 1964 or early 1965. Early that year they then moved to California where DALEattended Hollywood Professional School and graduated in 1965 along with fellow classmate Peggy Lipton. HPS allowed and encouraged their students to work in the industry while they were still attending school, and jumping on that opportunity DALE was hired as a GAZZARRI DANCER. Her fellow dancer and good friend JUNE FAIRCHILD always had good things to say about her.
She gave birth to her only child, Alfie, in August 1969 and DALE seemed to have everything going for her. She was however diagnosed with schizophrenia and her erratic behavior caused her son to be placed in and out of foster care and ultimately he was adopted by a fine family. DALE'S downward descent, which probably could have been controlled by today's medical advances, caused much concern and heartbreak amongst her friends and family. She died in an accidental drowning in September 1987, just two months short of her 40th birthday. Her son, Alfie (aka Jasen Strong), (deceased May 2019) was an extremely successful and talented artist/animator who did work for Disney and several other high-profile companies.
You can view some great footage of DALE'S dancing abilities on dozens of videos, including the following two by theSinners: "The Last Time" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood". (See our video links page)
We would on this website like to remember the positive years of DALE'S much too short life. She was a fantastic dancer and performer who was an integral part of that unique chemistry amongst the GAZZARRI DANCERS. She is lovingly remembered and missed by many.
DALE AS A CHILD MODEL Starting in 1952 DALEhad early success as a child model . She continued modeling into her teenage years up until approximately 1964. We have photos of her in several advertisements. She is perhaps most famous for her likeness being used for the Morton Salt girl.
As a child DALE was used as the model for the 1956 version of the Morton Salt Girl. Morton updated the image as times changed and there were only six versions of their famous trademark from 1914 through the present. DALE was the fifth girl from the total of six and her image was used by Morton from 1956-1967.
In the 1950s DALE'S father, Joseph Vandenberg, was a photographers' agent in New York City. He obviously had some connections and arranged for American Weekly to devote an entire page featuring DALE, her mother Margo, and the family cat, Susie. The theme of the article was that everyone in the family worked in the modeling profession.
American Weekly was a Sunday newspaper magazine insert much like Parade, and it had a nationwide distribution. The issue that DALE, Margo, and the cat appeared in is dated November 7, 1954. A copy is reproduced below.
DALE and Margo's residence on East 52nd Street in Manhattan has hardly changed in the last sixty years as seen in this October 2014 photo.
DALE'S THEATRICAL CAREER
The information below comes from Tom Hammant. He grew up in Chicago, and as a teenager was a huge fan of the 1960's theater scene in his home city. Tom kept notes on the shows that he had seen, which included work by DALE. He has been able to reconstruct the most probable timeline forDALE'S career prior to her joining HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO as a dancer, and we quote him below:
"Dale and Margo may have in the late 1950s left directly from New Jersey to Hollywood, California where Margo then set up her (head shots, etc.) photography studio. Dale probably would then have received her voice training, dancing, gone to elementary school, etc. (late 1950s/early 1960s). Dale later indicated that she had her first professional singing engagement when she was 12 years old. Margo and Dale would then have learned (probably through theatrical sources in L.A.) of auditions for kids for the first national road tour of "Bye Bye Birdie" (L.A. rehearsals in March 1961. Dale would have been 13 years old then). Margo and Dale then went on the road with the "Birdie" tour from the opening in San Francisco (CA) in late April 1961 to its closing in Minneapolis (MN) in mid-March 1962. In between those cities, the Birdie tour had stops at L.A., Seattle (WA), Dallas (TX), and Chicago (IL), where it had its longest engagement (6 months).
Shortly after the tour's closure in Minnesota, Dale and Margo returned to Chicago probably in late March 1962, where Dale signed up to perform with the Robert Simpson/William ("Bill") McHale "Hits of Broadway" musical revue in Chicago until at least March 1963 (Dale would have been only 14 to 15 years old then), when she, Margo, and others from the Chicago cast went to Denver, Colorado with McHale to star in the "Highlights of Broadway" revue show there for the rest of 1963 (until Dale turned 16 years old in December 1963). Sometime in 1964 while still in Denver, Dale left the McHale "Highlights of Broadway" revue show there, which may have ended its run in Denver, and focused on performing as a single singer/dancer/model (while still attending high school somewhere) in the Denver area. Then sometime in late 1964/early 1965, Dale and Margo returned to the L.A. area, where Margo returned to working as a photographer in Hollywood and Dale went to finish her high school at Hollywood Professional School (HPS). ((Note: Since Dale and Margo were on the road for most, if not all, of 1961 to 1965, Dale may not have attended HPS until late 1964/1965. It is also likely that Margo worked as a photographer in both Chicago and Denver due to their lengthy time spent in both locations.))
The two photos, above and below, were taken by budding professional photographer Margo Vann. They picture DALE in one of the "Hits Of Broadway" shows in which she appeared in 1962.. This was a national tour and these particular photos are from a Chicago performance that October. DALE was only 14 years old at the time. Besides acting and dancing she also sang. Newspaper reviews from the era proclaim that she had a lovely voice.
On the upper left we see DALE in a promotional photo from the 1960-1962 national road tour production of "Bye ByeBirdie". The photo on the right shows her on stage performing in an unknown production. It was probably taken in either Chicago or Denver sometime between 1962 and 1964.
PHOTOS OF DALE FROM 1965 ONWARDS
upper left:DALEwithJonathan Edwards/ upper right: DALEwithJohn Kay
The photo on the upper right shows DALE with her son and Danny Hutton from Three Dog Night. Danny was the long-term boyfriend of her fellow GAZZARRI DANCER, JUNE FAIRCHILD.
The clipping above is from the April 21, 1965 issue of KLRA BEAT and shows left to right: Declan Mulligan, guitarist for the Beau Brummels, DALE VANN, Barrie Cameron, keyboards and sax player for Sounds Incorporated, and JohnPetersen, the drummer for the Beau Brummels. The San Francisco based Beau Brummels and the English group Sounds Incorporated ran into each other in this Los Angeles area restaurant. The Beau Brummels had appeared only weeks earlier on the March 20 episode of HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO, and DALE had probably first met Declan then.
The photo below is of DALE and her son Alfie.
This article originally appeared in a popular teen magazine in 1965:
" I'M A HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO DANCER "
by DALE VANN ________________________________________
I just loved the Hollywood a Go-Go song-and-dance show the first time I saw it, even before I dreamed I would be one of the featured dancers on the show.
The fast pace, non-stop action and constant drum rhythms got to me. The beat of those drums never ceases, even when emcee Sam Riddle talks or announces new acts.
Most of all I love the Saturday afternoon taping sessions when all the artists who have been rehearsing separately are brought together for the first time before the cameras.
It's a thrill to meet all the swinging songsters and groups we work with. Though the session is rather hectic, we do have time to meet and swap small talk. The first time I was on the show, I met Bobby Sherman and that led up to a couple of dates including one fab day at Disneyland.
Rock groups are often lonely. Traveling so much on the road, they don't have a chance to meet girls. They have to stay in their hotel rooms all the time because they can't find anyone in town they know. Girl fans are too awed with them or are screaming all over the place. That's embarrassing. They also tell me that the dancing girls on other teen shows are rather stuck-up and unfriendly. That seems mighty strange but lots of groups have told me so. The Beau Brummels whom I've often gone out with when they are in town, are the nicest boys I've ever met. When they left for tour I began dating Mike Love of the Beach Boys.
I just love our producer, Al Burton, a small man with a big heart, who knows what kids like and produces the ever-popular Teen-Age Fairs around the country. It's a joy to work for Bill Gazzarri, a living doll, in charge of the dancers. Director Joe Agnello puts the whole show together in four hours. That takes genius. Good-looking Sam Riddle is easy to get along with although he doesn't mess around with the artists or the dancing girls. I wish he did - namely, me. He's so cute!
I was one of the 15 girls who auditioned to replace three of the original dancers. Bill Gazzarri and choreographer Oscar Williams put us through all the new crazy steps and variations to see not only how we danced but how well we could follow directions in newly improvised steps. I walked out of there on air.
AFTRA, our union, allows 40 hours of rehearsals per week but we get through it in 20. We start rehearsing on Monday. Sometimes Oscar doesn't get the music for our dances until the day of the show. You can imagine how hard it is to work out the routines at the last minute. None of the dancers are really professional. We are paid more than the Shindig girls. That's because the union has ruled that we are featured dancers and they are chorus. There are more of them than of us.
Couples seen dancing on the floor are unpaid non-professionals who dance for the love of it. They are chosen at Sunday matinees in Gazzarri's famous dance club here.
For each show we have two or three costume changes, mostly jeans, mod-type dresses and A-line skirts with sweaters or blouses. We don't wear clothes that would in any way remind viewers of Shindig or Hullabaloo. Mr. Burton wants Go-Go to be different. You can see that by the stage sets, dancing and camera work which in no way resembles the other teen shows.
The artists lip-sync to their records only when there's no other way. Usually they sing live over audio-sonic disks of their background music.
When I started working on Hollywood a Go-Go I thought I'd no longer enjoy dancing socially because it had become my work, my job, but actually I now enjoy it even more. I can dance any way I want to without fixed routines. I was wild before, now I'm wilder than ever. I jump up in the air and let myself go.
I love the way the kids dance out here in Hollywood! Everybody goes out of his mind. It's fantastic. When I lived in Denver we used to go to a place called Talagi's (where the Astronauts were discovered) which was always so crowded we could only dance in one spot. Once I was Watusi-ing with a boy there, not half as wild as I do now, and he said, "You can't dance that way, Dale!" He told me to watch the other dancers. I couldn't believe my eyes. They were so uncoordinated they looked like spastics. Another night a boy took me home and told my mother, "I've never been so embarrassed in all my life!", meaning my uninhibited dancing.
I suppose kids are dancing the Watusi, frug, monkey, jerk, swim and Philly in the small towns now - but probably not as wild and way-out as we do in California. In small towns all a girl has to do is let herself go and right away she's called an exhibitionist or worse. It's sad.
The current dances definitely belong to the beat. Why do many ancients object to the new dances? They live in an entirely different world than the young. All the teen song-dance TV shows have had squawks from elder viewers, rarely from the kid audiences. We got a report that Hollywood a Go-Go was too sexy. The most serious complaint was against the non-pro guys and dolls dancing down on the floor. Can you imagine that?
I have only one complaint about dancing on the show. I'm a Go-Go dancer so people seem to think that's the whole range of my talent. I've been a professional singer since I was 12 (I'm 18 now) and traveled for two years with the road company of Bye Bye Birdie. The frustrating part is they don't realize or care how hard I've studied my singing, ballet, modern jazz dancing and other theatrical arts.
Well, maybe some day they will.
COMMENTARY ON DALE'S ARTICLE:
DALE'S article gives us a unique first-hand look into some of the workings of HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO. There are however a few misconceptions, mainly the one where she states that Bill Gazzarri was her boss. While Bill may have had some input into the show he clearly was not DALE'S boss. Her boss was AL BURTON and she was ultimately an employee of KHJ-TV. Bill was a big name and larger than life figure in the Hollywood nightlife scene so it is easy to see how a newly employed 17 year old dancer might think that Bill was running the show when in fact he wasn't.
There was however some sort of relationship between the nightclub and the TV show which is difficult to discern for lack of anything written about it on paper. Bill allowed his nightclub to be used as a model for the TV show set and he showed scenes from the show on the walls of his club.
RECOLLECTIONS OF DALE BY IAN WHITCOMB IN 1965 Ian Whitcomb was an aspiring English rock singer who later had several hits in both America and Britian. His first American girlfriend was DALE and in the July 2009 edition of his "Letters From Lotusland" he pays a moving tribute to her and reminisces on their good times from the mid-1960's.
Today Ian is a highly respected performer, composer, and music historian. You can find all of his CD's, and Songbooks by going to http://www.ianwhitcomb.com
"Letters From Lotusland" is reprinted here with the kind permission of IAN.
A LATE LETTER FROM LOTUSLAND --- JULY 2009
Apologies for being so late with this Letter. In fact, I'd decided not to write one for this month because I was burnt out after the umpteenth proofreading of the ever-upcoming book, "Letters From Lotusland - An Englishman In Exile".
As my eyes blurred and my mind whirred with irritation I made a mental note to stop typing all this trivia about my life. Repetitious trivia mainly. In truth I had nothing pressing to relate about the previous month, June - which is always what these Letters deal with - the previous month. Instead of being an advertisement of things to come they are fevered reflections. Enough is enough! All is vanity! And then I received a letter on my YouTube site from a fellow, Jim, who has just set up a site devoted to Hollywood A Go-Go, the rock&roll TV show of 1965. He had seen the four clips of my appearances on it and was intrigued by my reference to Dale Vann, one of the go-go dancers seen around me, as my girl friend at the time. He noted that there didn't appear to be any "interaction".
Dale had been my first Hollywood girlfriend. We were introduced right after I'd completed my first appearance on the TV show in April. She was devastatingly beautiful in an All-American way. She had sparkling eyes, dazzling teeth and smile and a very curvy figure. She lacked that mean, cynical, "don't-you-try-anything" British attitude, born of bad weather, world wars, and a general atmosphere of having given up on life a long time ago, even before one was born.
Because I kept returning to my London home and because I wasn't ready for a commitment, and - the real truth - because Hollywood was the city of occasional thrills for me (with London as my safe home), I saw Dale off and on. 1965 was a magical year for me. The next year saw protest songs, drugs and encroaching hippiedom. Dale, when I saw her, seemed to be living another sinister life, in a war zone. Her face was scarred, her eyes dull, she had strange visions. Who were the men in her other life? Drug enablers I felt certain. Evil creatures spouting Dylan and the like. I saw less of her. The last time was in the early 1970s at the house of her friend and father figure Earl Leaf, a bohemian photographer who had spent time with Mao Tse Tung. She seemed in a trance. Earl snapped some photos of us kissing. There was the distance of planets in her kiss. I never saw her again after that. She did send me a snap of herself with her baby boy, Alfie. On the back a scribbled note in large handwriting: "To dear Ian - love you always although mostly in thought - love ya, Dale & Alfie". I had no idea who was the father of Alfie. Certainly not me. He was a pretty dark boy. I was fond of her, for she was a key figure from my salad days as a teen idol in an unspoiled Los Angeles before the sky fell in with its barrage of dark drug clouds. I was surprised and sorry to learn later that a lot of people I knew had known Dale sexually, even close friends. But still there was a special place for her in my memories and my heart.
Eagerly I visited the brand new website, "gazzarridancers". There I found a history of Hollywood A Go-Go, how it lasted one year, how it was zingier, sexier, than the more family-angled Shindig and, of course, American Bandstand, how it was the brain child of Al Burton. Ah yes, little Al came zooming back to me. A smiling man who made a fortune in royalties from the drumbeat riff he'd "composed" for the opening and closing of the show. There was a section on individual dancers - on June Fairchild who I'd known as June Wilson, a real teen poppet that we all wanted to date. And there was a bio of Dale. A sad tale of decline. She had been diagnosed in the 1970s as suffering from an extreme form of schizophrenia. And I had mistakenly put her weird ways down to drugs! But then the worst fact. She had drowned in 1987 at age 40.
Dale had been dead 22 years and I never knew till now. All those years when I thought she was still alive. That I might see her again and reminisce and get things in focus, get matters explained and settled. She'd been gone so long! The golden times we'd spent together came flooding back. I found photos of us. I told friends. I told Regina. Everyone was polite - but bewildered.
You can go anytime to YouTube and watch that first appearance on Hollywood A Go-Go in April 1965. Dale is the dark fully-rounded beauty swinging her fulsome body to my right, I think. I was over in Hollywood promoting my first hit during the Easter break from Trinity College Dublin. "This Sporting Life" was in the local top ten and looked like it might go high in the national charts. The industry was abuzz about the oddness of the sound. Dylan's future producer Tom Wilson was to pay special attention and to later use elements of our sound in "Like A Rolling Stone". Sonny & Cher were fascinated by me and wanted to meet up.
My follow-up record had already been chosen, much to my dismay: "You Turn Me On". I hated it. So silly. A song never meant to be released. But George Sherlock, the man who'd begged my label, Tower, to release it, was at pains to point out that this was a "stone fox smash", that nothing could stop this "mother" and that I should submit. George was the West Coast Promotion Man, recently immortalized by the Rolling Stones on the flip side of "Satisfaction". George had already adopted me, fixing my hair, my tie, pulling my collar. His first words to me as I stepped off the plane from New York were "Do ya need any bread, man?"
And on the TV show that Saturday afternoon in the KHJ studio on Melrose - we spent the whole day at the taping - Chubby Checker, a guest star, remarked, as I lip-synched in rehearsal, that the record was "bitching". I took that as an insult. No, no, he said, it's a hit, a hit.
I wore a mod leather jacket and tried to look tough and cockney. It worked. The show's style impressed me tremendously because of the voluptuousness of the go-go dancers. They all seemed impossibly sexy, pneumatic and illicitly young. Girls of my dreams. The cameras rushed around on cranes with their operators ordered by the gleaming bald director, himself astride a craned camera, to get in close for "boob shots". People had been right on when they'd told me that this was the hottest rock show. Eroticism and taboo filled the airless studio.
Afterwards George introduced me to Dale Vann. He said she'd been watching my moves and had taken a liking to me. That was the way I preferred to begin my romantic affairs. They came to me. I feared being rebuffed. George was a great fixer. He escorted us to the El Coyote restaurant where I had my first margarita and first taco. It was boss. And so was Dale. Electricity was radiating every which way. George winked. That night Dale met me at my motel, The Hollywood Hawaiian and we went together to a happening nightclub on Sunset called "The Red Velvet". There I sang "You Turn Me On" and Phil Spector, I was told, was impressed. But he didn't say anything to me. Afterwards Dale agreed to come to my motel. And that's it for the first night.
All of my 1965 times with her were pleasant, very exciting, were bliss. But next year her life started getting wonky. That's when she'd turn up at my Nichols Canyon house with scars, and talking nonsense. That's when, in the middle of the night, she told me that I was an alien called Eloi. I wanted out, as they used to say. She'd been keeping bad company. I didn't know their names but I knew I wouldn't like them, wouldn't approve. The world, for me was fine as it was without any help from enhancers, from substances to remove me from my reality.
My reality had been Dale, the perfectly formed American dream girl. But now she was being distorted by strangers into a creature from Hades.
In 1968 I left America for several years, only to return as a Tin Pan Alleyman and a ragtimer, armed harmlessly with a ukulele and later an accordion. My new old world was free of drugs and ill-being. Safe and sound. The summer of 1965 was another sweeter country to which I could never return.
In retrospect, of course, it has a bittersweet taste.
Note: the photos of Dale speak for themselves. They are all pure and unsullied Early 1965. The photo of the four smiling young people was taken in April at the Margo Vann Studio. Margo was Dale's photographer mother. I am standing on the left with Dale sitting beneath me. On the right is my brother Robin with another Gazzarri dancer, but I can't remember her name. Robin had arrived a few weeks earlier all hot from Tulsa where he'd finished his time working in the family oil business. Robin, full of bounce, took to Hollywood life the moment he arrived at my motel: sticking his head under the luxuriant leaves of a disgustingly fat exotic plant - glossy and juicy and evil - so that the leaves formed a giant Beatle moptop, he broke into a spirited version of "She Loves You". God, he was funny in those days! Where we four happy-go-lucky kids went to that evening on our double date I have no idea. This was before Robin got befriended by Sonny & Cher, particularly Cher - but that's another story.
NOTES ON THE ABOVE PHOTOS __________________________
The beautiful portrait of DALE was taken by her mother. It is the same photo that appears on the top of this webpage but is personally inscribed to Ian from DALE.
Ian's brother, Robin, kept a diary with the finer details of the double date. The day was April 18, 1965 which was a Sunday. The couples went to a Hollywood Chinese restaurant for dinner, then Gazzarri's nightclub, and finished the evening by seeing the movie "In Harm's Way". Robin's date was not a GAZZARRI DANCER, but DALE'S classmate from Hollywood Professional School, Valerie Romero.