It all started with this press release announcing a new show, 9th STREET A GO-GO, which is what HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO was originally named for the first three episodes. This was to be unlike any previous music show, and history has proved that this was the case. SAM RIDDLE was hired as the host, and THESINNERS and GAZZARRI DANCERS secured as regular performers.
Above left: These were the first ads to announce the premier of a new "a go-go" music show. They ran in the Saturday, December 26, 1964 issues of southern California newspapers. This particular one appeared in the Long Beach Independent TV listings page.
Above right: A rare ticket to 9TH STREET WEST from the July 27, 1965 taping. This was the show that ran simultaneously with HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO. It was broadcast on weekday afternoons and SAM RIDDLE was also the host. The show had a theme song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzEE9sid_OM)
that was recorded by Barry Young. Barry would also later appear on HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO and was the husband of DONALIE FITZGERALD. She was the associate producer on HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO.
Below: a TV GUIDE ad from very late 1964
More than five decades after the last episode of this classic show was taped, it is still looked upon favorably by music fans, dancing fans, and television historians. In its short run of just more than a year, it broke new ground on how a music show should be produced and look to the viewing public.
The "go-go" seeds originated in the early 1960s in France at a bar named "Whiskey a Go Go". A few years later the name was licensed to a Los Angeles club which opened in January 1964. The "Whiskey" of course became one of L.A.'s most famous clubs. By the end of the same year anything promoting the term "go-go" was instantly hip. It didn't take long for the TV networks, and other locally produced shows, to jump on the bandwagon and take a shot at "go-go-ing". Up until this time Dick Clark'sAMERICAN BANDSTAND ruled the television airwaves when it came to music/dance shows aimed at a teenage audience. This new go-go trend opened the floodgates. Besides a few nationally network produced shows in this genre, there were also a few dozen lower budget new music/dance shows that sprang up in some of the bigger city TV markets. But it was the network produced shows that enjoyed the biggest audiences and the most success. ABC produced SHINDIG was the first to jump in with a September 16, 1964 debut. HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO was next up with a December 26, 1964 debut (albeit originally named 9th STREET A GO-GO). NBC produced HULLABALOO, followed shortly thereafter with a January 12, 1965 debut. For reasons unknown CBS never hopped on the bandwagon. SHIVAREE, like HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO, was a locally produced show that also went into syndication and enjoyed a high level of success. That show first hit the airwaves in April 1965. But unlike HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO, which taped at local station KHJin Los Angeles, SHIVAREE had the benefit of using KABC's studio in L.A. There was a high level of competition between all these shows, and the debate continues to this day as to which show was the best.
The show starting life as9TH STREET A GO-GO, was itself a successor to two previous teen shows named POP DANCE PARTY and PICKWICK DANCE PARTY. Episode # 1 made its debut on December 26, 1964 but was broadcast only in the southern California KHJ-TV market. By the fourth episode, which aired on January 16, 1965, the show had acquired the HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO name. Episodes # 1 through # 5 plus episode # 7 were not nationally syndicated and onlyKHJ market viewers had the pleasure of seeing these early shows. National syndication began with episode # 6, which aired January 30, 1965, and with the exception of # 7, ran uninterupted until February 5, 1966 when episode # 58 was broadcast. There was an extra show titled ALOHA A GO-GO, filmed in Hawaii, which was broadcast mid-week between syndicated episodes # 23 and # 24.
These shows all stemmed from AL BURTON, who was the executive producer, and an expert at reading teen trends in music and television. AL'S resume is impressive and lengthy and worth looking up on the internet. AL had the novel idea of producing a teen show unlike any seen previously. He created the set for the show using an idea from his director, RIC EYRICH, who had visited a French cafe/nightclub while on on a European trip. RIC remembered a concrete-block background and various levels of platforms where people could go up and dance. The KHJ carpenters started construction on a set, showcasing the illusion of low ceilings, faux concrete-block walls, that provided an intimate feel. There would be lower level lighting using movie lights instead of the usual television floodlights, a dance floor full of teens, and capitalizing on the latest trends, go-go dancers, specifically the GAZZARRI DANCERS. The faux lower ceiling was in complete opposition to the cavernous sets of the competition. There would be a stage as you might find in a nightclub, which would accommodate the music performers and the dancers, with many variations on the layout. In some episodes the musical acts would perform on the dance floor amongst the dancers. The GAZZARRI ladies were almost always on the stage, but sometimes dancers performed on solo platforms, and sometimes even on the dance floor. The overall effect, incorporating faux brick walls and subdued lighting, was a stunner for teen TV. The television viewer had no idea that the broadcast was coming from anywhere other than a cool nightclub. It is also possible that AL picked up some of his inspiration from the Elvis movie "Viva Las Vegas". The movie was released in May 1964 and had some of the same elements that showed up on HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO,, namely a low stage with a band located in the corner, and a wild dancer in the persona of sultry Ann Margaret. Several of the GAZZARRI DANCERS fit that description, and ironically the choreographer of the movie, David Winters, soon thereafter became the choreographer on HULLABALOO.
After a rather tepid and innocuous start concerning the go-go dancers, and in keeping with AL'S idea of not wanting to look like either SHINDIGor HULLABALOO,the dancers eventually wore mod-type dresses, striped shirts, and other hip outfits. A fashion bombshell landed on the HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO set in 1965 when some of the dancers debuted the first Mary Quant mini-skirts to American TV audiences. More on the fashion topic further down. Ian Whitcomb, who appeared on the show several times, commented that AL BURTONand director JOE AGNELLOwere seen following the cameramen and telling them to get more "boob shots". In some oversea markets the show was considered so risque that it was banned. Of course by today's standards it is all rather tame, but for the mid-60's it was cutting-edge.
Viewers in Ireland got to see one episode before the censors stepped in and banned the show from being broadcast in the Emerald Isle ! We assume that this was on account of exposed navels and midriffs on the GAZZARRI DANCERS. The article is from the September 22, 1965 issue of Weekly Variety.
The inaugural show taping was most likely on December 19, 1964 and episode # 1 hit the L.A. market, airing on KHJ-TV (Channel 9) Saturday, December 26, 1964. The guests were Jackie & Gayle, JerryLee Lewis, Sonny & Cher,the Ladybirds, the Walker Brothers, and the house band, theSINNERS. On this same date episode # 2 would have been taped in the afternoon, keeping the one week interval between taping and airing dates for the duration of the show's run. We have heard reports that there were rare Saturday double tapings. One was to avoid a Christmas Day taping for the episode that aired on January 1, 1966. The other was to accomodate for the ALOHA AGO-GO break. A full dated list of episodes and a partial list of musical guests/songs appears on our "Episode List" page.
SAM RIDDLE was the host of both 9TH STREET WEST and HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO. This was another wise move by AL BURTON because SAM, a local disc jockey, was youthful in both appearance and demeanor and loved by the kids. Even after watching the show now, fifty plus years later, it is hard not to like SAM. He simply was very good at what he did.
Which brings us specifically to the subject of our website - the GAZZARRI DANCERS. AL got personally involved in this too. Many people assume that the dancers from Gazzarri's nightclub, who were hired by BILL GAZZARRI, came over one day a week to work on the television show. Not so. The core group of dancers appearing on the weekly show were personally hand-picked by AL BURTON, RIC EYRICH or one of their scouts ,who would scour the local L.A. clubs, especially Gazzarri's, looking for the prettiest and best dancers. Girls that made an impression on BILL were pointed out to AL. There was no sharing of dancers between the club and the show except for three documentable exceptions. One was the blonde twins who appeared on episode # 6, and also an unidentified dancer appearing on episodes # 21-32. Dancer GWEN SELVAGErecollects that there was also at least one open-audition tryout to recruit a few dancers. But the TV show dancers hadAL, not BILL, as their boss and received paychecks fromKHJ-TV. I was told by one of the dancers that AL, ever the gentleman, would even go to the homes of some of the newly hired girls to meet their parents.
AL himself described how he located his dancers in a 2002 interview. "Norman (Lear) came to me in 1966. He asked to have lunch with me. His opening question was: 'Where do you get the girls for HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO?' I said that I got them from Gazzarri's (hip nightclub on the Sunset Strip). Gazzarri's had the greatest looking girls. By then I was a total expert on great looking girls. When they are not on the floor dancing, I, or one of my associates pick them and ask them if they want to come on the show. I would send one of them whose taste I could trust to a place called Hole-In-The-Wall. I'd tell her to pick out outfits she liked that the girls could dance in." We have also heard from DeANN that some of the gender neutral clothing, such as pants and tops for the girls, came from a male clothing shop, Sy Devores. Never have women looked so good in mens' clothing!
This group of chosen dancers didn't cross over to the nightclub - they didn't have the time. Being that the show ran for 58 consecutive weeks there was a taping every Saturday, and there were rehearsals for several days each week leading up to the show. Rehearsals started on Mondays and the girls averaged about 20 hours per week running through and refining their routines. The dancers would then spend most of their Saturdays in the studio with rehearsals in the mornings, followed by a four hour taping of the show in the afternoons. After some editing the finished product aired in the L.A. market on the following Saturday.
So while this was in many ways a dream job to some of the girls, it was also a real job, a full-time one, and it involved hard work. It was also a good paying job - one of the dancers told us that she made $250 per week which was excellent pay for the mid-1960's. The GAZZARRI ladies made more than their SHINDIGcounterparts because their union, AFTRA, ruled that they were featured dancers, whereas the SHINDIG ladies were considered chorus.
The choreography on the early episodes was put created by OSCAR WILLIAMS, known to the girls as "Papa Gastermaster". Sometimes there wasn't a finalized song list for the Saturday taping until early that day, necessitating some quickly put together routines and last minute rehearsing. But generally the routines were intricately worked out and practiced during the week preceding the show's taping. On some performances the girls were allowed to free-style their dancing. During some songs there would be 4-6 dancers in a choreographed routine while others would free-style. During some shows there were clothing/costume changes. Frequently they performed in stylish white go-go boots. We have heard reports that later in the show's run, dancer Toni Basil, from the competing show SHINDIG, was brought in to help with the choreography. SHELLEY was also credited for the choreography in several shows. She was followed by MIMI, but eventually the role was filled by JACQUI, and it stayed with her until the show's end. By this time OSCARhad left.
The most noticeable difference between the go-go dancing on HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO and competing music shows was that the GAZZARRI ladies most often danced in a fixed location. This might be on the main stage or on one of the small platforms, but they were rarely found gliding around the studio in Broadway-style production routines. There simply wasn't room for this with all the kids in the audience dancing, nor would it have fit in with the club atmosphere that AL was trying to project. There were however, several choreographed floor routines, such as the early (episode # 9) line dance on the Donnie Brooks "Can't Help Loving You" performance. In fact it was this performance that surely helped bring them to the forefront as potential stars on the show. And that is exactly what did happen as more and more viewers got hooked on the dancers.
Dancers on SHINDIG wore somewhat dated outfits making them look like cheerleaders. It never got risque for them. On HULLABALOO the dancers were sometimes in go-go dancing cages wearing glittery skirts and tops, and sometimes in creative outfits to fit in with the theme of the song. On SHIVAREE, dancing in a cage with flashy outfits was the norm. On HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO these concepts were thrown out, and for the most part the dancers wore hip outfits. It is worth noting just how quickly the show's use of the dancers and their attire evolved during its one short year. The earliest episodes have some performances where they were not even present on camera, and also performances where we find them sitting stationary on the edge of the stage and merely clapping. And their attire early on was better suited for AMERICAN BANDSTAND - think skirts and blouses. By the time we get to episodes numbering in the teens, the more hip outfits that DeANN mentioned had appeared. And by the end of the show's run the dancers were wearing dresses that barely got by the censors eyes - think ultra short.
The exception to the Saturday taping was a one-off special appropriately titled ALOHA A GO-GO because it was taped in Hawaii. This allowed the show to feature surf music, highly popular at the time, with performances by Jan & Dean and the Challengers. The show, completely taped outdoors, starts with SAM getting off a plane thinking he has found a vacation paradise but alas, he ends up hosting another episode. For GAZZARRI fans who want to see the girls in bikinis, this is the show.
SATURDAYSIN THE STUDIO
Several things about the studio show tapings stand out. All of the musical acts, bar none, lip-synched their songs or sang along without a microphone to their pre-recorded tracks. None of the musical instruments were plugged in. What you heard on your television was identical to the artists' vinyl record releases. There are, however, two exceptions. One was the Sonny & Cher "I Got You Babe" performance, where from a floor microphone, they can easily be heard singing along to the tune towards its end. And Glenn Yarbrough accidentally had an open mic (one of the very rare occasions where a performer actually held a mic) during the first line of his "Baby The Rain Must Fall" performance. The floor microphone picked up sounds from the dance floor that were sometimes added to the overall audio mix. You can pick up hooting, hollering, and clapping from the dance floor kids on some of the song playbacks. A good example of this can be heard on theTurtles "It Ain't Me Babe" video.
The kids who actually made it to the dance floor were selected from Sunday afternoon dancing auditions at Gazzarri's nightclub. The crowd itself was surprisingly well behaved and clean cut. The show is mostly from 1965 when psychedelia from the neighbors a few hundred miles north in San Francisco was in its infancy. No long hair, bell bottoms, or beads on this show. Most of the boys wore jackets and ties and the girls dresses or skirts. When some of the performers, such as James Brown or Chuck Berry, performed on the dance floor in the middle of the kids, they were given ample space. One regular on the show shared with me that the kids were told that the performers, which included the GAZZARRI DANCERS, were off limits. And it all went off hitch-free.
It is also very interesting to follow the use of the dancers during the thirteen months that the show was in production. We have to gauge our observations on the existing tapes that are available, with the earliest one being from episode # 6. At this point it's clear that the dancers had not yet reached star billing status. Al might not have realized when he first started the show that the GAZZARRIDANCERS would eventually become as popular as many of the musical guests. Already by the time the show was several months old it had become apparent that the dancers were no longer merely background props. They had become featured performers in their own right. The producers realized their star potential and we see more and more of them as the show progresses. Most of the regular dancers (as opposed to the short-term ones) were introduced by their first names to TV viewers by SAM during a song intro.
♥ THE GAZZARRI DANCERS ♥
Over the course of thirteen months, and 58 episodes, there were at least 25 dancers who appeared on the show. GAZZARRI DANCERS, one and all: some for the duration of the show, some for long stretches, some for only a few episodes, and some for only one or two. We have managed to identify all of the major dancers (sometimes referred to as the core dancers), and have spoken numerous times to nearly all of these. Sadly, some have passed on. We have also been able to identify several of the short-term dancers, and have been in contact with them as well.
Girls came and went, but for convenience we have divided their appearances into four chronological groups, with some overlap between the periods. DeANN and MIMI were the only two dancers who were on the show for its duration (all 58 episodes as well as the trip to Hawaii). Since the earliest available tapes of the show are from episodes # 6 and # 9, we are left wondering just who could have been on the premier episode besides DeANN and MIMI ? We can only guess and use episode # 6 as a clue. Also on that episode were JACQUI LANDRUM, as well as blonde twins known only as ROSE and LINDA, as well as a further as yet unidentified dancer. Despite a few tantilizing clues, the full identities of the twins remains a mystery. We will call these six dancers the "original group".
The twins and the other unknown girl were gone by the time DALE first appeared on episode # 9 in February 1965. Next to take the stage were ROBERTA and LUCILLE who both arrived in March. So in the "second group" we already had the strong lineup of DeANN, MIMI, JACQUI, DALE,ROBERTA, and LUCILLE. Then JUNE arrived in May, the same month that saw the departure of ROBERTA, who moved over to Dick Clark'sWHERE THE ACTION IS.
Then things really got go-go-ing as far as the number of dancers for the summer of '65. DALE left the show in July, supposedly to pursue a recording career. Instead of bringing in only one replacement, AL brought in (gasp) nine dancers, mostly blondes. The blonde bombardment had arrived. We will refer to this period as the "summer group". Joining the line up were GWEN SELVAGE, SHELLEYBONIS, CARLIE McCUMMINGS, MARLENE SELSMAN, MILLIE HAMM, GAY SCHICKLER (redhead), JOANNA HILL (blonde on the show), as well as two additional, as yet unidentified blonde dancers. These were added to the current troupe of core dancers consisting of DeANN, MIMI, JUNE, and LUCILLE. There certainly were enough dancers to keep TV viewers happy and stage positions occupied. The largest number of dancers we have documented in any single performance is nine, and that happened on several occasions. Some of these girls were only on board for a few episodes, with GWEN being the only one to stay until the end of the show's run in early 1966. Other than her, by summer's end they were all quickly phased out again.
This brings us to the fourth group of dancers who we will refer to as the "closing group".
The "closing group" could be described as being the most choreographically talented and potent group in the show's history. SHELLEY left the show around the same time that MIMI broke her ankle (while dancing off the clock). MIMI continued to appear , but in stationary, non-dancing postions for over a month. JACQUI, who had appeared on the early episodes, up through April, came back to presumably replace MIMI whilealso choreographing the show for the rest of its run. JACQUI in turn immediately brought in her professionally trained friend MARIA POGEE. Doubling the pleasure was DAWN MICHAELS who joined up in November after leaving HULLABALOO. LUCILLE left the show in November leaving seven dancers (DeANN, MIMI, GWEN, JUNE, MARIA,JACQUI, and DAWN), all of whom worked together like a well oiled dancing machine until the show ceased production. We have dubbed them as "the magnificent seven". JACQUI elevated the choreography (as well as the hemlines) to new heights in some well produced dancing performances.
LATER EPISODES AND THE END
About a dozen episodes before the show ceased production in February 1966 producer AL BURTON left. He was replaced by MILT HOFFMAN and the choreography was handed off to SHELLEY BONIS, then MIMI MACHU and then JACKIE LEVY (JACQUI LANDRUM). Some of the magic that AL brought to the show seemed to evaporate with the new changes that were introduced. The last episode contrasted starkly with the early episodes. Some of the dancing routines became a bit more "artsy", rather than the hip shaking which previously was the norm. The lighting seemed much brighter. It all added up to a different feel. The introduction of novelty musical guests such as the Bantams, or John Astin and Ted 'Lurch' Cassidy, both from the ADDAMS FAMILY TV show, eroded the show's hipness. What was once cool had now become a bit more commonplace, especially considering that viewers could watch several other weekly go-go shows. But the dancing performances by the GAZZARRI DANCERS had progressed to the point where they were now on equal billing as many of the guest artists. Much of this can be attributed to the choreography by JACQUILANDRUM. They were in a league of their own and certainly had an edge over the dancers on other shows.
The last episode is a scorcher. The staff, the dancers, and the musical guests all knew that the January 29, 1966 taping was to be the last. One of the dancers informed me that Freddy Cannon told them to let it all hang out. And that they did. You can see it in their dancing and their intensity. Check out JACQUI'S mini-skirt in the Karen Verros "Little Boy" performance. Was this a hemline altitude record for 1960's television?! And Freddy, who encouraged the girls to let it all hang out, was the last artist to appear.
We are not sure why the show the cancelled. The financial burden on a local TV station to produce a show like this week after week must have been significant. By the end of 1965 there was a glut of locally and network produced music/dance shows, so competition could also have been a factor. We don't know if AL left because he saw the writing on the wall, or whether his departure and the ensuing changes contributed to the end. The go-go idea may just have run its course, as the times they wereindeed a changin', and very quickly at that. Go-Go enthusiasm from 1964 had become going-going-gone reality by 1966. SHINDIG ended on January 8, 1966, just four weeks before HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO. HULLABALOO and SHIVAREE lasted only slightly longer, April and May 1966 respectively.
AL subsequently produced a pilot for a show to have been named WAY OUT drawing on former musical guests, with theBees (from episode # 38) envisioned as the house band. However, the pilot did not get a contract for future production and ALsold off the idea. The show later evolved to become LAUGH IN.
HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO ended its short run on February 5, 1966 with SAMsaying, "So long, music lovers" for the last time on television.
OUT OF THE STUDIO
Once the GAZZARRI DANCERSfrom the TV show had become better known, KHJ started using them for promotional appearances. This was especially true in the first half of the show's run, the expectation being that it would help with the show's ratings in the L.A. area. On one such occasion in 1965 several dancers were sent to a military base in California as part of a show. The stars of this show entertaining the troops were theEverly Brothers, Joey Paige, and the GAZZARRIladies pictured below left: (from front to back) JUNE, GWEN, MIMI, and DeANN.
On another occasion at least four dancers were sent to appear at the Teenage Fair, held at the Hollywood Palladium between April 10-19, 1965. In the video link below we can see DeANN, LUCILLE, and ROBERTAdancing during a performance by Gene Pitney. The fourth dancer who we can not see is almost assuredly MIMI.
SAM RIDDLE might have very well been the most popular personality in the Los Angeles radio and television market in the mid -60's. Besides doing daily DJ radio shows on KHJ, he also taped a daily (Monday - Friday) television show, 9TH STREET WEST, the weekly HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO show, plus music specials such as ALOHA A GO-GO and CHEERIO A GO-GO.
SAM released a single on Tower Records in 1966. The A side was "Lollipops & Teardrops", with "Angela Jones" on the B side.
HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO was heavily promoted in its home market of Channel 9 in Los Angeles (KHJ-TV). The above photo, showing SAM in the bus window, most likely appeared in area newspapers. And of course there was at least one public bus promoting the show running around southern California streets!
Legendary HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO producer AL BURTON, shown here in Hawaii during the filming of ALOHA AGO-GO. AL had a very successful career in television production after his time with the show ended.
OSCAR WILLIAMS, pictured at left in a c.1965 photo, was the choreographeron the earlier episodes. OSCAR was brought over from Gazzarri's nightclub, where he had been working, to take over the job.
He can be seen taking to the stage and dancing with the girls on The Sinners video of "What'd I Say".
On later episodes he is listed as "dancing coordinator" with several of the GAZZARRI'S taking over the choreographing duties. We have also heard reports that Toni Basil was brought in to help with the choreography, but have been unable to confirm this through Toni's biography.
Today OSCAR owns a high-profile event planning company in Los Angeles.