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, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sonny & Cher, the Ladybirds, the Walker Brothers, and the house band, the SINNERS. 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 A GO-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 SELVAGE recollects that there was also at least one open-audition tryout to recruit a few dancers. But the TV show dancers had AL, not BILL, as their boss and received paychecks from KHJ-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 SHINDIG counterparts 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 OSCAR had 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.
SATURDAYS IN 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 the Turtles "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 GAZZARRI DANCERS 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's WHERE 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, SHELLEY BONIS, 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 while also 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 JACQUI LANDRUM. 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 were indeed 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 the Bees (from episode # 38) envisioned as the house band. However, the pilot did not get a contract for future production and AL sold off the idea. The show later evolved to become LAUGH IN.
HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO ended its short run on February 5, 1966 with SAM saying, "So long, music lovers" for the last time on television.