AMERICN BANDSTAND legend DICK CLARK hid a shocking secret: He conducted witch hunts against gays who appeared on his show – and banned homosexuals who’d been outed by his staff!
Now for the first time ever, “Bandstand” insiders are blowing the lid off the host’s squeaky-clean image branding him a closet racist and a relentless “tyrant” who would do anything to ensure the show’s success.
But “Bandstand” and Clark, who took over as the show’s front man in 1957, had a “dirty little secret,” according to Frank Brancaccio, who was one of the program’s featured dancers.
“A high percentage of the popular ‘regulars’ were gay,” declares Brancaccio, now 72 years old and openly homosexual.
And another “Bandstand” regular, Eddie Kelly, confirms, “It’s true. now it’s out and it’s good.
“When I went to ‘Bandstand’ in 1959, I found most of the males were gay, but that could never have gotten out to the public.”
Clark was terrified the show, one of the first forms of reality TV, would be killed by a gay backlash, the dancers said.
In addition, Clark wanted viewers to tune in to learn about developments in romances between couples like Kelly and Bunny Gibson, Joyce Shafer and Norman Kerr, Bob Clayton and Justine Carelli, and Kenny Rossi and Arlene Sullivan.
Even Brancaccio was featured with one of the show’s pretty girl dancers – so viewers would think he was part of a heterosexual couple!
Brancaccio and other insiders claim Clark had his lieutenants conduct “witch hunts” to purge gays from the ranks of the teen dancers.
Clark had his aides comb Philadelphia’s gay hangouts – and if any of the show’s teens were discovered as being openly gay, the horrified host would banish them!
Handsome gay 14- to 17-year old males who helped popularize dance crazes like the Slop, the Continental, the Fly and the Hitchhike could stay on “Bandstand” as long as they looked straight. But any open hint of homosexuality got them kicked out the door – and the teens knew it in no uncertain terms.
Kelly revealed, “Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse square was known as a meeting place for homosexuals. If you were seen in the square, you couldn’t go on ‘Bandstand.’ So most of us really stayed away.”
But his same-sex secret actually made Brancaccio start going to the show when he was 14 years old!
“I went to ‘Bandstand’ because I was gay and I was a misfit in my neighborhood. I lived in very tough South Philadelphia,” he says. “I’d see these kids dancing and instinctively I knew I could fit in with them.
“I went to coffee shops, but I also hung out in Rittenhouse Square and so did many of the dancers. It was no secret.
“When I used to walk down the streets of Philadelphia and be recognized, I’d be called a ‘Bandstand f*****.’”
Kelly also admits being taunted for being gay. Once, he was threatened by a guy from out of town who appeared on the show. “I remember him dancing nearby and it was scary because he said, ‘I’m going to get you after the show,’ ” he says.
But homophobia wasn’t the only issue Clark was confronting in the late 1950s and early ’60s.
He did NOT want the show integrated before it moved to Los Angeles in 1964 – even though he gave the notion lip service.
Says an insider, “There were strict rules to appear on the show. You couldn’t be a camera hog. You couldn’t dance too close, and you couldn’t dance with someone who wasn’t your color.”
To Clark, blacks didn’t represent the all- American boy or girl next door during the era, which was marked by the civil rights movement.
He made sure African-Americans wouldn’t feel comfortable in the studio, insiders say.
“Clark wanted NO integration,” says Brancaccio. And Kelly says he never saw a black person dance with a white person. He also remembers only two black couples appearing during the years he was on “Bandstand.”
The insiders say a system was created to shunt aside black teens, who early on outnumbered white kids as they lined up for a chance to appear on the show.
White dancers would always get in first with special membership cards, the insiders say. if a couple of black guys did get in, they could only sit in the stands because there were no black girls for them to dance with. Clark’s concession to racial equality was to allow wildly popular black artists to appear on the show – and help boost his ratings.
“Clark was out for Clark,” says Brancaccio. “He was a brilliant man. BUT he was out for Clark.”
American Bandstand went off the air 25 years ago in 1989. Clark continued a successful entertainment career but died of a massive heart attack in April 2012 at age 82.