“Bandstand Bonnie” Remembers Dick Clark

Bonnie was 15 when she danced on American Bandstand. It took two buses and the Frankford El to get there, but it was "a magical time"

Bandstand Bonnie got her nickname later in life, but her inspiration early, as "the girl with the big hairdo" on American Bandstand in 1961. Hearing today that Dick Clark had died was "very, very sad. He was such a giant," she says.

Bonnie Nadley is careful to point out that she wasn't one of the popular, regular dancers. She did strut her stuff though about three times a month that year, as a 15-year-old from West Oak Lane.

"I always loved to dance. I used to take dancing lessons and when I would come home from school, I would put on Bandstand and dance with the refrigerator handle or the banister on the stairs."

One day when she didn't have school, Bonnie tried to get on the show. "A friend and I took two buses and the Frankford El and we stood in line for hours. The girls were on one side and the guys were on the other. And then the line started moving! I thought I was going to get in, but we didn't."

A few weeks later, she went back with some girlfriends. "And we had a blast. We got in! And I remember everything looked so different in color. I was used to seeing it on my black and white TV. It was like the Wizard of Oz."

Bonnie was hooked. She knew she wanted to come back. At the end of the show, "the producer or director came over and gave out these reservation cards. I kept raising my hand. If you had a reservation card, you didn't have to wait in line."

So Bonnie went back to Bandstand, maybe 40 times or so, she remembers. Dick Clark was always busy with the show but "he would say 'Hi' every once in a while when I'd walk in. Everybody would see him, standing at the podium, talking on the phone, which was a direct link to the control room.

"If we danced in front of the camera for too long, he would always tell us to move back. He wanted everyone to have a chance to be in front of the camera. And when he wanted me to move back, he would always say, 'the girl with the big hairdo, move back.'"

Bonnie says one of her favorite parts of being on the show was getting autographs from the performers. And then there was that feeling that for a sliver of your life, you might even be considered a local celebrity.

"And coming home and having my mom and my dad and my friends and my sister say, 'Oh, we saw you on TV!'"

Bonnie eventually traded in Bandstand for a boyfriend and a busier life. She still loves to dance. That's how she got her nickname, Bandstand Bonnie, a few years back when she says she was dancing oldies and helping D.J. Sam Lit promote his radio show. Although she has lived a lot of life since 1961, Bonnie says those Bandstand days will always be magical.

"American Bandstand was a show just for teenagers. We didn't have computers. We didn't have the internet. This is what teenagers embraced. It was a time that will never be repeated. It was something we lived for."

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