Many years ago, 27 to be exact, my 16-year old self convinced my parents to let me travel to Philadelphia to be a part of my absolute favorite dance show. The only dance show at the time, and it was filmed only 30 minutes from my home, I HAD to go. My best friend, of course, would accompany me. We'd been practicing for weeks. Doing our best side step -snap- head tilt move to every top 40 song. Teasing our hair, cropping our tops, and choosing just the right mini skirt.
The year was 1986, the show was 'Dancin' on Air'- an American Bandstand for us 80's kids.
This popular show was the reason we ran home after school, everyday. We never missed an episode of big hair, high waisted, eighties goodness. The show was filled with regulars who were like local celebrities, dating drama, and lots and lots of dancing. It was kind of like a 'Jersey Shore' minus all the alcohol.
One regular dancer, in particular, actually made it big. We all should have known, Kelly Ripa, with her perfect, curled, long, blonde hair and toothy grin was going places. On that day, my bestie and I only hoped to rub elbows with her, or any regulars, if given the chance.
Our parents conceded and we were off! Ready to 'dance on air'
On the set, we danced our matching mini skirt butts off, all the while trying to catch a glimpse of someone familiar. We tried to find Kelly in the sea of Aqua Net, but to no avail. We showed off our best side step - snap, without ever once tripping over a camera wire. We were flat-out getting it. That is until we spied a producer heading our way. Convinced he was about to invite us up on center stage, we hastily smoothed our mini's and quick-teased our hair.
He spoke not a word, but simply pointed to the off-stage area. The music seemed to stop as we read his lips, in slow motion, 'L-E-A-V-E!'
We looked behind us, confused. He said it again. This time it felt like everyone could hear, "LEAVE!" he was now shuttling us to a place behind the cameras, where no one could see us. Apparently, that was the idea.
"You'll have to sit this segment out, you're not smiling enough." That was all he offered before walking away. My best friend and I could not even make eye contact. It was not the shock of being reprimanded, we had both been there before. The two of us had been getting into trouble together since our first encounter back in 2nd grade. Attending a parochial school in the 1970's, with full Sister of Mercy representation, proved to be a very easy place to find one's self in trouble. This was not our first rodeo.
But here, in a TV studio in Philadelphia where no one knew our history? How did we find ourselves in this predicament? We were the total package, we had the big hair, the trendy Madonna-esque get-up, and the latest dance moves. I'm pretty sure we busted about a Cabbage Patch or two, before getting the boot. We were so busy looking for regulars, looking for cameras, ready to wave to our moms that somewhere along the ways we forgot to smile.
You know who didn't forget to smile? Kelly Ripa. She smiled her way from Dancin' on Air to Dance Party USA to All My Children and eventually to Live with Regis. That girl knew, at 16, the importance of a smile. Clearly, it's the reason she is famous today and I. Am. Not.
(PS: My bestie and I were never again asked back to Dancin' on Air, but we did rock the local high school dance circuit like nobody's business. Holla!)