The '50s had American Bandstand, the '70s and '80s Soul Train, and the '90s had the insufferable crotch shots of MTV's The Grind. Here in the Bay Area, from the '80s through the '90s, we kicked it on the special locals-only Dance Party on KOFY Channel 20. Two years ago, it came back, with Morris Knight of KISS FM hosting and DJ Katie cueing up the Sunday night jams. Surprisingly popular and surprisingly fun, the show is silly kitsch, a bizarro world whose absurdity is never acknowledged on camera, which leaves us smiling and grooving all the more. Want to take part? Here are some tips — in a fun acrostic, even!
Coming to the dance party in some variation of lamé, sequins, or neon is a must for two reasons: 1) You're on TV dancing, so your outfit can be your disguise if you don't want to be recognized; and 2) It gives you something to talk about while waiting in line with the other partygoers. We've seen people in power gloves, black leather fringe, pink wigs, and Hammer pants. They looked ridiculous, which is to say, perfect.
No, you probably won't be jump-starting your dancing shoes with amphetamines, but it might be tempting. Since KOFY tapes three episodes at a time, the first before noon and the last around 4 p.m., how else are you going to be a perpetual-motion dancing machine?
DJ Katie generates sentimental longing with Prince, Billy Idol, Debbie Gibson, and other hits from the Top 40 playlist of the original Dance Party. Out of either irony or a genuine love for the era, the '80s theme brings out a crowd of more than 200 locals eager to ape the looks of Pat Benatar and Madonna.
You might be one of the lucky three randomly selected to compete for the crown of dancing queen or king of the episode. This involves testing your knowledge of '80s trivia, playing name that tune, or a genuine dance-off. So bring your A-game.
Dance Party's Facebook page solicits dancers with a call to be at the studio no later than 11:45 a.m., but some early risers start lining up as early as 8 with boxed coffee for the wait. If the first taping is difficult to make, 1:45 and 3:45 are options, but it's first-come, first-serve as far as the line goes. Once you're inside, you can stay for all three tapings, which means one thing: costume change!
If you're uninteresting, people will change the channel, and you don't want to be the reason why people don't watch Dance Party, do you? No one's asking you to be the villain or the good girl or any other archetype, but you came to dance and you came to be on TV, so bring your personality (or persona), dammit. The sillier the better. And "awkward" counts.
KOFY generates some magical explosion of ageless energy. From 18 and up, the crowd is as diverse in age as it is in costume. Bouncing it out here is egalitarian, so you can still be a dance star now even if you were one during the show's original run.
Folks from all walks of life convene in KOFY's Bayview studio (2500 Marin at Kansas; e-mail 'em at firstname.lastname@example.org) one Saturday a month. Even the relentlessly bright studio lights can't keep the dancers away — Bay Area residents are a shameless lot. If there's life on other planets, let's hope they pick up a signal from the Sutro Tower, and believe that this happy diversity is just what Earth looks like.
Sure, you can do the quick-quick-slow and conserve your energy. Or you can pop it out, and dance like you don't care and no one's watching — except that more than 1 million people might be, as KOFY estimates.
Why not? In addition to being fun and nothing like your job, Dance Party is a great excuse to create the things we all want more of — life, community, and a story to tell. Imagine telling your grandkids, "I was a TV dance star back in the aughts. Those were my halcyon days." Then imagine them saying back, "Weren't you 40?"