What brought us together that day was rock n' roll music and a star named Elvis Presley.
I was a fan of "American Bandstand" from the time it began, a local show out of Philadelphia which we were able to receive on a slightly fuzzy feed in my New Jersey hometown.
Every day, my girlfriends and I would rush home from school, switch on the black-and-white TV and watch the show that spoke to us like no other. We learned to dance from watching "Bandstand." And at last we had an adult (though a very young looking one) who understood rock 'n roll, the music we loved. Clark played the anthems of our youth and introduced us to the greatest singers.
We were enthralled with the kids who got to dance on the show—Bob and Justine, Kenny and Arlene, Bunny and Ed. We tried to copy their dance moves, their hairstyles and their outfits. Everyone envied them and their moments in the spotlight. '
And then, one day, I got my moment. I was already president of an Elvis Presley Fan Club, one of the first in the country. But my hero, Elvis, had gone into the Army at the height of his fame and fans were worried that he would be forgotten. But I had an idea.
I started a petition drive among fans worldwide asking that American Bandstand dedicate its entire 90-minute show to Elvis' music on his 24th birthday, Jan. 8, 1959. There were 3,500 signatures by the time I decided to present it to Clark in person. My father agreed to drive me and my best friend Florence, also a fan, to Philadelphia where we were greeted outside the studio by other Elvis fans who heard of our mission. Clark's staff ushered us inside.
And then, there I was in the glare of the spotlight, standing beside Dick Clark making my plea. He took the petition and rolled out all 16 feet of it for his audience to see. And the next day he announced on the air that he had talked to Elvis' manager and arranged to fulfill our wish—an entire show of Elvis music.
The newspapers wrote about it and I had my first fleeting brush with fame. Dick Clark made it happen. I'll always remember him fondly.