"American Bandstand" hidden secret revealed in gay dancer's memoir

By: Angeli Kakade

Behind the fame and success of America's favorite and first music TV show "American Bandstand" was a dark secret kept hidden by show producer, Dick Clark.

"American Bandstand" takes the credit for creating stars out of the show's regularly performing dancers, many of whom were gay and experimenting sexually with each-other behind the scenes. It was a secret Dick Clark apparently held onto tightly out because he thought that having openly gay dancers could negatively impact the show's ratings.

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In a book called "Bandstand Diaries: The Philadelphia Years, 1956-1963" penned by one of Bandstand's "regular" dancers, Arlene Sullivan opens up about the number of young gay dancers that were on the show, including herself.

The self published book dives into Sullivan's world at the time and reveals that many of the closeted gay dancers felt out of place among the cast and experienced harassment once they left the show.

Clark's attempt at keeping the show on air made rumors swirl of the media mogul sending production staff to spy on the dancers to identify which ones were gay. Sullivan and her co-author Ray Smith, who was another closeted dancer on the show, both admit that audiences might not have accepted their sexualities, either.

See photos from "American Bandstand":

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'American Bandstand' early days
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'American Bandstand' early days
circa 1957: American TV host and producer Dick Clark looks over his shoulder while holding a microphone on the set of the television series, 'American Bandstand'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate circa 1956. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) AUDIENCE
PHILADELPHIA - CIRCA 1957: Television host Dick Clark presides over the set of his show 'American Bandstand' as teenagers dance to top 40 popular music circa 1957 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
CIRCA 1957: Host of the television show 'American Bandstand' Dick Clark poses for a portrait with his wife Barbara Clark in circa 1957. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
CIRCA 1957: Host of the television show 'American Bandstand' Dick Clark interviews a singer in circa 1957. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - CIRCA 1957: Pop singer Tab Hunter and host of the television show 'American Bandstand' Dick Clark chat on stage in front of a studio audience in circa 1957 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 25, 1957. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
CIRCA 1957: Host of the television show 'American Bandstand' Dick Clark interviews child actor Johnny Crawford in circa 1957. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate circa 1956. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) AUDIENCE
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 25, 1957. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SINGER
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate circa 1956. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 25, 1957. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - Airdate in 1958 (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - Shoot date in 1958 (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate January 1, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 25, 1957. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DANCERS
circa 1958: Group promotional portrait of American television personality Dick Clark snapping his fingers to the beat of a song as the McGuire Sisters, made up of American singers (left to right) Christine, Phyllis and Dorothy McGuire, and American singer Johnny Mathis perform behind him. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1958: American singer and musician Bobby Rydell sits next to American television host Dick Clark in the audience of the television show, 'American Bandstand'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate January 1, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DANCERS
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate May 3, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 5, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 5, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 5, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 2, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) JIMMY BOWEN
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 2, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SINGER
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate August 2, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) AUIDENCE
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage Rehearsal and Valentine Day' - Airdate November 23, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Cowboy Stars, Hula Hoop, Pat Boone' - Airdate October 18, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) WILL HUTCHINS;TY HARDIN;JAMES GARNER;PETER BROWN;WADE PRESTON;JACK KELLY;DICK CLARK;JOHN RUSSELL;PAT BOONE
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Cowboy Stars, Hula Hoop, Pat Boone' - Airdate October 18, 1958. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'The Dick Clark Beechnut Show' - Airdate in 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'The Dick Clark Beechnut Show' - Airdate in 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) AUDIENCE
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'The Dick Clark Beechnut Show' - Airdate in 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) SINGER
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Frankie Avalon' - Airdate March 14, 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Frankie Avalon' - Airdate March 14, 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage, The Fleetwoods, Kathy Linden, Johnny Nash, Billy Grammer' - Airdate April 26, 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) THE FLEETWOODS
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Show Coverage' - Airdate June 26, 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) JACK SCOTT
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Dick and Wife Barbara Clark - Fourth of July' - Airdate May 9, 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) DICK CLARK
AMERICAN BANDSTAND - 'Tommy Sands, The Impalas, The Playmates' - Airdate July 4, 1959. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) IMPALAS
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After all, there was virtually zero representation of gay people on television during the show's heyday -- groundbreaking shows like "Will & Grace" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" were still decades away from airing.

As they wrote in "Bandstand Diaries," "parents across America would never, never have allowed their kids to put 'Bandstand' on [had we been openly gay at the time]."

"American Bandstand" aired from 1952 through 1989, and Dick Clark hosted the show from 1956 until it ended.

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