The biggest hit Broadway musical of 2002 is Hairspray, a fictional story about the racial integration of a teen dance program in television's early days. That TV show was based on "American Bandstand," the ABC network program which originated in Philadelphia as "Bandstand."

Coincidentally, "Bandstand" is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. But celebrating is a just a figure of speech. No one at ABC or its Philadelphia affiliate is saying anything about the 1952 birth of the show. There seems to be a desire to erase the program's early history.

You may wonder how closely Hairspray resembles what the kids actually attended half a century ago. And the vast public which loved "American Bandstand" may wonder why neither Clark nor the network nor the originating station talk about the show's first four years.

I was there, a young employee at the station during the program's early years. In part one of this story, I'll tell you about the program's origin and look at the racial integration situation. Then, in part two, I'll discuss how the career of the program's first host came to a sudden end.

Bob Horn, the program's originator, was a talented broadcaster with a divided personality that brought an early finish to his career and then to his life. Did he encourage or dissuade blacks from dancing on the show? How closely does Hairspray follow history?


"Bandstand" went on the air in 1952 and was an immediate hit. But Horn soon started a sexual relationship with a girl who was only 13 years old. More than just use her for his own pleasure, Horn asked the girl to perform sexual acts on his buddies while the records spun, in a studio at the station where he presided over a program for teenagers. This went on for almost three years. Then Horn was arrested for drunk-driving on June 21, 1956. Within hours, Horn was suspended from "Bandstand" and then was forced to resign.

Fortunately, the clean-cut and talented Dick Clark was on staff and ready to take over. Clark even had substituted for Horn one afternoon on the program, in the fall of 1955. A year after Clark took over, ABC put the program on the network. It became a national institution and Dick Clark a celebrity.

Cameraman Vince Gasbarro said: "Horn was old-looking. He looked like Big Brother. Clark looked like one of the kids." Horn was 40 when he left "Bandstand" and Clark was a babyfaced 27. Clark has acknowledged Horn's pioneering, but he declined my recent request to talk about those early days because he was busy promoting the new NBC series, "American Dreams." What Clark said about Horn a few years ago was this:

"He was a man in his late thirties, was heavyset with a double chin, long, narrow nose and greased-back black hair. Off-camera his personality was abrasive, egotistical and aggressive. Most people around the station found him less than charming. I always thought Horn did a poor job relating to the kids. His conversation with them was stilted; he never associated with them as equals. I talked to the kids on the same intellectual level. From the first day, I established the most platonic of friendships with the kids. From the start I was also terrified because what had happened to Horn. I've never been sexually attracted to very young girls. It may not be the secret of my success but it sure as hell kept me out of a lot of trouble."

There's a dramatic difference between the images we get of Horn from his adult co-workers and what we hear from his teenage fans. According to friends of his, Horn was a "free-swinging, hard-drinking man." Other acquaintances use words like arrogant and self-centered. The "Bandstand" dancers, on the other hand, were fond of him. In the second part of this story we'll examine the extremes of his nature and the relationship that destroyed him.


He was born Donald Horn in 1916 and grew up near Philadelphia. Horn became a radio personality at Philly's WIP, then moved to WFIL because he was offered more money and because FIL had a sister TV station, and Horn hoped for a future on television.

Walter Annenberg, the owner of WFIL, the Philadelphia Inquirer and TV Guide, asked his station manager, Roger Clipp, in the summer of 1952 to "try a dance program aimed at teenagers." The TV show would be on after school when kids went home and were unsupervised by their parents, thus having the opportunity to choose their own amusements. This was also a time of day when ABC didn't feed any network product to the local stations, leaving them with a big time gap to fill locally. If ABC had not been the poorest of the networks and the only one to not provide daytime programs to its affiliates, "Bandstand" would never have been born.

Clipp contacted Joe Grady and Ed Hurst, the hosts of Philadelphia's most-popular afternoon radio program, "The 950 Club," and offered them a deal to be on WFIL radio and TV simultaneously. For seven years kids had been coming to see Grady and Hurst at station WPEN at 1522 Walnut Street, riding the elevator to spend a couple of hours at their "club." Some of the kids would jitterbug in an impromptu fashion while records were playing.

In 1950 WPEN moved into a modern new building at 2212 Walnut Street. A big studio was on the ground floor, which WPEN used for the 950 Club in the afternoon and for Steve Allison's talk and interview program at night. In this new setting, more kids could dance while the music was on the air. At WFIL they thought: What a wonderful opportunity for TV to show teenagers dancing!

"Clipp called Grady and me to his office," Hurst relates, "and asked us to start in two weeks. He said "Name your salary." So we asked our station manager for a release, and he said he'd talk to the station's owner. I was so innocent that I thought they wouldn't stand in our way. The next day Bill Sylk -- owner of WPEN and the Sun Ray Drug chain -- called Walter Annenberg and said, 'If you steal my talent I'll pull a million dollars of Sun Ray advertising out of the Inquirer.' After that threat, WFIL withdrew its offer to us, and that was the end of that."

If Clipp couldn't get the people, he still could steal their format. His obvious next move was to pick his own employee, Bob Horn, and copy from WPEN the idea of teenagers in the studio. Horn called his radio program "The Bob Horn Bandstand," which had a nice, alliterative sound. It reflected the fact that Horn played big band recordings by Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and others.
When he went on TV, "Bandstand" was the obvious choice for a name. It debuted on television from 2:45 to 5 p.m. on October 7, 1952. WFIL used the same co-host format as radio's 950 Club. Although Horn wanted to run it solo, Clipp picked a partner for him -- the short, bespectacled Lee Stewart who had no charisma and no particular rapport with teenagers and eventually was dropped from the program.

At the start, the set was a three-fold flat, and the camera zoomed in to a record player. But soon WFIL built the set that became famous -- now permanently on display at the Smithsonian Institution -- simulating the record department in the corner of a music store. A small table was next to the hosts' platform, where guest performers sat and signed autographs. Once or twice on each program, Horn would intone: "We've got company!" and a recording artist would appear to lip-synch to his or her new record, then chat with Horn.

Horn developed a daily ritual of kids rating new records. He also came up with the idea of a teenage committee, because Horn wanted a guarantee that a group of good dancers would show up every afternoon. Horn was a pioneer when he made the youngsters the stars of the show, and when he gave teenagers a forum to set their own standards of music, dance steps and style. But when it came to rock 'n' roll music, he was a follower.

His first loyalty seemed to go to a group of local singers like Sunny Gale, Gloria Mann, Georgie Shaw and Micki Marlo. All of them were white, and some of them signed with Horn's own record label which he started with a group of businessmen and musicians including Nat Segall, Artie Singer, Bernie Lowe and Harry Chipetz. In addition, Horn played mainstream singers like Doris Day and Frankie Laine. He covered show music, too, and interviewed Harold Rome, the composer of the Broadway musical Fanny when it tried out in Philadelphia in October of 1954. Horn also loved jazz, especially Erroll Garner and Sarah Vaughn, and he presented her first Philadelphia concert. So Horn's musical background was extensive and diverse.

To keep up with the tastes of teenagers, Horn asked his teenagers to recommend new material. Jerry Blavat, then a youngster on the committee, reports that he turned Horn on to "Sh-Boom" by The Chords, "Little Darling" by the Gladiolas and "Earth Angel" by The Penguins. Horn bragged to song-pluggers that he "had to shove this music down the throats" of station management, but he was exaggerating and trying to claim extra credit for himself. Management was happy with Horn's high ratings and did not interfere with the music choices. When you add these new artists to older singers like Etta James, Roy Hamilton and Al Hibbler, there's a long list of blacks that Horn played. The sad truth, though, is that the kids who danced to the records were almost all white.

It didn't start out that way. Evidence shows that Horn's "Bandstand" had more racial integration than Hairspray at the start. One photo shows the studio with almost half of the audience black. Harvey Sheldon, a white high school student who later became a disc jockey and songwriter, reports that he jitterbugged with a black girl on the show in 1952 or '53, and no one said anything about it.
"Bob was color blind," says Sheldon, "On the first shows there were black couples dancing on the floor along with white couples. Since he was a huge fan of jazz and so many jazz artists were black, there was no way Bob would allow the dance floor to be lily white."

But then someone at the station worried that the program could become identified as a black show. "If we don't do something, they'll take over" was the fear. To avoid this, co-producers Horn and Tony Mammarella implemented two strategies.
First, they required that boys show up wearing suits and ties. The white kids, especially those who attended parochial schools, normally dressed this way while black kids did not. Dick Clark later wrote that he kept that dress code because "it made the show acceptable to adults who were frightened by the teenage world and teenage music."

Secondly, the producers started to require admission cards. Some blacks charged that these cards were sent mainly to all-white parochial schools, but I can't find evidence of that.

Dave Feldman, "Bandstand" dancer, suggests one reason why so many of the kids came from Catholic schools: "They were taught that dancing was wrong, and especially that girls shouldn't dance on television, so they did it to rebel." Also, the closest school to the studio was a Catholic one. Catholic schools in those days were 99 percent white. Public high schools were 72 percent white when "Bandstand" started, according to Philadelphia School District statistics. Blacks were 28 percent while Asians and Latinos were less than 1 percent.

Next, a restrictive reservation system was started. People would phone the station and be told there was a six-month wait. But inside the studio, at the end of each show, committee members gave out reservations for the future. So if you got on the show once, you were assured of returning if they liked you, ahead of people who phoned or wrote in. Horn chose only white kids to serve on the committee, and it was he who personally selected the committee.

So Horn, in a way, was the good guy who had no ethnic prejudice and who had blacks and whites in equal numbers in the early days of "Bandstand." In this, he was way ahead of what's seen in Hairspray. But Horn also was the bad guy who allowed blacks to be systematically excluded when it looked as if their dancing might dominate the show. All the photos from Horn's last two years show nothing but white kids in the studio. Some blacks criticize Dick Clark for keeping blacks out, but clearly the policy was implemented by Horn, before Clark.

Walter DeLegall, a black man who was a teenager then, says about the early days:
"I used to dance on the original 'Bandstand.' Believe it or not, at that time the show looked like a black blue-light basement party because our crowd would take over the floor when we showed up. Every day after school, we would head for the TV studio which was near my high school -- West Philly High. Black kids from Overbrook High would come also. For the most part, the white kids from West Catholic and Roman Catholic, etc., were intimidated when we got on the floor. They wouldn't get up unless the bunny hop was playing. Then my crowd all sat down.

"We would do dances like the slop, bop, slow drag and the grind, which originated in the black dance halls of South Philly. The grind was a very sexy dance that you did on a slow record. I know the producers found it embarrassing.

"After awhile, the producers decided that they wanted to change the image of the show, so they created a new policy. To get in the studio, boys must be wearing a suit jacket and tie. Since no black students went to school dressed like that, we couldn't get in anymore. The white kids had no problem with the new dress code. We stopped going and so did the black girls, for the most part."

A black man who grew up a few years after that is Thomas E. Kennedy:

"I grew up two city blocks from the studio, at 47th and Haverford. The ugly truth of why no black kids were seen on the show is that they were denied admittance. During the early days, black kids were turned back at the entrance without any explanation. This soon became a potential explosive situation, so the studio created an admission system that required passes that were distributed prior to the day of the show. This system permitted the show to legally turn away anyone without the pass while at the same time maintain the lily white studio audience since the passes were only distributed at the all-white West Catholic High School.

"For those of you that question or challenge this, please try and recall a scene from the shows that were produced in Philadelphia where the girls were not wearing Catholic school uniform dresses and the boys were not wearing the white shirt and tie Catholic school boys uniform. This is but one of the many bitter memories that I and many of the people that I grew up with have about 'American Bandstand.'"

Henry Gordon said in 1995 as he looked at an old photo of the kids at Bandstand:

"Anything that looks like a black face in this picture is probably a white face in the shadows. No, the black people who went in that building were there to clean up, as cleaning people. We blacks watched from across the street. There's an El stop there and we used to watch the kids line up. It was their thing.

"Segregation such as seen on 'Bandstand' during the late Fifties and early Sixties was characteristic of American society during that time, when 'separate but equal' was still viewed as legitimate by many Americans."

Black composer Leroy ("After the Lights Go Down Low") Lovett is from an older generation and looks at things more benignly. He was 30 when "Bandstand" went on the air and says, "Horn played some of our music, but mainly he aimed for a wider audience and the black kids didn't get much out of it. They were more interested in stations that played r&b all the time," therefore stopped coming by their own choice.

Deejay Jerry Blavat says: "Even when black artists like Chuck Berry and Fats Domino appeared in live shows, 95 percent of the audience was white. I went to Alan Freed's concerts at the Paramount and black kids didn't show up there either. I don't know why, but black kids didn't want to come."

Doris Wilson was a young teenager when "Bandstand" was in Philadelphia, and is black. She says "there would always be a long line. And the blacks were in the back and by the time we were about to get in, it was full. Not being able to get in, that was a way of life then. So, you know, it was no big thing. At the time, I didn't know it was racism to go somewhere and not get let in. Our parents didn't teach us what was going on."

Barbara Marcen, a white regular, remembers a day when one black teenager tried to slow-dance with a white girl. Some of the regular boys -- all white -- started talking angrily among themselves about how they'd like to beat up the boy after the show. Tony Mammarella had to calm them down.

Frank Spagnuola, a white Italian-American, was a high school sophomore who was a "Bandstand" regular. He says that he would have loved to see blacks in the studio, "so I could learn their dance steps. But they weren't there. I don't think anyone kept them out; they just didn't come."

One year after Clark took over from Horn, the program went on the ABC network. Stations in the South, where racial segregation was the norm, objected to the fact that black dancers occasionally appeared on the dance floor. Clark was relatively new at his job, but he took a strong stand and told the affiliates that he would not change to meet their objections.

Paul Thomas started dancing on the show in 1961 and says that black kids occasionally came, and there was some mixed group dancing. Tallulah Dancier is a black woman who started watching the show in the 1960s:

"I would hurry home and watch 'Bandstand' as I did my homework. I never saw black people dancing on the show early on, but that didn't phase me. I knew sooner or later I would get to go on the show. Before long there were black kids dancing as regulars on 'Bandstand,' and 'American Bandstand' was one of the few television shows where I would get to see black people as artists on the show."


When the program moved from Philadelphia to California in 1964, it presented its first regular dancer who was black. But some things still didn't change. Peggy Waggoner Names talks about her experience:
"When I started dancing on 'American Bandstand' in 1965, blacks and whites could dance, but not as couples. My friends Famous Hooks and Lori Montgomery were told they could no longer be dancing partners because of this racial difference."

Hooks confirms the story:
"The producer told us very nicely that it was okay with him personally, but some stations wouldn't like it, so please don't do slow dances together. We thought it was unfair but we followed the rules. You had to line up at the end of each show and the producer picked whom he wanted to come back, so you had to please him. I danced there until 1972 and the policy remained the same. I brought a series of black girls with me so we could do the slow dances together."

Hooks has a white father and black mother, while Montgomery is white. He credits Dick Clark for personally choosing him to be a regular dancer on the show, the first black person to gain that distinction.

From 1965 to 1967, Dick Clark also produced a show called "Shebang," and that program spotlighted a Mexican-American regular, Manuel Acosta, who slow-danced with a blonde white girl named Lynn. Maybe this break-through occurred because the show was not broadcast nationwide, but only in California. In contrast, when Manuel and Lynn went on "Bandstand" they were not allowed to slow dance together.

In this part of the story, we'll see what the creator of "Bandstand," Bob Horn, did that caused the ABC network and its Philadelphia affiliate to shun the 50th anniversary of the program's start. He was one of the most powerful men in the music business, then became a pariah whose name is virtually forgotten.

Horn's friends say he was "a free-swinging, hard-drinking man," "a boozer" and "a womanizer" who smoked five packs of cigarettes a day. A singer who appeared on his show says Horn was "a loud-mouth smart-ass with an appetite for girls." Most acquaintances describe Horn as arrogant, self-centered and cold. None of the dancers on his show saw him that way, however. When Horn got busted, the teenagers were shocked. Stanley J. Blitz, author of "Bandstand: The Untold Story," defends Horn against accusations of rudeness and says that Horn avoided friendships with co-workers because he had more experience and knowledge and didn't need to learn from them.

Other experienced deejays of that time, however, were more gracious. One example is Bob Menefee, the top-paid disc jockey at WIP. Menefee was a curmudgeon on the air, criticizing singers and complaining about traffic jams on "the Sure-Kill Expressway," the derisive name he coined for the area's congested Schuylkill Expressway. When I took over the programming of Menefee's afternoon show in the summer of 1953, Menefee attacked me on the air. "There's a new kid working in the record library," he told his listeners, "and listen to the junk he picked out for me." But then Menefee came into the record room and said he hoped I wasn't angry with him for making me the butt of his joke. It was just his schtick. He even went back on the air that day and said: "Hey, that record wasn't bad after all."

Horn, on the other hand, didn't show such warmth to colleagues. His demeanor was haughty. Record promoters, the men who came around and asked disc jockeys to spin their products, told me that he was more demanding of payola than anyone at any Philly station. It was common for promo guys to give bottles of whiskey as Christmas gifts. Horn would tell them that he wanted cases of whiskey and named his brands. He also asked for cash and for women.

When "Bandstand" attained popularity, Horn became an overnight hit-maker. Each day he listed the top songs, but there was no scientific survey. The number one song was whatever he said it was, and it usually was whatever would bring him the most profit. The power that he had gave Horn a sense of invincibility, and his womanizing became reckless.

His career was brought down by a teenage girl, but she did not come from the studio audience at "Bandstand." His relationship with those kids was totally different. Mary Ann Colella (now Baker) was a freshman at Hallahan Catholic High School who started attending in 1952 when "Bandstand" was new:
"Horn was a perfect gentleman, the nicest person," she says. "He asked a bunch of us to be on a committee to act as examples to other teenagers, and he gave birthday cakes and Christmas gifts to all of us on the committee. When he ran dances out-of-town he always made sure that each of us had rides to get there and back. He took us fishing on his boat and introduced us to his wife and kids. If he did that stuff he was accused of, we never knew about it."

Barbara Marcen (now Wilston) danced at the show from 1953 to 1959. "I was asked to be a character witness at his trial, and I testified that he never tried anything with us. He was going to cut a record with me singing on one side and my dance partner, Tom DeNoble, singing on the other side. Bob got one of his friends to write a song for me, "Since I Met Him at the Senior Dance," and he paid for me to take singing lessons. Then Bob was arrested, and we never made the record." She, like Colella, finds it hard to believe that Horn had an affair with a teenage girl.

"But what did we know?" says Colella. "We weren't very worldly." Both of these women admit they were naive kids who even gave out their home addresses to fans without fear of being stalked. Horn was kind and fatherly to these teenagers.

Cuz Bongiorno became a regular at "Bandstand" early in 1953. "Horn didn't act like a star," he says. "He was very friendly. He personally picked the kids to be on the committee by watching us dance and seeing how we got along with people. After you got a committee card, you didn't have to wait in line to get into the show. He also personally picked me up in South Philly and drove me to his record hops. He said 'If you care enough to want to go to my dances, I'll drive you.'"

Jerry Blavat, now a disc-jockey, started coming to the show in 1953 when he was only 13. "It became a second home for me, an Italian-Jewish kid from a broken family in South Philly. When I danced on TV people noticed me, and it led to my career in the business. Bob became like a second father to me. He'd take me home to spend weekends with his family in Levittown, and in the summer I'd be the cabin boy on his boat at Stone Harbor."

Dave Feldman also started coming in 1953. "Bob Horn complimented me on my dancing ability and for the way I dressed. He asked me to be on the committee and be an example for others. He took my friend Adam and me out fishing on his boat, along with some of his record-company friends, and asked us for ideas to improve the show. I never saw him drunk or rude or vulgar."

Several of these men agree that they all were virgins then. "It was an innocent time," says one of them. "I didn't know anyone who had sex. Making out in the back seat or copping a feel is the most that any of us ever did."

But that didn't compare with what Horn was doing. What those kids didn't know was that Horn led a double life that included activities his virginal dancers never dreamed of. He was attentive to his wife and children and the "Bandstand" dancers, but with other people he was a different man. I used to see Horn with the girl, Lois, when she accompanied him to the station for his 11-to-midnight radio show. She was an attractive brunette who sat with Bob at a table in a small studio while engineers observed their behavior from behind glass. Horn almost always brought an entourage of men, and sometimes additional girls. Horn's male guests sat on chairs against the walls of the studio and the girls sometimes knelt in front of them, satisfying the men while Horn laughed.

The promotion men who hung out with Horn fed him records by new artists and Horn was agreeable to their suggestions -- partly because he had good business sense, and partly because he liked getting gifts from the song-pluggers. One of the gifts from them was Lois. These record-promo men knew of her, and got her into the station to meet Horn. These were the guys I met during my first job in radio, in the music library at WIP, and whom I saw hanging out with Horn during his nighttime radio show when I worked at WFIL.

When Horn was arrested for drunk-driving on June 21, 1956, hardly anyone aside from station staffers and music industry insiders knew about his sexual life, and it didn't come to light even then. Still, within hours after his DUI arrest, Horn was suspended from "Bandstand."

Channel 6, WFIL, was owned by the late Walter Annenberg, whose newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, campaigned against drunk driving, so he wanted to punish Horn. The disk jockey would have gone back on the air after a few days, however, if the city's district attorney hadn't made a phone call to the station. Victor Blanc, the DA, was investigating what he called "teenage sex rings." He phoned an executive at WFIL and warned him not to reinstate Horn because "there's more to the story; this is only the beginning of Horn's problems."

Annenberg asked Horn to confirm or deny that he knew the teenage girl who was cooperating with Blanc's investigation. When Horn admitted that he knew her, Annenberg ordered him to resign from the station. Horn's arrest on morals charges came four months later.

At his trials, Horn said that Lois entered his office at WFIL one evening in 1954, and after that he saw her frequently at the West Philadelphia restaurant where he ate dinner. He admitted that he gave her birthday presents -- $100 one year and a record player another year. Horn said he went to her home twice, once for a party and once to cheer Lois up when she was sick. When questioned as to why a married man would do this, Horn responded by saying that Lois knew many of his friends and "drifted into the same pattern as I did. She has an uncanny way of getting to know people. She isn't reluctant or shy. She just walks up and introduces herself. I'll bet she knows more artists in the business than I do."

Horn described his pattern of hanging at a bar with song-pluggers and music publishers every evening from 6 to 8 PM, then going to a restaurant for dinner. He had a wife and four children, aged 2 to 7, at home, but visiting them would require an almost-two-hour roundtrip to come back for his 11 PM radio show. Lois testified that Horn took her to apartments where she willingly had sex with him, and she specified four dates starting in 1953 when she was 13. Horn produced alibis for those dates, and the judge refused to allow testimony about any other times. To challenge Lois' reputation, the defense produced a man who testified that she once accepted money to have sex with him. A jury deadlocked, then a judge acquitted Horn at a second trial, this one without a jury.

Seven months after his first DUI incident, while awaiting trials for that and for the sexual matter, Horn was charged again with drunk-driving when he sped his Cadillac the wrong way up a one-way street in North Philadelphia. Maybe he felt tense, since the vice trial was about to start a few days later. In any event, he struck another car and left a 5-year-old occupant of that car paralyzed. He was convicted and sentenced to jail for that.

Horn ended his career working in Texas using a pseudonym. Because of the sex accusations, the drunk-driving and a jail term, there was no chance he'd get another chance on the air in Philadelphia. A family member revealed that one day Horn felt so depressed that he put a pistol in his mouth and his wife had to talk him out of committing suicide. In 1966, in Houston, Horn died of a heart attack at the age of 50.

Despite Horn's risk-taking, his sexual activities would never have come to light if it weren't for two outside factors. One, a district attorney's re-election campaign. And two, a scandal at another Philadelphia station. Let's consider these other events in 1956:

The era was one of sexual repression. The Mann Act was in effect, barring anyone from transporting a person across state lines for an immoral act, even when it was consensual. People were routinely arrested when they drove across a state border and had sex. Oral was labeled an "unnatural act" and you could go to jail for doing it.

Abortion was illegal and scandalous. Some of the biggest headlines of the year concerned a case where a nice upper-class girl died during an abortion that was arranged by her mother so the girl wouldn't bear a child out of wedlock. In 1956 a 19-year-old model accused vocalist Joe Valino of getting her pregnant then taking her to a doctor to have it taken care of. Valino was convicted of arranging an abortion, and his singing career was dealt a severe blow.

In this climate, Philadelphia's new district attorney decided to make sexual misconduct in broadcasting a public issue. District Attorney Victor Blanc was a friend of my father's, and when I met him he seemed intelligent and reasonable. But he was an ambitious politician. He'd been appointed to fill the unexpired term of Richardson Dilworth when Dilworth became mayor. Now Blanc was running for reelection and thought he needed a hot campaign topic.

Blanc had a love-hate relationship with that business. A low-budget sexploitation film called "Models, Inc." was distributed in the Philadelphia area by a film exec named Jack Harris. The movie was based on a Senate investigation of modeling schools, and opened with a statement by U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver, who was running for Vice President in 1956. Harris replaced the Kefauver footage with a new opening that he shot with Vic Blanc talking into the camera and warning the public of the dangers of sex. Harris also changed the film's title to "Teenage Models, Inc."

While Blanc's crusade was in progress, Annenberg's friends were hoping that the DA would find some dirt on WPEN's popular night-time talk host, Steve Allison, because Allison was politically liberal and criticized the Republican Annenberg and the Inquirer on his program. The Inquirer's publisher supported the House Un-American Activities Committee and its crusade against "Communist Sympathizers" in the entertainment field. In 1951 Ed Sullivan was so consumed with anti-Communist zeal that he decided to write a lengthy exposure and accusation of choreographer Jerome Robbins for supporting "the Commie cause." Sullivan's home paper, the New York Daily News, apparently thought the article was too angry and too personal and refused to run it, but the Philadelphia Inquirer published it on page one. Allison saw this as reprehensible and criticized Annenberg for it.

Allison differentiated himself from Bob Horn as a performer, saying he was not a disc-jockey but, instead, a man who discussed issues on the air. Allison coined a new name for himself: a "controversialist." He was advertised as "the man who owns midnight," and he made many friends in high places. Cardinal Spellman was once a guest on his program, and Philadelphia Mayor Dilworth substituted for Allison when Steve went on vacation. Some people say that Annenberg encouraged Blanc to investigate Allison, while others claim the reverse: that Allison tipped off Blanc to look into what was happening at Annenberg's station with Bob Horn.

Evidence reveals that Lois wasn't the only girl who fooled around with radio or TV personalities at that time. Allison's 11 PM-to-2 AM radio show took place in a club-like setting where food and drinks were served. It was a magnet for playboys, for girls who wanted to taste show biz glamour, and men who wanted to arrange introductions and get some of the action.

Some of the activity surrounding Allison makes Bob Horn's conduct seem almost innocent in comparison. People who hung out at WPEN learned that Allison had a yen for women who wore white, especially waitresses and nurses. One of the regular attendees at the broadcasts was Bernie Jacobs, a man who ran a modeling agency. He usually brought some of his young clients with him and arranged dates -- photographic and otherwise -- for them. One night, he asked one of his models to put on something white, then introduced her to Allison.

This model, named Dorothy, later testified that the "controversialist" took her upstairs to the record library after he signed off his show, and they performed sexual acts on each other. Dorothy, a 17-year-old mother separated from her husband, said that she did it willingly.

Allison's wife provided him with an alibi. She kept a log of his activities, and it said that his guests that night were movie star Denise Darcel and crooner Johnny Desmond and that he went home immediately after the broadcast. This log, and a parade of civic leaders and city officials as character witnesses, got Allison a not-guilty verdict. But Dorothy provided some shocking testimony, saying that she and Allison repeated their sexual acts on several other nights, and that he once asked her to drink some water and try to urinate on him. Jacobs took the witness stand and backed up Dorothy's story.

After his dalliance with Dorothy, Allison allowed these men and girls free reign around the station. There were trysts of another Jacobs model and another WPEN personality, and encounters with a publicist and a photographer, both of whom were friends of mine.

Some of the Allison crowd got involved, also, with an aspiring model named Maxine. She was petite, less than 100 pounds, but with a big bosom. She was 17 when I met her in 1956. The man who introduced us told me that she liked to pose for photos -- the kind you could not take to your drugstore to get developed -- and she would do other things, but would not allow sexual intercourse because she had a boyfriend and didn't want to cheat on him. This was her unique moral code. I found her to be a cheerful person, eager to please, up to a point.

A suburban dog breeder named James Worden met men and girls at the Allison show and sometimes invited them to parties at his estate, which he called Hound Dog Hill. Worden's parties included nudity and sexual promiscuity. Dorothy – she of the Allison incidents – testified that she stripped and played "a game called 69" with Worden's wife while some guests took photos of the two of them together. Worden partygoers knew to stop short with Maxine. But at one gathering, one guy didn't follow Maxine's rules and went all the way. Maxine ran to the cops and hollered rape. That triggered the district attorney's investigation.

The DA spent a lot of time and money on his probe, renting a center city storefront as an unmarked headquarters instead of using his own office in City Hall. Blanc's secret headquarters was at 1927 Chestnut Street while my father's optical store was a block away at 1835 Chestnut. I didn't know it at the time, but Blanc must have been on his way to or from his secret lair on some occasions when he stopped by to see my dad.

Blanc's sting operation was hush-hush except for the private phone call that Blanc made to his friend at WFIL to alert him to the Bob Horn problem. Blanc discovered connections between many different activities. For example, Bernie, the man who ran the modeling agency and set Steve Allison up with his accuser also arranged modeling jobs for Lois, Horn's accuser. On one of those jobs Lois gave oral sex to one of the Allison crowd for $40 and on another job had sex with a man for $100 – all this when she was 15 and in the midst of her relationship with Horn. In addition, the girl who accused Joe Valino of arranging her abortion was one of the models who hung out at the Allison show and met men there. So, simultaneously, the DA was investigating Horn, Allison and Valino and everything came to a head, so to speak, at the same time. The DA announced his indictment of Horn and Allison at the same press conference, in October of 1956. In all, 27 men were arrested. Blanc boasted that he had "smashed the ring in local aspects," and the FBI would clean up the interstate angles.

What were the results of this elaborate investigation? Some of the men were convicted of participating in "unnatural sex." Others were charged with corrupting the morals of minors, but the judges in most cases decided that the men were dealing with girls who were already corrupted. One man, convicted and fined $50, went on to a career as a philanthropist and supporter of political candidates. Allison and Horn were each acquitted, but neither one of them got their jobs back. A point of interest for theater-lovers: One of the witnesses was named Velma Kelly, the same name as the adulteress who gets away with murder in Kander & Ebb's Chicago.

It's educational to realize that these happenings would never have become known if one man had just listened to Maxine. A generation later, men were taught that a woman has the right to say no at any point in a relationship. Philadelphia's broadcasting sex scandal of 1956 was an early object lesson. If only this man stopped where Maxine drew the line, then she wouldn't have gone to the cops, then Horn would not have been investigated, then he would have remained on "Bandstand," then Dick Clark may not have become a star, etc, etc.

On the day that Allison was indicted, he was about to receive an award for public service from the City of Philadelphia. Bob Adleman, the public relations man for WPEN, arranged an elegant event at Longchamps Restaurant on Rittenhouse Square where Allison would accept the honor. Bob hastily wrote a press release to save the city from embarrassment. He announced that the luncheon was being postponed because there was a minor labor dispute at the restaurant and city officials didn't want to cross any possible picket line. (There never were any picket lines.) "The event will be re- scheduled later," his release said. Of course it never was. Bob was a PR pro who really knew how to spin a story. He later became a Hollywood screenwriter.

Allison worked for a Washington, DC, station, then moved to California where he appeared in a movie. Vic Blanc became a judge, then had to resign when he developed Alzheimer's.

A postscript was added a decade later in California. One day a group of "American Bandstand" dancers went to Harmony Park, a popular club in Anaheim, and got drunk. When Dick Clark found out about it he was furious and banished them from attending his show forever. Famous Hooks has known Clark for 40 years and says he never saw the man so upset. When he recently learned more about the fall of Bob Horn, Hooks said it suddenly made him understand why Clark felt so strongly about drunkenness.


Key Subjects: 
American Bandstand; Hairspray, Bob Horn, Dick Clark
Steve Cohen
Writer Bio: 
Steve Cohen has written numerous pieces for This Month ON STAGE magazine and
December 2002
American Bandstand...In Black & White