Monday, November 14, 2011

Childhood - TV Memories

Hopefully all of us had that sweet-spot time in our lives when we retained the joy of the insular and innocent phase of early childhood, yet were old enough to begin to view and appreciate the larger, mature world around us with an inquisitive sense of wonder. I place this time in my life at approximately ages 7 to 12, which dates approximately 1974-1979. 

For most at the time, the singular most accessible vehicle for entertainment (beyond ourselves) was television. VCRs were only an amazing bit of expensive technology on the horizon for the general public and cable TV was just a fantasy for those of us who lived outside the largest 30 American television markets. I look back at this being a fairly fortunate time to be watching TV, because it seems the looming 'threat' of cable programming to over-the-air TV made for some interesting gambles by the big three networks.

One particular show comes to mind and evidence of its popularity and influence on TV shows remains to this day. I refer to the pseudo-talent contest know as The Gong Show. Short of listing a synopsis and history of the show, which can be found numerous other places on the internet, I merely note the sheer fun and frivolity that occurred on the show as a standard but in particular a recurring bit known as Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.
Often thrown into the show at 'spontaneous' moments, the crowd would go wild and other cast members joyfully played along with the popular and special bit that had almost nothing to do with the contest format of the show. Gene was a stagehand whose wonderfully simple dancing, positive demeanor, and 'everyman' appearance eventually became popular enough to become a requested and regular feature on the show. 

The pure fun that this segment brought (at a time when economic and post-Vietnam War woes had the USA in a bit of a funk) was a welcome respite and elevated Gene to celebrity status.  I wish to thank Chuck Barris and Gene for brightening those darker days of the late-70s. Only recently did I find that, sadly, Gene lost both legs in 2001 to complications from diabetes. I am all the more thankful that we can relive that fun space in time via YouTube.

Without further ado, I present Gene Gene the Dancing Machine...