Vinyl Stories Special Edition: Bandstand Dreams – A Conversation with Peggy Waggoner

From 1952 to 2002, Dick Clark and “American Bandstand” chronicled the music, fashioned and cultural trends of real life teenagers in America. Now on You Tube, “American Bandstand” clips have become a visual time capsule of American youth culture.

Do you know how much “American Bandstand” I watch on YouTube?  I watch so much that the algorithms automatically feed me Bandstand clips from the 1960’s the moment that any video I look for ends, and it works because most nights I’ll get sucked in, watching and rewatching clips I’ve seen a hundred times already with a hypnotic fascination long into the night while the rest of the household is fast asleep.  To me “American Bandstand” circa 1967 is the most perfect and purest moment in time.  It’s been an interesting recent development in my cultural journey because, traditionally, I was never an “American Bandstand” viewer.  As a kid who couldn’t dance, I didn’t relate to the show at all when I was growing up in the 1980’s, and in regards to researching music through my life I tended to gravitate towards other shows such as “Ed Sullivan,” “Shin-Dig!,” “Hullabaloo” and “Soul Train.”  But since launching Vinyl Stories, I’ve looked at “American Bandstand” as being sort of a measuring stick to understand what real kids were actually listening and dancing to during the particular era that I’m writing about.  No matter what obscure or interesting rabbit hole I might be running down, whatever was being featured on “Bandstand” is a reasonable representation of what kids in middle America were actually honestly listening to.

In one of the first Vinyl Stories featured when we launched our site, I revealed my unlikely obsession with “America Bandstand” in my story on Tommy James and the Shondells’ album “I Think We’re Alone Now.”  In the story I tell about a particular “Bandstand” video I’ve become obsessed with.  Airing on May 6, 1967, it featured the “Bandstand” studio audience dancing to The Shondells’ hit “Mirage.”  When I first saw that video one late night in 2021 something switched in me that I’ve never been able to fully explain or understand, and I’ve watched that video hundreds of times and once even attempted to write a book about it.  Ever since I have had a fascination with “Bandstand” between 1966 to 1970.  In particular I like to watch the faces of the individual kids, trying to pick out the regulars in various clips, and wonder to myself who they were and what their individual stories may have been beyond the grainy six-minute YouTube videos.  For most of those kids, they are nameless enigmas frozen for a moment in time.  But, via research and the help of online fan groups I have managed to learn about and even contact some of the people who appeared in that “Mirage” video.  One of those people is one of my very favorite Bandstand regulars, Peggy Waggoner.

From 1965 tp 1967 Peggy was a favorite of both the audience and the producers when she became the regular dance partner of popular “Bandstand” dancer Frank Vanderpuil. 

One of “American Bandstand’s” most popular dance partners in 1967, Peggy Waggoner and Frank Vanderpuil still stand out in clips over fifty years after they originally aired.

An irresistibly adorable couple, the camera men on the dance floor seemed to love this attractive pair and prominently featured them at every chance.  Frank and Peggy had slightly exotic looks.  Peggy, at 17 years old, had long dark hair and resembled Spanish actress Solidad Miranda while Frank, who was also 17, originated from Indonesia.   Noticeably shorter than most of the other dancers on the show, Frank and Peggy were about the same height, and Frank had a gentlemanly but hip dance style, and Peggy followed along with him in perfect synchronized step.  Sometimes they seemed to be taking it very seriously, but often they looked at each other with genuine smiles.  One of the most attractive and interesting couples on the “Bandstand” dance floor in 1967, I always love when I can find Frank and Peggy dancing together.  Even more than fifty years later, they pop out in the clips they appear in.

But despite their popularity on the show, life seemed to change not long after they began dancing on the show, and Peggy and Frank’s tenure together on “Bandstand” ended the summer of 1967.  I know little about Frank’s life after “Bandstand,” for the exception that he passed away in 1988 at age 38.  In an online obituary it read “From those who knew him, there has never been an unkind word spoken about Frank. He was a thoughtful and kind young man who is deeply missed.” 

However, through connections with the Bandstand community Peggy Waggoner became far less of an enigma to me.  In the 1970’s Peggy, now known as Peggy Names, entered the world of Hollywood where she defied the industry’s male dominated conventions becoming a sound boom operator on some of Hollywood biggest films including “Minority Report,” “The Adventures of Tin Tin,” “Blaze,” “Crimson Tide,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “National Treasure.”  Still living in Los Angeles, Peggy is notable as becoming the first woman sound engineer in the IATSE Local 695 (Production Sound Technicians, Television Engineers, Video Assist Technicians and Studio Projectionists Union).

Peggy Waggoner circa 1967. (Photo supplied by Peggy Nam,es)

This summer I had the chance to connect with Peggy and talk about some of her memories of growing up in Los Angeles during one of the most culturally exciting eras of the 20th Century, and especially about her memories of “American Bandstand.” Although I have done many interviews over my career as a writer, and while I have interviewed some of the biggest stars from film, music and television, visiting with Peggy seemed extraordinarily personal to me, as I have developed a deep affection for the “Bandstand” videos I know her from.  Being able to have a conversation with someone who lived the clips I often find myself wondering about made these moments in time so real and tangible.  Suddenly these kids were not frozen in time.  Talking to Peggy made them very real.

Sam:  I want to thank you so much for being so kind to respond to my email and allow me to talk to you and for putting up with my delusional “Bandstand” obsession, and not thinking I am a total psycho. Thank you so much.

Peggy:  Oh, no.  It’s fine.  I have tried to stay in the shadows, because I’ve been afraid if I open it up it’s going to be overwhelming. I’m not really a shy person or anything like that. I’m just getting older, and I didn’t want to disillusion people that I still look like I did when I was on “Bandstand.:

Sam:  Well, we all grow up. We all get older. But I suppose when you have an image of yourself on film that preserves a moment in time from your life that people on the internet can see, it could be difficult for viewers to think that you’re not forever young.  Nobody can be James Dean or Marilyn Monroe unless tragedy strikes them young.  right?

Peggy: When I was younger, I wanted to be Peter Pan and never grow up.

Peggy, now known professionally as Peggy Names, today. Still living in Los Angeles, Peggy has worked as a sound engineer in films such as “Minority Report,” National Treasure” and “Alice in Wonderland.” (Photo supplied by Peggy Names)

Sam:  Well, I will tell you this.  As a writer and former journalist, I’ve done hundreds of interviews and I’ve interviewed some really big stars but I’ll admit that I got butterflies today because I’d be talking to someone who is featured prominently in my favorite “American Bandstand” videos, primarily the 1967 video featuring Tommy James and the Shondells “Mirage.”  You and your dance partner, Frank Vanderpuil  are, by far, two of my favorite “Bandstand” dancers and I’m always looking for you two in those old videos.  I’ve been watching these things for over a year, and it’s been sort of an addiction for me.  I have no idea why I’ve become so hyper focused on these “Bandstand” videos, but this all seems very personal for me. 

Peggy:  Well, I’m not sure if I’ll have those answers for you.

Sam:  That’s fine. I’m not looking for the answers.  I have a lot of questions though.  I sent you the video featuring “Mirage” on “Bandstand” which launched this obsession for me.   When you look at that video now, can you remember that moment in time, or is it just another day on “Bandstand” that all melts together? 

Peggy:  That particular video didn’t stand out to me so much, but when I see it, and I look back at me, I can remember when that was who I was.  The years between the ages 15 to 19 was when I was coming of age.  I started maturing and dating boys and things like that. But that particular video in that time didn’t stand out in my memory.  You need to remember that we used to shoot four shows each day when we would go.  We’d go once a month, and we’d bring four outfits and run to the bathroom and change our clothes to get ready for the next episode. But that clip was in ’67. Do you know what month it was?

Sam:  It originally aired on May 6, 1967.

Peggy:  So, I would have been 17. We probably shot the episode the month before. There was a lot of change socially going on in 1967. It couldn’t help but affect everyone, especially teenagers who were getting drafted all over the place.  But that was also just before the summer of love. I changed a lot during that summer. I became a pothead and went up to San Francisco. I was a bit wild. I remember my Mom saying, “I failed as a mother,” but that didn’t last forever. It was just a phase,

Sam:  Now how did getting on “Bandstand” work?  I know I saw a clip where Dick Clark is talking to your sister, and she tells him that you two are related and Dick knows exactly who you are.  You aren’t just another kid in the crowd.  How did you two get on the show

Peggy Waggoner and Frank Vanderpuil featured in the book “The History of American Bandstand” It’s Got a Great Beat and You Can Dance to It” by Michael Shore and Dick Clark (1988). (Image supplied by Peggy Names)

Peggy:  My sister Dona was my ride.  I went where she went.  My Mom wouldn’t let me go anywhere otherwise. She was pretty strict. In fact. they wanted to film me on the opening and closing credits of “Where the Action Is,” but Mom wouldn’t let me go and I got so mad at her. I started on “Bandstand” in 1965.  I had just turned 15.  The way it was structured was that they took groups of kids from different high schools around the LA County and invited them to the show.  I went to Birmingham High School in Van Buys.  My sister got invited to the show first because she had a friend, names Melody, who used to dance with Jeff Haight. Well, she had an extra ticket and invited my sister and later she invited me. Well, if you did well on the show and they liked your personality and what you were putting out there and if you could dance and participated, then they would send you tickets to come back.  If you were a wallflower or didn’t follow the rules, you didn’t get invited back. You had to have tickets and they’d send them to you because they wanted you to come.

Sam:  So, you couldn’t just buy tickets or show up at the studio looking for tickets.

Dick Clark with popular “American Bandstand” dancer Famous Hooks. According to Peggy, when Famous became to old to appear on the show, the producers increased the age limit for dancers.

Peggy:  No, it was by invitation only. So I became a regular because they were always sending me tickets.  I’m looking at one right now.  On my desk I have a glass top and it’s full of memories.  I’ve got one ticket to the show right in front of me. It says “Children under 14 will not be admitted. Over 14 need not be accompanied by an adult. Boys must wear coats and ties and girl’s proper attire.”

Sam:  I noticed that when the regulars tell their ages to Dick Clark, at least in 1967, that were usually between 15 and 17. As decades went on, they seemed to get older and older.

Peggy:  Right. I think that was because of Famous Hooks.  Do you know him?

Sam:  Of course.  You can’t watch “Bandstand” during this era and not help but notice him.  He just pops out as a dancer and for his huge personality.

Peggy:  Yeah.  He was a friend of mine.   Well, he eventually got too old, but he was popular with the viewers and the producers didn’t want to tell him he couldn’t come back so they just kept increasing the age.

Sam:  Do you remember anything about your early appearances on “Bandstand”?

Peggy Waggoner started appearing on “American Bandstand” in 1965 at age 15, but grew to prominence when she paired with Frank Vanderpuil in 1967 after he won the annual dance contest.

Peggy:  I remember one of the first shows I did was a Halloween show. I didn’t have a dance partner yet. You didn’t have to have a partner at the time. I do remember they had some fun contests on that show, and everybody was dressed up in costumes.  I was dressed up like a little girl. I had my hair up and pigtails and I somehow got volunteered for the Apple Dunking contest. I figured I could do that.  All you had to do was stick your whole head in the water and try and trap an apple in your mouth. But the part I didn’t realize was that I was too short to be able to get over the barrel and get an apple.  I kept coming up and swinging my wet hair around and it kept hitting Dick Clark.

Sam:  Well, I’m sure he really remembered you after that.

Peggy:  I also remember dancing with a girl, Theodosia, on one of the risers. The show became more uptight after that. Dancers had to be a couple of opposite gender and the same race.

Sam:  Was there some sort of system to being able to dance on those risers?  I can’t imagine the “Bandstand” producers just allowing anyone to run up there.

A way to get noticed on “American Bandstand” was to get a place on the risers above the other dancers. Peggy and Frank often got that space, as seen in the video for Ronnie Dove’s “My Babe.”

Peggy:  Well, that is what it was.  It was first come, first serve.  But you could only be up there for one song.  Usually, you could only get one couple up there, but sometimes you saw two.  I never saw anybody get knocked off, although sometimes it looks like it could happen when they’re swirling their partners around. But for the most part we were all pretty courteous to one another. You knew that the cameras are on you, and you don’t want to act like a jerk.

Sam:  When looking at the dancers in the 1960’s era “Bandstand” episodes, there are a lot of good dancers, but there are a lot of very awkward dancers too.  I couldn’t dance as a kid.  But when I watch these clips, I question myself if I could actually dance on “Bandstand.”  Maybe I could be as good as the worst dancers.

Peggy:  Well, “American Bandstand” was a show for teens, and they were looking for kids that every teen could relate too.   Dick wasn’t just looking for good dancers. He was looking for a good cross section of teenagers that would appeal to kids all across the country. We were all a mix.

Sam:  Well, in that way I think. Dick Clark succeeded.  Now what attracts me to “Bandstand” is obviously the music.  1960’s pop is probably my favorite genre, but by being on “Bandstand” you obviously got to see these people live in studio.  I know that they would set the artists up in a special signing area for autographs, but did the guests mingle with the audience?

Peggy:  Not really. 

Sam:  Who were some of the groups you remember seeing?

Dick Clark interviewing Chad and Jeremy in 1967. Peggy Waggoner’s favorite pop act, when the duo were to come out for autographs, Chad (Peggy’s favorite) didn’t appear due to illness.

Peggy:  Well, I was a huge fan of the British Invasion, which was going on at the time. But on “Bandstand”, they tried to keep all of the bands featured on the show to be American. So not as many of the bands that I was a big fan of came on the show.  They’d ask us who we wanted, and we’d always say The Beatles but that wasn’t going to happen.  I was happy when Dick finally caved in, and said they were going to have British bands on.  It may sound corny, but my favorite was Chad and Jeremy.  I was goo-goo over them   but when they were to do the autographs, Chad wasn’t feeling well and he didn’t come out, and he was the one I was waiting for.  Jeremy was alright, but Chad was the cute one.  I want to say that I saw The Mamas and the Papas on Bandstand, but I’m not so sure.   I saw The Doors, who also played at my high school with the Jefferson Airplane. We had people in our high school whose parents were managers of these band.  We lived in an area which was a feeder from the Hollywood Hills, so we got some pretty good connections to rock and roll bands.  We also went to see the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.

Sam:  Ah!  I have the vinyl made from those shows!

The Beatles in Hollywood in 1965,

Peggy:  Yeah.  But before the show, my cousin and I were scrappy, and we knew where they were staying in Benedict Canyon.  Well, she and I climbed up the hill and we went into people’s backyards and got to the house where the Beatles were staying and stood outside the retaining wall and we looked at each other as if to ask, “What do we do now?”   Then we heard a booming voice say, “Hey you!”   This huge guy grabbed us by our collars and pulled us over the fence and he’s marching us out off the property through the driveway, and suddenly we see The Beatles!  They were getting ready to get into their limo.   We were twenty feet away from them!  I wish I had had the guts to have said something to them.

Sam:  Oh wow.  But what did you guys think was going to happen if you actually had found the Beatles?

Peggy:  Well, I don’t know. Maybe stand there with our mouths open.

Sam:  So, if it’s okay, I would like to ask some questions about your dance partner, Frank Vanderpuil.  You two are absolutely adorable to watch together in these old “Bandstand” clips, and you two just dance so well together.  You two are my absolute favorites.

Frank Vanderpuil died in 1988 at age 38. In a photo Peggy has in her office Frank inscribed “To the only girl I ever loved.”

Peggy:  Frank lived in South Pasadena, which meant that he went to a different school than I did, so we met at the show. I think we probably just sort of were looking for a dance partner on the dance floor and he saw me.  He approached me, I think.  When you look around and you see someone who’s sort of your same height, you should pick them.  He liked that I could dance fairly well. I could move around to the music and learn to follow him.   I think we had a similar dancing style and it seemed very natural to dance together. It worked, and we had a lot of fun.  After the summer of ’67 he asked me to go steady.

Sam:  So, you guys were a couple.

Peggy:  Well, we were just dancing partners before we were a couple.  But as it turned out, that summer I left and was gone all summer. So, we were going steady but were just writing letters. When the summer was over we were kind of over it.  It was all pretty innocent.  Frank didn’t even hold my hand. We stayed friends, but we drifted.  Then, years later, I found out that he had passed away.  I have a picture of him on my desk, which I’m looking at now. It’s his high school picture.  A wallet size.  He signed it “To the only girl I ever loved.”

Sam:  Now you just referenced that you were gone.  You mentioned in an email you went to Haight-Ashbury.  Did that have something to do with you exiting “Bandstand”?

“I don’t know how it was for other people, but all those smiles were genuine.”

Peggy:  Yeah.  The producers on “Bandstand” didn’t tolerate any of the counterculture stuff because they had an image to keep up. It’s a utopia. Sometimes it seems unreal.  But it’s not like a construction or anything like that.  It was more like a safe space where you can be there and forget about everything that’s going on in the world. It’s like a sanctuary.  Life itself was pretty hard and things were going on at home. Mom and Dad are fighting and getting divorces. You know, it meant a lot to be able to go to “Bandstand” and just fly around on the dance floor.  That was liberating for me.  I don’t know how it was for other people, but all those smiles were completely genuine.

Sam:  That’s great to hear because I’ll admit that when I watch the videos I spend time looking at the facial expressions.  I guess what I get fascinated with when watching the videos is that every kid on the dance floor is an individual, who lived a full life and had a full story beyond this three-minute video on You Tube, and I wonder who they are, what became of them and that I’ll probably never know.  Who were they beyond this sliver of time?  Thats why being able to talk to you is amazing because it makes the video tangible.  I know that you became very successful in sound engineering.

Peggy Names began a career as a sound engineer in the 1970’s, and in 1977 became the first woman to join IATSE Local 695. (Photo supplied by Peggy Names)

Peggy:  Yes.  I became a motion picture boom operator, which means that I’m on the set when they’re filming and when the actors are acting, I’m a member of a team of sound people that are in charge of capturing the dialogue while the cameras are rolling. I hold the boom pole with the microphone on the end to capture their words, and also wire the radio microphones on the performers and hide them under their clothes to make sure they didn’t rustle or make noise.

Sam:  I looked on the imdb at a list of your film credits and was amazed on how many of the films you’ve worked on that I’ve seen.  I mean, you’ve worked on movies I own in my own collection.  How did you get into this world?

Peggy Names with her son Alex, who also works as a boom mic operator in Hollywood, in an advert for IATSE. (Image supplied by Peggy Names)

Peggy:  It fell into my lap. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and then I moved to Hollywood where my Auntie had a house, and then I moved into a little single apartment above the garage at my Grandpa’s house. I’ve never gone very far from home.  I went to junior college because my Mom said when I turned 18 either I had to get a job or I had to go to school.  I thought about studying acting first.  I thought that would be fun and that I could do that. But I found that you had to depend on other actors to do their parts, and I hated it. I felt like I didn’t have any control over that situation.  So, I switched to art. My main passion in high school was woodworking and drafting and I wanted to be an architect because I love designing things. I love creating spaces.  But the school wouldn’t let me take the course because I was a girl. That kind of deflated me. I was told to take typing because I was made to believe that my only prospects were to be somebody’s secretary or to be a nurse. So, I graduated from USC with a Bachelors in Fine Art, and I was still wondering what I was going to do. I got a part time job at my Uncle’s soundstage which he owned in Hollywood. I was a receptionist, and I answered the telephones.  Well, I met guy there and he says to me “Why don’t you come to work with me and be my boom operator.  I’ll tach you how to do it.” I thought I’d try it but I had no idea how hard it’d be.  I almost quit. He pushed me through it and just kept me on it. Eventually he became my husband.

Sam:  What I find interesting is that all the boom mic operators I’ve met are usually very tall, but unless the videos I’ve seen of you, you look very small.  Isn’t it a male dominated field?

Various Artists – Dick Clark: 20 Years of Rock n’ roll (1973). “It just brings back the nostalgia when I was a kid, and a time when the world was much less complicated.”

Peggy:  Yes. It’s usually tall strong men. But I had no idea that that was the prerequisite for the thing. It never entered my mind. I heard people say to me all the time “I’ve never seen a woman doing this before.” So, I broke ground as the first female boom operator in our union.

Sam:  Talking to you today has meant t a lot to me Peggy.  I’ve spent so much time watching and thinking about “Bandstand” over the past couple of years, and talking with you makes these videos so tangible and real to me.  My You Tube algorithm pretty much just brings me to late 60’s “Bandstand” clips automatically, and I know you have seen the videos on You Tube.  But what I think is great is that the number of views on these clips are in the thousands.  Are you surprised that people still watch these old clips and are still affected by them?

Peggy:  Yes I am. I’m more surprised that young people see them. It’s bizarre to me. I remember for years wanting to see these clips and I couldn’t’ find them.  I just wanted to show my children. But eventually I found one on You Tube and then there were a flood of them.  I saw my name mentioned in a bunch of comments, and I thought “Oh, my God, this is crazy.”

Sam:  What do you think of when you see them?

Peggy:  It just brings back the nostalgia when I was a kid, or a time when the world was much less complicated.

Talking to Peggy was such a joy to me, and one of the most personal interviews I ever had done.  Often when watching the American Bandstand clips, I wonder if I had been on Bandstand as a kid if maybe I would have danced and wonder if I might have been friends with any of those kids.  Meeting Peggy made me think that maybe, in another time and place, it might have been possible.

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