"The pretty, and wholesome, girl next door looks of Lois made her a popular Regular. Her diminutive size, her pony tail hair style, and her self made dresses reflected her values. She was also a great dancer who expressed herself through her moves." - Manny Interiano
This is her story: I was one of the lucky teenagers in the San Francisco Bay Area who was a Regular of the KPIX Dance Party, also known as, The Dick Stewart Show.
I have fond memories of those glorious days. The Dance Party Regulars were treated to sensational fun; including, dancing, music, and lasting friendships. We couldn't have had it better. We were young, and it was our day in the sun. It was very unusual to have had the opportunity that we had. Out of all of the teenagers in the area, I feel so fortunate, and lucky, to have the enjoyment and lasting memories of being on the show.
The only lasting regret that I have is that there are almost no photos available of all of us while doing the show. We rarely took photos while on the show because, at the time, we had no perception that it would ever end. We were completely wrapped up in the joy and happiness of the moment, and involved with everything going on in the show. Now, I feel very happy to look back on those times as being great times.
I was on the show from 1959 through 1960. I believe that I was among the few who traveled a fairly long distance to appear on the show. I lived about 30 miles south of San Francisco. I used to take the Greyhound bus into the City directly after school every day. From the bus terminal, I took the streetcar to Van Ness Avenue where I transferred to the number 47 bus going north. The bus would let me off about one block from the studio at 2655 Van Ness Avenue.
So, you are probably wondering, what Mother, in her right mind, would let her teenage daughter to do this everyday. Here is how that happened: My mother, as a teenage girl, was a star struck movie fan. She loved the Busby Berkeley musicals in the 1930's, as well as Tin Pan Alley (with Alice Faye) and all of the musicals with Ginger Rogers, and Fred Astair. She loved the idea that I would be dancing on television because she was sort of living her fantasy life, of dancing and entertaining, through me.
Now, just a bit about my background. Going back to my Mother again, I would say that she instilled a joy of moving to rhythm, and a love for music, in me. My earliest memories of her were that she would be dancing with me to her music of the 20's and 30's. Even before I could walk, she would pick me up and dance with me to songs, such as, "Ain't' She Sweet," Baby Face," and "Alexander's Rag Time Band" That was something that never left me.
As a child, I took ballet, ice-skating, and piano lessons. It was a nice, pleasant life for myself, and my family, until the early 50's when tragedy struck us. My brother contracted the deadly polio disease, and it took its toll on our family.
Life went on, in a fashion, and as I grew and entered my middle teen years, I was exposed to a steady stream of good, and wholesome, media shows of the time. I remember watching, "The Hit Parade," "Lawrence Welk," "The Cleavers," and "The Nelson Family." I went to the movies and watched many of their musicals with stars such as, "Audry Hepburn," "Grace Kelly," and "Debbie Reynolds." These were my role models, and they filled me with, perhaps, an over idealistic view of life. Never the less, all of this contributed to the person who I became, and that is the image that I tried to project to our Dance Party Show viewers. I think that the image I projected, combined with my natural shyness, to give my fellow Regulars the impression that I was afraid of my own shadow, but I was just quiet, nothing more. Did you read this Manny? Guilty as charged!
I think that, in many ways, I really was the typical "American girl next door." I was the varsity pom-pom girl in my senior year of High School. This was something that I was very proud of because, at our school, this was an elected position, and I received the honor of winning, very unexpectedly, by a few votes. In those days, the entire student body voted on this. I had tried to win it for the two previous yearr.
How did I start going on Dance Party? Well, I have a little story about that too. There was a Regular on the show that I really liked, and I heard that he and all of the other Regulars were going to be at a local record hop that Dick Stewart was putting on near my home. In addition, James Darren, a popular recording artist of the day, was scheduled to be there; so, I decided to go and meet them both. As it turned out, I did get to meet the Regular that I liked; his name was Bob Parks. He asked me for my telephone number, but he never did call me. So, I decided to write for tickets to the show just so I could see him again, but a transformation took place on me during my visit. That one visit changed me; I became enthralled, and fascinated, with the setting. I liked everything including the kids who appeared daily. I felt like one of them, and wanted to be one of them. I knew then that I had to become a Regular.
I did become a Regular, in time, and I lived the dream.
As Regulars, we danced with each other so much that we became good dancers, and we were at ease in front of the cameras. We got used to the cameras and actually became unaware of them moving through the crowd as we danced. Since we couldn't see the thousands of people watching us, it seemed more as if we were alone at a dance party, having fun with each other. We knew better when we received fan mail and were stopped on the street by strangers who knew us by name.
Before I started going on Dance Party, I used to occasionally watch American Bandstand and tried to learn their swing dance steps. I practiced the dance steps by holding on to a doorknob as a substitute partner. It seemed to provide the right amount of resistance for swing dancing. This made my friends laugh at me, but I later found out that many of the Regulars learned to dance using the same technique. It turned out that the doorknob was perfect for developing the stiff "push and pull" left arm for good swing dancing technique. A "spaghetti" arm just doesn't look, or feel, good while doing the swing.
Normally, I wore my hair in a French Roll with front bangs; I also wore it in a ponytail, which was a big thing in those days. I had a variety of full skirted dresses to choose from, all made by me. I took sewing in school, from the eighth grade on, so I was an experienced seamstress by the time I was seventeen. In fact, I later got my teaching credential from San Jose State University in Dress Design. I usually wore full crinolines under these dresses.
Some fans wrote me with various questions and comments. Some thought, and told me, that I looked like Debbie Reynolds and Teresa Brewer. It was a great kick, and a thrill, when people would stop me on the streets of San Francisco and ask, "aren't you the girl on Dance Party?"
It was over far too quickly, like the blink of an eye. I, as I imagine others did, experienced withdrawal pains. However, I learned later that the friendships from the show would always be there, and we would occasionally get together and share memories of those fabulous times.
In 1966, I was again thrilled but in a different fashion. I found myself traveling around the world alone. Even now, my friend Manny Interiano, a Regular, can't believe that I did that. He said that he, as did all of the other Regulars, thought that I was this little shy thing who was afraid of her own shadow. (I still shake my head in wonder and think, "Little shy Lois, all 5 feet, 100 pounds, of her, with her soft voice, non commanding presence, and her innocent good looks … traveling in places where I wouldn't go unless accompanied by people - preferably armed - who know the cultures." - Manny).
No matter what country I was in, I was invited to private homes. While in Europe, I stayed in hostels and met other young adults who were traveling too. However, after Turkey, going into Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Thailand, there were no more hostels, they didn't exist. So, I was on my own. It must have been Karma because in each country thereafter, someone always stepped forward and offered me a place to stay in their home. ("I am still shaking my head but now I truly believe in divine intervention" - Manny).
Now I have two children in their twenties. They could care less hearing about Mom's old stories. Isn't it the way it always is? Other than that, I work as a Sales Rep for a food distributor, and I volunteer my time teaching dancing for Parka.
Thank you Dick Stewart, and the KPIX TV Dance Party for providing my
life with a little bit of spark, and fame, at a time when I was a wide-eyed,
impressionable, teenager. You made me feel like I've had it all. I'll never
know how I was fortunate enough to be there at the right place, time, and
space, with the right skills that were necessary to do it all.
Links to different web pages
by M. Interiano
Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved.
Revised: March 4,200409/10/06 09:26:33 -0700.