American Bandstand tribute features Cranston resident...and he still dances

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Don Gillis of Cranston has been included in a national book published this year and the co-author has written this story about his “American Bandstand” visit in 1960.

Don Gillis had a once-in a-lifetime opportunity to visit the “American Bandstand” studios 57 years ago in 1960. He shares his commentary in the Collector’s Limited Edition of Bandstand Diaries. His trip down memory lane includes his memories of visiting with popular Regular Kenny Rossi, meeting Dick Clark and meeting some of the popular dancers he had watched for three years on his parents’ black-and-white television set.

“I felt like I went into Never-Never Land. I was like a kid in a candy shop,” Don said, recalling his short visit.

“American Bandstand” had over 20 million viewers, including teens, preteens and young adults when it was broadcast from Philadelphia. It had cultural significance as more than just a television show featuring local kids dancing.

“Teens became visible in the media for the first time; before that, teens were lumped together with children as a demographic. The Regulars were America’s first reality stars, influencing fashions, fads, hair styles, dance steps, and more,” said Gillis.

The Regulars were just like Hollywood celebrities, featured in cover stories on teen and star magazines, according to Gillis.

Bandstand Diaries has become a bestseller among older baby boomers and seniors who remember running home from school to watch the show, which aired Monday to Friday afternoons.

Gillis moved to Cranston in 2008 and started to attend the Cranston Senior Enrichment Center where he found they had computers which was his specialty in the Air Force. He asked if they were looking for a computer instructor and they were, so Don taught computers on selected days for 8 years ending his instructing just last month. He offers his talents at the center as a volunteer now.

At age 76, Gillis is busy with the activities, some at the center; line dancing for one, and loves music and of course dancing, which he used to teach.

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