Whatever Happened To? #4: Gene Gene the Dancing Machine

If you watched "The Gong Show" you remember Eugene Patton, better known as Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. Here's a few things maybe you didn't know about Gene.

He was the first African-American member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees according to Wikipedia.

He worked backstage on "The Gong Show" and helped warm up the crowds. Chuck Barris was impressed by Gene and let him have a go in front of the camera. The crowds went wild. I think audiences today might not be so receptive, but it was the 70's and all about having a good time. Hyper-cynicism wouldn't come along for a couple decades. A camera operator who filmed Gene's first appearance on the show describes it in detail at POVonline:

I've been on many TV stages in my life. I've seen big stars, huge stars — Johnny, Frank, Sammy, Dino, Bob, you name 'em. I've seen great acts and great joy, and if you asked me to name the most thrilling moment I've witnessed in person, I might just opt for the Gong Show electrifying Stage 3 for all of 120 seconds. Maybe it was because it came so totally out of nowhere that it stunned me but everyone, including the stone-cold sober people, was suddenly just so...happy. There was something very, very invigorating and enjoyable about being in the midst of all that sudden happiness, however frivolous it may have been.

After "The Gong Show", Gene's limelight faded. He began working backstage on the "Tonight Show" and even made a cameo in the film Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

In a sad bit or irony, Gene lost both legs from diabetes complications. Well, we'll always have the wonderful memories of this big guy dancing his ass off without a care in the world.

Question: What was the song that Gene danced to? Answer: "Jumpin' at the Woodside" by Count Basie.

Check out a video of my first choice for official retrospace mascot, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine!

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  1. I hadn't given a thought to the Gong Show or Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine since my childhood, and didn't even know that I cared (I did, apparently) about who he was or what happened to him. And then I watched the video and ended up down the rabbit hole watching a bunch of other Gong Show clips.

    Thanks for the show you put on here. Your blog is one of my favorite new finds.

  2. AnonymousJune 18, 2011

    the old gong show,GOOD TIMES,great stuff we all need some good old fashion silliness sometimes

  3. WOW, I had forgotten what a talented fruit loop Chuck was and either he was super trippin' or Michael Jackson stole some of his moves. Good times. What a riot.

  4. I remember all the gong shows but when gene danceded we all fell out

  5. AnonymousJuly 07, 2012

    I don't have cable, I use rabbit ears and my box and get over 50 channels. My favorites are the retro like Antenna TV and ME TV, they play a bunch of old shows. I e-mailed them and requested the Gong Show and Make me Laugh because I'm up to here with Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke. Let's all e-mail them and bring these shows back.

  6. I attended the school that Gene worked at during the late sixties. He was a fine man, helped keep the lid on things during turbulent times.

  7. one of the best off the cuff things ever done

  8. When I see any of those shows from the 60's it makes me cry because i'm so sick of the junk offered today, and the Gong show was one of my favorites. I remember when the cast threw Vegtables at Gene Gene the dancing machine.

  9. Takes me back to happier, more care-free times. If you're over 60, you know what I mean.

  10. Such a nice man! Met him when I was on the Gong Show and he became like family since I was new to LA at that time. Never forgot him. Good People!!!

  11. Gene was one of the best people I knew.