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!