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'Buddy Deaners' Reunite, Reminisce at CCBC Essex

"Committee" members from the iconic Baltimore dance show, the inspiration for "Hairspray," reflected on their TV stardom.

The world’s oldest teenagers gathered Sunday in Baltimore County to illustrate once again that even the most uncomfortable moments in American history can be turned into something musical, good-natured, and profitable beyond imagination.

Hairspray came to CCBC Essex's Cockpit in Court theater, and so did the real original cast—those Committee members from the old Buddy Deane Show, whose moment in history became the premise for the hit Broadway musical about rock 'n' roll and racial tension in Baltimore half a century ago.

About a dozen of the old Buddy Deane gang showed up to watch a delightful, energetic production of the John Waters inspiration. They stuck around after the performance to reminisce and answer audience questions.

Most of them are pushing 70 now. They first made their mark as teenagers dancing on the afternoon TV show, wearing their outfits from Lee’s of Broadway and Etta Gowns and dancing the cha-cha and the jitterbug and the Madison. Many were there when the show went off the air in 1964, ending a seven-year run.

“I can still remember them calling us in one by one,” former Committee member Carl Parks said. “They wanted to know about bringing black kids on the show. There wasn’t a person against it. What the heck, we were all going to school with black kids for a decade by then.

“But we all had the same reaction: My parents aren’t gonna go for it. It was a different time, and a different generation, that’s all.”

“We had no problem with it,” added Gene Snyder, who sat with his wife, whose maiden name was Linda Warehime. They were both Committee members back then. “We never discussed it, we had nothing to do with it. This was the adults, who didn’t know what to do, so they shut the whole thing down.”

It seems crazy now—the idea of prohibiting black kids and white kids from dancing on the same television program—but not then.

The genius of John Waters was to take that uncomfortable moment in history and turn it into something joyous. The show ran on Broadway for a couple of seasons, and since then productions have played all over America—and they're still going.

“I’m told there are 4,000 contracts for productions this year,” said James Hunnicutt, artistic director for Cockpit in Court. “It’s made more money playing all over the country than it did on Broadway, where it was a huge hit."

The old Buddy Deane gang is still a hit, too, still getting recognized on the street, and still remembered with affection by a generation that spanned the Eisenhower and Kennedy years.

“I was dancing out at Giovanni’s Restaurant, in Harford County, just the other night,” Parks said, “and a woman says to me, ‘Aren’t you Carl Parks? Didn’t you dance on the Buddy Deane Show?’ This is 50 years later.”

The show was the highest-rated local program in the country. Five days a week on Channel 13 (first known as WAAM, then as WJZ), it played for two hours a day, and on Saturdays, two and a half.

The kids became celebrities. Mary Lou Raines received 100 letters a week. Evanne Robinson was voted the prettiest girl by an entire army base. They were getting stopped on the street for autographs.

“We were from all over the city,” Ann Boyer recalled. “I had to take two buses to get there. But it was OK. We knew every kid in town wanted to be on the show. We all considered it a privilege, even though they never paid our bus fare.”

Buddy Deane used to boast that every major rock 'n' roll star of the era appeared on the show, except Elvis Presley and Rick Nelson.

When the show ended, Deane moved back to Arkansas, bought half a dozen radio stations, and lived out his life there, except for brief runs back to Baltimore, where he’d host reunions with hundreds in attendance.

Carl Parks July 25, 2011 at 06:13 PM
I'd like to make a correction in the article. The Buddy Deane Show was on Saturdays not Sunday. We were just kids dancing & having fun. Little did we know then that we were a minor part of Baltimore history.
joel GOLDFADIM July 25, 2011 at 06:18 PM
I was the Amechie man serving powerhouses to the show along with Murray Kapper. Joel
Ron Snyder July 25, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Carl: Thanks so much. We changed it to Saturday. Please keep reading.
George W. Twigg July 26, 2011 at 03:51 AM
I played in the battle of the bands on the Buddy Deane show (Cyndels) we had a very good Black singer. the rest of the group six of us are white. Does anyone remember us or the battle of the bands ? George
terry needel July 26, 2011 at 04:30 PM
George? Are you Beth's husband?
june roberts July 26, 2011 at 04:38 PM
This article brings back many memories for me. Even though I was not involved in the show, my husband, Harding Roberts, was the Floor Manager for the show at WAAM/WJZ; therefore, I inadvertently became a part of the Buddy Deane show. Ironically, if I can remember correctly, Buddy Deane's Memorial Service was the same day as my husband's - September 2003. Those person's from WAAM/WJZ who attended my husband's service continued on to Buddy Deane's service.---June Roberts - Fern Park, Florida (July 26, 2011)
Buzz Beeler July 26, 2011 at 06:21 PM
I was never on it, but I never missed it, watching that is.
George W. Twigg July 26, 2011 at 11:53 PM
No Terry I am not, I don't know her I grew up in Brooklyn. George
Roger July 27, 2011 at 11:25 AM
I have fond memories of rushing home from school to watch the Buddy Deane Show. Roger Kegley, Abingdon, Md.
Bill Givens July 27, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Hey Gang, Sorry I couldn't make this one.I was tied up down the Ocean but, I heard U guys really. Enjoyed it. Thank you Anne for the article. Hope to see some of you this Sunday @ Norm's Party. Ciao ! B.G.
Lynda Lambert July 28, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Every day after school, my best girlfriend and I (girls could dance together then without comment) got together at my house to watch Buddy Deane and learn and practice all the new dances, so we'd be ready to show off at the weekend Lee Case Record Hop. I always thought that song "Cherry Bomb" said it best about the 60's, "Back when a smoke was a smoke, and dancin' was everything."
Cathy Bayer December 09, 2011 at 02:17 PM
I had the opportunity to enter a dance contest on the show and won.What memories i have still to this day.....The only thing was my partner and i never received the prize which was some records.I still tell my family now i was a celeberty back in the day...LOL Cathy Edwards
Buzz Beeler December 09, 2011 at 03:11 PM
I'll bet after I got home from school I sat in front of our families b&w Zenith and watched you.
Cathy Bayer December 09, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Is anyone out there from Dundalk Md. that went to Dundalk High School?I won the dance contest on the show back in the late 50's,but cannot remember the guy's name who was my dance partner.My maiden name was Cathy {Edwards}.
Buzz Beeler December 09, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Cathy, I'm lucky to remember the show. I do know Rich Tempera who hold reunions for the regulars and I'll ask him.
ralahinn1 December 09, 2011 at 07:36 PM
I am glad they had such a nice local show, I barely remember it though, because for some reason, my mother used to watch the national" band stand" show most of the time.
Cathy Bayer December 10, 2011 at 03:19 PM
Thank you that would be great.
Nancy Hess June 24, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Hi Carl ...............You were my favorite! Wow that was the good ole days. Nancy
Heather Bailey February 11, 2014 at 09:43 PM
My wife's father was supposed to have appeared on the show his name was William " bill" Jackson . He lived in the Fort Howard area. Does anyone remember him from the show or area?

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