Dancing on the Varsity Show

by Michael R Dougherty

Anchorage area teens Circa 1968

Anchorage area teens Circa 1968

Watching the Varsity Show on KTVA channel 11 was always fun because you could see Anchorage teens dancing to the latest hits, you'd see the latest dance moves, and you could see your friends and people you knew.

Yes, watching the Varsity Show was fun, but actually going down to KTVA's studios in the McKinley building, later named the McKay building, and even later in their Spenard studios, was an entirely unique experience.

Teens that came to the studios to dance on the show were always surprised at how different the show's set looked in the studio. In person, it looked smaller than it did on TV. And of course, the bright studio lights took some getting used to.

Occasionally, the show's crew would play a couple of songs just before the show went live, so the dancers could get used to dancing on the set and under the studio lights.

Then, once the show went live, there were plenty of fun songs to dance to.

If you were shy, even getting a free coke to drink was interesting. To get a Coke, you had to walk right onto the set and under those bright lights to get your coke, which was courtesy of Anchorage Cold Storage, one of the show's sponsors.

Being behind the scenes could also be fascinating.

Once in a while, when Anchorage teens filled the dance floor and were dancing away to a hit song, something would happen to the sound and the music would cut out.

To compensate, the Varsity Show TV crew would tell the dancers to “keep dancing” even though they couldn't hear the music. Of course, the viewers at home thought their TV sets were acting up because they weren't hearing the music, but the teens were still dancing.

Also behind the scenes, the Peter Paul Candy Company was a Varsity Show sponsor and each Saturday during the live show, all the teens that came down to dance were given Mounds and Almond Joy candy bars.

The Varsity Show was a lot of fun and Anchorage area teens had a really great way to spend a Saturday afternoon when they went to the KTVA studios to dance on TV.

It's been a long time since the Varsity Show went off the air.

You know, years ago, the ABC Television Network had American Bandstand with Dick Clark and many television stations across America had local teen dance shows.

But the Varsity Show was different. It was Anchorage's own, and area teens were provided the opportunity to work behind the scenes and in front of the camera on the show. Many crew members went on to have careers in the entertainment industry.

Today's teens are really missing out.

I wonder what the Varsity Show would look like if it was still being broadcast today.

Of course, it would be seen in HD color. “Hey, look at that girl, the one with the green hair.”


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I Split Doing the Splits
by: Roy Southerland

OK, let's go way back.

We're talking around 1969-1971. I actually got to dance on The Varsity Show which was Alaska's version of American Bandstand.

I actually went on the show and was dancing to James Brown's "I Got the Feeling".

I spun around and did the splits and ripped my pants from the front to the back of the belt on live TV. Luckily, I was wearing clean white underwear.

It was still embarrassing – but Fun.

I Danced on the Varsity Show
by: Anonymous

Yes, I am proud to say I was one of the many teenagers who danced on the show.

I was a studio audience dancer, but don’t remember the year. The studio was in Spenard.

Looking through some if the pictures posted, I recognize some of the dancers.

Lots of fun!

What Fun!
by: Linda A. Wingfield

I never got to go to one of those events (though I would have loved to), but during the time I lived in Fairbanks after the quake, my friend (with whom I was staying) and I once went to the similar show that was sponsored by the local Fairbanks TV station.

It was shortly before my 8th grade graduation (Diane was only in the 7th grade, and my folks had sent me money for a special dress, and I was carrying the nearly new transistor radio that I had won shortly before then at my third Alaska State Spelling Bee.

When we arrived at the door to the station's (similarly small) dance floor, we went through an entry hall where there were some tables placed out in the middle. We were told by several nicely-dressed and polite young men that we were to put all our coats and purses on those tables. We all obeyed, since we were also told that anyone carrying any of that stuff with them, wouldn't be allowed through the door to the dance floor.

After dancing the hour or so away quite happily, we all went to get our things. Unfortunately, every purse had been robbed, and all money and anything else valuable taken. Also, some of the girls lost some of their more expensive outerwear.

We were all crying and calling our parents from the only phone we were allowed to use, and as the parents arrived to get their youngsters, every one of them went to whatever management was still around, and reported the thefts. All of us were told that the studio had NOT hired any young men to be "ushers" like that, and that we certainly WOULD have been allowed to bring our belongings into the dance area with us, and that the management had not had any idea at all what was happening in the entry hall.

Nothing was ever done about it, for any of us, and the only thing we could do was tell others about it, so we did. From that point on, a lot of the kids in the area were no longer allowed to go to the show there, because the studio management refused to do anything about it. It was really so sad.

I lost $150 (a HUGE amount for my family--especially at that point in time). I also lost my wallet with my family pictures, and my new transistor radio.

I wonder how something like that would have been handled at the Varsity Show. Hopefully a lot better!!!

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