One evening in November 1967, I got a phone call from my friend Billie Blake.
It would change my life.
I knew Billie from East High School. Billie told me she was a staff dancer on The Varsity Show, Anchorage's local teen TV dance show.
She proceeded to tell me that I was one of the best dancers she had seen at the teen club, Shindig City, and wanted me to be her dance routine partner on The Varsity Show.
Billie informed me that the director of The Varsity Show, Tom Dougherty, said she could choose anyone as her dance partner as long as they were in high school and were a good dancer.
I was flattered, but at first, I told Billie that I was too shy to dance on television, so told her no. But Billie said her cousin was her current partner, but couldn't be on the show anymore and that I was one of the best dancers, and please help her out. So, I eventually gave in and told her yes.
Billie and I met and designed our wardrobe like the dancers on the popular national TV show, “Where The Action Is”. My longtime friend Leslie had given me a pair of white Go-Go boots the year before, so I got a pair of patterned stockings and a ruffle blouse, and we were set.
Evenings after school we practiced our dance routine to the song, Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie at Billie's Aunt's house. Her Aunt helped sew our vests and skirts.
Then the Saturday came when I was to make my first appearance as a staff dancer on The Varsity Show at the 32nd and Spenard KTVA Ch 11 Studio.
We arrived on time and went into the Ladies room/dressing room and fixed our hair and put on our wardrobe.
I remember walking down the hall with Billie and then walking into the studio and seeing the host's podium and the boxes we were to dance on and the studio lights. I recognized my friends from East High, and they seemed surprised to see me walk onto the set and step up onto one of the dancer's boxes.
When the hosts, Mike Ray and Roger Latham, introduced our song. Billie was on her box, and we started to dance, then the studio audience came out on the dance floor. I could see the lights and the cameras and the microphone boom operator, and there I was dancing on live TV.
When the song was over, we stood there on our boxes while some commercials were running and suddenly the voice of Tom Dougherty, the show's director, came booming over the loudspeaker into the studio for everyone to hear. “Mary, you need to smile. Remember to smile while you're dancing.” I later told Billie I wasn't smiling because I was concentrating so hard on our dance routine.
The next three songs were introduced on the show, and Billie and I danced and finished our first set.
That was quite a fun experience, and I continued on The Varsity Show as a staff dancer during the rest of the 1967-1968 season. I also happened to start dating the show's host Mike Ray (Dougherty) in December of that year.
So, I owe all of this to Billie Blake and The Varsity Show, who took a chance on a young high school student who just loved to dance.
I did audition again in 1968 and continued as a staff dancer on The Varsity Show until I graduated from high school in 1970.
Being on The Varsity Show was an experience that has helped me throughout my whole life.
Now check out Mary dancing on The Varsity Show
Get your FREE Varsity Show Book
With a foreword by Ron Moore, you'll love this look back at Anchorage's live teen TV dance show.