Dick Clark Asks: “What Does It Mean When Her Socks Don’t Match?”
I was sitting in the control booth of “American Bandstand” the other day, looking through the plate-glass window at the kids when I saw something that really rocked me. There was a pretty little blonde thing dancing with a tall, good-looking young man—and what did she have on her feet? One white sock and a striped one—that’s what. “What’s what?” I asked myself and during a break in the show wandered outside, casual like, to get hold of the situation.
Spotting the boy first, I introduced myself. “Pardon me,” I said, “but what does it mean when her socks don’t match?”
“That,” Roger Hoit said, after introducing himself, “shows Valerie. and I are dating each—other—exclusively. Val,” he tapped her on the shoulder and she turned to us. “I’d like you to meet Dick Clark. He wants to know about your unmatching socks.”
Her blue eyes lit up and she smiled at Roger proudly. “It’s for anyone who really has to be convinced that Rog and I aren’t a bit interested in other dates,” she said. “Their being striped? That means it’s an informal date. We wear matching vests, too. See?” she said pointing to his and hers. And sure enough, both Roger’s and Valerie Armstrong’s were fire-engine red. “Ah, young love!” I sighed to myself and began to feel very grandfatherly.
Boy, you’ve really got to stay on your toes in this world if you’re going to try to keep up with that gang at the soda fountain. Ask me, I ought to know. They’re always coming into view with some gadgets, trinkets, style, or what-have-you. I keep asking myself, “Now why didn’t you think of that when you were in your teens?” ’Course, that was in the dim, dark days of 1950. And, come on gang, put those pencils away and quit trying to figure my age.
I’m a natural fall-guy for anything new. When white bucks were introduced, guess who was first in line down at the nearest shoe store? You are sooo right. That’s one fad that’s managed to stay around for a couple of years. Another one I managed to get in on the ground floor with was the quick switch to levis or blue jeans. You’ve got to admit we were in good company with that one, since Marlon Brando, Elvis have all put their impressive OK’s on them.
While we guys had our share of fads, we weren’t far ahead of the gals. Their big deal was the “dog collar,” and the words mean just what they say. The glamor girls around home really outdid “Lassie” with their dog collars. Only thing was, though, these went around the ankles instead of near the vocal chords. Around Mount Vernon, where I grew up, you could tell if a girl was going steady by checking up on that collar. If it was on the left ankle, man, she was all tied up! But on the right, well, you could go into your act ‘cause that meant your dream girl wasn’t anybody’s steady date.
You don’t have to wander far off the beaten track to find out that some ideas never go out of style. For instance, last summer, when I was out at the Hollywood Bowl, we took a break in the rehearsal. Bobby Darin and I were munchin’ a snack down in the seats, when we spotted three teenagers wearing scatter pins. Bobby spotted them first. “Elucidate, Dick,” he said. Being wise to the way of the game, I was able to tell all. “If the girl’s wearing just one pin, like the girl wearing the one shaped like a boy’s face, that means she’s s—for,” I told him. “The girls wearing the twin roller skates and salt and pepper shakers are both ‘available’ if and when the right guys stroll along. Then she’ll hand him one of her twin pins and hope he’ll stay stuck on her.”
Speaking of the right guy strolling along reminds me that the other afternoon, right after the show, one of the fellows came my way with a new gimmick that really had me guessing. I was sitting in the empty stands in the “American Bandstand” studio, just catching my breath and relaxing with some of the fellows on the TV crew. They were as bushed by the workout on the network as I was. We had been kidding around for a couple of minutes when Tony came walking over with our “Mystery Box.” That’s the little carton we use to round up all of the leftover school books, glass cases, compacts and what-have-you that the kids are always leaving behind.
Well, you know me. I guess I’m just the nosey type. Anyway I started sorting idly through the box. Just picking my way. Suddenly I yelped, “Dickie, what have we here?” Down in the bottom of the box were about six aluminum “dog tags.” You know the kind they wear in the armed forces. There was no doubt about it. They sure looked like the real thing. “What happened here?” I asked Tony, “Have we been invaded by the Army, Navy or Marines or all three?” Before Tony could come up with the key, one of our kids, Kenny, ambled by and put our collective brains at rest. Seems Elvis started it when he joined the Army. The fad is that the girls have the names of their current beaus or favorite disc artist stamped on the “dog tag,” to proclaim that they are in the army of Joe So-and-So’s friends or fans.
When we were down in Miami for our show, a few weeks ago, some of the kids were showing me pictures of some of their friends. One girl stopped me completely though, when she whipped out a well-padded wallet that was just jammed to the seams with photos.
“How can one girl have friends?” was my question.
“Oh they’re not all friends,” she grinned. “In fact some of them would die—just die—if they knew I had their picture.” Curious as to the reason why these “victims” would die, I took a closer look. Yep, she was right. You know what she was doing? Well, this tricky little miss would take a picture and then cut out a phrase from a magazine or newspaper and paste it at the bottom of the photo. Guys she liked were labeled “Dream Boy” or “Hollywood Star.” But, brother, those she didn’t got “The Monster From Outer Space,” “The Fly” or just plain “corny” for a title. I was kind of scared to ask, but I did. “Got a picture of one Dick Clark?” Did I ever breathe a sigh of relief when so many she blushed and said no. S’help me, then I was afraid she was going to ask for one. Wonder what she would have pasted under mine. Later on, I found a lot of the girls with the same fad, and a lot of the kids who stop in at the studio tell me they have big collections of pictures dressed up this way.
There’s one fad I went for as a teenager that I see is making a comeback. Speaking from my own experience though, I wouldn’t recommend it for anybody who doesn’t have either a part-time job or a very patient mother. If you don’t, beware!
Young Dickie Clark used to have what we called a “beer jacket.” It was just a plain white sports jacket, but oh the fun you could have with it. We’d stand around for hours after class thinking up hilarious things to write on them with heavy black crayon. Things like “D D T—Drop Dead Twice,” or “Take Off,” meaning “get lost.” Then we’d add the names of friends, enemies, teachers, anybody at all.
Pretty soon those jackets would be as filled with writing as any notebook. Then we’d start in on other things like shirts, sweaters and such stuff. Well, writing on the jackets was OK. But that other stuff . . . uh uh. We’d all trot home, sneak up-stairs, dump shirts, etc., in the laundry and congratulate ourselves on having had a real good time. But, oh, when washday came around! Then the blast would come.
After spending a few hours at a washing machine trying to get my funny sayings out of my jackets, Mom would summon her boy author. “You need a little laundry all your own,” she’d say. “Why don’t you try setting it up in the upstairs sink?” Well, after trying it out myself I decided that if it was too much for Mom then it was too much for me, too. Carefully wrapping the jacket and shirt into a nice package I trotted off to the laundry, only to be greeted by a stern face.
“Dick Clark, you’re the fourth boy today who’s come in here expecting me to get you out of a jam,” the laundryman told me. “I’m telling you the same thing I told the others. Either get a new shirt or a new laundry.” That package, still un-wrapped, went into a nearby trash barrel with three other very similar packages. In a few minutes I also found out that I was the fourth fellow that day to inquire if there was an opening for a boy at the soda fountain of the corner drug store. There wasn’t. The first guy had filled it.
Despite my woeful tale, the fellows and girls I meet on my rounds today still manage to find ways to fill up trench coats, jackets, and even pocketbooks with comic phrases, or with the names of their latest romances. It really is a lot of fun, but let an older hand warn you. Be sure you use a washable ink or crayon before you start making like an author. It’s so much easier on the bankroll—and the mother.
Hey, here’s a thought that might fit in here. How about those “slam books” or, if you please, “slang books.” They seem to be popular wherever I go. You’ve got the drift on them, haven’t you? That’s where one of the gang comes up, shoves a notebook under your chin and opens it to a page that says, “I think Jim Krannerfranz dances like a real swinging cat.” Then it’s up to you to write in anything you want next. Could be you don’t agree? So perhaps you note, “But he looks like he ain’t nothin’ but a houn’ dawg.’” But if you really dig this man the most, you might add, “He can sing on my back fence anytime.”
I first ran into this when we were on a personal appearance up in Connecticut. I thought they were autograph books until one of the girls put me wise. From then on I’ve been checking those books pretty carefully and if you haven’t tried it then you’re missing a lot of fun. Many of the friends who stop by “American Bandstand” or the “Dick Clark Show” bring their books with them and if I can spare a minute from rehearsals I’ll always go through them. I get as much fun out of them as the folks who make them up. They tell me though the real fun comes when you have a big crowd around. One guy or girl starts it off and then the book gets passed around the circle, with each one putting in a sentence or two. Some of these really are a panic, especially when the lead-off line is a comic bit.
That slam book’s a new one on me, but the friendship ring idea is one that goes back to those B. E. (Before Elvis) days when I was in my teens. We had the rings, too. I guess my Mom and Pop did too, and probably theirs also. Then, too, those identification bracelets go back a few years and they don’t seem to lose any steam. There are some new wrinkles though that you have added to them.
One new bit of teenage language that really stands out is the belt-buckle gambit. That works only with Ivy League trousers. You know, ones with belts in the back. I wouldn’t want to pin everybody down on this, but in a lot of the teenage crowds I’ve met, when that buckle is open it means the fellow doesn’t have a regular girl. When it’s closed it means he belongs to some girl and you other femmes had better watch out, ’cause she may be nearby.
That’s one indication of the state of a young man’s heart. An even surer way of telling if he’s got himself an entangling alliance is when you see him with a girl and they’re wearing matching sweaters or shirts. In some spots I’ve visited the rule might be matching beanies or caps. Most of the time they are both made of the same colors, but the colors are upside down. Where his might be red with white trimmings, her beanie or cap would be white with red trim.
Some fads seem to stick around forever, and some others maybe just last a few months. The craze for those big buttons with announcements like, “I Am a Purple People Eater,” “I Like Elvis,” or just the name of the wearer, probably will be popular as long as guys and gals can think up ways to keep them filled. Same with things like “bobbie socks,” blue jeans, and the new white slacks with tennis shoes. They fit in with all teenagers.
I guess though one of my favorites just fits in with them too. It’s the way the girls put little Christmas bells into their hairdos around this time each year. When I hear that sound on “American Bandstand” while the gang’s on the floor dancing, then I know why I like fads. Well, ding dong, they’ve got a message.
See you next month.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1958