Between 1964 and 1966, popular Los Angeles radio deejay Sam Riddle hosted a Saturday night dance show that was syndicated nationally from the KHJ studios in Hollywood. "Hollywood A Go-Go" featured some of the biggest rock acts of the era (and some of the smallest...) going through the motions. Week in and week out, the hardest workers were the go-go dancers the show dubbed The Gazzarri Dancers. It turns out people noticed — and in the era of You Tube, the girls from "Hollywood A Go-Go" are young again and have followings on the web.
One of the most popular of the dancers — then and now — was June Fairchild. A former prom queen at Aviation High School in Redondo Beach, and an actress after her time on the show, Fairchild (whose given name was June Wilson) died last night at age 68. She had liver disease, among other ailments, and lived downtown.
Here she is, probably about 20, with Riddle at the opening of a clip featuring Jackie Wilson.
The Gazzarri Dancers had no official connection to Gazzarri's, the Sunset Strip rock club. It was just a cool name in the 60s. They were a mix of young pros and local girls who could shake it a little. June Fairchild was spotted dancing (at Gazzarri's, as it happens) by producer Al Burton. She became part of the core group on HAGG, a spin-off of Riddle's daily dance show "9th Street West." By most accounts, the "Hollywood A Go-Go" dancers had a fun time time dancing for money and hanging out with musicians. Fairchild's boyfriend around this time was Danny Hutton of "Three Dog Night," and in rock lore she gets credit for suggesting the band's name. The dancers would go out after filming and rarely even saw the show that aired — there was no way to record your TV then. Then came YouTube.
Burton liked to show off his young dancers and the old clips on YouTube are full of close-up T&A and naked midriffs. Fairchild was a beauty and a fan favorite, I gather from the comments on YouTube and at Gazzarri Dancers.com. Jim Freyler started the site six years ago to compile info on the go-go dancers he remembered as a 15-year-old TV watcher in New York. There was nothing online at first. As much as anyone, Freyler is responsible for the Gazzarri Dancers being recognized today — and for them being able to see their work of four decades ago.
Freyler, who lives now in Florida, posted a tribute to Fairchild Tuesday after her death.
It is with deep regret and sorrow that I pass on the news of June's passing. Those who peruse this website think of her as a great dancer from a distant television show, but to those who knew her she was much, much more. June was an eternal optimist with a positive spin on whatever life threw her way. She was a down to earth human being with no airs about herself and had a terrific sense of humor and a huge zest for life. Her creative mind just never slowed down; she was always working on several projects in her mind simultaneously. By her own admission she had a good life in spite of its ups and downs. She was instrumental in getting this website off the ground and was the first Gazzarri Dancer I contacted. She became one of my best friends and I, as well as many, will miss her terribly. She is at peace now, but no doubt still active. Rest in Peace dear June.
After "Hollywood A Go-Go" — which, remember, ran for just 14 months and went off the air 48 years ago — Fairchild appeared on "Playboy After Dark," "I Spy" and the Monkees TV show, and in the films "Up in Smoke" (she played the Ajax Lady), "Drive, He Said" and "Head," among others. She had a bit of a cult following for those movies. In 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that the former actress was homeless on LA's Skid Row. She got herself together and appeared on "Good Morning America" to talk about her recovery, and continued to live downtown. A few years ago she showed up in a KCET feature story on the King Eddy Saloon (at the 5:00 mark with friends William Mitchell and T.K. Nagano.) Here's an obit today in the Times.
June Fairchild in "Head," with Monkees members Peter Tork and Davy Jones.
Then the clips of "Hollywood A Go-Go" began appearing on YouTube and she was June Wilson again. The Hollywood A Go-Go channel on YouTube channel has scores of video clips up from the show and from Fairchild's later work. Freyler told me that she enjoyed this clip of herself dancing around Bob Lind, who sang "Elusive Butterfly."
In this Lou Rawls clip from 1965, June Wilson is the first dancer who plays hard to get.
Here she hams it up with Sam the Sham.
And just for the fun of it, here a few clips of the Gazzarri Dancers turned loose. Think the regular girls and boys on the dance floor were intimidated much?
So maybe they weren't the Hullabaloo Dancers — who was? — but they had fun and they livened up the place. The Gazzarri Dancers earned featured billing along with Riddle and the celebrity guests. Some went on to dancing, choreography and acting careers. A few of the dancers and members of The Challengers, a popular LA band of the time that was on the show a lot (the house band was The Sinners), still share stories from the show's filmings online. "I have so many great memories of June," former Gazzarri Dancer Deanna Mollner told me Tuesday from her home in Mexico. "We all loved her on HAGG. She was always laughing and great fun."
There is a GoFundMe page up to raise money to pay for Fairchild's final days and memorial.
June Fairchild at the King Eddy Saloon downtown. Courtesy of Thomas K. Nagano.
I did some minor cleanup editing here and there after posting — KR