Dance Fever

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Let’s go back to 1979 and travel into the 80’s with Danny Terrio and Dance Fever!

Dance Fever ran from January 1979 to September 1987 through syndication.

The series was technically created by Merv Griffin but his agent Murray Schwartz actually conceived the idea of a pilot which piggybacked on a special “Merv” salute to the movie Thank God It’s Friday which would feature top disco dancers from 8 cities competing for a title.

Casablanca Records had already paid for the set, so a pilot could be produced at a significant reduction. Merv’s vision was to have frequent Griffin guest Deney Terrio as the host, and celebrities would dance with professional disco dancers. (In a sense, it was very similar to Dancing With the Stars.) But pilot show producer Ernest Chambers had no success convincing the stars who were approached to consent to the format. They were afraid they would look bad.

On the Sunday prior to the show, director Dick Carson suggested since they already had the dancers for the Thank God It’s Friday salute, to select the top four couples from that show and have them compete on the pilot with celebrities as judges. “Nobody’s ever going to see this thing anyway.” Within a couple days, Sherman Hemsley, Barbi Benton, and Herve Villechaize were secured as the judges.

After the Thursday night Griffin/Thank God It’s Friday special was taped, show staffers Larry Strawther and Paul Gilbert were dispatched to lure the top four finishers to participate in the next night’s pilot production, but keep it a secret. That didn’t happen, but despite some acrimony among the dancers, not helped by a one-night stand between a couple of dancers that caused a rift, the pilot was produced and ended up being sold.

Deney Terrio hosted the series until September 1985, when he was replaced by Adrian Zmed. Diane Day and Janet Jones were Motion (Terrio’s regular backup dancers). The show’s announcer for the first two years was Freeman King until September 1980 when he was replaced by Charlie O’Donnell who was the announcer on another Griffin show, Wheel of Fortune.

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Source: Sal Amato