Gene Patton, otherwise known as Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, from the popular ’70s game show, The Gong Show, died Monday at 82-years-old. Gene was a stagehand on the show from Berkeley, California.
The Dancing Machine stole the show week after week. At random moments during the show, host Chuck Barris would pull back the curtain and introduce Gene, who worked on the show as a stagehand. Gene would then come out dancing to “Jumpin’ At The Woodside,” a jazz tune made popular by Count Basie, and his dance moves would immediately have everyone in the audience, onstage, crew members, and host Barris boogieing along with him.
The Gong Show was created by the show’s producer and host Chuck Barris. The premise of the show was to have different acts come out to perform in front of a studio audience and a set of three celebrity judges. Once their acts began, it was up to the judges to decide if they were good or not, and if they were bad, the judges mercilessly banged a giant gong until they left the stage. The show ran from 1976-1978 and then ran in syndication for four years from 1976-1980.
Barris wrote about The Dancing Machine in his book Confessions of a Dangerous Mind saying,
“One day, during rehearsal, I saw Gene dancing by himself in a dark corner. The huge stagehand never moved his feet; just his body from the waist up. He was terrific.”
Gene Patton was a former janitor at John Muir High School in Pasadena, California, according to Yahoo News. In 1969 Gene became the first African-American member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Local 33. A stage technician posted on the group’s Facebook page saying,
“You are a legend in our eyes.”
Besides appearing on the Gong Show, Gene was featured in The Gong Show Movie (1980), and George Clooney and Charlie Kaufman’s surreal 2002 adaptation that starred Sam Rockwell as Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002). By the time Gene appeared in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he had lost both of his legs to diabetes. He lost his legs in 2001 and wore prosthesis.
Gene died in Pasadena, California, according to a spokesperson from the Woods-Valentine Mortuary. His family says he died from his long time struggle with diabetes. The Dancing Machine is survived by his children Bonnie, Carol, Sidney and Courtney, his sister Henrietta, nine grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
[Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter]