The Scene was a mythic Motor City dance show that never knew it was making TV history. They're doing it again.
Published: July 13, 2011
The Electrifying Mojo, hottest DJ on Detroit radio at the time but infamously camera-shy, provided the recorded announcer intros and bumpers ("It's half-time of our show!"). The camera operators may be responsible for inventing the "booty-cam," creating angles and shots so ridiculously provocative that they would stop any typical channel surfer in his tracks. The Scene was the show that nobody admitted to watching, but everybody could tell you about the next day.
WGPR plucked Morris from the ranks of its radio personalities to double as TV host. Admittedly, it was a role he had to grow into. "I really came to Detroit to do radio," recalls Morris, a North Carolina native. "Television came to me. As a gift, really, unbeknownst to me. There's a clip from May '76 on YouTube with me wearing this red suit, and I am deejaying on TV! It's like the same script I was using on the radio, I used on television. It took me a number of years to evolve into a television host."
After a dozen years, audiences didn't tire of the show as much as Morris grew weary of trying to take it to a higher level. Except for a brief period with Albany Scene, where segments from Detroit were stripped into a companion series in Albany, Ga., The Scene never achieved the dream of a national broadcast to rival Soul Train, its gold standard. "The Scene was something I really tried to sweep under the rug after it was over, because it had been such a struggle to take it national," Morris admits. "We never could get the investment needed to be a national show. I had taken it as far as I could take it personally, so, when it was over, I was relieved. It was like a weight lifting off my shoulders."
What's more, because the cost of videotape didn't fit into WGPR's budget, only about 250 shows remain from the thousands of episodes telecast. "We didn't even record a lot of shows in those days," Morris reflects, sadly. "We went live. We were radio people. Or if we recorded it, we might need that tape to record over later. Hundreds of shows are just missing, lost or never recorded. I can't find Luther Vandross on the show. Teddy Pendergrass. Phyllis Hyman. There are a lot of great artists we had that we can't find evidence of now. We didn't know. We did not know the significance of what we were doing at the time."
Of all the dancers to grace The Scene's glimmering stage over the years — curvaceous LaWanda, video-savvy Montez, influential Yvonne or Daphne Andrews, who's flying in from New York for the reunion, to name a very few — no one has parlayed their TV experience into a more prosperous post-Scene career than "Fast Freddy" — aka Fred Anderson, who remains high in Detroit's public eye nearly a quarter-century after the show's demise.
"Detroit has been so kind to me," says Freddy, now 64, who worked fulltime as an operating room assistant for three area hospitals while dancing on the series, and now serves as a dance instructor, choreographer, model and professional deejay. "I love having fun, and I love seeing people having fun. I'm no stranger anywhere I go, I'm an instant party-starter, and I don't take it for granted. It's just a blessing, you know?"
And always, always, Freddy, who once was featured in GQ magazine, is dressed to the nines — or maybe the 10s, since perfection is his goal. "I dress up every day!" he says. "Every day God wakes me up I dress up, get out and have a good time. My grandfather used to tell me, 'The best reason to dress up is no reason at all.' It's not something I do to show off. It's something that makes me feel good."
Fast Freddy — a nickname derived from his early modeling career, not his signature dance moves — is overjoyed at the prospect of a reunion. "So many people really loved that show, and they have great memories of it," he says. "People come to me every day and beg me, 'Can I get excerpts from The Scene?' We were like the stars.
"The reason I'm such a recognizable face today is because of The Scene. Just like you see newscasters every day, The Scene was on 12 years, five days a week. And it came on sometimes two or three times a day! People love seeing people they see on TV. They live through you."
Can he still perform the dazzling moves he perfected on The Scene? "I can still do the moves, trust me," Freddy says. "I do them every day. Some days I'm Not-So-Fast-Freddy, but I'm still working."
"The fact that it's on videotape, some of the dancers have already shown these clips to their grandkids," Morris notes. "I've told some of them we'll probably live at least 100 years after we're gone. After everyone on that show is dead and gone, those tapes will still be around, When I was doing it, I know there was no serious thought about the future. It was like, 'OK, we've got a show to do; let's do the best we can today and see what happens.' We never thought about being part of history."
Saturday, July 16 at 8 p.m. in Bert's Warehouse Theatre, 2727 Russell in Eastern Market. Enchantment and Davina perform live. Visit thescenereunion.com or contact 313-737-4002 for ticket and other information.
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