Friday, June 8, 2012
Interview: Danny Czekalinsk (Danny Douglas), host of Pepsi Dance Trax 1989
Pepsi Dance Trax aired on channel 17 in Grand Rapids in 1989. Our local version of the dance-party shows that were popular at the time. The whole program was seriously just shots of teens dancing to the latest club music, interspersed with the host, Danny Douglas, chatting with the kids and setting up occasional dance-offs.I have been able to track down some bootleg episodes and they make for some entertaining viewing. The hair, fashions, music and dance moves seem from a different universe now. As somebody who lived through that, I can remember thinking we were pretty f-ing cool at the time!
I posted about the show before back when I first started this blog and was surprised at how many others there were around Grand Rapids who remember it.
It got me curious whatever became of Danny Douglas. I wanted to imagine him somewhere still with super-feathered hair and Sagebrush sweaters.
I found that he was last heard doing a morning show on a West Palm Beach station and he's no longer Danny Douglas but Danny Czekalinsk.
Honestly, I was expecting he'd rather leave the 80s cheesiness behind and not want to talk to me but was pleasantly surprised to find he's pretty cool and totally willing to chat about Pepsi Dance Trax...
Jef: So do you have people reference that show to you very often?
Danny: LOL....yes...its very strange but I remember that time very well...me with those goofball shirts and spaghetti hair.
Jef: It's pretty easy to mock on the 80s now, with how much the times have changed. How'd you line up that sweet sponsorship with Sagebrush??
Danny: Oh geez...that was done by one of the sales guy's at KLQ...Bill Bode.
The show was actually the idea of Bill Simonson who was spinning records (yes records) at Electric Avenue and Club Eastbrook. He has his own sports show called the Huge Show now. I actually returned the favor and got Bill into radio.
Jef: So you were quite a staple on GR radio during the 80s. How long were you with KLQ? I gather you've moved to Florida and stopped going by Danny Douglas at some point.
Danny: I was at KLQ for 4 1/2 years...went to OKC and KJ-103 to do mornings in May of 1990. Then off to Mix 93.3 in Kansas City in January of 1995. Home to Cleveland at WMMS for mornings in November of 1997. Crossed the street to Q-104 in Cleveland for mornings in July of 1999 then came to West Palm Beach in 2004 to do mornings and decided to leave the station in January of 2011.
I've been chilling since that time looking for the right gig. I don't believe in more music morning shows so when the right opportunity happens...I'll get back to work. I'm very bored right now.
Jef: So Bill Simonson thought of the show... there are still some people kicking around GR who remember Electric Avenue, btw. I think there's an Aldi in that spot now haha.
So how was Pepsi involved? Did they sponsor other shows like this in other cities?
Danny: No we went to Fox and pitched the show and Pepsi stepped up with the cash. As far as I know that was the only type of dance show Pepsi got involved in.
Electric Avenue is an Aldi? God...some of the things that happened in that parking lot....
Jef: Haha indeed. Did all the kids get free Pepsi when they showed up?
Danny: I'm pretty sure they did. We taped EARLY on a Saturday morning. Knocked out four shows in a day about once a month.
Jef: Was anything scripted or did you just make it up on the spot? I suppose there isn't a whole lot of scripting to be done on a dance party show...
Danny: Well it was TV so it had to be timed out. Bill picked out all the music and I put it all together at the radio station on REEL TO REEL. All the songs were exactly 3 minutes and there were bumpers on both ends of the song and that's where I'd jump in and do whatever it was I exactly did. The commercials were added back at the TV station.
Jef: Was there any sort of screening as far as picking out the kids who got on the show or could anybody just show up? The place looked packed from what I could remember. How many kids did you have at these tapings?
Danny: We probably had 130 kids in there. The problem was Club Eastbrook was HUGE. We had to do a lot of tight shots sometimes. Pretty much anyone could be on the show. Nowadays you would have to have waivers signed and probably a metal detector...and that's just for me and Bill.
Jef: Haha Okay a couple questions off the facebook group (yes, there is one) ... "Would you ever do a reunion show?" and "do you feel the show helped reduce youth violence in our time."
Danny: Good God YES I'd do a reunion show. Simonson HAS to agree to it and I know he will. As far as reducing youth violence...how much of that was happening early on a Saturday morning?
Jef: Wow, I never even thought it'd be something you'd consider. I actually think the idea could fly. The building is now the Orbit Room but still a venue with the same capacity. Hmm...
Aside from that, there's been a few people asking if you or anybody has a connection as far as getting archives of the show released so people could see them again.
Danny: Really???? They wanna see it again? I only have one copy of the show somewhere in a box on VHS. The Fox affiliate would be the one to ask about that. With "Rock of Ages" coming out it would be perfecting timing to do it this summer. You CAN go back in time.
Jef: Hm. I may start talking the idea around town and see if it gets momentum. I've noticed that nostalgia's running pretty deep these days. I think it would be awesome. Sounds like you're in between gigs right now so maybe good timing for you as well...
Danny: It would be great to see everyone. I always loved Grand Rapids. I still have many friends there and would love to come back.
Jef: It seems a little short notice for summer, as far as having time to promote, etc. but I feel like it's the sort of thing the local press might grab onto and it could take right off. That's awesome you'd be into it! I will do some contacting people and I may get back to you about it!
Well I won't take too much more time here. Thanks so much for chatting! I will give you a link when I have the article all together and I'll let you know if a reunion's brewing.
Danny: Anytime. It was fun!!
Danny invites any old friends from Grand Rapids or Pepsi Dance Trax to get ahold of him any time!