I Was A Guest On ‘Dance Party USA’ And Met Kelly Ripa As A Teen!
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Big dance moves and bigger hair thanks to Aqua Net.

The 80s nostalgia is alive and well when someone mentions “Dance Party USA,” or I happen across a clip from the show on TikTok. I haven’t really thought about it in a while, but a video of the show landed on my “For You Page” on TikTok recently and the memories have been flowing ever since.

I often forget that to some people, it’s a fun time hearing stories from being a guest on the show and meeting Kelly Ripa when she was just a teenager before fame hit her. But after seeing a clip from an old episode of the show that triggered my memory, it seemed like a great time to let tell my story.

I Was A Guest Dancer On “Dance Party USA” In The Late 80s!

Dance Party USA guest pass
Melanie VanDerveer – Contributed Photo

First of all, nope, the number doesn’t work anymore.

Second, I don’t have any photo evidence of my time on the show. I know for today’s generation that’s a hard sell because with cell phones, we all have photos of everything exciting we’ve ever done. But remember, the late 80s didn’t have cell phones. We had disposable cameras where we had to get other people take our pics, pre-selfie age, and we had to wait days to get our prints back to see if we got anything good. I know I had some photos that I was in from my time on set, but after an all-day search, I only was able to find a few photos of other people.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, I’ll start from the beginning. As an only child of a single mother who was never home, MTV, game shows, talk shows, and “Dance Party USA” took turns raising me. I was literally obsessed with “Dance Party USA.” Looking back, I honestly couldn’t tell you why, but it caught and kept my attention. I watched it religiously every day, six days a week.

Christina and Lillian, regulars on Dance Party USA
Melanie VanDerveer – Contributed Photo

Growing up in New Jersey, when the opportunity popped up that I was able to be a guest on the show, (the show filmed near Philadelphia), I took it immediately. I brought one of my high school friends with me to experience all the fun.

The day started early and ended late, but you never heard a complaint out of me. On that one Saturday in 1988, we filmed a week’s worth of episodes. If I remember correctly, I ended up on five or six episodes a few weeks after filming. (Stay with me here, my memory of the 80s is foggy, so if I remember things slightly off, I apologize.)

The guest pass I was sent in the mail had some instructions on the back. There was a number on the card to call for general information. There were also rules for what to wear and not wear listed on the back – dress to impress in bright colors, no solid black, white or grey clothing, no tank tops, t-shirts or dirty sneakers. There was also a reminder that you had to be at least 15 years old to attend the taping.

Kelly Ripa Was There The Day I Was On Set

Kelly Ripa on Dance Party USA
80s & 90s Memories – TikTok

Anytime anyone hears that I was on the show, the first question they ask is about Kelly Ripa.

She was there the day I was, and I did get the opportunity to meet her during one of the many breaks throughout the day. I just happened to be sitting next to her during a break. She wasn’t very talkative from what I remember, and not super friendly. I do remember that she offered me a piece of chocolate because she was offering some to everyone around her.

And to be honest, that’s my whole story. Nothing more, nothing less. I know, not so exciting, but at the time, it was everything.

Holly, a regular on Dance Party USA
Melanie VanDerveer – Contributed Photo

I had my episodes on a VHS tape, (yes, I’m that old that VHS was the only way to go), and those tapes are long gone. I moved around a lot from the age of 15 through my young adult life, so they likely got thrown away during one of my many moves, sadly.

But am I really sad? Probably not as much as you might think. I was a terrible dancer and just went on the show because I loved it, so who needs that evidence, right? My kids would have a field day with it if they had it, so I’m doing just fine not having those tapes.

Dance Party USA poster
Melanie VanDerveer – Contributed Photo

One thing I was able to find while searching for photos was the “Dance Party USA” poster that I honestly cannot remember how I got.

It’s old, it’s wrinkled up from being in the bottom of a box, but the memories are there in full color. I also at one point in my teen years had a “Dance Party USA” jacket. I remember it clearly – it was white and the entire back was the show’s logo. I wonder what happened to that jacket?

TikTok Has Tons Of “Dance Party USA” Memories

A quick search of the show’s name on TikTok brings up tons of videos. Some of the popular regulars from the show have TikTok pages now and share their memories and clips, too.

@rickbrindle Replying to @Kali Bonoz I couldn’t help myself. I remember Kelly Ripa from WAY back. #dance #saltnpepa #kellyripa #fypシ #genx #dancpartyusa #danceparty ♬ Push It – Salt-N-Pepa

While today’s generation probably wouldn’t watch a show of teens just dancing and sometimes doing lip syncing routines, it was all the rage back then. Some popular musicians and bands ended up being on the show here and there, the show hit the road to film on the beach in the summer, and the regulars became pen pals to many fans. They would send information sheets, short notes and photos to anyone who sent them mail and a pre-addressed and stamped envelope.

It was certainly an experience that anyone who watched or danced on the show won’t soon forget, and I’m really glad that the memories are living on thanks to TikTok and social media.

Where you on the show as a regular or a guest? If so and you’re willing to share your story, please reach out to me via Instagram or email.

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