RIP “Gene Gene The Dancing Machine”

I need to recognize the passing of a wonderful man, Gene Patton, also known as “Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.” Gene was best known for his frequent work on The Gong Show. Usually at the end of the show, the band would kick into a wild rendition of Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ At The Woodside,” and, well, this would happen.

Chuck Barris said in his memoir, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, that one day he saw Gene, who was a light man for the show, dancing along to some music, and “The huge stagehand never moved his feet; just his body from the waist up. He was terrific.”

Gene was from Burbank, California, and became the first African-American member of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Local 33, in 1969. In addition to his work on The Gong Show, he also worked on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and a few other shows.

One night, Jay did a sketch where took a picture of Gene, with big muttonchop sideburns, dressed in a three-piece suit and wire-rimmed glasses, into Westwood Village. He would tell people that the picture was of Moses Hathaway, who had acted in a number of blaxploitation movies in the 1970’s, and would reel off a number of fake movie titles, and say that he was trying to get Moses a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was hilarious to hear the number of people who said they remembered Moses, and had seen a few of his movies. The last person said, “hey, isn’t that Gene Gene the Dancing Machine?” At which point, they cut back to the studio, where Gene went into his act, and the place went up for grabs.

Gene suffered from diabetes, which eventually took both of his legs, a sad irony. I’d like to believe that he’s in Paradise, with two healthy legs, dancing up a storm. He leaves behind his three children, his sister, nine grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and a host of people who loved him and were entertained by him.

Farewell, Mr. Patton.

4 thoughts on “RIP “Gene Gene The Dancing Machine”

  1. I had forgotten about the Gong Show until I saw your post. What a fun show that was, too. I do remember, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face with this little farewell to Mr. Patton and a happy memories from another time.


  2. The Gong Show was such a classic. I watched many an episode with my mother who loved that show. I guess my whole family liked it. As I recall I think it came on about lunch time so my father was even there to watch it now and then. Completely nuts, that show.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out


    1. Yes, it was, but that was what was so entertaining about it. I mean, occasionally they’d have a good, serious act on, but by and large they were pretty awful. I still remember the very large woman, dressed as a baby in a playpen, singing “Toyland,” and another woman who was so awful two of the judges led her over to the gong and had her ring it on herself. But that was what was so good about it: you could go on TV and make a complete idiot of yourself, and the worse you were, the better the audience liked it.


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