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.