Carole Ann Scaldeferri Spada, 70, of Newtown Square, a regular dancer on American Bandstand from 1957 to 1961, died Sunday, Dec. 8, of congestive heart failure at a Springfield hospital.
Her husband, Richard Spada, said Mrs. Spada was recovering from a minor stroke she had suffered earlier when she became ill on the way to church. She was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, where she died, her husband said.
"When the doctor told me the news, I was heartbroken," her husband said. "She was the most precious wife in the whole world, and one of the most popular dancers."
Known then as Carole Scaldeferri, Mrs. Spada was among the teens who jitterbugged and slow-danced their way to fame in a TV studio in Philadelphia, while host Dick Clark spun what are now oldies.
"It is with much sadness that we have lost one of the most loving and beautiful souls - Carole Scaldeferri Spada has passed away," Bunny Gibson, who identified herself as a "Bandstand buddy," posted on Facebook.
"For all those who knew her throughout her life and for those who watched her dance on American Bandstand, Carole was full of love and full of God. Carole made the world a better place," Gibson wrote on a Facebook page called America's Original Bandstand Dancers.
While the teens, all homegrown talent, rocked onstage, two cameras homed in on them for close-ups. The TV exposure, plus the profiles some of the dancers were given in Teen magazine in the late 1950s, made them instant celebrities.
The dancers, Teen wrote, were the "most famous unknowns on TV today."
'Just ordinary kids'
In a Time.com obituary for Dick Clark, who died April 18, 2012, a reporter wrote: "Lou DeSera, Carmen Jimenez, Carole Scaldeferri, Rosemarie 'Little Roe' DiCristo: they may sound like characters on The Sopranos, but they were just ordinary kids, with extraordinary luck of being in Philadelphia at the moment the old town lit the fuse for the rock explosion."
In an online page marking her 68th birthday on Nov. 23, 2011, Bandstand "documentarian" Charles W. Amann III posted: "The name Scaldeferri and American Bandstand go hand-in-hand. She was one of the great stars of the Philadelphia years."
". . . Although, unlike some others, Carole never really had a steady dancing partner, she danced with all the good-looking Italian boys and that one special non-Italian whom everyone loved - Harvey Robbins."
Songs she liked to dance to, Mrs. Spada wrote online in June 2010, included "Little Darlin'," "Sixteen Candles," "Tears on My Pillow," "Splish Splash," "Never on Sunday," and "Let's Do the Stroll."
She danced the "push" - a "type of jitterbug . . . you could do in half time - the hop, the bop, and the stomp," she wrote.
'Love at first sight'
Mrs. Spada graduated from West Catholic Girls High School and attended college for a year to become a children's counselor, but decided to get into real estate. She was an agent for Century 21 in Springfield, Delaware County.
She and her husband were married in 1977 after he recalled seeing her photo at age 14 and made plans years later to meet her at Philadelphia International Airport. The meeting was arranged through a letter from Dick Clark's office.
When they met, "it was love at first sight," her husband said. They wed three months later and lived in Philadelphia and Lansdowne before moving to Newtown Square.
Although Mrs. Spada rubbed elbows with performers like Sammy Davis Jr. as a teen, she never sought the limelight, her husband said. But it found her.
She had gone to dance on Bandstand to meet the actor Sal Mineo. Once producers realized she was getting 500 to 600 fan letters a week, they gave her special status as a regular dancer. She was assigned the dressing room previously used by Sally Starr and once went to an appearance in New York by limousine. She was 15.
"She would go home, and people would say, 'I saw you on TV,' " her husband said. "She would say: 'I'm just a kid who loves music and loves to dance.' "
Fame followed her into adulthood. Wherever she went, people would say, "You're Carole from Bandstand," her husband said. "I watched you on TV."
Typically, he said, Mrs. Spada would turn the conversation around and ask about the fan.
"She was not self-centered," he said. "She was an incredible person, a beautiful soul."
As for what it was like to live with Mrs. Spada, her husband said: "There was never a dull moment.
"She would walk into the room, and your heart would flutter," he said.
Mrs. Spada lived in Overbrook Farms at the time she was on Bandstand.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by a daughter, Andrea Pergolese; four grandchildren; a great-granddaughter; and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete, but will be announced soon. Interment is private.
To see video clips of the American Bandstand dancers, visit www.criticalcommons.org/Members/mattdelmont/clips/bandstand-close-up-on-couples-dancing.mov/view