The Gong show, produced by Chuck Barris, (with a daytime schedule from June 14, 1976, through July 21, 1978, and in first-run syndication from 1976 to 1980 and 1988 to 1989) had many running gags and characters who appeared as regular performers. Who can ever forget:
Gene Gene the Dancing Machine (Gene Patton) was a heavy-set, middle-aged black man wearing a warm-up suit and flat hat. Gene-Gene’s arrival would always be treated as though it were a glorious surprise to everyone on the show, especially Barris. Upon hearing the opening notes to his theme music (an arrangement of “Jumpin’ at the Woodside”, a popular Count Basie song), Barris’ face would light up and he would stop the show, yielding the stage to Gene-Gene. Members of the crew would toss random objects from the wings, littering the stage while Gene-Gene danced on, seemingly unaware of the activity around him. Barris and the panelists would enthusiastically mimic Gene-Gene’s dance moves, which consisted primarily of a slow-footed chug-chug motion, punctuated by an occasional, exultant fist pointed skyward. Typically, the dance break would be interrupted by a commercial or by the show’s promotional announcements.
In reality, Patton was an NBC stagehand whose backstage dancing caught the attention of Barris, who moved him out in front of the curtain when time ran short during an episode. He added membership in AFTRA to his existing IATSE membership. Occasionally, Gene-Gene filled in as one of the three mallet-wielding judges.
Patton’s popularity was such that his retirement from NBC made the national news wires in 1997, unique attention for a stagehand. In a bitter irony, Patton’s legs were amputated in the early 2000s due to complications from diabetes. He died in 2015.