Francine Dancer can’t go anywhere in Los Angeles without being recognized. But her fans are often shocked to see her rolling through the city in a wheelchair, propelling herself Flintstones-style with her feet. They’re shocked because on her top-rated cable-access show The Francine Dancer Variety Show, Ms. Dancer, as her name suggests, gyrates nonstop for 30 minutes. Due to a back injury caused by an abusive boyfriend, Dancer has difficulty walking. But when the cameras roll, she forgets the pain and gives it her all.
“I didn’t try to have the number-one public-access show,” she says modestly. “It just happened by mistake.”
Throughout the course of each episode, Dancer performs a PG-13 striptease. She often begins her show wearing a tube top; suddenly, her top becomes her miniskirt; and finally, she removes the tube-top mini completely to reveal a metallic spandex bikini. Dancer may not be the typical 20-something stripper with a gym-rat body, but that’s much of her appeal.
The blond go-go dancer moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in 1979. She sent her résumé to all 52 agents in a Hollywood phone book and received two responses: One agent told her she had the worst résumé he’d ever seen, but the other one found her jobs as a bikini dancer. When bikini clubs went topless, Dancer refused to work nude. She had no job and, worse, no outlet for her creativity.
Then, one fateful day at Venice Beach, Dancer met street performers/public-access veterans Elton and Betty White. The duo inspired Francine to produce her own show. The rest is cable-access TV history.
While she makes no money from her show, viewers sometimes hire her for dancing gigs. Dancer doesn’t just dance; she also sings original compositions, her most famous being “Pizza Box,” which is about, well, a pizza box. (Check it out at www.myspace/francined.) Francine also “plays” guitar, but has trouble forming chords with her extra-long press-on nails. Her music makes the Shaggs seem tighter than Van Halen.
Occasionally, she’ll have a guest on her show, invariably a tall, longhaired man. Any man with long hair will do, even a transvestite.
“I have a long-hair fetish,” she admits.
Francine’s poetry teacher once insisted that she stop writing about men with long hair. Dancer responded by coding her poems in symbolic language, describing trees with long, flowing branches.
Lengthy locks have brought much joy to her personal life, but the combination of having no permanent address and a hair fetish has sometimes forced her to live on the streets. Though many friends would be happy to give her a place to stay — as long as she didn’t bring home creepy, longhaired dudes — Dancer would rather sleep in a doorway with a hairy bass player than slumber peacefully in a comfortable bed without one.