Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Seven Things to Know About Miss Perpetual Motion (that'd be Candy Johnson!)

1. Candy Johnson gained fame as the fast-shakin' go-go dancer in the colorful fringe outfits in four Beach Party movies made in 1963-64: Beach Party; Bikini Beach; Pajama Party; and Muscle Beach Party (shown on right with "Little" Stevie Wonder in the background). Those are the only movies she made!

2. In the first film, Candy is aptly billed as the "perpetual motion dancer." In the other three films, her character's name is...Candy. Her character's hip gyrations are so dangerous that--if aimed properly--they could send a guy flying across a room without even touching him. Thus, Candy comes in handy when Frankie and the boys are fighting Eric Von Zipper's gang.

Candy's hips send Deadhead flying in Bikini Beach.

Candy doing her act in a nightclub.
3. Candy was discovered by Red Gilson, who managed a West Coast band called The Exciters. Gilson convinced her to join the band and she became its "frontman." The band, which became billed as Candy Johnson and Her Exciters, played lounges in Palm Springs and Las Vegas. That's where she attracted the attention of American International Pictures executives.

4. Candy could have made a fortune with her weight loss program; she allegedly burned off five to fifteen pounds a night when performing her lounge act. In Tom Lisanti's book, Drive-in Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-movie Starlets of the 1960s, he mentions that Candy ate steak and potatoes every night to make up for the weight loss. He also included one of Candy's quotes to the press: "If your trouble is too much weight, just twist it off!"

5. Red Gilson started a small label called Canjo Records (the name being a truncation of Candy Johnson, of course). Canjo only released two albums: The Candy Johnson Show at Bikini Beach and Ray Ryan Presents The Candy Johnson Show. They're both very rare, but not pricey for collectibles. You can buy a near-mint copy of either album for around $40. Canjo Records also released 45s featuring Candy's Beach Party series co-stars Jody McCrea (Bonehead or Deadhead) and Meredith MacRae (Animal). The "A" side of McCrea's single was "Chicken Surfer" and the "B" side was "Looney Gooney Bird." Meredith MacRae, who later gained fame on My Three Sons and Petticoat Junction, sang "Image of a Boy" on her single.

A rare moment of stillness.
6. Candy performed at the World's Fair in New York in 1964-65. Allegedly, that's where the members of The Strangeloves saw her and were so inspired they wrote their #11 pop hit "I Want Candy."

7. Candy Johnson and Red Gilson married in the late 1960s and opened a New York City nightclub called The Candy Store. It didn't last long and neither did her marriage to Gilson. Candy subsequently retired from show business (some sources claimed she turned down the role on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in that eventually went to Goldie Hawn). Candy kept a low profile for many years, but did make a rare public appearance at a special 2006 screening of Beach Party--where she received a standing ovation. Candy Johnson died in 2012 at the age of 68.


  1. I'm a big C.J. fan! Check out a page with fun facts and photos at:

    1. Thanks for the link to your fun CJ page. As for the price of her records, I have seen online prices in the range I quoted. However, without ordering and inspecting the product, I can't say for certain they're the real thing.

  2. Candy is such a fun part of the Beach Party movies. I enjoyed reading your post about her although it was sad reading #7. I'll bet she was a phenomenal hula hooper!

    1. Toto, I agree that Candy could have been a champion hula hooper.

  3. I'm so glad you featured Candy. She was amazing! I get exhausted just watching her.

    She says she lost 5-10 lbs per night doing her show? Man, I believe it!