Ironically, this go-go dancing scenemaker of the '60s is sometimes confused with a veteran jazz saxophonist who earned the nickname "Candy" the honest way: by chewing on the stuff. Floyd "Candy" Johnson played a lot of different styles of jazz, but at the height of his career was honking out the type of material that Candy Johnson probably boogied to, including the stripper's number one favorite, the immortal "Night Train." So perhaps there was some kind of psychic connection, furthermore linked by the concept of the extended "Johnson" family in frontier legend. One might assume that the go-go dancer would have caused more trouble for the saxophonist's career than the other way around, but there were also disadvantages for the dancer. While females in general would be horrified at having their date of birth published incorrectly and a good 15 years too early, few are actually subjected to such torture. Candy Johnson the dancer was, as most career biographies state, born May 1, 1922 -- the day the jazz saxophonist was born. Film scholars who have seen her onscreen in any of the four Beach Party movies would handily dismiss the notion that she would have been in her forties at the time these masterpieces of cinema were shot. She had studied dance as a child and continued her studies while going to San Gabriel High in Los Angeles. The Candy Johnson Show first opened in the Safari Lounge of the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs, CA, in 1962, attracting standing-room only crowds for two years straight. The 1,500th show of this series was the one that was recorded live and released as Johnson's first disc, but if there was ever an example of recording technology failing to capture the full glory of the moment, then this is it. "Is there a video?" would be the inevitable question, but this was the '60s, unfortunately. Johnson took it on the road anyway, as one element of the era that worked in her favor was the repressive recording industry. Independently released "adult" vinyl on indie labels that appeared risqué was a hot property, selling quickly no matter how racy the material actually was. Backed by her Exciters, Johnson sang and danced at many resorts and nightclubs throughout the Southwest, including the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. Critics tended to use the majority of their column inches to describe her movements on-stage rather than whatever it was she was doing with her vocal pipes. A Las Vegas newsie compared her non-stop wiggling to perpetual movement, leading to the nickname of "Miss Perpetual Motion." To nobody's surprise, the sleazy but constantly enjoyable American International Pictures came to think of her as a sizzling property, maybe to give their aging horror stars such as Vincent Price and Boris Karloff someone to ogle. Conceptually, things were coming together as she released her second album, The Candy Johnson Show at Bikini Beach, which again could never really hope to capture what went on, even if it were to come covered in sand. The movie studios were looking at the beaches, too, as settings for new films in which teenagers would cavort in their suits, interrupted by songs from popular rock bands. Plots could also be devised, if deemed necessary. The third film in the Beach Party was where Johnson made her cinematic debut, prompting one of this artist's websites to describe the resulting activity thusly: "...she actually speaks." The film also features some of the songs from her two albums, both of which were released on the artist's own label, a project that was apparently rather short-lived. The company released only the two albums and a half-dozen singles. She started the label with her agent and manager, Red Gilson, credited also as a co-writer on many songs that The Candy Johnson Show released. While her original material did not, the songs she chose to cover actually did have some range. She did a spiritual, "Swing Low," perhaps to shock or excite the sanctimonious in the crowd. She also did jazzy material, such as "Yes Sir, That's My Baby," and obvious choices such as a cover of the torrid Peggy Lee number "Fever." Based on box office receipts of the Beach Party pictures, however, some recording artists felt it was their civic duty to record cover versions of the material, including Johnson's numbers. Was there a post-Beach Party film career for this actress? Some databases credit her as appearing in the 1972 X-rated Behind the Green Door, but followers of the go-go dancer say the actress was actually Kandi Johnson. There have been reports that Johnson has joined the gaggle of exhausted country & western troupers in Branson, MO, working as a choreographer.
Share this page