LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com)  —  He starred on TV’s “The Gong Show” for years but few people could probably tell you his real name.

Berkely-born Gene Patton died Monday in Pasadena at the age of 82.

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Millions knew the beloved 70’s era hoofer as Gene Gene The Dancing Machine. The truth was, he wasn’t really a dancer at all.

He was a stagehand at NBC when “Gong Show” producer Chuck Barris came up with the idea of having Patton do wild gyrations (some might have called dancing) in between strange and weird acts the “Gong Show” became famous/infamous for.

Sometimes, even in the middle of an atrocious act, Barris would cue Patton to dance to Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.”

Patton’s family said he died from complications from diabetes. Ironically, for a man known as a dancing machine, he lost both legs to the disease in 2001,

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“The Gong Show” — a cross between a game show, talent show and geek show — was a ribald, quirky and often nutty amalgam of real and fictional “acts” (defying celebrity panelists to “gong” them off the stage). It was a huge afternoon hit for NBC (1976-78) as well as a syndication version (1976-1980).

Patton’s other credits include “MyTutor,” “The Gong Show Movie” and as himself in the Chuck Barris biopic “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” For a time, Patton also worked on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” as a cameraman.

Patton — the stagehand union’s first-ever black member — would have turned 83 next month.

He is survived by a sister, four children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandshildren.


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