Bob Pantano, the host of 98.1-FM's Saturday Night Dance Party, had a pretty great 40th anniversary present. Pantano, who has been broadcasting his show since 1977, got news that he's the No. 1-rated radio show in all demographics in the latest Nielsen ratings, including the 25-to-54 age range.
His 40th anniversary party at Deptford's Adelphia Restaurant will feature acts like Tavares (“Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel”) and the Blue Notes and a tribute to Donna Summer, among others who will help congratulate the 67-year-old Pantano, who has no designs on quitting any time soon.
It's a long time. I had an idea 40 years ago to do a live broadcast from a nightclub. It was at the Library nightclub on City Line Avenue in 1977. I played disco: "Heaven Must be Missing an Angel," "Disco Inferno." But it wasn't WOGL then, the station was 98.1 WCAU-FM at the time. In 1981, they switched formats and I was at WIOQ-FM and then I came back in 1989. But the radio show has always been on. I never missed a week.
Only when I got married. That was Jan. 13, 1985.
So you've never gone on vacation for a full week?
I don't vacation on Saturday, I come back on Friday. The show like it is today, we brought it back in 1982 at the Ripley Music Hall on South Street. Stephen Starr brought me back to do the live radio show. So, it's been at a continuous live venue starting in 1982. We did it live for a while, but then we recorded it and did studio shows.
What is it about DJing live that you like so much?
The liveness just brings excitement to the show. It brings the excitement right to the people. You can feel the excitement of a song, rather than be in a studio looking at four walls.
Even the best DJs can lose a crowd. What's your savior song, the song you always know will get people dancing?
You can't lose with Michael Jackson or Prince. They're the ultimate dance songs and they cut across all demographics, everyone from 21 to 90 knows those artists. Whitney Houston too. Come out on the dance floor, you'll see 20-year-olds singing "Billie Jean," "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough." It's hard for me to believe, but they do. "I Will Survive," by Gloria Gaynor.
You've got some love stories on the dance floor as well.
We've had people propose, get engaged live. They actually request to do it on the air.
Has anyone ever said no?
They've always said yes. That's where the happy people go, to the dance party. They dance and they fall in love. We had two or three proposals live on the air last year at Adelphia. Everybody says yes.
Have you ever been invited to one of the weddings?
No! But they come back and become regulars. People grew up with this great music and they're reliving the '70s and '80s again. It's powerful music, decades of music you'll never see again. Music was real, real singers, real instruments, nothing synthetic.
After doing this for 40 years, is there anything that surprises you?
That at my age, they're still doing the dance party and that the dance floor is jam-packed. And that we have the No. 1 show in Philadelphia at my age. It's perfect timing again. To be No. 1 at the 40th anniversary is fascinating. I feel good.
Any plans for retirement?
Nope, just going to keep working. As long as everybody keeps dancing, I'll keep playing. I just can't walk away. It's impossible.
8 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Adelphia Restaurant & Nightclub, 1750 Clements Bridge Road, Deptford, $25 (advance); $30 (at the door), 856-845-8200, www.adelphiarestaurant.com.