Independent Lens


The Dancing Man of L.A.

The Dancing Man of L.A. is 69-year-old Howard Mordoh, retired clinical laboratory scientist and possibly the world’s biggest concert enthusiast. A notorious fixture of the Los Angeles music scene for decades, Howard’s love of concerts spans genres and venues, as long as he can keep dancing. But with live music canceled during the COVID pandemic, Howard has to get creative in order to keep dancing.

AIRED: May 24, 2021 | 0:25:57


[ Cheers and applause ]


[ Whistling ]


-What do I know about the white-haired dancing man?

-He's got sweet moves.

I know that.


-I don't even know his name.

I've never spoken to him other than an approving nod.


-He's the guy with the big white hair

spinning around in circles.

Definitely enjoys being the center of attention.


Howard loves music,

and he loves the show,

but he also loves becoming the show.

-There's one guy who's really excited,

'cause he's taking up, like, two rows there,

and he's doing some fantastic dancing.


[ Cheers and applause ]


-Sometimes, you just look for someone

who's gonna give you that extra-special mojo.

Eyes raised to the balcony,

and there's, like, a white-haired angel dancing.

We had to call him down.


-Dude, your moves are an inspiration for my moves.

-He'll start to work up to a signature spin,

which, you know -- I personally, over time,

when I'd spot him, I would just get caught up into it.

You know, I would want him to do the spin.

We'll almost rate a show by how many spins.

You know, five spins, ten spins -- great show.

No spins. I didn't see any spins.

-Some of my friends get mad at me, 'cause it's like,

"Howard, you're not paying attention to the concert.

You're too busy dancing and watching

other people watch you."

-I've seen him at countless shows.

-He's a staple.

It's like, "There's the bar.

There's the stage.

Oh, there's Howard."



[ Birds chirping ]


-How many days a week do you go to concerts?

-I mean, this last two months,

it's been like five out of seven nights.

And some of the nights, I went to two shows the same night.

[ Laughs ] Everything in red...

is a doctor's appointment, therapist --

anything related medically, you know?

Everything in green is a concert I'm going to.

The dark green is something going on sale.

Everything in orange is a concert.

Maybe I'll go to it.

If one ends early, I can catch the other one.

A lot of those oranges end up being green in the end.

[ Chuckles ]

And here's where the article -- I was in the "LA Weekly."

"Who is Dancing Man, and why is he everywhere?"

[ Laughs ] Here I am.

"Dancing King."

[ Laughs ]

It should have said "Dancing Queen."

[ Laughs ]

-He was dancing from the beginning of our relationship.

As a matter of fact, it used to embarrass me,

but I got over that soon.

I had to get over it... [ Laughs ]

...because he was gonna dance no matter what.

But nobody cared.

Then, as soon as his hair turned white,

he gained...

the fandom.

-I don't know. He looks pretty old.

-No, it's just his hair.

-His beard, also.

-I saw this man on the side aisle

dancing and spinning around.

Who the heck is this person?

He was literally the only person in the venue standing.

I think there's a joy and energy inside him

that he has to get out.

He wouldn't be able to sit still if you paid him to.

[ Projector whirring ]

-Well, they used to call him "Ants In His Pants."

[ Laughs ] He was very, very hyper,

and he's been that way since he was young.

He was always dancing to the music.


-Before I could walk, I could dance.

My mother would put something on the stereo,

and I'd start dancing around.

And as soon as the music stopped,

I'd fall on the floor again. [ Chuckles ]

I guess it was in me, somehow.

Something -- Some other power was getting me off the ground.

My parents used to go out, and they would win dance contests.

They'd do the old '40s dancing --

you know, the swing dancing.

So I guess the dancing was in the family, you know?


And my father was a drummer,

and my sister ended up being a drummer.


Well, we used to sit in my mother's room,

and we would watch "American Bandstand."

And we'd watch them dance,

and we'd try to learn the dances.


-We even were on "American Bandstand."


There was another old TV show we'd watch --

"Soul Train."


-And that's how we learned to dance.


And I thought, "Maybe I should be a dancer."

And my dad just took a fit.

[ Record scratches ] "You can't be a dancer!

When you get old, you can't dance anymore."

Yeah, look at me.

I'm still dancing. I'm still spinnin'.

[ Laughs ]

Who knew, right?

Well, I'm not Baryshnikov or anything.

[ Mouse clicking ]

I'm a retired clinical laboratory scientist...

which most people don't even believe.

I can't believe I did that for 35 years.

But, it ends up leaving me a nice 401k,

so I can afford to take some money out every month,

and that's my concert cash along with Social Security.


Hollywood Bowl time.


Oh, I'm so sad.

This is the last night.

I consider my last outdoor show in Los Angeles

as the end of summer.

So, the other night was Thom Yorke

at the Hollywood Bowl -- I mean, at the Greek Theater,

and tonight is Sara Bareilles at the Hollywood Bowl.

So, no more shows till summer.

[ Turn signal clicking ]

One guy that works there loves to talk about me.

"You go to so many shows here, you they should pay you to go!"

[ Chuckles ] "You should get free tickets."

Well, if only the powers that be...

would say, "Yes, Howard.

You make the crowd more fun,

so we should give you free tickets to everything."

Yeah. In my dreams. [ Laughs ]


I picked 27 in my head to stay...

for my perennial age.


My head is still back there.

You know, I've still got all this energy.

I'm glad I can go to a show

and get everybody happy that I'm there,

and I get them to dance with me.

And I throw this positive energy out,

and it comes back at me.

All those studies about how music helps you live longer.

Well, I could live to 100, but I don't know

if my body will keep up with me.


I feel lucky that I'm so close to the Metro,

where I don't have to drive if I don't want to.

A lot of my friends my age,

they don't want to drive, period.

They'll do Uber or Lyft or just won't go.

Can you imagine me staying home? [ Laughs ]

I can't yet.


That is gorgeous.

Oh. Awesome, isn't it?


[ Indistinct chatter ]

I've been called lots of names, you know.

But the one that got me the most

that I never really thought about --

they called me an attention whore.


And I had to think about it for a while.

I said, "You know, I think that's kind of right."


I crave the attention.

When I was a little kid, you know,

I was always running after my mom.

I wanted to be accepted.

I learned that through therapy. [ Laughs ]

[ Approaching train roaring ]

-It was back in the '70s when I met him.

We attended many concerts together.

Back in those days,

you had to line up the night before

just to buy tickets.

So, there was a rumor that Paul McCartney and Wings

was going to play at the Forum.

We were first because of Howard.

-This was two days waiting in line

for Paul McCartney at the Forum.

My first five minutes of fame was this, right?

Here I am in line with my six friends

that came along with me.

Yeah, my love of music, it's right there.

It's still there, right?


It was Wings Over the Forum,

and there's all my friends.


It seems like I was the only one

who had the nerve to bring in an 8mm giant camera.





There's so many hours of this stuff.


"Neil Diamond at the Greek Theater, 1976."

Front row center. [ Chuckles ]

See? They used to call me "Front Row Mordoh."

It's funny -- this 8mm camera had a big handle.

It was all metal, and you used to have to wind it up.

And had a little reel-to-reel inside.

[ Camera shutter snaps ]

We'd just go to a show, and I would always

put the thing down my pants.

I only got busted once because a girl searched me,

and she felt it, like --

All I did was smile at her,

and she let me in anyway! [ Laughs ]

Patti Smith, Bowie --

I mean, my God. Zeppelin.

I got so many good memories.

[ Projector whirring ]

Bruce Springsteen at the Forum, 1978.

Bruce Springsteen at the Santa Monica Civic, 1976.

Fleetwood Mac at the Forum, 1977.

Third row center.

Queen, March, 1976.

I've got videos of Queen from every tour they ever did

until they stopped letting me bring in the camera.


And in those days, I would go more than one night,

'cause one night was just for filming,

and then the other night, I would leave the camera at home

just so I could dance and enjoy the music.




[ Hums ]


All right.


-For me, the fun thing about

hanging out with Howard is his fans.

There's always people just coming up to him

and hugging him and saying hello to him

as if he's a rock star.

[ Indistinct chatter ]

-The dancer! -That's me.

I'm the Dancing Man, you know?


-I know! -[ Laughs ]

-We've been to many events together.

-[ Chuckles ]

Hi. Just want to wish everybody happy New Year,

Merry Christmas. -Happy New Year.

-Happy Thanksgiving, since it's the last show

of the summer for me.

I'll see you next year.


And this is the new VIP area.

Unfortunately, I'm not a VIP, except in my own head.


-The people that work at the Hollywood Bowl love him.

I see him there at least once a week.

-Howard! -It's the last show.

It's the last show. -Aww!

No! -It's sad. Aww, it's sad.

-I've known this girl Since I was in high school.


-Everyone in Los Angeles, when you're at a show,

everyone's trying so hard to be cool.

Howard's a great reminder of trying to have fun.

And so, I mean, you look across the room,

and he's the only one having fun.

-I feel like music should be something fully immersive

and for you to really get into, and the interactivity of it,

that you can be part of this.

[ Cheers and applause ]

-Thank you so much, Los Angeles!

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Applause fades ]

-Well, you know, when it's a good show,

the energy just stays in me,

and I can still feel the music

and all that positive energy

that we listened to for two hours.

[ Wheels rumbling ]

I was living in my parent's house.

I think I had just graduated college at UCLA.

And my parents had no idea I was gay at the time.

And my father was in the backyard,

and he looked through my bedroom window,

and he caught me kissing some guy.

And, basically, I moved out a week later. [ Chuckles ]

[ Projector whirring ]

My mother goes, "Howard, are you...?"

She goes...

[ Laughs ] I don't know what that means.

Lick her tongue and fingers over the eyebrow.

That was her pantomime for "gay," I guess.


[ Whirring stops ]

-Oingo Boingo at the Whiskey

was our first date.

-Here it is, 40 years later.



This is our boutonnieres that we wore,

'cause we were coming up for the concert "Atoms for Peace."

So, I called up the judge. I go,

"Would you mind marrying us before we go to dinner?"

[ Laughs ] We went to the concert.

We were all dressed up.

And I looked at everybody in the cr--

"Howard, did you guys just come from a wedding?"

I go, "Yeah. Our wedding.

Thanks for coming to the reception. [ Laughs ]

Thom Yorke is singing at our wedding."


[ Indistinct chatter ]


When I think about how I can still go to so many shows...

how could I not be grateful?

Not only go into stuff, but I can still...

be able to walk and move and dance, you know?

-We were averaging four to five concerts a week.

That was burning me out --

going out every night.

I go to maybe one or two a month at the most anymore.

Getting old sucks.

That's all I can say.

-I look at my partner and it's like,

"God, I'm lucky if I get him out of the house."

And that's hard for me, you know?


So I just got to be...

present, and be there...

when he needs me, you know?


-I think concert-going has just become

a lifelong addiction for him.

It's in his blood, and I really don't think

he can live without it.

[ Doorbell rings ]

-Hold on.


How are you guys doing?

-Hi, Howard! -Hey, Howard.

-Hello. Excuse me.

I have to spray the Lysol first.

Okay, you guys are disinfected now.

You like my corona-casual outfit?

Everything's been canceled.

My slate -- The whole rest of the month

and half through April has already been wiped out.

And suddenly, I got all this free time,

and I don't know what to do with myself.

It's like I'm going through withdrawals

because I'm so used to being out almost every night.

You know, I just have to think of it like, "God.

Thank God I'm retired.

Thank God I don't have to go anywhere."

But right now, I gotta learn how to stay home,

and it's really hard.


-The number of reported coronavirus cases

here in the US has skyrocketed.

-Tonight, life on lockdown.

-The entertainment industry is being hit

with concert cancelations.

-It's difficult to imagine us getting together

in the thousands anytime soon.

-Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals

are now officially canceled.

-The Hollywood Bowl defines summer in Los Angeles.

And now, the Hollywood Hills will no longer be alive

with the sound of music.

-It's the first time this has happened

in almost 100 years.

-For so many, it was an absolute gut punch.


[ Program chiming ]



Just kind of in limbo.

Every day seems like the day before.

It's like "Groundhog Day."

It's like I'm going through the stages of grief.

"Arrggh! I want to go out!"

I need human contact. Virtual hug!

Virtual hug, you guys!


Thank God for all the online concerts.


But there's no one to share it with.

I feel like a drug addict, and I can't call my dealer.

"I need live music!

I need it now!"

[ Laughs ]

"When can I get some live music?!"

[ Laughs ]


I'm a little scared, but not really,

because I'm in good health.

I mean, I'm in that age group, you know?

Ken's 65. I'm 69.

I'm more scared about Ken because he's got diabetes

and high blood pressure.

I'm more afraid that I'm gonna bring something home to him

if I go out.



It's like we're in a "Twilight Zone" episode.



Here I am living in the past again.


Oh, what have we here? Where am I?

Oh, that's Oakland.

Oh, this must be The Last Waltz thing, I bet.

My first trip to San Francisco for The Last Waltz.

The band's farewell show.

We had to go, right?

[ Projector whirring ]

How old was I in 1976?

1951, '61, '71.

25. I guess I was 25.

Part of the fun of camping out for concert tickets --

you would make friends with all the people you were in line with

'cause you all had the same interests.

You wanted to get good seats for shows.

I'm still friends with these people.

We still go to concerts together.


[ Sighs ]


We got a Thanksgiving dinner.

They had the ballroom dancing in the beginning.

And then, they got rid of the tables and the dancers,

and I swooped my way into the very front.



-Do you remember what you were feeling, like, watching this?

-Just, I was in awe.

Eric Clapton.

Muddy Waters.


Neil Young.


Joni Mitchell.


And I was right there, you know?


Oh, oh!

See, that's me right there.

You can see my head.


The concert lasted till like 2:00 in the morning.


Mm. God.

That was a good time.





This is my best friend, Dave.

We met like 40 years ago

camping out at the Hollywood Bowl

for Monty Python.

He has no idea why I'm here.

[ Knocks on door ]



Oh, my God.

It's hard to fight the depression.

It really is.

The pandemic is eating away at me slowly.

Sleeping too much.

Waking up screaming sometimes.

And I just kind of dance it off, you know?

It helps.

And the longer I stay in the house,

the less I want to go out.


There's so much to miss, but I look at it like,

"My God, in my life,

I've been to more concerts in one year

than most people have been to in their lifetime

and with a bunch of people I love."


You just live for today, right?

And stay away from people, and stay safe,

'cause I want to live to be able to dance again

with all you guys.


[ Gate clatters ]


[ Laughs ]

Breaking the law. Breaking the --


[ Laughing ]

-Oh, my God.



I missed you so much!

I miss you, Hollywood Bowl!





Oh, my God!

Oh, my God.

My home away from home.





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