A newsmaker you should know: Harry's son to reopen Danceland with new name

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Harry's Danceland is opening again in Latrobe, but not the way it used to be -- and not with the iconic name.

"We thought about maybe [calling it] Danceland's Club Ice," said Harry A. Lattanzio, who plans to open the under-21 club in September or October. "But [the original] Danceland was my father's baby, and you need big shoes to follow in his footsteps."

Last month, his father, Harry C. Lattanzio, responded to a question he had heard for years: "When are you going to have another oldies dance?"


OCCUPATION: Since 1941, operated Skateland, later called Harry's Danceland and other names for young people in his building in Latrobe.

FAMILY: Lives in Latrobe with Ann, his wife of 53 years; the couple has four children: Harry A. of Laurel Mountain, Ron of Johnstown, Julie Cindric of Texas and Joanne Keene of Massachusetts; and 17 grandchildren.

EARLY YEARS: Born and grew up in Hillside, Derry Township, then moved to Latrobe.

QUOTABLE: "I couldn't have lived in a better city than Latrobe. They treated me royally, and it was fun to live here. I wouldn't trade it for any other city."

He finally did, and on May 15, it was déjà vu as hundreds of '50s-era rock 'n' rollers came back to dance once again to the music they grew up with, when the place was called Harry's Danceland. The reunion dance was such a significant event in town that Latrobe council declared May 15 as Harry Lattanzio Day.

The elder Mr. Lattanzio thinks that a new club for teens is a great idea.

"There's nothing around here like that," he said. "There's no place for the kids to go and dance. When I was running the place, we had kids coming from all around, and it was a safe place to be."

From 1941 until about five years ago, his dance club at 201 Depot St. -- under various names --drew young people from the Latrobe area and farther away.

The elder Mr. Lattanzio was born in Hillside, a village in Derry Township, where his parents ran a small grocery store. When he was 6, his father, Anthony, was killed while crossing railroad tracks on a stormy night. Anthony Lattanzio's widow, Julia, continued running the store, then moved her family to Latrobe in the 1940s.

Mr. Lattanzio originally called his place Skateland. During World War II, his sisters, Virginia and Rose, ran it while he served three years with the U.S. Army.

He eventually renamed the place Harry's Danceland, and that was its most popular incarnation with live headliner bands. Many of the entertainers were rising stars that he saw on "American Bandstand."

So many famous entertainers came to Latrobe that Mr. Lattanzio was called "the Dick Clark of Western Pennsylvania." He brought in the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Frankie Avalon, Dionne Warwick, Conway Twitty, Chubby Checker, Paul Anka, Fabian, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Bo Diddley and more.

When the music wasn't live, teens danced to records spun by Pittsburgh disc jockeys Barry Kaye, Jay Michael, Clark Race and Porky Chedwick.

Danceland later turned into Bonkers, Illusion, Planet Bubba (the last time the elder Mr. Lattanzio ran it), and for a short time in 2008, it was Club Ice under different management.

"We always had big crowds and the kids enjoyed themselves," Mr. Lattanzio said. "We had some pretty good shows."

His son recalled that he worked at the dances more than he danced.

"The kids were great, they were always respectful and I think that had to do with how my father treated them."

A lot of those "kids" came back for the recent oldies dance, many with stories to tell and some with notes.

"You provided a great time for all of us now 'oldies,' " one person wrote.

Another wrote: "Wow, I never thought I'd return to Harry's Danceland."

The senior Mr. Lattanzio is a local legend.

"I think it's great that he was honored with the proclamation," said his wife, Ann, who met him at the dances. "It was a long time coming."

Mr. Lattanzio has a mutual admiration for the town and its people.

"I couldn't have lived in a better city than Latrobe," he said.

His son owns PRS Pharmacy Services Inc., a consultant for independent pharmacies that has its headquarters in the same building that housed Danceland. He and his wife, Kelly, who live in Laurel Mountain, will run the new dance club and already have opened the place for charity events and private parties.

"We hope to go weekly with the dances, but we'll probably start off monthly to see how it goes,'' he said.

The original Harry claims that he will not be involved in the new dance club.

"That's their deal," he said of his son and daughter-in-law.

But his son doubts it.

"He can do whatever he wants," the younger Mr. Lattanzio said. "But I'll bet he'll be there. It's going to be hard to keep him away."

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller, freelance: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com .


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