Hold Me Closer, Dancing Gino. Gino? Gino!

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The Wall Street Journal (via Boston Daily) yesterday had a story about trying to track down Gino, a dancing Lothario from American Bandstand, who the Celtics flash in a clip on the JumboTron when victory seems imminent. The Celtics were even interested in doing a documentary on him. Well, they still can, but don't expect any new quotes. Because he's dead.

The video, taken from a 1977 episode of the show, features dancers showing off the Hustle and other retro moves and is set on any given night to popular tunes of yesteryear.

The Celtics have been using the video for a few years, but it didn't get a mass following because the losing team didn't have many opportunities for disco celebration. This year the Celtics posted the best record in the league, and "the cult of Gino has really taken hold," Rich Gotham, the Celtics' team president, says.

One dancer, Terry Izen of East Highlands, Calif., received a call a few weeks ago from another former dancer telling her to check out the Gino video on YouTube.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, it's Joe Massoni!'" says Ms. Izen, who says she is the redhead to the right of him in the video.

The news couldn't have been sadder. Mr. Massoni, the woman said, passed away 18 years ago from pneumonia. "I didn't want to burst everybody's bubble because it's been so neat what's been going on in Boston," Ms. Izen said. The Wall Street Journal couldn't independently verify the claim that Mr. Massoni is the deceased dancer. But Dick Clark Productions vouches for Ms. Izen's story. A spokeswoman for the San Bernardino, Calif., coroner's office confirmed that a man named Joseph R. Massoni passed away in 1990 at age 34 in Fontana, Calif. Calls to the residence of Mr. Massoni's brother weren't returned.

You hear that? You may win your championship, Boston. But you'll never have your Gino back. Not that, like the team itself, you cared much about him until the Celtics started winning.