Wednesday, April 18, 2012

R.I.P. Dick Clark

The world’s oldest teenager has died. Dick Clark passed away today at 82. For years, as the rest of us grew older, Dick Clark seemed to stay the same – not only in youthful appearance but being contemporary as well. I remember him once on AMERICAN BANDSTAND interviewing Alice Cooper and thinking: “why does this not look weird?” I’m sure his Roledex went from Lady Godiva to Lady Gaga. And the secret?   He genuinely did love all the performers and the evolution of popular music.

Every generation found him cool, from the boomers of the ‘50s and ‘60s who danced to AMERICAN BANDSTAND every afternoon, to the kids of the ‘70s-‘90s who know him through game shows and blooper specials, and everyone else who couldn’t usher in a new year without Dick counting down the final seconds. He was a mainstay in our lives, projecting a calm personable presence that put us all at ease at a time when everything else was making us crazy.

And his on-air work was just the tip of the iceberg. Behind-the-scenes, Dick Clark was a giant in the music industry. His influence on Rock n’ Roll was immeasurable. He provided exposure to so many artists and championed so many emerging music styles that the line of musicians, arrangers, song writers, and music executives who owe him a great debt could stretch from the Capitol Records building in Hollywood to the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

It was a shock to all of us when Clark suffered a stroke in 2004. His first year back on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was heartbreaking but courageous. He had really made a statement for coping with disabilities with grace and dignity. I always winced the subsequent years seeing him on the show because I feared that’s how people were going to remember him. Please don’t.

Remember Dick Clark as a vibrant personality -- boyish and totally together. The Fonz in a suit. The man who for fifty years drank from the Soda Fountain of Youth.

I will miss him… year after year after year.

25 comments:

slgc said...

Thank you for this Ken.

By coincidence, my husband and I were trying to explain Dick Clark and American Bandstand to our 15-year-old the other day, and he had absolutely no context for the discussion. Your column will make it easier for him to understand who Dick Clark was, and how much of a loss this is.

Rock Golf said...

Marshall McLuhan said that TV was a "cool medium", that is calmer people tended to last longer. Few could deign to be as cool as Dick Clark. He is still the only person to simultaneously host 3 series on the (then) big 3 networks. Between 1984 & 86, Bandstand was on ABC, Bloopers was on NBC and Pyramid was on CBS.

normadesmond said...

but he did live in fred flintstone's malibu house.
his musical taste may have been great,
but in architecture, not so much.

Baylink said...

@SLGC: "American Dreams" might help.

@Rock Golf: I've very much like to add that to Wikipedia; is it citable to a source?

BigTed said...

@SLGC: "Hairspray" (the movie, the musical, and the movie of the musical) is based on a Baltimore dance show that was similar to the local Philadelphia version of "American Bandstand."

Jim McGrath said...

and we will remember Dick Clark every New Year's Eve, much like our (grand)parents think of Guy Lombardo, and our children will probably end up thinking about Ryan Seacrest.

D. McEwan said...

Without Dick, there will be no more New Year's Eves. It will be 2012 FOREVER! So that's what the Mayans meant.

Once, in the late 1960s, my family and I were visiting the San diego Zoo, taking the bus-tram tour, sitting iup top of the doubledecker zoo bus. Dick and his family wer also on the bus top with us for the tour, and was left alone to enjoy the day with his family free from fan intrusion.

Phillip B said...

How wonderful that the two most recent pictures on your blog are of Dick Clark and Johnny Carson.

These guys were "broadcasters" - and the various media do not have that career path open anymore...

YEKIMI said...

Bandstand is one of the earliest shows I can remember watching growing up. I can remember thinking "I wanna do THAT when I grow up" meaning just playing music [I did, just not on TV]. I was one of the ones that watched Guy Lombardo's New Years Eve shows, mainly because that's about all there was on and that's what my parents watched. When Dick started his New Years Rockin' Eve, it was goodbye Guy. Thanks Dick, for giving me memories that will last a lifetime.

Mister Charlie said...

He was ubiquitous in our lives (we Boomers) over the decades, an amazingly professional performer, producing a large amount of mass entertainment for what, two? generations...and in a good, productive way.

jbryant said...

I happened to catch an episode of the Chuck Connors series BRANDED a couple of weeks ago on MeTV, and it featured Dick Clark as the operator of a small circus. He was rather good!

We were at the same Christmas party a few years before his stroke. He brushed past me, but I didn't get to meet him. Would've liked to have told him how much his shows meant to me as a kid (WHERE THE ACTION IS was as big a favorite as BANDSTAND).

Jeffrey Mark said...

I got hooked on watching Dick and American Bandstand in early 1965 when he did an entire show on The Beatles. I rarely missed a Saturday show growing up in the mid-late '60s, always looking forward to the great musical guests he had on. One show I will always remember was in early February 1967. He was world premiering the Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane videos. To this 10 year old the films were out of this world surrealistic and magical. What always left a strong impression on me was how cool Dick was just sitting on the bleachers with the kids, talking one on one with them, in a very relaxed casual manner, very unpretentious and very real. I loved how he asked some of the kids what they thought of the Beatles' new hairy looks and what they thought of their new style of music. He just had a great, down to earth style talking with the kids...it was really important to him to hear their opinions - they mattered to him, you can really see it as he asks them questions about what they have just seen. The man genuinely loved music and he championed some really great stuff back then. He was honest and he was a real gentleman. Not a lot like him around anymore with his passing - and with Mike Wallace's passing as well. We'll never find broadcasters quite like them again. An era has come to an end, sadly.

Pat Reeder said...

I met him once when a radio station where I was production director hosted a fundraising party for his cranio-facial charity for kids. He came up to the studio to cut a promo I had to produce. He struck me as very professional and down-to-earth. He talked to all the star-struck staffers as if they were old friends and waited patiently for me to set up the studio. Did it perfectly the first time, then asked me if I'd like him to do another take for safety. None of that Orson Welles storming-out-in-a-huff-if-asked-for-a-second-take crap. Just a genuinely nice guy. Wish there were more like him.

D. McEwan said...

Here's an offbeat entry on Dick Clark's acting resume: he turned out to be the murderer in the final episode of the TV series Perry Mason with Raymond Burr. He was the last person Burr goaded into shouting in court: "Yes, I killed him. I killed him and I'm glad!" or words to that effect. After all, who would suspect Dick Clark?

Birdie said...

I've heard mixed things about him behind the scenes, but nonetheless a very sad day. I probably watched him more on Pyramid than anything else. I loved how he would kind of play Mr Know-it-all and throw out his "perfect" clues to a celebrity after he or she lost on the bonus round. But I have to say it pained me to watch him on NYE these past few years. I thought it was exploitative, truthfully.

Mike McCann said...

"The man who drank soda from the Fountain of Youth." What a perfect line to put a ribbon on Dick's life!

(The only tack-on might have been crediting him with being savvy enough to also have invested in the bottling plant that supplied the soda).

Richard Y said...

God Bless and Thanks for the memories!!!!!!

Ray Barrington said...

Let's see, there would probably be major headlines and an obit in this space if Dick Clark had ONLY:

1. Taken Bandstand national and run it for all those years.

2. Created multiple national awards shows as well as other series.

3. Hosted tons of OTHER shows including a game show that ran for decades, along with other game and variety shows, not even including...

4. New Year's Rockin' Eve. Always surprised he couldn't sell a spinoff such as Dick Clark's Diggin' It Groundhog Day.

5. Oh, yeah, he also did some acting, hosted a syndicated radio show...

We're talking not just a finger in every pie, we're talking an octopus baker and server.

And, by the way, even with the tradition of not speaking ill of those who have left us, nobody seemed to have a bad thing to say against the guy. In showbiz!!!!!!!

Only the good die young. Dick Clark was 82 ... going on 20.

McAlvie said...

You know, what's sad is that we view people like Dick Clark and Mike Wallace as so remarkable today. It's sad that so few live up to those standards today.

RIP Dick Clark. And thanks for everything.

Anonymous said...

Where the Action is was my first sighting of Mark Lindsay & Paul Revere and the Raiders.

Thanks for that, Dick!

RIP, Mr. Clark. Thanks for everything.

Pam, aka SisterZip

Al said...

When Don Cornelius died a couple of months ago, I remember thinking, "Well at least Dick Clark is still around". Dick Clark, Don Cornelius and the Superfriends are together responsible for every Saturday of my childhood pretty much until I went to college ( and even after to be honest). He will be missed.

GMJ said...

In the mid to late 1970s, on two separate occasions, I dragged my mother and two brothers to a taping of The $10,000/$20,000 Pyramid. This was when the show was produced in NYC at theater/broadcast studio that, sadly, was demolished in the mid-1980s. This was the time when Mr. Clark commuted every week between NY and LA.

I've made claims that the only legal pyramid game I ever wanted to play was the one hosted by Dick Clark.

Barry Traylor said...

I have good memories of coming home from school in the late 50's and watching American Bandstand with a couple of my high school friends.
Clark did so much for the musical careers of many performers.

cadavra said...

In less than a week, we've lost Clark, Jonathan Frid and Levon Helm. What a giant hole that leaves from my teen years!

RCP said...

cadavra said...

"In less than a week, we've lost Clark, Jonathan Frid and Levon Helm. What a giant hole that leaves from my teen years!"

I always liked Jonathan Frid. As a kid I couldn't really analyze it, but could recognize the pathos he brought to the role of Barnabas Collins. It would have been so easy to be campy. Joan Bennett also managed to bring dignity to her role - no easy trick with sets that shook when doors were closed too hard. Then there was David Selby as Cousin Quentin - probably my first crush on a man - but that's another story.