Dick Clark, ‘America’s Oldest Teenager’ Dies at 82
Dick Clark, “America’s Oldest Teenager,”host of the pioneering ( and longest running variety show) “American Bandstand” died Wednesday at 82. The music industry maverick went on to become a powerhouse producer,shepherding a slew of shows and specials along with his trademark “Rockin’ Eve,” , which became a fixture of New Year’s celebrations.
Clark’s agent Paul Shefrin said in statement that the veteran host died this morning following a “massive heart attack.”
Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y on Nov. 30, 1929, Richard Wagstaff Clark began his lifelong career in show business before he was even out of high school. He started working in the mail room of WRUN, a radio station in upstate New York run by his father and uncle. It wasn’t long before the teenager was on the air, filling in for the weatherman and the announcer.
Clark pursued his passion at Syracuse University, working as a DJ on the student run station; eventually he took his talents on the road, landing a gig in Philadelphia. Within five years, he was spinning records and showcasing groups and dance crazes ( along with dance-crazy kids) on TV. In 1963 Clark–and “Bandstand” went Hollywood.
In a radio interview some years back, Clark, who was as perennially youthful and ebullient in person as he was on TV, summed up his success in one word, “enthusiasm.”
“If you like what you’re doing it shows,” he told me. And his passion for music and for the generations of fans who flocked to his shows was evident.
“Bandstand” ran for decades, never deviating from it’s simple and successful formula. Clean-cut kids danced to everything from Elvis to Disco; The Beatles to Kiss. Thousands of records were rated, dances and wild fashion fads were highlighted.
He also ran Dick Clark Productions, and began cranking out one hit show after another; his name became synonymous with everything from the ” $25,000 Pyramid” to “TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes” to the “American Music Awards.” In 1972, Dick Clark became synonymous with one of the biggest nights of the year as he launched “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve,” TV’s most famous New Year’s Eve Party. After suffering a stroke in 2004, Ryan Seacrest signed on to help with the hosting duties, but Clark continued to make appearances.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications ran the numbers and figures Dick Clark Productions has turned out more than 7,500 hours of television programming, including more than 30 series and 250 specials, as well as more than 20 movies for theatre and TV.
All this earned Clark a long list of awards and accolades: Emmys, Grammys, induction in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It also made him one of the richest men in Hollywood; he also had stakes in a wide range of businesses, including restaurants, theatres and real estate.
America’s Oldest Teenager has certainly left his indelible mark on generations of fans. There’s no disputing he helped change rock ‘n’ roll and TV forever. His signature sign-off was “For now, Dick Clark … so long,” always said with a salute. No doubt, today, generations of Americans are saluting back.
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