Richard Wagstaff “Dick” Clark
November 30, 1929 – April 18, 2012
Dick Clark, respectfully named as America’s oldest teenager, has unfortunately passed away today (April 18, 2012) due to a heart attack during an out patient procedure at the Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. He reached the highest age of being a teenager; age 82.
Dick Clark is one of the few people in the world that is enjoyed by multiple family generations. I personally remember seeing Mr. Clark every New Years Eve on ABC’s Rockin’ Eve televised celebration. I can remember when I was getting ready to watch the celebration a few years back and not seeing him host the show. Unaware that he had suffered a significant stroke which severely impaired his speech and motor skills, such as walking. Mr. Clark being nationally, maybe even worldly known for his hosting and speaking skills had to learn how to speak all over again. With the odds stacked against him, he succeeded and instantly became an inspiration to stroke victims all over the world. I remember seeing him after the stroke hosting the New Year’s show and having so much respect for him getting up there and doing what he loved, no matter what people may think or say about his speech impairment. If I was in his spot, I most likely would have hung up the towel. But not Mr. Clark. He doesn’t know how to quit. For my generation (born in the 1980’s) we mainly know him as the host of the Rockin’ New Years show, but for 2 – 3 generations before our generation knew him in a few other ways. Here is a little history about the man, the legend, and the cultural monumental icon, known as Mr. Dick Clark.
Dick Clark’s American Bandstand began in 1957 and continued until 1989. The program’s mix of lip-synched performances and its “Rate-a-Record” segment captivated teenagers, propelling Clark to fame. Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the long-running special that broadcasts on December 31 each year, began in 1972, and he has created numerous other shows over the years.
Television personality. Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on November 30, 1929, in Mount Vernon, New York, the son of Julia Fuller and Richard Augustus Clark. The couple had another son, Bradley, who was killed in World War II. Dick Clark began his career in show business in 1945 working in the mail room of radio station WRUN, which was owned by his uncle and managed by his father in Utica, New York.
The young Clark was soon promoted to weatherman and news announcer. Clark graduated from Syracuse University in New York in 1951, where he majored in business administration and landed a part-time job as a disc jockey at the student-radio station at Syracuse University. He also worked at radio and television stations in Syracuse and Utica before moving to WFIL radio in Philadelphia in 1952.
WFIL had an affiliated television station (now WPVI) which began broadcasting a show called Bob Horn’s Bandstand in 1952. Clark was a regular substitute host on the popular afternoon program, which had teenagers dancing to popular music. When Horn left the show, Clark became the full-time host on July 9, 1956. Largely through Clark’s initiative, Bandstand was picked up by ABC as American Bandstand for nationwide distribution, beginning on August 5, 1957. The program’s mix of lip-synched performances, interviews, and its famous “Rate-a-Record” segment captivated teenagers. Overnight, Clark became one of pop music’s most important taste makers. His exposure on American Bandstand, and his prime-time program, The Dick Clark Show, generated countless hits. Clark required a formal dress code of dresses or skirts for girls and coats and ties for boys that helped establish the show’s wholesome appearance. The move was an early indication of Clark’s innate ability to read the public’s mindset, and mute potential criticism. When African-Americans were introduced among the white teenage dancers in a groundbreaking move of integration on national television, Clark was able to use his influence to stifle divisive talk amongst viewers.
During the 1950s, Dick Clark also began investing in the music publishing and recording business. His business interests grew to include record companies, song publishing houses, and artist management groups. When the record industry’s “payola” scandal (involving payment in return for airplay) broke in 1959, Clark told a congressional committee he was unaware performers in whom he had interests had received disproportionate play on his programs. He sold his shares back to the corporation, upon ABC’s suggestion that his participation might be considered a conflict of interest. Clark emerged from the investigation largely unscathed, as did American Bandstand. The program grew to be a major success, running daily Monday through Friday until 1963. It was then moved to Saturdays, and was broadcast from Hollywood until 1989.
The move to Los Angeles, the center of the entertainment industry, allowed Clark to diversify his involvement in television production. Dick Clark Productions began presenting variety programs and game shows, most successfully The $25,000 Pyramid and TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes.
Among the many awards programs the company produced was the American Music Awards, which Clark created as a rival to the Grammy Awards. The special has often surpassed viewership of the Grammys, presumably because it presents performers more closely attuned to younger audiences’ tastes. Dick Clark’s production company also produced a number of movies and made-for-TV movies including Elvis, The Birth of the Beatles, Elvis and the Colonel, Wild in the Streets and The Savage Seven.
In 1972, Dick Clark produced and hosted Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the long-running special that continues to broadcast on December 31 of each year. The program consists of live segments which feature Clark, his co-hosts, and different entertainment acts in and around New York City’s Times Square. The performances continue until the clock counts down to midnight, at which time New York’s traditional New Year’s Eve ball drops, signaling the new year. The program is aired live in the Eastern Time Zone, and then tape-delayed for the other time zones so that viewers can bring in the New Year with Clark when midnight strikes in their area. For more than three decades, the show has become an annual cultural tradition in the United States for the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day holiday. In 2004, Clark was unable to appear in program due to a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed and caused difficulty of speech. That year, talk-show presenter Regis Philbin substituted as host. The following year, Clark returned to the show, with radio and TV personality Ryan Seacrest serving as the primary host.
Clark has been married three times. He married high school sweetheart Barbara Mallery in 1952, and the couple had one son, Richard, before their divorce in 1961.
He then married his former secretary, Loretta Martin, in 1962. The couple had two children, Duane and Cindy. They divorced in 1971. Since July 7, 1977, Clark was married to another of his former secretaries, dancer Kari Wigton who is unfortunately now his widow due to his untimely passing.
While Clark’s behind-the-scenes business acumen has much to do with the fortune he amassed, he is better remembered for the charming on-air personality and ageless looks that allowed him to remain one of television’s most popular hosts and pitchmen, even after American Bandstand went off the air in 1989. Five decades after he began shaping the viewing and listening habits of music fans with American Bandstand, Dick Clark was a staple in the marriage of television and rock ‘n’ roll.
Mr. Clark is an inspiration to many, myself included. I happen to be flipping channels and came across the news of which mentioned “remembering Dick Clark”. I was shocked as at that moment I had not heard the unfortunate news. So I watched the news as they had a small memorial and memorandum for the legend. I instantly thought to myself, “how will we celebrate new years now?”. Since Mr. Clark was such a huge part of bringing in the new year every year that I feel new years will never be the same. Don McClean had coined the phrase “The day the music died” which referred to the 1959 plane crash that killed the music sensations Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.)—and the aftermath. As much of an impact on entertainment, the music industry and the standard of New Year’s celebrations is it safe to say that today (April 18, 2012) is “The day New Years Eve died”? The most overused phrase of 2012 is “the Mayans were right,” but really, the Mayans were right, because 2012 is frozen is in time now that Dick Clark is no longer here with us to count us down into the next year.
Dick Clark will forever be remembered for many things. He helped so many entertainers get their exposure which may or may not have led them to stardom. These entertainers include but not limited to The Jackson 5, Chubby Checker, Stevie Wonder, Paul Anka, Aerosmith, War, The stray Cats, Little Richard, and many many more. He was a pioneer of bringing african american acts on stage, in a time when it was not necessarily accepted. New year’s eve will not be as whimsical without him. Dick Clark had long been known for his departing catchphrase, “For now, Dick Clark… so long,” delivered with a military salute, and for his youthful appearance that earned him the moniker “America’s Oldest Teenager.”
Dick Clark once had said “If you want to stay young looking, pick your parents very carefully.”
Clark is survived by his third wife, Keri Wigton, and three children.
Twitter was dominated by a flood of heart felt tweets about the loss of such an icon. Some stars couldn’t help but express their feelings about his passing:
Snoop Dogg had this to say Via Twitter (@snoopdogg) “REST IN PEACE to The DICK CLARK!! U were pioneer n a good man!! Thank u sir”
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dick Clark. He has truly been one of the greatest influences in my life.” — Ryan Seacrest
“Very sad to hear about Dick Clark. What a great life. What a great career. Relevant until the end. He will be missed!” – Joan Rivers
“Dick Clark was eternally young. No matter what culturally phenomenon was happening, he always embraced it. RIP…” — Russell Simmons
“Just heard the news of Dick Clark… It was truly an honor to have worked with him, learn from him and to be able to call him a friend. He was a great man and an even better friend. The word legend is thrown around a lot, but it’s never more appropriate than when used in describing Mr. Clark. He was a real inspiration & influence in my life. I will dearly miss my friend… Rest well DC….” — Mario Lopez
“Back in the 1960′s the pop culture catch-phrase was “Never trust anyone over 30″. Dick Clark was trustworthy all…” – Heart
Fergie vowed to always remember him and posted a Twitpic with her, Dick, and Ryan Seacrest:
Jimmy Kimmel lightened the mood a bit with his tweet:
I had the pleasure of working with Dick Clark many times – great guy. Some trivia: did you know he HATED music?
Even Real Housewives (or former Real Housewives in this case) expressed their sadness. From Alex McCord:
For now…Dick Clark….so long. RIP to the man I spent watching on New Year’s Eve as a kid and whenever I was at home, American Bandstand…the world’s perennial teenager.
Anderson Cooper Tweeted the exact reaction I had when I first heard the news:
What a career Dick Clark had! What a life! My thoughts are with his family and friends.
Larry King: Dick Clark was a great friend, true legend, & a master journalist. Nobody did what he did better. It was a pleasure to be in his company.
Neil Patrick Harris: For ever, Dick Clark… So long.
Denise Richards: My heart goes out to Dick Clark’s family and loved ones…. we lost a legend.. #RIPDickClark
Al Roker: I got to meet him many times. I was meeting w/Dick in his office as the OJ verdict was announced. It was surrea
Marlee Matlin: So sorry about passing of Dick Clark. A man with the gift of discovering talented musicians he also was a consummate producer/lovely man RIP
Questlove: Dick Clark. A Great Philadelphian. Thank You Very Much! (later) Guys I’m aware Clark is [from] NY, but the show that brought him national attention “the Philadelphia way” American Bandstand makes him one of us.
Andy Cohen: RIP Dick Clark! The broadcasting legend will remain a teenager in our memory forever. #Bandstand
Donnie Wahlberg: Very saddened by the loss of a true legend… Mr Dick Clark. #ripDC
Seth Green: So saddened by Dick Clark’s passing- an innovator, a legend, a man who believed in the greatness of humans. #ThankYou
Yvette Nicole Brown: Heartbroken 😦 #NothingElseToSay
“Weird” Al Yankovic: Such sad news. RIP Dick Clark.
Chris Harrison: Just heard the sad news about the passing of Dick Clark. A legend in our game!
Holly Robinson Peete: #RIP Dick Clark. Always so nice Employed me many times. I will miss you Dick. Prayers to Kari and the family #Legend
Wayne Brady: RIP Dick Clark. Being able to do the New Year’s special w him was an honor. A TV pioneer and extraordinary business man. God Bless.
Shawn Ryan (The Shield creator): Hope Dick Clark’s somewhere spinning a hip new single for the kids and ringing in the New Year.
U.S. Sen. John McCain posted, ”RIP Dick Clark – thanks for the many years of entertainment.”
And CNN’s Don Lemon noted the death of longtime “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius earlier this year, tweeting, ”There is a HUGE dance party in heaven right now lead by #DickClark & #DonCornelius.”
@SpeakerBoehner (Speaker of the House) “Condolences to the family of Dick Clark. We join them in mourning his passing, & will never forget his achievements in entertainment & music”
@Hanson (Trio pop Band) “Dick Clark was a Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio/TV icon with an influence on pop culture for more than 50 years. Rest in peace. -ISAAC”
William Shatner: “My condolences go out to the family of Dick Clark. My best, Bill.”
Gloria Estefan: “Not 2 many people actually deserve the term “legend”, Dick Clark embodied it & never lost his humility or humanity. We will miss him!”
Lance Bass: “Farewell to one of my all time idols Dick Clark- genius pioneer in music/television and just a great guy! You will be missed!”
David Boreanaz: “R.I.P. Dick Clark. New Years Eve will never be the same.”
Marlee Matlin: “So sorry about passing of Dick Clark. A man with the gift of discovering talented musicians he also was a consummate producer/lovely man RIP”
Billy Ray Cyrus: ”R. I. P. Dick Clark. Thoughts and prayers with the Clark Family.”
Michelle Williams: “Sad to hear about the passing of Dick Clark! His contribution to music and the platform he gave people will always be remembered.”
Chris Daughtry: ”RIP Mr. Dick Clark. You will be missed.”
DL Hughley: ”RIP Dick Clark worked with him on New Years Rockin Eve and TV Bloopers always a class act.”
Jenny McCarthy: “RIP dick Clark. You were amazing to work with. U will be missed. Xxxoo.”
Dane Cook: “Rest in peace Mr. Dick CLark. Thank you for new years and new years of class, positivity & entertainment.”
Blake Shelton: “So proud I had the chance to shake hands with Dick Clark in my lifetime… Great man.”
LA Reid: “Dick Clark’s profound contributions to music, television and popular culture will reverberate throughout time. R.I.P. Mr. American Bandstand.”
Rob Lowe: “Had the pleasure to work with Dick Clark when I was 15. He was charming and kind; a true American icon that will live forever.”
Michael Bloomberg: “Dick Clark’s spirit will always live on in Times Square & the hearts of millions of New Yorkers
Marie Osmond: “In 1974, my first time on BandStand, I thought Dick Clark was the most handsome man in show business. In 1998,… “
Reverend Al Sharpton: “Dick Clark, dies at 82 years old. May he rest in peace.”
Janet Jackson: “Dick Clark changed the face of musical television. He was wonderful to many artists including our family. We will miss him. God bless.”
“Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Dick Clark,” the president said in a written statement after news broke that Clark had succumbed to a massive heart attack.
“With ‘American Bandstand,’ he introduced decades’ worth of viewers to the music of our times,” Obama said. “He reshaped the television landscape forever as a creative and innovative producer. And, of course, for 40 years, we welcomed him into our homes to ring in the New Year.”
“But more important than his groundbreaking achievements was the way he made us feel — as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was. As we say a final ‘so long’ to Dick Clark, America’s oldest teenager, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends — which number far more than he knew,” the president said.
American Idol had stopped and paused to pay tribute to him as well. American Idol host Ryan Seacrest didn’t bound onstage with his usual zest tonight, and took a moment at the beginning of the live performance show to acknowledge the passing of “a television pioneer and a good friend of mine, Dick Clark.”
“Without Dick Clark, a show like this would not exist,” Seacrest said. “He will be missed greatly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Seacrest then paused, sighed, and tapped his watch impatiently. “I know that he’s in a better place, and he’s saying ‘Hey, let’s get on with the show, okay?” He paused.
“You got it, boss.”
Mr. Clark, may you spend eternity doing what you love most; broadcasting wonderful, facetious, and entertaining commentary to the angels. May you continue to command the New York Times Square Ball drop from the clouds above as your iconic count down to midnight permeates the crisp night air in a canticle embodiment that will reverberate forever. Thank you Mr. Clark for the many contributions you innovated, and or used to make what the music and entertainment industry is today. You are truly a pioneer. Even MTV would attempt to match your success in music promotion but not until 25 years after you had already started the spark of promoting new bands and bringing new acidic tastes of music to the lime light. May you rest in peace. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as they and the world grieves over the loss of such a iconic figure. It is the end of an era I am sad to say. Just the same as when Sinatra had passed, or when “the day the music died”. Your image and talent will forever be etched in the grains of world entertainment. New Years will never be the same. We honestly lost a huge part of American and world history. You will be forever missed.
“For now, Dick Clark… so long,”