Thursday 29 December 2011

Dick Clark

*Many thanks to my kick-ass cousin for reminding me to post about Dick Clark!

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and what Dick is more associated with that day than Dick Clark? The man is an institution – New Year’s Eve would be a little less rockin’ without him.

Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on 30 November 1929 in Mount Vernon, New York. His parents were Julia and Richard Clark, and Dick was the younger of two sons. His older brother Bradley was killed in World War II.

Dick began working in show business when he was still a teenager. He did odd jobs around the office of a radio station and soon graduated to filling in for the weatherman when he was on vacation and announcing station breaks. Not to denigrate his talent, but Dick’s rise was almost certainly helped by his family connections – his uncle owned the radio station and his father managed it. Dick graduated from Syracuse University with a business degree in 1951 and moved to Philadelphia in 1952. He continued working in radio, playing back-up host to Bob Horn for the teen dance show, Bob Horn’s Bandstand. When Horn left in 1956, Dick took over as full-time host. The show was then picked up by ABC, which renamed it American Bandstand, and began televising it on August 1957. Dick Clark stayed on as host, thus earning himself a spot in the annals of groovy teen programming.

American Bandstand was a huge hit. From 1957 to 1963 it ran Monday to Friday. Monday to Friday! Sock-hopping teenagers were jitterbugging across the television five days a week for over five years. Amazing. The show continued to air once a week on Saturdays until 1987. 1987! That’s longer than Law & Order was on the air! When the show was a five-day-a-week event it was filmed in Philadelphia, but it moved to Hollywood in 1964. The move to Hollywood was probably a good one for Clark, as he was the host of several game shows in the 1970s. He was briefly host of The Object Is and Missing Links, but his signature game show was The $10,000 Pyramid. Clark has hosted several versions of this show, including The New $25,000 Pyramid and The $100,000 Pyramid (that’s inflation for you, kids). Clark has won three Emmys for best game show host, and the Pyramids have won nine Emmys for best game show (outclassed only by Jeopardy!).

And now we come to Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, which has been airing on ABC since 1972 (with one exception). In 1999, ABC did a special New Year’s Eve program, which was hosted by Peter Jennings (although Dick Clark had a small role). I guess if the world really did crash and burn on Y2K, ABC wanted a real newscaster on scene. I guess I’d rather be told the world was ending by a serious Canadian journalist than by a baby-faced DJ. The only other year Dick Clark did not headline was 2004 when he was recovering from his stroke. Regis Philbin hosted instead. Beginning in 2005, Dick Clark has co-hosted with Ryan Seacrest, who is famous for hosting American Idol (a show that is a far more egregious sin against humanity than those writhing teeny boppers on American Bandstand could have ever hoped to be). Clark returned to rockin’ out on the New Year in 2006, although his speech was still slurred. He has shown noticeable improvement every year. By 2008/2009 he was able to evenly split hosting duties with Seacrest, and in 2009/2010 his speech and movements were much improved. He did, however, make a mistake in the countdown, saying “10, 11, 10, 9….” In 2010/2011 he nailed the countdown, flawlessly counting down from 24 to 1. I have to say I’m glad some contributor to Wikipedia has so exhaustively studied Dick Clark’s appearances and counting abilities, because I have far better things to do than pour over Dick’s performances. Clark was criticized somewhat for returning to television before he had adequately recovered, but other people appreciated that he was willing to show millions what stroke recovery actually looked like.

Aside from benignly presiding over a host of feel-good shows, Dick Clark is also known for his perpetually-youthful appearance (prior to the stroke anyway). He’s been called “America Oldest Living Teenager,” and his uncanny ability to never age has been referenced and parodied any number of times.

So here’s to another rockin’ New Year’s Eve. I expect Dick Clark to execute another perfect countdown. No pressure, Dick.

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