Thursday, April 19, 2012

Memories of Dick Clark

Ah, Dick Clark. He and I sort of grew up together, in spite of the fact that there was some 30 years age difference between us. Now, granted I'm not old enough to remember when Dick first hit the national airwaves in 1957, taking a five-year-old local dance show originating from, of all places, Philadelphia, to the nascent ABC Television Network, where the double-punch of that show and "The Mickey Mouse Club" were the two biggest hits in daytime TV, eventually leading to the cancellation of NBC's "Howdy Doody".

By the time I started watching "American Bandstand" it was probably 1967. The show had already been on the West Coast for about four years and had just moved to early Saturday afternoons at 12:30 Eastern. Dick had darn near everyone come on his show and lip sync to their hit records; even as technology made live performances possible, Dick still did it the old fashioned way. Many tributes have noted that Dick championed black performers early on, which did get him in trouble with ABC affiliates in the deep South. But eventually the talent of performers like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke left audiences even there wanting for more. I will always remember the weekly countdown of the biggest hits, Rate-A-Record, and all those ads for products like Clearasil and Stridex and Dr Pepper (which Dick at one point advocated drinking hot).

A clip from the 1982 30th anniversary special follows. There is also a segment with Dick's longtime announcer on the show, Charlie O'Donnell. Clark brought O'Donnell with him to LA, kickstarting his own career as a disk jockey, news anchor, and television announcer. (I've heard, but have never been able to confirm, that Jay Stewart was also an announcer on "Bandstand".)

Dick parlayed his success as music entrepreneur into several other formats, including a prime-time show for Beech-Nut Gum, "Where The Action Is", and "The American Music Awards". Dick was involved in the payola scandal of the late 1950's but divested himself of music publishing and record label interests thereafter. He also kept "Bandstand" going into the late 1980's, eventually turning the reins over to David Hirsch.

The dance show wasn't enough for Clark. In 1965 he hosted his first game show for ABC, "The Object Is". Beginning on March 26, 1973, Clark began hosting "The $10,000 Pyramid" and by the end of the decade, Clark had two shows for which he will forever be identified (although it took a doubling of the prize money and a reprieve by ABC after CBS cancelled the original show). Clark continued to host the show until 1988; he was replaced by John Davidson in 1991. Clark's final episode is presented in its entirety below.

On occasion, he also played the game. You think he was good at it? Check out this clip from a mid-70's nighttime episode hosted by Bill Cullen.

Clark also hosted "The Challengers" and "Winning Lines" and his company, dick clark productions, produced the Chuck Woolery-hosted "Greed". Here is a clip from "Winning Lines"; note Dick's blooper when he said you could win one billion dollars.

At the request of ABC, Dick Clark began hosting a New Year's Eve show to compete with Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians in the early 70s, and soon Lombardo's slurping saxophones gave way to the sounds of rock and roll to ring in each new year. Dick Clark counts down to 1990 in this clip.

Dick Clark continued hosting the show even after suffering a massive stroke that permanently disabled him. Dick missed the 2004 countdown with Regis Philbin filling in, but in 2005 he was back. Many found it hard to watch the post-stroke Dick Clark, with slurred speech and other impairments, but I never had a problem with it. Who was going to tell him not to do it? But by the time he reached 80, he decided he needed to plan for the passing of the torch, naming Ryan Seacrest as his eventual successor. This clip from Clark's final NYRE shows Seacrest, Clark and co-host Jenny McCarthy ringing in 2012. The one thing that never changed: the midnight kiss from his third and most enduring wife, and now widow, Kari Wigton Clark.

There will never be another. RIP, Dick Clark.

1 comment:

Callie Ray. said...

Thank you for the article on the late Dick Clark.

I went to YouTube to see if they have any footage from Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years 1998 (aired on 12/31/1997), but sadly they do not.

The only reason that I remember that one is because I've recorded not only the countdown to 1998, but two performances from Grammy-winner, Shawn Colvin, on my VCR. If I have a way to transfer VHS recordings to a DVD-R/RW, then I would be able to do so.