Reset in a World Without Dick Clark

Oh now, where has that big, red reset button gotten to? Ah, there it is:

That’s better. (Thanks to Aspex Design for that one. )

Unfortunately, in unburying myself from the rubble of life today, I learned that Dick Clark had died at age 82 from a heart attack after a medical procedure. And with his passing, it feels as if we have truly said goodbye to the 20th century. Clark, whose family worked in radio,  started out in radio around World War II as a teenager, did some local t.v. hosting and news work as well, and became the host of an East Coast t.v. dance show Bandstand, which ABC then picked up and turned into American Bandstand, catapulting Clark into a national fixture. He would host the show from 1956 to 1989 when it finally left the air and became its chief producer, and also put out another well known music and talk show, The Dick Clark Show. During that period, his production company would also go on to put out numerous hit game shows, daytime t.v. shows, specials, award shows, movies and radio programs, one of the more recent ones being the So You Think You Can Dance global franchise, which was developed from a portion of American Bandstand. He also produced and hosted the famous top forty radio music countdown show American Top 40 for, again, decades.

He was the quiet media mogul with the soft radio voice and unflappable demeanor. He also barely seemed to age for decades, earning him the nickname “America’s Oldest Teenager” and countless jokes about deals with the devil. That changed in 2004, when he suffered a debilitating stroke. In the 1970’s, Clark started hosting a New Year’s Eve special in New York, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, which became a mainstay t.v. and music event that everyone over the age of 10 in the U.S. (and elsewhere) has been familiar with in starting every new year. When he had the stroke, the show had to sub with Regis Philbin, but to see in 2006, a still rehabilitating Clark came back to host it with the help of his heir apparent, Ryan Seacrest, and singer/actress Hiliary Duff. His face had been greatly changed, no longer eternally youthful, and his speech was still greatly effected, but he served as a model for those dealing with post-stroke recovery. His speech and mobility improved over the years, and he saw in 2012, his last one. He was awarded a special Emmy in 2006.

Few people have probably had as much impact on the fields of music, dance, television and radio as Clark did, or perhaps worked harder at it. He was part of a group of figures, like Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson, who took us by the hand from the post-war world to the communications age, who helped feature black performers during the civil rights era, and who offered genial commentary of the sort that has pretty much gone in the wind at this point.  Somewhere the cultural plates just took a tectonic shift, and that age, which certainly includes my formative years, has truly passed. It seemed worth noting. Thanks for all the smooth company, Mr. Clark. The next New Year’s will seem a little strange.

 

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