Richard Wagstaff Clark (November 30, 1929 - April 18, 2012)
Richard Wagstaff "Dick" Clark (November 30, 1929 – April 18, 2012) was a widely recognized American radio and television personality, best known for hosting television's longest-running variety show, American Bandstand, from 1957 to 1987. He also hosted the game show Pyramid, and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, which beamed Times Square's New Year's Eve celebrations worldwide.
As host of American Bandstand, with his unparalleled communication skills, he is credited with being a "primary force in legitimizing rock 'n roll," not just to teenagers, but also to parents. The show gave countless new music artists their first exposure to national audiences, among whom were Ike and Tina Turner, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Talking Heads and Simon and Garfunkel. His shows were among the first where blacks and whites performed on the same stage and the live audience seating was desegregated. Singer Paul Anka claims that his show was responsible for creating a "youth culture," and due to his youthful appearance, Clark was often referred to as "America's oldest teenager."
As a successful businessperson, he served as chairman and chief executive officer of Dick Clark Productions, which he sold part of late in his life. He also founded the restaurant chain, "American Bandstand Diner," modeled after the Hard Rock Cafe. Beginning in 1973, he created and produced the annual American Music Awards show, similar to the Grammy Awards.
Clark suffered a significant stroke in late 2004. With speech ability still impaired, Clark returned to his New Year's Rockin' Eve show on December 31, 2005/January 1, 2006. Subsequently, he appeared at the Emmy Awards on August 27, 2006, and every New Year's Rockin' Eve show through the 2011/2012 show. Clark died on April 18, 2012 at the age of 82 after suffering a heart attack following a medical procedure. After his death, President Obama credited him with making "us feel as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was."
Clark was born in Bronxville, New York and was raised in nearby Mount Vernon, the son of Julia Fuller (née Barnard) Clark and Richard Augustus Clark. His only sibling, older brother Bradley, was killed in World War II. His career in show business began in 1945 when he started working in the mailroom of WRUN, a radio station owned by his uncle and managed by his father in Utica, New York. Clark was soon promoted to weatherman and news announcer.
Clark attended A.B. Davis High School (now A.B. Davis Middle School) in Mount Vernon and Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, and was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Phi Gamma); he graduated in 1951 with a degree in business.
After graduating from high school in 1947, Clark started as an office worker at WRUN-AM in Rome, NY. Almost immediately, he was asked to fill in for the vacationing weatherman, and within a few months he was announcing station breaks. His quick rise may have been helped by the fact that his uncle owned the station and his father managed it.
While attending Syracuse, Clark worked at WOLF-AM, then a country music station. He returned to WRUN for a short time where he used the name Dick Clay.
Clark began his television career at station WKTV in Utica, and was also subsequently a disc jockey on radio station WOLF in Syracuse. His first television-hosting job was on Cactus Dick and the Santa Fe Riders, a country-music program. He would later replace Robert Earle (who would later host the GE College Bowl) as a newscaster.
Clark was principal in pro broadcasters operator of 1440 KPRO in Riverside, California from 1962 to 1982. In the 1960s, he was owner of KGUD AM/FM (later KTYD AM/FM) in Santa Barbara, California.
Clark moved the show from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in 1964. The move was related to the popularity of new "surf" groups based in Southern California, including The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. The show ran daily Monday through Friday until 1963, then weekly on Saturdays until 1987.
The show's emphasis changed from merely playing records to including live performers, and as a result many of the leading rock groups of the 1960s had their first exposure to nationwide audiences. A few of the many artists introduced were Ike and Tina Turner, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Talking Heads and Simon and Garfunkel, who were then called "Tom and Jerry."
In 2002, many of the groups he introduced appeared at the 50th anniversary special to celebrate "American Bandstand." Clark noted during the special that American Bandstand was listed in the Guiness Book of Records as "the longest running variety show in TV history." In 2010, American Bandstand and Clark himself were honored at the Daytime Emmy Awards. Hank Ballard, who wrote "The Twist," described Clark's popularity during the years of American Bandstand:
The man was big. He was the biggest thing in America at that time. He was bigger than the president!
The reason for Clark's impact on popular culture was partly explained by Paul Anka a singer who appeared on the show early in his career: "This was a time when there was no youth culture — he created it. And the impact of the show on people was enormous."
In 1959, the United States Senate investigated payola, the practice of music-producing companies paying broadcasting companies to favor their product. As a result of Clark's personal investments in music publishing and recording companies, his investments were considered a conflict of interest, and he sold his shares in those companies. Clark denied any involvement in "payola" and was not charged with any illegal activities.
In 1972, Clark produced and hosted Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, the first of an ongoing series of specials still broadcast on New Year's Eve. The program has typically consisted of live remotes of Clark in Times Square in New York City counting down until the New Year ball comes down. After the ball drops, the focus of the program switches to musical segments taped prior to the show in Hollywood, California. The special is live in the Eastern Time Zone, and it is delayed for the other time zones so that they can ring in the New Year with Clark when midnight strikes in their area.
ABC has broadcast the event on every New Year's Eve since 1972 except in 1999 when it was preempted for ABC 2000 Today, news coverage of the milestone year hosted by Peter Jennings. In the more than three decades it has been on the air, the show has become a mainstay in U.S. New Year's Eve celebrations. Before then, Guy Lombardo (a.k.a. "Mr. New Year's Eve"), along with his big band orchestra, the Royal Canadians, and Ben Grauer had long been the main draw for New Year's Eve broadcasts for radio and, later, for television (on CBS). Watching the ball in Times Square drop on Clark's show was considered an annual cultural tradition for the New Year's holiday for the last decades of his life.
Twice, Clark was not able to host his show. The first time happened at the end of 1999, going into 2000, due to ABC 2000 Today. However, during that broadcast, Clark, along with ABC News correspondent Jack Ford, announced his signature countdown to the new year. He was a correspondent, according to the transcript of the broadcast released by ABC News. Ford had been assigned to Times Square during the broadcast, and thus, Clark's role was limited. Nevertheless, he won a Peabody Award for his coverage. The second time happened at the end of 2004, as he was recovering from his stroke; Regis Philbin substituted as host. The following year, Clark returned to the show, although Ryan Seacrest served as primary host. From 2005 to 2011, Clark co-hosted New Year's Rockin Eve with Seacrest, with his speech improving each year, and his post-stroke role improved each year (the last three years found him splitting time evenly with Seacrest in the half-hour leading up to the ball drop.)
Before Pyramid, Clark had two brief runs as a quiz-show host, presiding over The Object Is and then Missing Links. On Missing Links, he replaced his former Philadelphia neighbor and subsequent TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes co-host, Ed McMahon, when the game show switched networks from NBC to ABC; NBC replaced Missing Links with Jeopardy!.
Clark later became host of The $10,000 Pyramid, which premiered on CBS March 26, 1973 (the same day as The Young and the Restless). The show — a word association game created and produced by daytime television producer Bob Stewart — moved to ABC from 1974 to 1980, during which time the top prize was upgraded to $20,000. After a brief 1981 syndicated run as The $50,000 Pyramid, the show returned to CBS in 1982 as The New $25,000 Pyramid, and continued through 1988, save for a three month break. From 1985 to 1988, Clark hosted both the CBS $25,000 version and a daily $100,000 Pyramid in syndication. His daytime versions of Pyramid won nine Emmy Awards for best game show, a mark that is eclipsed only by the twelve won by the syndicated version of Jeopardy!. It also won Clark three Emmy Awards for best game show host.
Clark would return to Pyramid as a guest in later incarnations. He was a guest during the Bill Cullen version of The $25,000 Pyramid (not to be confused with the incarnation Clark himself hosted). During the premiere of the John Davidson version in 1991, Clark sent a pre-recorded message wishing Davidson well in hosting the show. In 2002, Clark played as a celebrity guest for three days on the Donny Osmond version.
Clark also had a long stint as a top-40 radio countdown show host. He began in 1963, hosting a radio program called The Dick Clark Radio Show. It was produced by Mars Broadcasting of Stamford, Connecticut. Despite his enormous popularity on American Bandstand, the show was only picked up by a few dozen stations and lasted less than a year. The show proved to be ahead of its time, becoming one of the earliest attempts at radio syndication.
On March 25, 1972, Clark hosted American Top 40, filling in for Casey Kasem. Several years later, Clark would become one of AT40's most enduring rivals. In 1981, he created The Dick Clark National Music Survey for the Mutual Broadcasting System. The program counted down the Top 30 contemporary hits of the week in direct competition with American Top 40. Clark left Mutual in 1986, and Charlie Tuna took over the National Music Survey. Clark then launched his own radio syndication group; the United Stations Radio Network, or Unistar, and took over the countdown program, "Countdown America". It ran until 1994, when Clark sold Unistar to Westwood One Radio. The following year, Clark started over, building a new version of the USRN and a new countdown show: "The U.S. Music Survey". He served as its host until his 2004 stroke.
Dick Clark's longest running radio show began on February 14, 1982. "Rock, Roll & Remember" was a four hour oldies show named after Clark's 1976 autobiography. The first year, it was hosted by veteran Los Angeles disc jockey Gene Weed. Then in 1983 voice over talent Mark Elliot co-hosted with Clark. By 1985, Clark hosted the entire show. Pam Miller served as producer. Each week, Clark would profile a different artist from the Rock and Roll era. He would also count down the top four songs that week from a certain year in the 1950s, 1960s or early 1970s. The show ended production when Clark suffered his 2004 stroke. However, re-runs continue to air in syndication and on Clark's website "dickclarkonline.com".
Beginning in 2009, Clark merged elements of "Rock, Roll and Remember" with the syndicated oldies show, "Rewind with Gary Bryan". The new show was called "Dick Clark Presents Rewind with Gary Bryan". Bryan, a Los Angeles radio personality, serves as the main host. Clark contributed profile segments.
At the peak of his American Bandstand fame, Clark also hosted a 30-minute Saturday night program called The Dick Clark Show (aka The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show). It aired from February 15, 1958, until September 10, 1960, on the ABC television network. It was broadcast live from the "Little Theater" in New York City and was sponsored by Beech-Nut Gum. It featured the rock stars of the day lip synching their hits, just as on American Bandstand. However, unlike the afternoon Bandstand program which focused on the dance floor with the teenage audience demonstrating the latest dance steps, the audience of The Dick Clark Show (consisting mostly of squealing girls) sat in a traditional theater setting. While some of the musical numbers were presented simply, others were major production numbers.
The high point of the show was the unveiling with great fanfare at the end of each program, by Clark, of the top ten records of the coming week. This ritual became so embedded in popular culture that to this day it is satirized nightly by David Letterman. In the 1986 comedy-drama Peggy Sue Got Married Kathleen Turner's character after being transported back to the spring of 1960 is supposedly watching American Bandstand on television. The clip used in the movie, however, is actually of the Dick Clark Saturday night show, because the teen age audience is not dancing but sitting in a theater. In addition, members of the audience were wearing the "IFIC" buttons based upon the Beech-Nut Gum advertising slogan of the late 1950s ("It's FlavorIFIC"). Beech-Nut sponsored the Clark Saturday night show and sponsored the top 10 countdown board on American Bandstand.
From September 27 to December 20, 1959, Clark hosted a thirty-minute weekly talent/variety series entitled Dick Clark's World of Talent at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday nights on ABC. A variation of producer Irving Mansfield's earlier CBS series, This Is Show Business (1949–1956), it featured three celebrity panelists, including comedian Jack E. Leonard, judging and offering advice to amateur and semi-professional performers. While this show was not a success, during its nearly three month duration, Clark was one of the few personalities in television history on the air nationwide seven days a week. Clark has been involved in a number of other television series and specials as producer and performer. One of his most well-known guest appearances was in the final episode of the original Perry Mason TV series ("The Case of the Final Fadeout") in which he was revealed to be the killer in a dramatic courtroom scene. In 1973, he created the American Music Awards show, which he produces annually. Intended as competition for the Grammy Awards, in some years it gained a bigger audience than the Grammys due to being more in touch with popular trends.
Clark attempted to branch into the realm of soul music with the series Soul Unlimited in 1973. The series, hosted by Buster Jones, was a more risqué and controversial imitator of the then-popular series Soul Train and alternated in the Bandstand time slot. The series lasted for only a few episodes. Despite a feud between Clark and Soul Train creator and host Don Cornelius, the two would later collaborate on several specials featuring black artists.
He hosted the short-lived Dick Clark's LIVE Wednesday in 1978. In 1984, Clark produced and co-hosted with Ed McMahon the NBC series TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes. The series ran through 1988 and continued in specials hosted by Clark (sometimes joined by another TV personality) into the 21st century, first on NBC, later on ABC, and currently on TBS (the last version re-edited into 15-minute/filler segments airing at about 5 A.M.). Clark and McMahon were longtime Philadelphia acquaintances, and McMahon praised Clark for first bringing him together with future TV partner Johnny Carson when all three worked at ABC in the late 1950s. The "Bloopers" franchise stems from the Clark-hosted (and produced) NBC "Bloopers" specials of the early 1980s, inspired by the books, record albums and appearances of Kermit Schafer, a radio and TV producer who first popularized outtakes of broadcasts.
For a period of several years in the 1980s, Clark simultaneously hosted regular programs on the 3 major American television networks: ABC (Bandstand), CBS (Pyramid) and NBC (Bloopers) and in 1993, he hosted Scattergories. In 1990 and 1991, he hosted the syndicated television game show The Challengers, which only lasted for one season. In 1999, along with Bob Boden, he was one of the executive producers of Fox's TV game show Greed, which ran from November 5, 1999, to July 14, 2000, and was hosted by Chuck Woolery. At the same time, Clark also hosted the Stone-Stanley-created Winning Lines, which ran for six weeks on CBS from January 8, 2000 – February 12, 2000.
In July 1985, he hosted the ABC prime time portion of the historic Live Aid concert, an all star concert designed by Bob Geldof to end world hunger.
Clark did a brief stint as announcer on The Jon Stewart Show, in 1995.
From 2001 to 2003, Clark was a co-host of The Other Half with Mario Lopez, Danny Bonaduce, and Dorian Gregory, a syndicated daytime talk show intended to be the male equivalent of The View Clark also produced the television series American Dreams about a Philadelphia family in the early 1960s whose daughter is a regular on American Bandstand. The series ran from 2002 to 2005.
Clark was featured in the 2002 documentary film Bowling for Columbine. He was criticized for hiring poor, unwed mothers to work long hours in his chain of restaurants for little pay. The mother in particular works over 80 hours per week and is unable to make rent and gets evicted which results in her having her son stay at his uncle's house. At his uncle's house the boy finds a gun and brings it to school where he shoots another first grader. In the documentary footage featuring Clark, Michael Moore tries to approach him to inform him of the welfare policies that allow for these conditions, and questions him about the people he employs and the tax breaks he takes advantage of, in employing welfare recipients; Clark refuses to answer any of Moore's questions, shutting the car door and driving away.
Clark also appeared in interview segments of another 2002 film, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which was based on the "unauthorized autobiography" of Chuck Barris. (Barris had worked at ABC as a standards-and-practices executive during "American Bandstand's" run on that network.)
In the 2002 Dharma and Greg episode "Mission: Implausible," Greg is the victim of a college prank, and devises an elaborate plan to retaliate, part of which involves his use of a disguise kit; the first disguise chosen is that of Dick Clark. During a fantasy sequence that portrays the unfolding of the plan, the real Clark plays Greg wearing his disguise.
He also made brief cameos in two episodes of the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In one episode he plays himself at a Philadelphia diner, and in the other he helps Will Smith's character host bloopers from past episodes of that sitcom.
Clark had a stake in a chain of music-themed restaurants licensed under the names "Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill", "Dick Clark's AB Grill", "Dick Clark's Bandstand — Food, Spirits & Fun" and "Dick Clark's AB Diner". There are currently three airport locations in Newark, New Jersey; Phoenix, Arizona; and Salt Lake City, Utah, one location in the Molly Pitcher travel plaza on the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury, New Jersey, and one location at "Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater" in Branson, Missouri. On November 13, 2002 he was appointed as a director of Krispy Kreme U.K. Ltd.
"Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater" opened in Branson in April 2006, and nine months later, a new theater and restaurant entitled "Dick Clark's American Bandstand Music Complex" opened near Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In October 2007, since nearby residents complained about the outside concerts performed at the new complex, it has been emptied of its contents and the box office closed temporarily. After eighteen months of extensive new renovations it was reopened for indoor concert performances.
Clark was married three times. His first marriage was to Barbara Mallery in 1952; the couple had one son, Richard ("R.A.", or "Rac"), and divorced in 1961. He married Loretta Martin in 1962; the couple had two children, Duane and Cindy, and divorced in 1971. His third marriage, in 1977 to Kari Wigton, lasted until his death.
In a stand up comedy routine Bill Hicks referenced Clark as the Anti-Christ pointing to his youthful non-aging as evidence.
Before his stroke, Clark's perennial youthful appearance, despite his advancing years, was a subject of jokes and commentary in the popular culture, most notably his nickname of "the World's Oldest Teenager".
One of Gary Larson's The Far Side cartoons has the caption, "Suddenly, on a national talk show in front of millions of viewers, Dick Clark ages 200 years in 30 seconds."
In Episode 320 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, John Carradine - playing a mad scientist in the movie The Unearthly - is trying to get another character to consider eternal life when he says, "Suppose you could wake up every morning and see your face untouched by time.” Crow replies, "Like Dick Clark?"
In the Police Squad! episode "Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh)," Dick Clark, appearing as himself, purchases Secret Formula Youth Cream from street snitch Johnny the Shoeshine Boy. In the film Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Kathleen Turner, who has time-traveled back to circa 1960, is watching Dick Clark on American Bandstand with her sister and says "That man never ages." Her sister doesn't seem to understand what she means.
In The Simpsons 1999 Y2K episode "Treehouse of Horror X," at midnight a computer glitch causes Dick Clark to melt and he is revealed to be a robot.
In an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Clark appears as himself. Carlton jokingly says "How come I got older and you stayed the same age."
During an interview on Larry King Live in April 2004, Clark revealed that he had Type 2 diabetes.
On December 8 of that year, the then 75-year-old was hospitalized in Los Angeles after suffering what was initially termed a minor stroke. Clark's spokeswoman, Amy Streibel, said that he was hospitalized but was expected to be fine.
However, on December 13, 2004, it was announced that Clark would be unable to host his annual New Year's Rockin' Eve broadcast that had aired for all but one year since 1972 (in 1999, New Year's Rockin' Eve was preempted with the Peter Jennings-hosted ABC 2000 Today though Clark did perform his traditional countdown, but had to do with Jack Ford, as ABC had him stationed in Times Square during the broadcast). For the 2004 show, Regis Philbin was the substitute host, and during the show on December 31, 2004, he gave his best wishes to Clark.
Having not been seen in public since his stroke, Clark announced in a statement that he would be back in Times Square for the annual tradition, bringing on Hilary Duff and Ryan Seacrest as co-hosts, in addition to the latter being co-executive producer. Also in the same August 2005 press release, it was announced that Seacrest would eventually take over as the sole host should Clark decide to retire, or be unable to continue.
On December 31, 2005, Clark made his return to television, returning to the Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve broadcast.
During the program, Clark remained behind a desk and was shown only in limited segments. Though Clark had noticeable difficulty speaking, he was able to perform his famous countdown to the new year.
On air, he stated, "Last year I had a stroke. It left me in bad shape. I had to teach myself how to walk and talk again. It's been a long, hard fight. My speech is not perfect but I'm getting there." Before counting down to 2006, he mentioned he "wouldn't have missed this for the world."
Reaction to Clark's appearance was mixed, reported CNN.com. While some TV critics (including Tom Shales of The Washington Post, in an interview with the CBS Radio Network) felt he was not in good enough shape to do the broadcast, stroke survivors and many of Clark's fans praised him for being a role model for people dealing with post-stroke recovery.
On August 27, 2006, Clark appeared on NBC's telecast of the 2006 Emmy Awards. He was introduced by Simon Cowel after the show paid tribute to his successful career that has spanned decades. He was shown seated behind a lectern, and although his speech was still slurred, he was able to address the audience and introduce Barry Manilow's performance.
For the 2006–07 and 2007–08 ABC New Year's Eves, Clark still exhibited noticeably slurred and somewhat breathless speech, but improved from previous years, in addition to using his arms again. For the 2008–09 broadcast, he increased his hosting duties to the point where he split duties roughly evenly with Seacrest during the half-hour leading up to the ball drop. For the 2009–10 countdown show, he spoke with improved verbal expression, as well as improved head and arm dexterity, but incorrectly counted down, counting "...14, 12, 10, 11, 10, 9...". In previous years following the stroke, Clark had only hosted the countdown and one brief segment.
Clark was honored at The 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on CBS TV. It was a tribute to his 40 years hosting American Bandstand.
Clark returned for the 2010–11 New Year's Rockin' Eve and executed a perfect countdown with 24 seconds left on the clock.
For the 2011–12 New Year's Rockin' Eve, which would be Clark's last, Clark once again performed the countdown (although slightly rushed around the 0:06 mark to stay in time), this time with 17 seconds left on the clock.
On April 18, 2012, Clark died after suffering a heart attack following a medical procedure at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. He was 82.