Television legend Dick Clark – who for 33 years helmed the groundbreaking TV music show American Bandstand while ringing in countless New Year’s Eves for viewers at home since the 1970s – has died. He was 82.
Clark's agent Paul Shefrin said in statement that the veteran host died this morning following a "massive heart attack."
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Celebrated for his youthful appearance and relentlessly upbeat manner, Clark was a TV icon long before the contemporary notion of celebrity existed. He hosted American Bandstand from 1956 to 1989 making it the must-visit stop on the promotional itinerary for every happening pop musician in its day.
Like its predecessor, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest - which launched in 2006 following a 2004 stroke that had sidelined Clark - was a consistent hit with viewers, commanding such talent as Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Pitbull, Carlos Santana and Justin Bieber (to name some recent guests) to perform December 31 in Manhattan’s Times Square.
The initial broadcast drew some 20 million viewers, drawing praise from stroke advocates who applauded Clark's appearace on the show with the American Idol host, an obvious chip off the block.
Seacrest today posted the following Tweets:
Clark also served as a host to the game show, Pyramid. Like many celebs who flourished in the golden age of television, Clark made his mark early on in radio.
As ABC News notes, the man often referred to as “America’s oldest teenager” landed a gig as a DJ at WFIL in Philadelphia in 1952, spinning records for a show he called "Dick Clark's Caravan of Music." There he broke into the big time, hosting Bandstand, an afternoon dance show for teenagers.
Within five years, the whole country was watching. ABC took the show national, and American Bandstand was born. The site adds:
"American Bandstand's formula was simple. Clean-cut boys and girls danced to the hottest hits and the newest singles. In between, Clark chatted with the teens, who helped "rate-a-record," turning songs into sensations. Everyone showed up on American Bandstand, from Elvis Presley to Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry to Chubby Checker.”
Later years saw virtually everyone who was anyone in genres from pop to funk to rock and soul - Madonna, the Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, John "Cougar" Mellencamp, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Cher, Bon Jovi, the Beach Boys, Cyndi Lauper, the Go-Gos, Smokey Robinson - on the program.
And while Bandstand was never perceived as especially hip, it did deliver music to the heart of mainstream America like no other program.
ABC continues: “When Dick Clark moved to Hollywood in 1963, American Bandstand moved with him. He started Dick Clark Productions, and began cranking out one hit show after another; his name became synonymous with everything from the $25,000 Pyramid to TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes to the American Music Awards. In 1972, Dick Clark became synonymous with one of the biggest nights of the year.
“The Museum of Broadcast Communications has done the math, and figures that Dick Clark Productions has turned out more than 7,500 hours of television programming, including more than 30 series and 250 specials, as well as more than 20 movies for theatre and TV.”
That output made Clark blindingly rich and the proud papa of assorted Emmys and Grammys plus an induction in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As the Associated Press notes, "For a time in the 1980s, he had shows on all three networks and was listed among the Forbes 400 of wealthiest Americans. Clark also was part of radio as partner in the United Stations Radio Network, which provided programs - including Clark's - to thousands of stations."
He was born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on November 30, 1929. His father, Richard Augustus Clark, was a sales manager who worked in radio.
As the AP notes, Clark idolized his athletic older brother, Bradley, who was killed in World War II. In his 1976 autobiography, Rock, Roll & Remember, Clark recalled how radio helped ease his loneliness and turned him into a fan of Steve Allen, Arthur Godfrey and other popular hosts of the era.
From Godfrey, he said, he learned that "a radio announcer does not talk to 'those of you out there in radio land'; a radio announcer talks to me as an individual."
Clark survived by his three children and his third wife, Keri Wigton, married to him since 1977. He credited his appearance to good genes, once saying "if you want to stay young looking, pick your parents very carefully."