Dick Clark, who launched American Bandstand, and decades later gave millions a New Year’s Eve alternative, died today of a massive heart attack in California at age 82. The man long considered an influential figure in the world of broadcasting and rock music, was nicknamed “America’s Oldest Teenager” for his perpetual and youthful, good looks.
Clark suffered a stroke in 2004 causing partial paralysis. His speech was also affected as noticed each year since in his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcast from Times Square. In 2005, he was joined by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, who did the heavy lifting.
Clark was a standout talent behind the camera as well. He was the chairman and chief executive of the production company that bears his name.
“He was the absolute best,” Norm N. Nite, former WCBS-FM air personality, tells FishbowlNY. “Nobody did it better than Dick Clark. What can you say about a guy you know for 40 years?”
During their long friendship, Clark wrote the introductions for two of Nite’s book, including Rock On. Nite says no other author ever received introductions from Clark.
Nite maintained contact even after Clark’s recent health issues, speaking on the anniversary with his wife Kari and his birthday each fall.
Born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, New York on November 30, 1929, Clark pursued a career in radio after graduating from Syracuse University in 1951. He worked for a station in Philadelphia with a show he called “Dick Clark’s Caravan of Music.” A short time later he took his hosting skills to TV as American Bandstand was born. By 1957, the nation could watch Clark and a multitude of artists from the burgeoning rock n’ roll era. ABC moved the Saturday dance show to Los Angeles in 1963. It remained on the air for decades.
Through the years, Clark became a go-to game show host. He was most well-known to viewers at the podium for many incarnations of the Pyramid. In the 1980s, Clark co-hosted TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes with Ed McMahon on NBC.
There were the Golden Globe Awards that his DCP aired annually, with Clark several times serving as the emcee. He created the American Music Awards in 1973 as an alternative to the Grammys.
And then there was New Year’s Eve. In 1972, Clark wanted a reboot to the stuffy festivities that Guy Lombardo and his orchestra offered on CBS. Clark brought a fresh look to New Year’s with various artists performing taped segments from Hollywood, while he watched the ball drop from Times Square. In recent years, his Rockin’ Eve added live, big-name, mini concerts in Times Square.
“He used to always come over to my apartment after the show was over,” Nite recalls. ”We’d always have a party and he’d come by.”