|Dick Clark talks with Myrna Horowitz, one of the original “American Bandstand” dancers. | Photo: Public Domain
Take one glance at that name and memories are bound to pop in your head.
From American Bandstand, to radio, to his various production ventures, Dick Clark did it all. Known by many as “America’s oldest teenager,” Clark was always in the know. By looking at his upbringing, it’s no wonder how he became so infatuated with popular culture.
Clark was the son of a sales manager for radio stations. In his early teens, he decided to pursue a career in radio. Soon after World War II, Clark landed a job in the mailroom of radio station WRUN, which was owned by his uncle and managed by his father. The young Clark was soon promoted to weatherman and news announcer. From that point on, his career in radio would only grow.
After numerous stints in radio, Clark truly gained his stardom with American Bandstand, a Monday-Friday television show that captivated its passionate teenage viewers with lip-synched performances and famous “Rate-a-Record” segment. But it wasn’t just the fame Clark was after. He had a keen sense of the public mindset and quickly halted any criticism with changes such as implementing a dress code for audience members on Bandstand, establishing the show’s wholesale appearance to the mainstream media. Probably one of Clark’s biggest achievements on the show was introducing African Americans among white teenage dancers. This move of integration on national television was unheard of at the time and helped to stifle divisive talk amongst viewers. Bandstand not only helped to launch the careers of artists such as Barry Manilow and Madonna, it also helped to break down racial barriers in music and in TV.
But Clark didn’t stop there.
He moved to Los Angeles which allowed him to diversify his involvement in TV production. He then set up Dick Clark Productions, which presented a wide variety of programs and game shows – most notably The $25,000 Pyramid
and TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes
. His company also produced award shows and created the American Music Awards (AMAs), a “hip” alternative to the Grammy Awards. Clark championed the fact that the AMAs often received higher ratings than the Grammys. And, as if radio and TV weren’t enough, Clark also held a stake in successful restaurants and theaters across the country. “Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill”, “Dick Clark’s AB Grill”, “Dick Clark’s Bandstand — Food, Spirits & Fun” and “Dick Clark’s AB Diner” were all music-themed restaurants licensed with his name. He also held owned an entertainment complex located near Dolly Parton’s Dollywood
park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Clark began a little show called Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve in 1972, which is the longest running TV special to date. The show features top-notch musical performances leading up to the crystal ball drop in Times Square at midnight. Clark hosted the show every year up until 2004, when a stroke forced him to take a year off. American Idol host, Ryan Seacrest, was brought on board to host in his place. When he returned, Clark continued to host the show until 2012. He died soon after from complications with prostate surgery.
I was saddened to hear of his death because he wasn’t just a popular figurehead but he was a man who pursued what he loved and that’s what I’m trying to do with my own life as well. Dick Clark was a man who was not afraid to follow his dreams and passions, wherever they may lead. He was successful in everything he did, whether it was in music, TV or business. His legacy is one of many facets. Even though I’m too young to remember American Bandstand, I still saw Clark’s personality shine through with anything he did in my lifetime, either out in the public eye or behind the scenes. Dick Clark will always be remembered for his lasting impact on popular culture in America.
As his friend, Ryan Seacrest, said Clark was one of the greatest influences in his life. I think many others – including myself – can say the same thing.