Dick Clark

  • Born: November 30, 1929
  • Died: April 18, 2012
  • Location: Santa Monica, California

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This March 8, 1982 file photo shows Dick Clark. Clark, the television host who helped bring rock `n' roll into the mainstream on "American Bandstand," died Wednesday, April 18, 2012 of a heart attack. He was 82.

'American Bandstand' host dead at 82

LYNN ELBER, The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dick Clark stood as an avatar of rock 'n' roll virtually from its birth and, until his death Wednesday at age 82, as a cultural touchstone for boomers and their grandkids alike.

His identity as "the world's oldest teenager" became strained in recent years, as time and infirmity caught up with his enduring boyishness. But he owned New Year's Eve after four decades hosting his annual telecast on ABC from Times Square. And as a producer and entertainment entrepreneur, he was a media titan: his Dick Clark Productions supplied movies, game shows, beauty contests and more to TV, and, for a time in the 1980s, he boasted programs on all three networks.

Equally comfortable chatting about music with Sam Cooke or bantering with Ed McMahon on "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes," Clark was listed among the Forbes 400 of wealthiest Americans. Clark, who died of a heart attack Wednesday at a Santa Monica hospital, also was part of radio as partner in the United Stations Radio Network, which provided programs — including Clark's — to thousands of stations.

"There's hardly any segment of the population that doesn't see what I do," Clark told The Associated Press in a 1985 interview. "It can be embarrassing. People come up to me and say, 'I love your show,' and I have no idea which one they're talking about."

One of his later TV projects, "American Dreams," served as a fitting weekly tribute to Clark's impact. Airing from 2002 to 2005, this NBC drama centered on a Philadelphia family in the early 1960s and, in particular, on 15-year-old Meg, who, through a quirk of fate, found her way onto the set of Clark's teen dance show, "American Bandstand."

The nostalgic "American Dreams" depicted a musical revolution, which Clark so reassuringly helped usher in against the backdrop of a nation in turmoil. While never a hit, the series was embraced by older viewers as a warm souvenir of the era that spawned Clark, and as an affectionate history lesson for their children and grandchildren.

President Barack Obama noted the nostalgia. "More important than his groundbreaking achievements was the way he made us feel — as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was," Obama said in a statement.

Clark bridged the rebellious new music scene and traditional show business. He defended pop artists and artistic freedom, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said in an online biography of the 1993 inductee. He helped give black artists their due by playing original R&B recordings instead of cover versions by white performers, and he condemned censorship.

He joined "American Bandstand" in 1956 after Bob Horn, who'd been the host since its 1952 debut, was fired. A year later, Clark integrated the show with black dancers.

"It still wasn't acceptable for them to dance with white kids, so the blacks just danced with each other. We were waiting for the explosion, but it never happened," Clark told Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine in 1998. "The wonderful part about our decision to integrate then was that there were no repercussions, no reverberations, no battles at all — it just happened right there on a television screen in front of millions of people."

Under Clark's guidance, "Bandstand" went from a local Philadelphia show to a national phenomenon, introducing stars from Buddy Holly to Madonna. It was one of network TV's longest-running series as part of ABC's daytime lineup from 1957 to 1987.

"I played records, the kids danced, and America watched," was how Clark once described the series' simplicity. In his 1958 hit "Sweet Little Sixteen," Chuck Berry sang that "they'll be rocking on Bandstand, Philadelphia, P-A."

As a host, Clark had the smooth delivery of a seasoned radio announcer. As a producer, he had an ear for a hit record. He also knew how to make wary adults welcome this odd new breed of music in their homes.

Clark endured accusations that he was in with the squares, with critic Lester Bangs defining Bandstand as "a leggily acceptable euphemism of the teenage experience." In the 1985 interview, Clark acknowledged the complaints. "But I knew at the time that if we didn't make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it.

"So along with Little Richard and Chuck Berry and the Platters and the Crows and the Jayhawks ... the boys wore coats and ties and the girls combed their hair and they all looked like sweet little kids into a high school dance," he said.

Clark suffered a stroke in 2004 that affected his ability to speak and walk. That year, he missed his annual appearance on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve."

He returned the following year and, although his speech at times was difficult to understand, many praised his bravery, including other stroke victims.

"I'm just thankful I'm still able to enjoy this once-a-year treat," he told The Associated Press by email in December 2008 as another New Year's Eve approached.

Ryan Seacrest, who subsequently took over main hosting duties on the countdown show from Clark, said in a statement Wednesday that he was "deeply saddened."

"I idolized him from the start," Seacrest said. "He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world."

Record executive Clive Davis called Clark "a true pioneer who revolutionized the way we listened to and consumed music. For me he ranks right up there with the giants of our business."

Friends on Wednesday recalled a patient, encouraging man. "He was there for every crisis of my life and there were many," Connie Francis said in statement. "Without Dick Clark there would have been no career because I was ready to abandon it. Dick was the most principled man I ever met in this business and treated everyone the same way, even if you were the little guy."

Said Pat Boone: "Careers grew because of Dick Clark."

Clark was honored at the Emmy Awards in 2006, telling the crowd: "I have accomplished my childhood dream, to be in show business. Everybody should be so lucky to have their dreams come true. I've been truly blessed."

He was born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1929. His father, Richard Augustus Clark, was a sales manager who worked in radio.

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.

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 began his career in the mailroom of a Utica, N.Y., radio station in 1945. By age 26, he was a broadcasting veteran, with nine years' experience on radio and TV stations in Syracuse and Utica, N.Y., and Philadelphia. He held a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University. While in Philadelphia, Clark befriended McMahon, who later credited Clark for introducing him to his future "Tonight Show" boss, Johnny Carson.

In the 1960s, "American Bandstand" moved from black-and-white to color, from weekday broadcasts to once-a-week Saturday shows, and from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Although its influence started to ebb, it still featured some of the biggest stars of each decade, whether Janis Joplin, the Jackson 5, Talking Heads or Prince. But Clark never did book two of rock's iconic groups, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Elvis Presley also never performed, although Clark managed an on-air telephone interview while Presley was in the Army.

The show's status as an American cultural institution was solidified when Clark donated Bandstand's original podium and backdrop to the Smithsonian Institution.

When Michael Jackson died in June 2009, Clark recalled working with him since he was a child, adding, "Of all the thousands of entertainers I have worked with, Michael was THE most outstanding. Many have tried and will try to copy him, but his talent will never be matched."

Clark kept more than records spinning with his Dick Clark Productions. Its credits included the Academy of Country Music and Golden Globe awards; TV movies including the Emmy-winning "The Woman Who Willed a Miracle" (1984), the "$25,000 Pyramid" game show and the 1985 film "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins." Clark himself made a cameo on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and a dramatic appearance as a witness on the original "Perry Mason."

In 1974, at ABC's request, Clark created the American Music Awards after the network lost the broadcast rights to the Grammy Awards.

He was also an author, with "Dick Clark's American Bandstand" and such self-help books as "Dick Clark's Program for Success in Your Business and Personal Life" and "Looking Great, Staying Young."

His unchanging looks inspired a joke in "Peggy Sue Got Married," the 1986 comedy starring Kathleen Turner as an unhappy wife and mother transported back to 1960. Watching Clark on a black-and-white TV set, she shakes her head in amazement, "Look at that man, he never ages."

Clark's clean-cut image survived a music industry scandal. In 1960, during a congressional investigation of "payola," or bribery in the record and radio industry, Clark was called on to testify.

He was cleared of any suspicions but was required by ABC to divest himself of record-company interests to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. The demand cost him $8 million, Clark once estimated. His holdings included partial ownership of Swan Records, which later released the first U.S. version of the Beatles' smash "She Loves You."

In 2004, Clark announced plans for a revamped version of "American Bandstand." The show, produced with "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller, was to feature a host other than Clark.

He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1994 and served as spokesman for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Clark, twice divorced, had a son, Richard Augustus II, with first wife Barbara Mallery and two children, Duane and Cindy, with second wife Loretta Martin. He married Kari Wigton in 1977.

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AP National Writers Frazier Moore, David Bauder and Hillel Italie contributed to this report.
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Celebrities react to the death of Dick Clark

The Associated Press, The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Reaction to the death Wednesday of entertainment icon Dick Clark:

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"Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Dick Clark. With 'American Bandstand,' he introduced decades' worth of viewers to the music of our times. He reshaped the television landscape forever as a creative and innovative producer. And, of course, for 40 years, we welcomed him into our homes to ring in the New Year. But more important than his groundbreaking achievements was the way he made us feel — as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was. As we say a final 'so long' to Dick Clark, America's oldest teenager, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends — which number far more than he knew." — President Barack Obama.

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"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dick Clark. He has truly been one of the greatest influences in my life. I idolized him from the start, and I was graced early on in my career with his generous advice and counsel. When I joined his show in 2006, it was a dream come true to work with him every New Year's Eve for the last 6 years. He was smart, charming, funny and always a true gentleman. I learned a great deal from him, and I'll always be indebted to him for his faith and support of me. He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world. We will all miss him." — Ryan Seacrest.

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"I was very sad to hear this news. We all felt Dick was always this handsome teenager, as we all got older, Dick remained a teenager. I will always appreciate what he did for me and for popular music. He presented Motown and The Supremes on tour with the Caravan of Stars and on American Bandstand where I got my start. Dick Clark was a pioneer, he was a music star maker, he was a legend and was my friend. He said that 'music is the soundtrack of your life.' Since I was 16, he was always a part of mine. My love and prayers go out to his family." — Diana Ross.

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"I'm saddened and devastated over the loss of my dear friend, Dick Clark. We were friends for over 50 years. My thoughts and condolences go out to his family, especially his wonderful wife, Kari, who took such incredible care of him always. Dick was always there for me and Motown, even before there was a Motown. He was an entrepreneur, a visionary and a major force in changing pop culture and ultimately influencing integration. It happened first emotionally. Music can do that. He didn't do it from a soap box, he just did it. That's who he was. 'American Bandstand' was a platform for all artists. For me personally, he helped bring Motown into living rooms across America. Dick did everything with class, style and integrity. He was a true gentleman. His groundbreaking achievements in music and television ensure that his legacy will live on forever." — Motown founder Berry Gordy.

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"Dick Clark changed the face of musical television. He was wonderful to many artists including our family. We will miss him. God bless." — Janet Jackson tweeted.

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"This is a sad day. He was a dear friend, supporting me and my music for all of my years in the business. A great businessman and a true gentleman. An inspiration. My heart is so heavy now." — Barry Manilow posted on Facebook, along with a photo of him and Clark.

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"I loved Dick Clark. He was so instrumental in my career as well as all the other Motown acts and so many others in the recording business. Good bye my friend, rest in peace." — Smokey Robinson.

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"His body of work and accomplishments are impressive but the quality that endeared him to me the most was his humility. All people were on a level playing field with Dick. He felt he was better than no one and because of that he was able to connect with everyone. He changed the way we understood music and television and was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in our business." — Suzanne Somers wrote on Facebook.

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"I'm one of the lucky people who can say that I knew Dick Clark personally. Dick produced almost every awards show I was on during the 80s, and he constantly encouraged me toward success. He will be missed by everyone — especially by those who knew him well." — Kenny Rogers.

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"Only God is responsible for making more stars than Dick Clark ... I just want the world to know how much I loved him, how much I cared about him. He's been a part of everybody's life." — Tony Orlando.

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"Rest in Peace my good friend Dick Clark. A pioneer who's mark on American culture will be felt forever." — Quincy Jones tweeted.

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"Dick Clark was a true pioneer who revolutionized the way we listened to and consumed music. Before 'American Idol,' 'X Factor' and 'The Voice,' even before MTV, it was 'American Bandstand,' which brought the most popular music of the day straight to the nation's living rooms. Many artists made their debut on the Bandstand stage, and for generations he steadfastly welcomed millions of fans to his celebrations of the best of contemporary music. For me he ranks right up there with the giants of our business." — Clive Davis.

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"Dick Clark's profound contributions to music, television and popular culture will reverberate throughout time. R.I.P. Mr. American Bandstand." — music producer LA Reid tweeted.

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"Dick's understated yet omnipresent personality created a new media format. With an understated on-air presence, he made the kids and their music the stars of the show. His genius was in his ability to use the power of television to help define how American teenagers saw themselves. Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand' spread the gospel of American pop music and teenage style that transcended the regional boundaries of our country and united a youth culture that eventually spread its message throughout the entire world. With his passing, Dick Clark deserves to take his place at the top in the pantheon of popular culture icons." — John Oates of Hall & Oates.

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"You'll continue to be an inspiration to us all Dick Clark. Thanks for the amazing rockin years you were with us. You'll truly be missed." — The Jonas Brothers tweeted.

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"I considered Dick to be my dearest friend in this business, a friendship that has endured since 1958. He was there for every crisis of my life and there were many. Without Dick Clark there would have been no career because I was ready to abandon it. Dick was the most principled man I ever met in this business and treated everyone the same way, even if you were the little guy." — Connie Francis.

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"Times Square is considered the crossroads of the world in no small part because Dick Clark's New Year's Eve celebrations there were beamed across the globe. I remember one New Year's Eve, he and I stood in Times Square marveling about how much the area — and the City — had improved over the years. But Dick Clark never had to change — he was a great entertainer who stood the test of time. Generations of Americans grew up with Dick, and yet he seemed forever young. His spirit will always live on in Times Square, and in hearts of millions of New Yorkers." — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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"Very sad to hear about Dick Clark. What a great life. What a great career. Relevant until the end. He will be missed!" — Joan Rivers tweeted.

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"Dick Clark will be truly missed. We will carry on his legacy every New Year's Eve." — Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, who also tweeted a photo of her and Clark.

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"Very saddened about the loss of Dick Clark. We hosted the very first Rockin' New Year's Eve; truly honored to have worked with him." — Three Dog Night tweeted.

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"I just always considered Dick a wonderful friend. He was always good and supportive of me, but every other musical performer I know of would say the same thing. I am just stunned because for my whole career Dick Clark has been a friend and sort of an anchor of all things musical. Careers grew because of Dick Clark. He is going to be sorely missed." — Pat Boone.

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"Dick Clark was a great friend, true legend, & a master journalist. Nobody did what he did better. It was a pleasure to be in his company." — Larry King tweeted.

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"Just heard the news of Dick Clark. It was truly an honor to have worked with him, learn from him and to be able to call him a friend. He was a great man and an even better friend. The word legend is thrown around a lot, but it's never more appropriate than when used in describing Mr. Clark. He was a real inspiration & influence in my life. I will dearly miss my friend. Rest well DC.."— Mario Lopez said in a series of tweets.

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"REST IN PEACE to the DICK CLARK!! U were pioneer n a good man!! Thank u sir." — Snoop Dogg tweeted.

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"Dick Clark was such an institution and inspiration. Not ashamed to say I loved American bandstand when I was a kid!" — Katie Couric tweeted.

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"Back in the 1960's the pop culture catch-phrase was 'Never trust anyone over 30.' Dick Clark was trustworthy all the way home. Rock on Sir!" — Ann Wilson of Heart tweeted.

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"So sorry about passing of Dick Clark. A man with the gift of discovering talented musicians he also was a consummate producer/lovely man RIP" — Marlee Matlin tweeted.

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"Not 2 many people actually deserve the term "legend", Dick Clark embodied it & never lost his humility or humanity. We will miss him!" — Gloria Estefan tweeted.

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"With the passing of Dick Clark, we lost a real hero who had untold influence on both world culture and the art form we call rock and roll. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Clark was a trendsetter who helped guide our tastes in music, dance and fashion for more than three decades. His show American Bandstand was instrumental in showing the world that rock and roll was here to stay." — Terry Stewart, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

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"Dick Clark was an entertainment icon, bringing music into the homes of millions of Americans over his nearly 60-year career. His shows 'American Bandstand' and 'Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve' blazed new trails in pop music and became pivotal celebrations of music on television, spotlighting both established and emerging artists. Our deepest heartfelt sympathies go out to his family, friends, fans, and all who have enjoyed his great contributions to music and entertainment. He will be terribly missed, and his legacy will live on forever." — Neil Portnow, President and CEO of the Recording Academy.

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"Rest in peace dear Dick Clark. A legend in entertainment and a truly lovely man. What an honor to have known you." — Lisa Ling tweeted.