Thursday, April 19, 2012

Remembering Dick Clark

The thing about Dick Clark was this: He was always on, always promoting his next gig.
I must have met him a dozen times in my 38 years on the TV Critics' L.A. tours.
He was always friendly, personable, well turned out but oddly distant and disengaged. He was TV's ultimate pitch man and he fronted a lot of TV shows in his time.
After all he sold his TV production company in 2007 for upwards of $175 million.
His success as a packager was unrivaled --I first caught him as the host of American Bandstand that ran weekdays around 4 to 5 p..m. on ABC's Buffalo affiliate, WKBW. I'd come home from high school and watch the live daily show which focused on the music teenagers craved.
Clark was then in his thirties and looking preppy to the core as he introduced rock acts, zeroed in on teens in the studio audience.
He was always polite never sarcastic and the fact he treated the youngsters so nicely was a great touch.
American Bandstand was so very innocent --Philadelphia high schoolers dancing to records and then rating the new record releases of the week.
At first the daily hour was heavily segregated --this was a vanilla program until organized protests forced a change. When Clark interviewed singer Sam Cooke that was big news. It broke down as many racial barriers as the protests at Selma.
I remember interviewing Clark decades later and he said he really made few friends with the groups who trooped through the studio. Annette was a favorite, he said, but others he introduced and that was that --he never saw many of them again.
And Clark later branched out as daily host of The $10,000 Pyramid on CBS. Then came TV's Bloopers And Practical Jokes on both NBC and ABC in the 1970s.
Once I asked him about his acting and he blushed mightily --but he'd taken a stab at it in such films as 1961's The Young Doctors in a subsidiary role.
He also revived the scandal plagued Golden Globes and produced the American Music Awards for ABC when that network lost its contract to telecast the Grammys.
And here's one for you trivia buffs --he once hosted a Canadian content talk show from Vancouver that was heavily syndicated in the U.S. before expiring.
It was George Burns who said he'd been watching the perennially youthful Clark since childhood. But Clark was a fitness buff who ran on the sand dunes at Malilbu every weekend --that did not explain his unnatural brunette coiffure.
Likability was Clark's key to longevity. He peddled light entertainment and never though he'd last as long as he did.
He survived the payola scandal--he was always on the go. Courtly in his relationship with the press he took care never to divulge much about himself. Perhaps after such a long time in the spotlight the real and the fictional Dick Clark had meshed into one.
Incapacitated since a 2004 stroke his death at 82 takes one of the last surviving creators of American TV from all of us.



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