60° Good Evening
60° Good Evening

Dick Clark dead at 82

Dick Clark was so good at bringing in

Dick Clark was so good at bringing in the New Year. Credit: AP

Dick Clark, the prolific TV producer, "American Bandstand" host, and the man who ushered in the new year for the nation died Wednesday following a massive heart attack. He was 82.

His longtime spokesman, Paul Shefrin, said Clark was stricken Wednesday morning at Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had gone the day before for an outpatient procedure. Clark suffered from a debilitating stroke in 2004, although he continued to make appearances on his iconic "New Year's Rockin' Eve."

Clark's contribution to music and television are virtually unparalleled. "American Bandstand" was a daily fixture for millions of teens from 1957 to 1989, while Dick Clark Productions was and remains a TV production powerhouse -- probably the medium's most prolific producer of awards shows, including the Golden Globes, Academy of Country Music Awards and American Music Awards.

Dubbed the "world's oldest teenager," Clark had interests in dozens of projects across various media, from books to radio to TV.

But it was one show for which he will forever be remembered. In 1956, Clark, then a Philadelphia disc jockey, became host of "Bandstand," a teen dance show that had started four years earlier.

Clark and the show moved to ABC the next year, and the renamed "American Bandstand" went on to become a daily habit for a generation that learned everything there was to know about popular music. "American Bandstand" introduced dozens of stars, from Buddy Holly to Madonna.

"I played records, the kids danced and America watched," was Clark's simple explanation of the show's appeal.

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 by the late '60s, it still featured some of the biggest stars of the ensuing decades, including Janis Joplin, The Jackson 5, Talking Heads and Prince.

However, Clark never was able to book two of rock's iconic groups, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Elvis Presley also never performed on that show, although Clark did an on-air telephone interview while Presley was in the Army.

In a phone interview Wednesday, in between breaks while broadcasting a tribute to Clark on his SiriusXM radio show, veteran DJ Bruce Morrow said of Clark, "He gave us respect. Until Dick Clark came along, we didn't have a national voice, and he had that boyish smile and twinkle.

"When he came on nationally, mom and dad did not like the music the Cousin Brucies were playing. We didn't have a friend and no one wanted us in their house, but because of his boy-next-door-charm, he gave respect to rock and roll and to this kind of broadcasting, and that kept on growing year after year after year."

Morrow added that in the process, "He helped innumerable acts," black and white.

That included Gary U.S. Bonds, who knew he'd be a hit as soon as he appeared on "American Bandstand."

In 1960, still a time of overt racial discrimination, radio stations didn't play his "New Orleans" until the black singer and his manager met Clark in Philadelphia and got a gig on the show less than a week later.

"If it hadn't been for Dick Clark playing that song on 'American Bandstand,' I'd probably be driving a truck or something," said the 72-year-old singer, whose real name is Gary Anderson and who now lives in Wheatley Heights.

He credited Clark and "American Bandstand" with introducing TV audiences to black performers and bringing them to the forefront of rock and roll. "He was adamant about it," Anderson said in an interview Wednesday. "There was so much black music, but it was hidden."

Ryan Seacrest -- who modeled not only his career but also his growing empire after Clark's -- said in a statement, "I idolized him from the start, and I was graced early on in my career with his generous advice and counsel. He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world. We will all miss him."

Seacrest also paid tribute to the man he called "boss" at the start of Wednesday night's "American Idol."

Clark was born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Bronxville and later moved to Mount Vernon, where he grew up. 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.

He began his career in the mailroom of a Utica radio station in 1945. By age 26, he was a broadcasting veteran, with nine years' experience on radio and TV stations in Syracuse, Utica and Philadelphia.

While in Philadelphia, Clark befriended Ed McMahon, who later credited Clark for introducing him to his future "Tonight Show" boss, Johnny Carson.

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.

With Ellen Yan and AP

More Entertainment