Not only was Clark an enduring presence in front of TV cameras for six-plus decades, he was a power behind them as a producer and head of Dick Clark Productions.
Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., he began his career in radio in upstate New York before moving in 1952 to Philadelphia radio station WFIL-AM, which had a sister TV station that started a show called Bob Horn's Bandstand. He sometimes subbed as host, and when Horn left, Clark took over. He hosted the show, renamed American Bandstand, from 1956 to 1989. The program went national on ABC in 1957, moving to the West Coast in 1964, a year after going from daily to weekly. For a generation of teenagers, it was an after-school staple — something you rushed home for.
Over the years, he introduced numerous music stars' first TV appearances, including Buddy Holly, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5 and Madonna. His signature sign-off: a military salute, while saying: "For now, Dick Clark ... so long."
The creator of the American Music Awards in 1973, Clark also was instrumental in the rehabilitation of the Golden Globes. The awards had been discredited by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's questionable selection process, alleged taste for paid junkets and swag as well as reports that Pia Zadora's husband "bought" her a "Newcomer-of-the-Year" Globe in 1981.
In 1972, he started Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC, then an upstart challenger to that holiday's established TV star, Guy Lombardo, and now of course the longest-running show in a crowded field of programming. After suffering a stroke in December 2004, he was unable to host the festivities as he had the previous 32 years (except for 2000 when ABC News took over); he returned as a co-host in 2005, passing the mantle of primary host to Ryan Seacrest.
The reaction to his return was decidedly mixed, as some viewers expressed discomfort in watching as Clark — whose speech had been affected — struggled to count down the seconds to the New Year, and TV critics expressed the opinion he no longer was up to the job. Stroke survivors and their advocates, though, hailed him as a role model.
Before his stroke, Clark — a 1993 inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — was the subject of jokes for decades about he seemed to preternaturally stay young a la Dorian Gray.
One of the many ingenious Gary Larson cartoons in The Far Side carried the caption: "Suddenly, on a national talk show in front of millions of viewers, Dick Clark ages 200 years in 30 seconds." In Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married, time traveler Kathleen Turner makes a crack about how "that man never ages." And in a 1999 episode of The Simpsons about Y2K fears, Clark melts and is shown to be a robot after a computer glitch at midnight.
While others, including standup comedians, long had a field day about his apparent agelessness, Clark could play along at his own expense, like in a Police Squad! episode in which he buys a secret youth cream.
For decades, it felt like Clark always was on TV. If not Bandstand, then he was hosting various versions of Pyramid, for which he earned three Daytime Emmys as Best Game-Show Host, and other game shows. He received four other Emmys, including one for lifetime achievement. A 1999 Peabody Award winner, he had programs on all three major networks at the same time in the 1980s. One was TV Bloopers & Practical Jokes (co-hosted with Ed McMahon).
Married three times, Clark is survived by wife Kari Wigton of 35 years, and three children from his first two marriages.
- Dick Clark
- Dick Clark
- Dick Clark
- American Bandstand
- Dick Clark Productions