Thursday, April 19, 2012

4.19.12 Hero of the Day: Dick Clark

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Name: Richard Wagstaff Clark
Age: was 82
Occupation: entertainer and emcee
Last Seen: Long Beach, CA
Awarded For: being one of the best friends rock and pop music ever had


Just imagine if we never had Dick Clark.

True, we wouldn't have Justin Bieber and the Top 40 music format playing crappy pop music 24/7, but we probably wouldn't have rock stations, either. Small town America probably wouldn't be exposed to Motown, Chubby Checker or even Elvis. For many, American Bandstand was the Bible of Rock 'N Roll for teens in the late 50's and early 60's as they were getting out of school. The show kept sailing on throughout the 60's and well into the 80's until MTV took its audience away.

True, Clark wasn't Bandstand's first host. He came on in 1956 when its former host was fired for drunk driving. ABC loved the show so much that it went national in 1957 from its studios at WFIL-TV in Philadelphia. Dick had a pure, natural style that made the oft-raucous rock music acceptable in middle America. Thanks to Clark and AB, small towns that didn't even have a top 40 station at the time at least had one hour to know what the kids in the rest of the country were listening to.

Yes, Clark wasn't without controversy. In the late 1950's, he barely survived the payola scandal. He also urged viewers to mailbomb the ABC affiliate in Ada, OK, KTEN, for threatening to cancel AB over its content. In the end, there were more letters sent to KTEN than the actual population of Ada, which is 16,000. Even in the late 60's, the show started to slip in the ratings since Clark tried to avoid questionable acts. Michael Moore even grilled him in his 2002 documentary Bowling For Columbine because one of his employees at his American Bandstand Grills near Detroit was the mother of a five-year-old boy who killed a five-year-old girl at his school, and she was working 80 hours making minimum wage. But in the end, Clark proved that he could weather any storm, any time, just not MTV.

When MTV was introduced in 1981, AB would show a video or two on many shows. But it was that network that sealed its fate in 1989 after 32 years on national TV. But, Dick proved to be more than just a music emcee. He hosted many the many financial denominations of Pyramid and hosted many blooper shows with Ed McMahon in the 80's. But it was his infamous New Years' Rockin' Eve that kept Clark going at least once per year. To many, it just wasn't New Years without him.

Of course, it was a stroke triggered by Type II Diabetes that fell Clark for a year, and when he came back in 2006, his fans were shocked to hear him having difficulty talking. Even though Clark received much ridicule from Howard Stern and his many clones, Clark wanted to show the world that he wanted to entertain, disability or not.

And it was Stern that Clark did have a liking to. In 2004, he told Larry King that yes, if people liked Howard, they had the right to listen to his show. If they didn't like it, there was the dial. Since Clark had his issues with conservatives and pundits, He felt that he should help others with their problems.

Clark died Wednesday from a massive heart attack at 82. Many celebs Tweeted and commented on his passing, including Tinker Bell himself, Ryan Seacrest, who will probably now host New Years' Rockin' Eve solo. Other celeb well-wishers included Mariah Carey, Donna Summer (who actually hosted an AB episode in 1978), Snoop Dogg and even the current management of Soul Train. In 1973, Clark produced a controversial rip-off of that show called Soul Unlimited that caused Soul Train crator and host Don Cornelius to call foul since it was produced by a white man. Needless to say, Clark canned the show, especially due to poor ratings.

In the end, Dick was a man who loved to teach the world to sing and to rock. He broke many barriers and pushed envelopes and helped make the unacceptable acceptable. Sadly, only 883 out of some 3,000 episodes ofBandstand still exist, but there's still plenty of Dick Clark to love.

Thanks, Dick. So long to you.
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