TV Legend Dick Clark dead at 82

Dick Clark, whose almost seven decades on television made him known as “America’s Oldest Living Teenager,” died today after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 82.

Born in Mount Vernon, New York towards the end of 1929, Clark started out as a mail clerk at WRUN-Radio, which was run by his father and uncle, in Utica, New York. Within a year he graduated to doing the weather and finally his own newscast. He was 17.

He attended Syracuse University and after graduation returned to Utica where he hosted a television country music program. In 1952 he was hired by WFIL, a Philadelphia station that broadcast on both radio and television. Initially hired as a radio DJ, Clark begin filling in for host Bob Horn on the stations afternoon teenage dance show, “Bandstand.” When Horn was fired in 1956 after being arrested for drunk driving Clark took over the show permanently, soon establishing it as one of the most popular on air. In 1957 the ABC television network picked up the show to run nationally, re-naming it “American Bandstand.” The show became a hit nationwide, airing after school in most cities. Sensing a change in the music world, Clark was one of the first hosts to welcome black dancers and guests on his show.

In 1959, Congress began an investigation into what was known as “Payola,” which concerned record company executives paying disc jockeys to highlight certain records and ignore others. Clark was called to testify before the committee and admitted to taking a fur coat and some jewelry for his wife from one record company president. As this was the only incident, Clark was reprimanded. However, to avoid the perception of impropriety, ABC asked Clark to sell his interest in the television program. He did but managed to keep rights to several important individual programs. In 1963, ABC moved “American Bandstand” to Saturday afternoons, where it ran until 1989.

Clark was also a shrewd producer. In 1972 he hosted his very first “New Year’s Rocking Eve” program. He also produced and hosted several game shows, most notably “The $10,000 Pyramid.” This grew to $25,000 then finally $100,000. He also produced such other popular shows as “Bloopers and Practical Jokes” and the very popular “American Music Awards.” In 2004 Clark suffered a stroke, which kept him off the air on New Years Eve. But the next year he was back, with new co-host Ryan Seacrest. His speech was stilted but you could see the young man inside in his eyes. Dick Clark was a true television icon. I doubt there will ever be another like him.

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