Dick Clark dead at 82
By TODAY.com staff and wire services
Famed television personality Dick Clark died of a heart attack Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, his spokesman confirms. Clark was 82.
Clark is best known for hosting long-running television shows such as "American Bandstand," the game show "Pyramid" and "Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve."
He was nicknamed "America’s oldest teenager" and maintained his youthful looks into his 70s.
Clark had been in St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., after undergoing an outpatient procedure Tuesday night. He suffered the heart attack following the procedure and attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
Clark is survived by his wife, Kari, and his three children.
Clark, who started out as a TV announcer in Utica, New York, parlayed his "Bandstand" fame into a career as a producer and host of dozens of other shows, including ABC’s annual New Year’s Eve telecast, which he launched in 1972.
The original "American Bandstand" was one of network TV’s longest-running series as part of ABC’s daytime lineup from 1957 to 1987. It later aired for a year in syndication and briefly on the USA Network. Over the years, it introduced stars ranging from Buddy Holly to Madonna. The show’s status as an American cultural institution was solidified when Clark donated Bandstand’s original podium and backdrop to the Smithsonian Institution.
Clark joined "Bandstand" in 1956 after Bob Horn, who’d been the host since its 1952 debut, was fired. Under Clark’s guidance, it went from a local Philadelphia show to a national phenomenon.
"I played records, the kids danced, and America watched," was how Clark once described the series’ simplicity. In his 1958 hit "Sweet Little Sixteen," Chuck Berry sang that "they’ll be rocking on Bandstand, Philadelphia, P-A."
As a host, he had the smooth delivery of a seasoned radio announcer. As a producer, he had an ear for a hit record. He also knew how to make wary adults welcome this odd new breed of music in their homes.
Clark endured accusations that he was in with the squares, with critic Lester Bangs defining Bandstand as "a leggily acceptable euphemism of the teenage experience." In a 1985 interview, Clark acknowledged the complaints. "But I knew at the time that if we didn’t make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it."
"So along with Little Richard and Chuck Berry and the Platters and the Crows and the Jayhawks … the boys wore coats and ties and the girls combed their hair and they all looked like sweet little kids into a high school dance," he said.
But Clark defended pop artists and artistic freedom, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said in an online biography of the 1993 inductee. He helped give black artists their due by playing original R&B recordings instead of cover versions by white performers, and he condemned censorship
For a time in the 1980s, he had shows on all three networks and was listed among the Forbes 400 of wealthiest Americans. Clark also was involved in radio as a partner in the United Stations Radio Network, which provided programs — including Clark’s — to thousands of stations.
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.
From Godfrey, he said, he learned that "a radio announcer does not talk to ‘those of you out there in radio land’; a radio announcer talks to me as an individual."
"There’s hardly any segment of the population that doesn’t see what I do," Clark told The Associated Press in a 1985 interview. "It can be embarrassing. People come up to me and say, ‘I love your show,’ and I have no idea which one they’re talking about."
Clark’s clean-cut image survived a music industry scandal. In 1960, during a congressional investigation of "payola" or bribery in the record and radio industry, Clark was called on to testify.
He was cleared of any suspicions but was required by ABC to divest himself of record-company interests to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. The demand cost him $8 million, Clark once estimated. His holdings included partial ownership of Swan Records, which later released the first U.S. version of the Beatles’ smash "She Loves You."
In 2004, Clark announced plans for a revamped version of "American Bandstand." The show, produced with "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller, was to feature a host other than Clark.
He was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1994 and served as spokesman for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
"American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, who began co-hosting "New Year’s Rockin’ Eve" in 2005, said in a statement, "I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dick Clark. He has truly been one of the greatest influences in my life. I idolized him from the start, and I was graced early on in my career with his generous advice and counsel. When I joined his show in 2006, it was a dream come true to work with him every New Year’s Eve for the last 6 years. He was smart, charming, funny and always a true gentleman. I learned a great deal from him, and I’ll always be indebted to him for his faith and support of me. He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world. We will all miss him.”
Musicians, entertainers and fans of all ages quickly took to Twitter to remember Clark.
"REST IN PEACE to the DICK CLARK!! U were pioneer n a good man!! Thank u sir" wrote Snoop Dogg.
Isaac Hanson of the band Hanson tweeted, "Dick Clark was a Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio/TV icon with an influence on pop culture for more than 50 years. Rest in peace."
Actor Seth Green wrote, "So saddened by Dick Clark’s passing- an innovator, a legend, a man who believed in the greatness of humans. #ThankYou."
Comedian Joan Rivers tweeted, "Very sad to hear about Dick Clark. What a great life. What a great career. Relevant until the end. He will be missed!"
Al Roker of TODAY remembered a day with Clark in 1995, tweeting, "I got to meet him many times. One that always sticks out: I was meeting w/Dick in his office as the OJ verdict was announced. It was surreal."
And "Partridge Family" star Danny Bonaduce shared a very personal memory. "You may remember Dick Clark as the world’s oldest living teenager," Bonaduce tweeted. "I’ll remember him as the man who beat me in a pushup contest — he was 74."
How will you remember Clark? Tell us on Facebook.
- Celebrities remember Dick Clark
- Video from 2004: Clark suffers a mild stroke
- Video from 1989: Clark retires from ‘American Bandstand’
- Video from 1982: Clark donates ‘Bandstand’ podium to Smithsonian
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