Thursday, April 19, 2012


He was dubbed "America's Oldest Teenager," and even into his 80's, Dick Clark was "with it," still hanging in as a host of the "Rockin' New Year's Eve" show he created. Life goes on without Dick Clark, who died yesterday of a heart attack, but New Year's Eve won't be the same.

Before Ed Sullivan gave us The Beatles, Dick Clark gave us…well, just about everybody else via his pioneering "American Bandstand" show. Unlike colorful radio personalities such as Murray the K and Cousin Brucie, Dick Clark was a laidback guy who simply gave fans the music they wanted to hear. He let the musicians have the spotlight As with Johnny Carson, he weathered changes well and remained a likable TV host for decades. He added a variety of TV series and quiz shows to his hosting resume, from Blooper compilations to the "$25,000 Pyramid." Never too old to rock and roll, he produced the "Rockin' New Year's Eve" as an alternative to "The Tonight Show" and the Guy Lombardo style of television celebration that had marked midnight.

You'll find plenty more about him with any obit search. My encounters with him were minimal…I was invited to a photo op when he launched one of his shows, exchanged letters now and then regarding some performers or some trivia from the past, and he always was pleasant and professional; a good guy.

It's a measure of the man that even some of the most prickly people in show biz paid him tribute yesterday. Roseanne Barr remembered him as "Always a nice man." Dane Cook wrote: "Rest in peace Mr. Dick Clark. Thank you for new years and new years of class, positivity and entertainment." Joan Rivers said, "What a great life. What a great career. Relevant until the end." And he was. Although his 2004 stroke seriously affected his ability to speak, and Ryan Seacrest was really the host of "Rockin' New Year's Eve," Clark turned up for a cameo every year, and it was lovely to see. Some idiots wanted him kicked off the show for being a "downer," even if his sound bytes were just a few 30 seconds here and there, but his presence was an inspiration; he was still with us, making it to a new year, even with physical problems, keeping on rockin' as we all try to do.

Even though his speech was not perfect, and he was finally beginning to actually look somewhat octogenarian, Dick Clark remained, as Joan Rivers said, "relevant." He remained young. That spirit leads to the tribute song: "I Wanna Die Young at a Very Old Age." It's about a guy who died at 82, as Clark did, and it's sung by C&W great Charlie Louvin who kept singing and recording to the very end:

"I wanna die young at a very old age. Make life worth living each and every day… Gramps was sharp as a tack at 82, acting half his age, kickin' up his shoes. I never thought of him as old, to me he was just a kid full grown….hope that I'm that young when I'm that old…"

"I Wanna Die Young..." Charlie Louvin.


Anonymous said...

What a fantastic song. Very fitting tribute to anyone who is young at heart. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

No mention as to how DC managed to side-step the payola scandals of the 1950's?? I think I'll remember Dick as he was portrayed on The Residents' "Third Reich and Roll" LP.

Ill Folks said...

Payola? I don't know that much about it, but it's likely "everyone was doing it." It was just convenient to go after Alan Freed as an example, rather than put every DJ in jail.

Lots of jocks accepted money or favors to play records...that sort of thing still goes on. Lots of politics on who gets reviewed, and reviewed favorably, in the Times, Entertainment Weekly, etc.

No question Dick was a brilliant producer who, like Ed Sullivan, had the perfect show from which to wield power and influence.

One can never, as Dylan sang it, "turn a blind eye to human nature." We must also give some leeway. Murray the K, for instance, recorded as "The Lone Twister" and played the song on his show. But he played it as part of a 5-song audition of new 45's. Phone voters placed "The Lone Twister" 3rd that night, and Murray, though he could've pushed the song and played it till it became a hit, accepted the vote and eased off.

I think if you consider the way Dick conducted himself over the past 40 years, he deserved a tribute. Most who knew him say he was a pretty nice guy. Everybody's closet is a little dark, but in the light of day, he looked pretty good.

I had only two encounters with him but found him courteous and decent both times.