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Entertainment legend Dick Clark, known as “America’s Oldest Teeenager,” has died, ABC News Radio has confirmed.  The American Bandstand pioneer, who’d suffered a stroke in 2004, passed away following a massive heart attack; he’d entered the hospital Tuesday night for an outpatient procedure.  Clark is survived by his wife Kari and his three children, RAC, Duane and Cindy.

Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Nov. 30, 1929, Richard Wagstaff Clark began his lifelong career in show business began before he was even out of high school. He started working in the mailroom of WRUN, a radio station in upstate New York run by his father and uncle. It wasn’t long before the teenager was on the air, filling in for the weatherman and the announcer.

Clark pursued his passion at Syracuse University, working as a disc jockey at the student-run radio station while studying for his degree in business. After graduating in 1951, Clark went back to his family’s radio station, but within a year, a bigger city and bigger shows were calling. 

Clark landed a gig as a DJ at WFIL in Philadelphia in 1952, spinning records for a show he called Dick Clark’s Caravan of Music. There he broke into the big time, hosting Bandstand, an afternoon dance show for teenagers. Within five years, the whole country was watching. ABC took the show national, and American Bandstand was born.

When Dick Clark moved to Hollywood in 1963, American Bandstand moved with him. He started Dick Clark Productions, and began cranking out one hit show after another; his name became synonymous with everything from the $25,000 Pyramid to TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes to the American Music Awards.In 1972, Dick Clark became synonymous with one of the biggest nights of the year.

Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC became a Dec. 31 tradition, with Clark hosting the festivities for more than three decades, introducing the entertainment acts and, of course, counting down to midnight as the ball dropped in New York’s Times Square.

But the traditional celebration saw a temporary stop in 2004, when Clark suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and struggling to speak. Regis Philbin stepped in. But by the next New Year’s Eve, Dick Clark was back, his speech still impaired. In halting words, he told the audience, “I had to teach myself how to walk and talk again. It’s been a long, hard fight. My speech is not perfect but I’m getting there.”

But that didn’t stop him: he returned each year, and in recent years, he was joined by Ryan Seacrest.  “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dick Clark,” Seacrest aid via Twitter.  “He has truly been one of the greatest influences in my life.”

Meanwhile New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg credited Clark with making Times Square the New Years Eve destination it’s become.  “Times Square is considered the crossroads of the world in no small part because Dick Clark’s New Years Eve celebrations there were beamed across the globe,” he said in a statement.  “I remember one New Years Eve, he and I stood in Times Square marveling about how much the area — and the City — had improved over the years. But Dick Clark never had to change — he was a great entertainer who stood the test of time. Generations of Americans grew up with Dick, and yet he seemed forever young. His spirit will always live on in Times Square, and in hearts of millions of New Yorkers.”

The Museum of Broadcast Communications has done the math, and figures that Dick Clark Productions has turned out more than 7,500 hours of television programming, including more than 30 series and 250 specials, as well as more than 20 movies for theatre and TV.

All this earned Clark a long list of awards and accolades: Emmys, Grammys, induction in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It also made him one of the richest men in Hollywood; he also had stakes in a wide range of businesses, including restaurants, theaters and real estate.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


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