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April 18, 2012

Dick Clark: Television Giant Known for American Bandstand, New Year's Rockin' Eve, Much More

One of the savviest and most successful figures in television, Clark was a beloved on-camera personality and a prolific producer.

Dick Clark, the music and television icon whose legacy as an on-camera personality and producer made his one of the most influential entertainment industry figures of the past 60 years, died April 18, 2012, in Los Angeles. He was 82. According to news reports, the cause was a heart attack. Nicknamed America’s Oldest Teenager for his eternally youthful persona, he was born Richard Wagstaff Clark on November 30, 1929, in Mount Vernon, New York. He got his start in the entertainment business as a high school student, when he was hired in the mailroom of WRUN, a radio station run by his father and uncle. While still in his teens, he began filling in for the station’s weatherman and the announcer. Clark made his first major splash with the music show Bandstand, which originated as a local production in Philadelphia, where he worked as a disc jockey at radio station WFIL for a show called Dick Clark’s Caravan of Music. The show premiered in 1952, and within five years, ABC took the show national, renaming it American Bandstand. The show had a simple format — clean-cut teens danced to popular music of the day. In between, Clark chatted with the dancers and musical guests, who included such renowned artists as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Chubby Checker to the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Madonna and hundreds more. Dick Clark moved to Hollywood in 1963, and over the years added several other successful through his company, Dick Clark Productions— including The $25,000 Pyramid, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, the American Music Awards and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, which debuted in 1972. In 2004, Regis Philbin hosted the annual Times Square celebration when Clark suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. The following New Year’s Eve, however, Clark returned, his speech still impaired from the stroke. In recent years he was joined on the show by Ryan Seacrest. Dick Clark Productions created more than 7,500 hours of television programming, including more than 30 series and 250 specials, as well as more than 20 feature films and made-for-television movies. Over the course of his career, Clark received numerous honors, including Emmys, Grammys, induction in the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Television Academy Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Between Daytime Emmys and Primetime Emmys, in the regular categories of competition, he had 27 nominations and six wins. All of his nominations were for Daytime except for one — a Primetime nomination for the American Music Awards in 1988. Additionally, he received a seventh Emmy — a Daytime Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994. Clark is survived by his three children and his third wife, Keri Wigton, whom he married in 1977. In 1993, when Clark was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall Fame, a biography appeared in the program for the event, which is available here. Clark also had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the one-and-a-half hour interview, conducted July 29, 1999, in Burbank, California, by James Moll, Clark shared how he first got into television hosting, and outlined the rise of American Bandstand from a local Philadelphia show to a national phenomenon. He went on to explain his involvement with the payola scandals of the 1950s, the origins of New Year's Rockin' Eve, and his hosting duties on the game show $10,000 Pyramid. Clark also recalled working with Johnny Carson to produce TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, discussed forming Dick Clark Productions, and detailed the role of a producer. He also described the challenges of producing live awards shows, and spoke of what he believed to be the secret to live TV. The entire interview may be viewed here.

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