'American Bandstand' host has been a TV staple for more than 50 years.
By Gil Kaufman
Dick Clark in 1958
Photo: Getty Images
One of television's most enduring personalities, Dick Clark, died on Thursday (April 18) after suffering from a massive heart attack. According to TMZ, the longtime host of "American Bandstand" and "New Year's Rockin' Eve" had been in a Los Angeles hospital undergoing an outpatient procedure when the heart attack struck, killing him at age 82.
Clark had been weathered a number of serious ailments since 2004, when he suffered a major stroke, which forced him to retire from "Rockin' Eve," which he had hosted since 1972. His death comes after the man known as "America's Oldest Teenager" spent a long career building some of the most iconic brands in television, from "American Bandstand" and "Rockin' Eve" to the "American Music Awards" and such popular shows as the "$25,000 Pyramid" and "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes."
Photos: The life and career of Dick Clark.
But it was "Bandstand" that helped Clark stake a claim as one of the people who helped put rock n' roll on the map, and, more importantly, into people's homes on TV. After taking over a low-rated afternoon show featuring teens dancing to the day's hits on an interim basis, Clark was bumped up to full-time host in 1956. The show went national on ABC as "American Bandstand" and became a sensation, helping to advance the careers of dozens of early rock stars such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry thanks to his "rate-a-record" segment, which helped Clark earn a reputation as a musical tastemaker.
The show ran daily Monday-Friday until 1963 and then once-a-week on Saturdays through 1989. Once Clark made the move to Hollywood in 1963 his Dick Clark Productions became a TV powerhouse, producing TV shows and as well as made-for-TV movies. Though he was known for his sharp business acumen and fierce dedication to his signature shows - he returned sporadically to "Rockin' Eve" beginning in 2006 despite suffering some speech problems due to the stroke - Clark was, above all, the consummate on-camera professional. With his charming, unflappable style, Clark yearned to stay forever young.
Born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, New York, on November 30, 1929, Clark was destined for a career in the entertainment business. He began working in the mailroom of the WRUN radio station in upstate New York before he graduated from high school, working for his father and eventually taking on the job of weatherman and announcer.
After spinning records on the college station during his time at Syracuse University, Clark graduated in 1951 with a degree in business and worked a number of radio jobs before landing the "Bandstand" gig.
According to ABC News the Museum of Broadcast Communication calculated that Dick Clark Productions had churned out more than 7,500 hours of TV programming, including more than 30 series, 250 specials and 20 TV and big screen films. That volume of material not only brought Clark untold millions, but also earned him induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Emmys, Grammys and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As Clark himself would have said it with his signature catchphrase, "For now, Dick Clark ... so long."
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