By Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES, April 18 Perennial New Year's Eve
master of ceremonies and "American Bandstand" host Dick Clark,
whose long-running television dance show helped rock 'n' roll
win acceptance in mainstream America, died on Wednesday at age
82, a spokesman said.
Clark, one of America's best-known TV personalities and the
longtime host of ABC's annual "New Year's Rockin' Eve" broadcast
from Times Square in Manhattan, suffered a heart attack and died
at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California,
publicist Paul Shefrin said.
Clark had entered the hospital on Tuesday night for what was
supposed to have been an outpatient procedure, Shefrin said in a
statement. He did not elaborate, except to say that attempts to
resuscitate Clark after the heart attack were unsuccessful.
Starting out as a TV announcer in Utica, New York, Clark
parlayed his "Bandstand" fame into a career as a host and
producer of dozens of other shows, including the American Music
Awards and Golden Globes broadcast.
His youthful good looks -- which he maintained into his 70s
-- won him the nickname of "America's oldest teenager."
Clark's career slowed down after he suffered a stroke in
December 2004 that sidelined him from the New Year's Eve show
for the first time since he launched the annual broadcast in
But Clark gamely returned to the program the following year,
and had continued since then to announce the annual countdown to
midnight, despite his considerably slurred speech, in a somewhat
revised format co-hosted with the much younger Ryan Seacrest of
"American Idol" fame.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend, Dick
Clark," Seacrest said in a Twitter post. "He has truly been one
of the greatest influences in my life."
In a lengthier statement, Seacrest saluted Clark as "smart,
charming, funny and always a true gentleman. ... He was a
remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to
television audiences around the world."
Tributes to Clark poured in from the entertainment industry,
reflecting the wide range of talent he helped showcase, from
soul diva Aretha Franklin, who called him "an American
institution," to Connie Francis, who credited Clark with
rescuing her career as a teenager by helping turn her single
"Who's Sorry Now" into a hit.
Clark's most enduring legacy was his role in introducing
rock 'n' roll to a wide U.S. audience while presiding over more
than three decades of pop music and dance fads as host of
HOSTED LANDMARK SHOW
As the first network TV show to feature rock 'n' roll,
"Bandstand," which began airing nationally in 1957, won over
America with its non-threatening image -- girls were not allowed
to wear slacks or tight sweaters, and boys dressed in jackets
Smoking and chewing gum were banned, and the show featured a
group of Philadelphia high school students who developed their
own national following. Clark himself embodied that clean-cut
image. He also was an astute businessman with a keen eye for
cultural trends who targeted mainstream America and was careful
not to offend his viewers.
Lacking a personal passion for rock, he favored
dance-friendly teen pop, and rock 'n' roll purists accused Clark
of helping to usher in an era of blandness, contributing to what
some critics saw as a neutering of the earthy rock 'n' roll
genre that grew out of rhythm and blues during the 1950s.
But "Bandstand" became an institution and, by the time it
left the air in the late 1980s had become the longest-running
music show in American television history. Along the way it gave
rock legends such as Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy
Holly their first national exposure.
Initially running five days a week in the afternoon, each
broadcast typically showcased one or two guest artists who would
lip-synch their current hits, chat with Clark about their
careers and sign autographs. Clark kept tapes of their
appearances and retained full permission to use them in the
future, building a valuable archive of early pop history.
The show was hugely influential with American teens, and
songs featured by Clark typically shot up the charts, so much so
that it once drew the attention of legislators scrutinizing
corrupt business practices in the music business.
In 1959 a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating payola took
an interest in Clark after they found that he had partial
copyrights to 150 songs, including many played on his show, and
that he also had ties to music-related businesses.
At the end of the investigation the Senate found nothing
illegal by Clark, but ABC ordered the host to give up the
outside businesses or the show. He chose to keep the show.
Born Richard Wagstaff Clark in 1929 in New York state, the
entertainer got an early job in the mail room of a radio station
partly run by his father and uncle before attending Syracuse
University and landing a job as a TV announcer in Utica.
He was hired at Philadelphia's WFIL, filling in for regular
host Bob Horn on "Bandstand," then a local Philadelphia program.
He took over the show full time in 1959 after Horn was arrested
for drunken driving.
Originating on the local air waves in 1952, the show was
picked up nationwide by ABC in 1957, becoming a hit and making
Clark a household name. It aired weekday afternoons until August
1963, then became a weekly Saturday network show until 1987,
when it was canceled. It aired in syndication for another year
with Clark as host, then resurfaced on the USA cable network for
less than a year with a younger host, David Hirsch.
In 2002, NBC introduced the prime-time drama "American
Dreams," which recreated "American Bandstand" as the backdrop
for a series revolving around a teenage girl who dances on the
show. Clark was one of the producers of the show.
In May 2004, Clark announced that he was shopping an updated
version of "American Bandstand" to a number of networks for a
debut in summer 2005. That project evolved into the Fox contest
show "So You Think You Can Dance."