Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dick Clark: 1929-2012

Good early morning all you lurkers and readers of my Animated blog. As many of you know by now Dick Clark passed away yesterday, April 18th. A lot of people who are older than I am first knew of Clark as the host of the American Bandstand program beginning in 1956. The program had a series of hosts since it's debut in 1952 but obviously Clark is the one person universally identified with the program.

The technical information in this modest overview of Dick Clark's career, such as air-dates and specific titles of television programs, was obviously researched by me from multiple on-line sources as I had to look up some data for accuracy. I blended the information I found with my own commentary, opinion, and recollections and the results are what you'll read below.

I knew of Dick Clark first and foremost as the host of a game show, Pyramid. I used to watch the show when it was still in production during the 1980's. Most kids loved summer break because there was, of course, no school...and I loved the summer for that reason, too, but unlike a lot of others I also liked summer break because I could watch all those game shows that aired during the daytime!!

Yes...believe it or not...the daytime line-up through the week was filled with game shows on the big three networks and in syndication. There were game shows during the day and soap operas in the afternoons. The soap opera is now facing the extinction list on network television just as the game show did in the early '90s.

So, I first knew of Dick Clark as a game show host. As I got older I learned more about him and how much of an impact he had on pop-culture. The stats show that he hosted American Bandstand for 33 years (1956-1989) and so it's quite logical that a lot of the remembrances from people will be connected to that program. It was still a local television program when Clark became the host in 1956. It went national the following year and a huge chunk of it's run was on ABC (1957-1987) with it's final two seasons in syndication (1987-1989). A secondary program, almost similar to American Bandstand, aired in the late '50s titled Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beechnut Show. A lot of the clips of pop and rock performers taped on Clark's two programs show up a lot on infomercials. The major difference between the two shows is the Bandstand program featured a dancing format while the other one didn't.

My remembrances of him, as mentioned, are centered around Pyramid and the New Year's Rockin' Eve countdown program. I'm no fan of rock and rap music and so I wasn't a big watcher of the full New Year's Eve show...but I'd tune in around 20 minutes 'til midnight and catch the eventual ball drop in Times Square.  The program that would come to be known as Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve began on New Year's Eve 1972 with a program produced, not hosted, by Clark.

After producing two more New Year's Eve music specials (1973 and 1974), Clark became the on-camera host beginning on New Year's Eve 1975. He would remain the host of this program through New Year's Eve 2008. As it's been well documented, Clark suffered a stroke in December 2004...weeks before New Year's Eve. The special that year was hosted by Regis Philbin. Clark returned as host for the next four specials with impaired speech as a result of the 2004 stroke (hosting 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008). Joining him as co-host on all the specials was Ryan Seacrest from Fox's program, American Idol. Starting on New Year's Eve 2009 Seacrest assumed the position as host while Dick Clark's on-camera activities decreased (although he was always present during the countdown to midnight). The show's title became Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest. The annual specials, for those who didn't know, were always titled for the forthcoming year. New Year's Rockin' Eve 2009, for example, would have an air-date of December 31, 2008. December 31, 2011 marked the final appearance of Dick Clark on-camera...on the New Year's Rockin' Eve 2012 telecast. I am one of the people who didn't mind that Dick continued to appear on camera after his stroke. I know of people who weren't comfortable about it...and Dick Clark himself knew that a lot of people weren't comfortable with his appearances...but he often remarked that he wanted to show that you don't have to go into hiding and retreat into the shadows due to the effects of a medical condition.

I've read cynical comments from people who say that Clark didn't have to appear on TV anymore because "he's a millionaire and didn't need the money". I've also read sickening comments from people who say that Clark was "selfish" because he didn't want to "give up" the New Year's appearances after the stroke affected his speech. In reality, though, Dick Clark had every right to continue to appear on the program...it was his program, after all.

Let's be introspective for just a moment. This is directed at those who've criticized him as being selfish...

For those out there who've labeled Dick Clark as being "selfish" for staying in the spotlight after his stroke, take a look in the mirror. Aren't you also being selfish? Aren't you thinking of just yourself and your uneasiness and your comfort levels when it comes to Dick Clark's latter-day appearances? Aren't you thinking of how you want to remember him?  

If you answer all those questions with a "yes" then you're the selfish person...not Dick Clark. If he were truly a selfish person he would have retreated into retirement and stayed out of the public eye because of how uneasy/uncomfortable some were. Also, if he were truly a selfish person he'd want people to only remember him before the stroke's impact on his life. So, then, before anyone wants to tag him as being selfish, have a mirror handy.

Getting back to the music...

Although I'm no fan of rock and rap music I do like hearing some artists that are considered pop and Easy-Listening. Barry Manilow, for example...Manilow and a frequent collaborator, Bruce Sussman, wrote new lyrics for Bandstand's theme, by the way. The theme's title is "Bandstand Boogie" and the song first appeared on Manilow's 1975 album, Tryin' To Get the Feeling, but it didn't become the show's actual theme song until 1977. The Manilow recording would remain the theme song for the remainder of the program's run on ABC (through 1987).  The program, of course, had a couple of other theme songs prior to Manilow's recording assuming that role in 1977 (after all, the show had been on the air since the '50s) but it was Barry's recording that became synonymous with the program.

Now, aside from Pyramid and the New Year's countdown, I was also a watcher of the various blooper programs that he hosted with Ed McMahon. Research shows that each of the two hosted, separately, similar highly rated TV specials but the dynamic of having the two of them present a program blending elements of those specials resulted in the creation of the bloopers and practical jokes series. The program aired with a series of different titles but the one that had the longest run was officially known as TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. It aired on NBC and was a production shared between Dick Clark and Johnny Carson. Blooper programs were all the rage in the '80s...but the one Dick Clark and Ed McMahon hosted together proved to be the most popular of them all (in spite of it only being in production as a weekly series for two seasons, 1984-1986!). The shows typically aired on Saturday evenings or Sunday evenings during it's run. After the series ended as weekly program in 1986 the two would host a series of blooper specials on NBC throughout the rest of the '80s and into the '90s. The franchise moved to ABC in the late '90s with Dick Clark as the sole host.

The blooper shows, topical in nature considering they always consisted of bloopers and jokes from then-current programming, nevertheless continued to air as filler programming on TBS in the '90s and earlier this decade whenever a baseball game or sporting event was postponed or delayed. The blooper programs would also air as mid-season replacements whenever a series was canceled. So, as you can see, it had a lengthy shelf life in spite of it's sporadic production.

Dick Clark hosted Pyramid for ABC, CBS, and in Syndication between the years of 1973 and 1988. The longest running incarnation aired on ABC from 1974 to 1980 as The $20,000 Pyramid. CBS was the original home of the then-titled $10,000 Pyramid (1973-1974). The series was syndicated from 1974-1979 with a slightly larger top prize, as The $25,000 Pyramid and hosted by Bill Cullen. For a little more than half a year in 1981 Dick Clark hosted the syndicated $50,000 Pyramid in which a tournament element was introduced. This syndicated run lasted 95 episodes, airing daily from the months of January through September.

The show was revived once again as The $25,000 Pyramid in 1982 on CBS with Dick Clark once again as it's host. This is the series that I remember watching on television as a kid. The show ran on CBS until, ironically, New Year's Eve 1987! It was brought back again in the spring of 1988 and it went out of production permanently in the summer of 1988. In the meantime, Clark hosted the syndicated $100,000 Pyramid from 1985 through 1988...bringing an end to his 15 year association with the game show.

Afterward, Clark remained in the public eye, of course...hosting a short-lived game show called The Challengers in the early '90s. The New Year's Eve program, though, would remain the most visible program for Clark from 1990 onward. I hadn't even mentioned his production company being involved in so many programs...including the annual Academy of Country Music awards as well as the American Music Awards...plus radio programs and CD's specializing in the Oldies format (early rock music) and the Bandstand restaurant chain. After all this is just my modest over-view of Dick Clark's career.

Thanks to video hosting web-sites and cable TV chances are you'll see Dick Clark forever...he definitely had an impact.

November 30, 1929 - April 18, 2012.

1 comment:

KATCHAT28 said...

Jerry, I enjoyed reading your blog about Dick Clark. I always watched his programs---first as a kid watching "American Bandstand" every Saturday morning and remembering wanting to be a teenager so I could go on the show one day! I loved the "Pyramid" shows and always watched them in the summer, too, and at night, too. I always had to watch "New Year's Rockin' Eve" each year just to see Mr. Clark. It was an annual tradition, for sure. He will surely be missed.