I’ll always remember exactly how I felt when I heard the words, “America’s oldest teenager died today at the age of 82.” I as at work that day, April 18, 2012. When my co-worker told me that the legendary radio and TV personality had passed, a wave of sadness washed over me. Dick Clark is the same age as my Grandpa, who isn’t in the best of health. There is a certain time in my childhood, my “halcyon days” of which my Grandpa, and Dick Clark, were a big part.
During the early 80’s I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents, often spending the weekend at their house. Saturday mornings were always the same. I woke up to my favorite breakfast, typically consisting of french toast or waffles. My Grandpa got up early and liked to work in his yard, so would often finish up his breakfast as I sat down. He was typically pretty serious but always had kind words and nicknames for me. My Grandma loved to spend time in the kitchen and kept a pretty tidy house. That meant that after breakfast, I got to watch cartoons and keep myself busy until her cleaning was done. During that time I always measured the time of day by what TV shows were on. I always knew that when American Bandstand started, my TV time was soon coming to a close. Once Soul Train came on, it was time to shut the TV off and “be productive”.
I still remember the American Bandstand theme song like I just heard it yesterday. Dick Clark was a handsome man, so friendly and full of good energy. Not to mention, pretty cool too! He was bringing all these great new musicians to the small screen, right in our home. Otherwise I may have only heard them on the radio but never actually see them perform since I was still too young for concerts. American Bandstand brought all kinds of people together to dance and have a good time. I didn’t find out until many years later but in the early days of American Bandstand these shows were some of the first to have desegregated live audiences. I enjoyed watching the attendees of the show dance and smile at the camera just as much as I enjoyed the music. As a young girl with a future ripe with possibility, I always hoped that when I was old enough I would someday make it in to the audience of American Bandstand. It just looked like so much fun.
Time moved on, and as I got older I started dreaming of other things. I spent less weekends at my grandparents. I watched less American Bandstand. However, Dick Clark was always a staple on New Year’s Eve. Without fail, for most of my life I rang in the new year watching the ball drop in Times Square and doing the countdown with Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve. If there was a year here and there where I missed the broadcast, I always knew I could count on watching the next year. Over the years, Dick Clark aged, but never lost his good looks or amiable personality. I was heart broken in when he had his stroke in 2005. That year, I was with friends in Santa Cruz, CA. We had our families together to ring in the new year and we were looking forward to seeing Dick Clark make his first appearance after spending much time rehabilitating. We were all quiet when he spoke. We had to listen intently. His speech was slurred and garbled, but he still had that friendly, happy look in his eyes. It made me so sad, because he was trying so hard, and wanted so badly to be there. It was HIS show. HIS baby. But it was clear he had long way to go before things would be the same again.
It turns out, things wouldn’t be quite the same. Due to complications of his stroke, his appearances on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve would be minimal and Ryan Seacrest would take the helm. The show was still entertaining, but I missed Dick Clark. Sadly, after his massive heart attack last week, he won’t be back at all. America will feel a void for a very long time, as for most, it feels like losing a part of the family as many of us grew up with him in our homes.
I’ll leave you to enjoy this clip of a Daytime Emmy Awards tribute to Dick Clark and American Bandstand, in which you can see how touched he was at the very end and became emotional. I’ll admit I did as well while watching the clip. I am glad he received this tribute while he was alive, so he would know how much he meant to everyone. Goodbye, Dick. We’ll miss you.