Dick Clark, ‘Bandstand’ Host, Dead at 82
Dick Clark, affectionately known as the “world’s oldest teenager,” has died. He was 82.
Richard Wagstaff Clark became a national icon with American Bandstand in the late 1950s, hosting the show for more than 30 years. Clark also hosted the annual New Year’s Eve special for ABC for decades. He weathered scandals, hosted game shows and renewed hisBandstand fame with a new generation by producing the nostalgic TV drama American Dreams.
Clark’s emergence on the national stage owed much to his being in the right place at the right time. After a childhood immersed in the world of radio — his father worked as a station manager at WRUN in Utica, N.Y. — Clark became an announcer with WFIL radio in Philadelphia and hosted the local show Bandstand.
Four years into his time at WFIL, Clark got his big break. A Philadelphia TV host on a local teen dance program called American Bandstand had been accused of sexual impropriety with some of the teenage dancers and arrested for drunken driving. The station faced enormous pressure to cancel its most lucrative program, and the producers needed a new host.
Music historian John Jackson says Dick Clark “had a clean-cut, impeccable image. He had a boyish look about him, an innocent look.” In other words, he was the ideal candidate.
At the time, rock ‘n’ roll still carried an air of danger and controversy, but as host ofAmerican Bandstand, Clark would make the scandalous look tame. He changed American pop culture by creating an image of wholesome American teen life to which bubbly pop music was fundamental.
Clark was one of the first to take kids seriously as consumers and use the music they liked as a marketing tool. Today the kids-as-consumers concept drives much of television programming, so it’s hard to imagine the kind of resistance Clark met from ABC studio executives when he first proposed that Bandstand go national.
“He was laughed out of the studio,” says Jackson. “They said to him, ‘Who wants to watch kids dancing in Philadelphia?’ “
As it turned out, a lot of people did.