Dick Clark once told me that one of his fondest musical memories growing up was listening to the jukebox at “Itchum’s,” a corner hangout in his hometown of Mount Vernon, where kids – including a young Clark – would flock after school to hear the latest tunes.
That was 1992, when I spoke to Clark about Mount Vernon on the city’s centennial. He reminisced about the ritzy Bailey estate, where his mom worked, and how those memories carried over to his more successful years in Hollywood, when he moved into an estate of his own.
“I got a big iron fence to put up around the house in California,” Clark told me. “I wasn’t sure why I wanted this thing. It was like this Orson Welles ‘Rosebud’ thing. I finally realized that I had bought a replacement for the fence at the Bailey estate.”
The man was good with happy memories. He was good at nostalgia. He was good about hanging on to fond memories and sharing them with millions of fans. It was, essentially, his life’s work and his legacy.
I’m old enough to remember American Bandstand, the launching pad for Clark’s career. Back then, well before MTV and VH1, it was one of the few places on TV where you could listen to new music. Even then, Clark had been doing it for decades, helping inspire Soul Train and giving more than a few artists a new audience. As a growing young boy, the girls dancing wildly certainly didn’t hurt the eyes.
Despite stints as a game show host and, in recent years, as the annual host of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, he was always the American Bandstand guy to me, the man who devoted his life to the industry and to expanding its audience. Today comes word that Clark, who was in poor health since suffering a stroke several years ago, died from a massive heart attack at age 82.
It’s a shame that younger audiences might not appreciate his contribution. I hope now they take the time to delve into it a bit. That a man who was a pioneer in the music industry will ultimately be remembered for all that he did long before ill health overtook what was a brilliant career.
Thanks for the memories, Dick. Rest in peace.
Here’s a brief Associated Press story we ran in The Journal News:
Dick Clark, the television host who helped bring rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream on “American Bandstand,” has died. He was 82.
Spokesman Paul Shefrin says Clark, a Mount Vernon native, died but did not provide further details. Clark had continued performing even after he suffered a stroke in 2004 that affected his ability to speak and walk.
Long dubbed “the world’s oldest teenager” because of his boyish appearance, Clark also was a successful businessman. He hosted an annual New Year’s Eve special and supplied a variety of game shows and music specials to TV, including and the American Music Awards.
The original “American Bandstand” was one of network TV’s longest-running series as part of ABC’s daytime lineup from 1957 to 1987. Over the years, it introduced stars ranging from Buddy Holly to Michael Jackson to Madonna.
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