To America’s Youngest Teenager…I Say, Thank You
5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!
My whole life I have heard the exact same kind, deep voice announce those numbers to me right before the ‘Ball’ fell and ushered in a brand new year. When I was around eight years old, I sat and watched that shiny monument to ‘new beginnings’ drop from the sky; an annual ‘gift’ that offers every individual a clean slate in order to begin again.
My parents would dance. Yup…dance. We had a long hallway that went from the kitchen to the living room, and as Mr. Clark spoke in the background they would hold each other, with smiles on their faces, and dance – ushering in the New Year with hope and happiness. No, this is not supposed to be ‘gooey.’ This is truly a tribute to one of those special ‘voices’ you will have stuck in your head for the rest of your life…thankfully.
Knowing that Mr. Clark is now with the angels…that his kind face, bright eyes, and sweet voice that made you feel as if you were being wrapped in the warmest, softest blanket on earth is gone… all I can say is that I want Mr. Clark’s countdown to begin again.
When a story breaks, when headlines arrive, most of the ‘professionals’ (LOL) make sure that all the facts are reported in their usual cold, statistical way so that everyone on the planet knows that one of their beloved friends is gone. Then…after a couple of weeks, along come the true words about a man who was so charming and so much a part of everyday American life, that his ‘gift’ to us becomes suddenly clear. Without Dick Clark, what is music? What is New Year’s? Maybe the Mayans were right. But maybe what they meant by the ‘end of the world,’ had nothing to do with ending in a blast of fire. Perhaps they simply meant that our world – the one we knew and loved – would be over in 2012 simply because we lost the people who made it unique in the first place.
Dick Clark will forever be known as the American radio and television personality that the youth of America loved from the 50’s on. American Bandstand is still shown in the background of almost every movie set in the 50’s and 60’s that are still being made today. Some audiences will remember his smiling face on the game show, Pyramid. This was one of those gig’s that only a sweet man could do, because after hearing some of the ridiculous answers given, he probably had a hard time just trying not to laugh.
And then…Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. There this icon sat in the most iconic City in the world and spoke to the globe. His voice, the music, the very essence of kindness hovered around him like an aura that spoke of LIFE and the celebration of it.
But American Bandstand is really where our love affair with Dick Clark began. This was the one and only show that offered a platform to supreme talent, and literally legitimized the world of rock-and-roll. In fact, without Dick Clark and the respect, determination and intelligence he had for himself, and others had for him, the whole music scene of today may never have happened. This was the show that gave many new music artists their first exposure to national audiences – icons ranging from Stevie Wonder to Tina Turner. More importantly, Bandstand was a vehicle that would break barriers. This was the show that first allowed all races to perform on stage with no segregated seating for the audience. Dick Clark and American Bandstand were a platform all their own – the music combined with Clark’s absolute brilliance transcended all the ridiculousness of color vs. color.
When Bandstand debuted in 1957, Dick Clark came on air with a young man by the name of Elvis Presley and the show – not surprisingly – took off. But the actual success of the show came from Clark’s simplistic yet monumental ability to have a rapport with a live teenage audience. He understood their shouts for change, their teenage issues and qualms; he understood their need to express themselves in music – from those ballads that allowed them to focus on the one they loved, to the unforgettable rock-and-roll Elvis delivered; an icon all his own that would go on to be the sexiest singer and hip-gyrator in the history of music. (In fact, nothing like him had been seen since, until Matthew Morrison of Glee did an episode that introduced this generation to a song called, Tell Me Something Good.)
Dick Clark was that non-threatening hero. He, quite simply, wasn’t your parent. Teenagers liked Dick Clark because he understood it all, and was willing to be their best friend during the one time they really needed it. And, because of his boyish appearance and that self-respect and talent he exuded, he even won over the parents.
Ralph Edwards, the host of This is Your Life, said in 1959 during a surprise television tribute to Dick Clark that he was, “America’s youngest starmaker.” So it was out of left field when America’s oldest teenager suffered a massive stroke in 2004. People could actually feel the music business take a hit. Music will continue, of course, for eternity – but without its leader, its most prized-possession, it will be different…and not in a good way.
Dick Clark did return to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, although his speech was impaired from the stroke. It was for the 2005/06 countdown, with Ryan Seacrest by his side serving as primary host that Dick Clark stated to the world:
“Last year I had a stroke. It left me in bad shape. I had to teach myself how to walk and talk again. It’s been a long, hard fight. My speech is not perfect but I’m getting there.” Before counting down to usher in 2006, he said that he, “wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” and he would continue to be there when that mighty ball dropped right up until we said goodbye to 2011.
For a young man who began his career working in the mailroom of an AM radio station in Rome, New York, the huge career and celebrity that he achieved was an amazing task and extremely well-deserved.
This is a man who was larger than life!
There are those out there who will remember Dick Clark as the voice they listened to when they wore poodle skirts and dreamed of either marrying the high school quarterback, or running off with the bad boy with grease in his hair who looked really good in a leather jacket. There are others who will remember him as being the one they laughed and cried with on New Year’s Eve. Whether he was the voice speaking to them as they celebrated another year alone, or he was the voice in the background that gave them all fresh hope – he will be remembered by one and all.
For this girl…I will remember hearing his voice at the age of eight and watching my parents dance toward their future. I will remember him as a girl of twenty who felt alone and wanted nothing more than for the next year to be far better than the last. And, finally, I will remember him as a girl of thirty who had to witness her very first New Year’s Eve with Dick Clark patting her hand and consoling her as the beautiful dance of her parents came to an end.
This amazing human being is up with the angels now; right alongside my Dad, I would assume, considering how much my father truly loved the man and his ability to touch the souls of everyone with unforgettable charisma and the true love of music.
I also know that as that clock ticks down and Ryan Seacrest lets me know that – whether fair or foul – another year has again passed me by and I have to gear up for 2013…New Year’s Eve will never be the same. From here on out that celebration will be lacking, because you and I have now lost a true dreamer and an irreplaceable friend.
Until Next Time, Everybody,