Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dick Clark

A guy I was pretty good friends with in high school made a good living for awhile  working for the radio side of Dick Clark Productions, before moving on to other profitable radio jobs.  The last time we got together, lunch in a Jersey diner, we had almost nothing to say to each other. I respected his career in commercial radio at the mic & then  in management & consulting, as he did my alternative radio experience, but there was little connection between the two, even musical. We both went away disappointed, I think.

Dick Clark became a success in his twenties with American Bandstand,  lived a long time. & was already a kind of living legend in the 1970's. He cultivated the image, no one really minded. When my older sister was 11, 12,   she went directly home from school every day to watch American Bandstand from Philadelphia on a black & white TV. It was broadcast live. She knew all the most "popular" kids on the show by name. They were celebrities. She was typical of Bandstand's audience; not-quite-teenage girls who bought records with their allowances. Dick Clark was a famous man. He genuinely liked teenagers. Never talked down, never lectured or moralized on Bandstand. (although he authored a book on dealing with the difficulties of teenagedom, when teenagers were still perceived as young adults, maybe adolescent versions of Dick himself. By the time I was a teenager we considered ourselves a separate species.).

Dick Clark sold a lot of Clearasil in his day. 

I don't think Dick Clark had any special commitment to rock & roll. The impression he always gave me was that he didn't particularly care what comprised the Top 20 or Top 40 provided he was somehow making a buck off it.  If he was making a buck, it was "rock & roll." His advancement of it was more a matter of timing than personal taste.

Dick great gift was as  a creator of no-budget, pure profit TV.  Take hit records, construct teen shows around them. Take  "bloopers" from regular TV shows,  turn them into a weekly TV show . Solicit funny home videos, build a program around them. Invent "awards," invite celebrities to dress up, show up & collect them. Appropriate New Year's Eve in Times Square, sit there like he thought up & organized the whole falling globe thing, pre-tape a New Year's Eve "party" to fill the time between ten pm & midnight.  Dick didn't create "content," he invented formats, contexts.  He did executive produce some peculiar movies, including Psych-Out, about hippies & starring Jack Nicholson as "Stoney." Dick Clark was all-American.

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