Iconic television star and producer Dick Clark, whose youthful looks and vigor gained him the nickname "America's Oldest Teenager" as he built an "American Bandstand" gig into an entertainment empire, has died of a heart attack, his publicist said. He was 82.
The same youthfulness that helped score him the hosting duties on "Bandstand" also powered him through six workaholic decades of profoundly influencing both music and television. He played a huge part in popularizing rock 'n' roll, helped Americans mark each year for three decades, and had a hand in shows from the various incarnations of "Pyramid" to the Golden Globes telecast.
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Known for his catchphrase "For now, Dick Clark… so long!" he continued to appear on his "New Year's Rockin' Eve" celebration even after handing off hosting duties to Ryan Seacrest following a massive stroke in 2004. Since starting the celebration in 1972, he missed out on hosting only twice: when ABC replaced the special with turn-of-the-century coverage, and after the stroke.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dick Clark. He has truly been one of the greatest influences in my life," Seacrest said.
Born Nov. 30, 1929, he began his broadcasting career after graduating high school, working at upstate New York's WRUN-AM, a radio station owned by his uncle and run by his father. He quickly moved from office duties to delivering the weather and station breaks. He moved to the Philadelphia area in 1952 and joined TV and radio station WFIL, which had just latched onto the new trend of playing popular records on-air.
When the host of a TV show that featured teenagers dancing to the records was arrested for drunken driving, Clark's youthful look made him seem like a clean-cut alternative. It also reassured parents worried about the supposed seediness of rock music. Clark assumed hosting duties in 1956.
The show went national the next year, exposing Americans to such rock legends as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. It ran in syndication and later on USA until 1989.
Early on, the show helped radio stations across the country decide what the kids were listening to, Clark said in a 1998 NPR interview.
"We got serviced with the latest releases," Clark said in a 1998 NPR interview, "and we had a huge teen audience watching who were trendsetters. So radio-station program directors used to assign their assistants to watch the program and copy down what we played. And within a day it was being played everywhere."
Clark, who also counted down top 40 hits on the radio for decades, was a TV trendsetter as well.
In 1973, he began hosting the first of many versions of "Pyramid." In 1984, he began collaborating with his former Philadelphia neighbor, Ed McMahon, on "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes," which featured outtakes and celebrity pranks.
He hosted several other game shows — sometimes at the same time — while also popping up as himself in films and TV shows including "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," and "Dharma and Greg."
From 2001-03, he was one of the panelists on "The Other Half," serving as a male counterpart to Barbara Walters on the show intended as a male answer to "The View."
His Dick Clark Productions produced shows including the the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe telecast and NBC's "American Dreams," which traded on nostalgia for the early years of "Bandstand." Though it still bears his name, Dick Clark Productions has changed hands twice in the last decade, and is now owned by a group of private investors.
In a 2010 lawsuit against the company, the press association contended that it had made surreptitious deals for the Golden Globes without its consent. In one filing, the association seemed to long for the time — Clark began producing the telecast in 1983 — when he was "actually involved with the company that now only bears his name."
The case awaits a judge's ruling.
Clark's survivors include his third wife, Kari, and his three children.
In his final television appearance, a still youthful-looking Clark struggled slightly as he described the scene in Times Square for "New Year's Rockin' Eve."
"What a night to remember," he told Seacrest.
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