COMMENTARY | Dick Clark was dubbed “America’s Oldest Teenager.” In a New York Times article he was titled “The Man Who Made Rock ‘n’ Roll Safe for America.” The LA Times called him a “Hero for Stroke Victims.”
I believe he was all that. And more. Dick Clark had something unique in his celebrity … something I will call lateral longevity. And by this, I just don’t mean a long career, because obviously, he had that. But he appealed, for a long time, to all sides of the age equation. In fact, during his uniquely long career, he at one point or another, appealed to everyone. At the time when he was bringing “American Bandstand” to the forefront of American pop culture, he was appealing to children and their parents. This is a role he hung on to for nearly 40 years! The teens who started watching “American Bandstand,” watching like it was their job, became the parents of the teens watching “American Bandstand,” watching it like it was their job. Lateral longevity.
Another thing that seems to resonate with me about the man, Dick Clark, is his unique honesty. He was quoted in Rolling Stone saying, “I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I did this solely to keep music alive. To perpetuate my own career first and foremost, and secondly, the music.” He didn’t try to pretend it wasn’t about the money and there is something refreshing about that.
Perhaps it is his interest in big-time money that made him a big game-show fan. Clark became host of “The $10,000 Pyramid,” staying with the show as the Pyramid’s value grew (along with his own value as the show won nine Emmy Awards for best game show). Also in 1973, Clark took on another music show, the American Music Awards, an alternative to the Grammys.
And then, of course, there was “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” This was another production which showcased music and television, blending them together seamlessly and appealing “laterally” to both sides of the age spectrum and, with the “longevity” of a “Bandstand.” His New Year’s celebration began in 1973 and despite his 2004 stroke, has continued on with his presence, albeit in a diminished capacity. Heir apparent, Ryan Seacrest, has been at the helm since 2006 (and Regis filled in for Clark in 2005, the only year he missed). This is another Clark production that I watched as a kid that I now watch with my kids. Say it with me, lateral longevity.
My youngest daughter, who is 11 years old, upon hearing of the passing of Mr. Dick Clark, asked, “Will they still call it ‘Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve?'” She wants them to. And so do I.
Here’s to Dick Clark and his lateral longevity. So long.