Yesterday morning, after a few years catching up to his real age Richard Wagstaff Clark died of a massive heart attack. Clark was mostly known for American Bandstand even though he was a powerful television producer responsible for a multitude of specials, and series and even a game show or two.
I will let the press handle Mr. Clarks particulars since his death is widely covered. I want to talk about the role that he played in my life and in the lives of teenagers across America from 1956 to 1989. He was a weatherman, then a country disc jockey at first. He moved on to WFIL in 1952 and soon became the substitute host for "Bob Horn's Bandstand" in 1956 Horn was arrested for drunk driving and was fired leaving Clark to take the reins full time. In less than a year Bandstand was picked up by ABC and went national. At that moment the world changed for teens all over the nation as their styles were merged the dances were sharded and the couples that danced live on the show every afternoon became everybodies friends.
I lived in the country then, I was a little younger than those kids too but, a kid is still a kid right? The show was the perfect campanion piece to the songs we heard on KXOK or WLS. We saw the artists, we saw the dances and we copied them. We tried to look like those lucky kids on the Bandstand.
In 1962 the show went from daily to Saturday mornings just after the cartoons. We didn't care we just watched the television longer on Saturday morning. It went that way until 1965 when Dick returned to the weekday afternoons with "Where the Action Is". I guess that one didn't make much of a splash since it only lasted til 1967. Then it was back to Saturday mornings but now we got it all in color.
1967 was a wild time to go full color if you were a part of the youth culture (something else Dick Clark probably created) psychedelics were the happening thing and rudimentary visual and audio effects were given a good bit of exposure on the show. This really blew my mind and was the reason that I let my hair grow and (don't tell anyone) started smoking pot.
All of this sort of gelled in me. I became the quintessential freak. Something I remain to this day. I could tak about the game shows he did or the other things he undertook, but this is more about me than Dick.
He did what he did and that changed the world and wether he was a bastard in his private life is something for those who knew him or dealt with him to decide, as for me? Well he was a hero a teacher and a mentor to me in learning how to live in the sixties. I'll miss him.
P.S. Drummer Le Von Helm of the Band is very near death. Goddam I'm tired of seeing my heroes die, son of a bitch. If you are a fan of the Band goto the facebook page and leave a message for him and his family.