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APRIL 19, 2012 1:56AM

Dick Clark: RIP Or Rot In Hell?

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Dick Clark, the iconic host of American Bandstand died today at age 82.  As people rightfully applaud him for his huge contribution to American pop culture, it should also be noted that Dick Clark was a first-class prick to do business with.  How do I know this?  He stiffed me for over $20 thousand.

From 1990-2003 I owned a company that sold tools and equipment to cable TV companies.  Dick Clark owned a small cable system in the Bakersfield, California area.

Although I never personally dealt with Dick Clark, I was happy to do business with a company that he owned.

At first everything was fine.  We'd ship them equipment, send them an invoice, and in thirty days, give or take a few, we'd get a check in the mail.  

After building up a good credit rating with us they started placing much larger orders.  That's when the trouble began.  That's when the checks stopped coming in.

When I started legal proceedings to collect the debt I found out that Dick Clark had a dark side.  He had a reputation for "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and eventually stopping payments altogether.  I was told that this pattern was pervasive and many of his businesses simply didn't pay their bills.

His cable TV company remained in business while vendors like me were left holding the bag.  He could always find a new supplier.  Everyone liked and trusted Dick Clark, right?  I did.

My company went out of business in 2003 and Dick Clark contributed heavily to my demise.

I'm not a bitter person and I don't hold grudges.  I haven't even thought about Dick Clark in years... until today.

Am I glad that Dick Clark is dead?  No.  Do I hope he rots in hell?  No. (Partly because that would mean that there actually is a hell).

Do I think that he was an unethical businessman who traded on his impeccable reputation only to leave people like me in his dirty wake?  Yes.

I hope that before he died Mr. Clark had a moment of clarity about an extraordinarily successful and dishonest life. 


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Well this is a side one never hears about. If what you say is true then this is a lot more than someone's rough edges.
I think that Clark's cable tv business model was to build up the cash flow, stiff the vendors, take the company into bankruptcy, and eventually (in this case) sell it to Time Warner. Time Warner bought the assets but not the liabilities. I was out of business before all of that happened but I heard from another friend who got stiffed that he ended up getting about 5-10 cents on the dollar.
Sorry to hear about that Roger! That's not chicken feed. I'm sure you did everything on your end to make it right.
Interesting post, Roger. Yikes. ~r
A dark side we never knew about without this site.
I never did like that guy. Something about him was weird to me.
Fascinating, Roger. I think you're being too easy on him. I'd call him an out and out asshole.
Wow, bad business. We see it everywhere but when it yanks the rug out from beneath you, its a whole other kinda blindside.
Some days I think it would pay to be dishonest....you show that it does. But I guess what's makes me different is that I wouldn't be able to live with myself for 2 days, much less 82yrs. Sorry about the loss of your biz, been there and it hurts like a muther!
Interesting post.......I think there are two sides to everyone.
I've been ripped off in a very similar fashion in about the same amount. The IRS came after me because that lump sum was supposed to go to them etc,etc. In the 35 years since I've learned there are many who conduct business this way.
Good for you to not be bitter. That's not easy.
Sorry to hear that.

I suspect that way of doing business is rife the higher you go in the financial stratosphere. It's the small honest guys at the bottom who support the rotten upper structure. I was half-listening to tributes to Clark last night, there being not much else on the mindlessly repetitive CNN, and there were comments about how he was such a great businessman too. Yup - well, that's how great businessmen act.

Haha, I also caught Idol and Seahorse said something about how if it hadn't been for Clark and Bandstand programs like Idol would never have existed. So that's something else he has to account to St. Peter for.
Eye opening. And so is Myriad's comment about the small honest businessmen supporting the rotting upper tier. I guess that's why every filthy rich politician pretends to be a "small businessman."

I'd quit being a cynic, but it is SO accurate to be one.
Yes, there were two sides to Dick Clark -- the public and the private, as is the case with many celebrities. And by reputation (at least), he was a hard-nosed (at least) business man.

Beyond his public personae, I can attest that he had at least one winning quality on the personal side. I personally knew a contestant on one of his shows, a fellow who called himself Comet, who did -- you'll forgive the expression -- a dead-on impersonation of John Lennon.

Unfortunately, in his early forties, Comet was diagnosed with terminal cancer. One of his last requests was to get a call from Dick Clark. My brother-in-law put in a call to Clark's people, and I happened to be there when the return call came thru from Dick Clark himself. It was a very generous thing to do, and it was a thrill and a final wish fulfilled for Comet, who died shortly thereafter.
Oh, and not by the way, the Dick Clark business model sounds a helluva lot like the Mitt Romney/Bain Capital business model.
Great points Tom. As Clark has his dark side he no doubt did many very good things.
I'm glad you wrote this. It reminds me of the Painter of Light who just died and left bad business practices in his wake. I think power and money and fame corrupt. I am very wary of goody good personas.
I wish I could say I am surprised by this. I'm not, though. It almost seems like the kind of success in business that Clark enjoyed goes hand in glove with this kind of crooked behavior. I wish it hadn't happened to you, Roger.

was it a sole proprietorship? if so, and you still have the records of him stiffing you, and if the statute hasn't tolled, you should sue his estate. Or, if you already successfully sued his estate but were never paid the award you got, you should try to collect from his estate. the steward of the estate may not be nearly the dick, dick was. without the cock blocking your efforts, you may have some success (and, if you got an award from the court, you can add in 12% interest from the date of the award until payment is made).

Sorry you lost your biz, but you did get one hell of a story out of it. I've always thought Dick Clark was a robotic killing machine sent from 500 years in the future to destroy the world. This story continues to give mine credibility. Thanks for that.
That sucks! 20K is no small potatoes. Frankly, I felt indifferent toward Clark. Wasn't really an influence in my growing years.
As an actor who lived in NY and LA I can attest to the fact that many of the people you've always wanted to meet, you don't. You say well, they're human when really they act sub-human.
This is actually not that unusual among the Hollywood elite. Even contractual obligations are often not met. Keep in mind that Clark's nice guy persona was just a persona. You never know what kind of a crook lurks beneath the surface.
Wow Roger...you have every reason to be pissed. It is always a tough one when someone takes their personal feelings of entitlement to such extremes. I hope you recovered some of your money/assets.
Not to mention all the kids like me he duped into using Clearasil.
and into listening to DeBarge.
Thank you for writing this Roger. I never got Dick Clark's appeal. Maybe in the 50s & 60s but I always thought American Bandstand blew, it couldn't eat from the same bowl of fruit as Soul Train.

No, I am not glad Dick Clark is gone but I still didn't think he was all that either.
Well, you know what I believe it. I believe that people sometimes hide very well who they really are and some of us get totally screwed by them. If this happened to you, I am sure it happened to others. Maybe someone else will write about him like this too. These people are sometimes only one dimensional, we only see what they are showing us. That is how they create this image. So many ass-oles , so little time...
NPR reported yesterday that when Clark was hosting American Bandstand in the 1950s, he began to horizontally integrate record companies, music publishing houses, and LP pressing plants. And coincidentally, many of the hits he promoted on the air, originated from his private holdings.

A Congressional investigation more or less put an end to these practices, forcing Clark into being a TV producer of the $25,000 Pyramid, etc.
Very interesting. What a louse. Boggles how some just can do stuff like this and live with themselves. Never would have suspected it but not that surprised either.
I feel for you. Not all good, this guy who used the media to sculpt this Ivory pure image. My gut tells me, though, that guys such as he often partner with others -- ones who know the guts of the business -- and therein may be the issue; partners screw each other, even vendors and suppliers. Happened to friend of mine. People should not trade off their image so much. It's generally not a good mix, for them or the public.
I feel for you. Not all good, this guy who used the media to sculpt this Ivory pure image. My gut tells me, though, that guys such as he often partner with others -- ones who know the guts of the business -- and therein may be the issue; partners screw each other, even vendors and suppliers. Happened to friend of mine. People should not trade off their image so much. It's generally not a good mix, for them or the public.
you got beat, he got an 82
Sorry you got stiffed. There was too much 'squeaky clean' in his persona for me personally. Something didn't sit right for me but I enjoyed the musical acts. I hope they got their dues but chances are ...

I love Myriad's 2nd paragraph here. Ditto.
Terrible! Couldn't you have taken him to court and collected? I hate such stories and feel for you. It takes a big person to move on, but it takes an even bigger person to tell the truth.
About the only comeuppance Clark may have gotten in life was from Michael Moore. I recounted a lot of it in a recent post (so far apparently unread by anyone) but it's all visible in Bowling for Columbine.

It isn't surprising that celebrities and famous people are often cheats and scumbags in their private lives. Only a few of them, like Tom Cruise or Michael Jackson, ever have to face public revulsion for their misdeeds. Clark's nice-guy persona was kept pretty much intact throughout his life, except for Moore making him run away on-camera.
The lawsuit didn't go thru?
That's a beautiful sentiment, Roger. It would be nice if everyone could get over their bad business dealings with such grace.

I pretty much still want my bad clients to stagnate in the outermost ring of heaven until they accept their asshattery. How's that?
After reading this, one wonders if some people, their greed, despite them having everything in the world that only few realize, takes precedent. For some, it even becomes a game at the expense of those like you. Terribly difficult thing to go through Roger. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you all for your time and comments. Much appreciated.
America is the land of no punishment - that is if you are wealthy.
Thank you Ken for introducing me to the word "asshattery."
This is one of the many reasons I love OS. There are so many people here with interesting stories, and this is certainly one of them!
I used to watch "American Bandstand" in the late '50s and early '60s. I never liked Dick Clark. It seemed creepy when he would chum it up with teenagers on the show. When he moved to Hollywood he changed his image, left his wife, and became "America's oldest teenager." It was all media hype. His New Year's show was instrumental in forming my habit of going to bed in one year and waking up in the next.

As for his business dealings, it's another lesson in you can't take it with you. None of us is indispensable, and Dick Clark will be forgotten in a week, if not already. This lesson may be his greatest gift.
Funny. I never cared for the guy at all. Even when we both were kids. The only thing I liked was the theme for ABS which was a big band number, whose title I've forgotten but would love to know.

He was just too friggin' syrupy for me. Re: your business dealing with him...Not surprised at all.

And it isn't restricted to just show biz people. Let me tell you.
Hah! Just checked. It was "High Society" by Artie Shaw! Wouldn't you know it.
Arrg. Why am I not surprised? It's the music business, after all. Sorry for the loss of your business.
Never cared for him, not surprised by your post. He seemed so out of date and schmaltzy to me always. After Soul Train, he became a parody of himself. I am a little bit behind his generation but still. That New Years party thing was always lame, nothing wrong with staying in NY's it's the best night to do so, yet, if I had to watch that I would really feel like a loser.
maybe no one's all good or all bad too, if that's not a fun experience to have had for sure.