Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dick Clark - Part 3

More Dick Clark Memories ...

QUESTION: How many lives has American Rock N' Roll touched?  
How many careers did Dick Clark launch or foster?  
How many of the millions of watchers of the 7,500-plus shows he produced had moments of happiness and memories that lasted a lifetime because of those shows? 
ANSWER: Immeasurable!   
I never met the man.  I never actually pursued it.  And it's ironic, because all these tributes and testimonials I have been reading were by people I have known for years!  Legends like Little Anthony, Neil Sedaka, Danny & The Juniors, Frankie Avalon, Frankie Valli, Tom Dreesen, Mary Wilson, Pat Boone, James Darren, Nancy Sinatra ... the list goes on and on.  All good friends of ours, and all who attribute their careers to Dick Clark.
I didn't even approach my good buddy, the late  Ed McMahon and former television partner of Dick's whose gift of a video of him saying, "And now, heeeeeeeere's Ronnie" in the same vein as Johnny Carson is one of my most treasured possessions.  Man, I should have asked him for the introduction.
At each of our shows, I always try to facilitate fans' meet and greet with the stars.  After they nervously shake their hand, take a photo and get an autograph, they usually thank me for helping them with the "bucket list" item of meeting their idol. 
Again, a bit of irony, as Dick Clark was on MY bucket list.  He epitomized what I wanted to be when I grew up.  A well respected and widely loved conduit between music and the masses.  Not an actual performer, yet an entertainer in his own right.  He was somebody who brought joy to millions via song, dance and a familiar smile.  
I think I never really pursued the intro because inside I kind of felt a warm familiarity with him.  With so many single degrees of separation between us, coupled with the too-many-to-count times I saw him on one show or another, it was as if he was by my house for pasta the night before. 
With all those fabulous Rock N' Roll moments we all witnessed over the years, I think my favorite Dick Clark moment was his last "New Year's Rockin' Eve special, this past December thirty-first.  Still handsome with the boyish good looks, he struggled with his speech after a terrible stroke.  He kept his dignity though, and also kept his tradition of kissing his beloved wife at midnight.  Although the kiss was physically awkward for him, he did it with a passion I have rarely seen.  It showed a love that not even a massive stroke could stifle.  
It seems the legacy of rock stars gets grander upon their death.  Their music lives on for generations.  Their images get plastered on coffee mugs and mouse pads and refrigerator magnets.  But guys like Dick Clark usually don't have that kind of staying power.  My seven-year-old daughter will grow up and know who Sinatra, Elvis and Michael were. 
I will do my best to tell her about Dick Clark and American Bandstand.  More importantly, I'll tell her to be aggressive in pursuing her "bucket list."
Ron Onesti
Onesti Entertainment
Thanks, Ron ... beautiful sentiment.  (kk)

Hi Kent,
I'm sure you will receive a number of notes about Dick Clark's passing.
Dick and I were partners in the United Stations / Unistar radio networks for fifteen years. He was a rare combination of talent and businessman; perhaps the best. Growing up, I had really appreciated Bandstand and his Saturday Beech-nut show, because they were about the only opportunity to see rock and roll on tv in the late 50s. When I got in the business and met the artists from that era, I soon found out how important that show was to so many of them, as deejays around the country picked up on the records that Dick played on the show. That was certainly the case for my fellow Pittsburghers, The Skyliners and their first hit "Since I Don't Have You". Dick may have done more to bring rock and roll into the mainstream than anyone; he took it into living rooms all over the country with his tv shows (rather than just the transistor radio under the covers) and kept the music alive through our "Rock, Roll and Remember" radio show.
Ed Salamon

I first met Dick Clark when he and I were the guests on "Sunnyside," a half-hour Los Angeles TV talk show.  The topic, of course, was the history of rock and pop and I found Dick to be just as charming and knowledgeable in person as he had always come across on my home screen.  The best part, though, came after the taping -- when Dick and I returned to the program's backstage green room and continued our conversation for another two hours! 

Among other things, I recall him explaining how a large chunk of of his kinescope archives -- 16mm films of past episodes of "American Bandstand," his Beechnut show, etc. -- had disappeared over the years.  It turned out that some employees of his had systematically secreted various films out of the building and sold them on the collector's market to whomever happened to be the highest bidder.  In some cases, the film footage and audio tracks happened to have been stored on separate reels.  That's why Dick still had the audio of Buddy Holly's appearance on "Bandstand" but not the images.  Further investigation revealed that that one-of-a-kind film reel was in the hands of a collector in Australia -- who refused to give it up or even offer Dick a copy print.  It was at that point that Clark started buying up whatever vintage footage of rock and pop stars he could find.   He even bought the surviving kinescopes of the clearly un-rocking "Arthur Murray's Dance Party" simply because on one show the guest was -- Buddy Holly.   Dick wound up amassing an amazing array of film and video performances -- amazing for a number of reasons, not least of which because most people producing pop music shows in the past viewed them as exceptionally disposable -- like yesterday's newspaper.  Local stations, recording their sock hop type shows on expensive two or three inch videotapes, often allocated ONE reel of tape to the producers of such series.   After each episode aired, next week's show was recorded right over last week's on the same tape.   Few foresaw the historical significance of those TV appearances -- but, then again, few foresaw the value of archiving much television at all.  Over the years, executives at all the networks routinely ordered purges of all kinds of archival programming.  A lot of the TV retrospective specials you see now and then?  The tiny clips of vintage shows included are sometimes all that is left of huge TV hits of the past -- as those clips were recycled from earlier similar TV documentaries.  The rest of the original footage is GONE.

Dick Clark, though, went to great pains to hold on to as much of his TV output as he could -- which is why you can still see him today hosting '60s and '70s game shows via videotape which still exists solely because HE saved it.

Clark was a smart businessman who stayed on top of trends, eventually owning a production company with shows on all three broadcast networks plus in syndication simultaneously.  If his career had matched that of most '50s celebrities, we'd lump him in today with Edsels and poodle skirts as yet another icon of a long ago era.  Dick, though, remained contemporary and never wore out his welcome. 

Was he a perfect guy?  No -- but in many ways he did personify the American dream.   He couldn't sing, dance or write music, but he had a smooth, low-key style in the spotlight and a savvy, in-touch-with-the-times ear that could recognize and maximize talent.  He was driven by a deep desire to succeed and achieve excellence -- and to do so maintained a schedule which would leave most people gasping after simply reading it. 

Personally?   The Dick Clark you saw on TV was pretty much the Dick Clark you experienced offscreen.  He was bright, sharp, low-key and really knew what he was talking about.  (I know -- I tested him lots of times!)  I used to get a call from Dick or someone on his staff in later years when they were putting together a home video or TV retrospective and needed to rebuild the soundtrack by finding some obscure record Dick didn't have which an act had lip-synched to.  Clark had the film but not the audio.  I'd dig out the record and send him a dub.
It's interesting to note that regardless of how famous radio DJs became over the history of rock 'n' roll, in almost every case that intense fame was limited to the single market their station served.  Only a few DJs -- Casey Kasem and Wolfman Jack among them -- managed to achieve coast-to-coast or even international fame.  And none exceeded the success of the guy for whom "American Bandstand" proved to be not his end-all but a springboard to more and more right into the 21st century: Dick Clark.
Gary Theroux 
P.S.   I archived that "Sunnyside" episode -- so THAT still exists! 

One day later, and I am still shocked at the passing of Dick Clark. An icon, an institution … a friend. I first met Dick through my father, who worked for Decca Records, and watched in fascination as he seemed to have all his ducks in his life in a row. In watching the terrific coverage of his life on several shows last night (kudos to Access Hollywood), I was struck by just how his business was always together. He said in one interview, that he knew once he began on TV, that it would ultimately end, so he got into producing and built Dick Clark Productions; which then had the Golden Globes and numerous other TV entities. I also saw where he received several Emmys for his work on the 25,000 Dollar Pyramid and let’s not forget his work with Ed McMahon (his former next-door neighbor in Philadelphia) on the show TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes; which may have been the first-ever reality show. His work with the American Music Awards was exemplary as well. He said in an interview, that when ABC lost The Grammys, they came to him to ask what he might do. And, his response was that there never had been a music-awards show, where the actual consumers votes. Hence, the AMAs were born. When I worked with Debbie Gibson, she hosted the AMA’s in the late-80s and did an excellent job. It was great to see Dick again and as he was a true Gibson-fan back then, all went very well. We actually had Gibson on a segment of American Bandstand, with then-label-mates INXS. That was an experience of a lifetime as back then, Bandstand was the show to be on. When I think about that particular show, I’m drawn to the fact that because of that show, so many people got into the business of music; whether as a performer, player or being behind-the-scenes. The wealth of music and the various artists that appeared on there is mesmerizing. Go take a look; it’ll blow you away! There’ll never be anything like it ever again. I think the one thing that has become abundantly clear is that New Year’s will never be the same again. Someone pointed out that because of Clark’s efforts; he made New York and Times Square in particular, into a worldwide destination. For that alone, New York should properly remember him. An era is over; I don’t think there’s another personality on the scene today that can even come close. On a personal note: His energy was always off the charts; he was a dynamo … a force of nature.   
I’ll miss you Dick, RIP. 
David Salidor

 Dick Clark with Debbie Gibson

 Dick Clark ... and a very young David Salidor

(Is David taking notes on how to become a successful music mogul ...

Or did Dick Clark just ask him for his autograph?!?!?)

"We're goin' hoppin,' we're goin' hoppin' today, 
We're goin' hoppin,' the Philadelphia Way"  
For many of us, we remember that popular theme song before it had lyrics ... the original instrumental by Les and Larry Elgart.
To a whole generation of kids -- Dick Clark introduced us to most of the young rising stars of 50's and 60's music: Elvis, Buddy Holly, Ricky Nelson, Duane Eddy, The Everly Brothers, Leslie Gore, Connie Francis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dion and The Belmonts and so, so many more. 
If you were a kid growing up in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, or -- like me -- in Sacramento -- you would rush home from school each afternoon to watch the latest dance craze -- the daily 'rate a record,' ("I'll give it a '10' because I can dance to it"), what the 'cool' kids were wearing, and what those stars who you were singing along to on the radio actually looked like. After all, it was a full twenty-five years before MTV. It was in black and white and it was 'live.' 
But to a twelve year old kid -- with dreams of being a deejay, Dick Clark was your idol, your hero. As the years flew by we all knew that somewhere -- in some dark closet -- there was a picture of Dick growing old, but to all of us, he was 'forever young' in our eyes and in our hearts. Yes, he was -- and would always be -- America's oldest teen-ager. 
There aren't a lot of folks who get to actually know their heroes, but in my case, I was blessed to know Dick. He was the first to call me when I left the Beach Boys organization in 1971. He was one of the first ones I interviewed for a radio program I wrote, produced and hosted for Jefferson Broadcasting's WBT, Charlotte, NC, in 1973 - 74. 
The program was called 'The History of the West Coast Sound.' I traced the music from the earliest days of movie soundtracks, including Sinatra and Nat King Cole, into the surf songs of the early 60's, the slick 'wrecking crew' sound of the mid-60's, and into the psychedelic period beginning with the 'summer of love' in 1967. 
When I asked Dick about his thoughts of this period, he answered very specifically and very openly. "Fred, it was drug music. It was the closest rock and roll ever came to committing suicide." Wow. Here was a guy who told it as it was. I always admired Dick for that. 
I was fortunate to get to visit with Dick a number of times after I moved to Nashville in 1974. One was a Billboard conference, one was an Academy of Country Music event in Las Vegas. 
When Dick suffered his stroke in 2004, I -- like many -- worried that it was the last we'd see of Dick Clark. After all, wasn't he like John Wayne -- wasn't he supposed to always be there?" Or so we naively thought. But unlike Paul "Bear" Bryant or Joe Pa Paterno -- who retired only to die a short time later -- Dick Clark was not ready to hang it up. Dick would never give up that microphone 'until they pried it from his cold, dead hands!'
Each New Years I was drawn to his ABC "Rockin' New Years Eve" special. Seacrest had stepped in to do the 'heavy lifting,' so to speak, but the calendar could not turn over a new year until we saw Dick kiss Kari, give us that smile and farewell salute. My wife, Debbie, and I, would time our kiss, with their kiss. It became an annual tradition.
We'll all go on with New Years -- and Times Square -- but it will be a bit sadder this coming December 31st. Another true American hero has 'left the building.' 
Rest in peace, my dear old friend. You will be missed by millions of us who grew up watching you each weekday afternoon, on the popular Dick Clark Saturday Night Show and on the numerous specials and Awards shows that bore your name. 
Dick, my prayers and thoughts go out to Kari, your family, and extended family. And, yes, you are still my hero. 
Fred Vail
Treasure Isle Recorders, Inc. 
Nashville, TN -- "Music City, USA" 

Dear Friends:
Thanks for all the MANY links everybody has been sending me today regarding the passing of Dick Clark; and especially those pertaining to Earl Scruggs a couple of weeks back (who was MY personal musical hero) Over the years, I actually did have quite a bit of behind-the-scenes dealings with Dick Clark, though we actually met only twice ... I'm sorry I have to make this a 'form letter', but it would take me the next several days to reply to everyone personally, so please forgive me.
I 'sort of met' Dick Clark twice -- and this is really strange ... one day in the mid 70s, I'd taken the subway (in NYC) and got off at the West 48th Street station, I ran up the stairs ... and right there at the curb was Dick Clark standing with his secretary!  I was still playing with Bill Haley at the time, and I was about to say hello and introduce myself -- but within two seconds they both jumped into a cab and took off! The first time I'd actually contacted him for anything was in early 1976, when I'd notified him of the passing of the Comets' long time sax player Rudy Pompilli ... and he sent a nice personal letter back thanking me for the notice.
Next, was in October 1987 at the first Philadelphia Music Awards.  I had managed to get the original 1954 Comets members back together for the first time in 25 years, and booked onto this event ... and Dick Clark was also an honored guest on it as well. He met with all of us on the band, but very briefly ... At this event, he didn't stay in the same place for more than 3 seconds -- there was such a constant crowd of people just waiting to talk to him ... he'd just disappear like the wind, and stay in his hotel suite most of the time!
Over the past 30 years, he and his secretary would regularly write to me and send me video clips of various Bill Haley concert footage and have me IDENTIFY everybody in the clip! This was because of his plans to use the clip in an upcoming TV special ... the tricky part was that over the years on the Comets, there were THREE upright bass players in succession who had the first name of "Al" and who all looked alike!!! Al Rex, Al Pompilli,
and Al Rappa ... all of whom were dark-featured Italians with black hair as well as dark eyebrows -- and it took an expert on the Comets to be able to correctly identify them in photographs and films / videos ... and not even Dick Clark was sure who was who -- so he'd regularly send me the clip and I would write back with the correct names of everyone ... and what their addresses (or their survivor's addresses) were, to mail release forms!  He'd always send me a nice letter on his letterhead thanking me for my help!  I think I still have these letters laying around here in the files -- as well as the video clips.
I had also sent him some rare videos of 1970s concert performances of the band from
Europe and Brazil, for his own collection. His secretary told me he owns one of the biggest collections in the world, of live concert footage of EVERY ARTIST imaginable -- and that his film and video collection was MUCH bigger than that of Ed Sullivan's estate!
Thanks again to everyone;
Bill Turner
Here is the clip from the Philadelphia Music Awards, October 27, 1987, with the reunited Comets at :29 I'm playing electric bass standing toward the back of the band. This was shown nationally on "Entertainment Tonight"

I had been thinking about Dick Clark quite a bit lately, I'm not sure why.  I had known him in three different capacities:  I had written several syndicated radio specials for him and his production company; he had contributed, as a guest, to several of my own productions; and I had had many great conversations with him socially and at professional functions.  The latter of the three was always the best.
When I worked for him, the interaction was always perfunctory.  Do the job.  Do it well.  And make it easy for Dick to knock it out and move on to the next project.  I never had an issue with him at all.  It was always professional and pleasant, but never all that warm and fuzzy.  And truthfully, in that capacity, we only crossed paths for mere minutes at a time.  In the mid-'80s, he was looking for a new writer-producer for his weekly Top 40 National Music Survey show, and he had his lieutenant, Frank Furino, call and offer me the job (I had previously been a writer for Casey Kasem's American Top 40).  I had just assumed a similar position with Dan Ingram's ill-fated Top 40 countdown for CBS and had to pass.  I was torn, but Dick was very pragmatic and said, "Frank, call the next person on the list."  Dick Clark Productions was not famous for big paychecks, but working with him on a daily would have been pretty cool.
Now when I was producing radio specials for other companies and networks, I often called on Dick to provide a support interview — an expert voice lending authority on the subject at-hand or providing insight on a performer that he had known for years (Bobby Darin and Paul Anka were his two favorites).  Dick never turned down one of my requests.  He often made himself available at his Burbank office the very same day of my request, and always within the week.  There was no phalanx of handlers and publicists to contend with; when I called, I always got his personal secretary or him directly.  In conversation on one occasion, he admitted to me that he had indeed once infamously said that he "was a whore for a buck," yet he never requested any compensation for any of his contributions to my own productions. 
I'd arrive and set up my recording gear in his office that sported a grand desk with wooden posts and a trellis-like frame above, and an adjacent wall of bookshelves that seemed to house every tome ever written on the subject of pop music.  As a collector myself, I asked him if he had kept a lot of mementos from throughout his career, especially souvenirs from his legendary, multi-artist Caravan of Stars tours.  And he said, yes, that he had a warehouse full of records, posters and programs and scripts, but had, in fact, donated quite a few artifacts to the Smithsonian a few years earlier.  We'd get down to business – conduct the interview that was required — and he would, unfailingly, give me the pithy, perfect quotes that every writer-producer hopes for when assembling documentary-style programming.  He'd smile and ask, "You have everything you need?"  And once confirmed, he might not even look up again from whatever was on his desk, from the time I started dissembling my mic and cables until I walked out the door.
Dick ultimately aggregated the radio stations nationwide that were running his programs into a network that, in two different guises, were known as Unistar and United Stations.  Ever the superb promoter, Dick would always appear at the semi-annual broadcast conventions in the Unistar suite to glad-hand with affiliates, both potential and established.  It was here, and on other social occasions, that I most enjoyed being within his sphere.  While most of the visiting deejays, GMs and such would approach him, dumbstruck, for a photo op or an autograph, I had the chance to speak with him at length – sometimes hours — about radio, Rock & Roll, my getting kicked off the "25,000 Pyramid" (another story, another time) and countless other topics.  Once, when we were both attending a conference in Dallas, I had coincidentally found a copy of his 1950s advice guide to teenagers at a local antiquarian bookstore.  Of course, I couldn't wait to stick it under his nose at the Unistar suite that night.  When I did, he put his arm around my shoulder and announced to the crowd in the room, "I am usually so delighted to have this young man in my presence."  (Dramatic pause.)  "This is not one of those times."  I couldn't have been more pleased to have been his foil.
As I said, I'd been thinking a lot about Dick Clark lately.  Talking about him, too.  As the consummate broadcaster, no one was better, extemporaneously, in front of a mic or a camera.  Nobody.  And as successful as he continued to be as an entrepreneur and producer of TV programming, I know that his diminished capacity as a communicator since his stroke weighed heavily on him.  Just a few days before his death, I had told someone that I was going to drop him a line, wishing him well and thanking him, not only for our variety of interactions, but for his tremendous influence upon me as a broadcaster and writer.
On Wednesday morning, my friend Bill called to see if I had heard the news.  As it turned out, I had been talking to him about Dick just the night before, at precisely the time he had died.  There's absolutely no explanation for that.  A coincidence, to be sure.  But this sort of thing, as friends have pointed out, seems to happen to me quite a bit — a strong sense of premonition or confluence of activity around the passage of those who have influenced me.  Unaware that Johnny Carson had been ill, I bundled up a package of magazines commemorating his retirement a decade earlier to send to him at his office in Santa Monica in the hopes of having them signed.  And, on a whim that very same day, I went to Costco to pick up the highlights DVD of "The Tonight Show."  The breaking bulletin of his death on TV that evening was unfathomable to me.  Similar circumstances prevailed when John Lennon died.  Again, another story another day.
Dick Clark's impact on pop culture and television programming can't truly be measured.  He gently and insidiously helped usher Rock & Roll into the mainstream when conventional media might have left it at the gate ... or burned it at the stake.  That first wave of post-World War II teenagers – the original American Bandstand generation — was the very first to wield true economic power and enormous influence on fashion,  entertainment and manufactured goods.  The media cast a spotlight on them, Wall Street sat up and noticed, and Dick Clark was the smooth, polished guy with a foot in both camps that brokered the deal.  He may have gone on to other endeavors and greater financial success, but he certainly never surpassed the cultural clout he had in the late-'50s and early-'60s.  But for me, right up until the end – and now beyond — he has, and will remain, a profound influence upon me.  Thanks, Dick ... until next time. 
Scott Paton

PHILADELPHIA -- "As fellow Philadelphians, we have admired Dick Clark and the 'American Bandstand' brand for many years,  as it promoted Philadelphia music around the nation,” said Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in a joint statement. “Dick Clark was one of our inspirations for creating the ‘Sound of Philadelphia’ music brand. More importantly, we thank him for being one of the pioneers in promoting the Philly Dance and Music scene for the nation and world to enjoy. We send our sincere and deepest condolences to Dick Clark's family.”

And the hits just keep on comin' ...

More Dick Clark coverage tomorrow in Forgotten Hits!