THE MAGIC OF MR. CLARK

The comic character Wolverine often says, “I’m the best at what I do.” Well, whenever I hear that quote, I think of the one man I’ve known who’s always been the best at what he does, and that’s Dick Clark.

I remember once when I attended the taping of a pilot for a new talk show Dick was producing. Before the show got underway, Dick came out into the audience and asked everyone to be quiet for a moment. Suddenly you could hear a buzzing noise coming from one of the lights. Dick was the only one who noticed it, but you know it would have shown up on the tape if he hadn’t.

I’ve worked for dick clark productions on and off for the past twenty years. The first thing you learned about Dick was that his most precious commodity was his time. He was always involved in so many projects as a host, producer and businessman that he was literally scheduled for every single minute of the day.

One of his rules was never to offend any segment of the public by giving his opinions on politics or even music. He didn’t want anyone to have an excuse not to want to watch his shows. Dick played to the broadest possible audience, which is why when he did a show full of clips of say famous teen idols, he never showed the stars in chronological order but mixed them up instead to make sure whether you were young or old, you didn’t get bored.

He also never praised one star over another because you never knew who you might want to ask to guest on a show in the future. While some might say it made him bland as a personality, I think it helped add to his longevity as a performer.

So did his sense of humor about himself. He certainly didn’t take himself seriously on camera. You can see that in the promotional photos he took for shows like “Bloopers And Practical Jokes” with his eyes popping out of his head and a goofy grin on his face.

Dick was also a great interviewer. He always listened carefully to whoever he pointed that famous microphone at, whether it was a teen in the bleachers at “Bandstand” or one of the hottest stars in music. Many interviewers put the spotlight on themselves, but that was never Dick’s way.

None of this is to say Dick was the perfect boss. He certainly had a temper, although I was fortunate enough never to see it. Once when I was working as a researcher for “American Bandstand’s 50th Anniversary” TV special, I was supposed to fax Dick (who was in New York at the time) some research on what happened to the various Bandstand dancers over the years. About an hour later, one of the producers on the show called me into his office and said Dick had just yelled at him because he didn’t receive what he had expected. I asked why Dick hadn’t called me himself and the producer said Dick had to yell at somebody and didn’t want it to me (as it turned out, the fax machine didn’t print out all the pages I sent. I re-sent them and this time Dick got them all).

I got to spend some quality time with Dick when my friend Fred Bronson got the job of co-authoring with Dick a book on “American Bandstand.” Dick agreed to give us three interview sessions of two hours each, which was a huge allotment of time in his busy schedule. It was very special to hear Dick reminisce about his career and the many music stars he crossed paths with over the years. He even finally admitted what his favorite music was: disco!

The last thing Dick ever said to me was at the backstage offices of The American Music Awards a few years ago. He asked me to close a window. Even though I had known him for years, I still marveled that he actually remembered my name.

Not long after that, Dick had his stroke and pulled back from his on-camera duties. But he’s still there every New Year’s Eve, and as long as he is, I’ll still tune in and silently thank him for all the chances in life I’ve had because of him.

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3 Responses to “THE MAGIC OF MR. CLARK”

  1. TeacherAB Says:

    Thanks for this tribute. As a teacher of writing and speech, I am always looking for commemorative speeches/essays to see how people from different fields and backgrounds write.

  2. Flash Says:

    Wow Brian, you really have met a lot of people, but Dick Clark is a legend. I enjoyed his appearance at the New Year and I am sure he will continue to ring it in for years to come. Thanks for the insights.

  3. Sophie Says:

    In all my years, Dick Clark has never yelled at me…yet.

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