I gasped loudly when I saw the headline “TV Legend Dick Clark Dies at 82” on the AOL homepage Thursday, instantly putting my hand to my mouth in disbelief.
Though Clark had a stroke several years ago and hadn’t been his fully active former self since, it was a shock. The man whom many joked was ageless and would live forever was gone. And with him, a part of many people’s childhoods, including my own.
I just stared at Thursday’s headline for several seconds and instantly thought of how my father would react since he worked with him for several years and recalled my own memories of Clark.
My Childhood Interactions With Clark
While many remember Clark for American Bandstand, the show was mostly before my time so I caught reruns and knew him as a radio personality, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve host and mostly as one of the producers of the American Music Awards, which my father worked on for decades with ABC.
I knew Clark as the man whose eyes often lit up when I’d come say hi to him at AMA rehearsals throughout my childhood. He’d usually smile and say pretty much the same thing the one or two times I’d see him at a show each year:
“You get more beautiful every year. Like your mother.”
Hollywood doesn’t have a shortage of schmoozing and compliments, but his words were kind nonetheless. Perhaps he just enjoyed talking with someone younger for a few minutes between the business conversations he was having with adults.
One year when I was in elementary or middle school he humored me as I showed him a sketch of an American Music Awards set idea I had. When I pointed to something in my sketch, he noticed I had short fingernails and said I shouldn’t bite them. I still bite them, but it was good advice.
The year of Anna Nicole Smith’s bizarre “Do you like my body?” rant at the American Music Awards, I remember sitting in the audience and seeing Clark slowly start to inch out on stage, likely wondering—as many of us were—what would happen next.
When I was a junior in high school Clark graciously agreed to do a brief video Q&A for a friend and I during the bustle of rehearsals. The only question I can remember asking him is if he liked Brussels sprouts, for some reason.
In college when I was a staff writer at my university’s paper, Clark also agreed to a Q&A with me at his Burbank office, which could have doubled as a vintage memorabilia shop with its plethora of pop culture collectibles.
He told me his thoughts on music old and new and what he was looking forward to in the AMA show that year.
When his stroke happened years back, my heart went out to him and his family. I don’t think anyone could have guessed that he’d bravely press on and keep participating in New Year’s Rockin’ Eve but I’m so glad he did.
New Year’s won’t be the same without the legendary Dick Clark, but thankfully we have plenty of memories.
How will you remember Dick Clark? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.