Iconic TV host and producer Dick Clark died today of a heart attack. He was 82. Clark, called “America’s Oldest Teenager,” is best known for hosting long-running television shows such as American Bandstand, Pyramid, and holiday staple Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. According to Clark’s publicist Paul Shefrin, Clark passed away this morning following “a massive heart attack.” Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. Clark, who suffered a stroke in 2004 that left his speech and movements impaired, had entered St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica last night for an outpatient procedure.
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Richard Wagstaff Clark, born on November 30, 1929 in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., earned Grammys, Emmys and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame among other awards and accolades in his 60 years in show business. From his start on radio in Philadelphia back in the early 1950s to his last appearance on Rockin’ Eve this year, Clark never lost his on-air boyish enthusiasm. But the genial host was also a trailblazing Hollywood executive. His Dick Clark Productions, which he started in the late 1950s and moved to LA in 1963, produced American Bandstand until 1989 and also created, produced and profitably syndicated such shows as Rockin’ Eve, which started in 1972; TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes; The $25,000 Pyramid; The American Music Awards, which began in 1973; and, since 1983, The Golden Globes. Clark also produced movies including 1984’s Emmy-winner The Woman Who Willed A Miracle and 1985’s Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, over the past 49 years Clark’s company has made over 20 TV and feature films, 30 series and 250 specials.
At one point in the mid-’80s, Clark hosted shows on all three major TV networks and in syndication. He also wrote several books, including a 1976 memoir Rock, Roll & Remember. Clark sold dcp to Mosaic Media in 2002 for $140 million. The company, which Clark ceased to have anything to do with years ago, is currently owned by Red Zone Capitol, who bought it for an estimated $175 million in 2007.
Having hosted everyone from Elvis to the Jackson 5 and Johnny Rotten’s Public Image, it surprised no one when Clark, who early on insisted on that black fans had just as much of a right to dance along on his show as white teens, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. “Dick Clark was significant in transforming the record business into an intfernational industry,” says the Hall of Fame’s citation. “His weekly televised record hop, which predated MTV by 25 years, played an integral role in establishing rock and roll, keeping it alive and shaping its future.”
While praised and sometimes kidded for his non-threatening manner, Clark had a near career-devastating run-in with the music business’ dirty little secret in 1959. Just two years after American Bandstand began being shown across America to audiences of over 20 million a week, Clark was embroiled in the burgeoning Payola scandal, where disc jockeys and radio programmers were given money and other gifts to play certain records. Called before congressional hearings in the spring of 1960, Clark testified that, as well as taking some jewelry and a fur coat from one record company, he owned part of over 30 different record labels, plus distributors and manufacturers. “I think the crime I have committed, if any, is that I made a great deal of money in a short time on little investment,” he told the House Committee on Legislative Oversight, “but that is the record business.”
Clark also informed the committee that on the advice of ABC, which broadcast Bandstand at the time, he had divested himself of all his music businesses. He also relinquished the more than 150 songs, several of which he played on his show, on which he has been given a co-writing credit. Unlike legendary DJ Alan Freed, whose career was ruined by the scandal, Clark’s testimony and actions won him applause from Congress and the media. Besides being known for being a hard negotiator, that congressional appearance was the last time Dick Clark’s name was ever directly sullied publicly.
Except for ringing in New Year’s in Times Square, Clark has mainly stayed out of the spotlight due to his health issues. He was listed earlier this year as a witness, along with several other past and present dcp executives, in the multimillion-dollar Golden Globes rights trial between the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations and Dick Clark Productions but never took the stand. Instead, portions of his 2011 deposition in the case were read into the record.
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