Richard Wagstaff Clark (1929 - 2012) MP

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Nicknames: "Dick Clark"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Mount Vernon, New York, USA
Death: Died in Santa Monica, California, USA
Cause of death: heart attack
Managed by: Ryan Callahan
Last Updated:
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About Richard Wagstaff Clark

Known for hosting the longest-running series on the ABC television network, American Bandstand, which played an important role in promoting rock music and gave many important acts their first national exposure, Dick Clark has gone on to become a powerhouse in Hollywood. Until his stroke in late 2004, Clark was known for his departing catchphrase, "For now, Dick Clark...so long," delivered with a military salute, and for his youthful appearance, earning the moniker "America's Oldest Teenager." On November 30, 2009, disc jockeys throughout the U.S. paid tribute to Clark on his 80th birthday.

Richard Wagstaff "Dick" Clark was born November 30, 1929 in Mount Vernon, New York, where he was raised, to Julia Fuller (née Barnard) Clark and Richard Augustus Clark. His only sibling, older brother Bradley, was killed in World War II. His career in show business began in 1945 when he started working in the mailroom of WRUN, a radio station owned by his uncle and managed by his father in Utica, New York. Clark was soon promoted to weatherman and news announcer.

He attended A.B. Davis High School which is now A.B. Davis Middle School in Mt.Vernon, New York and Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, and was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Phi Gamma); he graduated in 1951 with a degree in business.

In 1952, he moved to WFIL radio in Philadelphia. WFIL had an affiliated television station (now WPVI) which began broadcasting a show called Bob Horn's Bandstand in 1952. Clark was a regular substitute host on the popular afternoon program, which had teenagers dancing to popular music. When Horn left the show, Clark became the full-time host on July 9, 1956. Largely through Clark's initiative, Bandstand was picked up by ABC as American Bandstand for nationwide distribution, beginning on August 5, 1957. The program's mix of lip-synched performances, interviews, and its famous "Rate-a-Record" segment captivated teenagers. Overnight, Clark became one of pop music's most important tastemakers. His exposure on American Bandstand, and his prime-time program, The Dick Clark Show, generated countless hits. Clark required a formal dress code of dresses or skirts for girls and coats and ties for boys that helped establish the show's wholesome appearance. The move was an early indication of Clark's innate ability to read the public's mindset, and mute potential criticism. When African-Americans were introduced among the white teenage dancers in a groundbreaking move of integration on national television, Clark was able to use his influence to stifle divisive talk amongst viewers.

During the 1950s, Dick Clark also began investing in the music publishing and recording business. His business interests grew to include record companies, song publishing houses, and artist management groups. When the record industry's "payola" scandal (involving payment in return for airplay) broke in 1959, Clark told a congressional committee he was unaware performers in whom he had interests had received disproportionate play on his programs. He sold his shares back to the corporation, upon ABC's suggestion that his participation might be considered a conflict of interest. Clark emerged from the investigation largely unscathed, as did American Bandstand. The program grew to be a major success, running daily Monday through Friday until 1963. It was then moved to Saturdays, and was broadcast from Hollywood until 1989.

The move to Los Angeles, the center of the entertainment industry, allowed Clark to diversify his involvement in television production. Dick Clark Productions began presenting variety programs and game shows, most successfully The $25,000 Pyramid and TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes. Among the many awards programs the company produced was the American Music Awards, which Clark created as a rival to the Grammy Awards. The special has often surpassed viewership of the Grammys, presumably because it presents performers more closely attuned to younger audiences' tastes. Dick Clark's production company also produced a number of movies and made-for-TV movies including Elvis, The Birth of the Beatles, Elvis and the Colonel, Wild in the Streets and The Savage Seven.

In 1972, Dick Clark produced and hosted Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, the long-running special that continues to broadcast on December 31 of each year. The program consists of live segments which feature Clark, his co-hosts, and different entertainment acts in and around New York City's Times Square. The performances continue until the clock counts down to midnight, at which time New York's traditional New Year's Eve ball drops, signaling the new year. The program is aired live in the Eastern Time Zone, and then tape-delayed for the other time zones so that viewers can bring in the New Year with Clark when midnight strikes in their area. For more than three decades, the show has become an annual cultural tradition in the United States for the New Year's Eve and New Year's Day holiday. In 2004, Clark was unable to appear in program due to a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed and caused difficulty of speech. That year, talk-show presenter Regis Philbin substituted as host. The following year, Clark returned to the show, with radio and TV personality Ryan Seacrest serving as the primary host.

Clark has been married three times. His married high school sweetheart Barbara Mallery in 1952, and the couple had one son, Richard, before their divorce in 1961. He then married his former secretary, Loretta Martin, in 1962. The couple had two children, Duane and Cindy. They divorced in 1971. Since July 7, 1977, Clark has been married to another of his former secretaries, dancer Kari Wigton. They currently reside in Los Angeles.

While Clark's behind-the-scenes business acumen has much to do with the fortune he amassed, he is better remembered for the charming on-air personality and ageless looks that allow him to remain one of television's most popular hosts and pitchmen, even after American Bandstand went off the air in 1989. Five decades after he began shaping the viewing and listening habits of music fans with American Bandstand, Dick Clark continues to profit from the marriage of television and rock 'n' roll.

On April 18, 2012, Clark suffered a heart attack while at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, where he was recovering from an outpatient procedure.

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography, Starpulse, Yahoo! Movies, E! online