Dick Clark, the American Bandstand and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve host known for his perpetual youth, died Wednesday at age 82. Clark suffered a massive heart attack following a procedure in Los Angeles, EW has confirmed.
The former Philadelphia DJ started out on a local show called Bob Horn’s Bandstand, substituting for the titular host. He took over in 1956, beginning a career path that would make “America’s Oldest Teenager” a legend. In 1957, ABC picked the show up for a national run that kept the growing teen market entranced and cemented Clark’s status as a pop culture touchstone. The show – an intoxicating mix of studio-audience dancing and pop-star appearances – ran daily until 1963; it moved to Hollywood the next year and ran weekly until 1987, then continued in syndication for another two years. The likable host’s appeal even survived links to the “payola” investigations of the late ’50s and early ’60s, as he quietly divested himself of his interests in record distributors to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
But it was in the ’70s that Clark truly cemented his place in pop culture, expanding beyond his teenage kingdom and paving the way for future emcees like Ryan Seacrest to make a full-time (and lucrative) profession out of hosting. Clark began producing and hosting Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve starting in 1972, combining Bandstand-esque musical performances with coverage of the Times Square ball drop – and becoming the universal symbol for midnight Jan. 1. He also presided over the game show The $10,000 Pyramid starting in 1973 – all the way up, through the years, to The $100,000 Pyramid from 1985-88. His production company was a force behind the American Music Awards, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, and NBC drama American Dreams, among other projects. He remained active in the radio business as well, creating The Dick Clark National Music Survey (a rival to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40) in 1981 and later becoming the voice of Countdown USA and U.S. Music Survey.
In fact, he didn’t slow down until his stroke in 2004 – the only year since Rockin’ Eve began that he didn’t appear on the program. (Regis Philbin filled in that year.) He subsequently split on-screen duties with heir apparent Ryan Seacrest.
Seacrest mourned the loss of his mentor. “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dick Clark. He has truly been one of the greatest influences in my life. I idolized him from the start, and I was graced early on in my career with his generous advice and counsel,” he said in a statement.
Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger commented on the loss of Clark and his influence at ABC, which is owned by Disney.
“For more than half a century, Dick Clark brought the best of American music to audiences across the country, creating careers and countless fans for artists on his iconic shows, American Bandstand and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. We’re proud that ABC was home to those programs and will always be part of his legacy,” Iger said.
Clark’s impact on the country was even noted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who released a statement about the remarkable host.
“With American Bandstand, he introduced decades’ worth of viewers to the music of our times. He reshaped the television landscape forever as a creative and innovative producer. And, of course, for 40 years, we welcomed him into our homes to ring in the New Year. But more important than his groundbreaking achievements was the way he made us feel – as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was. As we say a final ‘so long’ to Dick Clark, America’s oldest teenager, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends – which number far more than he knew.”
Many more in Hollywood remarked on Clark’s mark on the industry on hearing of his death.
“He was a legend. I worked for him once. It was an insanely pleasant experience,” Joel McHale told EW. “He was one of the pioneers of American music by finding some of the best bands around. American Bandstand was a place that some of the greatest bands of all time got seen on and were made popular from. Everyone really loved that guy and I think that’s how you do it. If you’re a good person it makes a whole heckuva difference in people’s lives when you work with them.”
Carson Daly, too, paid tribute. “We lost an icon today. I will always cherish the personal time we had together. I am forever indebted to Dick Clark and his legacy. My heart goes out to his family.”
Sharon Osbourne recalled her time with Clark. ”I actually sat with him at a wedding. He was absolutely the best company. I worked with him on the American Music Awards. I was hosting that for him and after I was on for about five minutes, he said in my ear, ‘You will never work for me again’ – because I was swearing. He is such a gentleman. People like him don’t exist in the industry any more.”
James Hibberd, Sandra Gonzalez, and Marc Snetiker contributed to this report.
Photo Credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images