ENTERTAINMENT

Dick Clark dead: TV host dies at 82

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America lost one of its preeminent television stars on Wednesday, as Dick Clark passed away at the age of 82.

Clark, 82, suffered a stroke in 2004 from which he never fully recovered. (Photo: Associated Press)

Clark, the longtime host of American Bandstand and a staple on ABC's New Year's Eve specials from Times Square, suffered a massive stroke in 2004 from which he never fully recovered.

A statement from Clark's PR company says Clark died of a massive heart attack.

Born in 1929 in New York, Clark began hosting American Bandstand in 1957 and continued to front the wildly popular dance and music show through 1989. New Year's Rockin' Eve has been broadcast on ABC consistently since 1972, with Clark hosting it every year until his stroke.

On Dec. 8, 2004, Clark suffered a stroke that kept him from hosting his New Year's special for the first time. However, the next year, he reappeared on the broadcast, saying that he "wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Clark won Emmy awards for his work in 1979, 1983, 1985 and 1989. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

An entertainment legend

Long dubbed "the world's oldest teenager" because of his boyish appearance, Clark bridged the rebellious new music scene and traditional show business, and equally comfortable whether chatting about music with Sam Cooke or bantering with Ed McMahon about TV bloopers.

He thrived as the founder of Dick Clark Productions, supplying movies, game and music shows, beauty contests and more to TV.

Among his credits: "The $25,000 Pyramid," ''TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes" and the American Music Awards.

For a time in the 1980s, he had shows on all three networks and was listed among the Forbes 400 of wealthiest Americans.

Clark also was part of radio as partner in the United Stations Radio Network, which provided programs - including Clark's - to thousands of stations.

"There's hardly any segment of the population that doesn't see what I do," Clark told The Associated Press in a 1985 interview. "It can be embarrassing. People come up to me and say, 'I love your show,' and I have no idea which one they're talking about."

The original "American Bandstand" was one of network TV's longest-running series as part of ABC's daytime lineup from 1957 to 1987.

It later aired for a year in syndication and briefly on the USA Network. Over the years, it introduced stars ranging from Buddy Holly to Madonna.

The show's status as an American cultural institution was solidified when Clark donated Bandstand's original podium and backdrop to the Smithsonian Institution.

Clark joined "Bandstand" in 1956 after Bob Horn, who'd been the host since its 1952 debut, was fired. Under Clark's guidance, it went from a local Philadelphia show to a national phenomenon.

"I played records, the kids danced, and America watched," was how Clark once described the series' simplicity. In his 1958 hit "Sweet Little Sixteen," Chuck Berry sang that "they'll be rocking on Bandstand, Philadelphia, P-A."

As a host, he had the smooth delivery of a seasoned radio announcer. As a producer, he had an ear for a hit record.

He also knew how to make wary adults welcome this odd new breed of music in their homes.

Clark endured accusations that he was in with the squares, with critic Lester Bangs defining Bandstand as "a leggily acceptable euphemism of the teenage experience."

In a 1985 interview, Clark acknowledged the complaints. "But I knew at the time that if we didn't make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it." 

But Clark defended pop artists and artistic freedom, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said in an online biography of the 1993 inductee. He helped give black artists their due by playing original R&B recordings instead of cover versions by white performers, and he condemned censorship.

An entertainer from the start

He was born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1929. His father, Richard Augustus Clark, was a sales manager who worked in radio. Clark idolized his athletic older brother, Bradley, who was killed in World War II.

In his 1976 autobiography, "Rock, Roll & Remember," Clark recalled how radio helped ease his loneliness and turned him into a fan of Steve Allen, Arthur Godfrey and other popular hosts.

From Godfrey, he said, he learned that "a radio announcer does not talk to 'those of you out there in radio land'; a radio announcer talks to me as an individual." Clark began his career in the mailroom of a Utica, N.Y., radio station in 1945.

By age 26, he was a broadcasting veteran, with nine years' experience on radio and TV stations in Syracuse and Utica, N.Y., and Philadelphia.

He held a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University. While in Philadelphia, Clark befriended McMahon, who later credited Clark for introducing him to his future "Tonight Show" boss, Johnny Carson. In the 1960s, "American Bandstand" moved from black-and-white to color, from weekday broadcasts to once-a-week Saturday shows and from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

Although its influence started to ebb, it still featured some of the biggest stars of each decade, whether Janis Joplin, the Jackson 5, Talking Heads or Prince.

He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1994 and served as spokesman for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.

Clark, twice divorced, had a son, Richard Augustus II, with first wife Barbara Mallery and two children, Duane and Cindy, with second wife Loretta Martin. He married Kari Wigton in 1977.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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