Born Richard Wagstaff Clark, November 30, 1929, in Mount Vernon, NY; son of Richard Agustus (a salesman and radio-station manager) and Julia Clark; married Barbara Mallery, 1952 (divorced, 1961); married Loretta Martin (a secretary), 1962 (divorced, 1971); married Kari Wigton, 1977; children: (first marriage) Richard Agustus, II; (second marriage) Duane, Cindy. Education: Graduated from Syracuse University in 1951, majored in advertising. Addresses: Home-Malibu, CA; Office-Dick Clark Productions, 3003 W. Olive Ave., Burbank, CA 91505.
Dick Clark doesn't play a musical instrument, has written a few bad songs, and made one record that sunk without a trace, but he has been a prevailing force in the music and television industry for more than 40 years. Branded America's oldest teenager, this industrious television host and radio announcer turned high-powered executive achieved fame and fortune with his youthful looks and productions aimed at adolescents. Clark has been credited with introducing some of rock and roll's brightest stars and he is considered one of rock's most influential promoters. In addition to 33 years of hosting American Bandstand, one of America's longest-running television entertainment shows, Clark has hosted and produced thousands of hours of television and radio programming ranging from game shows to awards shows to television films. He has also built an entertainment empire that includes, Dick Clark Productions, a leading independent producer of television programming, and Unistar Communications Group, which distributes his radio shows.
Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on November 30, 1929 in Mount Vernon, New York, to Richard Augustus and Julia Clark. Growing up in Bronxville, New York, Clark spent his childhood listening to the radio and was likely influenced a great deal by his father's work as a radio station manager at WRUN in nearby Utica. Clark recalls a deep admiration for radio voices and characters such as Arthur Godfrey, Steve Allen, and Dave Garroway. When his brother, Bradley, was killed in World War II, Clark used such radio programs as Make Believe Ballroom and Battle of the Baritones as an antidote for his depression. He soon joined the school dramatics club and served as his high school class president.
The summer before Clark entered Syracuse University as an advertising major and radio minor, his father hired him to work in the mailroom at WRUN. He was only 17 when, in between e as a disc jockey at WAER-FM, Syracuse University's student-run radio station.
Clark is proud of his success in radio. He has only had four jobs in an industry renowned for high turnover. Shortly before graduating from college, he gained experience working as a country-western and popular music announcer at WOLF in Syracuse. When he graduated in 1951, Clark returned to Utica where he got a job as a television news anchorman at WKTV. Clark saw more opportunity at a larger station, so he moved to Philadelphia in 1952 and became an announcer for WFIL radio, where he began to host the local radio show Bandstand. WFIL TV had an afternoon dance show similar to the rock and roll dance shows on local stations across America. It was called American Bandstand. In 1956, when the show's host was arrested for driving under the influence-an image not well associated with a wholesome show for impressionable teens-the station approached the then twenty-something Clark as a replacement.
Rock 'n Roll History
Clark had hosted the show for nearly a year before he convinced the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television network to put American Bandstand on television screens around the country. ABC purchased the show, and it premiered nationally on August 5, 1957 when Clark introduced Billy Williams, who sang "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." The 90-minute show featuring dancing teenagers and musical guests was televised live on weekday afternoons and, briefly that year, on prime time. Dance crazes such as the twist, the watusi, and the stroll were started on the show. American Bandstand appeared as a weekly one-hour taped show that ran on Saturday mornings from 1963-87.
Clark grew older in those 33 years, but his youthful appearance and cult status made him an accessible figure to the two generations that grew up with the show. The longest-running musical show in television history, American Bandstand featured nearly every pop musician imaginable with the exception of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley. In 1987, when ABC asked him to cut the show back to half an hour, Clark pulled out of the network and put the show into syndication. By 1989, Clark had replaced himself with a new host, 26-year-old David Hirsch, and went behind the scenes to work as executive producer. However, American Bandstand had finally exhausted itself as a weekly syndicated production and soon disappeared from television.
With Fame Came Wealth
American Bandstand may have faded from American television sets, but its legacy left Dick Clark an American icon, as well as a very rich man. Clark resourcefully used the show as the bedrock of his entertainment empire. He became a very wealthy man as a result of his shrewd involvement in other business ventures. As a producer and founder of Dick Clark Productions, he provided 170 television programming hours a week by 1985. His company produced made-for-TV movies, game shows, award shows, beauty pageants, and "reality" programs. Clark created The American Music Awards in 1974 and has produced the show ever since. His company has also produced such notables as The Academy of Country Music Awards, The Soap Awards, The Daytime Emmy Awards, The Golden Globe Awards, and in 1996, "The 48th Annual Emmy Awards." His made-for-TV-movie credits include The Man in the Santa Clause Suit(1978), The Birth of the Beatles (1979), Elvis (1979), and The Woman Who Willed a Miracle (1984), which won Clark an Emmy as co-producer. He also tried his hand, somewhat unsuccessfully, at full-length, full-screen motion pictures with a 1985 release of the $4 million, four-year production of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.
Besides American Bandstand, Clark is probably best known as the man who counts down the seconds to the New Year every New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square. Dick Clark Productions has provided ABC with the New Year's Rockin' Eve television spectacular every year since 1972. Clark, however, hasn't always found success in television production. Some of his game show ideas have proven less than extraordinary. These include The Object Is (ABC, 1963), Missing Links (ABC, 1964), The Krypton Factor (ABC, 1981), and Scattergories (NBC, 1989).
Clark went through a difficult time professionally when he was brought before the House Committee on Legislative Oversight in 1960. The Committee was investigating "payola" in the record and radio industry. (This was the practice of those in the business accepting bribes and favors to promote records.) Clark was eventually cleared of all suspicions, but he was forced to divest himself of some of his business ventures since his holdings in the music business were considered a conflict of interest.
His Face was Everywhere
Clark spent a lot of time and money behind the scenes, but his youthful persona didn't disappear from television screens altogether. While he was hosting Bandstand, Clark continued to emcee a number of awards telecasts and host television game shows and half-hour variety shows, including $25,000 Pyramid, for which he won three Emmy Awards in 1978, 1984 and 1985; and TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. At the time, he was the only person to have shows on all three American television networks with NBC's Bloopers, ABC's Bandstand, and CBS's $25,000 Pyramid. Clark has also appeared onscreen playing himself in film and television cameos, as well as original performances in two episodes of the 1964 series Burke's Law and, around the same time, an episode of Perry Mason. He made his silver screen debut in 1960's Because They're Young in which he played a teacher. In 1961 he played a doctor in The Young Doctors, a popular soap opera.
Though Clark moved into television broadcasting with Bandstand, he didn't abandon music and radio. He hosted Countdown America, a Top 40 radio show, as well as Dick Clark's Rock, Roll & Remembers. Both were syndicated as weekly shows to more than 1,800 radio stations around the U.S. by Unistar Communications. In 1993, Unistar's merger with Infinity Broadcasting gave the company upward of 3,000 affiliates. His company has also entered the home video and compact disc market with the release of Dick Clark's Best of Bandstand videocassettes and Dick Clark's All-Time Hits line of CDs. Clark seems to possess an unending supply of energy, not to mention an unrelenting motivation for the success of his enterprise. His influence on the American entertainment industry will doubtlessly continue into the 21st Century as will his status as an icon of American pop culture history.
by Kelly M. Cross
Dick Clark's Career
Worked in the mailroom of radio station WRUN, Utica, NY, 1945; disc jockey at WAER, and news announcer and disc jockey at WOLF, both in Syracuse, NY, 1946-51; worked as news announcer, music-show host, and various other positions at WKTV, Utica, NY, 1951; music-show host, WFIL Radio, Philadelphia, 1952-56; host of Bandstand on WFIL-TV, Philadelphia, 1956; host of ABC's American Bandstand, 1956-1989; host of various game shows and television programs, including $25,000 Pyramid and TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes; formed Dick Clark Productions, 1956; co-founder and principal owner, United States Radio Network; founder of SRO Artists, Sea Lark, January Music, Swan Records, and Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars; producer of television series, television specials, various annual award programs, television movies, and syndicated radio programs.
Dick Clark's Awards
Daytime Emmy Awards for $25,000 Pyramid, 1978, 1984, 1985; Emmy for Best Children's Entertainment Special for co-producing The Woman Who Willed a Miracle, 1982; Emmy for Special Achievement of Outstanding Program Achievement for executive producing American Bandstand, 1982; inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, 1993.
April 15, 2004: Clark announced that he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1994 and will serve as the spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the Merck pharmaceutical company. Source: Associated Press, http://customwire.ap.org, April 15, 2004.
Summer 2005: Clark will serve as producer along with American Idol creator Simon Fuller of a revamped version of American Bandstand. The new show, which Clark will not host, will include a judged dance competition. Source: Associated Press, http://customwire.ap.org, May 25, 2004.
December 9, 2004: Clark suffered a mild stroke in December and was hospitalized in Los Angeles. Source: Associated Press, http://customwire.ap.org, December 9, 2004.
December 14, 2004: For the first time in 33 years, Clark will not host "New Year's Rockin' Eve" on ABC, due to his recent stroke. Regis Philbin will appear instead. Source: New York Times, www.nytimes.com, December 14, 2004.
January 27, 2005: Clark returned home from the hospital, seven weeks after suffering a stroke. Source: New York Times, www.nytimes.com, January 27, 2005.
August 16, 2005: Clark will return as host for ABC's 34th annual "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve." Ryan Seacrest will serve as co-host and is under contract to take over the show when Clark retires. Source: New York Times, www.nytimes.com, August 16, 2005.
- Business Wire , February 12, 1999.
- Chicago Tribune , May 25, 1989.
- PR Newswire , January 20, 1999.
- Record , September 29, 1985.
- Rocky Mountain News , January 6, 1998.
- Washington Times , January 12, 1999.