Farewell to America’s oldest teenager

Dick Clark: R.I.P.
Dick Clark: R.I.P.

On the TV screen, Dick Clark looked like  the perpetual teenager.  In person, he appeared closer to his age.  No old, mine you, but mature.

As he strode into the press conference at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis in 1979, Clark wore a brilliant smile and greeted the crowd of reporters and photographers warmly.  In town to promote a charity, Clark was immediately personable and professional, delivering his remarks with a mixture of warmth and sincerity that appeared both genuine and polished.

In his suite afterwards, he sat down for an interview and admitted he was tired.

“I’m not as young as I used to be,” he admitted with a laugh.  “America’s oldest teenager is getting up in years.”

Yet Clark always appeared to defy the aging process that seemed to afflict others of his era.  Even the rockers he helped get started with appearances on American Bandstand aged.  Not Dick Clark.  He was a modern day Dorian Gray, the man who found the fountain of youth in hard work, success and rock & roll.

As a reporter, I often approached celebrities with heavy doses of skepticism, looking for chinks in the public armor.  Clerk appeared more genuine than most.  He had a reputation as a hard nosed businessman but also a long history of compassion.  When a stroke felled singer Jackie Wilson, it was Dick Clark who paid his medical bills through the years.  It was Dick Clark who came to see him in the rehab center.  Everyone else forgot Jackie Wilson.  Not Dick Clark.

A stroke showed Clark down in later years but he fought back, still appearing on the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show he started and turned into an annual rite of passage for each year

But Dick Clark is dead now, felled by a heart attack.  He was 82.  What he left us, however, lives on.

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