This is a personal post. Richard Wagstaff “Dick” Clark passed away last week, to surprisingly little fanfare, at least among my Facebook friends. I’m not sure why that is – perhaps because my generation didn’t know much about Dick Clark. We never saw American Bandstand, that’s for sure. To us, he was “that older guy that did the New Year’s thing.” After the stroke, he kind of seemed like he had one foot in the grave, so I guess that’s why people aren’t shocked. I guess I wasn’t either, but Dick Clark was a big deal, and I need to give the man his due.
Because I knew the young Dick Clark. When Rob and I were younger, we would watch old episodes of $100,000 Pyramid on Game Show Network, sometimes for several hours. Dick Clark was always a professional – smooth and respectful, a clean-cut cool guy. That’s what he was in those days. Keep in mind, he was in his 50’s, but you’d never know it by his actions, his coolness, his calmness. The guy had a gift.
I think the greatest personal impact Dick Clark had on me was “What a ____________ might say.” For those who don’t remember, in the final round of Pyramid, the contestants would go up there and try to guess the clue that was hidden behind them, without any gestures and without saying any of the words in the clue. You’d get some funny ones like “What a can opener might say.” Then the clue-giver would say “I help you open your containers”, “No, you twist me to open your beets” and things like that. Often, the receiver would get really excited and scream “WHAT A CAN OPENER MIGHT SAY!” and jump and scream if they got it right.
My brother Rob and I will sometimes mention that when we’re around each other – sometimes just to laugh at the way the people on the show acted, or sometimes we use it to make fun of each other. If Rob’s visiting at my place and I’ve taken sleeping pills, and I say something stupid like “I scalded him” when I meant to say “I scolded him,” Rob will reply “WHAT AN OVEN MIGHT SAY!”
This post from Businessweek says it well – Dick Clark’s primary influence on us was personal. And my best memories of Dick Clark are those empty summer days of my adolescence, sitting at home and watching the $100,000 pyramid, and those moments when Rob and I are bonding over a Dick Clark moment while everyone else in the room is confused. Dick Clark also introduced me to Nipsey Russell, a now-deceased poet who will some day grace the pages of this blog.
Rest in peace, Richard Wagstaff “Dick” Clark, and thanks for the memories. For now, Dick Clark… so long!