Richard “Dick” Wagstaff Clark, creator of the American Music Awards, host of American Bandstand, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes and the game show Pyramid, died of a heart attack yesterday in Santa Monica at age 82.
The self-made millionaire also conducted beaming interviews for the Golden Globes, chatting up everyone from Mel Gibson and Martin Landau to Sharon Stone and Jessica Lange. To people my age he is recognized most for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve which began in 1973 and was still running into 2012 with host Ryan Seacrest.
Following his massive stroke in 2004 which heavily impaired his speech, he sometimes still stood smiling like a 19-year old next to Seacrest truly embodying his “World’s Oldest Teenager” nickname.
After high school, he began working in the mailroom for a New York radio station that was owned by his uncle and managed by his father, Richard Augustus Clark, where he quickly rose up in rank to weatherman and beyond.
In 1952 he worked in Philly for the radio/television program WFIL. He took over for the then-host of the TV dance show “Bandstand,” Bob Horn, after he was fired and arrested for drunk driving.
“I was 26 years old, looked the part, knew the music, was very comfortable on television, they said, ‘Do you want it?’ And I said, ‘Oh, man, do I want it!’” The program was renamed American Bandstand and his first official interview was with Elvis Presley, in 1957.
He is survived by his ex-wife, Kari Wigton and his three children – Richard, Cindy and Duane.