Every generation encounters one human being who stands taller than other. Every generation there is a person who epitomizes youth and happiness. Every generation there is a person who, even though you may not ever meet, you feel fondness for and remember with a smile.
Today, Dick Clark, died. I never met the man. I had a close encounter with him once in New York City, walked from the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square he passed by us walking into the hotel. Yet, even though I never met him, I welcomed him into my house almost every single year, sometimes more than once. I can’t say I was a real fan of American Bandstand. Yes, I am of the age when it was still on the air on Saturday mornings. But, I watched Bloopers and Practical Jokes, I watched The Golden Globe Awards and I watched Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve faithfully. It was not New Years without him. Even in recent years, I would watch just a few minutes as it became uncomfortable for me to see man struggle with his speech and keep up with the countdown. Yet, I applaud him for being active and picking himself back up and doing what he loved most.
Dick Clark was not an actor. He was not an entertainer. He was not a singer either. He transcended all of that. He was the neighborhood kid who your parents would go over to his house and listen to records and dance. Then, watch the latest dance moves on television and see and hear the newest bands and singers. He chronicled the history of our music evolution. Whether it was The Supreme’s or Jerry Lee Lewis or the Go-Go’s or the Black-eyed Peas, he introduced us to them and got us hooked on the latest best music. Most of my favorite artists appeared on American Bandstand, that was their big break. If they were good enough, they were asked back to appear on New Years Rockin’ Eve. It’s all on tape. One of the best things about growing up in this age, everything is recorded.
But, I must confess, my strongest feelings about the death of Mr. Clark come from something much more personal. Watching him every New Years reminds me of some the best moments of my life. There were several New Year’s my sister and I spent with our Mamma Helen, and we stayed up till midnight, watching Dick Clark. We would have snack and welcome in the New Year. Then there were the years when we spent New Years home with Mom. The three of us snuggled in her bed, eating popcorn and drinking iced tea and having the kind of fun a family should have together. Those are all happy memories for me. In my later years, I would be out with friends, but I always made sure to turn to the television showing Dick Clark. I thought I owed that to him.
This past New Years I watched him briefly countdown to midnight and he still looked great. With the exception of his slurred speech, you couldn’t tell anything was wrong with him. But it was sad. Time moves forward and there is nothing anyone can do about it. You can be as young at heart as you want, time still catches up to you. As I welcomed this New Years I thought about all the other New Years he had helped me celebrate and was glad he was helping me celebrate 2012, maybe even a little bit more.
So, Mr. Clark, I want to thank you for helping me make those memories; with friends and family, with strangers and acquaintances, sometimes alone and sometimes in a crowd, you helped to make them special. I know I am not the only who is thankful for your youthful vigor there are millions of people mourning your passing. You were an icon, a living monument. You were boy who never grew-up, you were our real live Peter Pan.