As I was wracking my brain to come up with a very important topic for this blog number twenty, nothing seemed to come to mind. Dick Clark passed away, I was sad and a little nostalgic but still no great idea for a column. Then, last night as I watched yet another retrospective of his life, this one on 20/20, I realized what a huge impact he had on the Twentieth Century and on me. So I think it only fitting that I, as a representative of all the mid-century babies, who experienced so much history and change in the world. Many times not even being aware of the events importance, until some news outlet pointed out the significance to us. I guess that #20, should concern the 20th century and one of its icons.
What did Dick Clark mean to you? To me he was almost a piece of the fabric of my life. When I first discovered him, or more likely his show, American Bandstand, I was living in Mount Vernon, New York. I was attending A. B. Davis High School and quickly discovered he was one of its most famous alumni. Right there a “Six Degrees of Separation” moment! New York being only a ninety minute train ride to Philadelphia, my little circle of friends instantly decided we must take the train south and see this social phenomenon, for ourselves.
As you can well imagine this was not a view shared by our parents. However, after nine months of whining and begging we were on our way. If you remember that time at all, you will recall we had both much more freedom and much less freedom at the same time. The world was much safer or so it appeared but our parents were not afraid to say NO!!! I can vaguely remember the trip or sitting in the stands or even the music played, but I never forgot its place in history both mine and music’s.
On 20/20 last night I realized, how for all of America, fresh-faced Dick Clark smoothed the way for Rock and Roll and R&B into mainstream America. Those of our generation really have to think hard to remember a world without a music scene built around the likes and dislikes of the very young. Dick Clark facilitated that change, and so smooth a revolution that I doubt the grown ups realized what was happening until it was too late.
I also can only theorize the impact of Dick Clark on my ability to remember New Years Eve’s of yore. I married my first husband and we wouldn’t be caught dead at home for New Years, we were way to sophisticated for that! But, then when I was between husbands, I can recall being in Florida with my children visiting my parents for the holidays and I would put the kids to bed and watch Dick with my parents. There came a time when my parents would go to sleep before mid-night and I would tell myself I will never be too old to stay up to see the New Year in with Dick.
I could not even imagine New Years without Times Square. Some of the best ones after remarrying and having another child, and before my older kids got too old to spend their night with us, all sitting and watching the ball drop together. All wonderful memories somehow tied up together with Mr. Clark. We all took him and a great many other things for granted. Again, another bit of wisdom that only comes with age. As we know, he suffered a stroke in 2005 and things have never been the same. Sure, now we have Ryan Seacrest, and Anderson Cooper on CNN, and Fox and NBC and TNT and E. We can watch the ball drop in four-time zones and however many hemispheres and if we are too tired to stay up, we can celebrate on EST here in PST and go to sleep by 9:30, but it just isn’t the same and never will be.
So goodbye, Dick Clark and many others who made up so much of our youth and young adulthood. I am not sure we realize how important these cultural touchstones are until we get older. I can’t help but wonder if they always knew their importance in the grand scheme of things.