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Dick Clark was a symbol of youth - and survival

America’s oldest teenager, Dick Clark passed on last week.

Most of us never met Mr. Clark, but I bet it would be fair to say we all wish we could have.

During my teenage years, I daydreamed about dancing on "American Bandstand" each Saturday morning. I never imagined myself on one of the main platforms where the really good dancers would show off their moves. I often wished I could dance with the people at the back of the studio just to be able to say I was part of that program.

And I was — while dancing around our living room — just not in the Hollywood studio.

Looking back, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I ended up with a career in broadcasting because my favorite segment of Bandstand was Rate-a-Record. Each week we got to listen to a song I’d never heard before, and then Dick Clark would interview studio guests about what they thought of the song. Woe to the person who said it "had a good beat and was easy to dance to!"


It wasn’t until much later that I realized how iconic this program and Dick Clark were.

One of the things I found most interesting about his death was the response from people of different ages. Many of my "older friends" — folks who were born more than three decades ago — considered him to be "their age." People younger than me only remember him as the "New Year’s Rockin’ Eve" guy.

The ageless Mr. Clark only began showing his years following a stroke in 2004.

Despite the stroke, he returned to co-host or at least make a guest appearance on the New Year's Eve shows. It was startling to see him struggling with his speech and partial facial paralysis. Many TV critics thought he wasn’t in good enough shape to be on camera. I must admit that at first, I agreed with that sentiment. He didn’t look or sound like the Dick Clark we all "knew," and that made me uncomfortable.

This past Dec. 31, as we watched the crystal ball drop on Times Square, our kids asked us, "What was wrong with that guy?" I then realized that what he was doing was brave and important. Much as Ronald Regan became the face of Alzheimer’s disease after he was diagnosed, I believe Dick Clark’s final gift was showing us what surviving a stroke looks like. We usually think people on TV need to look perfect, so we forget they are human.

If they are lucky enough to live a long life, we will see them age and do human things like survive a stroke. My grandma used to say, "getting old is tough work." However, sooner or later we all will. Even the world’s oldest teenager.

"Dick Clark, so long!"

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