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My Meeting with 'America's Oldest Teenager'

It wouldn't have been a Sock Hop without Dick Clark.

It was the early 1980s. It might have been the gym at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks or some other sort of dark all-purpose school room with a stage, curtain and lights.

But it was shadowy and seemingly vast and the mood was electric with expectation as Dick Clark swept in. There he was, "America's Oldest Teenager," looking the part, with beautiful wife Kari on his arm. Hair in a Pompadour, teeth like Chiclets—yes a cliché, but apropos.

Already decades an entertainment mogul, worth millions, but this evening he was standing off to the side, buzzing with old showbiz friends, new friends, admirers, gawkers. They danced in and out, buffing his ego, extending a hand, expressing thanks.

For without him, this evening would never have happened.

Shoes off. It was a Rock 'n Roll Sock Hop for the benefit of Syracuse University's Los Angeles alumni club. And Dick Clark was the benefactor.

Officially, Clark was a 1951 business grad. But the word on the Quad was that he spent so much time at university radio station WAER that he never quite finished his classwork.

Nevertheless, for this night Clark was an alum who called in favors. And one by one, the Buckley stage filled with '50s Rock 'n Roll all-stars and Rhythm and Blues performers, and Doo Wop and ...

I can't recall them all, but I can recall the mood. Maybe it was the Four Tops, or Dion, the Everly Brothers, or Chubby Checker. Were any of them there? Were all of them?

Clark never took the stage, he watched from the side as he did on American Bandstand, never dancing but always in control of the show.

And too soon it was shoes back on and Dick Clark was out into the night.

What are your memories of Dick Clark? Reply in the Comments box below.

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TV and Music Icon Dick Clark Dies at 82

Dick Clark, the seemingly ageless television fixture who hosted "American Bandstand" and helped the nation celebrate New Year's Eve for nearly 40 years, died Wednesday in Santa Monica of a massive heart attack at age 82.

Affectionately known as "America's oldest teenager" for his perennially youthful looks and enthusiastic attitude, Clark went to St. John's Health Center Tuesday night for an "outpatient procedure," but suffered a "massive heart attack," publicist Paul Shefrin said.

"Attempts to resuscitate were unsuccessful," Shefrin said.

Famed for his hosting duties on "American Bandstand" and "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," Clark suffered a stroke in 2004 that forced him largely out of the public eye, although he continued to make appearances on the New Year's Eve special alongside new host Ryan Seacrest. The 2004 stroke forced him to miss his New Year's Eve special for the first time since 1972.

His stroke came a year after he announced that he had Type 2 diabetes.

"I am deeply saddened by the loss of my dear friend Dick Clark," Seacrest wrote on his Twitter page. "He has truly been one of the greatest influences in my life. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Clark, a New York native, attended Syracuse University, where he majored in advertising. He also worked as a DJ at the campus radio station, a job that translated to paying gigs at other stations, including one owned by his father.

He moved on to become a television and radio anchorman in both New York and Philadelphia, where he worked at WFIL radio and eventually its television affiliate.

He became host of the local Philadelphia television show "Bandstand" in 1956. One year later, he created dick clark productions and took the show national on ABC as "American Bandstand," which went on to become one of the longest-running variety shows in television history.

His company produces shows such as "So You Think You Can Dance" and awards broadcasts including the Golden Globes, American Music Awards and Academy of Country Music Awards.

Clark also hosted the "Pyramid" game series and "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes." He has also hosted pageants such as Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.

In 2006, Clark was honored at the Emmy Awards, and he reflected on his long show-business career.

"Before I had my stroke, I was thinking about all of the things I have become involved in over my life -- music, comedy, drama, game and talk shows, even reality TV," he told the crowd at the Shrine Auditorium. "I now realize that I have accomplished my job and dream, to be in show business.

"Everybody should be so lucky to have their dreams come true," he said. "I've been truly blessed. I thank you very, very much."

He is survived by his wife, Kari Wigton, and has three children from two previous marriages.

There was no immediate word on funeral services.

—City News Service

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