The world's oldest living American teenager has died. Reports began to surface Wednesday afternoon that Dick Clark had passed away at a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 82. A representative for Dick Clark Productions later confirmed the reports, issuing a statement that Clark suffered a heart attack while undergoing a minor medical procedure.
From 1957 to 1987, Clark was a staple of American television. As host of one of the longest-running US programs, American Bandstand, Clark introduced generations of music fans to a virtual who's-who of taste-making icons. Musicians as diverse as Buddy Holly and Madonna got their national starts on the weekly teen dance program.
Though generally lauded as one of the key figures in Rock 'n' Roll's ascension to mainstream acceptability, Clark was often criticized for his ability to make traditionally rebellious music palatable to a wide swath of American consumers. Noted rock journalist Lester Bangs was downright hostile in his assessment of Clark's most famous creation.
"[American Bandstand] is a leggily acceptable euphemism of the teenage experience," Bangs said.
Clark's "spoonful of sugar" mentality won him the rare status of non-performing rock royalty which outlasted many of the performers he spotlighted each week.
"I knew at the time that if we didn't make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it," Clark said in 1985. "So along with Little Richard and Chuck Berry and the Platters and the Crows and the Jayhawks, the boys wore coats and ties and the girls combed their hair and they all looked like sweet little kids into a high school dance."
In 1972, Clark premiered a yearly tradition with "New Year's Rockin' Eve", a widely-heralded special that quickly supplanted the once-dominant bandleader Guy Lombardo's New Year's Eve spectacle. Beginning in 1972, Clark hosted or co-hosted the program every year with the exception of 1999/2000, as the show was pre-empted for "Y2K" news-style coverage, and again in 2004/2005.
In late 2004, Clark suffered a major stroke from which he never fully recovered. While he missed that year's telecast, he was back on board the next year, albeit in a limited capacity. He officially passed the torch to Ryan Seacrest of American Idol. His appearances remained notable, due in no small part to his continued speech difficulties. Every year, people were stunned by his tenacity in the face of debilitating illness and watched with awe as he shared the traditional New Year's kiss with his wife, Kari Wigton.
"When I joined his show in 2006 , it was a dream come true to work with him every New Year's Eve for the last six years," said Ryan Seacrest. "He was smart, charming, funny and always a true gentleman. I learned a great deal from him, and I'll always be indebted to him for his faith and support of me. He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world. We will all miss him."