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From Our Files: Dick Clark 1986 Interview, 'Guru of pop compares three decades of rockin' teens'

Dick Clark, television personality and producer, entrepreneur and music enthusiast, was affectionately known as 'America's Oldest Teenager.' Millions of teenagers grew up watching 'American Bandstand,' which Clark hosted from 1957 - 1989, and began the New Year for forty years with Clark, and "New Year's Rockin' Eve.' 'American Bandstand' propelled many musicians' careers, as well as the pop music industry.  Clark, who died today, was interviewed by the MONITOR in 1986, where he spoke about generations, musical styles, racial integration, and what kept him motivated.

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``When it started, it was the the only thing out there for the kids,'' he points out. ``It happened before the youth culture was recognized. They were being treated, if not as second-class citizens, at least as unrecognized citizens. Then by the mid-'50s, they got their own music and began to show their purchasing power, so they got recognition.''

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But why has the show remained virtually intact over the decades?``The program is a window that allows you to look at the flow of fashion, the morals, the changes in language,'' he says. ``It's people-watching: You're watching how they do this movement, which is dancing, and you're watching what they wear. Although the framework doesn't change over the years, the content does.

``It would be like standing and looking out this window here,'' he says, pointing at the commanding view from his penthouse in the ultra-high-priced Trump Tower building. ``That building out there wasn't there a year ago, but it's here now, and that bridge will eventually not be there.''

During these changes, ``Bandstand'' gave an impressive list of singers and groups their first important exposure. But it was big-band records that caught the ear of Dick Clark as a boy.``We used to listen to an old wind-up Victrola in the hallway of my parents' room,'' he recalls. Broadcasting was already his goal by the time his family moved from his birthplace in Mount Vernon, N.Y., to Utica when Clark was a teen-ager. He did news and worked as a disc jockey at Utica radio stations before, during, and after graduating from Syracuse University, then made a crucial move to Philadelphia's WFIL. He took over the local ``Bandstand'' TV show in 1956, and the next year it went network.

The rest may be pop-culture history, but it is by no means the whole of Clark's show-business career. He's best known these days -- outside ``Bandstand'' -- as co-host of ``TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes'' and host of ``The $25,000 Pyramid'' (and of two syndicated TV shows). But he and his company are also the producers of many TV and theatrical films and prime-time TV shows, and of several weekly radio shows (he is host of two of them).

In addition, he produces and is host of a live stage revue that tours the country, and he has written syndicated newspaper columns and several books -- the latest one being Ballantine Books' ``The History of American Bandstand.''

How does he manage this staggering schedule? In large part, with the help of his wife, Kari, a charming woman who bustled into the apartment during our talk laden with packages.

``If I had to think about what I was going to do every day, I'd be a raving lunatic,'' Clark says. ``There's the work of five or six people involved. She takes care of it. I know we'll go to Philadelphia tonight, but I don't what we're going to do there -- we're going to have dinner with somebody. She's told me and I forgot. I sat down at a luncheon the other day with a friend of mine who's a production competitor, and he said, `I look at you and I see time management.' And there are still a lot of things I want to do in my life before I'm called away.''

Like what?

``Personally, I'd like to visit every corner of the earth. But,'' he adds a bit wistfully, ``I don't know as I'll ever be able to accomplish that.''

Then why does a man noted for his personal wealth do so much?

``I've reflected on that the last few years. I'm not a workaholic. I love to take vacations -- we take one every three months. We work very hard in the interim.

``The real truth of it is, the money stopped being the motivation about 25 years ago. It's the activity, it's the play. That's the same reason a lot of people do what they do. Once you get enough money to live on, that's all you need.

``But the money does change your attitude a little bit. It's not an extraordinarily easy business. It's very competitive. When I was a kid I was very competitive, and I still am. But now it doesn't hurt so much to lose something, or give something away. It's not laziness, it's maturity, to know that you just can't do everything, nor are you equipped to do it. That sometimes takes a little time to figure out.''


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