Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rant #720: An Icon Passes

As I am sure you already know, Dick Clark, the host of "American Bandstand" and host, creator and producer of dozens of other shows during a more than 50-year career, died at age 82 yesterday.

You can read elsewhere about his many exploits, how American Bandstand helped the civil rights movement, how his shows helped to make our lives better.

Heck, my mother had told me numerous times that when I was a very little kid, every time "American Bandstand" came on the air when it was a weekly show out of Philadelphia, I would jump up and down in my crib.

But here, I am going to talk about topics related to him that few of the obituaries will even give a slight mention to.

Two of the shows that he produced clearly stand out in my memory, and gave me some of my most vivid recollections from my childhood.

"Where the Action Is" was his spinoff from "American Bandstand." Although it lasted about two seasons as a daytime, Monday-Friday show, it was really the first music "video" show, setting the groundwork for "The Monkees" TV show and even, down the line, MTV.

This black and white show showcased the hottest recording acts of the day, usually lip-syncing to their hits at beaches, pools, or resorts of one kind or another.

Originally hosted by singer Steve Alaimo, the show kind of morphed from a showcase for many acts into a showcase for one act.

Signed as the house band of the show based on their incredible success in the Pacific Northwest, Paul Revere and the Raiders were made for television. They had a very visual act, were very performance oriented, wore Revolutionary War costumes, and had sort of a hard-edged garage/bubblegum pop sound that owed as much to the Beatles as it did to the Kinks.

Led by bandleader Paul Revere and lead singer Mark Lindsay, the band virtually took over the show, and became its centerpiece, along with all the other rock, pop and rhythm and blues acts that appeared on the program. In addition to Revere and Lindsay, the names of Smitty and Fang also entered the lexicon, and the Raiders became among the top teen idols in the nation through this show, certainly setting the environment for the creation of the Monkees.

Clark did many of the voiceovers for the program and I watched it almost religiously.

After that show went off the air, Clark held onto the popularity of the Raiders with his Saturday afternoon "Happening" shows. Following "American Bandstand" on the schedule, these half hour shows starred the Raiders, playing their latest hits and hobnobbing with other popular acts.

There was also a "Battle of the Bands" on every show, and teen idol celebrities like Merilee Rush and Peter Tork were often the judges.

Clark also did voiceovers for this show, which lasted two seasons, and like "Where the Action Is," he was also the producer.

Sure, these two shows are mere footnotes on a resume that included so many other, perhaps more memorable programs.

But to me, the two shows were the essence of Clark: a modern huckster to the youth of America, but in the very best sense of the word.

He was a businessman first, and always, and he had his hand on the pulse of the youth of America.

And parents trusted him with their kids.

So, in parting adieu to Clark, I have to say that he was a truly one of a kind person, a guy that had his fingers on everything, but always knew where he was going next.

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