When I read about the passing of the passing of American radio and TV personality Dick Clark at the age of 82 last week, lots of images raced through my mind. In fact, Clark and his career might best be described the same way contestants used to feed each other clues on the game show Clark hosted for a decade and a half, “The $10,000 Pyramid”.
‘He’s looks much younger than he is. He doesn’t seem to age. He was nicknamed ‘the world’s oldest teenager. He hosted American Bandstand. He hosted many game shows. He hosted his own New Year’s Eve specials from Times Square. He had his own production company….”
It’s funny that The $10,000 Pyramid, which debuted in 1973, spawned seven subsequent Pyramid series with the title reflecting the top prize increase from $10,000 to $100,000 over the years. The top prize rose with inflation, but the host, Dick Clark, never seemed to age.
Israel also has a bit of Dick Clark thing going on (besides the fact that prices here are rising faster than they did on ‘Pyramid’). Visitors can hardly believe that the state is only 64 years old. Israel looks surprisingly good (very modern, very hi-tech) for a county so young. I’d venture to guess that if you asked some first-time visitors how many years Israel has been independent they’d look around and guess a number over 100. We simply don’t look 64 years old.
As host of American Bandstand (1957-1987), Dick Clark was a primary force in legitimizing rock and roll, not only to teenagers, but also to America’s adult population. The show gave many new music artists their first exposure to national audiences, including Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Simon & Garfunkel and more. His shows were among the first where blacks and whites performed on the same stage and the live audience seating was desegregated. Singer Paul Anka claims that his show was responsible for creating a “youth culture”. Hank Ballard who wrote “The Twist,” described Clark’s popularity during the early years of American Bandstand: “The man was big. He was the biggest thing inAmerica at that time. He was bigger than the president!”
If budding performers in the USA saw Dick Clark’s American Bandstand as a springboard for their careers, certainly Israel now does the same for young Jewish performers. Kathleen Reiter from Canada just won the Israeli version of the singing competition, ‘The Voice’ and is certainly headed for a big international recording career. Israeli mentalist and mind reader Lior Suchard, now playing to sold-out crowds in Las Vegas, got his big break on TV by winning Israel’s ‘The Successor’ (which featured world-renowned Israeli mentalist Uri Geller). It’s also amazing to think that the first (and currently only) Israeli in the NBA, Omri Caspi, honed his basketball skills in Israel, and not at an American college. For all of the above, Israel proudly served as their ‘Bandstand’.
But there is one thing that I remember most about Dick Clark. When I was growing up in Californiain in the 1980’s we never missed an episode of “TV’s Blooper’s & Practical Jokes”. The show, co-hosted by Dick Clark and Ed McMahon, was always good for a laugh. Israel had a similar program called ‘Fisfusim’ (a hidden camera blooper show hosted by Yigal Shilon).
It’s just that sometimes I wish Dick Clark was at the helm of our news. I cringed when I saw the footage (shown over and over again) of Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner striking the Danish protester in the face with the butt his M-16 rifle. I am not belittling the incident, but the only thing that could soften the blow (literally and figuratively) would be if the guys in Dick Clark’s editing room added some sound effects. If only they had added a well placed ‘boink’ as the Dane gets hit, followed by canned audience laughter, as chuckling co-host Ed McMahon says, ‘Well, Dick: Now that’s gotta hurt!’.
Perhaps not looking your age is not all it’s cracked up to be. As Israel celebrates its 64th birthday this week, let’s ponder the following Dick Clark quote, “”If you want to stay young-looking, pick your parents very carefully.”