Friday, April 20, 2012

The Walking Dead, a.k.a. Dick Clark

If I Get Old - Elliott Brood (mp3)
Man Who Sold the World - David Bowie (mp3)

Dick Clark didn't die this week. He died a while back but no one had the courage to tell him.

I know this to be fact because, for the last seven years -- he suffered a stroke in December 2004 -- Dick Clark's talking corpse has been showing up on his annual New Year's Eve special on ABC. In-between his annual appearance in Times Square, I've pictured him being housed in some barn like they did the zombies on the farm on season 2 of "The Walking Dead."

Am I being too harsh? Am I being disrespectful? Unfair?

For seven long, grimace-bearing years, Dick Clark has been one of the biggest post-NYE water cooler topics in the country. For seven years, you run into someone after the holidays, and you are almost guaranteed to ask the following questions to one another:

(1) What did y'all do?
(2) How drunk did you get?
(3) Did you see Dick Clark?!?

It's quite macabre that the third most-popular question surrounding the ringing in of a New Year is the embarrassing and sad state of an old man whose ego couldn't handle going gently into that good night. But this was the choice of Dick Clark. He was the circus freak who didn't seem to know it. Or, even sadder, whose "handlers" and wife couldn't work up the nerve to tell him.

Dick no longer has to live with that choice, but I am stuck with those memories, memories of a zombie ringing in the New Year, and those memories are Dick Clark's fault.

By no means does this render meaningless the long and awesome history of Dick Clark. The man was a pop culture planet all to himself. American Bandstand was still going strong during my childhood, but it was the $10,000 Pyramid (and eventually the $25k & $100k versions) where I grew to love the man. I loved that show and still to this day watch it every time I come across it on GSN.

Some even take umbrage of how Clark made his money off the backs and creative efforts of the musicians who performed on "American Bandstand," but I'm not sure he's any more awful for doing this than the precious few and superpowered record companies that used similar greedy tactics.

Please don't misinterpret: I never wished Dick Clark dead. I only wished and hoped and prayed he'd stay the hell off all TV screens.

Didn't Johnny Carson teach us anything? What an amazing exit that guy had. The way I remember it, the minute that cat lost just the teensiest part of his grip, he decided to call it quits. And when he left, he left. He was done. No guest appearances. No Very Special Episodes. No annual appearance on some program he owned and controlled. He just said good night and enjoyed a little something we normal people call "privacy."

I don't know a damn thing about the detailed personal lives of Johnny Carson or Dick Clark, but I know which one I think more fondly of. The way we choose to go out says a lot about us. And, in my opinion, Dick Clark chose a way that dragged us down with him, unnecessarily. While I'll always respect his place in popular culture, I'm not quick to forgive him for the way he went out.

May he rest in peace. May it not be televised.


rodle said...

I couldn't stand to watch Dick Clark OR Ryan Seacrest. The Red Bull "Do crazy-ass jumping on snowmobiles and motorcycles" was much cooler.

Bob said...

I'm glad those of us in education don't drag it out like this.

Bob said...

I'm glad those of us in education don't drag it out like this.