‘World’s oldest teenager’ Dick Clark dead at 82

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Dick Clark, the ever-youthful television host and producer who helped bring rock `n’ roll into the mainstream on “American Bandstand” and rang in the New Year for the masses at Times Square, has died. He was 82.

Spokesman Paul Shefrin said Clark had a heart attack Wednesday morning at Saint John’s hospital in Santa Monica, where he had gone the day before for an outpatient procedure.

Clark had continued performing even after he suffered a stroke in 2004 that affected his ability to speak and walk.

Long dubbed “the world’s oldest teenager” because of his boyish appearance, Clark bridged the rebellious new music scene and traditional show business, and equally comfortable whether chatting about music with Sam Cooke or bantering with Ed McMahon about TV bloopers. He long championed black singers by playing the original R&B versions of popular songs, rather than the pop cover.

Ryan Seacrest, who took over main hosting duties on the countdown show from Clark after the legend grew frail, said in a statement Wednesday that he was “deeply saddened.”

“I idolized him from the start, and I was graced early on in my career with his generous advice and counsel,” Seacrest said. “He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world. We will all miss him.”

He thrived as the founder of Dick Clark Productions, supplying movies, game and music shows, beauty contests and more to TV. Among his credits: “The $25,000 Pyramid,” `’TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes” and the American Music Awards.

“Dick Clark was a true pioneer who revolutionized the way we listened to and consumed music,” record executive Clive Davis said in a statement. “For me he ranks right up there with the giants of our business.”

For a time in the 1980s, he had shows on all three networks and was listed among the Forbes 400 of wealthiest Americans. Clark also was part of radio as partner in the United Stations Radio Network, which provided programs _ including Clark’s _ to thousands of stations.

“There’s hardly any segment of the population that doesn’t see what I do,” Clark told The Associated Press in a 1985 interview. “It can be embarrassing. People come up to me and say, `I love your show,’ and I have no idea which one they’re talking about.”

The original “American Bandstand” was one of network TV’s longest-running series as part of ABC’s daytime lineup from 1957 to 1987. It later aired for a year in syndication and briefly on the USA Network. Over the years, it introduced stars ranging from Buddy Holly to Madonna. The show’s status as an American cultural institution was solidified when Clark donated Bandstand’s original podium and backdrop to the Smithsonian Institution.

Clark joined “Bandstand” in 1956 after Bob Horn, who’d been the host since its 1952 debut, was fired. Under Clark’s guidance, it went from a local Philadelphia show to a national phenomenon.

“I played records, the kids danced, and America watched,” was how Clark once described the series’ simplicity. In his 1958 hit “Sweet Little Sixteen,” Chuck Berry sang that “they’ll be rocking on Bandstand, Philadelphia, P-A.”

As a host, he had the smooth delivery of a seasoned radio announcer. As a producer, he had an ear for a hit record. He also knew how to make wary adults welcome this odd new breed of music in their homes.

Clark endured accusations that he was in with the squares, with critic Lester Bangs defining Bandstand as “a leggily acceptable euphemism of the teenage experience.” In a 1985 interview, Clark acknowledged the complaints. “But I knew at the time that if we didn’t make the presentation to the older generation palatable, it could kill it.”

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