A tribute to Dick Clark

After more than half a century on national television, ushering music acts into the public eye and ringing in the new year for millions, Dick Clark was eulogized last week as a cultural giant first, a shrewd businessman second.
Clark (who died of a heart attack at age 82) would not have objected. But there was a fuller picture. As an executive behind the scenes, he parlayed a keen understanding of a changing marketplace controlled by the baby boomers into millions in profits.
“I don’t make culture. I sell it” – he told Forbes magazine in 1996.
Carson Daly and Ryan Seacrest are among those who have hoped to emulate Clark’s success, both on the air and as an executive.
“I sent him my bio and stuff because he probably had no idea who I was” – Daly told me once, recalling a meeting he landed with Clark. “But I walked in and he was like: ‘Carson Daly! It is a pleasure!’ He was very nice. … It was almost like I was seeing a shrink. I just sort of spewed out all this stuff. And he was like, ‘Use the force,’ these little one-word bits of advice.”
So what are some of the business lessons Clark left behind?
Innovation doesn’t necessarily require invention.
Like Steve Jobs at Apple and Ray Kroc at McDonald’s, Clark made his millions, and carved his place in the American consciousness, by being able to size up the marketplace, sense appetites and package improved variations of what existed. His version, like theirs, would be more efficient, appealing and, ultimately, satisfying.

A tribute to Dick Clark
Dick Clark.

Dick Clark married music and television long before “American Idol.” But his legacy extends well beyond the persona of the laid-back host of “American Bandstand” whose influence can still be seen on TV today.
He was the workaholic head of a publicly traded company, a restaurateur, a concert promoter and real estate investor. Clark, who died of a heart attack on Wednesday at age 82, left behind a fortune and is the model of entertainment entrepreneurship embodied today by “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest.
“Work was his hobby” – said Fran La Maina, the longtime president of Dick Clark Productions Inc.
La Maina started as the production company’s financial controller in 1966. He estimates Clark amassed a fortune that reached into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
“He had this never-give-up attitude. He was a great salesperson and a task master” – La Maina said.
Clark was one of the early pioneers of the idea that a public company can be formed around an entertainer’s personal appeal. By the time La Maina went to work for him, Clark already had three shows on air – “Swingin’ Country,” “Where the Action Is,” and, of course, “American Bandstand.”
He promoted more than 100 concerts a year back when promoters, not bands, called the shots. His roster included The Rolling Stones and Engelbert Humperdinck. In the 1970s, he launched shows like the “American Music Awards” and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” — shows that are highly valued by advertisers because fans still want to watch them live in an age of digital video recorders.
At one point, he hosted shows on all three major TV networks, including “The $20,000 Pyramid” on ABC, “Live Wednesday” on CBS and “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes” on NBC. All the while, he was hosting shows “Dick Clark’s Countdown” and “Rock, Roll & Remember” on the radio and running a business.

Farewell to an American icon:
Glen Oaks – “I was saddened to hear about Dick Clark’s passing. I used to watch him on “American Bandstand” when I was in high school. For the music of my time, there will never be anyone close to Dick Clark. And New Year’s Eve will never be the same without you. Connie Kaplan.”
Brooklyn – “I am a child of the ’70s who grew up watching Dick Clark and Don Cornelius. Losing both of them, we also lost a little piece of ourselves. Eileen McIntyre Hughes.”
Bronx – “New Year’s Eve will never be the same. Thanks for the memories, Dick. Bruce Jablonsky.”
Woodside – “I was very disappointed you didn’t give Dick Clark a full front-page tribute. He was certainly a large part of America for more than five decades. He will always be remembered for all the great TV shows he produced, and I will miss him. Rest in peace, Mr. Dick Clark. My sympathies go out to his family and friends. Kelly Karavites.”

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