Doug Clark: Dick Clark was the real deal: a nice guy
Minutes from showtime – July 25, 1970.
Members of the band Rare Earth were chilling inside the ABC television studios in Los Angeles when the door opened and that unmistakable boyish face took over the dressing room.
“He was standing in front of us; it was like Elvis – that kind of feeling,” said Peter Rivera of his first meeting with the iconic impresario of “American Bandstand.”
“Dick frickin’ Clark. I was awestruck.”
Generations of rock ’n’ rollers are singin’ the blues, and rightly so.
Clark (no relation, alas) died last Wednesday at 82. It’s a surprising age in that so many of us who grew up watching him will always think of Dick Clark as forever young.
He was our congenial tour guide, after all, the Ringleader of Rock who brought so many fantastic acts into our living rooms.
Paul Anka, Aretha Franklin, Jan and Dean, the Temptations, Chuck Berry, Jim Croce, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor …
Am I dating myself?
But as cool as it was to watch “Bandstand,” how cool would performing on “Bandstand” be?
I knew how to find out. I called Rivera, the drummer and powerhouse lead voice of all those great Rare Earth hits:
“Get Ready,” “I’m Losing You,” “Celebrate” …
Rare Earth rode the charts in its heyday, selling millions of records. Two Rare Earth albums went double platinum. Two others went platinum. Two more went gold.
On Friday, I drove to Rivera’s North Spokane home to get the real scoop on Clark and “American Bandstand.” Even better, Rivera offered to let me watch a DVD containing some of his appearances on the show.
Now, big-time musicians tend to be a cynical and wary lot.
Comes with the territory, I believe, of getting screwed over by a long line of weasels: record labels, lying promoters, double-crossing agents, larcenous lawyers …
So I was naturally curious to see how Clark the legend would stack up to someone with an insider’s view.
Dick Clark “was warm and welcoming,” said Rivera. “He always made you feel like you were much more important than him. And that he was there to be of service to you.
“To him, the show was a family.”
Much has been made of the Clark work ethic, how he turned a local Philadelphia TV show into a national institution that aired from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Then there’s the game show, all the commercials and the Times Square ball drops.
To achieve so much and still keep your humility is, to me, the greatest accomplishment of all.
True, without Dick Clark there would be no Ryan Seacrest.
But nobody’s perfect.
For performers like Rivera, appearing on “American Bandstand” was a musical rite of passage, a symbol that you really had hit the heights.
Want to see something amazing?
Google “list of acts who appeared on ‘American Bandstand.’ ”
Welcome to a “Who’s Who” of pop culture.
Rivera stuck the DVD a fan gave him into his player. After some flits and flickers, his big screen television swept us back to 1978.
“American Bandstand” season 21, episode 40, namely.
Rare Earth performed “Warm Ride,” a catchy disco tune the band obtained from the talented Brothers Gibb.
After the song, Clark, wearing a gray suit and holding a long white microphone, walked up to the stage. He began chatting with Rivera as if the two were long-lost chums.
He complimented Rivera’s drumming and asked him to name each member of the band. The most endearing thing about the encounter is that Rivera is still in tongue-tied awe of Clark.
“I watched ‘American Bandstand’ while growing up,” he recalled.
“There were couples you’d tune in to watch. They were stars unto themselves. I watched all the time.”
Who knew that Rivera, a regular kid from Detroit, would join the legacy of hit makers who made it all the way to the “Bandstand”?
“He’s still alive as far as I’m concerned,” said my friend. “He always will be.
“Dick Clark is rock ’n’ roll.”
Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.