20 April 2012

A spokesman for the great wholesome majority of American teenagers

Famed music broadcaster Dick Clark died on 18 April, aged 82.  One of Clark's many claims to fame is that he helped pioneer the Twist craze - check out this groovy clip from Chicago in 1962 to get a feel for the cultural reach of the phenomenon. Here's Clark at the height of his powers, appearing in the New Yorker at the famous Peppermint Lounge (the Mafia-connected nightspot where both the Twist and Go-Go dancing began):
Been trying for weeks to get into Peppermint Lounge. Hot spot on West Forty-fifth Street where the new dance step known as the Twist has fantastic following…. Hit Peppermint close to midnight, in blue mood. Inside, found pandemonium. Dance floor packed and popping. Was battered by wild swinging of hips and elbows…. People not on dance floor were twisting hips. Some on chairs, others on tabletops. Couldn’t see. Climbed upon table for clearer view…. Was given scolding look by fellow on adjoining tabletop. Looked like deejay Dick Clark. Was deejay Dick Clark. Shook hands. Pumped him for professional opinion of the Twist. Clark prejudiced. Knew and helped fellow who got the Twist rolling—Chubby Checker, singing butcher boy from South Philadelphia. Classic success story. Said Chubby’s records, plus appearance on Clark’s “American Bandstand” show sold the Twist to teen-agers. Now the biggest thing since the Charleston. 
- Pat Broun & Grover Amen, 'The Twist', New Yorker, 21 October 1961
As early as 1959, aged only 30, Clark was the subject of a This Is Your Life programme, such was his popularity as a 'spokesman for the great wholesome majority of American teenagers' (in TIYL host Ralph Edwards' words). And here he is popping up in that shining example of mid-60s Americana, Batman:

And while there's no actual sightings of Clark in this mid-70s American Bandstand clip, just savour the glimpse of the disco crowd grooving politely to the playback of Bowie's Golden Years. There's even some proto-breakdancing thrown into the mix, although it's rather mild stuff. For this and all the rest, cheers Dick Clark! I'll even forgive you for TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes.

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