The thing about the combination of memory and celebrities is that it really messes with our perceptions of aging. We get so used to seeing our favorite stars as young and in their prime that we’re not prepared for the truth that what time does to us, it does to them as well. No, we try to tell ourselves, that can’t be the same guy.
It gets even more complicated when you’re talking about Dick Clark.
Like nearly everyone in my generation, and one or two before me, I grew up with American Bandstand. Between the radio era and the MTV era, AB was where we’d go to see and hear about what was going on in music. And our guide, ever youthful, was Dick Clark.
If you visit his official YouTube page (and you really, really should) and try to pin down his musical tastes, you’ll find it an impossible task. For Dick Clark, all music was cool, for no other reason than because it was music. And so I found myself introduced to an eclectic range of artists that has helped define my own tastes to this day (in that they’re similarly difficult to pin down).
One of the results of AB‘s eclecticism is that when you look back on that legion of clips, they’re all of their time and strangely timeless. Dick Clark himself was a part of that. Over the years, his hair may have changed, and yes, maybe he even took on a few wrinkles. But come on, the guy never really aged, did he? At 48 (during the peak of my AB phase), he was younger than me. At 82, he was STILL younger than me. No amount of medical science can explain that.
For so many years, that (whatever “that” was) made him the first choice to ring in the New Year. Ask anyone who’s ever stayed in for New Year’s Eve, and I’m positive they’ll admit to having watched Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve at least more than once. He marked the time. He was always there. And so he became one of our cultural immortals, one of those precious few we thought would Always Be There.
But time caught up with him too. A stroke in 2004 forced him to miss his only New Year’s Eve show. He’d be back to lead us into 2006, and the five years after that, but nobody could deny that he wasn’t the same. America’s Favorite Teenager had, at last, begun to age.
And this week, Dick Clark passed away.
It’s been a loss for all of us. But that brings us to the other thing about memory and celebrities. Because of the time they spend before the cameras, we can see them as they were, young and in their prime. And so Dick Clark stands recorded beyond aging and sickness, forever young, a Cultural Immortal.
So I return to the tweet I posted when I first heard the news…
To Dick Clark, forever young, farewell and thanks for first teaching me that music is cool…
And to you, thanks once again for reading. Until the next time, “be seeing you…”