Westchester native and “America’s Oldest Teenager” Dick Clark died Wednesday at the age of 82 and was immediately mourned locally as a legend and icon.
Clark’s agent Paul Shefrin said in a media statement that the broadcast and entertainment legend died of a “massive heart attack” Wednesday morning.
“His passing is a loss,” said Paul Feiner, supervisor for the Town of Greenburgh. “Dick Clark was a legend. What he did locally and internationally enhanced the quality of life for so many people.”
Clark reportedly owned the former scandal-ridden Westchester Premier Theatre in Greenburgh from 1979 to 1980 and renamed it the Dick Clark Westchester Theatre. The recently-opened Stop & Shop supermarket now stands at that location, according to media reports.
“He was a real icon and he will be missed terribly,” said Pia Haas, public relations director at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. “We’re all very saddened for the loss to the entertainment industry. It’s the end of an era as far as we are concerned.”
The two theaters never competed, she said, as Clark’s facility hosted musical and comedy acts and the Westchester Broadway Theatre showcases Broadway musicals. Frank Sinatra famously performed at Clark’s theater, she added.
The musical “Hairspray,” which has a character and a show modeled after Clark and his pop-music and dance television program “American Bandstand” is coincidentally currently running at her theater, Haas said.
Born Richard Wagstaff Clark on Nov. 30, 1929 in Mt. Vernon, Clark attended high school there before receiving a degree in business from Syracuse University. He divorced his high school sweetheart Barbara Mallery and is survived by his third wife Keri Wigton and three children from his two previous marriages, according to published reports.
Clark started his show business career in 1945 in the mailroom of a family-owned radio station in Utica, N.Y., according to Biography.com. He became a national and a cult-figure among teenagers in 1957 with ABC’s show “American Bandstand,” which featured teenagers dancing to pop hits played on records and in live music performances by popular bands and artists.
"He began in 1963, hosting a radio program called 'The Dick Clark Radio Show,' the Wikipedia entry says. "It was produced by Mars Broadcasting of Stamford, Conn. Despite his enormous popularity on 'American Bandstand,' the show was only picked up by a few dozen stations and lasted less than a year. The show proved to be ahead of its time, becoming one of the earliest attempts at radio syndication."
He introduced “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” in 1972, which continues to run on Dec. 31 of every year. Clark skipped the 2004 show after his speech was impaired following a stroke, but returned as a featured host in 2005 and in every New Year’s Eve show since.
Clark also hosted popular game show “The 10,000 Pyramid” and family show TV’s “Bloopers and Practical Jokes.”
His youthful appearance garnered him the nickname “America’s Oldest Teenager” and he was renowned for his catch phrase accompanied by a military salute, “For now, Dick Clark – so long.”