One of the less delightful things about aging is seeing the population of your friends and acquaintances dwindle. I hereby mourn the loss of Dick Clark, one of those whom we feared might be immortal, but turned out to be mortal after all.
I made my acquaintance with Dick on the set of the “$10,000 Pyramid” game show at a decrepit old ABC studio on, I believe it was 57th street, in NYC back in the 1980’s. I was an engineer at ABC at the time. The cameras and studio equipment were on their last legs. The studio was dusty and dirty, as was the set. The set had cobwebs and scuff marks all over it. The set was drenched in light so bright you had to struggle to avoid squinting. The effect of all that light was to wash away the scuff marks, cobwebs, dust, and flaws in the images produced by the dottering cameras. Unfortunately, it also washed away the color and features of the caucasian faces that populated the stage, so Dick and the contestants wore a fair amount of makeup so they would look normal under all that light.
Dick was relaxed, and looking some 20 or more years younger than he was. Close up, and not viewed through the camera, TV pancake makeup doesn’t hide much, rather it tends to accentuate imperfections. Dick had a perfect smile, real hair, and looked 30 even though he was in his 50’s at that time. No wrinkles were evident. It was truly amazing. I thought “the rumors are true; he’s immortal”. I wondered how old he really was… hundreds, thousands, millions of years?
The folks in the control room weren’t so relaxed. They didn’t like being stuck in such an old, out-of-date studio, and they wanted to get out of there. A technical problem that was beyond their responsibility needed fixing. As I took care of it, Dick chatted with the contestants, technicians, and me in the same, casual and engaging way he did on-camera. Neither his surroundings, not the technical problems seemed to have any effect on his sunny disposition. I wrapped up my work there, and approached him to say goodbye. “It was so nice to meet you” I said. He looked me dead in the eye like it was a TV camera, smiled, and said “nice to meet you too, and thanks for coming down to take care of us!”. His response was totally genuine. I made it a point to occasionally drop by and say hello or exchange a wave and a smile.
People like Dick Clark was are a minority in the TV business. Far too many, who I will not name here, are temperamental, obnoxious, rude, impatient, and/or spoiled.
Goodbye, Dick. I’m glad I met you briefly while you were in this world.