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The Truth Is Out About Dick Clark--and Disco

May 26, 1997|ELENA NELSON HOWE

While it seems campy now, "American Bandstand" debuted artists who would go on to become some of the biggest names in the industry. And now Dick Clark, the eternal boychik of the bandstand, has taken the occasion of the show's 40th anniversary as a network broadcast to chronicle its history and reminisce about the performers who appeared on it in "Dick Clark's American Bandstand" (Collins Publishers).

And lest such an undertaking rate an 85 for readability but only a 40 for social merit, Clark and coauthor Fred Bronson have interspersed recollections and rock 'n' roll tidbits with a decade-by-decade synopsis of issues of the time.

But the music--and Clark's take on it--is the real story.

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Dick on Michael Jackson: "What I remember most about [the Jackson 5's] debut was the stage presence of the 11-year-old singer, Michael Jackson. Every time I asked him a question, he instinctively took my microphone away from me to answer. Finally, I had to say, 'Hey, Mike, can I have the mike back?' He said, 'OK,' and as I asked the very next question, he would seize the microphone again."

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You Heard It Here First: "I have always declined to answer . . . a question I've been asked thousands of times. Everyone wants to know, 'What is your favorite kind of music?' It always seemed unfair to reveal my personal preferences as I work with so many different artists and all formats of music. But, I'll break my own rule for the first time and reveal that I always secretly liked disco music best."

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The Tortured Artist: "We had a group on the show that obviously did not want to be on 'American Bandstand.' They were young and hip and they must have felt strange appearing on the same teenage dance show that featured poppier acts like Tommy Roe. . . . Looking back at the Doors performing 'Light My Fire,' and watching that interview with Jim Morrison, I remember how painful it was to try to talk with someone who desperately wanted to be somewhere else."

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The Tortured Artist, Part II: "When I asked [Prince] about the kind of music coming out of his hometown [Minneapolis], he seemed to be nervous, fidgety, even sarcastic. . . . The man next to me was such a contrast to the artist who had been grabbing his crotch a few moments earlier that some people took his attitude for rudeness. But I was standing inches from him, and I can tell you he was one of the most incredibly shy, awkward people I have ever met."

Really, Dick?: "I have to admit, I never saw the rap trend coming."

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What You Were Better Off Not Knowing: "A handsome teenager named Tony Orlando came on the show to perform his hit 'Halfway to Paradise.' Unfortunately, while he was singing, his fly was open."

Dick on the Village People: "I don't know if people realize that 'American Bandstand' played an important role in the band's history. It was the kids on our show who first spelled out the letters 'YMCA' with their arms and hands."

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