Friday, 1 January 2016

Dick Clark Will Always Be Part of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve—and That’s a Great Thing

Before the ball drops in 2016, millions of Americans will be tuning into Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Producer Barry Adelman remembers Clark’s legacy and how Ryan Seacrest is carrying on his traditions.

Traditionally, when a show changes its host, its name changes with it—The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson became “with Jay Leno,” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart became “with Trevor Noah,” Live! with Regis and Kelly became Live! with Kelly and Michael*, and so on.

It may not seem like much at first: a different face will have a different name. But it also represents, many times, a very different show; a sort of paradigm shift that shuffles out with the old ways and replaces them with the new.

And that’s exactly why, even after Ryan Seacrest took over in 2012, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve never removed their original host’s name from the title. Because for them, Clark’s ways aren’t “old.” In fact, they are undeniably, unequivocally, “new,” even after 43 years on the air.

See, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was built on a singular premise in 1972: tapping into the zeitgeist. Clark, then the host of American Bandstand, was bored of the New Year’s television offerings at the time, particularly Guy Lombardo’s ballroom event at the Waldorf Astoria, which he viewed as too out of touch with the 70s state of mind. So he decided to start his own show, one that featured the hottest, headline-grabbing musical acts of the year.

“The whole world had changed and nobody had really keyed in on that,” said Barry Adelman, a longtime producer ofRockin’ Eve. “[Dick], basically said, ‘Look, we gotta do a show that speaks to the younger generation and what people are listening to and thinking about.’”

And that need, that desire for social relevancy, soon became the show's very DNA. It became the Dick Clark tradition that everyone strove to keep.

It hasn’t always been easy to do so. There’s been issues with performers, hectic bicoastal production schedules, and the countless logistical nightmares that come with staging a massive production.

And then there’s the weather—like the post office, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” keeps Rockin’ Eve from the swift completion of its yearly show—even 2010’s historic nor’easter, which dumped over a foot and a half of snow in Central Park.

“You couldn’t even get out of the plane, the snow drifts were so amazing,” Adelman said. “Somehow, those city crews, they cleared off the Times Square area. They used every piece of equipment known to man and they even used their hands when that didn’t work.”

There’s also those, erm, unexpected challenges, like one New Year’s where Clark “had some naked women behind him, in buildings, that were trying to attract his attention and distract him while he was on the air.” But Clark, ever the professional, didn’t even miss a beat. “They never achieved their goal of throwing him off his game,” said Adelman.

But none of those incidents compared to the biggest hurdle of all: Clark’s unexpected stroke in December 2004, which caused him to pull out of the show.

The show had absolutely no backup plan, said Adelman, and with taping a few weeks away, they feared certain disaster. At the midnight hour, Regis Philbin, an old friend of Clark’s stepped in, saving the day.

Clark returned next year undeterred—a remarkable feat considering for most entertainers, a major health crisis signals an end of their career.

Adelman remembers those post-stroke years, where Clark refused to let his physical limitations impede his work. He never missed a day of therapy, and would work through the night on his lines, repeating them over and over and over until he could pronounce them to the best of his ability.

The struggle was undeniably tough for Clark—whose greatest talent in his prime was arguably his ability to say charming phrases off the cuff—to accept this limitation on his spontaneity. “He was never completely pleased . . . the stroke robbed him of that,” said Adelman. “But he refused to let it get him down.”

Did the producers or the network ever think Clark should step down?

“It was not an option. I think, our philosophy was always if you have a family member—a dad, a mom, an aunt, an uncle—who has had a stroke or has a disability that they never had while they were part of your family growing up and suddenly they’re stricken in some way, you don’t stop inviting them to Thanksgiving and to Christmas and to all the holidays. You still love them and you still want them to participate,” said Adelman. “Dick had a lot to contribute and I do think that he sent a positive message to millions of families around the world.”

With some co-hosting help from Seacrest, Clark managed to carry the show until his death in 2012. And when Seacrest officially took over for Clark for the 2012/2013 year, the pop-culture maestro vowed to honor his former mentor.

“He’s really done exactly what Dick did all this years,” Adelman said. “He pushes us to always be fresh, current, and what’s the next big thing. It’s been an art that’s stayed constant the whole time, and I think we were very fortunate to come upon Ryan Seacrest.”

And how will Seacrest, Adelman, and the Rockin’ Eve crew live up to Clark’s ideals this New Year’s Eve? By featuring, in true Clark style, the most buzzworthy acts of the year, including One Direction, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, and even the world premiere of Taylor Swift’s music video for Out of the Woods.

“That is going to be an exciting situation,” said Adelman.

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