NOTE: This was posted early yesterday but due to some of the issues raised we’re posting it again today, higher up in the actual order in which it was posted. Newer posts are below this so please keep scrolling down.

He was called “America’s oldest teenager” until way after that phrase even remotely made sense. He produced a classic rock T.V. show, branched out into topnotch concerts, TV production, business commications and even restaurants.

Then, suddenly, he was felled by a stroke and remained largely out of sight, except for the occasional sad story or photo essay in one of the tabloids.

But on New Year’s Eve he returned….briefly…to what was either his last hurrah, or the first step on a slow, difficult personal comeback trail. Dick Clark was on TV again last night — New Year’s Eve. The AP:

After being absent last year because of a stroke, Dick Clark, appearing fragile, returned for the televised 1-minute countdown of the ball drop.

“It’s real good to be back with you again this year,” Clark, 76, said slowly, slurring his speech. “You and I have been a part of each other’s lives for so many New Year’s Eves that I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”

Clark’s appearance even had the usually phlegmatic Mayor Michael Bloomberg emoting.

“It just would not be New Year’s Eve without Dick Clark,” Bloomberg said. “I know I speak for all New Yorkers and all Americans: Dick, we love you. It’s gonna be a great 2006.”

The New York Daily News:

Legendary New Year’s Eve host Dick Clark made a gallant return to Times Square last night, anchoring ABC’s Times Square broadcast of the big countdown a year after suffering a major stroke….

….Seated inside at a desk, Clark spoke bravely about the difficulties he’s had recovering from the stroke that prevented him from hosting the show on Dec. 31, 2004.

“I had to teach myself how to walk and talk again,” he said. “It’s been a long, hard fight. My speech is not perfect but I’m getting there.”

TV personality Ryan Seacrest helped host the show, leading to Clark’s traditional countdown to midnight and kiss with his wife.

“[This is] the happiest time of all of my life,” Clark said.

ABC News:

Clark, 76, declined interviews and television appearances as he rehabilitated, and his spokesman said the former “American Bandstand” host viewed New Year’s as his personal coming-out party. Tabloid pictures of Clark using a cane or wheelchair led to questions about whether he was up to it.

He remained seated during “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” his right hand resting on the desk and his left arm by his side. Clark counted down the seconds until the ball dropped. He stayed at his desk past 1 a.m. as the crowds thinned out.

So what was it all about — the appearance of a shadow of a once-robust Clark on television on a huge evening for ABC and the world? Was his condition last night a surprise? No. The New York Times reported early yesterday:

Meanwhile, a promotional photograph of Mr. Clark with his New Year’s Eve co-hosts, Ryan Seacrest and Hilary Duff, that was distributed by ABC has been shown to have been digitally altered, with an image of Mr. Clark from before his stroke inserted into the frame…. And public statements about Mr. Clark’s health by his colleagues, while appearing to stick to talking points, have not been particularly encouraging.

“I don’t think he is 100 percent,” [Clark spokesman] Mr. Seacrest told Associated Press radio this week, “but he will not be in a wheelchair on the telecast.”

Responding to widespread speculation in the media about Mr. Clark’s health, Mr. Shefrin has steadily insisted that Mr. Clark is well enough to go through with the show. “He’s doing real good,” Mr. Shefrin said. “He’s not 100 percent. He’s not the exact person he was standing in the square.

So no one expected him to be a bundle of energy, not even his own spokesman.

And yes, some viewers, particularly younger viewers, might have missed it and wondered what this fragile, old (at 76-years-old definitely the world’s oldest teenager and the only one on Social Security) guy doing on TV with his slurred speech.

But — for once — this wasn’t an appearance about Dick Clark as the affable host or show-biz mogul, artificially guffawing and slapping his thighs as he and Ed McMahon showed a bunch of often embarrassingly lame-bloopers in shows heavily laced with (definitely needed) canned laughter. He wasn’t being the super-smooth emcee who was the quintessential “pro.” He wasn’t introducing a rock act.

For once he made a brief appearance. And from Clark’s standpoint, it was clearly therapeutic; he was out there (briefly) working and part of the outside world again.

But there was a bigger issue that will be missed by those who will (inevitably) criticize ABC for putting Clark on (how DARE they ruin the New Year celebrations by putting on someone who is a traditional host and remind us that there is illness and fraility, even among the famous). Realistically, ABC wasn’t going to gain a ton of rating points by putting Clark on.

Clark’s appearance was a testament to the never-say-die human spirit. He was going to be on no matter what this year. And it’s a testament to ABC‘s willingness to air, ever-so-briefly, a fellow human being’s act of personal courage and grit and let a bit of reality intrude on New Year’s Eve.

Those of us who have had relatives felled by strokes know the harsh reality: it is not easy coming back from them, particularly at an advanced age. And many give up on life.

Dick Clark hasn’t. And ABC let us see it.

UPDATE: Tom Watson gives his (always special) must-read take on Dick Clark’s appearance.

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  • Mrs. Audrey Piel

    What a courageous person, this Dick Clark. I am 80 years old, and I have watched him for many, many years. I was a teenager when he was, and it did my heart good to see what a wonderful recovery he has made, after a devastating stroke. He sounds great, considering what he has been through, and will make a complete recovery in time. I feel sure about that, as he has the will to live and carry on, as he proved last night. God Bless You, Dick, and I know our prayers have helped bring you to this point, and far beyond. HAVE A HEALTHY AND HAPPY NEW YEAR. Your admirer, Audrey Piel,

  • cocoa hill

    It seemed obvious to me that Dick Clark’s appearance was pre-taped (I think the corner of the screen even said something like “recorded,” and a lot of the timing seemed off), but no one is reporting on that.

    I can understand why ABC might have felt it necessary to do this, but it should have been presented more honestly.

    We all wish Dick the very best.

  • sikligar

    I don’t know how many people noticed but Dick Clark’s timing was off: he called New Year at 11:59:57—three seconds before the new year!

  • A fine post, with the single exception that I doubt more than a tiny handful of people would object in any way to Clark’s appearance. And, whatever those few might say will inevitably tell more about them than about Clark and the network.

    Many good people must deal with illness, injury and the infirmities of age every day. They’re part of the family — the American family — and New Year’s Eve celebrations belong to them as much as to everyone else. If Clark’s appearance helped serve as a reminder about that, all the better.

  • Mike P.

    Well said, Joe, thanks.

  • I missed seeing the Dick Clark show, but appreciated your characterization of the event.

    I think it’s unrealistic to expect Mr. Clark to have been unaffected by his health issues, but good he could be along in some capacity for the festivities.

  • Brendan

    I don’t understand the criticism of having Dick Clark ring in the New Year on ABC. I have many fond memories of Clark ringing in the New Year, and when I had to choose which station to watch last night, I was looking for him. It was great to see him back in Times Square, even if he wasn’t on the streets. I don’t know why Joe keeps saying he was only on “briefly”, though…if you watched the program, he was on for the entire show, not just the one minute before the ball dropped. Yes he was difficult to understand at times, but his charisma and personality were still shining brightly. Bravo, DC, and I look forward to counting down with you again next year

    ps, Ryan Seacrest sucks as a host!

  • Jake W.

    I enjoied seeing Dick Clark back this New Year’s Eve. I did notice that his timing was off at the end of the countdown, but it seemed to be right at the begining… that said, it was just good to see DC back in the saddle again so to speak. It was a great moment for him and gave those of us who are fans of DC to our beloved “teenager” after a year of abscence. And I was a little heartbroken that he wasn’t 100%, but who the hell was I kidding… He did a great job and he showed us guts by getting up there and ringing in the New Year like he has for the 70 sum-odd years past, minus 1. Kuddos to you Dick Clark. I can’t wait to see you next year and hope the recovery keeps going well.

  • Lisa M

    I’m a speech pathologist &I was eager to see how Dick was doing. I was very impressed! He’s clearly worked his tail off &made excellent progress. The slurring appeared to be primarily due to muscle weakness in his face–his language and thought processes eemed quite sharp (well, as much as one can tell from an ‘assessment’ of a few minutes, haha) And as another poster noted, he was NOT on for only the minute before the ball drop, because frankly that was what I expected. On the contrary I was pleasantly surprised to see him pop in &out throughout the fastivities. And kiss Mrs C at midnight as usual! 😀 I hope they got to go to their favorite lil NYC greasy spoon for their traditional 1 AM burger, too. Bravo Dick, and bravo ABC for having the balls (no pun intended) to give him a shot!

  • Z

    I have watched Dick Clark since I was a little girl. I watched this year too and as I commented on my blog, his appearance took me through a range of emotions…from feeling “YAY!” that he definitely showed true grit to come back from what I could see was a devastating stroke to breaking my heart because you could see how difficult it was for him. His count got off but who cares? It said a lot about him and about the respect he has within the television world that ABC would even allow him to contribute. I hope we see him next year too.

  • Lewos Webb

    Old Dick just singlehandley create a whole season of film for his lame TV’s Bloopers and Practical Strokes. We switched to Regis.

  • C

    There are allot of things to do during New Years Eve. With the snow outside this year, my wife and I tuned in to watch Dick Clark after missing his show last year. I have to admit I ran through a bunch of different emotions while watching. As a writer, I have to admit as to being a bit sad. Sad- only in the sentimental sense, while over the years like listening to your favorite announcer call a (baseball) game growing up, you get used to certain things, and really I think for allot of us, we invite Dick Clark into our home for New Years and in a away it’s like inviting over your relatives during the holidays. New Years and Dick Clark, well-they just go (together.) In that sense it was hard to see how he had changed. I found myself actually routing for him as well. Hoping he would hold it-the broadcast and show together, while I didn’t want to think about the alternative. The final emotion I felt was one of pride. ABC exec’s and DClark all took a risk which they truly should be commended for. For the most part-I thought the show held together well. You have to admire the courage and persistance of Dick Clark. A true shining star each of us needs to stop and take note of. You never know the impact of stroke until it happens to someone you truly care about. I’ve had several members of my family suffer through strokes and the after. Strokes are a different type of illness. It’s like a silent dark hand reaches down during the night and takes/steals away a part of that person you’ve come to know and love. Stroke is somtimes permanent sometimes not. Regardless-it makes you realize and appreciate how fragile and beautiful each of us is. Dick Clark and ABC allowed us to see a represetation of our every day lives which for the most part gets hidden on TV, due mostly to the demands of entertainment driven programming. Stroke changes the lives of the person who suffers through and the families who provide their support structure after. New years really was a bit different this year-both in a sad remembering and New year welcoming sort of way. All and both of the emotions one usually should but usually doesn’t encounter through all the champagne and confetti and glitz. I did know by shows end this was Dick’s last year-regardless, it was great to see him back. Who knows..maybe in 5 or 10 Ryan Seacrest could be the next Dick Clark. As much as you want to believe, (and as a younger person) I just don’t get that same sense of on-screen magic from Ryan Seacrest as from the big band stand master himself. As with all things-times change, seasons change, and people..they change too. The only constant is change itself.

    TITLE: A Voice Not Silenced
    BLOG NAME: Tom Watson
    We avoided the schlock of New Year’s Not-So-Rockin’ Eve till the half hour before the countdown, playing a spirited and wonderful silly match of Cranium with the kids while tossing down wine and wings. Then it was time to flip