NEW YORK -- If it was New Year's Eve, then it was Times Square, and it was Dick Clark.
The television host with the smooth voice and forever-young face, who died Wednesday at age 82, was appointment television for decades as Americans marked the end of one year and the beginning of another.
"Dick Clark is New Year's Eve," said Sallyanne Ryan of Fairfield, Conn., as she walked through Times Square, where the crystal-covered ball that falls every Dec. 31 to mark the coming year can be seen every day in its perch high above the street. "He's pretty much the countdown."
The 53-year-old Ryan remembered watching his program as she grew up.
"We'd all ring in the new year with him," Ryan said. "As a kid, you'd stay up to watch the ball drop."
Spokesman Paul Shefrin said Clark had a heart attack Wednesday morning at Saint John's hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had gone the day before for an outpatient procedure.
His long, successful career had many highlights, among them the inextricable link to New York City's New Year's Eve festivities, when crowds of people jam into Times Square. "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" got its start in the 1970s.
It has continued on the air for decades, with Clark as emcee. He missed one year after suffering a stroke in December 2004, but returned the following year, earning praise for his perseverance and fortitude. In recent years, the main hosting duties were taken over by Ryan Seacrest, with Clark making appearances.
"Times Square is considered the crossroads of the world in no small part because Dick Clark's New Year's Eve celebrations there were beamed across the globe," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. "Generations of Americans grew up with Dick, and yet he seemed forever young. His spirit will always live on in Times Square, and in the hearts of millions of New Yorkers."
Pat Montesione of Yorktown, N.Y., recalled watching Clark not only on New Year's Eve but also on Clark's other television programming. News of Clark's death was "devastating," the 63-year-old Montesione said."It's like a little piece of me goes away when I hear something like that," he said.