I am surprised at how sad I have felt since learning of Dick Clark's death. Now, I know this may seem odd, and I certainly can't equate it to losing my mother and father, for example. But I have been wondering why this one got me where it hurts and resonates. Clearly, it has to do with truly saying goodbye to my youth.
Like so many others, I spent every afternoon when I returned from school watching American Bandstand and The Mickey Mouse Club. I guess it's fair to say I started out wanting to be Sharon -- my favorite Mouseketeer -- to the point I made my mother call the Disney Studios to see if I could try out (I couldn't). Then, as I put those ears down, and my hormones started brewing, I dreamed of being a dancer like Justine or Arlene on Bandstand. Amazing that I just remembered Arlene's name, especially when I spent an hour the other day trying to think of the name of a chicken dish I had just eaten (Paillard).
My Boomer memories are likely familiar, albeit with a different locale plugged in. Santa Monica days meant running around the neighborhood till the sun went down, watching Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale pitch, eating Big Sticks from the ice cream truck and Big Hunks from the candy store. It was walking to the Aero Theatre every Saturday afternoon. Is it possible I saw Gidget 40 times? And it was watching and loving Dick Clark. I promise I named my favorite teddy bears Big Dick and Little Dick. It wasn't until years later that I understood why others snickered when they heard the names.
As I watched the tributes this week, I was instantly brought back to Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, Frankie Avalon and Fabian. It seems like yesterday that my brother and I won the KFWB contest in which we picked the following week's Top Ten. My mother thought we were hallucinating when we told her we'd heard our names on the radio. But sure enough, a few days later the winning package of the entire Top 40 showed up on our doorstep. Thank you, Tommy Edwards, whose All In The Game was our surprise pick to jump five spots. And thank you, Dick Clark, for putting Edwards -- a black man -- on your show.
I think the last time a public death hit me like this was Sandra Dee's. As blonde and gentile as I was olive and Jewish, she was my idol for a good amount of time. Her photos filled my corkboard -- later to be replaced by Hayley Mills and Ann Margret -- and I followed her as she grew up and married, divorced, disappeared. Years later, I would interview her -- and briefly date her ex, Bobby Darin! -- but none of that seemed to hit me as much as her passing. She had had her golden moment in the sun and surf but never really could get past it.
I like to think I got past it and was swept into a generation that went on to do great and important things. I grew to revere idols like Dylan, Baez, Steinem and the Kennedys, and like millions of other young women, aspired professionally. I tried -- and try -- not to look back with too much yearning for the innocence of Bandstand. But Dick Clark's death is a challenge, because it represents the loss of innocence in so many ways. It reminds us of our own mortality and as we struggle with aches, pains, wrinkles and empty nests, it is another remnant no longer with us.
Ironically, I just got invited to a school reunion and while it's the kind of thing I rarely do, this time it feels a bit more relevant. If nothing else, we can talk of our days watching Dick and wondering who he would introduce us to next. Bobby Rydell? The Beachboys?
Who knows? Maybe we will even twist again.
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