I, who usually will eschew televised celebrity obituaries, found myself fascinated by the coverage of these deaths. I sat, enraptured, as Brian Williams and 30 Rock took me back in time to American Bandstand and my parents' Magnavox console tv. I was back there on the carpet in front of the set, in full lotus (I thought that was "real Indian style"), wishing that I lived in Philadelphia so that I could dance on the show, too.
I didn't realize that Dick Clark was a gazillionaire. I never paid much attention to how he spent his time between New Year's Eve and $25,000 Pyramid. Did you know that he hosted shows on all three major networks? I didn't, though it doesn't surprise me; he was perfect in the role. Hearing him compared to Ryan Seacrest made my skin crawl. Dick Clark was never obsequious. Dick Clark was never smarmy. Dick Clark never made a joke at a guest's expense. Ryan Seacrest? Not hardly.
Mike Wallace told me where to direct my outrage.... and I had a lot of it in the late 1960's and early 1970's. He was right in the middle of the action... often creating that action himself.. but that never bothered me. He was ornery and crotchety and persistent and I loved him. I found the debut clip from 60 Minutes:
which is well worth listening to, if only to hear Harry Reasoner explain that "it's kind of a magazine for television." Yes, they were the first. The show goes on with images you can enjoy even with the sound off -- Nixon and Haldeman and Pat Buchanan before they were infamous.
60 minutes and American Bandstand occupied the same brain space for me. They each told me what the grown-ups were doing. Mike Wallace and Dick Clark were the faces of those grown-ups. They never disappointed me. They were unwavering in their characters. They were who they were and that solidity was strangely comforting to me, I realize now.
With an Etch-A-Sketch Republican running for the presidency, I'm reminded that strength of character exists in fewer and fewer of our leaders today. RIP Mike and Dick.... I'll sorely miss you.