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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Celebrating Dick Clark's Life and Legacy
Aired April 18, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, America's eternal teenager dead at the age of 82. Dick Clark, a man who taught the world to rock n' roll with "American Bandstand."
DICK CLARK, BROADCAST ICON: He presented over 10,000 musical performances on that show and included practically everybody you ever heard of.
MORGAN: The man who rocked America's New Year's Eve for nearly 40 years.
CLARK: I got to go. Wait for me there. Because it's part of American tradition.
MORGAN: From teenage disc jockey at the start of his radio station, to multimillion dollar media mogul buying $25,000 "Pyramid" and so much more.
Dick Clark, literally, did it all. And tonight the stars who knew him best pay tribute. Donny Osmond, Gloria Estefan, Larry King, Connie Francis, Paul Anka, Boys II Men, Debbie Gibson and more.
Plus "Only in America," the legacy of Dick Clark, through the generations of superstars he helped create.
This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening, you're looking live at Times Square where Dick Clark celebrated New Year's Eve with America for 37 glorious years. And the Dick Clark star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Our "Big Story" is of course the death of Dick Clark, the broadcast icon, died of a massive heart attack today at the Santa Monica Hospital. He was 82 years old.
He's being celebrated tonight as a music pioneer. But Dick Clark was much more than that. He was a genius behind "American Bandstand." The show that most stars as some of the biggest names in the business and the man who rang in America's New Year for nearly four decades.
Listen to his great friend, Ryan Seacrest, paying tribute on tonight's "American Idol".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN SEACREST, HOST, "AMERICAN IDOL": We can't begin tonight's show without acknowledging the passing of a television pioneer and my dear friend, Dick Clark.
Without Dick, a show like this would not exist. He will be missed greatly. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to his family. I know that he's in a better place, saying, hey, let's get on with the show, OK? You've got it, boss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And now for our "Big Story," I want to bring in, well, other all-stars, people who knew Dick Clark better than most. Larry King is here with me in the studio.
Connie Francis is at her home in Florida and on the phone, Donny Osmond, Gloria Estefan and Paul Anka.
Larry, let me start with you. You knew Dick Clark for 40, 50 years. I mean an absolute legend of the business. Put him in context, historical context, how important was Dick Clark, do you think?
LARRY KING, TV HOST: Well, he was a pioneer, in the -- you know, in the early days of television, with "American Bandstand," he revolutionized music on television. As we pointed out earlier talking even before he went on, he'd put -- had blacks and whites dance together.
KING: Unheard of. A lot of young people watching were saying, what? That's crazy. That was crazy then to put that on.
KING: Risk-taking. Then he was involved in so many programs that the public didn't even know it.
MORGAN: Well, here's the thing, I -- I knew that you were responsible for this show alone before I came along. For 7,000 shows. Now Dick Clark apparently was responsible in all his guises for 75,000 hours of television.
MORGAN: Isn't that amazing?
MORGAN: The only guy that can beat you.
KING: His longevity was amazing. And the -- there's so many things he touched as a producer, as a businessman, he owned a radio network, quiz shows, radio talk shows, television talk shows, he produced "Donnie and Marie." You're going to have Donnie on. He produced their television show. MORGAN: If you could --
KING: He produced everything.
MORGAN: If you could bottle the Dick Clark magic, what would you call it? What was the secret ingredient that he had?
KING: He was a great generalist. He could do anything, he was very, very good. There's no -- you wouldn't go around quoting Dick Clark. You know, there was no memorable great moments, but he was kind of every man. He was there, he entered the room well. The camera liked him. He was gentle, he was kind, he was smart, he was revolutionary in music.
For example, even as he aged, most people get older, you and I, I'm not saying you're old.
KING: We could not name the Billboard Top 10.
MORGAN: Yes. But he could.
KING: Right. He could name it.
KING: I'm sure he could have named it yesterday.
MORGAN: Let me bring in somebody, Connie Francis, you've appeared in many Billboard Top 10 in your time. You knew Dick Clark since he was -- well, since you were 19 years old. What was Dick's importance to you, your career and your life?
CONNIE FRANCIS, SINGER, LONGTIME FRIEND OF DICK CLARK: Well, there would have been no career without Dick Clark. So he impacted my life greatly. I would have probably been a doctor. It would have been a far different life. But the interesting thing, Piers, they did not discuss with the woman I discussed the show with this afternoon, was the last two weeks of Dick's life and where his head was during that period of time. How little the acquisition of money had become to him. Because he was worth over -- well over $1 billion.
It really was how my desire to help veterans, wanted it to become his desire, too. And finally, he was going to join with me in that effort starting January 17th in California. When I was being honored by somebody else.
MORGAN: So you think -- you think, Connie, that -- you think in the last few days of his life, that he began to realize that actually money, which, you know, he'd made no pretension, though, of wanting to seek lots of money and success, he was quite unashamed about that, and he was very successful, made tens of millions of dollars in his time. Do you think in the end that he realized that wasn't what was important to his life? FRANCIS: Well, it was really up until -- I think I saw him a year and a half ago, I went to visit Kari and Dick in Malibu, their home. It was so magnificent, I can't even call it an estate. It's like a lot of different estates, I think it has to be in different zip codes. It's so magnificent and I looked about this magnificent place, and he said to me, and he was in a wheelchair, and still the most magnificent mind, you know, the great brilliant mind.
And he says, you know, this small little place, there were several homes, he said this is worth $75 million. The acquisition of money was always very important to Dick. But the last couple of weeks it didn't mean a thing to him and I wanted something else to become important to him. And I remember I was with my hairdresser Carol, and she was listening because I had the phone down and she was doing my hair and finally, he said, you know, I want to be there with you, Connie. I'll be there, January 7th, but for some reason medically I couldn't be there. But he was committed to helping veterans in the last few weeks of his life. Actually months of his life.
MORGAN: Hey, Connie, let me just bring in --
MORGAN: Yes, it's a very touching story. Let me bring in Donny Osmond.
Donny, you knew Dick Clark for over 40 years. What was the importance of "American Bandstand" to any young musical act in America?
DONNY OSMOND: It was the show that everybody wanted to be on because it presented their talent. They could become stars, they could become legends, thanks to Dick Clark. You know, he's such an amazing -- it's such a great personality, you know, he'd be on television, a great businessman. As Connie was just saying.
But when you talk to him, and I've known him ever since I was about 12, 13 years old when I had my first number one record, I was on "Bandstand," he always had this ability to treat you as a friend. And you know we can come up with words and Larry even said it, Ryan Seacrest said it, he used the word pioneer.
Yes, he's a pioneer. We come up with all wonderful words to talk about Dick Clark but I'd like to look at it a little differently, Piers. Who -- who is the next Dick Clark? I mean when you think about it, there's a lot of influential people in this world, you being one, you have a voice in the world, we've got a lot of influential television shows that represent talent out there.
But I think you'd be very hard pressed to find someone to fill Dick Clark's shoes and what he was able to accomplish, what he was able to do, and how he did it, and the legacy that he left. So, you know, you look at it from that perspective, when we say the word legend, we think about Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra and all these kinds of things, but if somebody cannot fill your shoes, they're a legend. Dick Clark was a legend. MORGAN: I think that's a very good point.
Larry, let me just throw that to you. Irreplaceable is the word that springs to mind with Dick Clark, is that --
KING: He's one of a kind.
MORGAN: The importance that he had on American popular culture for its time and then for the generations that followed, really, he is irreplaceable. No one ever did it quite like Dick Clark.
KING: No one did it or as many things as he did. I think Seacrest comes the closest. He's a producer, he has television shows, the E! Network, et cetera. He would have come the closest to touching it but there'll never be another Clark. Never be another Dick Clark.
MORGAN: Let me bring in Gloria Estefan.
Gloria, like many people in the business today, great sadness at the passing of Dick Clark, how did you feel when you heard?
GLORIA ESTEFAN, SINGER (via phone): Well, of course, we were all sad, our family because he was very close to us. He actually had one of my grand dogs, one of my Dalmatians, he had come after my accident to visit me here in Florida and he had met my Dalmatians and he wanted one of them. And what I think was most amazing about Dick Clark was that he was a human being. You know, he was one of the top people that you wanted to get your music to and you knew that if he put you on a show, you were a success.
And yes, he produced a lot of things but he produced it because he loved it. You could tell that what he was doing was because it was in his heart and soul and he was real. You know you meet so many people out in Hollywood and in the industry that, you know, when you meet them, they kind of let you down a little bit because you realize that there's something there that lost its humanity a little bit, and Dick Clark was quite the opposite.
He was just such an amazing human being, warm, loving, caring, always humble and talking to everyone and just trying to resolve problems. He wasn't problematic in the least. He just tried to do the best for all the artists that he really believed in and he would let you know when he believed in you, and he also loved people that were real. And I think that set him apart a lot.
MORGAN: Yes, a great statement actually from the president, Barack Obama, tonight. He said, "Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Dick Clark with 'American Bandstand' introduced decades' worth of viewers to the music of our times. He reshaped the television landscape forever as a creative and innovative producer. And of course for 40 years we welcomed him into our homes to ring in the New Year, but more important than his ground breaking achievements was the way he made us feel, as young and vibrant and optimistic as he was. And we say our final so long to Dick Clark, America's oldest teenager, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, which number far more than he knew." Larry a very touching statement there, I thought, from the president.
KING: Yes, very well said. You know what I was thinking? Dick Clark, with all the fame and all the money, wasn't a limousine guy. Dick Clark was a regular guy. He was a regular guy.
MORGAN: There was a lovely quote he said actually that he never lost touch of his love for hot dogs, you know, for going to the ball game, for going to the mall. He sort of kept in touch with the average American, which I suspect enabled him to instinctively have an average American's taste.
KING: You wouldn't call him Mr. Clark. He was Dick Clark.
KING: Right? He was one word. Dick Clark.
MORGAN: Hold it there, Larry. We're just going to take a break. Everyone, stand by. We'll come back with more reminiscence about the great Dick Clark after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARK: Fifteen years ago, Larry, I gave a speech. And I don't know why I got on a soapbox, but I was saying there will come a day when our music will come into our homes via a wire over a year and be stored in a box. We'll never see a record. We'll never know anything at all. And lo and behold it's here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Exactly what made Dick Clark an all American genius in an interview with Larry King in 2004. Larry is back with me, along with Connie Francis, Donny Osmond, Gloria Estefan, and in a moment Paul Anka will join me as well.
Larry, you just said one word. Prophetic. Tell me why you said that.
KING: Well, look, the guy knew, he stayed in touch with the times. But he knew about the way we would communicate, what would happen, we could never predict. You and I couldn't say today what it's going to be like in five years. We know it ain't going to be like today. Dick knew. He --
MORGAN: How many people -- of all the people that you ever interviewed had that distinctive, gut feel for what the majority of Americans would love to see or hear?
KING: I have to think of it -- Steve Jobs, interviewed him early on, he had it. Not many.
MORGAN: There aren't many.
KING: That know about tomorrow. Boy.
MORGAN: A real talent.
KING: I tell you one thing, if you do know, you're going to be very rich.
MORGAN: Yes. It's true.
MORGAN: Paul Anka, let me come to you here, you appeared on "American Bandstand," you new Dick Clark very well. Put Dick's legacy into perspective for me.
PAUL ANKA, SINGER (via phone): Well, I've known Dick for 54 years. And I think all of those topics were touched with my previous friends on. His legacy I think everyone has kind of really mounted that. He's -- first of all he's a human being, as someone said earlier, has to be accounted for. He was an incredible friend and I knew him through, you know, even adversity.
(INAUDIBLE) left him and the Payola scandal. And he had to restore his integrity. And then that was the character of the man that really, when we would talk about that, and he was -- I think it almost destroyed him, it cost him millions of dollars. Well, he really got back up on his feet again and created this empire. And that in itself tells you the kind of man that we're talking about here.
And as someone earlier had touched upon, when you knew him as a friend, the humility that was a lot of continuity in his life. And right now to the last time I had lunch with him. It was always amazing. He was the brother, he was like the father, he was the guy that never changed. And those kind of people which are indigenous to our industry are very rare and Dick was that person. A human being and very grateful just on his life.
MORGAN: Donny Osmond, you've produced -- you had a show with your sister Marie in 1998 to 2000. And it was a Dick Clark Production show. So you knew him in many different guises. What everyone is saying about him is that he was as nice off-screen as he appeared to be on screen. Was that your experience?
OSMOND: Actually, Piers, I got an experience that "Donny and Marie Show." It makes me laugh every time I think about it. He was our producer and he was able to create peace out of chaos, and you know show business can be nothing but chaos. And Marie and I were interviewing this person, I can't remember who it was now but we both were on each other's nerves. I was on Marie's nerves, she was on mine, we came to a commercial break, I look at Dick Clark who's sitting at the producer's desk behind the camera, and I said, stop tape. I take Marie behind the wall, now everybody in the studio can hear this conversation. And we proceed to rip each other's heads off. And we're just yelling at each other because we're just on each other's nerves.
Around the corner comes Dick Clark. He comes walking towards us. Now this man, he knew how to diffuse any situation. He walks up to us, puts one shoulder on -- one hand on Marie's shoulder, one hand on mine, and he looks at us and says these two words, now children.
OSMOND: And we all realized how childish we were. But Dick had the most unbelievable way of bringing everybody back together and making everybody friends. And creating peace out of chaos.
MORGAN: I love that.
KING: That's a great story.
MORGAN: Gloria Estefan, let me bring you back because you and I remember this, I interviewed you at the time after you recovered from the horrific back injury that you sustained in a bus accident. And it was Dick Clark that got you back performing. Tell me about his powers of persuasion, because you know, you were going through a pretty fragile time in your life at the time. What did he do, how was he in that persuasive mode?
ESTEFAN: Well, I got to tell you, I think only Dick Clark could have talked me into doing that, because, you know, twice in my life my knees have knocked, and that was one of them. I thought that that was just an expression but it actually happened. And since it was right after I was coming back from my accident, I thought people were going to believe that I still just couldn't walk. That I was paralyzed.
But I did that for him because he was always such an incredibly supportive human being. And ever since we came on the scene way back when with "Conga" that he had us on "Bandstand" and he really loved us and supported everything we did. And when he came to me and said, I want you to come on this show, I was still pretty much recuperating because I had had the accident in March of 1990, and this was January of '91.
I was just starting to really feel like I was getting back to normality. And I kept telling him, Dick, you know, I'm afraid, I don't know if I'm ready, and you know he just gave me such peace in saying, we're going to take care of you, everything is going to be fine, people are really dying to have you come back and I would love it for it to be on our show. We had also won an award, the American Music Award for best new group a couple of years before that.
So he was an amazing person. And you know we're very sad that we have lost him. I know that we're going to miss him very especially every New Year's Eve because we watched him. But he had such a well- lived life. I think that everyone can be very happy that he had that kind of life that he did and that he made such a huge impact on so many lives, both performers and of people that watched all the great stuff he did on television and radio and everything that he did.
MORGAN: Yes, and then, Connie Francis, I mean you went through some pretty tough times in your life, and there's an extraordinary story that you told where Dick Clark actually flew across the country to help you on one occasion. Tell me about that.
FRANCIS: Yes, I had during the '80s -- actually 17 commitments, involuntary commitments to mental institutions and the first time Dick heard about it, he flew on a private plane and Dick didn't like to spend a lot of money.
FRANCIS: He took a private -- flew in a private plane cross country to the hospital. And on -- he begged on his knees for me to take lithium because I was diagnosed, actually misdiagnosed with bipolar, and he pleaded with me to take lithium. That's what he did. Another time he came to my home in Bel-Air and had me committed because he thought that's what I needed to be, to be committed.
He has been there for every crisis of my life. And when I was a victim of rape in 1974, I did not appear publicly for seven years. And in 1977, he pleaded with me to play his Westchester Theater and there was no way I was going to do that. And then in 1977, I lost my voice completely due to some nasal surgery and Dick wasn't buying that, he said it's all in your ahead, Connie, it's in your head. And I said, it's not.
And I'll show you the doctor's report, it's not, then he said, yes, it is. And he said come in to L.A., fly to L.A. I will -- we'll go to the studio and you do one line at a time and you can do it one line at a time and we'll get -- I don't care if you do 100 takes and then we'll put it all together and you can lip sync on the show. And I said that's cheating, I'm not lip syncing.
You know how much the public is dying to see you? You got to do the show, Connie, I don't care, you got to do the show. So that's what we did. It had to be 200 takes. And we put this thing together, it was a reasonable facsimile of my voice. Not that great. But it was a wonderful response from the audience when --
MORGAN: But the point was he gave you --
MORGAN: He gave you that confidence. Yes, that's a very powerful point, Connie. Thank you.
FRANCIS: Yes, he did, but it was Dick's reaction, he broke up -- it was a moment in TV history, his reaction to that. That was what was important.
MORGAN: Yes. Thank you, Connie.
MORGAN: Just touch on that, Larry. I mean he clearly -- he had great persuasive powers, he was a great showman but he also had a very caring side. And he also had an ability to give a lot of very insecure performers for whatever reason. The confidence to perform. We saw that with Gloria said, with what Connie said. What was it about him that enabled him to persuade people they had the confidence to do stuff?
KING: He was an every man. You know? He was -- he was, as someone said, he was your uncle, he was your brother, he was your kid brother, he was your older brother. That great line to Donny, children.
KING: That's a Dick Clark line. And so he made you feel better -- and he could be very persuasive. When I was -- I almost left the radio network I was with to join his and he just -- and I couldn't do it. It was just a contractual thing and he just looked at me and said, you're not coming? You're not coming?
KING: He was sweet, he was -- he was genuine.
MORGAN: What do you think America has lost today?
KING: They have lost an institution, when these -- when these people leave us, they leave a hole that doesn't get filled. He's just -- he's going to be remembered a long, long, long time. This business owes him a debt.
MORGAN: Yes. I think that's very true.
Larry King, thank you very much.
KING: Thank you.
MORGAN: And thank you also to Connie Francis, Donny Osmond, Gloria Estefan and Paul Anka.
We're back after the break with more memories from other people that knew Dick Clark very well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESS MOGUL: Dick Clark was a great friend of mine. He lived in one of my buildings for many years in New York. He was just a real icon. I would watch "American Bandstand" and I would also watch every New Year's Eve. Dick Clark was the one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARK: One of today's most powerful vocal sounds, and wouldn't you know it, they are from Philadelphia. The multi-award winning Boyz 2 Men. (SINGING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Dick Clark introducing Boyz 2 Men on "American Bandstand's" 40th anniversary. That was in 1992. With me now is Boys 2 Men's Sean Stockman and William King from the Commodores, the super group with Lionel Ritchie that also had some memorable performances on "Bandstand."
Sean, you were laughing there. You said you sounded in key. Is this an unusual event?
SEAN STOCKMAN, BOYS 2 MEN: Well, you know, it happens more than people think, the off key thing. But --
MORGAN: What does it mean to you to see Dick Clark introducing you as a group? How big a moment is that for any musical act?
STOCKMAN: Think I appreciate it now more than I did then, because back then, we were still very much kids. And everything at that time, our success came very fast. So everything just came at our heads.
So it was one of those things where, yes, Dick Clark, that's awesome. We know who he is. We know how important he is. But it was just more about just going out there and singing.
But now looking back and seeing all of the things that Mr. Clark has done for us and so many other people, I realize how great those moments, watching them, really are.
MORGAN: William King, I mean, one of the key things I felt that Dick Clark did, which has probably been underplayed today amidst all the tributes, was the incredible gamble he took actually in bringing racial integration to American television sets.
He really did go out on a limb. You know, he had the first interracial audiences dancing together. He interviewed young black teenagers on his show. All this stuff that at the time was believed to be something that may cause advertisers in the south to run a mile, maybe commercially damaging, maybe career damaging.
Tell me about that side of Dick Clark.
WILLIAM KING, THE COMMODORES: I'll tell you this, we won one year the Pop Award on the AMA, American Music Awards. And I believe the Bee Gees won the R&B award that year. That shows you right there that -- that was -- it was something that I think he felt really good about, that he was probably the pioneer of pop music as we know it today, and that he -- it was all diverse to him.
You know, he just brought all the music to everybody all the time. And I think he got a great joy out of that.
MORGAN: We've actually just had a statement from your Commodores colleague, Lionel Ritchie. He says "Dick Clark was one of my mentors. But more importantly, he was the best fan an entertainer could have. He understood artistry as well as the DNA of artists. Dick introduced me to network television and gave me the confidence to pursue and execute my career goals.
"And for that, I will always be thankful. I will miss him dearly."
William, he says it all there, Lionel, doesn't it?
KING: You know, the thing is that I remember one time we first met, he kept saying gentlemen, gentlemen to us, because -- say that to us. And every time we would do his show -- I think we did his show about six times, I believe, five or six times.
And he would always come back and see us before we went on the show. And he would always say gentlemen. So one time I stopped and asked him. I said, you know, you always make say gentlemen, gentlemen to us. He said, well, I just want to make sure before you go on -- before I let you on that you are still gentlemen.
So -- so you know the thing with that? He was always fun. I mean, just look at all the shows he did. Every show he ever did, from the bloopers to everything he did, was always fun. It was more child like, I would say, than anything else, in that it reached the side of us that we all enjoyed and where we all wanted to be. I think that's why he was so successful.
MORGAN: William, Sean, stay with me. We're going to take a short commercial break. And we'll be joined after by Debbie Gibson, who also had Dick Clark help launch her career.
But first, a clip of the Beastie Boys on "Bandstand." This is great. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARK: Five, four, three, two, one, Happy New Year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: It's hard to imagine New Year's Eve without Dick Clark counting down. And joining me again, Boys 2 Men's Sean Stockman, William King of the Commodores, and by phone now, Broadway star Debbie Gibson.
Debbie, you were just 17 years old in 1987, when you first appeared on "American Bandstand" with Dick Clark. For a fresh faced young American teenage girl, how exciting was it? And did you realize at the time what a big deal it was?
DEBBIE GIBSON, SINGER: You know, I did realize. I know that a lot of young artists now don't really hold kind of that musical history in high regard. But I grew up with music in my house and with my mom saying oh, my God, I used to come home every day after school and dance in front of the TV to Dick Clark and "American Bandstand."
And I kind of felt like in that moment I had arrived on the pop music scene, really. I remember very distinctly him saying my name, in the middle of all the chaos that was going on in my life at the time, I remember thinking, oh, my God, Dick Clark just said my name and the name of my song.
MORGAN: That says it all, doesn't it? Sean Stockman, that says it all. You were honest enough to say that for you, Sean, when you first appeared, you didn't realize the significance of it. But to hear Debbie there say, hearing Dick Clark say your name was a huge deal.
It was interesting. It seems absurd in now, 2012, we could even be talking about integrated audiences being a big deal. But when Dick Clark did this, as I said before in the last segment, it was a huge deal. It was a real ground breaking, risk taking thing.
He was known as a pioneer for black groups. Tell me about that side of Dick Clark and his importance to you.
STOCKMAN: It was extremely important. And it started way back in '57 when the show started, and when we took on the helm of actually being a host. He was actually a replacement host for someone else.
But he understood very clearly, a long time ago, that, to put it plainly, white kids listen to black music. An he was very much in tune with that. And even today, the correlation between Dick and Boys 2 Men is pretty much the same. We kind of fought the same fight, to some degree.
Obviously his was a lot more profound because of the times he was living in. But being as though we were black kids, young black teenagers singing R&B music to mainstream America, we may have seemed a little like the stigma. But people realized that once people got to know us and understood who we were, not to mention bow ties and, you know, plaid shorts and Chucks didn't hurt, everybody's guard went down.
And I think Dick understood the connection that music had. It wasn't about black and it wasn't about white. The same thing with Boyz 2 Men. You come to our shows now, you see black; you see white, you see Asian; you see young; and you see old.
So what he's done was something that basically what was really going on in America. But it wasn't popular.
MORGAN: William King, would you go along with that? Is it a stretch to say that Dick Clark played a really significant and valuable role in the civil rights movement because of the way that he brought black performers and black bands and music to mainstream American television?
KING: I don't think it's a stretch at all. If you think about the shows that were on during that time, that dealt with music, like we had "Midnight Special," which I'm sure a lot of the kids out there today don't remember. Then we had "Soul Train." Each one of those shows were specifically geared toward a sound of music.
"Midnight Special" was more rock n' roll. "Soul Train" was the name soul, R&B. But what Dick Clark did was straight across the board. So he had such a warm mingling of all of the music, all of the acts, the black, the whites, whatever, so that it became natural.
It wasn't like you saw this black act and, all of a sudden, a white act came on. It was just such a wonderful intermingling that it was all natural. So I think people grew up looking at this show, thinking and saying, oh, it's all the same. It's all wonderful. There's no difference here.
So we can like and love any other music that we want to. I think that's the thing that Dick Clark gave the world, was that he enabled them to understand that they can love all the music, no matter where it comes from.
MORGAN: Yes, I totally agree. And I think -- I hope that really gets reinforced over the next few days as we remember him, because it was an incredibly important and brave and groundbreaking thing that Dick Clark pioneered there.
Debbie, let me come back to you. Three years ago, you co-hosted Time Life Presents Dick Clark's American Bandstand 50th Anniversary Collection with Frankie Avalon.
Every generation seemed to love Dick Clark. What was it about him? You knew him right to the end virtually. What was it about him, do you think, that made him so universally popular?
GIBSON: I think it is what the guys were saying, that he didn't put his own opinion -- he really represented the music that America loved and wanted to hear. I remember as a very young teenager seeing Madonna on the show. Again, it wasn't that he was like some, you know, kind of fuddy duddy, glossed over host that just was going to put these pristine acts on the show.
He really kind of dug into what real Americans wanted to hear. And I think that's what really made him who he was. He really, like the guys were just saying, introduced all kinds of music to people. And he was just versatile. He loved it all.
He was so respectful. I know that like as a teenager, for instance, a lot of people were very quick to kind of act condescending towards me, if you will. I actually co-hosted the American Music Awards, which he produced, I remember him sitting with me like -- just as a professional, going over the script. And he was very nurturing and very respectful. MORGAN: Yes, he was a great man, I think, in many ways. Debbie Gibson, thank you very much. And Sean Stockman, thank you. And William King. We'll be back after the break to talk about Dick Clark the businessman, his impact on television and music.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now here is your host, Dick Clark.
CLARK: Hey, thank you very much. Welcome to the new "$25,000 Pyramid."
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MORGAN: That's from "The $25,000 Pyramid," the classic game show hosted by Dick Clark. He was a pioneer of American pop culture. And that legacy endures today.
Joining me now exclusively from the "New York Times," media reporters Bill Carter and Brian Stelter.
Gentlemen welcome. Let me start with you, Bill. Put into context for me Dick Clark's business brain and his phenomenal TV output.
BILL CARTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's an incredible number of productions that he did. But he also was very on top of the culture and ahead of his game, mainly because when he did "American Bandstand," he realized that there was a market in teenaged viewers.
Nobody had ever done that before. And it really changed television, because it introduced to ABC, that was struggling at the time, the fact that they could go for a young youth market that nobody had done before. And it really invented demographics in television.
Nobody had approached it in that way, that you could just go after young viewers. He had young viewers and ABC didn't have anything else that worked. So they went more young shows based on the fact that "American Bandstand" was working so well. So you could argue that he made a breakthrough for the entire network.
MORGAN: Brian Stelter, Dick Clark once said "I don't make culture, I sell it." Dick Clark Productions became a mult-multi- imillion dollar company. He was valued in his personal wealth at more than 100 million dollars.
He was really, as Larry King and others said earlier, pretty unique and pretty irreplaceable, wasn't he?
BRIAN STELTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He was sprinkling, you know, this magical dust of sorts across television with award shows and reality shows and game shows. And I think that may have been what was so surprising to younger viewers, people that really just knew him from New Year's Eve on ABC, to realize that he had his hands in all of these different game shows over the years, game shows like "$25,000 Pyramid" versions of which we still have on the air today.
MORGAN: And Bill, there's a brilliant secret to the success of his New Year's Eve extravaganza, which is that he filmed a lot of it in August. Tell me about that.
CARTER: That's one of the most amazing things, is that because the big stars weren't necessarily going to be available on New Year's Eve, he made a deal where they would show up at a studio in Hollywood in August dressed in their New Year's Eve gowns and pretend the dance part which you would see on New Year's Eve was actually taking place.
It was actually in August and they were in these sweaty, hot outfits. They performed and then that would show up on the show as though it was live.
MORGAN: Quite amazing. Brian Stelter, people have been saying how do you replace somebody like Dick Clark? Obviously he's been relatively unwell for quite some time. But people say Ryan Seacrest is the nearest modern thing to Dick Clark. Would you go along with that?
STELTER: I think a lot of people in the television industry do feel like he's the closest. Larry King earlier tonight said that Dick Clark was a great generalist. That's the word people use for Ryan Seacrest as well. He's been on New Year's Eve for almost a decade now. He's been taking more and more of a role every year.
And he has said he would just be the sidekick for as long as Dick Clark wanted to be on the show. But it was notable I think in December when ABC blew out primetime on New Year's Eve. They did a two-hour retrospective all about Dick Clark's 40 years on the show.
And it kind of felt like his last show. When he asked him over email -- he didn't do interviews over the phone anymore, he would just do e-mail interviews because of the condition of his voice. But he said I hope it's not my last show. But he certainly seemed to suggest that it could be.
It doesn't mean to imply that he knew that he may pass away soon. But he certainly may have sensed that he wasn't going to be on New Year's Eve for much longer.
CARTER: I think it's interesting, Piers, that when you talk about replacing, it's impossible to replace a guy who basically started when television started. He had the opportunities that no one else is going to have again. It's like saying who will be the next Beatles. It doesn't happen that way, because he was able to enter a void.
There was nothing like that happening. Now other people take little pieces of that. He jumped into every opportunity he could find, including inventing the American Music Awards, which really took the place of the Grammys for a while, because the Grammys didn't know how to respond to this youth music. He was very on top of opportunities like that.
STELTER: And his growth mirrored the growth of television. He understood the importance of live television. Think about TV nowadays, live TV is more important than ever. I remember last December, my friend was having a New Year's Eve party at a bar without a television set. I went to Best Buy, bought a flat screen TV, went to the party with a giant TV, hooked it up so we could watch Dick Clark, because I can't imagine a New Year's Eve without pill.
MORGAN: Yeah. That's very true.
CARTER: That's why he was so effective, because he became the institution you had to see. I can't see another person getting that stature. It's just not going to happen again.
MORGAN: No, I think it's -- the word great is often used, often wrongly. And so is the word irreplaceable. But I think we've lost a true great tonight and someone who is going to turn out to be pretty well irreplaceable.
But for now, Bill Carter, Brian Stelter, thank you both very much.
MORGAN: Coming up, Only in America, remembering the extraordinary Dick Clark, who got a little emotional himself when he was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
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CLARK: You did it. Oh. I had a speech. I've got to get ahold of myself.
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MORGAN: For tonight's Only in America, I want to pay my own personal tribute to the late, great Dick Clark. Few people in modern history had a more profound influence on American popular culture than this charming New Yorker with a cheeky smile and perennial twinkle in his eye.
From "American Bandstand" to his New Year's Eve specials, Dick was a constant and welcome fixture in our homes for more than half a century. And in the process, he became one of the best loved American TV presenters in history.
He dismissed the significance of what he did with typical self- effacing modesty, saying "I have been a fluff-meister for a long time." But he was so much more than that. Dick Clark spotted, nurtured and inspired more young musical talent than arguably anybody else before or since. His shows became the place to be if you wanted to be credible or have success.
Simply put, if Dick Clark wanted you, then everybody else would want you too.
He also broke down race barriers at a time when many considered that a gamble simply not worth taking. So he was just a genius, but a brave and bold genius.
At the same time, though, Dick Clark remained a man who lived a normal, quintessentially American life. As he said himself, "my greatest asset in my life was I never lost touch with hot dogs, hamburgers, going to the fair and hanging out at the mall."
It was that common touch that enabled him to know instinctively what millions of fellow Americans wanted to hear and watch for more than six decades. I can think of no better way to end this tribute show than by showing clips from three iconic performances on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand," staring Jerry Lee Louis in the '50s, the Beach Boys in the '60s and the Jacksons in the '70s, all of whom owed a massive debt, as does each and every one of us, to a great American, Dick Clark.
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