Panorama By Tim Thiele, Photo Courtesy of Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com
Dick Clark passed away at 82 years old today, leaving the public with many memories of the TV icon: There’s Clark as the perennially boyish-looking host of “American Bandstand;” as the game show guru behind “Pyramid”; and as the familiar face who helped ring in the New Year, year after year. But few today remember Clark like Jean Bennett.
The Las Vegas resident, who turns 89 on April 25, first met Clark in 1956 shortly after he replaced Bob Horn as host of “American Bandstand.”
“Dick was the sweetest, coolest guy I’d ever come across,” Bennett recalls of her first meeting with the mild-mannered, clean-cut Clark.
Bennett met Clark while working as an artist promoter for songwriter and manager Buck Ram. Bennett and Ram brought the Platters to Clark, and the group went on to introduce their hit “Twilight Time” on “American Bandstand Saturday” in 1958; the song hit #1 on the Pop and R&B charts that spring.
Beyond Clark’s reputed charm, Bennett remembers his dedicated work ethos and high standards that “really straightened out the show,” catapulting “American Bandstand” to the national airwaves and the cultural institution it is today.
“He treated every show like it was a special occasion. He made sure everyone got dressed up and was on their best behavior,” she says. “He never raised his voice, but he sure had those kids jump through some hoops!”
As the Platters and other projects of Ram’s gained traction, Bennett began working regularly with Clark as she pushed new music to radio and TV stations across the country. The two quickly became good friends.
“He liked Buck because Buck knew talent, and if I brought him something, he would listen to it,” she says. “He trusted me and would always put on the records I suggested. He was very dedicated to the music business and really looked forward to every new release.”
Bennett says that Clark and she remained close, often meeting him for lunch when she was in L.A., though the last time she saw him was about a year ago.
“Those were such fun times,” she says of their time spent in the burgeoning rock ’n’ roll era.
Even at 89, the joie de vivre in Bennett’s voice is undeniable, and it’s almost certainly that same spark that kept Clark “the world’s oldest teenager” until his last days.