Like everyone of my generation, I have memories of Dick Clark.
Some of them are even personal.
I've mentioned before that my first job out of college was writing (and later producing) Top 30 programs for syndicated radio. I knew very well how fortunate I was to have landed a job that was way cooler than I was. I just didn't understand how lucky I'd been until three years later, when my employers decided to go another way and laid me off.
Unemployment was a depressing shock. I learned exactly how scarce paid broadcast writing jobs were. At one point, I decided that ANY work was better than none, and I signed up as a secretary with one of those show biz temp agencies that advertised in the Hollywood Reporter.
About six months into what I came to call a "hiatus," I got a call from an engineer I'd known at my old job. He was now on staff at Dick Clark Productions and they had a temporary opening that sounded just like the job I'd recently lost. Would I be interested?
Yes, yes, yes. I can't recall if I was invited to ask any questions - if so, I don't think I would have thought of any to ask. I mean, this is what I DID, and had done very well (in my opinion). The depression of under-employment had lifted. Of course (I thought) I would knock them out, the temp gig would turn into a permanent one and I would have my foot in the door to work in television with Dick Clark. I was back.
So I entered the Burbank mock Tudor-style offices of Dick Clark Productions that morning in feeling confident. Cocky, actually. I was certain I was going to leave them so impressed, they would beg me to stay on.
That feeling lasted for about an hour.
I had been called in because the woman who wrote Clark's show was out sick, and when I learned exactly what I'd walked into, I suspected she might have been playing possum. Dick Clark was about to embark on a three-week vacation in China (rare and exciting back in early 1984).
Now, when most radio and television hosts take a vacation, they either bring in a substitute or plug in a rerun. Since the program in question was a countdown of the week's top hits, the latter was out of the question. And as Dick Clark's name was in the title, there would be no guest host, either.
His solution was to get three shows in the can before he left. And since we had no idea where the hits would fall on the charts for all three weeks, we would have to anticipate everything that might be there, and record versions where each song would move up, down, or stay in place.
And all we had was one week.
As I settled in to the little writer's office, I started to panic. At my old production, our office was lined with file cabinets, filled with archived news articles and old taped interviews of everyone who had landed on the Billboard Hot 100 since 1955 (and part of my job in those pre-Internet days was to keep that archive up to date). This library of material was utilized by our staff of three writers to produce a stockpile of stories about each of the artists and songs likely to have a place on the chart - so when the numbers came in, all I had to do as producer was work out the timing and stitch them together.
There was no stockpile of stories to be found in the writer's office at Dick Clark productions. On top of that, the countdown show employed just the one writer/producer, and each Wednesday night when the numbers arrived, she'd write the entire thing and have it ready to go first thing Thursday morning.
I figured I was OK. The shows were going to be stitched together in editing anyway, and when I was at Drake-Chenault, I'd gotten pretty good at guessing how the songs would move up and down the charts. I had three days to create my own little stockpile. I picked up the trades and got to work.
And that's when I realized how screwed I was. Six months of unemployment without regular access to the music trades is an eternity. The charts that week in early 1984 were full of artists I had never heard of: Cyndi Lauper. Madonna. Bon Jovi. (To this day, I am still unable to identify anything by Bon Jovi.)
I was in over my head, in a manner I'd never experienced before, but I thought I could rise to the occasion. So I did what I could, went into a complete panic on Wednesday night, pulled an all-nighter, and turned in a script that was embarrassingly inadequate.
Needless to say, I was not asked to stay on. I never worked there again.
I did meet the man dubbed "America's Oldest Teenager," and remember noting that in person, he did not look as young as he did on television. I shudder to think that he was younger then than I am now.
Random memories of that week:
I was instructed not to mention the Grammys. Dick Clark created and produced the American Music Awards, and I guess he didn't want to remind his audience of the more prestigious competition.
One of the Everly Brothers happened to drop in one day last week. I can't remember which one, but I'm thinking it was Phil. But it could have been Don. Whoever it was, he seemed very nice.
Dick and Kari Clark brought their very large dogs to work with them, and gave them run of the building. So I ate lunch at my desk each day with a Wiemaraner's head in my lap.
While working for Dick Clark, I made the acquaintance of a staffer there named Fred Bronson. A few months later, Fred called with news he'd gotten a book deal. This is how I ended up as a researcher on The Billboard Book of Number One Hits - which helped me gain a bit of my confidence back.
And the experience got me paying attention to the charts again, which came in handy when I landed a job programming music videos. But that's another story.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad - Which is only a little bit of an excuse for the typos.