By Ray Smith
An excerpt from Bandstand Diaries: The Philadelphia Years 1956-1963
Dick Clark fascinated me. I can’t explain it. he just did. I saw him all the time on TV pitching jewelry for Barr’s Jewelers, the place where most high school seniors bought their class rings. I never believed him, he seemed insincere to me. He reminded me of a cross between the super clean-cut Pat Boone and my equally clean-cut Uncle Harry. Harry was a handsome, square-jawed former sailor with hazel eyes. He was tall and muscular. He never needed a shave. I love looking at the pictures of him in uniform. I spent part of my summers with Harry and my Aunt Bea. Harry may have been pretty, but he was a tyrant who beat and tortured us. Was Clark a tyrant when the cameras were off? I didn’t know. He was a mystery that only existed in a two- dimensional image. Was he close to any dancers? With so many things to look at, I turned my attention away from Mickey and to Clark.
Clark walked into the studio carrying a dark briefcase and papers. He was shorter than I imagined; he was lean , and dressed in dull grey. He was as colorless as the drapes. He looked s if he were going to work in a bank. His hair was neatly parted and held in place by a generous application of Vitalis; it wasn’t as greasy as some other hair stuff, like the stuff that a lot of the South Philadelphia boys used to create big pompadours.
Crossing in front of the bleachers, he barely acknowledged anyone, even though some of the Regulars greeted him enthusiastically. He was careful about mingling. He didn’t want to cross over that white line. Clark’s predecessor Bob Horn, was fired after accusations of statutory rape (Horn was in his mid-forties) and alcohol abuse. Clark was determined to counter that image with an image of clean-cit, sexless teenagers, as well as an asexual all- American host; this was smart because Clark knew it was the only way adults would accept his program, as well as rock n roll, which most adults feared, believing it promoted juvenile delinquency….
To be continued…
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Occasional American Bandstand Dancer and Bandstand Diaries Co-author
Ray was born and raised in Philadelphia, and went to JOHN BARTRAM HIGH SCHOOL along with a lot of local celebrities including: Danny & The Juniors, Patti LaBelle, Lee Andrews & The Hearts, opera singer Florence Quivar, basketball great Earl, The Pearl, Monroe, and Bandstand regulars, Arlene Sullivan, Peggy Leonard, and Justine Carrelli.
Ray first attended Bandstand in the summer of 1956. He danced on the show until Christmas 1959.
In 1960, he attended Penn State as an English major. In 1964, he joined the National Guard and did basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After working in insurance in Philadelphia, and studying acting and dance, Ray moved to New York City in 1966 where he studied ballet at Richard Thomas’s parents’ studio, tap dance with Henry LeTang, and acting at HB Studios
He joined NBC News in 1967 and worked on the TODAY SHOW until he retired in 2007. Today, he continues to work on the show one day a week. In 2006, he won an EMMY as part of the show’s news writing team.
In 1997, he co-wrote DICK CLARK’S AMERICAN BANDSTAND, and met Arlene Sullivan on her interview for the book. They both appear in Carolyn Travis’s documentary WILDWOOD DAYS. Ray was also a contributor to several books on rock ‘n’ roll. After earning his degree in Film Criticism from Hunter College in New York City, Ray worked on several films including, Bob Abel’s LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL.
Ray is most proud of his Trustees Award from Big Brothers.