Dick Clark, 'Bandstand' put Philly on cultural map
Journalists look at memorabilia from "American Bandstand" host Dick Clark at the Enterprise Center, Wednesday, April 18, 2012 in Philadelphia. The Enterprise Center is located in the former American Bandstand studios. Dick Clark, the ever-youthful television host and producer who helped bring rock 'n' roll into the mainstream on "American Bandstand" and rang in the New Year for the masses at Times Square died at 82. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Dick Clark may have worked in bigger cities over the course of his long entertainment career, but it was his time in Philadelphia that made him a household name.
Clark, who died Wednesday at the age of 82, hosted the wildly popular "American Bandstand" show at WFIL-TV in west Philadelphia in the 1950s and '60s. It became a cultural touchstone for legions of teenagers eager to hear the newest pop music and see the latest dance craze.
And though he later moved to Los Angeles and served as the longtime host of New York's annual year-end festivities in Times Square, Clark never forgot his roots in the City of Brotherly Love, said Lew Klein, an early executive producer of the show that became an institution.
"He was a very loyal person and he never lost his appreciation for the good luck that Philadelphia gave him with the visibility of 'Bandstand,'" Klein told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
They first met in 1952 when Klein, then a programming director, interviewed Clark for a job as a disc jockey in Philadelphia. Clark had recently graduated from Syracuse University and was "youthful, understood the music that was popular, (was) very articulate and extremely personable," Klein said.
Meanwhile, a local show called "Bandstand" began airing the same year on WFIL-TV. Klein moved Clark over to host the show in 1956, when original host Bob Horn was fired. The program made its national debut as "American Bandstand" on Aug. 5, 1957.
"We were like the trendsetters of the time," said Steve Colanero, a regular dancer on the show for about two years. "We were too young to realize how much of an impact we had."
WFIL-TV sat at the corner of 46th and Market streets, where crowds of well-dressed boys and girls lined up in hopes of getting on the show. Only kids between 14 and 18 were allowed in, but Colanero admitted Wednesday that he was only 13 when he began appearing in 1959.
In addition to dancing, Colanero said he often led the musical acts from the dressing room out to Studio B. He said he was thrilled to meet Bobby Darin, as well as Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat King Cole.
Colanero, now a 66-year-old retiree in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., also recalled running into a disguised Clark on the elevated train. A taxi strike had apparently led the host to take public transportation to the studio, and Colanero said he didn't recognize Clark when he called to him on the train.