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Farewell to 'oldest teen'

Dick Clark made it cool to be an adult.

Unlike other disc jockeys and entertainment personalities who tried to dress and talk like teenagers to gain their acceptance, Clark on TV was always as perfectly groomed and attired as any businessman, which is what he was.

He didn't talk down to young people; he talked to them — about the music they preferred, the dances they performed, and sometimes whatever else was on their minds.

Any parents who happened to glance up from their newspaper and notice the discussion on American Bandstand suddenly knew more about their children than they could get from any conversation they tried to elicit.

Clark played an important role in the post-Korean War youth movement that transitioned this country from one in which children were expected to be seen and not heard to a nation whose youths commanded attention.

He died Wednesday in Los Angeles of a massive heart attack. The man known affectionately as "the world's oldest teenager" was 82.

Clark began his radio career at a family-owned station in Rome, N.Y., and after graduating from Syracuse University became a newscaster at a TV station in Utica, N.Y. But it was here in Philadelphia that he found fame, spinning records on WFIL, and then taking over the local TV show Bandstand after its original host was fired.

Bandstand went national as American Bandstand. Clark used the show to introduce and showcase some of the best acts in rock-and-roll music. And because many of those acts were African American, he opened a door to those performers for wider audiences and eventually integrated his cast of teen dancers as well. It was groundbreaking.

In later years, and with Bandstand long gone, Clark became more known for hosting quiz and blooper shows, and his New Year's Rockin' Eve shows broadcast live from Time Square. The annual event kept him close to the music that made him an American icon.