Television icon Dick Clark, who died April 18 at age 82, entered the national spotlight as the host of American Bandstand on ABC-TV in the mid-1950s.
The teen dancers, many of whom made their way from their respective high schools to the televised dance party daily in the early days, became the equivalent of “reality TV stars” with their own fan bases.
According to the Associated Press obit, Clark made rock music acceptable because he knew how to make wary adults welcome this odd new breed of music in their homes.
Reporter Lynn Alber included an old Clark quote that revealed part of his strategy: “The boys wore coats and ties and the girls combed their hair and they all looked like sweet little kids into a high school dance,” he said.
Clark outlived many of the early Bandstand dancers, who ended up living all across the United States and followed a variety of careers. Among those who died in the last few years are:
Richard Pierce, a Vietnam War veteran, who died Jan. 19, 2009, at age 64, settled in Anchorage, Alaska, in the early 1980s and worked for Anchorage Chrysler . . . as a mechanic specializing in air conditioning and electrical, according to the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News. His family wrote that Rick was one of the first ASE certified mechanics in the United States.
Being a man of many talents, he lived to hunt and fish and at one point was a commercial halibut fisherman and a gunsmith. Before moving to Alaska, he was involved with the National Hotrod Association (NHRA). He raced from the late 1960s into 1981 as an owner and driver of his own Rick Pierce Funny Cars.
Sandra Mae Dawson, who died Feb. 25, 2008, at age 66, was the first female car racer at Cecil County Drag Strip, according to the obit in the Delaware News Journal.
She worked as a nurse at Riverside Hospital for over 30 years. . . After she retired she relocated to Rehoboth Beach, DE where she volunteered for Hospice.
Charlie Hayes, who died Sept. 6 at age 68, became an entrepreneur, U.S. Air Force veteran, and mayor of Tolleson, Ariz., according to the obit in the Arizona Republic.***
Hayes was also an ardent supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs and helped build the club in Tolleson . And his obituary offers some excellent advice: Charlie would like everyone to know that he loved life, that you should always greet each day with optimism and an open mind, and finally, the one those closest to him heard the most, listen with your ears, not your mouth.
John Martin Lance, 67, who died Dec. 24, 2010, formed a popular local singing group that was known as the "Royal Lads," after dancing on Bandstand, according to the obit in the Bridgeton News at NJ.com.
As a young adult, Lance joined his father and brother in the operation of the family farm which included over 50 acres of peach trees, corn and melons. After many years of farming, Johnny changed careers and entered the world of fashion where he became a dress cutter and pattern maker.
He later founded "Marlo’s" retail clothing store in Millville, N.J., which grew into a small chain of three stores.
Richard John Gotham, 61, died Jan. 4, 2008, in Las Vegas, where he had for 30 years and was a dealer, according to the family-prepared obit published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His greatest love was golf, having played on the Golden State Mini Tour, his family wrote. He also loved teaching golf and making clubs for his friends. One of Rick's most memorable times was dancing on American Bandstand for three years, way back when . . .
This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.