Out with the Old
So, despite months of will-he/won't he, Dick Clark made his annual appearance on ABC's Rockin' New Year's Eve celebration Saturday night. I was out partying, but caught a snippet of his appearance on video today. He was clearly still recovering from his stroke, and his speech and appearance were not what we've come to expect from "America's oldest teenager."
I'm kind of torn on the whole issue of whether he should have gone on the air. On the one hand, he's a living institution and just because he's unwell doesnt mean he should be banished to Siberia. On the other hand, New Year's is a light-hearted night of drunken revelry--I dont know if someone suffering from a stroke is a good choice for an emcee. It's not audiences job to pity a host; its the host's job to entertain audiences and keep them in good spirits. Is that lookist and agist? Yes, but so is everything else in our society.
I think my and a lot of people's real problem was with the way the media (and our culture in general) treats infirmity. We dont allow our celebrities to show anything but their plucked, airbrushed and fake-tanned best. Ironically, Melissa Etheredge probably showed more bravery appearing bald from chemo on the red carpet than she did coming out as a lesbian.
Maybe instead of sequestering Clark since 2004 and sending out press releases about how he was back in peak form (what is he, a Soviet premier?). they could've said, "Look, having a stroke is tough but Dick is commited to being there for New Years." For me, it was the jarring contrast between the way Clark is always portrayed and the way he appeared that was so unsettling. How about a little honesty? "Hey, you know what? I feel like crap, but this is a party, so we're gonna party!"
As for Clark's "courage" in appearing on New Year's, I think thats a little misleading. More likely he wanted to preserve his legacy and keep the Dick Clark brand-name pristene. I dont know if that's ego or just thinking about posterity, but there you have it.