America’s oldest teenager, Dick Clark, turned 80 this week. Good God.
You have to be a certain age to understand what a pioneer Dick Clark was when his “American Bandstand” burst on the scene live from Philadelphia
We didn’t get it in Boston so I had to drive to Norwood where my first heartbreak, Marcia the Cheerleader, lived. She got the rock ’n’ roll show out of Providence.
Marcia was a teen queen whom I met at the legendary Holy Name Church dance, the center of our universe. It was somewhere around 1957 (I know). She was an instant queen of the hop when she walked into the gym. The whole gang stopped to admire the new girl from afar.
In a rare feat of teen bravado, I walked up and asked her to dance, while everyone else was frozen in place.
In the still of the night …
We danced once, twice. Then I walked away and pretended I had something better to do. I would nervously wait out a few songs and then come back to place my arms around this wonderful creature. It was then that she bragged that she actually got “Bandstand” on her Norwood television.
I was done for. And Dick Clark was only part of it. That night my crew surrounded me and backslapped their praise in finessing such a wonderful creature.
From then on, several afternoons a week, I would hotwire the family’s spare car and speed down Route 1A without keys, license or registration to see Marcia … and Dick Clark, of course.
I held her, held her tight …
The music show was a breakthrough for the time with all the acts we had only heard on radio now performing live on television. We didn’t even care that they were “lip synching” or just mouthing along with their records. The show had the latest clothes, the latest dances and some great young Philadelphia babes. We got to know them all, Bunny and Eddie, Kenny and Arlene, all the regulars.
My favorite dance was the stroll, when the kids would do an exaggerated walk in front of the cameras. Great close-ups of the babes. The show usually ended with the kids rating a few new records.
“I’ll give it a ten, Dick. The kids could really dance to it.”
I made the mistake of telling my posse about my new discovery. Then I made an even bigger mistake by taking a few of them along.
A fatal teenage error.
And I love, I love you so …
When we finally got around to an official, serious date, I took Marcia the Cheerleader home and went to kiss her goodnight. Our first kiss. (You have to understand that a goodnight kiss in those days would compare today to a week in Vegas with three hookers.)
As I moved in for the kill, she turned her head away! I was shocked, stunned. I naively assumed that she was as interested in me as I was in her. I thought that was the way life worked.
It was a life lesson I would have to relearn again and again.
Promise I’ll never … let you go …
It got even worse. One of my pals who had made the Norwood trip with me “to see Dick Clark” sheepishly admitted weeks later that he had asked out Marcia the Cheerleader … to his senior prom. And she accepted. I was shocked and stunned all over again, but of course I pretended that it was all cool.
I don’t think I ever spoke to either of them again. That showed them. She was just the first one that got away, one of many.
Today I take great solace in this: If Dick Clark is 80, then Marcia the Cheerleader has to be at least 65, maybe older. She is probably a grandmother, maybe a great grandmother.
She doesn’t know what she missed.
Well, happy birthday anyway, Mr. Clark. You tried.
In the still … of the night …
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