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Q & A: Dick Clark on 40 years of 'New Year's Rockin' Eve'

Dick clark new years
December 31 is always celebratory for Dick Clark, who has become the father figure of New Year’s Eve. But this year, Clark is feeling particularly festive.

His “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” will mark its 40th anniversary, expanding to 5 1/2 hours of music performances and reports from celebrations around the world on ABC. Clark, of course, will be counting down to midnight from Times Square in New York City. In recent years, the special has taken on a particular poignancy with Clark’s determination to mark the date on camera, despite a debilitating stroke in 2004 that impaired his speech. Since resuming his duties on the celebration in 2006, he has a far more limited role, leaving the main hosting responsibilities to Ryan Seacrest.

Clark, 82, recently answered questions about this year’s milestone and recalled special moments from the past.

How are you feeling and how has 2011 been for you?

All in all, I’ve had a great year. Though I have to go to daily physical therapy due to my stroke, I’m making reasonable progress and I feel really good.

How does it feel to realize that you’ve been doing this show for 40 years?

The most amazing thing to me about doing the show for 40 years is how quickly it all went.

What are your memories of the first celebration?

Back in 1972 when we first did the show, it was just me and my wife atop a building in Times Square with one cameraman. We had a small operation that has grown significantly over the years.

Do you have memories of snafus or mishaps?

The most amazing thing that happened was in the ’80s, when we lost power in Times Square and everything went dark. All our lights and cameras were extinguished, and we were minutes from airtime. By some miracle, our ABC crew was able to get us back up and running. We hit the air without a hitch, but for a moment, it looked like it could be a very dark New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Name two or three moments that clearly stand out for you.

Probably one of the most outstanding performances was in 2009, when Jennifer Lopez arrived in Times Square. A light rain fell on her and her dancers throughout their magnificent performance. The skintight bodysuit she wore was all the talk on New Year’s Day. Needless to say, I also remember the Millennium telecast. Though the show took place all over the world that year, they still came to us in Times Square for the special ball drop at midnight.

How do you usually spend the day before the show?

For years, I always started the day of the telecast by getting up in the wee hours of the morning to appear on “Good Morning America.” I followed that with no fewer than 30 or 40 individual interviews with disc jockeys, newscasters and talk show hosts to discuss the upcoming evening festivities. My night in Times Square was always preceded by an ultra-long day of promotion, which helped us to solidify our position as the place to be on New Year’s Eve.

Since the show is longer this year, what can viewers expect?

There will be highlights from 40 years, with clips representing every genre of music. Just some of the featured artists will be Three Dog Night, Barry Manilow, Rihanna, the Beach Boys, Pink, KC & the Sunshine Band, Taylor Swift, Lionel Richie, the Village People and Miley Cyrus.

Is there a type of music or artist you feel truly defines New Year’s Eve?

The answer is no. The night belongs to every conceivable kind of music.

ALSO:

A guide to New Year's TV

2011 favorite TV guest stars

2011 best TV meltdowns: From 'winning!' to whining

2011's most gruesome TV Deaths

-- Greg Braxton

Photo: Dick Clark. Credit: ABC/ Donna Svennevik

 
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