Hot Topics: Remembering America's Oldest Teenager
The death of longtime American Bandstand host Dick Clark this week is a reminder of a vanished era of vinyl 45s, lip-syncing and teenagers in sports jackets and party dresses doing the Twist, the Madison and the Chalypso (the show's peculiar official term for the cha-cha).
As SecondAct columnist Jane Ganahl notes, Clark -- whose boyish appearance earned him the sobriquet "America's Oldest Teenager" -- was more than just a Ryan Seacrest progenitor who cued up the hits and exchanged pleasantries with the latest singing sensations. He was a transitional figure in American popular culture, the mild-mannered curator of what was then perceived -- at least by adults of the late 1950s and 1960s -- as edgy, adventurous music tinged with undercurrents of race-mixing, sex and other dangerous subjects. That theme is echoed by The New York Times' Stephen Holden, who described Clark as "a kind of older brother, a safe-as-milk intermediary who kept the peace between worried parents and their restless children."
By allowing kids on the dance floor to rate new records, Clark was the first to give teenagers themselves the power -- or at least the illusion of it -- to dictate fads and fashion. "I don't set trends," Clark once said. "I just find out what they are and exploit them."
Not everyone bought that. Slate interviews Clark's broadcasting contemporary, DJ and game show host Wink Martindale, who describes the Bandstand host as an "all-powerful" pop idol maker, who made Fabian, Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell into stars by shepherding them onto his telecast and giving them exposure. Today, "that's where Justin Bieber -- is that his name, Justin Bieber? -- that's where he would [have gone]," Martindale says.
The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, highlights another side of Clark -- his courageous struggle to recover from a debilitating 2004 stroke that forced the once-lithe and glib broadcaster to re-learn how to walk and talk. "In doing so, Clark became a symbol of hope to the millions of Americans currently struggling in the aftermath of what's known as a cerebrovascular incident," Rene Lynch writes.
Rolling Stone offers this photo gallery of Dick Clark through the years. The opening shot of Clark in 1957, clad in a sharp-looking brown patterned blazer reminiscent of the one James Dean wore to school in Rebel Without A Cause, really captures the ambiance of the era.
An Earth Day Second Act: Carly Fiorina's campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010 didn't go so well, but the former HP CEO just announced in this Huffington Post blog that she's got a new mission -- chairing the board of directors of Good 360, a philanthropic organization that, among other things, keeps surplus products from ending up in landfills by guiding them to charities that can put them to use. Good 360 already works with big companies such as 3M, The Home Depot, Mattel, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Hallmark and IBM, and Fiorina hopes to attract cash contributors to ramp up the effort even more. "As an average American looking to support a worthy cause and making sure my dollar does the most good, Good 360 is also a no-brainer," she writes. "The organization's unique model of delivering donated products means that every dollar donated toward shipping costs can provide, on average, $70 worth of delivered product -- meaning every donation, no matter how big or small, makes an enormous difference in communities around the world."
Time's 100 "Most Influential" List: Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World came out on Thursday, and it includes quite a few familiar middle-aged faces. Hedge fund manager turned internet educator Salman Khan, who received an honorable mention in our best Second Acts of 2011 awards, was recognized by Time, as was journalist Walter Isaacson, author of the bestselling Steve Jobs biography. In addition to such global movers and shakers as President Barack Obama and media stars such as satirist Stephen Colbert, there also is room on the list for author Ann Patchett, who pushed back against the demise of local bookstores by opening one in her hometown of Memphis, a story SecondAct covered back in November 2011.
Book Buzz, Pulitzer Edition: SecondAct contributor David Ferrell looks at this week's Pulitzer winners and those that came close.
Are Internet Companies Making a Costly Mistake by Ignoring Fiftysomethings? That's the question raised by Venturebeat, a magazine for investors, which wonders if dotcom execs are shooting themselves in the foot by being ageist. "If you found that 60 to 80 percent of your customers belonged to a particular demographic, you'd probably re-target your marketing and product development efforts to focus on that market," writer Dylan Tweney says.
Why You Shouldn't Accept a Counter-Offer: Now that the job market is starting to pick up again, we probably can expect to see the return of corporate headhunters who dangle alluring offers in front of already-employed workers -- which, in turn, often triggers an even more attractive counter-offer from the existing employer. But in this U.S. News & World Report article, writer Alison Green warns against using outside offers as bargaining chips, because "too often, it ends badly." Read the piece to find out why.
More Middle-Aged Americans Going Solo: Redorbit.com reports on a new study from Bowling Green State University's National Center for Family and Marriage Research, which shows that one-third of adults between the ages of 45 and 63 are unmarried. This number has more than doubled since 1980, when about 20 percent of middle-aged Americans were not married. But even if they don't mind doing without companionship, many of these middle-aged singles are being hurt financially by their solitude, the study reports. One in five single baby boomers lives in poverty, compared to one in 20 of their married counterparts. Additionally, single baby boomers are less likely to have health insurance and twice as likely to be disabled. The study also found that boomers who are divorced have more economic resources than those who were widowed or never married.
When I Get Off This Mountain, You Know Where I Want To Go: If you're a fan of classic rock, you probably recognize the opening line of The Band's "Up on Cripple Creek," and the earnest-sounding, countrified voice that warbled it -- Levon Helm, a singer and drummer for the 1960s superstar rock group who died on Thursday of throat cancer at age 71. Rolling Stone offers a brief bio of Helm, an Arkansas native who as a teenager went to a rock and roll show and was inspired to become a musician by the thunderous performance of Jerry Lee Lewis' drummer, Jimmy Van Eaton. In 1960, Helm joined the backup of rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, a group that included guitarist Robbie Robertson and other members of what would become The Band. Bob Dylan later recruited Helm and the others to back him as he made his controversial transition from folk to rock. In the mid-1960s. Helm and his bandmates struck out on their own as The Band, and in 1968 they released the hit album Music From Big Pink, which changed the course of pop music by successfully blending a mind-bending array of genres, including country, folk, rock, classical music and rhythm-and-blues. Even more than Robertson's clear-toned guitar, it was Helm's rough, unaffected lead vocals that helped make the sound of hits such as "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek," "Ophelia," and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" so distinctive. (In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked Helm among the 100 greatest rock singers of all time.)
Even after being diagnosed with cancer in the late 1990s, Helm doggedly kept playing music, performing shows at his home and studio in Woodstock, N.Y., that also featured friends and admirers who ranged from Elvis Costello to Nora Jones. He won Grammy Awards in 2007, 2010 and again in 2011 for his solo work. Helm also acted in numerous films, including the 1980 Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner's Daughter. Only Halfway Home, a 2008 documentary about Helm in which he performs songs from his Grammy-winning CD Dirt Farmer, is available for viewing on YouTube.
Last Word: "I always root for anyone over 40 -- and now anyone close to 50. I joke, 'You're cheating if you're any younger than that.'" -- actor Ralph Macchio, 50, of The Karate Kid fame, who competed on Dancing With the Stars last season. He tells CBS News that he still is an avid fan of the show.
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