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RIP Dick Clark (1929-2012)

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© Bettmann/CORBIS

Since so much will be written about Dick Clark’s tenure on American Bandstand and the Pyramid game shows elsewhere, we'll try to provide you with some Dick Clark stories you may not necessarily read in the various official obituaries. Feel free to share any Bandstand or New Year’s Rockin’ Eve or Pyramid memories as we bid a sad farewell to an old friend.

He Wanted to Share His Youthful Look with Other Men

Dick Clark was frequently referred to as America’s Oldest Teenager not just because he spun the latest hits on American Bandstand, but also because of his Dorian Gray-ish unlined face. He dispelled those nasty cosmetic surgery rumors by not only launching a line of “male cosmetics” in 1985, but also by publishing his Easygoing Guide to Good Grooming the following year. Dick Clark Cosmetics offered moisturizers and gentle skin cleansers as well as bronzers and various shades of under eye cover-up.

Alas, Clark overestimated the average American male's comfort level when it came to smearing pancake on the face, and his cosmetics line went kaput rather quickly. However, in 1993 he tried a different tack – selling male skin care products (under the Geviderm label) via infomercials on late-night TV. Turns out many men didn’t really mind slathering on cold cream as long as they received the product anonymously through the mail.

He Had Two Very Special Fans

Flo and Kay Lyman are the only identical female twin autistic savants in the world. The fifty-something women can remember everything that has ever happened to them, from the title and artist of a song (and when they first heard it), to the weather on a particular date, to what they ate on any given day. And just like Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man character religiously watched and took notes on every episode of The People’s Court, so did the Lyman sisters with The $25,000 Pyramid and all its permutations. They kept carefully coded charts on the game, marking down every clue used, every mistake buzzed, and every color of suit worn by their idol, Dick Clark. Their brother-in-law once observed: “They need food, they need air, and they need Dick Clark.”

They wrote to Clark and he answered their letters and sent them cards every year on their birthday. He arranged to have the sisters visit him at his home and took their calls whenever they phoned. Flo and Kay were devastated when Clark had a stroke in 2004; they formed a small shrine in their bedroom, praying regularly for his recovery. Clark had not fully recovered from his stroke when tragedy again struck the twins; their younger sister, who’d been their guardian for much of their adult lives, died suddenly of a heart attack. Their immediate impulse was to phone Dick Clark, who, despite his own health issues, comforted them and also mailed them a lengthy sympathy card encouraging them to soldier on and remember that their sister was in heaven watching over them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNH46zvp_H8&feature=relmfu

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuHmX6eymKE&feature=relmfu

Lindsey Buckingham Puked on His Rug

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album had been a monster hit in 1977 and was still selling steadily in 1978 when they attended the American Music Awards. Their first award of the evening was for favorite album, and all five band members made it to the podium unscathed to accept their statue. Later in the evening, however, whatever guitarist Lindsey Buckingham had consumed prior to and during the show had seriously kicked in by the time Fleetwood Mac was announced as favorite artist. He stumbled and fell to all fours while ascending the stairs to the stage. While his bandmates waited for him at stage left he staggered stage right.

Producer Dick Clark summoned the band to his office backstage afterward for a confrontation, but before the dressing-down got started Buckingham livened up the proceedings by vomiting all over Clark’s plush hunter green pile carpeting. Clark dismissed the band by picking up his phone and summoning an assistant to walk them out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=768vNzi6y1Q

He Knew Ed McMahon Longer than Johnny Carson Did

Ed McMahon was struggling to launch a career in broadcasting when he landed a $75 per week announcing job at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia in 1949. He moved into the Drexelwood apartments in Philly and did odd jobs at the complex to help pay his rent. His next door neighbor was a young disc jockey named Dick Clark who hosted a weekly dance party in the apartment building’s club house. The two became good friends and stayed in contact after each moved to Los Angeles to pursue different career paths. Many years later the pair would work together co-hosting TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes and as pitchmen for American Family Publishers (not Publisher’s Clearing House!).

He Was Many Things, But Not a Prognosticator

As my friends and family can attest, I’m not one to throw things out. As a result, I still have a 1975 issue of Teen magazine that looks back at the fashions and fads of the past 15 years. One article also interviews prominent celebs of the time to ask their predictions as to who and what would be popular 15 years hence. Dick Clark’s confident reply as to what major music stars would still be rockin’ our world in 1990? Elvis Presley and the Osmonds. Oh, and he also commented that we probably hadn’t heard the last of Englebert Humperdinck, either.

See Also: The Scandal That Taught Dick Clark to “Protect Your Ass at All Times”

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U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Matthew Henson, the Arctic Explorer Who Stood on Top of the World
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U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The year was 1909—roughly three centuries after the Age of Discovery ended and five decades prior to the Space Race. For explorers of the period, the North Pole represented one of the last untrodden frontiers still up for grabs. Robert Peary ventured into the tundra in February of that year, hoping to beat his competitors to the spot. Upon returning to the U.S., Peary was celebrated as the first man to reach world’s northernmost point, but it was his assistant, an African-American man named Matthew Henson, who many experts now believe deserves the distinction.

Henson was born in Charles County, Maryland on August 8, 1866, a year after the end of the Civil War. His parents—both freeborn sharecroppers—died before they had a chance to see him grow up. Henson found himself orphaned at age 11 and under the care of relatives. With nothing tying him to his home in Washington D.C., at age 13 he set out on his own, trekking 40 miles to Baltimore mostly on foot.

He got his first taste of life on the open ocean as a cabin boy on the Baltimore-based vessel the Katie Hines. The work he did onboard consisted of humble tasks like peeling potatoes, but the ship’s skipper, Captain Childs, saw to it he received a first-class schooling in seamanship. At sea Henson was mentored in math, history, literature, and geography, and at port he was introduced to the cultures of places like Spain, France, North Africa, and China.

Following his voyages on the Katie Hines, Henson eventually returned to Washington D.C., where he accepted a job as a clerk at a hat shop. It was there that he crossed paths with the man who would shape his destiny. Robert Peary met Henson in 1887 as a U.S. Naval officer with fresh dreams of reaching the North Pole. When he entered the shop where Henson worked, looking to sell seal and walrus pelts from a recent expedition to Greenland, it immediately became clear the two were kindred spirits. Peary admired Henson’s experience and enthusiasm, so he hired him to join an upcoming surveying expedition to Nicaragua. Eager to see more of the world, the starry-eyed 21-year-old accepted.

On this trip Henson proved himself an invaluable aide. He used the skills he picked up at sea, like map-making, to help Peary and the crew navigate the Central American jungle over the next two years. At the end of their mission, Henson was among the first men Peary had in mind to accompany him on his next adventure.

After returning to the East Coast—specifically, Philadelphia—just long enough to start a new job as a Navy Yard messenger and marry his first wife, Eva Flint, Henson was preparing to set sail once again. This time the destination was the iced-over tip of Greenland. Robert Peary had grown obsessed with the idea of being the first person to reach the North Pole, and he wasn’t alone. Explorers from the U.S., Italy, and Norway were all clamoring to beat each other in the race to the top of the world.

The team’s initial trip to Greenland was the first of many expeditions into the unforgiving Arctic. With Henson at his side, Peary had a key advantage over his adversaries. Aside from serving as a blacksmith, carpenter, hunter, and dog trainer, Henson was one of the few Arctic explorers and the only member of Peary’s party who took the time to learn the Inuit language. He had a knack for building trust with the local people and quickly adapted to their ways of life. Robert Peary once said of his comrade: "He is a better dog driver and can handle a sledge better than any man living, except some of the best Esquimo [sic] hunters themselves."

It was this rapport with the Inuit and the habits borrowed from their lifestyle that helped Peary and Henson survive in the Arctic for so many years. During that time they seized tons of iron-rich meteorite (not without controversy), mapped Greenland’s ice cap in its entirety, and traveled deeper into the Arctic than any explorer had before them. Unfortunately, Henson’s success up north resulted in the failure of his marriage back home. He married his second wife, Lucy Ross, during a return visit in 1906, but his only son, Anauakaq, was born of an Inuit woman he met during his travels.

After 17 years spent intermittently in the Arctic, there was one goal Peary and Henson had yet to accomplish: setting foot on the North Pole. They launched what would be their eighth and final effort to reach the frozen finish line in the summer of 1908. With the icebreaking vessel the Roosevelt in their command, the crew reached Ellesmere Island at Canada’s northern edge in February 1909. It was the job of 20-odd men to station food and supplies along the route before returning to camp while a smaller group made the full trek to the Pole. That core team included Robert Peary, four Inuits named Ooqueah, Ootah, Egingwah, and Seegloo, and Matthew Henson. "Henson must go all the way," Peary reportedly said while planning the expedition. "I can’t make it there without him."

Matthew Henson (center) and four Inuit guides. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In the end, it fell on Henson to lead the party to their target. Peary was incapacitated with frostbitten feet for the final leg of the journey, and Henson filled in for him as he was towed along in a sled. The plan was to let Peary take over at the last minute so he could be the first man to stand at the spot that had occupied his dreams for decades. Unfortunately for him, the team overshot their journey. Not realizing their mistake until it was too late, Henson and two of the Inuit guides arrived at the Pole on April 6, 1909 with Peary still 45 minutes behind them.

When Peary finally caught up, Henson greeted him saying, "I think I'm the first man to sit on top of the world." This did not sit well with Peary. The two remained on strained terms for the duration of their trip. Henson later wrote: "From the time we knew we were at the Pole, Commander Peary scarcely spoke to me [...] It nearly broke my heart that he would rise in the morning and slip away on the homeward trail without rapping on the ice for me, as was the established custom." By the time the two of them made it back home, one of the most successful partnerships in the history of exploration had disintegrated.

The controversy over who deserved of title of first person to reach the North Pole wasn’t limited to the two men. After returning to the States, they learned that another American, Frederick Cook, claimed to have beat them to the pole a year earlier. The photographic evidence Cook used to back up his assertion was eventually discredited, and in 1911 a Congressional Inquiry led to the official recognition of Peary’s achievement. (Today, Peary's claim to have reached the North Pole is still disputed.)

Robert Peary’s legacy would be cemented in history books from that point forward, but due to his skin color, Matthew Henson’s contributions were largely written out of the story. For a time, he struggled to find enough work to support his family. But though he may not have received all the credit he deserved during his lifetime, his feats didn’t go unrecognized. In 1937, he was made an honorary member of the prestigious Explorers Club in New York City. In 1944, he was awarded a Congressional medal, and he was honored by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower during the 1950s. Henson spent the last chapters of his life working at the U.S. Customs Bureau in New York City.

Matthew Henson died on March 9, 1955 at 88 years old. His remains were initially buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, but he's since been laid to rest alongside Robert Peary in Arlington National Cemetery.

Weather Channel Meteorologist Dave Schwartz Dies at Age 63

Kids who want to take up professional sports look up to football players and baseball legends. A person who goes into teaching had that one teacher who deeply inspired them. Children are regularly exposed to doctors and nurses and soldiers and first responders who can spark in them an interest that could grow into a lifelong passion. But when you’re deeply in love with the world around you and the sky above you, who do you look up to? For many of us young weather geeks, one of those people was The Weather Channel’s Dave Schwartz, who died on July 30 at the age of 63 after battling three bouts of cancer over the last decade.

If you’ve watched The Weather Channel at any point over the past couple of decades, you’ve heard his friendly voice at least once. Dave Schwartz was one of the few television meteorologists who mastered the talent of commanding his time on camera by having a personal conversation with tens of thousands of people at once. You weren’t Dave Schwartz’s audience. You were his friend, and he didn’t just tell you the weather; every minute he spent in front of the camera was his opportunity to personally guide you through whatever weather events lie ahead.

Schwartz started appearing regularly on The Weather Channel in 1991, quickly becoming one of the most popular meteorologists to work for the network. Bailey Rogers, a communications specialist for The Weather Channel, recently detailed Schwartz’s rise to on-camera meteorologist during the early years of the network. He began working as an assistant in the newsroom in the mid-1980s—a job he got by insisting he’d clean the bathrooms for free if that’s what it took to work there—and made his way on camera after years of persistent effort. Rogers says his ultimately successful application letter was titled “10 reasons why Dave Schwartz should be the next on-camera meteorologist for The Weather Channel.”

Shortly after NBC/Comcast bought The Weather Channel in 2008, Schwartz was one of a handful of longtime on-camera meteorologists who were laid off in a shakeup that sought to send the network in a new direction. After years of viewer feedback—including a website called “Bring Back Dave Schwartz”—the network rehired him in the spring of 2014. When I briefly met Schwartz during a visit to their Atlanta headquarters a few months after his return, The Weather Channel’s president told me that bringing him back was one of the best decisions they’d ever made.

It’s easy to see why. If you’re not familiar with Dave Schwartz, a quick search on YouTube will bring up dozens of entertaining video clips from his years at the network, including one recently when he asked viewers to send him pizza at the studio for Pi Day on March 14. Much like his colleague Jim Cantore, Schwartz’s widespread appeal was his infectious love for the weather. While Cantore is energetically nerdy—remember his pure, unfiltered joy at experiencing thundersnow six times in one night?—Schwartz’s style was more subdued and laid back, but effective just the same. Always addressing you as his friend, he could seamlessly weave forecasts, facts, and humor together to keep you informed and entertained like few others can accomplish.

Schwartz’s smooth presentation style did more than just attract viewers. He helped attract people to the field of meteorology itself. Upon news of his death, meteorologists and weather geeks flooded social media with condolences and memories of what he meant to them watching him on television and working alongside him in person. It was a common sentiment to hear that he helped spark that love of weather in someone whose passion for it is as strong as ever today. Watching him on television as a child helped me maintain my passion for weather even when other kids made fun of me for it. I partially credit him for my being a weather geek today, and so many others out there can say the same. Both the weather world and the world itself are better places today because of Dave Schwartz.

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