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Return of the King - January 4

I’m not going to pretend that I am not a serious homebody. I’m also not going to pretend that I can’t throw a serious party either. But as far back as I or anyone else can remember for that matter, a big part of New Year’s festivities was watching the ball drop from Times Square at 11:59p every December 31.

Sure there’s the First Night Raleigh acorn on TV as well, but I’d rather see a crystal ball than a bronzed nut any day, but I digress. I grew up on Times Square. I grew up on the ball on the pole at One Times Square. And I grew up on the one man I could count on to be there to officiate the ball dropping on the pole at One Times Square, Dick Clark.

That’s why I was both relieved and saddened at the sight on this particular New Year’s Eve, when Dick returned to his perch after being forced to the bench due to a stroke. I’m not going to say that 2005 really sucked because Dick Clark wasn’t there to ring it in... but I will say that I did have issue with the circumstances, as if something wasn’t quite right with the fabric of the universe.

I’m also not going to pretend that a stroke—be it caused by a deep vein embolus or a classic cerebrovascular accident—isn’t a serious deal. I’ve been around patients for three years, and I personally believe that three hours in my profession is enough to understand what the body goes through during a stroke. It’s an uphill climb to even begin to live a normal life, to walk and talk even in a way that is just congruent with early childhood. And some people aren’t that lucky to even make the climb.

That’s why, after what happened in 2004, I was relieved to see Dick at the ready to usher in 2006, watching the ball drop and taking time to kiss his long-time wife Kari at midnight, things that he’s always been able to do before he was forced to watch the festivities on TV. I mean, it’s always good to see the legends in action. Ours was the kind that welcomed Regis back when he hosted “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” a gig he wanted to go to Bill Cullen, save for the whole being dead thing. Ours was the kind that cheered on as Tom Kennedy, Jack Narz, and Monty Hall were honored by the Game Show Congress for their legendary contributions to the genre and to society. Ours was the kind that continues to relish in every broadcast of “The Price Is Right” where Bob Barker is still the master of MCs. We love seeing our heroes doing their thing. Of course, we also love seeing them pass the torch to people they handpick to carry on for them when they shuffle off this mortal coil, as Dick rang in 2006 with his heir apparent Ryan Seacrest (see OTB: “Scion”), so that the next generation can be at least familiarized with their work.

Which brings me to why I was saddened to see what I saw New Year’s Eve. As much as we would love to see Dick Clark doing what he loves to do every day for the rest of our lives, he is 76 years old, and America’s Oldest Teenager is beginning to show his true age. Anyone who denies this is lying to themselves. And while we all hope for the best, and certainly showing up on ABC is certainly a big step in those who believe in hope for stroke victims taking back their lives (and God bless each and every one of them for doing so), in the back of my mind, I have to think that he has to be coming to grips with his own mortality somehow. As I heard at the Congress over the summer, “We have so many people to honor, and not a lot of time to do it.”

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that when we needed the erstwhile “Pyramid” host to help out party out 2005, he was there. Just like he said he would be. Leanne Hendrix, a former Miss Arizona who suffered a stroke three years ago at 26, said that a stroke is not aesthetically pleasing so far as medical survival is concerned. “So for [Dick Clark] to get up on national TV and say ‘This is what I am now’—I have nothing but respect for him.”

Amen, sister.

Chico Alexander rang in 2006 with his family, in hopes that this year wouldn’t be as bad as the last... 2005 really did bite the big one. E-mail him at


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