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Point or Counterpoint: A New Year's Mistake? - January 6

(Jason Block)
Now I know one of the biggest stories at the end of 2005 was the return of Dick Clark to television on New Year's Eve.

As most of you know, Clark suffered a stroke after announcing to the world he had diabetes. One of his last public appearances before the stroke was at Game Show Congress 3 in 2004.

Most people in the news including stroke victims have lauded Clark for his courage to come out and perform a year after the stroke. But was it courageous?

The highest profile stroke victim before this to come out after he had a stroke was Kirk Douglas. He had a stroke in 1995, and has done three films since. He wrote a book called "My Stroke of Luck". But Kirk Douglas will never be the same as he was before the stroke.

But I think a lot of people are not willing to admit the truth about what happened this past weekend. I was at a party and we turned on "New Year's Rockin' Eve" and we were shocked.

Dick Clark looked horrible and sounded worse.

This was the one thing I didn't want to do. I wanted to remember the man who has entertained us for over 50 years. This was a pale shell of his former self.

I pitied him. This was like rubbernecking at a car accident.

So to all the people who called it courageous, think about what you saw? Is this how you want to remember Dick Clark? Do you want to remember him as the man who was the American Icon of American Bandstand, Pyramid, et al?

Or do you want to remember him as a man who should have passed the torch gracefully to Ryan Seacrest and kept his work up behind the scenes?

You make the call.

(Gordon Pepper)
Usually, I’m the guy that would pour Haterade all over a situation. So with that in mind, this is a very, very weird position for me to take, as I am probably the only person on staff who not only wasn’t saddened, but who actually enjoyed and appreciated what I witnessed on New Year’s Eve as Dick Clark took the podium for his annual celebration.

As we all know, this was the first appearance on national television by Clark since a stroke felled him in 2004. He missed that year’s celebration which upset many a game show person – myself included. Thousands of people gathered to see what form that Dick Clark was going to show up in. As to what they saw? Well, some people saw a man who looked every bit of the age of 76 who thought was embarrassing himself by showing up on television. Some people saw the fall and/or disillusionment of an icon.

What did I see? I saw one incredible performance by an amazing individual that compelled me to watch the show for as long as he was on the air. Then again, I traditionally see things differently, and my background for this past year allowed me to see this show in a much different perspective.

Earlier on this year, my dad contracted Bell’s Palsy. Now Bell’s Palsy is a treatable condition and my father (fortunately) is completely over it, but one of the effects of the condition is to literally have half of your face frozen in place (think Jack Nicholson’s character in Batman). Needless to say, this is socially debilitating enough for a loved one to have to deal with this on a daily basis for months. Now imagine if your face looked like the cheese on a pizza that was caught in a tornado. Would you go out to eat? Movies? Grocery Store? You are guaranteed to have people at the very least stare at you. My dad wanted nothing to do with that, and fortunately, since my mom and myself were both within driving distance, we carted food and anything else that he needed over to him. I would most likely think that almost all of you would have the exact same reaction that my dad did.

Now take that condition and add to it the fact that you have to relearn how to talk. You have to relearn how to move – and you may not completely be able to do all of that. Most people can’t completely recover from a stroke at the age of 35. This is a 76 year old man we are talking about. Most of you guys don’t want to go out on the street if you are having a bad hair day. Try going out every day for more than a year knowing that people will stare at you because you look weird and you can’t walk or talk properly.

Now try doing this in front of 10 million people.

Try doing this in an industry where the most important thing is what you can visually ascertain on your television set – and I am guessing that Clark wouldn’t be able to come within 5,000 yards of a studio if it wasn’t his company that was producing this. And yes, we all know the camera was purposely held back so we didn’t have to see his body shaking or his mouth quiver as he tried to speak. But it wasn’t about that. It wasn’t about looking good. It was about having the guts to say, ‘Yes, I had a stroke. Yes, I am not back to 100%. But I will show you all that it won’t stop me from what I want to do and if you put your mind to it, it won’t stop you either.’ He was the poster boy for everyone who has had that sort of debilitating disease and he showed you that life doesn’t end. This is the man that I idolized being like when I was a kid, and the moments when he counted the ball down to 2006 confirmed to me that the time I spent Idolizing this great man did not go to waste.

On December 31, 2005, in an age where image is everything, one man defied it all and reversed the trend, showing all of us that despite all of the pretty people that we watch on television, we as humanity still like to see the triumph of the human spirit, regardless of what form it takes. On December 31, 2006, I will be watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve Bash, and if Dick is hosting it, I will be watching it for every minute and realizing what an honor it is to be watching this sort of person work his magic one more time.

To Mr. Clark, I wish you nothing but the best for you in 2006.

Jason Block is Gordon's favorite mistake. E-mail him at jb_regis@verizon.net. Gordon Pepper is Jason's favorite mistake. Email him at gordon@gameshownewsnet.com.

 

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