What I Learned From the Master
His protégé shares five key teachings.
This past week, I mentioned frequently that Dick Clark was an enormous influence in my life. I really don't know how to aptly express my affection and admiration for this man. But I'll try.
When I was a kid, I would study his ease and comfort in front of the camera on American Bandstand. He made it look so easy! It was only later that I learned just how hard it is to be in front of the camera and to maintain your cool. Even after my nearly 15 years on TV, I still marvel at Dick's skill and flair and find it beyond surreal to be even mentioned in the same sentence as him the past few days. I don't know if I'll ever be as good as he was, but I will definitely try. All I do know right now is that I am still striving to be "Dick Clark cool."
After we met in 2003, and when I joined the New Year's Eve show a few years later, we had countless conversations about how to deliver to audiences what they want, producing and the power of great storytelling. Here are a few things I remember from our talks about how to make your way successfully in the broadcast business:
Not surprisingly, my mom was a Dick Clark fan, too. Sure, he was known for his boyish looks, but he was also a true gentleman -- always, without exception. He opened doors for ladies. He sent cards and gifts and other kind mementos to his family, friends, colleagues and fans. But most of all, he always said, "Thank you." He once told me, "Little things really do matter." And those two small words definitely do.
People Are Just People
Dick was wonderful at making people feel at ease, and he did so by treating every person he met as a friend. He didn't discriminate and was not discerning with his kindness. He made everyone feel as if they were the only one in the room. On air, I try to give my undivided attention to whomever I am talking to. Because when you do, you know what? They respond. They truly deliver genuine emotion or a relatable story. It sounds simple, but it works.
Look Beyond The Camera
Dick was an amazing broadcaster. But he decided early on that he wanted to be in the business and not just a face in front of the camera. He passed this advice on to me, and I haven't looked back. I love being a radio and TV host. But I also love being part of the business in a meaningful way, as it gives you more choices. Being a producer has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. And I will never forget being a producer alongside Dick -- that was a dream come true.
Build A Great Team
Dick was a shrewd businessman, but he was a terrific boss. Many of the people who worked with him did so for more than 30 years. Like every great producer, he pushed us all to be better all the time, every day in fact, and he didn't always sugarcoat his directives. But he also was funny and generous along the way and rewarded those around him. I try to do the same.
Refuse To Be A Quitter
Dick faced some enormous challenges after his stroke. And despite facing public criticism for fighting through those challenges on-air, he refused to quit what he loved doing most. I admired this fighting spirit, and I think many others did, too. In the end, he was a real inspiration to so many people. If only more of us remembered the strength and grace generated from sticking to your guns. I hope I will have the courage to always stick to mine.