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With a career that ran from American Bandstand to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, Clark had a diverse portfolio (hello, Krispy Kreme!) worth hundreds of millions. On the eve of his death, he still was investing.
Child Capitalist: As a child in Mount Vernon, N.Y., he published a local newspaper for 2 cents an issue, shined one shoe for 3 cents (or two for a nickel) and staged backyard carnivals using items from his family’s and neighbors’ trash as prizes. In high school, he was voted “Most Likely to Sell the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Rockefeller of Rock: Clark owned interests in 33 record labels, pressing plants, distributors and 120-plus songs, including The Crests‘ “Sixteen Candles,” plus the company that made Platter Puss, a cat with a toy 45 RPM record inside. Says Clark, “My tentacles went in every direction.”
King of Pop: Ousted from the music-investing biz, Clark invested in other things, including Dr Pepper, which sponsored some of his shows. He made a commercial urging fans to chill Dr Pepper in summer and boil it with lemon and drink it steaming in winter. “A hot idea!” Clark said.
Moviemaker: Clark produced 1968’s Psych-Out, starring Jack Nicholson as a hippie rock star named Stoney, and John Carpenter’s 1979 TV movie Elvis, starring Kurt Russell. “Elvis’ manager, Col. Parker, tried to force him to cast Sylvester Stallone, but Dick refused,” says Elvis expert Alanna Nash. “That took balls. The colonel was very [mob] connected.”
Selling High: In 2002, he sold control of Dick Clark Productions for $140 million. In 2007, it was sold again to Dan Snyder’s Red Zone for $175 million. Clark invested in a chain of American Bandstand Grills and a Branson, Mo., theater. “He said, ‘Look, I don’t get the applause, the only way I measure my success is by dollar bills,” says Michael Uslan, who co-wrote Dick Clark’s The First 25 Years of Rock & Roll.
Bandstand Hero: Clean-cut Clark got the job hosting Philadelphia’s teen dance show when its previous host was investigated for statutory rape. By 1958, Clark said, “I was making a killing [$50,000], racing around trying to get all the money I could.” The show went national in 1957 and lasted till 1989.
Swan Song: A payola scandal in 1959 forced him to divest his half of Swan Records and others. “You got no payola,” said a congressman, “but you got an awful lot of royal-a” — like his 23,900 percent profit on Jamie Records. Clark called the divestment a “pistol-to-your-head decision” that lost him an estimated $5 million to $10 million.
TV Entrepreneur: When 1960s shows Shindig and Hullabaloo! ended Bandstand’s monopoly on pop, Clark retaliated with 1965-66’s Where the Action Is, which made stars of tricorner-hat-wearing rockers Paul Revere & the Raiders. In 1973, his American Music Awards challenged the Grammys.
Superhost: Clark became the only person in history to host simultaneous shows on all three networks — ABC’s The $20,000 Pyramid (originally The $10,000 Pyramid), NBC’s TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes and CBS’ Live Wednesday — plus a syndicated show, Salute.
Last Big Deals: “He owned the franchise for Krispy Kreme in England,” says Revere. “When I saw him six weeks ago, he said he’d just sold it. It was a lot of money. He was always ahead of the curve. It had to be a smart, safe investment before he would stick a dollar of his own money in. He was working on some new ideas for TV shows. I mean, he never stopped.”
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