Monday, February 15, 2016

Dick Clark

Dick Clark was the Oprah Winfrey of his time—or, more accurately, of my time. If Dick Clark sold it, I bought it or asked my parents to buy it.

I was trying a new shampoo this morning when I remembered my long-ago loyalty to Pink Pamper shampoo. As a teen-ager it was my go-to brand. Why? Dick Clark. I believe he also advertised Tame cream rinse, the product I applied to my hair after the Pink Pamper shampoo.

Clark hosted two television shows, “American Bandstand” and “Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show.” In the days before commercials were big productions offered as entertainment, Clark was a spokesman for his sponsors. The spots were simple; he held a product, looked into the camera for the sales pitch, and talked right to me. I’m sure of it!

The title of Dick’s Saturday night show was a huge clue to my hoarding of Beechnut Spearmint chewing gum. We were supposed to save the green wrappers and send them in once we accumulated a certain number. I don’t remember why, just that I kept mine in a paper sack on top of the bookcase in my room. In order to collect a sack full of gum wrappers, I chewed Beechnut Spearmint exclusively and often, despite the oft-repeated advice of my high school French teacher:

“The only difference between a girl chewing gum and a cow chewing its cud is the thoughtful expression on the face of the cow.”

Dick hawked another product I knew I needed the minute I saw the commercial. “When you learn to talk with your eyes,” Dick said, “it’s time to curl your lashes with Kurlash.” Of course it was. I bought not only the eyelash curler but also its companion piece, Twissors, used for grooming one’s eyebrows. One end was a tweezer and the other, scissor-like handles that were pink to match those on the Kurlash. The eyelash curler is long gone, but I still have my Twissors!

I loved Dick Clark and his TV shows. As a girl I used to write letters to him, pouring my heart out about which Bandstand regulars and songs I liked. One day my mom and I stopped at the Glen Ferris Post Office on our way to some appointment. In the mail was a postcard for me from Dick Clark! His signature was at the bottom. I was ecstatic. It’s all I could talk about. After that I wrote more letters to Dick and collected more postcards, each with a different message. The fact that they were mass-produced did not occur to me once.

I met Dick Clark at a car show in downtown Cincinnati in the mid ‘80s and got his autograph on a piece of paper I was sure I put in my jacket pocket. When I looked for it later, it was gone.