Dick Clark

Profiles of Aphasia: Dick Clark

It doesn’t feel quite like New Year’s Eve without Dick Clark. The host of American Bandstand also threw the biggest televised New Year’s Eve party every year in Times Square, introducing those watching in New York or at home to popular musical acts that year.

A stroke in 2004 slowed him down, and aphasia robbed him of his ability to fluidly sign off his broadcasts with his signature, “For now, Dick Clark — so long!” But he still returned to host New Year’s Eve from 2005 until his death in 2012.

We’ve been profiling well-known people with aphasia, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gabby Giffords.

Everything Changed in 2004

Dick Clark experienced his stroke a few weeks before his big New Year’s Eve event. When he woke up on December 6th, his right side was paralyzed.

He was able to speak and tell his wife how he felt. She got him to the hospital where he remained for several weeks. Afterward, he moved on to physical rehabilitation and speech therapy.

Stroke Survivors Grateful

Many stroke survivors were grateful for Dick Clark’s attitude that the show had to go on. He didn’t let aphasia keep him from returning to his New Year’s Eve event at the end of 2005. Clark’s appearance created awareness for aphasia in the general public. USAToday characterized his return performance:

His words were muffled, but he kept a quick pace and was, for the most part, easy to understand during his brief appearances sprinkled through the telecast. At midnight, he counted down the seconds as the ball dropped, then kissed his wife, Kari, sitting next to him at his desk.

The negative backlash Clark received by those who didn’t understand aphasia or stroke angered people who looked up to Clark. Most were happy to see him back in the hosting chair.

The negative comments deeply angered Karl Guerra of Annapolis, Md., who has been recovering from a stroke for the last five years. For the first three years, he spent 10 hours a day working on his speech. He called Clark’s recovery so far “remarkable.”

“Let’s face it, there are certain aspects of a stroke that make people feel uncomfortable, and one of those is speech,” Guerra said in a telephone interview. “But he’s doing a great job as far as I can tell. For me, he epitomizes the ‘Go out there and make it happen’ spirit.”

That spirit kept him going, remaining in the public eye until his death in 2012. While he is missed on the airwaves, his willingness to put his stroke front-and-center won him many fans.

Image: Alan Light via Flickr via Creative Commons license

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