Farewell, Dick Clark (updated with commentary from photographer Doug Menuez)

In memory of entertainment-industry legend Dick Clark, who passed away today at the age of 82. He wasn’t just “America’s oldest teenager”—he was one of a kind.

Doug Menuez photographed Clark in 2000. Here, he shares his recollections of that day, along with some of the resulting photos…

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Dick Clark. Photo © Doug Menuez.

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Back in 2000, veteran creative director Jeff Griffith asked me to do Dick Clark’s portrait for his Atomic magazine interview. We showed up with my longtime stylist extraordinaire, Juliette Smith, at Mr. Clark’s Santa Monica Boulevard headquarters early one morning and were put in a waiting room so stuffed full of rock & roll  history and memorabilia that we couldn’t speak. Our eyes were bugging out of our heads as we tweaked on one sacred relic after another, the iconography of the religion of rock: an early Chuck Berry guitar; Little Richard’s first 45 rpm of “Long Tall Sally”; signed kit from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, you name it. Plus, original jukeboxes stuffed with old records, posters, letters, clothing—just about everything that Dick Clark could gather to tell the story of American music and his own role in helping launch rock & roll through his seminal show American Bandstand. The collection continued down all the halls and throughout the bunker-like offices. 
 
Juliette was hustled off to ready Mr. Clark. Eventually, we were led into an office where the man himself finally appeared, all business, brisk and  serious. “Where do you want me?” he asked gruffly, then sat down on the leather sofa ad flashed a completely forced showbiz grin and said, “Ready. Shoot now.”
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Photo © Doug Menuez.

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I was momentarily off balance. Usually, I try to talk and bond a little, gain trust, and work with my subjects. But every once in a while, you get a tough nut who is absolutely in control, and this time I knew I was in for a tough shoot. I did as told and shot a few frames of the most insincere smile I’d seen in years, which was totally amazing to me, as it was so old school—classic Hollywood. At the same time, I had tremendous respect for the man. Among many accomplishments, this was the guy who practically singlehandedly integrated television through American Bandstand, bringing African American teens to dance and interact with white American teens together for the first time on TV. 
 
Here was a total pro who’d been through it a million times. You could tell he hated to be photographed but understand the importance of image. So I swallowed my pride, and I did my best to throw out a few comments about his history and draw his interest and open him up. He started to soften a fraction. I ventured,  “Hey, that smile is great. Let’s just get a quiet moment here. Just take a breath, and look right at the camera.” “What do you mean?” he demanded, alarmed. “Well, I got a smile. Let’s try a more serious shot.” He glowered at me and spat, “Dick Clark doesn’t do serious.” 
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Photo © Doug Menuez.

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Well, I let that pass and gamely kept trying to grab in-between shots while Jeff did his best to connect with and distract him. I think it was at the end of our session, which felt like 10 minutes, that I brought up the amazing historic collection and asked if he could walk us through the hallway. There I made one frame where you see the old passion, the sheer joy of the rock & roll pioneer, proud of the world he helped build. —Doug Menuez
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Photo © Doug Menuez.

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