December 30, 2005

Dick Clark set for New Year’s homecoming

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A year after he was sidelined by a
stroke, veteran TV host Dick Clark returns on Saturday night to
the annual New Year's eve broadcast he launched in 1972, but it
remains unclear whether his Times Square homecoming will end up
being a swan song.

Clark, 76, has remained out of the public eye since falling
ill in December 2004 though a recently published photo showed
the once seemingly ageless host of "American Bandstand" looking
haggard and frail.

Questions about the level of his participation in
Saturday's 34th edition of a "New Year's Rockin' Eve" were
heightened with the disclosure that a publicity photo for the
show was a composite, blending a two-year-old image of Clark
into a current shot of co-hosts Ryan Seacrest and Hilary Duff.

Seacrest, 31, host of Fox television's hit talent show
"American Idol," recently signed a multi-year deal to co-host
the New Year's show on ABC with Clark this year and eventually
take over the annual telecast. Duff will anchor segments of the
show from Hollywood.

A spokesman said Clark will be in the studio for the entire
live 90-minute show, which runs from 11:35 p.m. to 1:05 a.m.
EST, including the countdown to midnight and the descent of a
giant illuminated ball over Times Square. And he plans to share
roughly equal screen time with Seacrest.

"They'll do roughly the same amount of stuff during that
hour and a half," Clark's publicist Paul Shefrin told Reuters
on Friday in a phone interview from New York.

Shefrin acknowledged the stroke had left Clark's speech
somewhat impaired, but said he was fully able to carry his
weight in the broadcast.

"The man can talk," Shefrin said. "It's not 100 percent
perfect. He's still working on it becoming more perfect, but
he's certainly capable of doing the show. Otherwise he wouldn't
be here. There's no facial contortion. There never was any
facial contortion."

Asked about the possibility that Saturday's broadcast might
turn out to be Clark's last TV appearance, Shefrin said "It
could be, but that is not something that he has uttered."

As for the composite publicity photo, in which a healthy,
smiling Clark appears to be standing beside Duff and Seacrest,
Shefrin said it was "photo-shopped, like 90 percent of the
photos distributed by the industry everywhere."

"It's a composite photo because Dick opted not to do a
photo session he's done before," Shefrin said. "It's only
because of the health situation that this has become a cause

ABC spokeswoman Pat Preblick defended the use of the
altered photo, saying, "This is a common practice across the
industry." Several news organizations voiced concern the photo
was released without a disclaimer that it was a composite.

Clark, who presided over more than three decades of pop
music and dance trends as host of "American Bandstand," has
reigned supreme on ABC at the end of every year since eclipsing
Guy Lombardo's long-running New Year's countdown on CBS in the

Seeing a chance to make ratings inroads this year against
ABC, Fox recruited as its New Year's host the man who filled in
last year for Clark -- Regis Philbin, 74, of the syndicated
morning show "Live with Regis and Kelly."

Former MTV personality Carson Daly, 32, will host a New
Year's special on NBC.