January 1, 2006

New York celebrates New Year and Dick Clark’s return

By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Huge crowds braved tight security and
cold, rainy weather to usher in New Year's on Sunday in
celebrations at New York's Times Square marked by the return of
veteran television host Dick Clark.

Clark, battling back from a stroke that forced him to miss
last year's show, returned to his longtime perch as host of his
live "New Year's Rockin' Eve" show, which he started in 1972.

"It's real good to be back with you again this year,"
Clark, 76, once known for his perpetually youthful appearance,
said in a halting, slightly hoarse voice as he came on the ABC
program about 11:35 p.m.

"Last year I had a stroke. It left me in bad shape. I had
to teach myself how to walk and talk all over again. It was a
long hard fight. My speech is not perfect but I'm getting
there," said Clark.

He added after the giant crystal ball dropped at the stroke
of midnight to usher in 2006: "There's nothing like being in
Times Square on New Year's Eve. Believe me, this is one night I
will never, ever forget."

Clark, who rose to fame as host of the long-running
"American Bandstand" show, had been out of the public eye since
falling ill in December 2004.

Police had said they expected about 1 million people to
attend the 101st New Year's celebration in Times Square.
Revelers came from across the United States and began arriving
on Saturday morning to stake out prime spots so they could
watch ball lowered at midnight to ring in the new year.

Entertainers Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey performed.

Security was a main concern amid the festive atmosphere,
although Mayor Michael Bloomberg had said there were no
specific threats against the city.

Police officers led bomb-sniffing dogs throughout the party
zone, while biochemical hazard teams and decontamination
centers were on standby in case of attack. A mobile laboratory
was on hand to test the air for suspicious substances.

Metal detectors were used to check the revelers and large
bags and backpacks were banned from the area. Snipers were
deployed on rooftops, while helicopters circled the area and
police patrolled the city's waterways on boats.

The celebrants had to endure temperatures in the mid-30s F
(1-2 C), as well as rain and wet snow.


Bloomberg was among those welcoming back Clark.

"It just would not be New Year's Eve without Dick Clark,"
Bloomberg said on the ABC program moments before Clark's
introduction. "I know I speak for all New Yorkers and all
Americans -- Dick, we love you.

"We're here for Dick Clark," Roger Travis, visiting with
his daughter and son-in-law from Manchester, England, told
local media. "We love him and we think this could be his last."

For others, there was just no other place to mark the end
of 2005 and the start of 2006.

"This is the best place to be," said Challey Masters, 18,
of Raleigh, Illinois, who came with members of a softball team
and claimed a spot at 10 a.m. "It's one big party."

U.S. President George W. Bush planned to have a New Year's
Eve dinner of steak and tamales at his Crawford, Texas, ranch
with his wife, Laura, and her mother.

Asked whether early bird Bush would stay up until midnight
to greet 2006, White House spokesman Trent Duffy replied,
"We'll find out tomorrow."

(Additional reporting by Christine Kearney in New York,
Steve Gorman in Los Angeles Tabassum Zakaria in Crawford,