Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011
Let me take a moment to break away from our wonderful topics—CHOCOLATE and CHOCLATIQUE—and talk about the loss of a friend and one of the stalwarts of the entertainment and music industries.
I first met Dick Clark when I was hanging out at the old ABC Television Studios on Prospect and Talmage on the fringe of Hollywood. That was before the days of high security, pass codes and pictured identification cards. I was around so often that someone finally offered me a job in the art department and very soon thereafter became an art director. Art directors are those guys and gals who design the scenery and sets for television show and movies. I was only in my late teens, (lied about my age; pushing 17 up to 26), but thankfully I had enough talent to convince people I knew what I was doing.
One of the shows I was to work on was American Bandstand. It’s kind of funny looking back today; I was just about the same age as the dancers on the show. I got to know Mr. Clark as each week I tried to design something a little bit better which seemed to impress him. Now, this was no easy feat. In the mid-60’s the budget for a show like this was only in the hundreds and you had to really stretch a dollar to get any production values at all.
The one thing I did learn about Mr. Clark was that he was one of the kindest men on the lot. He always took the time to talk to everyone on the set. He was very protective of the young unpaid kids who danced on the show, and was always showcasing new talent. I was there on Stage A for the first TV appearance of Sonny and Cher (I Got You, Babe), Chubby (The Twist) Checkers and many others.
One afternoon our director, Hal Galley, became ill with food poisoning (no, I didn’t do it). There were no other directors on the lot. Mr. Clark came over to me and asked if I would fill in for Hal. At the moment, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Mr. Clark took me aside to assure me that I had been in the control booth long enough that he was sure I could handle a 30-minute show. Let the truth be known we had such a well-oiled group of professionals who had worked on the show for several years that no one could have failed at the task.
My first words were, “Cue the music!” and as I heard that famous theme score start, I began calling the shots. What a thrill to be asked by Dick Clark himself to fill in as a director. At the commercial breaks, Mr. Clark rushed up the stairs to compliment me on a job well done. I finished out the week for Hal and then went back to my normal duties of designing sets for Day in Court, Queen for a Day and Shivaree.
Several years later I got a call from Dick who asked me to draw some sketches for a new sitcom he was pitching. It was to be a comedy based on the life of a cave man that started out with a brute hitting his wife with a club and dragging her back to the cave. This was to be a kind of non-animated (totally polically incorrect) take-off on the Flintstones. Thankfully, nothing ever came of it.
I left the entertainment industry to open the first of many restaurants and later Choclatique. Over the years, Dick would be a guest at one of them. He always remembered me as “the kid” he gave the first shot to direct and I will always remember him as one of the the most generous gentlemen in Hollywood. So long, Dick, and rest in peace.