November 30 is Perpetual Youth Day

Today is Perpetual Youth Day, always celebrated on November 30th in honor of Dick Clark’s birthday. Although he’d been born in 1929, Clark appeared to age very little during the five decades of his career, earning him the nickname of “America’s oldest teenager.”

In 1957, Clark hosted a local Philadelphia television show called Bandstand, which he pitched to ABC as cheap, easy afternoon programming that would appeal to youth. The network, perennially in third place, was desperate to capture that demographic. On August 5, 1957, American Bandstand premiered to a national audience. It was an instant hit.perpetual youth day

Clark hosted the show for thirty years, giving many bands their first U.S. TV appearances. Among the diverse artists he introduced to American audiences were Aretha Franklin, Madonna, The Doors, Stevie Wonder, Sonny and Cher, Ike and Tina Turner, Neil Diamond, The Guess Who, Barry Manilow, Adam and the Ants, Kim Carnes, Blondie, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Grace Jones, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Prince.

The clean-cut, “square” host sometimes made music history. According to American Bandstand Timeline, on August 6, 1960:

When scheduled guest Hank Ballard and the Midnighters fail to show up to perform their hit R&B song “The Twist,” Clark convinces friend Chubby Checker to go into the studio quickly and cut a soundalike version in half an hour. Demonstrating the dance on TV, Chubby gets an instant #1 hit and sets off the nationwide “dance craze” that would last the better part of two years.

On January 6, 1979:

Dick Clark develops a series of moves for the audience to perform while the Village People’s new song is debuted on Bandstand. The group goes along with the idea, and the “YMCA” dance is born.

Not every appearance was destined to become a classic. All guests on American Bandstand were required to “mime” their songs. It was fairly obvious from the lack of wires and amplifiers onstage that bands were simply going through the motions.

In late 1967, Pink Floyd’s frontman Syd Barrett refused to lip-sync “Arnold Layne,” staring into the camera instead with a look that would later come to represent his descent into madness. The group canceled its first U.S. tour.

The Talking Heads debuted on American television on March 17, 1979, singing “Take Me to the River” and “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel.” Although they were reportedly unhappy about having to mime, American Bandstand was an opportunity too good to refuse.

First, Clark apologized for pronouncing Tina Weymouth’s name incorrectly, then launched into an interview of David Byrne, who looked embarrassed and gave monosyllabic replies. Clark then turned back to Tina and asked, “Is he always this enthusiastic?” She replied, “I guess he’s organically shy.” It didn’t get any better. One imagines everyone was praying for the next commercial break.

Public Image Ltd. appeared on the show on May 3, 1980. Here’s how lead singer John Lydon, formerly known as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, described the experience in his autobiography, Anger is An Energy.

It all got off on the wrong foot when we arrived and they suddenly informed us that it would be a mimed thing. Our equipment hadn’t arrived in time, apparently, but we soon got even more upset when they said, ‘Oh no, you couldn’t play it live anyway, just mime to the record.’

They’d made up some edited versions of “Poptones” and “Careering,” and gave us a cassette to check it out beforehand. ‘Oh my God, they’ve cut it down to that? I don’t know where the vocals are going to drop. What are we supposed to do?’ None of us knew. Just thinking about trying to sing it like the record was…aarghh! You can fake it with an instrument but you can’t as the singer. ‘Okay, so you’ve cut out the point and purpose, it’s like removing the chorus from the National Anthem, just because it makes for an allotted time slot on a TV show. That’s arse-backways!’

Lydon solved the problem by barely making an effort to lip-sync the first song. He pushed people around in the audience, pulling some onto the stage as they squealed and clutched at him as if he were a rude, sullen Beatle.

Between songs, Clark attempted to be a good sport, inviting the rest of the audience onstage. On “Careering,” Lydon abandoned any pretense of miming the words and began wandering around the stage, giving his mic away and snorting nasal spray on-camera. Needless to say, the band was not invited back.

American Bandstand was not Dick Clark’s only claim to fame. In 1959, he hosted a forty-nine-day road show called Caravan of Stars that traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada and featured Bo Diddley, Bobby Darin, Buddy Holly, Annette Funicello and Chuck Berry, backed by a seventeen-piece orchestra.

He hosted the Dick Clark Show (1958-60) and Where the Action Is (1965-67), produced and/or hosted TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes (on-and-off, in one form or other, from 1984-2012) and guest-starred on Perry Mason in 1966, Adam-12 in 1972, and appeared twice as himself in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994, 1996) and once on Dharma & Greg (2002). He also owned several restaurant chains and had the dubious distinction of being questioned by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine about refusing to pay food workers a living wage.

perpetual youth day

He founded dick clark productions (dcp) in 1957, now the world’s largest owner and producer of events such as Academy of Country Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Golden Globe Awards and Miss America and weekly programs such as So You Think You Can Dance. dcp also owns a large archive spanning more than fifty-five years of award-winning shows, specials, performances and historical programs.

Dick Clark hosted New Year’s Rockin’ Eve from January 1, 1974, through January 1, 2004. Clark suffered a stroke on December 8, 2004, and Regis Philbin stepped in as guest host. Despite initial reports that the stroke had been minor, it resulted in dysarthria, a disorder which affects the muscles that help produce speech, making it very difficult to pronounce words. It doesn’t interfere with cognitive understanding of language but can lead to impairment of intelligibility and audibility of basic vocal communication.

The stroke also caused partial paralysis and Clark had to learn to walk and talk again. It was assumed his career as a broadcaster was over. But he was back to ring in 2006 with Ryan Seacrest, whom he’d chosen as his successor. Some found it uncomfortable and even depressing to watch Clark struggle to make himself understood.  Others, particularly those who’d had a stroke and spent hours every day fighting to regain speech and movement, cheered him on, hailing him as an inspiration.

perpetual youth day

Though his role had dwindled to figurehead status, Dick Clark never missed the rebranded Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest and helped the nation usher in 2012 before his death on April 18th of that year, caused by a massive heart attack during prostate surgery.

Perhaps Perpetual Youth Day is a misnomer given its dedication to a man who has shuffled off this mortal coil. But maybe it’s the perfect way to describe a person who introduced generations of kids to rock’n’roll while setting parents at ease. If a nice young(ish) man like Dick Clark thought it was okay to give airtime to Run DMC (Jam Master Jammin’), Prince (I Wanna Be Your Lover), Dokken (Just Got Lucky), Jefferson Airplane (White Rabbit), The Doors (Light My Fire) and Psychedelic Furs (Heaven), then it had to be okay, right?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

 

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 by the U.N. Foundation in partnership with 92Y, and is always observed on the first Tuesday of December. Following on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, symbols of excessive retail spending, Giving Tuesday encourages us to show generosity to those in need.

giving tuesday

The campaign’s creators hoped that 50 nonprofit organizations would respond by using the hashtag #GivingTuesday in their online appeals. According to Asha Curran, director of the 92Y’s Center for Innovation and Social Impact and a founding member of #GivingTuesday, “We were asking a question: Is there an appetite for something like #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday, but about giving?”

The answer was a resounding yes. Over 2,500 nonprofits took part that first year. By 2014, the number of participants had expanded to include nearly 35,000 charities, civic groups, celebrities, and for-profit companies in 68 countries. In 2016, more than 6,700 nonprofit organizations participated in Giving Tuesday. The average online donation was $128, totaling $47.7 million, according to the Blackbaud Institute’s annual Charitable Giving Report.

Curran describes the event as a movement which includes many actions beyond donating money. In Watertown, NY, for example, residents have been encouraged to donate hours to help neighbors without vehicles get to medical appointments, grocery stores and other critical locations.

Kathy Calvin, CEO of the U.N. Foundation and #GivingTuesday co-founder, attributes the event’s success to its function as a collaboration between nonprofit organizations. “It’s controlled by nobody, owned by everybody,” she says. “We’re working together to raise awareness. This includes logos, sample press releases, social media toolkits. Anything we could think of.”

Critics say the day encourages charities to send emails with the sole purpose of making a cash grab in December when 30 percent of all charitable giving would occur anyway due to the holiday season and end-of-year tax incentives, according to Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index.

Proponents point out that people who donate their time, services or money today are likely to remain involved throughout the year. Everyone is encouraged to give to groups that have impacted their lives and to share their experiences and inspirations at #MyGivingStory.

During the hectic holiday season, it’s easy to forget the value of how we spend our time, money and effort. Giving Tuesday reminds us that we can choose to spend today giving back or paying forward while saving others (and ourselves) in the process.  That’s a bargain too good to pass up.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 24 is D.B. Cooper Day

DB Cooper DayOn November 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as Dan Cooper boarded a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. He was wearing a suit, had no discernable accent, drank bourbon and soda and smoked several cigarettes. He also handed a flight attendant an exceedingly polite note informing her he had a bomb and intended to hijack the plane.

He then held the passengers and crew hostage while he negotiated with the FBI, demanding $200,000 in $20 bills and four parachutes. Upon landing, the ransom and parachutes were delivered and Cooper released the passengers. Three pilots and a flight attendant stayed onboard and took off from Seattle with instructions for all to stay in the cockpit and to maintain low airspeed and an altitude of 10,000 feet.

About 45 minutes after takeoff, a light went on in the cockpit to indicate that the rear stairs had been lowered. When the plane landed with the stairs down, the FBI found two parachutes and, on Cooper’s seat, a black clip-on tie. It was assumed Cooper had jumped. We call it an assumption only because the mystery surrounding what followed calls everything into question.

Cooper was never found, in spite of intense searches by ground and air. For all anyone knew, he might’ve tossed out the money, dropped the chutes and fallen into the talons of a giant bird of prey. None of the money has been spent. (It was marked.) In 1980, three bundles of bills totaling $5,800 were discovered under a couple inches of sand on the Columbia River. The serial numbers matched those on the ransom money.

To this day, theories abound but no other confirmed evidence exists. Would “Dan Cooper” be annoyed or amused that, after police interviewed a man named D.B. Cooper in the early days of the investigation, the press and public have misidentified him ever since?

Over time, the unanswered questions about this case have obscured the fact that the man was a hijacker, turning him into something of a folk hero. The legend of the well-spoken man who robbed the government and vanished into thin air fires the imagination. Is he sipping mai-tais on a beach somewhere? Is he drinking a coffee next to us in a diner?

New people are introduced to the story every year. A popular theory that the series Mad Men would end with Don Draper becoming D.B. Cooper turned out to be completely wrong but only added to the myth’s allure. Will we ever find out what really happened? Probably not; but we’ll always have the legend of (Dan) D.B. Cooper.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

 

Black Friday

black fridayToday is called Black Friday because it’s said to be the day that retailers can finally mark their ledgers with black ink instead of red; that is, they begin to turn a profit.

Black Friday suffers from mission creep: it starts earlier every year. While you’d think that having a particular day in the name would hem it in a bit, you’d be wrong. It used to begin at the open of business on Friday morning. Men and women would shake off their food hangovers, don sweatpants with stretchy waistbands, and join the scrum of fellow bargain hunters.

Stores began opening at midnight—still technically Friday—and shoppers left their families after Thanksgiving dinner to line up and get the best deals. Then they started to open on Thursday afternoon, if they’d ever closed at all. (Pity the poor retail employee who must try to referee an actual prize fight.)

Television commercials trumpet “Black Friday Week” and we’re bombarded with emails telling us “Black Friday is here!” a week in advance. While we understand the sale refers to a quirk of accounting, could we at least call the other days something else? Purple Wednesday has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays