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November 30 is Perpetual Youth Day

Today is Perpetual Youth Day, always celebrated on November 30th in honor of Dick Clark’s birthday. 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,” instead staring into the camera 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, instead 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 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

November 4 is Use Your Common Sense Day

use common sense dayUse Your Common Sense Day celebrates the birthday of Will Rogers, who once remarked, “Common sense ain’t common.” He was a witty self-made gentleman whose homespun wisdom still resonates today. He was born William Penn Adair Rogers on November 4, 1879, in Oolagah, Cherokee Nation, now known as Oklahoma.

His official website lists him as an actor, author, humorist and pundit. He was also a genuine cowboy. If Nature combined Mark Twain and Ben Franklin with a liberal dose of Groucho Marx, then taught him how to rope a steer, the result could only be Will Rogers.

He quit school in 1902 and traveled the world with circuses and “wild west” shows, doing rope tricks. He graduated to vaudeville and the Ziegfeld Follies, becoming known for his sense of humor as much as his lasso skills. He married Betty Blake on November 25, 1908, and they had four children. Rogers went on to star in fifty silent films and twenty-one “talkies.” He also wrote 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns and was a favored guest on radio shows.

In 1926, Rogers returned from a trip to Europe, noting advances in commercial aviation there that sharply contrasted with the United State’s almost non-existent facilities. He took every opportunity to point out the safety, speed and convenience of air travel and helped sway public opinion.

In 1935, aviator Wiley Post decided to survey a possible mail-and-passenger air route from Washington State to Russia. Rogers visited Post often at the Burbank, CA airport where he was outfitting his plane with floats to land on the lakes of Alaska and Siberia. He asked Post to fly him through Alaska in search of new material for his newspaper column.

Post and Rogers left Seattle in early August, making several stops in Alaska. While Post piloted the aircraft, Rogers wrote his columns on his typewriter. On August 15, they left Fairbanks for Point Barrow. They were a few miles away when they lost their bear
ings and landed in a lagoon to ask directions. On takeoff, the engine failed at low altitude and plunged back into the lagoon, killing both men.

The nation mourned the loss of Will Rogers. He was only 55 years old.  Eighty years later, he is still quoted. Volumes of his essays and quips still appear in bookstores. There are thirteen public schools in Oklahoma named after him as is the Will Rogers World Airport. But it is the story of how a statue of Rogers came to be placed in the United States Capitol that we feel sums him up best.

Not long before his death, Oklahoma leaders asked Rogers to represent the state as one of two statues in the National Statuary Hall housed in the United States Capitol. He agreed on one condition: that the statue must be placed facing the House Chamber so he could “keep an eye on Congress.”

Unveiled on June 6, 1939, almost four years after his death, the statue of Rogers is the only one that faces the floor entrance of the House of Representatives Chamber. According to guides at the Capitol, each President rubs the left shoe of the statue for good luck before entering the House Chamber to give the State of the Union address.

That may be bunk, as he liked to say—he even ran for president on an Anti-Bunk platform. (Rallying cry:  “Our support will have to come from those who want nothing and have the assurance of getting it.”) Scoff all you want but take a closer look at his shoes. They’re shiny: buffed by the hands of many a legislator. That’s no bunk.

use common sense day

Will Rogers’ most famous quote is probably this: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Here are a few more of our favorites.

 

use your common sense rogers politicsuse common sense day rogers judgmentuse common sense day rogers laughsuse common sense day rogers shut upuse common sense day rogers diplomacyuse common sense day rogers 3 kinds

We can almost hear him chuckling now.

Happy Use Your Common Sense Day!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays

July 18 is World Listening Day

world listening day

Nice work, if you can get it.

Today is World Listening Day. It honors the birth on July 18, 1933, of Raymond Murray Schafer, the Canadian composer, teacher and environmentalist who invented the study of acoustic ecology at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University in the late 1960s.

Acoustic ecology uses field recordings to create and preserve the planet’s disappearing soundscapes while battling schizophonia, a word Schafer coined to define a unique medical condition. “We have split the sound from the maker of the sound,” Schafer explained.

“Sounds have been torn from their natural sockets and given an amplified and independent existence. Vocal sound, for instance, is no longer tied to a hole in the head but is free to issue from anywhere in the landscape.” We have a strong sensory response to this: it smells like feces and sounds like tenure.

The first World Soundscape Project was born from Schafer’s annoyance at the noise pollution he felt was ruining beautiful Vancouver.  It has evolved into a serious course of study. This business of listening seems to rely on a whole lot of talking.

The World Listening Project (WLP) was created in 2008 as a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to understanding societies, cultures and environments by listening and preserving audio. Finally, someone has found a way to achieve tax-exempt status for recording a garage band or just the sound a garage makes.

WLP and the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology (MSE), under the auspices of the American Society for Acoustic Ecology (ASAE), created World Listening Day in 2010. Why? Per its site:

Cities’ sonic identities are continually fluctuating as residential and commercial infrastructures develop. The resultant social dynamics of industrialization and gentrification sponsor variegated relationships between people and the public and private places they occupy.

“…sponsor variegated relationships”? It looks like a thesaurus bled out all over an SAT. We get it: change sucks. Why can’t everything be like yesterday? If only we had a way to preserve it forever, like on DVD, but without the pesky visuals.

The theme of World Listening Day 2016 is “Sounds Lost and Found.” Per the organizers:

[W]e invite you to dig into crates of vinyl and cassettes, dive into digital archives, and engage deeply with memories and unheard languages to rediscover or identify these “lost sounds.”

While we agree that listening is an essential and underappreciated art, we don’t understand the need to starve other senses like sight to do it; we aren’t sure we can engage deeply with an unheard language. But maybe we weren’t listening closely enough. Would you mind repeating it?

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays