Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Dick Drops the Ball

By Devin D. O'Leary

JANUARY 4, 1999:  For the 27th year in a row, the Oldest Living Teenager, Dick Clark, will be in our homes for New Year's. Clark will host his perennial "New Year's Rockin' Eve" special from the heart of Times Square. As usual, he'll appear occasionally on a rooftop overlooking Manhattan wearing an expensive cashmere overcoat, introduce a random assortment of musical acts and help us count down to the final year of the millennium.

This year's show will feature brief musical performances by Backstreet Boys, Barenaked Ladies, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Chicago, Monica and Fastball. Co-hosts D.L. Hughley and Elise Neal (apparently, the stars of ABC's mid-line ratings success "The Hughleys") will be on hand to introduce the acts from Harrah's Las Vegas Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas. Looks like Dick's up on the roof all by himself this year.

Following the usual "Countdown to Midnight," the famous lighted ball will drop down a pole to the roof of the Times Square Building and signal the end of the year that was. A little word of warning, though: For almost 100 years, the ball was operated by three guys with ropes; but ever since the thing was computerized in 1996, it's had trouble getting to the bottom of the pole on time. So, if you're flipping on the TV just for the countdown, pay attention to the people screaming in the street and not to the stupid sphere.

Aside from the estimated 500,000 folks squished into Times Square, many millions more will be tuning in, nationwide, to share their drunken revelry with Mr. Clark.

There's something both comforting and frightening about Dick Clark. For more than 30 years, Americans grew up seeing Clark's grinning mug every week on "American Bandstand." Since Clark quit the dance show in 1989 (the show only lasted six months more with new host David Hirsch), he's been much less visible. Still, we have the occasional "World's Funniest Bloopers" outings to look forward to. Behind the cameras, Clark produces several TV series (such as "The Donny & Marie Show") and bankrolls a number of high-profile TV awards specials (like "The Golden Globes"). He also owns a chain of retro celebrity diners (Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill) and a company that plans corporate meetings and trade shows. Plans for global domination can't be far behind.

Then, of course, there's the issue of Clark's eternal youth. For decades, people have speculated on the creepy "Dorian Gray" nature of Clark's fame. In recent years, he's added a tiny crow's foot or two, but nothing to accurately reflect his 69 years of walking the Earth. Although plastic surgery, cloning and robotics have all been advanced as possible theories, I'm just waiting for next New Year's Eve when Clark announces the fact that he's actually the Son of Satan and does his Countdown to the Apocalypse.

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