Rich Heldenfels

New Year’s Eve lost some of its luster in April.

Dick Clark, the music and TV mogul and frequent personality, died then, ending more than half a century in television. Part of his video legacy is Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, a late-night mainstay since the 1970s, with Clark long the host and the show even adding a prime-time component.

After he suffered a stroke in 2004, Clark missed that year’s telecast; he returned in 2005 but with a reduced role — and Ryan Seacrest as the de facto host. In 2008, the show was renamed Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest. That will still be the name again this year, and Clark will be part of the programming.

At 8 p.m. Monday, ABC will present the two-hour special New Year’s Rockin’ Eve Celebrates Dick Clark, which promises to revisit “through clips and reminiscences, the legendary television personality and producer who rang in the New Year for four decades and launched and nurtured the careers of countless artists.” It will be followed at 10 p.m. by an hour of Dick Clark’s Primetime New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest, then a break for local news before New Year’s Rocking Eve at 11:30 p.m. rolls on until 2:12 a.m. Tuesday.

Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Flo Rida, Pitbull, OneRepublic and Neon Trees are among the scheduled performers, but I will be thinking about Clark. I am of the generation that remembers when New Year’s Eve was Lombardo on CBS and Ben Grauer announcing from Times Square on The Tonight Show — and what a change it was when Clark began putting rock and contemporary pop on that night, even if some of it had been recorded long before the ball dropped. I am also among those who admired Clark’s indomitable determination to come back to Rockin’ Eve after his stroke — that, as I said after his 2005 return, his presence was a reminder to people that a stroke may slow you down, but it doesn’t necessarily stop you. And even if he had trouble speaking, you could see the enthusiasm in Clark’s eyes. I checked in with him in every following year, and I will visit the tribute special on Monday — if only for a last goodbye.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and including the HeldenFiles Online blog, He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or