CLARK FOLLOWS IN DAD’S FOOTSTEPS
Following the lead his father took with “American Bandstand,” R. A. (Rac) Clark is boosting his career in the entertainment industry by showcasing America’s infatuation with popular music.
Clark, at 29 the oldest of Dick Clark’s children, is the producer of two shows that capitalize on the dreams of those who would be stars: “Puttin’ On the Hits,” the syndicated television show in which contestants lip-sync to the song of their choice, and its new Saturday-morning spin-off, “Puttin’ On the Kids.”
Sitting in his office at Dick Clark Productions in Burbank, Clark offered his explanation for the popularity of “Kids” and “Hits,” the first shows that he has produced. (They air locally at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., respectively, on KTLA Channel 5.)
“In the ‘50s, people--as with ‘American Bandstand'--liked to watch the kids dancing and listen to the records. In the ‘80s, with the advent of music videos, they want to perform. They don’t just want to listen, they want to be a part of it. So I think ‘Hits’ is like the ‘American Bandstand’ of the ‘80s,” Clark said.
“I think kids are the same way. They’re very video oriented--they’re very visual now, as opposed to just audio. So I think that will bring out the popularity in the (spin-off) show,” he said.
Designed to compete with Saturday-morning network cartoons, “Puttin’ On the Kids” features children ranging from five to 13 years old who compete for two U.S. Savings Bonds, one for $500 and one for $250, which go to each week’s winner and runner-up.
Both “Kids” and “Hits” were created by Chris Bearde, who wrote for “Laugh-In” and serves as co-executive producer with Dick Clark.
As producer, Rac Clark is in charge of choosing the acts that appear on the two shows. “My main function is to look at the acts, put them in an order in the show and make sure we have the studio set up, and the staff and the crew,” he said.
Following in his father’s footsteps definitely has paid off, Clark said, and not just because his dad put him on the payroll. “He is one of the best teachers I could ever think of. I mean, I went to school for all this, but I didn’t learn anything compared to what I learned from him,” the son said.
Born in 1957, the same year that “Bandstand” went on national television, Clark has been active in entertainment since his early teens. A founding member, and later president, of his high school’s Thespian Society, Clark attended Northwestern University as a radio/television/film major, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1978.
After graduation, he came to work in California, though he did not begin working full-time for his father’s company until 1982.
“When I first came out here, I bounced around just to see how other companies work,” Clark said. “My father said, ‘The company will always be here for you. Why don’t you see how other people work?’ So, I took that advice and ran around the city for about four or five years.”
Clark has learned an important lesson about his profession.
“It’s a business, first and foremost,” he said.
“Nowadays it’s a business, it’s the rating point. It’s how many people are watching your show, whereas in school they teach you how to be creative and how to nurture something and develop an idea. Which is part of the business, but more and more it’s coming down to dollars and cents,” he said.
Clark said he does not feel that creativity has suffered because of the “dollars and cents” aspect of the industry.
“Well, you look at something like ‘Out of Africa,’ or something like ‘L.A. Law’ or ‘Miami Vice,’ or something that has broken a boundary and you can see that you can still work within the framework of a business and still be very creative . . . you just have to learn how to work within the system,” he said.
However, for “Kids,” part of working within the system involved six-year-old girls in white tights and back lingerie shaking their hips to the rhythm of “Lucky Star"--not exactly, it could be said, an innocent, fun-loving image.
“I was concerned about that when I first started watching it (during the taping of the show),” Clark said. “Then I watched the parents, and they didn’t have any problem--they had smiles on their faces and they seemed to enjoy it, rather than go ‘Oh, my God, what is this?’
“I guess it depends on your point of view. I mean, these are kids just out there to have a good time and mimicking the people that they look up to,” he said.
Clark himself has been pleased with the contestants’ reactions.
“Most of the time when I go out and say ‘Thank you for being on the show’ after the show, all the parents and kids say ‘Thank you, we had a great time,’ ” Clark said. “That’s all I could ask for.”