Dick Clark Dies: Cue Boomer Nostalgia

My elder siblings are all much older than I, and they grew up with Dick Clark. There is a famous family story about a squabble that developed between my sister — who came home from school ready to dance to American Bandstand — and one of my brothers who probably wanted to watch cartoons. The donnybrook apparently involved black eyes and clothes being thrown out a second story bedroom window.

Good times, good times!

I’m sure my sister will be thinking about that today as she ponders the death of the world’s oldest teenager. In fact, I expect there is going to be an outpouring of boomer nostalgia to rival the break up of the Beatles or a Woodstock anniversary.

I admit, I have some issues with boomers; — who doesn’t? I’m convinced a third of them walked through the high school doors at age 14 and decided to stay there, and another third are perpetually floating through the years 1968 to 1973 like lost-and-angry satellites in space. Still, it cannot be easy to watch your generation (and mine, too, cuspily) reach its culmination and begin to die off.

Most boomers, of course, are just normal folk, living quietly in retirement, but many of their publicly-established spokespersons will never retire; they 50 years and more in our our faces, still helping to direct the narrative, the news and the noise. Botoxed into near-mummification but ever-swaggering with anti-establishment cool, they totally miss the fact that they are the establishment — the prevailing culture against which other generations must rail — and seem almost quaint, anymore.

By dint of sheer numbers, the post war Baby Boomers are still a force to be reckoned with, but their influence is ebbing. Dick Clark was a huge part of the boomer culture. This might, after all, be the day the music died. For the times, they are a-changing.

Check back — I’ll round up some reactions! (Here’s President Obama’s!

Tony Rossi
is first out the gate with a nice appreciation

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Baby-Boomer-era Catholic Sisters
are and the changing times

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Roz Smith

    It seems to me some of the worst sentimentalists among the boomers are those who were too cowardly or calculating about heir own career prospects to be political radicals and far too nerdish to engage in much sex, drugs and rock n roll. Now they conflate their recollections with what they wish they had been and cling to the two worst trends of the era- the progressive politics and worshiping the trendy and unconventional merely because the ultimate sin is still being thought a square. They can be summed up in line from a song from their youth about how false romanticized memories can be- what a fool believe he sees no wise man has the power to reason away.

  • lethargic

    Lucky boomers get to retire …

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    Hey, “What a Fool Believes” is waaaay post-Boomer—that was the 80s, Roz!

    And while I’m not happy at being generalized (every generation having had its share of bad apples, or do you really think the Greatest Generation was uniformly swell?), I have too little umbrage left from other battles today to take offense. :) So I will just share my very politically incorrect and not at all Boomerish (but fundamentally charitable, honest) response to the news of Dick Clark’s passing, which was relief. Now the poor man will no longer have to be propped up and trotted out on New (Rockin’) Year’s Eve. He can preside over sock hops in heaven, where every tune gets a 10 because it’s got a great beat and you can really dance to it.

  • Will

    We can do without all of the generation bashing. Interesting that you too are a “boomer” according to some of the classifications I have seen.

    [I say it in the piece. I'm a cuspy boomer. So what? _admin]

  • Anne

    Not a lot of the Boomers have retired. The first batch of Boomers is only (“only”) 66. And “Botoxed into near-mummification”? Really? You don’t know the Boomers I know. Your description sounds more like a Nancy Pelosi-type person, and she’s not a Boomer.

  • Thomas R

    Curiously one of the first things I thought of was the savant twins, who I found out are named Flo and Kay.


    From what I recall Clark was really sweet about their fixation and they really connected to him.

  • Elaine S.

    “Now the poor man will no longer have to be propped up and trotted out on New (Rockin’) Year’s Eve.”

    You make it sound as if he was forced to do that against his will, which I doubt very much. I presume that he appeared on the show each year by his own choice and because he felt that as long as he was alive and in one piece there was no reason why he shouldn’t continue to participate in the “Rockin’ Eve” show to the extent he was able. I applaud him for doing that — it let people know that even the “world’s oldest teenager” was not immortal, but age and disability are NOT functionally equivalent to death. You could even say it was a subtle “pro-life” message.

  • http://learnfromthewildflowers.blogspot.com Jo-Ann

    I too found this post a bit too much in the bashing department. You surprized me Liz. Most of us Boomers are still working very hard to pay off our mortgages, send our kids to college, taking care of aging parents and dealing with kids (and often those with their own kids) who can’t afford to leave the nest or who need us to babysit so they can work. Botox? Maybe for migranes, but most of us are certainly not that vain, except for some hair color. In fact many of us are also the “earth mother” generation of women who would rather age gracefully. We are not dying off yet.

    Dick Clark was an icon of our generation. He brought the music of our generation into our homes, we learned to dance watching Bandstand, and he did launch many careers. I was surprized to find out he was only a year older than my own father. As a memeber of the Greatest Generation he did so much to influence us Boomers. He was classy and taught us that you are never too old to do what you love to do.

  • twolaneflash

    Many of us you call “Boomers” never watched or cared about Dick Clark, are still gainfully employed, and all our spare time goes to family, church, and community. We served honorably in the military because you, our friends and neighbors, “selected” us. You besmirch an entire generation with the thinnest evidence based on your observation of a few old hippies, which is like smearing the present generation as being represented by the Occupy Wall Street crowd. You could just as easily found a group of “Boomers” who don’t fit your narrative of despicable people. Dick Clark does not define my generation; their names are found on a long granite wall in D.C.

  • Ellen

    This boomer can’t retire – I can’t afford to. I’m taking care of an aging father, helping out my unemployed son-in-law and generally trying to keep gas in the car and food on the table. The boomer navel gazing is the product of the press, not the boomers.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ EBL

    I do not like to speak ill of the dead, but should Dick Clark answer for this?

  • http://adriennescatholiccorner.blogspot.com/ Adrienne

    What a snotty post. To use the death of a good man to snark on “boomers” is not very nice.

  • http://thesenewtimes.com Robert

    It probably is unfair to use the death of Dick Clark to snark at boomers. He was a decent man who entertained many for decades. But as a “cusper” myself, everything Elizabeth says is true. She is clearly refering to boomers in the media, politics and academia who dominated and browbeated we younger “cuspers” at every turn. However, I was also the youngest by a decade in a family of boomers and I don’t ever recall getting in a word edgewise. All that arguing and pontificating at the kitchen table led to broken dishes that we cinderella “cuspers” had to silently sweep up. Don’t get me wrong, we still love you, but your every whim was catered to by the likes of Dick Clark, while we “cuspers” have had to get by on smaller ambitions and dimished expectations. Elizabeth is correct. You are the establishment and this is a world of your making, both good and bad. So forgive us our petty grievances, if only you would develop a thicker skin. Or as your generations great troubadour, Bob Dylan, once sang; “You shouldn’t take it so personal”.

    After all, you have a retirement to work for, while in all likelihood, we don’t. Peace!

  • dry valleys

    Boomers decided, in the 1980s, to put their short-term gains first by electing neoliberal governments that would allow them to cash in on property booms and financial speculation, all at the expense of their children and grandchildren. No mercy to them. :)

  • dry valleys

    I am a member of Generation Y myself. We are the ones who got the hangover from the old-timers’ drunken binge :)

  • Will

    Robert, Elizabeth:

    It sounds like you had issues with your older sibblings. Also, there are a lot of generalizations about retirement, Dick Clark, Bob Dylan, etc.

    I have found that, no matter how old or of what generation, we are all individuals. We have experienced different things and have varied likes and dislikes.

  • http://thesenewtimes.com Robert


    Fair enough. But it goes beyond sibling rivalry and into the overall health of the nation. I have many valued friends in the boomer generation, family included. And, of course, we are all individuals and should be accorded respect. Representatively, however, the boomers loom large – if only by sheer numbers alone. Financing their retirement is going to be a pinch on the rest of us. While it’s true that we have a variety of experiences, it’s not the same when it come to influence. When a boomer rolls over in bed, the rest of us fall out. America is a great country and we’ll get by. I just hope there’s still something called a pension when I get there!

  • Julia

    This is not a boomer thing.

    I’m 67 and dashed to a friend’s house after 7th grade class in 1957 to learn the new dances from BandStand – and to see who the regulars were dancing with. We all thought it was cool that many of the girls were still wearing their Catholic school uniforms. I was born during the War; my 5 siblings were all born years later, when my dad came home from the Pacific – they are the boomers. People make this mistake all the time.

    My era was Elvis, Bobby Darin, Chubby Checker, the Crickets, Big Bopper, Connie Francis and my first love – Fabian. They were all old-hat by the time the baby boomers came along; and Dick Clark was not the huge deal to the Boomers that he was to me and my friends.

    The Boomers were more Beatles, Rolling Stones and Cream – my era was already in college or working full time and didn’t watch TV much by that time. These acts didn’t depend much on Dick Clark – they never appeared on his show. My siblings did like to watch the Saturday Night show that Dick put on, though.

  • Julia

    BTW Look at the girls outside the theater waiting to get in to the Dick Clark Beech-Nut Show.
    That’s 1950s – not 60′s Boomers. And the theme song playing in the background is big band.
    By the 60s that sound was dead and gone.

    TCM is showing a bunch of beach movies – now that’s Boomers.
    Altho Frankie & Annette themselves were not Boomers.
    Frankie Avalon is 71 and was born before the US got into WWII.
    Annette Funicello is 69 and was born during the war.

  • SKay

    Boomers years-1956-1964. That is a pretty wide range.

    Most of the people considered as spokespersons for the boomers did not speak for those born in 1964. in fact they probably did not speak for all boomers anyway.

    Dick Clark seemed to be a very nice man. May he rest in peace.

  • http://learnfromthewildflowers.blogspot.com Jo-Ann

    Shouldn’t that be 1946-1964…now that’s a wide range. There are differences of opinion as to the age spread. Some sources say the last Boomers were born in 1961. I was born in 54 and I was caught up between the Do-op, American Graffiti type stuff (my babysitter would listen to the Wolfman on evenings when mom and dad went out) and the hard core Rock-n-Roll of the late 60′s. But I was more of a PP&M type of gal. I watched Bandstand but I also tuned into the emerging FM stations and would listen to what was then termed alternative rock (now classic Rock). In college we had the Disco wars and Saturday Night Fever. So I consider myself sort of an eclectic Boomer.

    But I still think Dick Clark was one of the icons for our generation…and he was clean cut.

  • http://www.myspace.com/peterriedesel Peter in Mpls.

    My Boomer nostalgia is being cued by the passing of Levon Helm, RIP. He has one of the great voices in American popular music.

    I’m a Boomer cusper (b. 1963) I’ve got my issues with the Boomer generation. The music of the Band is not one of them.