Dick Clark’s first day at WFIL was May 13, 1952; Bobbi Mallery was to graduate from college in early June. The couple decided to get married in Salisbury, Md., on June 28.
While Bobbi worked out the wedding details, including buying her own wedding ring, Clark took up residence in a $1.65 a day room at the downtown Philadelphia YMCA, just a few blocks from the WFIL radio studios in the Widener Building. It was also down the street from a Horn & Hardart automat, where Clark would take most of his meals for the six weeks before his marriage.
Following their marriage, Clark and Bobbi moved into a $35 a month apartment in suburban Drexel Hills. Clark spent much of his professional career in the first six months doing station breaks, commercials and newscasts with an occasional role in a local drama program.
As summer 1952 wound down, WFIL consolidated its radio and television operations into the recently expanded studios at 46th and Market Streets. Clark was also rewarded with his first radio program, Dick Clark’s Caravan of Music, which aired from 1:45 to 6 p.m. beginning in August 1952.
Clark supplemented his radio income by doing commercials on WFIL-TV.
“They would post a thing in the announcers’ lounge saying we’re looking for someone to do a beer commercial. Show up at 3 o’clock.’ And we’d show up at 3 o’clock and do it,” said Bill Webber, adding that everybody on staff had to memorize their lines — except Clark.
Putting Elmer [a small tape recorder] to work, Clark was hard to top in the auditions.
“Three minutes after he got a piece of copy, he was ready to do the spot,” Webber said. “He did that for years.”
Shelly Gross found the situation to be frustrating.
“I used to have to audition against him,” Gross recalled. “While I was trying to remember the words, he was repeating them. … I never lost an ad-lib audition until Dick Clark came along. He was the golden boy.”
If there was a downside to Clark’s early career arc, it was the same thing that would earn him adulation years later — he just looked too young.
John Butterworth, an engineer at WFIL-TV, said Clark “was very, very, very frustrated” by his youthful appearance. “He used to come back very downhearted and dejected because the clients all said the same thing: ‘He’s too young, he’s too young, he’s too young.’”
It’s possible that Clark’s youthful appearance may have kept him from an early move to his dream city, New York City.
One of Clark’s more lucrative accounts was with New York City’s Schaefer Beer, one of the nation’s oldest breweries. Besides doing Schaefer commercials in Philadelphia, Clark commuted each week to New York City where he did Schaefer commercials for a wrestling telecast ... until owner Rudy Schaefer caught Clark on air one night.
Stunned by Clark’s youthful appearance, Schaefer ordered that Clark be replaced since he obviously didn’t look old enough to be drinking beer.
Excerpted from Bandstandland © 2014 Larry Lehmer