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The show goes on for Mr. New Year's Eve

A year after a stroke kept him from ringing in 2005 before our eyes, Dick Clark returns for a striking and touching appearance on camera.

By wire services
Published January 2, 2006

NEW YORK - There was more to celebrate than the ball dropping in Times Square for Dick Clark - the 76-year-old personality who's been ringing in the new year for decades made his first television appearance since a stroke in late 2004.

Clark, sitting behind a desk, sounded hoarse in an appearance that was alternately exultant, bittersweet and deeply touching because he was at times hard to understand. But he said, "I wouldn't have missed this for the world."

"Last year I had a stroke," he explained. "It left me in bad shape. I had to teach myself how to walk and talk again. It's been a long, hard fight. My speech is not perfect, but I'm getting there."

After his Dec. 6, 2004, stroke, Clark had to sit out New Year's Rockin' Eve last year for the first time since starting it in 1972. Regis Philbin was his emergency sub.

This year, Philbin was back, this time for Fox. Carson Daly was host of an NBC party. News anchor Anderson Cooper was amid revelers for CNN, and Stuart Scott was on ESPN2. Kanye West was the featured guest at MTV's soiree.

But with Mariah Carey crooning for Clark, New Year's Rockin' Eve figured to be the dominant TV party of the night.

Still, it was Ryan Seacrest, the American Idol host chosen by ABC and Clark's production company to keep the show alive when Clark steps down, who opened the show with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He introduced Clark.

Clark had declined interviews and television appearances as he rehabilitated, and his spokesman said the former American Bandstand host viewed New Year's as his personal coming-out party. Tabloid pictures of Clark using a cane or wheelchair led to questions about whether he was up to it.

He remained seated during New Year's Rockin' Eve , his right hand resting on the desk and his left arm by his side. Clark counted down the seconds until the ball dropped. He stayed at his desk past 1 a.m. as the crowds thinned out.

"I've had a wonderful time tonight," he said. "There's nothing like being in Times Square on New Year's Eve, and believe me, this is one night I will never, ever forget."

It was the Dick Clark way. For his whole career - through Woodstock and punk and heavy metal and Madonna - Clark has maintained a DJ's sense of punctuality and unflappability and on-with-the-show-ism. And for that reason, his stroke - which cost him his timing, as well as his impeccable television elocution - seemed especially sad.

In the end, he wasn't quite able to usher in the new year joyfully. But Mr. New Year's Eve knows the holiday inside and out, and this year, even as he talked up Hilary Duff and Mariah Carey, Clark managed to bring to the proceedings a sense of elegy and auld lang syne - the good old times.

--Information from the Associated Press and New York Times was used in this report.

[Last modified January 2, 2006, 12:36:17]

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