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Dick Clark Hands Off The Big Ball Drop

Regis Philbin to Host 'Rockin' Eve'

By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2004; Page C01

New Year's Eve will be televised without Dick Clark for the first time in 33 years.

The TV icon, who is in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering a stroke last week, will not host ABC's annual "New Year's Rockin' Eve" orgy of retro-ness. Regis Philbin will fill in for him.

Clark remains hospitalized a week after suffering a stroke. (Jennifer Graylock - AP)

In a statement issued yesterday by his publicist, the 75-year-old Clark is quoted as saying: "It'll feel strange watching it on TV but my doctors felt it was too soon.

"I'm sure Regis will do a great job and I'm thankful that he was able to step in on such short notice."

Last Wednesday, two days after Clark's stroke, the publicist put out a statement in which Clark said that his doctors told him he would be able to go back to work in time to do the show.

In April, Clark announced he had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the '90s. He said he was going public with his condition to let people know that the disease puts them at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

His publicist, Paul Shefrin, has declined to discuss details of Clark's condition, the Associated Press reports, except to say that "things get a little better every day" and that "his brain is 100 percent. His brain is not an issue at all."

ABC -- which last week, when asked if it had backup plans, said it hoped Clark would recover quickly -- yesterday issued a statement assuring the American public that the network has not wavered from its position re Clark recovering speedily. It added that it is willing to commit, on the record, to being "thrilled" that Philbin has agreed "to fill in at the last moment to help give [Clark] the time to make that happen."

Clark, best known for churning out pop stars on "American Bandstand," the longest-running dance and music show on television, also produces game shows and trophy shows, including "The Golden Globe Awards."

He has been a fixture for the past 32 years anchoring "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" from New York. One year, in 1999, ABC called the program something else, because everyone was Y2K-crazed, and ABC News was put in charge, with Peter Jennings in the anchor chair. But even that year Clark played a role, checking in from Times Square.

Yesterday, in a statement released by Shefrin, Philbin called the gig "the greatest 'temp job' in the world," adding, "I look forward to his return next year."

At least one paper had speculated that ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel would fill in for Clark. But Clark's New Year's Eve show averages about 20 million viewers, while Kimmel snags only about 1.7 million. Philbin, on the other hand, used to rake in about 20 million on ABC's prime-time lineup during the glory days of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

In one of those bits of bad timing, NBC announced yesterday that Philbin would co-host the contestant reunion portion of Thursday's season finale of its reality series "The Apprentice," appearing with "The Trumpster," as NBC has taken to calling show star Donald Trump.

Anyone who watched the live reunion portion of the show's first edition would understand why the network has added a co-host. But, in the news release, NBC let it be the Trumpster's idea:

"Regis Philbin has been one of my closest friends for more than 20 years," Trump is quoted as saying. "He is a legend in the business and I personally invited him to join me in hosting 'The Apprentice' three-hour finale. . . . It will be great to incorporate his expertise at hosting live events and I know we are also going to have fun together."

"Me and the Trumpster, what a team," added Philbin.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company