Dick Clark Makes New Year's Return

01/02/2006 at 08:00 AM EST

Dick Clark Makes New Year's Return
New Year's Eve was a coming out party for TV legend Dick Clark. ABC's New Year's Rockin' Eve, which Clark has been producing and hosting since 1972, marked the 76-year-old's first TV appearance since he was felled by a stroke in late 2004 that caused him to miss last year's show.

So, Saturday night, there was an immobile Clark, positioned behind a desk with Times Square behind him, sounding hoarse and sometimes indecipherable, but as he insisted, "I wouldn't have missed this for the world."

"Last year I had a stroke," he explained on the air. "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."

Clark, who declined all interviews last year while he underwent rehabilitation, remained seated all through New Year's Rockin' Eve, his right hand resting on the desk and his left arm by his side. Kept off-camera for most of the show, Clark did count down the seconds until the ball dropped, and he remained at his desk past 1 a.m. as the crowds thinned out.

"I've had a wonderful time tonight," he said, according to the Associated Press. "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."

Helping with the evening's emcee chores, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest opened New Year's Rockin' Eve with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and introduced Clark. Mariah Carey also sang on the program.

Reviewing the show, Monday's New York Times says that Clark, long known as "the world's oldest teenager," now is just old, and his appearance on Saturday's televised festivities – occasionally "comical" but more often "touching" – was the equivalent of an elderly, maudlin relation at a family gathering who talks about how glad he is to be there.

Moving forward, ABC and Clark's production company have set the wheels in motion for the New Year's staple to keep going, even when Clark can no longer do it. Seacrest reportedly has been signed as his successor.

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