LOS ANGELES - As a kid, Ryan Seacrest idolized Dick Clark. As an adult, he modeled his career after the entertainment giant and helped him carry on with his annual New Year's Eve celebration after a stroke took its toll.
He called the 82-year-old mogul who died Wednesday "one of the greatest influences in my life."
Now Seacrest - uncannily in the Dick Clark mold - is left to carry on the youthful vitality and innovative spirit that Clark used so effectively to meld music and media.
And the 37-year-old is well on his way. Following Clark's playbook, Seacrest started as a radio host before expanding to TV and eventually producing. He's the voice of his nationally syndicated morning radio show and the international program "American Top 40." He's the face of "American Idol" and E! News. He's the producer behind "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and its associated spinoffs, along with many other shows, including "Food Revolution" and "Shahs of Sunset." He's on the red carpet at the Grammys and Golden Globes. He'll be an Olympic correspondent for NBC and has hinted that he could take on a role at the "Today" show.
"Sometimes when I go home and turn on the hot water faucet, I think he's going to come out. He's everywhere," said longtime Hollywood publicist Michael Levine. "In the short term it can provide some annoyance, but in long term just adds to his iconic stature."
Clark parlayed his early radio dreams into a nearly four-decade run of "American Bandstand." He invested in the artists he promoted there and went on to produce hit shows like "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes" and the American Music Awards.
Seacrest enjoys a similar omnipresence, said veteran Hollywood publicist David Brokaw.
"He's becoming a 21st century Dick Clark," Brokaw said. "`American Idol' is a show for everyone," and that provides Seacrest a similar platform to what Clark had with "American Bandstand."
Seacrest paid tribute to his mentor on "American Idol" on Wednesday, saying, "Without Dick, a show like this would not exist."
"He will be missed greatly," Seacrest said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. I know he's in a better place, saying, `Let's get on with the show.' You got it, boss."
Among Seacrest's other entertainment ventures: A $300 million partnership with broadcasting giant Clear Channel to acquire and develop new media companies.
"We aim to build Ryan Seacrest Media into a leading multimedia company with diversified assets and interests," he said when the partnership was announced earlier this year. "The entertainment industry is thriving with innovation more than ever before."
It's also far more fragmented than ever before. Clark came up in the era before countless cable channels and the World Wide Web. Now the entertainment audience is everywhere.
"Obviously there's not the same sense of shared community today," Levine said. "But a person like Ryan can create a ubiquity and a presence on many, many platforms that would mirror what Dick Clark did."
"This presupposes that he won't have any scandals and will remain hungry," he added.
Seacrest shares other attributes with Clark that contribute to his success, Brokaw said. He's likable, he's got a "cherubic boyish charm and enthusiasm" that makes him feel like a friend and he has a hand in various entertainment entities.
"Anybody that's in this business that has any kind of high-end talent or emerging talent, you somehow crossed paths with Dick Clark, and Ryan Seacrest is the same way," Brokaw said.
And, like Clark, Seacrest is a star maker.
"Who would the Kardashians be without Ryan Seacrest?" Brokaw asked. "He's creating careers on the basis of what he does."
Clark's clean-cut and ever-youthful image appealed to people of all ages and helped make rock `n' roll palatable to a generation of parents, just as Seacrest now does with today's stars.
Clark "was smart, charming, funny and always a true gentleman," Seacrest said Wednesday. "I learned a great deal from him, and I'll always be indebted to him for his faith and support of me. He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world."
Now Seacrest hopes to do the same.