This New Year’s Eve will be just like any other for Kathy and Louie Novoa, except without their dear friend Dick Clark, who passed away in April.
The pair met on American Bandstand and have since taken part in every one of his New Year’s Rockin’ Eves since they began on the Queen Mary in 1972.
“To be there from the very first one he did and to still be a part of it, I think, wow, I can’t believe it,” Louie tells PEOPLE. “I still have the original invitation to the very first one.”
As for being a part of Rockin’ Eve for the first time since Clark’s death, Kathy says, “It’s very sad and heartbreaking to know he started this tradition and was so important in so many homes. Everybody watches Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve. It’s very hard [with him gone], but it’s also great knowing that it’s still going on. That’s what he would want.”
Now officially a couple for 36 years, Louie says that starting the New Year with a kiss is his favorite tradition on the show, which kicks off at 8 p.m. ET/PT this year on ABC.
“Kathy and I started doing it, and right after that, Dick’s wife Kari [Wigton] goes, ‘Why don’t we follow up with that?’ ” he says. “It became a tradition. We had a lot of clips of that. That’s what we’re going to miss. We always looked forward to that.”
The happy pair, who declined to provide their age, would only joke about it.
“People ask us, ‘How old are you? You don’t look that old,’ ” Louie explained with a chuckle. “I say, ‘We’ve been around for a while. We are [old].’ We really are. You can tell on the dance floor. We’re out there dancing with the kids. We call them kids because we try to blend in with them. We still have it though.”
Although Louie says they miss Clark “every day,” he is a big fan of his replacement, Ryan Seacrest.
“He’s incredible,” he says. “He’s awesome. He does a great job and he has the same personality as Dick Clark. He gets along with everybody.”