The singer was 17 when she first appeared on American Bandstand

By Steve Helling
April 22, 2012 02:15 PM

When Dick Clark died last week at age 82, several stars shared personal memories of the man called “America’s Oldest Teenager.”

In the 1980s, Clark worked closely with the then-teenaged Debbie Gibson, asking her to appear on American Bandstand multiple times, and even having her host the American Music Awards in 1989. And after Gibson’s teen pop star days were over, Clark remained close to Gibson, tapping her to co-host Dick Clark’s American Bandstand 50th Anniversary Collection in 2007.

In an exclusive to PEOPLE, Gibson recalls her bond with Clark.

“The first time I met him was on a flight at the very beginning of my career. I turned to my mom and said, ‘Oh, my God. It’s Dick Clark.’ Maybe it’s because I was young – I think I was 16 – but I decided to go over and say hi to him. It’s not like he would know who I was; I’d just be this random person coming up to him. But he couldn’t have been more gracious. It turned out that he knew my music. I couldn’t believe it!”

“I first did American Bandstand at 17, and it was very nerve-wracking. Doing [the show] was a major career turning point in my career. Mr. Clark knew this and came to my dressing room beforehand to put me at ease. He was so approachable and warm.”

“There are a lot sleazy people in this business, and as a young girl, I had to learn pretty quickly how to identify them. I remember sitting with him at a piano, and he sat down next to me and just started talking. It was a very intimate moment, but it wasn’t creepy at all. He was always a gentleman.”

“I was more excited to do Bandstand than to do MTV! I knew what a big deal it was, and how much it meant to my career to be on his show. It was a sign that I had arrived when I was on Bandstand. It was really a jumping off point, to join his list of legends. He gave me his stamp of approval, which really helped my career in a big way.”

“The biggest lesson I learned from him was how to juggle multiple projects. He was very busy, but he was a voice of calm, an example on how you could balance a career and family. I will always be grateful for that.”