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An ABC publicity photo promoting their annual depressing-party-in-a-box, New Year's Rockin' Eve, is causing controversy for having Photoshopped in a smiling, fully upright, pre-stroke Dick Clark next to co-hosts Hilary Duff and Ryan Seacrest:

[T]he image of the 76-year-old Clark was taken before his December 2004 stroke and superimposed onto a recently taken picture of Duff and Seacrest.

The "Photoshopping" spurred rumors that the ageless celebrity hasn't recovered from the stroke and may be unable to properly perform his annual year-end duties on Saturday night, New Year's Eve.

A spokesman for Clark and ABC bosses denied those rumors yesterday. [...]

"There's no secret," [longtime Clark publicist Paul Shefrin] said. "This sort of thing is done all the time in publicity photos. It's just that Dick didn't sit for a new photo shoot, so they used an older photo.

"Look, when you're shown a picture of King Kong, there really is no King Kong but that doesn't stop people from running a photo of him with Naomi Watts."

With that, Shefrin breaks the publicist's golden rule of never saying too much. Had he quit while he was ahead, we very well may have bought his scheduling conflict story. But he just had to throw in the Kong thing, and suddenly, it dawned on us: Your children, and your children's children, will grow up with Dick Clark. It may take the world's top genetic scientists and animatronic engineers working together, around the clock, with nothing more than a salvaged ear in a bell jar, but make no mistake, Clark will be with us forever, counting back from ten to infinite.