Saturday, January 01, 2011

Dick Clark & The Rainman Twins

Dick Clark ushers in another year to the delight of autistic twin savants worldwide

Watching the 81-year-old post-stroke Dick Clark soldier on through last night's "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve" celebration in Times Square (co-hosted since 2005 with Ryan Seacrest, who's been patiently waiting in the wings until the time Clark - who had a stroke in 2004 - finally gives up the ghost), made Amy and me recall the ageless American Bandstand host's biggest fans - ones who like him also suffer from a disability: Flo and Kay Lyman. They're sometimes called "The Rainman Twins," because, like Dustin Hoffman's character in Barry Levinson's 1988 film Rain Man, these autistic identical twin savants from New Jersey also have an incredible talent that belies their otherwise developmentally challenged lives: an amazingly complex memory that enables them to catalog historical dates, pop music, and everything involving their favorite celebrity, Dick Clark. Experts have estimated that there are only 100 savants living today possessing "genius" ability in some specialized field; Flo and Kay are the only identical twin sisters among them.

Flo and Kay: The Rainman Twins

We learned about Flo and Kay after watching a 2008 TLC documentary directed by Dave Wagner called Beyond Ordinary: Twin Savants, that was originally an episode of the UK television series Extraordinary People called The Rainman Twins. I was channel surfing and when I came across the sisters, their savant abilities reminded me of a former co-worker who could never mention a film without automatically spitting out the year it was made, its director, and the studio that produced it; he would actually be in agony if you named a film he couldn't identify in this manner or got the particulars wrong about - something I attributed to being just another OCD- or Asperberger Syndrome-afflicted member of my ill-chosen profession. But I could see how important this routine was to him; it was a comfort zone, much like what the rigidity of habit is to savants - a control mechanism that enables them to get through each day.

Starting in 1973, they never missed an episode of The 100,000 Pyramid and memorized every outfit Clark and the contestants wore on the show, as well as the types of buzzers and how many times they went off, from the first episode ("March 26, 1973" as they automatically note) until the last in 1996. When the gameshow was canceled in 1996, the two sisters went through a personal crisis ("We prayed for it to come on,” says Flo. “And our mother always used to say, ‘Your prayers are always answered.’ But this time it doesn’t work"), but that was nothing compared to the one they went through when Dick Clark suffered a stroke in 2004. They actually got to meet their idol before and after his stroke and have maintained a friendship with him for over 25 years. Calling him the father figure they never had growing up, they even made plans to be buried with all their Dick Clark memorabilia. These gals make me think of Patty and Selma with their McGyver obsession on The Simpsons - except Flo and Kay's obsessions are real.

But their eyes for detail aren't limited to just Dick Clark. They've also kept files on Pat Sajak, Alex Trebek, and broadcaster Dave Wagner. According to the UK's Mirror ("We Love Documentary: Extraordinary People," 7/23/2008),
"Even in the world of autistic savants, Flo and Kay Lyman are unique. They're the only identical twins to have this extraordinary condition that, as one expert puts it, makes them part-retarded and part-genius...Flo and Kay don't forget anything that has ever happened to them. 'We've got a microchip in our brain,' is how they describe it.

They can tell you what they ate on a certain day, what the weather was like, and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every song they've heard or read on an album cover."

In fact, among their many special talents is the ability to compute the day of the week for any date – past or future. In other words, the twins are a human computer - a walking and talking (not-just-Dick Clark-obsessed) Google search engine. Just one that requires a lot of help with almost every other aspect of life that doesn't interest them, especially social skills and personal care. As doctors have observed, despite Flo and Kay’s outgoing natures, they still possess the signature signs of autism: minimal eye contact, poorly modulated voices, and an inability to engage in conversation.

I don't think their documentary is available for purchase and it doesn't look like it'll show up on TV anytime soon, so following are some clips I found on (where else?) YouTube.

Watch "The Rainman Twins, Part 1 of 6."

Watch "The Rainman Twins, Part 2 of 6."

Watch "The Rainman Twins, Part 3 of 6."

Watch "The Rainmen Twins, Part 4 of 6."

Watch "The Rainman Twins, Part 5 of 6."

Watch "The Rainman Twins, Part 6 of 6."

Now 53 and still living with their brother and sister-in-law in New Jersey, I'm sure Flo and Kay stayed up late last night to watch Dick Clark count down the New Year (and probably were even a little jealous when he kissed his wife at Midnight).

And, sign of the times, Flo and Kay even have a Facebook page: Fans of Flo and Kay Lyman. I wonder if Dick Clark is one of their 359 friends?


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11:53 PM  
Blogger Tilly Mint said...

It was on tonight, amazing program and amazing people.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the show a few months ago, just flipping channels. I was amazed! I just saw that D. Clark passed away today. I hope the twins will be OK.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I saw Dick Clark died, the Lyman twins were the first thing that popped into my head. Hope they can handle his death.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen the show many times and am always fascinated by their savant abilities. I, too, thought of them first when I heard of Dick Clark's death. I truly hope they will be ok.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As did I, I really hope they can get through this.
R.I.P. Dick Clark

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the few here who posted when they learned about DC's passing, these twins came to mind. Wishing DC's family and the twins all the best.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought of Flo and Kay also and remember how much they loved Dick Clark, as a lot of us did. I will really miss him a lot. :(

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too thought of the ladies, I feel they must be heartbroken. I hope they can stay strong through this..dick clark meant the world to us all..but to flo and kay..he WAS their world and they love him so much, he was their father figure. Big prayers not only for the clark family, but for flo and kay too!!

9:53 PM  
Blogger anonymous said...

I immediately thought of Flo and Kay when I heard of Dick Clark's death. I hope they are ok.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see I am not the only one who thought of Flo and Kay today due to Dick Clark passing.I hope they are receiving support during this.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As soon as I saw the news about Dick Clark's death, I thought of Flo and Kay! I hope they're all right. I wish I could send them a sympathy card or something!

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor girls, I know this will be so difficult for them. Dick Clark wad a kind, good man.

10:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My thought's are with you girl's!!!! I hope you can get past your loss and just remeber the good times.

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How the twins loved that man. Hope they can somehow understand his death...RIP Dick!

10:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I too, thought of these two women when I heart of Clark's passing. I have a feeling they'll cope quite well, but will experience some sadness. They knew he was ill and he'll likely live in in their imaginations. Interesting how MANY of us thought first of them, and not Dick's family! He was a part of Americana, and kids in the 50s held him up as the guy who first asked them: 'Can you dance to it?"

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughters and I have this documentary saved on our DVR and we watch it all the time! Flo and Kay are just precious and I pray they are okay! It makes me so happy to know others are concerned about them too. May God Bless Them!

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this site. Everytime I watch the special I find something new about Flo and Kay. They came through the death of their sister, and this will be another change in their ordered world. I hope we will see a follow-up on thses two extraordinary women in the future.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Desde las Islas Canarias, España, un abrazo a las gemelas y DEP Dick Clark.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kaye and Flo are doing well after Dick Clarks death. They spend their days with my family and doing well. Mr Wagner will be coming up in June to do a follow up documentary on their life.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Linda Ann Jones said...

I thought of the twins,too. I would love to know how they are doing and I hope they have support through the death of Dick Clark.

11:39 AM  
Blogger alyn918 said...

I looked for your article and enjoyed it but was shacked with your comment about Ryan Seacrest "patientlly waiting in the wings til Dick Clark gives up the ghost." What a low class comment about a man who has more class and dignity than most television personalities-and thepeople who write about them. It was tacky. Very tacky.

3:33 PM  
Blogger alyn918 said...

oh yea, forgot to say the "accelerated decrepitude" was an addition to your tackiness. c'mon, rememberyou are speaking to a large audience, and many are insulted to read those comments.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

The documentary is available on Amazon Prime Video! Just watched it.

11:13 AM  

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