(SNN) Dick Van Dyke has just celebrated his 90th birthday. I have two personal Dick Van Dyke stories, both as true as I can remember them.
I was attending a play I was to review many years ago. The theater had a partly enclosed courtyard nearby and that is where the patrons gathered at intermission to stretch legs and refresh. Being a Hollywood premiere, there were a number of celebrities in attendance, including Van Dyke. I was going up to say hello when an uninvited guest demanded his attention first.
Taking full advantage of the courtyard’s unguarded entrance to the street, and no doubt in search of a handout, the dirty and fragrant interloper just walked right up to Mr. Van Dyke and stared at him with hopeful eyes. Most celebs would move away quickly, dismiss the uninvited one, or called for security to have him removed. Not Van Dyke. He reached over and patted the stranger’s head affectionately and gave him an hors d’ouvre from his own plate.
I said, “That’s Horrible,” and Van Dyke gave me a quizzical look as the stranger departed without a word, looking for another soft touch.
In an instant, I realized someone I idolized thought I’d insulted him for his act of kindness. Not true. I’m a huge fan. I have seen every episode of the eponymous masterpiece of a TV series he starred in—most of them multiple times.
Fellow fans of The Dick Van Dyke Show may realize my comment was not an insult but a reference to an episode entitled “The Ugliest Dog in the World.” The story line was Rob had found an ugly stray mutt for a sketch on The Allen Brady Show. After the show he realized no one wanted the dog they’d nicknamed “Horrible.” The happy ending was the dog gets groomed, the beast becomes a beauty and finds a happy home.
I had to straighten this out, preferably without sounding like Chris Farley with Paul McCartney on SNL asking, “Remember when you were with the Beatles?” I stammered like a deranged hyperfan, before spitting out that the dog he’d just fed reminded me of the “Horrible” episode of his old show;. Fortunately Van Dyke remembered, smiled and said something like “You had me going for a moment.”
The second story involves another indication of the kind, classy man Van Dyke has been throughout his career. A favorite relative of mine, my Aunt Mary, was visiting and I brought her to the premiere of “Will Rogers Follies.” I had my customary critic’s two on the aisle, plus a separate house seat fifth row center. My wife and Aunt Mary sat together to chat and I plotzed in the single. Down the row comes Van Dyke, by himself, and sits next to me. We had a pleasant conversation before the lights went down and I learned he’d been asked to play a role in the show, but turned it down to avoid the 8-shows-a-week grind.
At intermission, I told the Legend that my Aunt would be occupying the seat for the second act, and would he say a kind word to her? He asked her name and I sent Aunt Mary to her new location without telling her who her new seatmate would be.
Later I learned she had barely sat down, recognized him of course, and wondered if she should bother him. Before she could say a word, Van Dyke turned to her, introduced himself and said, “You must be Aunt Mary, I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.” At show’s end I saw my beaming Aunt come up the aisle on the arm of Van Dyke like two good friends—or more.
“You should have told me your Aunt Mary was so charming,” were the first words out of Van Dyke’s mouth. For the rest of the visit, he was a prime topic of my Aunt’s conversation.
Class act. Great talent. A too rare combination in Hollywood or any other profession for that matter. Happy 90th.
John "Cork" Corcoran
The Nineteenth Funniest Non-working Humorist in America,
So voted by the 6000 membership Comedywire.Com Website
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