Dick Van Patten, 'Eight Is Enough' Star, Dies at 86
The actor, one of TV's 'Greatest Dads,' began on Broadway at age 7 and was a regular in films from Disney and Mel Brooks.
Dick Van Patten, who played the family patriarch on the ABC series Eight Is Enough, has died, his publicist Jeff Ballard confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 86.
The soft-spoken actor died Tuesday morning at Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica due to complications from diabetes.
"He was the kindest man you could ever meet in life. A loving family man. They don't make them like him anymore," Ballard said in a statement.
Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Pat, a former June Taylor Dancer; sons Nels, Jimmy and Vincent, sister Joyce Van Patten and niece Talia Balsam, all actors; and his half-brother, Emmy-winning director Tim Van Patten.
Van Patten's Eight Is Enough character Tom Bradford was named No. 33 in TV Guide's list of the “50 Greatest Dads of All Time” in 2004, and his 2009 autobiography was titled Eighty Is Not Enough.
Eight Is Enough, an hourlong comedy-drama about a family with eight kids, ran for five seasons on ABC, from 1977 to 1981. His character played a columnist for a Sacramento newspaper (the show was based on the life of a real newspaperman), and the series spawned a couple of reunion telefilms.
"Before Eight Is Enough, there was Father Knows Best, all goody, goody, goody," Van Patten recalled in a 2011 interview with the Archive of American Television. "On Eight Is Enough, we dealt with real problems."
Willie Aames, who played son Tommy Bradford on the show, told The Hollywood Reporter that Van Patten was “the most sincere person I’d ever worked with.”
Added Aames: “I remember he’d tell us often before shooting a scene, he’d have that smile on the face — ‘I want you all to look around and remember this time. These are the good old days. These are great days. So enjoy them.’ He was the leader of our show.”
In his seven-decade career, Van Patten appeared in all media: on the stage, radio (in more than 600 shows), TV and films. He was seen in the Mel Brooks comedies High Anxiety (1977), Spaceballs (1987) and Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), and he portrayed Friar Tuck on a Brooks sitcom, When Things Were Rotten.
A Disney regular, he also starred in such family films as Superdad (1973), The Strongest Man in the World (1975), The Shaggy D.A. (1976), Gus (1976) and Freaky Friday (1976).
More recently, Van Patten appeared on such TV series as Arrested Development, The Sarah Silverman Program, That 70’s Show and Hot in Cleveland.
Van Patten was born Dec. 9 1928, in Queens, New York. He attended the Professional Children’s School and began his show business career as “Dickie Van Patten,” child actor. He made his Broadway debut at age 7, playing the son of Melvyn Douglas in Tapestry in Gray.
“I get to buy the same amount in jewelry,” Pat said.
One time, Van Patten encouraged Taylor and her husband, actor Joe Bologna, to wager on what he considered to be a sure thing. “You have got to mortgage your house on this one, he’s that good!" she recalled Van Patten telling her. "I told Joe, 'I guess we have to put something on him.' Well, Joe bet $20, and the horse came in last.
"So what did he say? 'Renee, that’s horse racing.' ”