Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dick Van Patten is Dead

We all will be soon:

"Dick Van Patten, 86; ‘Eight is Enough’ patriarch" by Wendell Jamieson New York Times  June 24, 2015

NEW YORK — Dick Van Patten, the cheerful, round-faced actor best known for his role as the firm if harried suburban father at the center of the hit television series “Eight Is Enough,” died Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 86.

The cause was complications of diabetes, said a spokesman, Jeffrey Ballard.

“Eight Is Enough,” based on a memoir by Tom Braden, starred Mr. Van Patten as Tom Bradford, the patriarch of a family of eight children. It was among the top-rated shows on television during its four-year run on ABC, from 1977 to 1981.

Some of the show’s young actors, including Willie Aames and Grant Goodeve, became stars, but its serene center was Mr. Van Patten, whose character dealt genially with the various family dramas that arose each week, only to be neatly solved by the closing credits.

While it was reminiscent of another California-based comedy with lots of kids, “The Brady Bunch,” the hourlong “Eight Is Enough” was more serious; it sought to deal with some of life’s larger issues, at least in passing. That goal was brought to the fore when Diana Hyland, who played Mr. Van Patten’s wife, died of cancer after four episodes. Her death was written into the show, something that would have been hard to imagine in the candy-coated world of the Bradys, and Mr. Van Patten’s character later married a schoolteacher, played by Betty Buckley.

Mr. Van Patten, who had three children of his own — Nels, Jimmy, and Vincent, who all followed him into acting — was a father figure on the set, helping to calm some of the more outrageous instincts of young actors and actresses suddenly thrust into the spotlight. A profile in People magazine said that Mr. Van Patten’s only vices were twice-weekly poker games and regular visits to the racetrack.

‘‘He was truly a gem and will be missed,’’ tweeted Aames, who, now 54, played the Bradford son Tommy on the series, which launched him as a teen heartthrob. ‘‘As Dick always said: Remember our time together gang. . . ’Cause these are the good ole’ days.’’

That certainly is the way things are looking upon further reflection.

Well-publicized misbehavior of some of his young costars and declining ratings led ABC to cancel “Eight Is Enough” in 1981. Mr. Van Patten learned of the cancellation by reading about it in the newspaper.

His other main claim to fame was his presence in comedies by Mel Brooks. He first worked with Brooks on television, playing Friar Tuck in “When Things Were Rotten,” an ill-fated 1975 sitcom based on the legend of Robin Hood. He went on to play small but memorable roles in Brooks’s “High Anxiety” (1977), “Spaceballs” (1987), and, completing the circle, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993) — although as an abbot this time.

While the Bradford and Brooks roles may have thrust him into the public eye, Mr. Van Patten had been a working actor for decades before they came along. Like his young costars in “Eight Is Enough,” he had started acting as a child.

Richard Vincent Van Patten was born in 1928, in Queens, to Richard Van Patten and the former Josephine Acerno. He grew up in Brooklyn. Every Friday night, his parents would take him to see a Broadway show, which he said inspired his lifelong love of acting....