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Dick Van Patten: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About His Long Career

Dick Van Patten was a man who loved to work. That much is clear from a look at his eight decades in showbiz as documented in the pages of Variety.

Even when he was toplining a hit series, ABC’s “Eight is Enough,” Van Patten never stopped taking on guest shots, TV movies, specials, hosting gigs for industry events and endless fundraisers. His resume ranged from working on stage with Lunt and Fontanne in the 1940s to out-there 1970s films such as “Westworld,” “Soylent Green” and “Zachariah” to “message” TV programs such as 1979’s “Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker” and “This One For Dad.”

Here are some little-known facts about the long and varied career of the actor who died Tuesday at the age of 86.

  • Van Patten’s first mention in Variety came in the Jan. 24, 1946, edition of Daily Variety in a page-one report on the return of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne to Broadway in the comedy “Oh Mistress Mine.” Van Patten played the couple’s teenage son who returns home from school full of “leftist ideology.”
  • Just a few months later Van Patten was mentioned as a “new luminary” of Broadway alongside Marlon Brando and Barbara Bel Geddes (aka Miss Ellie of “Dallas”).
  • By the 1972 the inevitable meeting of the Dick-Vans happened. Dick Van Patten was cast in a supporting role in CBS’ “The New Dick Van Dyke Show.”
  • Van Patten was known for frequently working with his extended family members. So he must have felt right at home as the featured guest star on the back-door Pat Boone variety show pilot that aired in April 1978 on ABC. It featured Shirley, Cherry, Lindy, Laury and Debby Boone, as well as Don Rickles and the Unknown Comic. Jerry Weintraub was the producer.
  • The same year Van Patten also guest-starred in the ABC sketch comedy special “That Second Thing,” which featured a “hep cast,” according to Variety, of newcomers that included Shelley Long, Andrea Martin and Mandy Patinkin.
  • No special was too small-potatoes for Van Patten to emcee. In 1977, months after “Eight is Enough” premiered on ABC, he traveled to San Francisco to host a holiday special for ABC affiliate KGO-TV. “The Young Sound of Christmas” featured an assortment of area choral groups.
  • Van Patten never said no to a worthy cause. In August 1979 he was among dozens of stars who took part in a fundraiser for Actors and Others for Animals by appearing in a roller-disco themed episode of NBC’s “CHiPs.” Producer MGM-TV donated $32,5000 to the org after a gaggle of actors — including Dick, Pat, Joyce and Jimmy Van Patten, showed up at Flippers Roller Boogie Palace on La Cienega Boulevard to film the pivotal scene.
  • Van Patten and his wife Pat hosted the syndicated “Mother-Daughter Beauty Pageant” specials that ran in 1979 and 1980.
  • Given the importance of family in Van Patten’s life, perhaps his most significant mention came in the April 28, 1954, edition of weekly Variety. It was a two-line announcement of his April 24 wedding in New York to actress-dancer Pat Poole, a union that would endure for the rest of his days.

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