Dick Van Dyke charmed us as the suave-yet-goofy Rob Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66) and uplifted audiences in Mary Poppins (1964). But, this Hollywood legend is still going strong nearly 60 years later. At 95-years-old, Van Dyke is still dancing, giving interviews, and living his life to the fullest. But, if you listen to people who know him describe the actor that spunk for life seems to be one of his biggest personality traits. He recently talked with Al Roker about his time in show business and how he stays so young.
The actor has won 5 Emmy Awards, a Tony, a Grammy, and many other honors during his long acting career. When asked if he was ready to quit working Van Dyke replied that, “An actor retires just by doing it for nothing…I don’t think I’ll ever retire unless they make me. It’s too much fun.” The now-bearded Van Dyke described how his perspective on life has influenced his life and said he was looking forward to getting back to singing gigs with his quartet, The Vantastix, once the pandemic is over.
Van Dyke was interviewed ahead of being given The Kennedy Center Honors. The ceremony for the 2020 honorees was delayed from the usual December slot to this spring due to COVID-19. At the ceremony (recorded in May 2021, but broadcast in June) he was lauded as being one of the most upbeat people in the biz. His co-star from Mary Poppins and a previous honoree herself, Julie Andrews, said that “Dick seems to have found the secret to happiness…Dick is many things: He’s an artist, a one-man band, a profound philosopher, a high-stepping showman and spreader of charm. Good luck does rub off when he shakes hands with you.”
And, he certainly had no shortage of laughter during his storied time on TV and in movies. Van Dyke said that working on The Dick Van Dyke Show with Mary Tyler Moore and Carl Reiner was the most fun he ever had at work. He also recalled how Reiner never wrote the script “in stone”- giving each cast member a chance to voice their opinions or to sometimes make changes to the lines.
Van Dyke reflected back on his own mentors, Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton, noting that he gave the eulogy at both their funerals. He said he “stole from them liberally” meaning that he copied their physical comedy, an aspect of his work that’s often admired today. While he talked about how much he loves performing, he also discussed how nervous he was to perform in front of President Obama in 2010 at the Ford Theater, noting how the POTUS took a moment to straighten Van Dyke’s bowtie after the show.
The star also disclosed that while he works out every single day (including sit-ups), he says good genes are probably responsible for his longevity and good health, recalling that his mother died just before her 96th birthday.