13 Awesome Things About Dick Van Dyke Most Fans Never Knew

RealClear Staff

            

Dick Van Dyke can still dance and sing at 90! The iconic star of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (above, with Mary Tyler Moore) and "Mary Poppins" is a national treasure.

1. He Beat Out Johnny Carson for 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'

"The Dick Van Dyke Show," widely considered one of the best sitcoms of all time -- could have been "The Johnny Carson Show." But series creator Carl Reiner ended up choosing Van Dyke. Carson rebounded nicely; he became host of "The Tonight Show." 

2. He Was High School Classmates With Donald O'Connor and Bobby Short

What are the odds that a high school in tiny Danville, Illinois, would produce three iconic entertainment artists? Van Dyke went to school with future "Singin' in the Rain" star O'Connor (above) and musician Short (below). 

3. He Served as an Entertainer During World War II

Dick Van Dyke was turned down for an active combat role in the Second World War because he was underweight, so he was assigned to the Special Services and entertained troops.

4. He Was a Radio DJ in Danville, Illinois

Dick Van Dyke had humble beginnings in show business. He got his start in his hometown of Danville, Illinois, and also briefly worked in local television in New Orleans and Atlanta, as well as being a part of a traveling comedy team.

5. He and Walter Cronkite Worked Together at CBS

In the late 1950s, Van Dyke was the anchorman for the CBS morning show, with Walter Cronkite as his newsman!

6. He First Gained Serious Notice on Broadway

Dick Van Dyke was virtually an unknown when he won the lead role in the Broadway production of "Bye Bye Birdie." He won a Tony Award for Best Actor and later starred in the movie version.

7. He had a second role in "Mary Poppins"

Julie Andrews starred as the title character in "Mary Poppins," with Dick Van Dyke as the chimney sweep Bert (below). But Van Dyke also starred, in heavy makeup, as bank chairman Mr. Dawes Senior. That character is listed in the credits as being played by "Nackvid Keyd," an anagram for "Dick Van Dyke."

8. He Used a TV Movie to Come Out as an Alcoholic

Van Dyke was nominated for an Emmy Award for his role as an alcoholic businessman in the TV movie "The Morning After" (1974). He said after it aired that he had been an alcoholic for 25 years before seeking help. "The Morning After" is still shown in recovery and treatment programs. Because of that, Van Dyke says it is one of his proudest achievements as an actor.

9. He Starred With Scooby Doo!

"Scooby-Doo Meets Dick Van Dyke." Awesome! 

10. He Played a Murderer Twice

He was a murderous photographer in an episode of "Columbo" (above), and murderous judge in "Matlock" (below).

11. 30 Years After Their TV Show, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore Posed for This Awesome Photo

This was taken by famed photographer Annie Leibowitz for Vanity Fair in 1995.

12. He Is Also a CGI Artist

Dick Van Dyke has said he would love to make his own computer animated feature film. An early enthusiast of computer effects, he bought an animated system in the late 1980s, and later in the 1990s created the nifty sequence above for an episode of his TV series "Diagnosis: Murder." Below is a fun animated he piece he did in which he dances to "Billie Jean."

13. He Celebrated His 90th Birthday With a Flash Mob!

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