As the affable dad on Eight Is Enough, Dick Van Patten guided his television clan with a firm yet gentle hand, a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his cherubic face.
The actor, best known for playing Tom Bradford on the series from 1977 to 1981, but who had a career that spanned eight decades and included more than 150 credits in theater, TV and film, died from complications from diabetes on June 23 at age 86.
Dick in I Dream of Jeannie. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
“This has really hit me hard. He was a light — a role model, a friend, an inspiration, an incredible father both to his three sons and all of us on Eight Is Enough,” Betty Buckley, who played his wife, Abby, on the show, exclusively tells Closer. And it’s true: While Dick was starring on the prime-time hit, he helped mentor his young cast though the minefield of sudden fame while also raising his own sons, Nels, Jimmy and Vincent, who all went on to become actors, too. “I’m not certain myself who is really mine and who I borrowed from the show,” he joked.
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Although famous for his many TV roles, Dick was a lifelong thespian who made his Broadway bow at age 7. “I have seen it all,” Dick told Closer last November. “I like to think about all of the old times a lot. It’s fun.” Sharing these times has been Patricia, his wife of 62 years.
Dick in Eight is Enough. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
A former June Taylor Dancer, Pat met her husband-to-be when they were both teenagers at Manhattan’s Professional Children’s School. “I know a lot of people that have had hard luck with marriages, but I’ve been very lucky,” Dick told Closer. “On top of being cute and pretty, my wife’s a very sweet person.”
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, Dick and his sister, actress Joyce Van Patten, were inspired to act during weekly Broadway outings with their parents. He spent his childhood in the theater, where he was billed as Dickie Van Patten, before moving West, where he landed guest spots on nearly every popular TV series of the 1970s including Happy Days; Love, American Style; Sanford and Son; I Dream of Jeannie; and The Streets of San Francisco.
To read the full story on Dick, pick up the new issue of 'Closer Weekly' on newsstands now!
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