Dick Van Dyke Hates Reality TV, Agrees His 'Poppins' Accent Was Lousy
By Nicki Gostin Posted May 5th 2011 12:00PM
The irrepressible Dick Van Dyke is believe it or not, 85, but he shows no signs of slowing down and has just released a memoir, 'My Lucky Life In And Out Of Show Business.' It's filled with tales about his lustrous career, although the star of his own iconic TV show and films like 'Mary Poppins' tells PopEater in a new interview, "I hesitate to call it a career. I had no goals in mind. I just went with whatever happened." Too modest, Dick, and in his lovely must-read book, the rubber-faced funnyman takes pride in the fact he "stood for something" and "upheld values" with his work.
In our lively chat, the proud great-grandfather of four spoke about his winning fight with the bottle, why he turned down 'Dancing With the Stars,' his distaste for reality TV (on 'Apprentice': "I've never been so bored in my life!"), and the greatness of 'Mary Poppins,' his bad cockney accent notwithstanding.
"I not only wince every time I hear it but every Brit that I run into rakes me over the coals for it," he admits. "I have taken such a kidding all these years -- but I deserve it I must admit."
You come across in your book like your public persona. Is that fair to say?
Yeah that's pretty much it. I've always resisted doing a book because my life sounded kind of pedestrian. Actually after I'd got it written I retitled it because almost anything that happened to me happened by chance.
Well I think your talent had a little something to do with it.
Well you have to be able to deliver, that's true.
You never sold out in your career.
I hesitate to call it a career. I had no goals in mind. I just went with whatever happened.
You were working during the cultural revolution of the 60's and 70's. You must have turned down a lot of material that you didn't agree with.
That's true. By the 70's they weren't doing much of my kind of stuff anymore.
Did it make you bitter?
Oh no. I would have liked to have been around during the 30's and 40's, that would have been wonderful but I'm not going to complain.
I can't believe 'Diagnosis Murder' was on the air for ten years.
It was the longest I've ever held a job. Thank God for Hallmark because they insist on family entertainment, so it was a perfect niche for me.
You must hate Reality TV.
Yes I do hate it I must say. I know it's inexpensive to do but I don't think it's entertainment. We watched Donald Trump's 'Apprentice,' whatever it is, I've never been so bored in my life! That's not entertainment. Those shows encourage bad behavior.
Have you been asked to do anything recently?
I get a lot of scripts but as you say they are not exactly my cup of tea. They did ask me to do 'Dancing With The Stars,' I said I can do one show but on that show you have to come up with a new number every week and I told them that I think I'm a little past that stage.
Maybe you could be a special guest star.
That would work. I'd get Betty White to dance with me (laughs). I'm the not the oldest person out there. Thank God for Betty.
You write a lot about spirituality and your search for meaning.
I would describe myself as curious. I've always been one of those people who are full of doubts. So I do a lot of research. I think there's been too much theological hairsplitting going on. So I try to keep it simple and leave the litany out. I keep going back to books by people like Martin Buber. I make notes in the margins. It's kind of fun to go back to a book I read 30 years ago and see what I was thinking about at the time. To live a life of love and compassion and to care about your fellow human beings and do no harm. I think that's a religion right there.
You've met a lot of Presidents. Who was your favorite?
The most recent, I got to sing and dance for Obama last summer at the Ford Theater. I was thoroughly charmed by both he and Michelle. My least favorite was probably Johnson. He was kind of a gruff, ill-tempered guy, I suppose because of the pressures of the job but nevertheless he did a lot for civil rights so I'm not going to fault him.
You were very open about your alcoholism when not many celebrities talked about it.
That's right. Mercedes McCambridge who did the voice in 'The Exorcist,' was the first one that I was aware of who went before Congress and talked about it. It helped remove the stigma from it a little bit and I've never regretted coming out publicly either.
You were on and off the wagon and then you just quit.
It's like my drinking machine broke. All of a sudden it just didn't do anything for me anymore which was a blessing. It just faded away.
What was harder to give up, cigarettes or the drink?
Cigarettes. I've talked to heroin addicts who say it was nothing compared to cigarettes. I think it's the hardest one of all. A physician noticed in an x-ray that I had a little spot on my lung, my father had passed away from emphysema so that scared me straight.
You're in a singing quartet.
Four guys in their 30's and me. They found me in a Starbucks one morning. We got together ten years ago, we do a lot of benefits, fund raisers, children's hospitals. It's the most fun I've ever had.
What was your favorite movie?
Oh 'Mary Poppins' of course, by far and away is my favorite.
I love you in that movie but you know your accent isn't the best.
I not only wince every time I hear it but every Brit that I run into rakes me over the coals for it. I have taken such a kidding all these years -- but I deserve it I must admit.
Did you realize the movie was special when you were making it?
Oh yes, everybody did. The music alone. We knew we had something really nice going. Everybody was so enthusiastic about it although little did I know 40 years later it would still be around.
You say you had a little crush on Mary Tyler Moore but nothing happened right?
Oh no not at all!
Was 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' your favorite working experience?
I think everyone connected with that show says it was the best five years because it was like going to a party everyday. It was so much fun.
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