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Dick Van Patten
Van Patten in May 2008
Richard Vincent Van Patten

(1928-12-09)December 9, 1928
Died June 23, 2015(2015-06-23) (aged 86)
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
Occupation Actor, comedian, businessman, animal welfare advocate
Years active 1935–2012
Patricia Helon Poole
(m. 1954)
Children 3, including Vincent
Relatives Joyce Van Patten (sister)
Tim Van Patten (half-brother)
Talia Balsam (niece)
Grace Van Patten (niece)

Richard Vincent Van Patten (December 9, 1928 – June 23, 2015) was an American actor, comedian, businessman, and animal welfare advocate, whose career spanned seven decades of television. He was best known for his role as patriarch Tom Bradford on the ABC television comedy-drama Eight Is Enough.

Van Patten began work as a child actor and was successful on the New York stage, appearing in more than a dozen plays as a teenager. He worked in radio, on Duffy's Tavern. He later starred in numerous television roles including the long-running CBS television series, "Mama" and Young Doctor Malone. Later, he would star or co-star in many feature films, including Charly, Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Spaceballs, and Soylent Green. Van Patten was the founder of Natural Balance Pet Foods and National Guide Dog Month.

Early life

Richard Vincent Van Patten was born on December 9, 1928, in the Kew Gardens section of the New York City borough of Queens, the elder child of Richard Byron Van Patten, an interior decorator, and Josephine Rose (née Acerno), who worked in advertising. His younger sister is actress Joyce Van Patten.

His mother was of Italian descent, while his father had Dutch and English ancestry. He began work as a model and actor as a child making his Broadway debut at the age of seven. He was successful on the New York City stage, appearing in a dozen theatrical plays before reaching his teen years. He later moved to Hollywood and began a lengthy career in film and television.



Van Patten's career in show business began as a child actor on Broadway in 1935 in Tapestry In Gray starring Melvyn Douglas. He was billed as "Dickie Van Patten" and went on to appear in twelve other Broadway plays as a teenager including The Skin of Our Teeth. He moved on to television with the role of Nels Hansen in the CBS series, Mama, starring Peggy Wood, about a Norwegian-American family living in San Francisco, in the early 20th century. It ran from 1949 to 1957. In 1949, James Dean, then an unknown, replaced Patten on the show for a time, when Patten was drafted into the Army. In 1975, he played "Friar Tuck" on When Things Were Rotten, a comic take on Robin Hood, created by Mel Brooks. The series ran for 13 episodes before being canceled. He was best known as the Bradford family patriarch, Tom Bradford, on Eight Is Enough, which aired from 1977 to 1981, and which was loosely based on a book of the same name by the American journalist Thomas Braden.

Van Patten appeared in episodes of Sanford and Son, Banacek, Arrested Development, The Brian Keith Show, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, Adam-12, Emergency!, Growing Pains, and Happy Days. He had numerous leading roles in motion pictures including Joe Kidd, The Snowball Express and The Santa Trap. He played a small role in the dystopian film Soylent Green (1973).

Van Patten appeared in several films directed by Mel Brooks, including High Anxiety, Spaceballs, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, as well as cameos in the music videos for "Smells Like Nirvana" and "Bedrock Anthem" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, and on The Weird Al Show. He played "Jack Benson" in Opposite Day (2009). He also was a commentator for the World Series of Poker from 1993 to 1995.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame honored Van Patten on November 20, 1985, with a Star of Television marker at 1541 North Vine Street. On January 12, 2008, Van Patten received a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

On November 1, 2009, Phoenix Books published Eighty Is Not Enough!, a book co-authored by Van Patten and Robert Baer, in which Van Patten shared his 80-year journey of insights and anecdotes through the entertainment industry. He discusses his journey from his humble beginning in Queens, New York; his rise as a childhood star on Broadway during the Great Depression; working as an actor on the radio; the advent of television and his role in the second-ever live situation comedy Mama; a rough period between acting gigs including spending time as a real estate agent in Queens, NY; a rise back to the top that led the TV icon to the lead role on the popular hit show Eight Is Enough and subsequent roles in television and movies.

Other work

An animal enthusiast, Van Patten co-founded Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989. Van Patten's creation of his own brand of dog food was satirized in comedian John Hodgman's 2008 book More Information Than You Require, and was rebranded as Dick Van Patten's Hobo Chili for Dogs. He founded National Guide Dog Month which began in 2008 to raise awareness and money for non-profit guide dog schools in the United States, accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation. Van Patten also appeared as a television spokesman for Fisher-Price toys in the late 1980s.

Personal life


Dick Van Patten wedding 1954
Peggy Wood, who played Van Patten's mother in the television program Mama, congratulates Pat and Dick on their wedding, 1954.

Patriarch of a famous Hollywood family, Van Patten was the older brother of actress Joyce Van Patten, and the older half-brother of film director and Emmy award-winning television director/producer Tim Van Patten. He was married to Patricia Helon Poole (also known as Pat Poole and Pat Van Patten; born March 12, 1931) from 1954 until his death. Pat Poole was a professional dancer on Broadway and a June Taylor dancer on The Jackie Gleason Show. They lived in Sherman Oaks, California. They had three sons, all actors: Vincent, Nels, and Jimmy. Nels, who is married to actress Nancy Valen, is named for the character Van Patten played on the CBS's Mama. Van Patten was related to several other actors through marriages. His sister Joyce married actor Martin Balsam; their daughter is actress Talia Balsam. Talia's first husband was actor George Clooney, and she is now married to actor John Slattery. Van Patten's son, Vince, is married to actress Eileen Davidson.

Illness and death

Dick Van Patten 2
Grave of Dick Van Patten at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.

In January 2006, Van Patten was taken to Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering a diabetic stroke. Van Patten, who suffered from Type 2 diabetes, made a full recovery. Van Patten died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, on June 23, 2015, at age 86. Complications from diabetes were the listed cause.

Willie Aames, who played son Tommy Bradford on Eight Is Enough, called his television father "truly a gem [who] will be missed. ... As Dick always said, 'Remember our times together, gang ... Cause these ARE the good ole' days". Betty Buckley, Van Patten's co-star on the series, recalled, "Every day on the set he was a happy, jovial person, always generous and ready to play, tease, and always keep us all laughing. He was the consummate professional, a wonderful actor, master of comedy, and a kind and generous human being."

He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.


On November 20, 1985, Dick Van Patten was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2008, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.



Year Title Role Notes
1963 Violent Midnight Police Lt. Palmer Film debut
1967 The Secret Dream Models of Oliver Nibble Oliver Nibble Short film; as John Acerno
1968 Charly Bert as Richard Van Patten
1971 Zachariah The Dude
Making It Warren
1972 Beware! The Blob Scoutmaster Adleman
Joe Kidd Hotel Manager
Dirty Little Billy Berle's customer
Snowball Express Mr. Carruthers
1973 Soylent Green Usher #1
Westworld Banker
Superdad Ira Kushaw
1974 Heidi in the Mountains English version, Voice
1975 The Strongest Man in the World V.P. Harry Crumply
1976 Treasure of Matecumbe The Gambler
Gus Cal Wilson
The Shaggy D.A. Raymond
Freaky Friday Harold Jennings
1977 High Anxiety Dr. Wentworth
1979 Nutcracker Fantasy King Goodwin Voice
1981 Lunch Wagon Bernie Simmons Uncredited
1987 Spaceballs King Roland
1988 The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking Greg the Glue Man
1989 Dirty Tennis Himself (short film written by his son, James Van Patten)
1992 Body Trouble Max
Final Embrace Larch
1993 Robin Hood: Men in Tights The Abbot
1996 For Goodness Sake II Game show host
Love Is All There Is Dr. Rodino
1998 Evasive Action Parole Officer
1999 Y2K – World in Crisis Host Documentary
2002 Groom Lake Irv Barnett
2003 Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Himself
2004 Quiet Kill Frank Rubin
2008 The Christmas Conspiracy Narrator Short
2009 Opposite Day Jack Benson
Sarah's Choice Pastor Smith Direct-to-video
2010 First Dog Himself
2016 Silver Skies Himself Released Posthumously


Year Title Role Notes
1949–1957 Mama Nels Hansen
1958 The Silent Service Hadley Episode: "Tiger Shark". Executive Officer of the subject submarine.
Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Paul Sterovsky Episode "The Broken Frame"
1959 Rawhide Matt Reston Episode "Incident of the Power and the Plow"
1961 Naked City Carhop Episode "The Well-Dressed Termite"
1961–1962 Young Doctor Malone Larry Renfrew
1970 The Governor & J.J. Bertram Bannister
I Dream Of Jeannie Grocery store manager Season 5, Episode 26; "My Master, the Chili King"; Air date: May 26, 1970; series finale
That Girl Mr. Morse
Arnie Walter Granscog/Walker
1971 Great Performances Raymond
1971–1972 The Partners Sgt. Nelson Higgenbottom
1971–1972 The Doris Day Show April's Father
1971–1973 Love, American Style Segments: "Love and the Tattoo", "Love and the Parent's Sake" (George), "Love and the Particular Girl" (Jack)
1972 Sanford and Son Hamlin Episode: "The Great Sanford Siege"
The Don Rickles Show David
Hec Ramsey Earl Enright
Banyon Earl Gifford
1972–1973 The Paul Lynde Show Dr. Willis/Wollner
1972–1974 The New Dick Van Dyke Show Max Mathias/Mr. Compton
1972–1975 Medical Center Dr. Feldman/Dr. Whittaker/Man at Hotel
1972–1976 Emergency! Carter Merkle/Morris Meers
1972–1976 The Streets of San Francisco Thurman Barber/John Collins
1973 McMillan & Wife Henry
The Brian Keith Show Jerry Mason
Cannon George Abel 2x18 Murder for Murder
Thicker than Water John
Adam's Rib Commissioner Hoyt
Wait Till Your Father Gets Home
1973–1975 The Rookies Fullmer/Waldon
1973–1983 Insight Jerry
1974 Banacek Donald Morgan
The Girl with Something Extra Morgan
Sierra Ed
Kolchak: The Night Stalker Alfred Brindle
Adam-12 Harry Curtis Season 7, Episode 9; Air date: December 10, 1974
1974–1976 Barnaby Jones Melvin Pearson/Merle Overton
1975 Hot l Baltimore A.J. Horn
When Things Were Rotten Friar Tuck
1975–1976 The Six Million Dollar Man Harry Green/Palmer
1976 Ellery Queen Billy Geeter
Phyllis Walter
Maude Gordon Coleman
The New Adventures of Wonder Woman Jack Wood Episode: "Beauty on Parade"
What's Happening!! Mr. Claxton
The Tony Randall Show Myron C. Dobbs
1976–1977 Happy Days Asst. Principal Marvin Conners/Hunsberger
1977 C.P.O. Sharkey Psychiatrist
One Day at a Time Frank
1977–1981 Eight Is Enough Tom Bradford
1978–1984 The Love Boat Charlie Dillinger/Congressman John Whitcomb/George Hayes
1979 Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker Herb Thurston TV movie
1982 High Powder Tom Reed TV movie
1982 Andy Williams New England Christmas Himself TV special
1983–1985 Hotel Frasier Pratt/Herbert Pitts
1984 The Hoboken Chicken Emergency Mayor TV movie
Finder of Lost Loves Alan Nettles
The New Mike Hammer Judge Charles Bamer
1985 Crazy Like a Fox
The Midnight Hour Martin Grenville TV movie
1986 Murder, She Wrote District Atty. Fred Whittaker Episode: "Murder in the Electric Cathedral"
Combat Academy Principal
1987 The Facts of Life Frank Stickle Episode: "Ex Marks the Spot"
Eight Is Enough: A Family Reunion Tom Bradford TV movie
Rags to Riches Phil Johnson
1989 Growing Pains Nick Simpson Episode: "Fortunate Son"
An Eight Is Enough Wedding Tom Bradford TV movie
Jake Spanner, Private Eye The Commodore TV movie
1990 McGee and Me! Graham
1990–1991 WIOU Floyd Graham
1993 The Golden Palace Taylor
The Odd Couple: Together Again Roy TV movie
Diagnosis: Murder Monty Emerson Episode: "Murder at the Telethon"
1994 Burke's Law Dr. Paul Hampton
Baywatch Henry/Sam Episode: "Guys and Dolls"
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Orphanage Worker/Santa Episode: "Season's Greedings"
1995 Cybill Himself Episode: “Nice Work If You Can Get It”
1995–1998 Touched by an Angel Jerry/Eb 2 episodes
1996 Maybe This Time Jack
Boy Meets World Amish Farmer Episode: "You Can Go Home Again"
1997 The Weird Al Show The Burglar Episode: "Al Gets Robbed"
1998 The Love Boat: The Next Wave Sid Glacken
Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction Chester Segment: "The Chess Game"
1999 Family Guy Tom Bradford (voice) Episode: "Brian: Portrait of a Dog"
Late Night with Conan O'Brien Mr. Ropely
2001 Gary & Mike Ba (voice)
2003 Life with Bonnie Himself Episode: "It's a Wonderful Job"
2004 7th Heaven James Rodgers, Sr. Episode: "The Chess Game"
2005 Arrested Development Cal Cullen Episodes: "Spring Breakout" and "Righteous Brothers"
2006 That '70s Show Murph Episode: "Sweet Lady"
2009 The Sarah Silverman Program Dr. Eddie Hackmeyer
2011 Hot in Cleveland Lester Episode: "The Chess Game" (last appearance)

See also

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