Beloved comic actress Betty White left some big shoes to fill last New Year’s Eve when she shocked the world by dying at the tender age of 99.
Who could possibly match her zest for life so many years into it?
Paging Dick Van Dyke…
The nimble-footed 96-year-old has yet to host Saturday Night Live, but remains culturally relevant nonetheless, thanks to the enduring popularity of his early work.
His early 60s sitcom, The Dick Van Dyke Show, was a staple of ‘90s-era Nick at Nite.
Even Generation Alpha knows who he is, thanks to his evergreen turn as Bert, the dancing chimneysweep in Mary Poppins (1964).
The physical grace he brought to such musical fare as Bye Bye Birdie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is something he deliberately strived for as a fan of silent comedy’s greats, and at 96, it’s not something he takes for granted. He began strength training many decades ago, after observing Broadway dancers’ work outs, and maintains a daily regimen of crunches, leg lifts, and hip openers.
Like White, he thrives in the company of younger people.
He’s by far the oldest member of The Vantastix, a barbershop quartet he formed in 2020.
And for those keeping score, he’s 46 years older than his bride of ten years, Arlene Silver, who sings and dances with him in the above video (and directs, too.)
Yes, Van Dyke’s shoulders and torso may have stiffened a bit in the four years since Mary Poppins Returns found him hopping atop a desk for a spritely soft shoe, but the ease with which he propels himself from a low slung wingback chair at the one-minute mark will strike many viewers as nothing short of miraculous.
(For those admiring the decor, Fallen Fruit’s recent SUPERSHOW installation provided the video’s younger-than-springtime set.)
Van Dyke’s loose limbed appeal is accompanied by a refreshingly flexible attitude, another way in which he models health aging.
A year into his marriage to Silver, he told Parade that they’re so well suited because “she’s very mature for her age, and I’m very immature for my age.”
“Immature in a good way, Silver clarified to HuffPost, “with the wonder of a child”:
He’s just fun, he’s open minded. He’s not stuck in his ways at all.
We take very good care of each other. But, I’m very aware that I have a national treasure on my hands.
No wonder people love him. As proof, witness the twenty-something leaping to their feet to give him an ovation, as he makes his entrance in Disneyland’s 60th-anniversary special six years ago.
12 seconds later, the 90-year-old Van Dyke was also leaping.
“When people tell you you look good in your 90s, what they mean is you don’t look dead,” Van Dyke confided in the late Carl Reiner’s 2017 documentary, If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast:
At 30, I exercised to look good. In my 50s, I exercised to stay fit. In my 70s, to stay ambulatory. In my 80s, to avoid assisted living. Now, in my 90s, I’m just doing it out of pure defiance.
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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto. Follow her @AyunHalliday.
He’s definitely an inspiration to me and I’m sure to many others as well!
Such an inspiration to us all. He makes you smile and laugh always. Keep dancing.
He is my favorite actor and has been since I was a little girl. He has inspired me to help people laugh. He is awesome.
A true inspiration to all of us. I have watched your movies and am currently recording all of the episodes of one of my favorite shows, “Diagnosis Murder.” Keep singing and dancing Mr. Van Dyke. You are and will always be a true star.
You are a great inspiration to us all. I have been following your career since the 60’s with the Dick Van Dyke show. I love all your Disney movies. But, I must admit Diagnosis Murder is my favorite. God bless you always. Your fan
I laugh & tell the kids
Y’all want to know who the original”drooper”was?
(They call it sagging)
Dick Van Dyke doing his penguin dance in Mary Poppins!
A true treasure in America!
I just wanted to see how many times the word “inspiration” was used in the comments lol
I remember in the early 60s going to a Presbyterian Youth Conference in San Francisco. Mr Van Dyke was guest speaker. He inspired me then and many times after that. Truly a kind loving man.
I have realized the Final Ideology of Eternal Goodness which I call My High Power. I would like to convey what My High Power is to all that wish to hear so. If you feel that you can connect me to those desiring to know, please feel free to give me an email message. Thank you.
Look at the responses written about him! He’s touched so many lives and will never know to the degree what an impact he’s made on this world as it’s impossible to do so.
Now, as for me…well…he was the person and the singer I would go to as a child when uncertain or scared or just down right thrilled as well. Pretending to be Burt drawings on the sidewalk or a genius crack pot inventor in Chitty; his impact on me was a child still envelops my soul with happiness. Even to this day, as I work for Disney now….you will always finding me whistling his tunes he sang in Mary Poppins as he himself was special. Not every actor can show through the fake make believe character that they play but he does. His essence and spirit overshadow the scripts or characters he plays because he’s genuine. He’s a great actor of his essence of who he is brings life to those films in ways hardly anybody can do. Once in a lifetime individual
Dick VanDyke, you are a most loved and best talented actor, dancer and comedian. You will always be my favorite!!! Keep dancing!!❤️
Dick VanDyke, you are an inspiration to us all. An amazing and talented actor, You are my favorite actor and comedian. Keep dancing!!!
With Love ❤
What an inspiration to see Dick Van Dyke still dancing at 96. If you can still move it use it. That’s my motto. I love it! Keep it moving. That’s the key!
We just heard the news that our favorite actor Dick Van Dyke died in March May God bless him and keep him dancing in heaven, he was a good man and a clean actor no dirty jokes no dirty words not like today with these sick performers, we lost a great treasure this year May his soul rest in peace
Louise, according to the internet, he’s still alive.