UPDATE, 11:30 AM: Betty Buckley, Van Patten’s co-star on Eight Is Enough, told Deadline: “I am deeply saddened to hear about Dick Van Patten passing away. I am grateful that I got to see him and his lovely wife Pat when I was in Los Angeles in late January. He taught me so much when I worked with him on Eight Is Enough. He was our rock, our leader, our role model. His vast career in theater, film and television was awe inspiring. He was the consummate professional, a wonderful actor, master of comedy and a kind and generous human being. Every day on set he was a happy, jovial person, always generous and ready to play, tease and always keep us all laughing. His love for life and his beautiful family were an inspiration. I loved him very much. I send my love and deepest condolences to his wife Pat, sons, Nels, Jimmy and Vincent, his sister Joyce and brother Tim.”
EARLIER: Dick Van Patten, star of the ’80s TV series Eight Is Enough among many other programs, died early this morning at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica of complications from diabetes. He was 86.
Van Patten began work as a child actor (at age seven), primarily on the stage in his native New York before segueing to TV, appearing in more than 30 Broadway shows. His first role was in 1935 in Tapestry In Gray which starred Melvyn Douglas. He was billed as ‘Dickie Van Patten,’ his name on the Playbill for Thornton Wilder’s 1942 game-changer The Skin Of Our Teeth, in which he played the Telegraph Boy. He appeared in 27 Broadway shows, including Mister Roberts, Lovers And Other Strangers and his last play, Herb Gardner’s Thieves, in 1974.
In addition to Van Patten’s decades-long work as an actor, he was a businessman and dedicated animal advocate. He co-founded Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989 and, in 2008, established National Guide Dog Month to raise awareness and money for non-profit guide dog schools in the United States.