Two weeks ago at The Writer’s Guild in Beverly Hills, CA, entertainment legends Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke had a conversation on stage on the occasion of the release of Mr. Van Dyke’s new autobiography. Hosted by Writers Bloc Presents, these two legends swapped tales and memories before a rapt audience of which I was very happy to be a part.
As a child, it was quite easy to become a fan of Dick Van Dyke due to Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, only to further appreciate his talents with The Dick Van Dyke Show, and many other projects all the way up to the fairly recent Night at the Museum. When first arriving in California in 1997 to work for Disney, I was hoping that would be my ticket to finally meet Dick Van Dyke. Turns out that ticket was a wee bit elusive.
Every now and then, I would hear that friends of mine would have met him at the computer convention Siggraph that I would also be attending. Others would meet him on the Disney lot now and then, even once making a planned appearance with Julie Andrews at the renaming of one of the Disney soundstages in Ms. Andrews’ honor. Where was I? Foolishly working.
A few years ago, the charity group Actors and Others for Animals [click here to see my previous post on this group] were having their annual fundraising banquet in honor of Dick Van Dyke. Mary Willard, the very funny wife of the very funny Fred Willard, called and asked if I might be willing to draw their personal ad for the program book. How could I resist an opportunity to draw Dick, Fred and Mary? Better yet, the job came with an invitation to the event where one would certainly have the opportunity to shake the hand of the rubbery master of mirth himself!
After completing the whimsical ad for the Willards, my anticipations for meeting Mr. Van Dyke were growing exponentially each day. In a cruel twist of fate, those same precious anticipations were frigidly dashed yet again. The banquet was being held at the same time I was scheduled to be on the opposite side of the country on vacation with my family!
It was beginning to feel as though Dick Van Dyke was a myth that parents made up to tell their children about on cold winter nights. “Twas the night before movies, when over the lot it happens, a tall lanky sweep appears, that guy from Mary Poppins….” Seriously, I was beginning to wonder if I needed to hang a plate of tea and cakes from the ceiling at night to see if he would appear. Or at the least, add an ottoman to my office decor.
Well, Virginia, there really is a Dick Van Dyke. Last year, several years after parting from Disney myself, I was attending a private reception when I turned around and there before me was the man behind Bert, Rob Petrie, Caractacus Potts, Dr. Sloan and so many others. I finally was able to shake his hand, and thank him for being a part of filling my own head with imagination as a child that indubitably continues within me today.