Dick Van Dyke Celebrates 90th Birthday with Malibu Playhouse

Hometown boys of Danville, Ill., speed painter John Jansky and actor Dick Van Dyke, stand by the portrait Jansky just completed live at the Malibu Playhouse. 

Actor and Malibu resident Dick Van Dyke has generously given back to the community for years, including using his upcoming 90th birthday to raise money for the Malibu Playhouse, where he serves as Executive Creative Producer. Van Dyke kicked off a nine-day series of events at the Playhouse, which began on Oct. 2 and will continue through Sunday, Oct. 11.

Last Friday evening, an exhibit of 40 pieces of Van Dyke fan art opened with a cocktail reception in the Playhouse’s newly redone “The Annex” building. Each piece features Van Dyke as the subject, and all of the art was created and sent in by his fans from around the world. Van Dyke’s wife, Arlene, produced and curated this first-of-its-kind event after soliciting the artwork through social media and personal contacts.

“With the Mister’s 90th coming up this year, I wanted to do something special to commemorate it,” Arlene shared. “In January of this year, I started thinking about what to do.”

The show featured artists from all over the world, including the Netherlands, Morocco, England. The youngest artist featured was 16-year-old Danielle Scott from Scotland.

Professional artist Shane Grammer of Sacramento submitted a large, mixed media work of Van Dyke as Bert the chimney sweep from the Oscar-winning film “Mary Poppins” (1964). The work is titled “Winds in the East,” which was taken from dialogue in the film. 

Lisa Wick, a nurse/artist attending the event from Chicago, may be one of Van Dyke’s biggest fans.

“I’ve been in love with him since 1961,” she shared. “I watch multiple episodes of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ every night. He’s my happy place.” Wick’s artwork depicted Van Dyke and co-star Mary Tyler Moore in the very first episode of the show. 

Puppet maker Mike Funt of North Hollywood took a different tack and created a puppet-like Billy Bright doll of Van Dyke. Already a friend of Malibu Playhouse after working on “The 39 Steps,” Funt said, “Dick Van Dyke has been my hero since I was four years old, because I’m also a performer and a clown.”

Selected pieces of fan art will be sold in silent auctions, with others available for purchase throughout the duration of the exhibit. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Malibu Playhouse.

Friday and Saturday night parties also included musical stage performances by Van Dyke and the Vantastix, puppeteer Scott Land and performance painter John Jansky, who is from Danville — Van Dyke’s hometown. Van Dyke got up on stage and danced with the puppet, to the delight of the audience.

“The room was filled with love and laughter that night,” Arlene shared. “It was very special.”

On Saturday, Van Dyke signed copies of his upcoming book, “Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths about Aging.”

On Dec. 13, Van Dyke transitions from an octogenarian to a nonagenarian — a person in their 90s. When asked how he feels about turning 90, Van Dyke said, “I’m quite surprised, it doesn’t feel anything like it’s supposed to feel!”

The idea for the book came from Van Dyke’s publishers, following the success of his 2012 memoir, “My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business.” Weinstein Books describes his new book as “an instruction book on how to embrace old age with a positive attitude. The chapters are filled with exclusive personal anecdotes that explore various themes on aging.”

When asked for advice on how to live a long life, Van Dyke said in an interview with The Malibu Times, “Keep dancing, keep moving — that’s the most important thing.” And, with a twinkle in his eye, he added, “Have the right parents … and having a beautiful young wife also helps.”

Van Dyke thinks keeping an open mind is important when it comes to staying young at heart. “I know people who haven’t changed their minds about anything in their entire lives,” he said. 

“Keep Moving” are words that Van Dyke lives by.

“Never ever start going down the stairs sideways, go down the right way,” he advised his compatriots. “Do a lot of walking. Go to the gym and do as much as you can, until your body tells you it’s over… A good exercise is to stand against a wall and lower yourself into a sitting position.” Van Dyke himself goes to a local gym facility three times a week, and “gets in the water” for exercise.

His longevity and good health are also helped by a sense of humor that’s never gone away. After Van Dyke said, “The legs are the second thing to go,” The Malibu Times asked, “What’s the first thing to go?” He laughed and said, “I’ll tell you later.” Everyone within earshot roared. His timing and delivery are still impeccable. 

The Playhouse will end its week of fundraising and festivities with an Open House on Sunday, Oct. 11 from 2 – 5 p.m., featuring a meet and greet with Guest Artistic Director Jeremy Skidmore.