Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke

Growing up a TV Land watching kid, I have always loved Dick Van Dyke. The Dick Van Dyke Show is a classic that I love to watch even now. It's always funny and wholesome. Naturally, when I saw that my local library had My Luck Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir on audiobook, I decided to give it a listen.

Straight off I was happy - the audiobook is read by Dick Van Dyke himself! This added a nice personal touch to his story. This book early on sets any questions at ease - if you are looking for celebrity gossip and scandal, this is not the book for you. This is just a nice account of Dick's life. He was born in Danville, Illinois and had a few funny stories from even then. Apparently his mother was absent minded ... to the extent that a fully cooked ham ended up in his father's shirt drawer ... and she even left an infant Dick in his crib for hours while she and her husband went to the movies, lol. Clearly this proves that Dick would qualify as "the fittest". Also, Dick grew up with Gene Hackman - he was Dick's friend's annoying younger cousin who they never let hang out with them, lol. And did you know that he didn't always want to be an entertainer? He even contemplated being a minister for a while - weird.

Dick goes through his whole life little by little. He married a Danville girl, travelled around from gig to random gig, starts having children. He goes from California to Idaho to Georgia to Louisiana, finally ending up in New York where he starts off on his television climb. None of his jobs stick, but it gets him seen enough to draw the attention of the director of Bye, Bye Birdie. He starred in the original Broadway production. From there he went to The Dick Van Dyke Show. It turns out that Carl Reiner deliberately wrote the show to not include any references in the show that would date it - no political commentary or current events of any kind. This definitely explains why the show is still so loved and pertinent. Dick goes into a lot of detail about the creation of the show and funny anecdotes abound. I really enjoyed this section of the book.

Anyone who is familiar with Dick Van Dyke at all will know that he went on to star in Mary Poppins, Bye, Bye Birdie the film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Dick Van Dyke Show (again), Diagnosis Murder, and much more. In the mid-60s, Dick acted in a movie that ended up being more innuendo-filled than he was comfortable with. At that point, he told his agent that he didn't want to be in any other projects that he wouldn't want his kids to watch. He stuck by this commitment to wholesome programming for the rest of his career which still continues today. This is where he really won me over. I respect that he took a stand, and he ended up proving that television and movies don't have to be controversial or filled with sexual puns to be funny.

Dick talks about so much more in his book, and if you are at all interested I highly suggest you read it. All of his stories really do affirm his title - seriously this guy is one of the luckiest people I've ever heard of. He concludes with one of the greatest lessons he has learned in his life: "We all need something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for." I couldn't agree more. This book was funny and entertaining, just like the man himself. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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