In this follow-up to his memoir, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business (2011), song-and-dance man Van Dyke relishes his approaching 90th birthday and shares some tips for readers on reaching and enjoying that venerable age.
Best known for Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins, and the Dick Van Dyke Show, the still-energetic actor, aided here by Gold (co-author, with Billy Ray Cyrus: Hillbilly Heart, 2013, etc.), presents not so much a memoir as a collection of sprightly, scattered essays, a few poems, some correspondence with a TV reviewer, one raunchy limerick, and a fair number of platitudinous to-do and not-to-do lists. One chapter, featuring his report card rating of significant events since his birth in 1925, results in some odd juxtapositions: Van Dyke seeing Al Jolson in a “talkie” in 1930 (The Jazz Singer) is followed by the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 (“The country…needed a leader, someone to believe in, and FDR was the man”). Both years receive an A. Van Dyke’s boyhood, marriages, career, bout with alcoholism, health problems: all touched upon but not explored, for this is determinedly upbeat stuff. If the secrets to a long life are good genes and a good attitude, the author appears to have been blessed with both, plus the important factor of good luck. Some celebrity name-dropping is inevitable in a showbiz memoir, but here it is fairly low-key. A late chapter featuring a conversation with longtime friend Carl Reiner would have been a fitting way to wrap up this offering on aging well, but unfortunately, Van Dyke cannot resist concluding this account by tacking on more forgettable platitudes.
Those with fond memories of the author’s wholesome movies and TV shows may take pleasure in this dose of good cheer; others not so much.