Jerry Van Dyke Arkansas resident (Part 2)

I went to see Jerry Van Dyke and Tommy Smoothers in the play “The Sunshine Boys” in Hot Springs back on June 1, 2011 with my son Wilson and it was great. Here is an article on Van Dyke:

October 5, 2007

Jerry Van Dyke keeps fans entertained

BY MARY WICOFF The Commercial-News Fri Oct 05, 2007, 11:19 PM CDT

DANVILLE — Jackie Collins was walking past Temple Plaza when she stopped in her tracks and pointed.

“The ‘Coach’ guy,” she exclaimed, smiling at Jerry Van Dyke. “I’m old enough to remember that.”

Van Dyke, who kept on signing autographs for a handful of people, is used to being recognized as Luther Van Dam on the sitcom “Coach.”

“You’re always alive in reruns,” he said with a smile.

The actor/comedian is in his hometown to attend this weekend’s reunion of the Danville High School Class of 1949. He also will be the honored guest at the Danville Tennis Club’s open house Sunday.

As he and his wife, Shirley, make their way around town, people politely ask for his autograph or shake his hand.

Van Dyke said a lot of people recognize him, thanks to constant reruns of “Coach,” which aired from 1989-94.

Although the 76-year-old has appeared on many shows, either as the star or in a supporting role, he doesn’t mind that he’s best known as a befuddled assistant coach.

“Before that, I was (only known as) Dick Van Dyke’s brother,” he joked.

Van Dyke, an avid tennis player, made sure he hit the courts every day.

Friday morning, Van Dyke paired off with tennis pro Scott Simpson to challenge his wife and Scott’s wife, Cathy, director of the Danville Tennis Club.

The men beat the women, but Van Dyke noted he had taught his wife how to play.

“Everybody hit the ball well,” onlooker Elzer Marx said.

“Almost everybody,” a winded Van Dyke shot back.

Van Dyke, who arrived in Danville on Wednesday, said he tries to get back to Danville almost every year. He usually slips into town quietly, he said.

“I love to come back to Danville and see my friends,” he said.

He and his wife of 30 years left Los Angeles in 1994, when an earthquake destroyed their home. They divide their time between an 850-acre ranch in Arkansas — where Shirley was raised — and a home south of Cancun, Mexico.

Van Dyke likes Arkansas because it’s similar to Illinois, but without the severe winters, Shirley said. He’s a warm-climate person who has to move on when the temperatures dip below 80 degrees.

Enjoying the warm sun in Temple Plaza, Van Dyke chitchatted with a couple of employees from the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency. When they pointed to their workplace — the building at the corner of Vermilion and North — he remarked it used to be Walgreens drugstore.

“On my first date, I walked to Walgreens with my dog,” he said. After a pause, he quipped, “I think the girl was pretty much a dog, too.”

Van Dyke noted a lot of things haven’t changed in Danville, including his childhood home at Grant and Townsend. The house, the oak tree and the cobblestone street still look the same, he said, as well as the pavilion and trees at nearby Lincoln Park.

“That’s a great thing about a town like this,” he said.

He’s disappointed the Fischer Theatre is sitting unused, saying he’s done everything he could do. Van Dyke said he was behind a fundraiser for the theater a few years ago.

While Danville has its problems, Van Dyke said it’s still a great place to live.

“I have such fond memories of growing up here,” he said. “The older you get, the more you think about growing up. I had the best growing-up ever.”

Except for World War II, the 1940s and ‘50s were the best decades, he said. He used to leave the house and not come home until dinner — and no one worried about him.

When someone mentioned there are a lot of stories going around about Van Dyke’s youthful adventures, he acknowledged he was behind those pranks. His brother, Dick, was the quiet one who didn’t do anything wrong, he said.

Van Dyke, who was the class clown, said it took him five years to get through high school, adding that he probably had Attention Deficit Disorder.

Today, young people are treated for the disorder, but, he said, “Back then, you were just stupid.”

When someone asked to take his photo, Van Dyke politely agreed.

“I take my own photos and send them in (to the media),” he said. Joking that there wasn’t any paparazzi following him, he wondered, “What’s Lindsay Lohan got that I don’t got?”

Van Dyke has done shows in Las Vegas recently — one called “Last Comics Barely Standing.” The shows, featuring other comedians from the past, have sold out, he said.

Van Dyke also clearly remembers reviews about his performances, including one when he was 16 and appeared in Red Mask Players’ “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” Commercial-News editor Bob Wright wrote: “Probably the find of the evening was Jerry Van Dyke.”

Later, he appeared as a regular on the Judy Garland Show in 1963, and a New York columnist called him “a big-footed oaf.”

Nodding at his wife, he joked, “She’s called me that ever since.”


Jerry Van Dyke will be present during an open house from 1-2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Danville Tennis Club in Lincoln Park. The open house is a dual celebration to welcome Van Dyke, a longtime supporter of the club, and to mark the club’s 60th anniversary.

Van Dyke is in town for Danville High School’s Class of 1949 reunion. A dinner will be at 6 tonight and a brunch will be at 10 a.m. Sunday, both at the Boat Club.

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