Bobby Van

  (Redirected from Bobby Van (actor))

Robert Jack Stein (December 6, 1928 – July 31, 1980), better known by the stage name Bobby Van, was a musical actor, best known for his career on Broadway, in films and television from the 1950s through the 1970s. He was also a game show host and panelist.

Bobby Van
Bobby Van 1975.jpg
Van in 1975
Robert Jack Stein

(1928-12-06)December 6, 1928
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 31, 1980(1980-07-31) (aged 51)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeMount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery
OccupationActor, singer, dancer, game show host
Years active1950–1980
Diane Garrett
(m. 1952; div. 1962)

(m. after 1968)

Early lifeEdit

Van was born to Jewish vaudeville parents in The Bronx, New York City,[1] and grew up backstage, witnessing many memorable Depression-era acts. Originally, Van took King as his stage name (after his father's stage name, from the trio "Gordon, Reed and King"). He finally opted for Van, supposedly after seeing a Van Johnson poster hanging in his sister's bedroom.


Van began his career as a musician, playing trumpet. When his band played a venue in the Catskills,[1] Van was asked to fill in as a song and dance man for another act. His act drew rave reviews and gave Van a thrill performing live as a solo act. He went on to appear in several Broadway musicals.[2]

In the early 1950s, Van received a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and made several films there, including the title role in The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953[3] and roles in the musicals Because You're Mine and Kiss Me, Kate.[1] Hal Erickson noted that "Van will always be remembered as the ecstatic young fellow who made like a human pogo stick during an expansive production number in Small Town Girl (1953)."[4]

In the 1960s, Van did comedy work with Mickey Rooney[4] in films and television. He appeared in three episodes of Rooney's Mickey sitcom on ABC in the role of a freeloading brother-in-law. He also did some choreography, as had his father years earlier.

Van frequently appeared with his second wife, Elaine Joyce, on 1970s game shows like Tattletales and Match Game. Van also hosted the game shows Showoffs,[5] The Fun Factory, and Make Me Laugh.

Van starred in the 1971 Broadway revival of No, No, Nanette, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.[2] In 1973 he appeared in the musical remake of Lost Horizon,[1] the last occasion on which he took his traditional song-and-dance persona to the big screen. His novelty dance number from Small Town Girl (1953) was featured in That's Entertainment, Part II (1976). In 1978, he played swindler Warren Custer in the episode "The Two-Million-Dollar Stowaway" of the NBC crime drama series The Eddie Capra Mysteries. In 1979, he appeared in the original Battlestar Galactica episode "Greetings from Earth" as the robot Hector, working along veteran song and dance man Ray Bolger (Vector). Van also hosted a syndicated revival of the game show, Make Me Laugh during the 1979–80 season.[6]

In June 1977 he appeared in the musical Anything Goes as "Billy Crocker" at the Kenley Players in Dayton, Ohio.[7]

In August 1979 Van appeared in the musical Damn Yankees as Young Joe with the San Jose Civic Light Opera in San Jose, California. His co-star was former MGM co-alum, Van Johnson, from whom Van took his own last name.

Personal lifeEdit

Van married starlet Diane Garrett in 1952.[8] They adopted a son, Peter, in 1959. They separated in 1964 and finalized the divorce in 1966. He and Diane Garrett (real name Ernestine Garrett. DOB 11/7/1927 per marriage license) were married on September 11, 1952, but kept the marriage secret until January 1953.[9]

Bobby and Diane attempted to have children for several years, but after losing a near-term baby in 1956 they adopted a son in 1959 named Peter, 9 months after taking him in as a five day old baby.[10]

In 1959, Both Van and Garrett were injured when their car was rear-ended (with passenger Judy Garland with them)[11] and sued the other driver, seeking $107,000. Diane claimed she was unable to move for three weeks after the accident; both she and Bobby claimed back injury. Bobby was awarded $1,500 and Diane was awarded $5,000.[12] Garland testified for the Vans.

They separated[13] in January 1964 and the divorce was final on September 27, 1966 despite rumors of a reconciliation in July 1964.[14] He had returned to town as his son was undergoing emergency hip surgery, not to reconcile. In November 1964, Walter Winchell stated in his column that Van "(recently divorced after a dozen years) hopes to persuade actress Emmaline Henry to be his new spouse."[15]

Van married Broadway actress Elaine Joyce in 1968. The marriage of Bobby and Elaine ran a difficult course - an announcement was made on October 30, 1967[16] that they had wed, but they had not. Then in November, a blurb in a Hollywood column[17] stated that Bobby said he and Joyce planned to marry on December 2, 1967, but her brother, Frank Pinchot had chosen that date to get married, so they would choose another date. In February 1968, it was announced they would marry in Los Angeles on March 21. Bobby and Elaine were finally married in Las Vegas on May 1, 1968.[18][better source needed][19] One week later, Van filed for an annulment[20] stating "fraud, non-consummation" and that the "24 year old actress told him she wanted to have children but this was only to induce him into marriage". An article states that Bobby said that Elaine felt "so unhappy and insecure (about marrying), that it's the only way."[19] Joyce would later state on Tattletales in 1975 that she "tried to run away". There is a preliminary divorce filed in 1968 for Elaine Joyce and Bobby Van. Elaine is listed as Elaine J Pinchot, year of birth 1945. It appears that it was never finalized, and they went on to have a 12-year marriage. Their daughter, Taylor, was born in 1976.[citation needed]

A Democrat, he supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[21]

Illness and deathEdit

In 1979, Van was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. His widow, Elaine Joyce, stated on the Sally Jessy Raphael talk show that Van suffered 13 days of headaches and went to the hospital where they made a small incision and tested the tumor. He survived the initial surgery, but after a-five-and-a-half-month battle with cancer, he died in Los Angeles on July 31, 1980, and is interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles.


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Skirts Ahoy! Himself Uncredited
1952 Because You're Mine Artie Pilcer
1953 Small Town Girl Ludwig Schlemmer
1953 The Affairs of Dobie Gillis Dobie Gillis
1953 Kiss Me Kate 'Gremio'
1961 The Ladies Man choreographer
1962 It's Only Money choreographer
1966 The Navy vs. the Night Monsters Ens. Rutherford Chandler
1972 Doomsday Machine Danny
1973 Lost Horizon Harry Lovett
1975 The Lion Roars Again MGM short subject
1976 Wonder Woman Tony Bernard Episode: "Beauty on Parade"
1978 Battlestar Galactica Hector Episode: "Greetings from Earth"

Stage WorkEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Bobby Van". Masterworks Broadway. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Bobby Van Performer". Playbill. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  3. ^ The Affairs of Dobie Gillis Turner Classic Movies, accessed August 16, 2015
  4. ^ a b Erickson, Hal. "Bobby Van Biography" The New York Times, accessed August 16, 2015
  5. ^ The Game Show Pilot Light: "Showoffs" with Larry Blyden
  6. ^ Make Me laugh, accessed August 16, 2015
  7. ^ Anything Goes, accessed August 16, 2015
  8. ^ Clark, Earl W.; Singer, Allen J. (January 1, 2010). Beverly Hills Country Club. Arcadia Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 978-0738566191.
  9. ^ Reno-Nevada State Journal, January 11, 1953
  10. ^ Independent, Feb. 22, 1961
  11. ^ L.A. Times, November 13, 1959
  12. ^ L.A. Times, November 20, 1959
  13. ^ Vidette Messenger of Porter County, January 11, 1964
  14. ^ Pasadena Independent July 6, 1964
  15. ^ Indianapolis Star, November 14, 1964
  16. ^ Daily News, Oct. 30, 1967
  17. ^ The El Dorado Times, Nov 29, 1967
  18. ^ Clark County marriage license
  19. ^ a b New Castle News, Pennsylvania, May 13, 1968
  20. ^ Los Angeles Times, May 7, 1968 and Independent Long Beach, May 7, 1968
  21. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  22. ^ Advertisement, "Westchester County Playhouse, The Tunnel of Love with Mickey Rooney and Bobby Van, July 19 thru July 21", Herald Statesman (Yonkers, NY), June 26, 1963, p. 19

External linksEdit