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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.
Van in 1975
Robert Jack Stein
December 6, 1928
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 31, 1980 (aged 51)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery|
|Occupation||Actor, singer, dancer, game show host|
(m. 1952; div. 1962)
(m. after 1968)
Van was born to Jewish vaudeville parents in The Bronx, New York City, 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, 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.
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 and roles in the musicals Because You're Mine and Kiss Me, Kate. 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)."
In the 1960s, Van did comedy work with Mickey Rooney 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 starred in the 1971 Broadway revival of No, No, Nanette, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. In 1973 he appeared in the musical remake of Lost Horizon, 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.
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.
Van married starlet Diane Garrett in 1952. 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.
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.
In 1959, Both Van and Garrett were injured when their car was rear-ended (with passenger Judy Garland with them) 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. Garland testified for the Vans.
They separated in January 1964 and the divorce was final on September 27, 1966 despite rumors of a reconciliation in July 1964. 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."
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 that they had wed, but they had not. Then in November, a blurb in a Hollywood column 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.[better source needed] One week later, Van filed for an annulment 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." 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.
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.
|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|
|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"|
- Alive and Kicking (1950)
- On Your Toes (1954)
- Oklahoma! (1959)
- The Tunnel of Love (1963) (Westchester County Playhouse, Dobbs Ferry, NY)
- No, No, Nanette (1971)
- Doctor Jazz (1975)
- The Music Man (1977) (Marriott's Lincolnshire Theatre, Lincolnshire, IL)
- Anything Goes (1977) (Kenley Players, Ohio)
- Damn Yankees (1979) (San Jose Civic Light Opera, California)
- "Bobby Van". Masterworks Broadway. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
- "Bobby Van Performer". Playbill. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
- The Affairs of Dobie Gillis Turner Classic Movies, accessed August 16, 2015
- Erickson, Hal. "Bobby Van Biography" The New York Times, accessed August 16, 2015
- The Game Show Pilot Light: "Showoffs" with Larry Blyden
- Make Me laugh TV.com, accessed August 16, 2015
- Anything Goes ovrtur.com, accessed August 16, 2015
- Clark, Earl W.; Singer, Allen J. (January 1, 2010). Beverly Hills Country Club. Arcadia Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 978-0738566191.
- Reno-Nevada State Journal, January 11, 1953
- Independent, Feb. 22, 1961
- L.A. Times, November 13, 1959
- L.A. Times, November 20, 1959
- Vidette Messenger of Porter County, January 11, 1964
- Pasadena Independent July 6, 1964
- Indianapolis Star, November 14, 1964
- Daily News, Oct. 30, 1967
- The El Dorado Times, Nov 29, 1967
- Clark County marriage license
- New Castle News, Pennsylvania, May 13, 1968
- Los Angeles Times, May 7, 1968 and Independent Long Beach, May 7, 1968
- Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
- 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
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