Most famous for the successful family sitcom "Eight Is Enough," Dick Van Patten's career stretched all the way back to the age of 3, when the people in his New York City neighborhood told his mother he was such a beautiful child he should be in movies. Those words of encouragement prompted his mother to find him an agent, and a long career on stage and screen followed.
At one point, little Dickie Van Patten was starring in early live sitcom "I Remember Mama" while simultaneously acting in the run of "Mister Roberts" on Broadway across town. (He liked his role as Nels in "Mama" so much he later named one of his sons after the character.)
"We would air 'Mama' live on Friday nights from 8:00 to 8:30, and then I'd run downstairs, get in a waiting cab, change right in the taxi, and rush to the theater. Crazy but fun!" Van Patten reminisced in his 1997 book "Launching Your Child in Show Biz," written with Peter Berk.
Van Patten starred in a number of movies, including "Soylent Green" and Mel Brooks films such as "High Anxiety" and "Spaceballs," but his largest success was in television, where he guest starred in many series of note, including "Rawhide," "Maude" and "Arrested Development." He even played the doctor in the original pilot of "The Love Boat." But he'll always be best remembered for his work as a series regular on cult hits like "When Things Were Rotten" (another Brooks project) and his work as loving dad Tom Bradford on "Eight Is Enough."
Married to his wife Patricia since 1954, Van Patten has three sons — Vincent, Nels and Jimmy — who all became actors. In 2009, Van Patten published a memoir, cowritten with Robert Baer, entitled "Eighty Is Not Enough."