March 27, 2009
I got to wondering the other day about whatever happened to Dick Van Patten. The occasion for me to wonder was a TCM broadcast of the 1948 movie “I Remember Mama,” which was inspired by a novel and in turn inspired a Broadway play and a television series. Which brings us to Dick Van Patten, who played Nels Hansen in the TV show. The “Mama” properties have to do with a Norwegian family living in San Francisco in the early 20th century. It’s wholesome stuff. Van Patten became a more prominent figure when he starred as the patriarch in the later TV series “Eight is Enough,” another wholesome show.
I didn’t finish watching “I Remember Mama,” because it would have kept me up until 2 a.m., so I put it in my Netflix queue. Before I got around to checking up on Van Patten, I read today that Willie Aames, who played one of Van Patten’s kids on “Eight is Enough” was selling his personal belongings in Kansas this week in order to pay off his debts. Aames also appeared in the series “Charles in Charge,” but apparently couldn’t hang onto the money he made. His drug habit probably didn’t help.
Life didn’t imitate art for the Bradfords – Van Patten’s TV family. Adam Rich, who played the youngest kid, has a string of arrests to his credit, including multiple substance abuse charges and break-and-entry. And Lani O’Grady, who played the eldest daughter on “Eight” died of a drug overdose, according to the Los Angeles County coroner. At one point in his life, Aames was ordained to ministry, a fact that prompted readers of the Dallas Morning News web site to quarrel on line today about why God hadn’t stepped in to lift Aames out of insolvency. Apparently these readers are unacquainted with concepts such as free will and personal responsibility.
Oh, I did check on Dick Van Patten. He’s doing fine, thank you, and still has that wholesome aura. He’s 80 years old now and has been happily married to Josephine Acerno since 1954. They have three sons, all of them actors, none of whom have been busted for drugs. Most of the Van Pattens are very good tennis players. Not pool, tennis. Dick Van Patten completely recovered from a diabetic stroke he suffered in 2006, and, as though to reinforce his wholesome image, founded a company that makes “Natural Balance Pet Foods.’
As George Ade said, “It all depends.”