Alan Thicke famously dispensed reassurance, fatherly wisdom and hearty laughs as beloved patriarch Dr. Jason Seaver on the popular 1980s sitcom “Growing Pains.”
Since his death from a sudden heart attack last week at age 69, Thicke has been warmly remembered for those same attributes in his personal life, says his son, Robin Thicke.
Robin, the Grammy-nominated pop-soul singer known for his hit “Blurred Lines,” says his father had a penchant for sage advice. One of Robin’s favorite quotes from his dad goes: “There is a finite end to this life and we’re all going to face it, and a little silliness can help.”
It was in that spirit of mourning and mirthfulness, says Robin, that Alan Thicke’s loved ones gathered for a memorial celebration last Sunday in Carpinteria. (Various quotes by Thicke, including the one above, were printed on place cards.)
Robin spoke to The Times, sharing stories of how his father had moved so many and been loved by even more.
“There was a sadness, of course, but we all had this little twinkle in our eye that he had because we were so happy to be with each other and he kept a lot of us in touch,” Robin says. “[The memorial] was the kind of celebration he would have loved, but never would have thrown for himself.”
The memorial celebration drew an array of family and friends from Alan Thicke’s long and varied career, including the TV family for which he is most remembered.
“Leo [DiCaprio] flew in especially just to be at the event,” says Robin of the Oscar winner who appeared on the sitcom in one of his earliest roles. “Leo led up [former costars] Kirk Cameron and Jeremy Miller and Joanna Kerns and Tracey Gold — Kirk wore his ‘Growing Pains’ sweater from the show — and they all stood up there and told a story. And I know my dad was smiling about that.”
In a statement released earlier this week, Thicke’s widow, Tanya Callau Thicke, offered gratitude for the many well wishes the family had received.
“It is with gut-wrenching sadness and unbelievable grief that I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the outpouring of love and support during this unimaginable time,” the statement read, in part.
(The family asked that donations be made in Thicke’s name to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.)
Thicke and Callau Thicke were “soul mates” says Robin. “His favorite day would be to spend the afternoon playing some tennis or hockey with his sons and then coming home to his beautiful Tanya at the end of the day.”
When asked about his father’s legacy, Robin choked up and brought it back to family.
“The most important legacy that he left was the kind of father that he was,” he says. “I love being a father, it’s the most important thing in my life. I love being with my son and my family and he made all of that possible. And all three of his sons love their families and are taking care of their families. And that’s what he would want to leave behind: three positive, happy, loving sons,” says Thicke of himself and brothers Brennan and Carter.
Robin collected a wealth of testimonials (some of which have been edited for clarity and length) to share with The Times.
I met Alan at the [1981 NHL] All-Star game in L.A. We had a charity dinner Monday, the night before the game. He walked in with so much class. We became such good friends in an instant! He loved hockey — more important, he loved helping people. After that first meeting, he and I seemed to do a lot together. All-Star games, charity events, even when we won our first Stanley Cup, he was in the locker room with me. I called him in June of ’87 to go to a Laker game. We sat there not knowing what the future would hold. I ran into an old friend, Janet Jones, and her friend Linda, and the four of us went for dinner. Little did any of us know, it would change my life forever. Dinner led to dating, to marriage [to Jones], to five beautiful children, and one wonderful grandchild. In the summer of ’88, I called Alan in early August to tell him I may be traded. He was not taking no for an answer, so Janet and I went to stay at his house with him, Brennan and Robin (where we got the famous call, I had been traded).
Any time I would need him for a charity event, he was the first guy there. He helped me with so much, just the best, even hosted our wedding. But the one thing he taught me more than anyone, was how proud he was to be a Canadian. Wow, he loved that.
He was so proud of all his boys. I think Carter really made him feel young, and of course, he told me a million times how good Tanya made him feel. The love of his life. Tanya made him relax and enjoy the benefits of all his hard work over the years. But most of all, he was so proud of his family, and the boys he loved so much!
Alan, you were truly the Great One, we love you and will miss you every day. PS: You played hockey hard and fast, [I] never had the guts to tell you: I wish I had your drive. We will miss your smile forever.
Wayne & Janet Gretzky
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Alan Thicke was one of the first celebrity friends I had in Los Angeles. He used to come to the Forum and support the Lakers all the time. One night after a Lakers’ game, I met him and Dr. Buss [former Laker owner Jerry Buss] for dinner. We had so much fun talking that we ended up at Dr. Buss’ house playing pool all night. I’m so glad I had the chance to know Alan. My condolences go out to his wife, Tanya and kids, Robin, Brennan and Carter. He was a great man.
Alan was my friend, my “TV dad,” spiritual advisor, and I could always count on his advice to guide me. The times I wanted to get crazy, that soothing voice was comforting. At my foundation golf tournaments he was great. I’d get up and get political and Alan could defuse everything: “I think we should build a wall around George Lopez.” He was hilarious.
I don’t think I could have ranked No. 17 on the list of top TV dads of all time (just one ahead of Herman Munster) without him.
I love Alan and will miss him dearly.
When [Thicke’s son] Carter was still very young, [Alan] got engaged to Tanya, and the three of us were having dinner at the old Sunset Room one night. And Tanya was waving her hand around frantically so I’d notice the big ring, which I finally did, and we talked about the ring for quite a while … later, the conversation turned to little Carter, and at one point I asked Alan, “Does he understand about sex yet?” And he said, “No, not really, but he knows it has something to do with the ring.”
David Mirisch (publicist and producer of fundraising events)
It was just two weeks ago that I had Alan come out to Moorpark College to see our world-famous zoo and it was just two months ago that he played in a tennis exhibition for autistic children at MountainGate Country Club. And every time we got together he always said to me, “You were the first show business person I met when I came to Hollywood” — that was 46 years ago. Ever since then Alan has been a dear and close friend to the Mirisch family. He spoke at my 70th birthday party and participated in over 50 fundraising events all over the country. I will always remember him for the hundreds of hours he donated to the many charity causes I called him about. He was always there for me and the people, attending events and using his charm and wit and love for “the cause” to do whatever he could to make it the best event possible.
As a boy growing up in Canada, Alan Thicke was a Canadian hero. Later, I had the privilege of playing hockey with him in Los Angeles, where I learned that he was not only very funny, but kind and generous. I am saddened by his passing, but he will always be a Canadian hero to me.
Alan was hilarious because he was good. Our best day was his wedding day when he asked me for some advice; I gave it to him and he responded by asking me to be his best man. We became family on that day. So I know that his death was the death of a gentleman, the death where one dies as one lived.
Throughout the over 40 years that I have known and been a friend of Alan, he has always been an alpha male. He had a way of attracting attention whenever he entered a room. His personality and his wit were capable of winning you over immediately.
However, there was one area in which that top-dog mentality didn’t always work to his advantage, and that was when he was playing hockey. When he was in a game he felt as if he was invincible and loaded with god-like stamina, and as a result he didn’t like coming off the ice. His teammates and I would bang our sticks against the boards to get his attention and alert him to change lines but he conveniently ignored us, and because he was so funny about it we didn’t mind.
What a joy to know that his last activity was doing something that meant so much to him. If there is any justice in this world, then there must be a rink up there where he can skate forever.
Todd Thicke [brother and executive producer of “America’s Funniest Home Videos”]
Alan did thousands of hours of charity work. He loved World Vision, and one year we traveled to East Africa to raise awareness to provide clean drinking water and help build schools. We were setting up for a shot and needed him.
When we found him, he was surrounded by children. He had taught them the background [vocal] part and dance moves to a classic doo-wop song, “Runaround Sue.” There were about 20 little smiling faces, happily singing the doo-wops, while he sang the lyrics.
He had a magical way of connecting with kids. They just loved him. And he loved trying to bring them joy and improve the quality of their lives.