‘Eight Is Enough’ star Dick Van Patten dies at 86

Dick Van Patten, a stage and screen actor most famous for starring as loving father Tom Bradford in the television series “Eight Is Enough,” died Tuesday morning. He was 86.

The actor died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica of complications from diabetes, according to his publicist, Jeffrey Ballard.



June 24, 7:59 a.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that Dick Van Patten died Monday morning. He died Tuesday morning.


Van Patten had roles in a number of movies, including “Soylent Green” and Mel Brooks films such as “High Anxiety” and “Spaceballs.”


His greatest success came in television, where he was a series regular on cult hits such as “When Things Were Rotten.” He also guest starred in many series of note, including “Rawhide,” “Maude” and “Arrested Development.”

Richard Vincent Van Patten was born Dec. 9, 1928, in Kew Gardens, N.Y. Billed early on as Dickie Van Patten, he started acting as a young child. He attended the Professional Children’s School in New York but never went to high school, he told the Boston Globe in 1988.

“My mother was aggressive, the typical stage mother,” he told the Globe, recalling that she would ride the subway with him from Queens to Broadway, going door to door to casting agents. “Many doors were slammed in our faces,” he said.

He made his Broadway debut at age 7, appearing in “Tapestry In Gray,” starring Melvyn Douglas. He would go on to perform in 27 Broadway productions.

He met his future wife in acting school as a teen but lost touch until a chance meeting years later. By then, Patricia Poole was a June Taylor dancer; Van Patten was rehearsing for a play in the same hall.

He told a friend: “See that pretty blonde over there? I’d marry her tomorrow,” he recalled to the Boston Globe. When they were introduced, he said, she laughed and replied: “Don’t you remember me?”

They were married for more than six decades.

In “Eight Is Enough,” which ran from 1977 to 1981, Van Patten found a character who he said embodied many of his values.

“Tom Bradford is a lot like the real me,” he said in a 1989 interview with the St. Petersburg Times. “He’s a man who always put his career second to his family. As long as everything was OK at home, he was OK too.”

Van Patten praised the show for tackling “real problems” such as teen pregnancy. In one episode, his character’s daughter Joanie is working for a local TV station when she finds out that Tom owns stock in an adult-movie theater. In another, son Tommy breaks the news that he’s gotten his girlfriend pregnant.

“Up until then, you had shows like ‘Father Knows Best,’ and they were very sweet, saccharine shows,” he told Newsday in 2007.

In 1981, Van Patten was a guest on “The John Davidson Show” when he struck up a conversation with the band’s drummer. Van Patten and Joey Herrick, both animal lovers, talked about the dearth of quality dog food. The pair later founded the Natural Balance pet food company.

In addition to his wife, survivors include Van Patten’s three sons, Nels, Jimmy and Vincent.

For more news, follow @cmaiduc on Twitter.