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Larry King Live

Dick Van Dyke Discusses His Career in Entertainment

Aired September 22, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a true legend: Dick Van Dyke, for the hour. He'll take your calls, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

One might call tonight's edition of LARRY KING LIVE, "The Pleasure of His Company" -- one of the truly great performers, screen, television -- what a mark he's left, Dick Van Dyke. And by the way, "Diagnosis: Murder" starts its eighth season on CBS.

One of the most famous shows in the history of television, "The Dick Van Dyke Show," was only five years. "Diagnosis: Murder" has already passed that by three.

Before we talk about that, you saw Streisand last night.

DICK VAN DYKE, ACTOR: Oh, yes.

KING: Give us a review.

VAN DYKE: Absolutely marvelous.

KING: Had you ever seen her before?

VAN DYKE: I have never seen her in person before. She is just dynamic. And she talks so much about being -- having stage fright. She was as cool as she could be. She was funny...

KING: I know, but she's scared, she says. She really does get scared.

VAN DYKE: Isn't that funny, but she never shows it.

KING: Thirty-five songs she sang.

VAN DYKE: Thirty-five songs. A chorus of 80, and I think a band about the same size: an orchestra, that is. Star-studded evening, too.

KING: And one of the funny little stories, there's a little girl sitting in front of you who thinks you're -- who knows you're "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"...

VAN DYKE: That's right. Yes. Jeff Wall's (ph) daughter as a matter of fact. She kept looking at me, and finally, I said something, and my adenoids gave me away, I think. And she finally said, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." And her mother called home on the cell phone; she said, "Daddy, I just met 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,' and he's my friend."

(LAUGHTER)

KING: What's it like to be recognized everywhere?

VAN DYKE: I cannot tell you what it means when children recognize. This is about the third generation for me. And when kids that small recognize me, it really pleases me, very gratifying.

KING: What do you make of the -- "Diagnosis: Murder," they've put it up against "ER." Right?

VAN DYKE: That's right.

KING: What is this? A death wish?

VAN DYKE: I think it's being thrown at the wolves, we call it in our business.

KING: Are you ticked?

VAN DYKE: Well, I don't know. I don't think we've got much of a chance to tell you the truth. But our main problem is our audience skews a little older than most shows, and I don't think our people can stay up that late. I certainly can't.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Ten o'clock -- you watch this you and you're gone, right?

VAN DYKE: I'm gone right after LARRY KING.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: What do you make of the success, though, of "Diagnosis: Murder"? It's held on.

VAN DYKE: Yes. In many ways, I'm surprised. The only thing is it's the only show of its kind left. You know, Angela Lansbury is gone and Andy Griffith is gone. Peter Falk's gone. So our show is the only murder mystery like that, and it's a family show. You can watch it with the kids and feel safe about it.

So I think we're kind of an alternate choice for people who have had it with sex and violence.

KING: Speak of "Columbo," you played a villain on "Columbo" once.

VAN DYKE: Yes, I did.

KING: A mean villain, a killer.

VAN DYKE: Thank you. That's fun! KING: They caught you through photography, right?

VAN DYKE: How did you remember that? I had a beard at the time.

KING: You had a beard, yes.

VAN DYKE: I played a killer twice. Once on "Matlock," on Andy Griffith's show, I got to play the killer.

KING: Do you like that? Was that a kick?

VAN DYKE: It was fun, just for the change, yes, to be nasty.

KING: But you'd never catch Dick Van Dyke nasty, right?

VAN DYKE: Yes, I did my best, though.

KING: Let's go back a little. Where did all this start? Where -- when you were a kid, where did you grow up?

VAN DYKE: I grew up in Danville, Illinois, right in the middle of the state.

KING: Did you want to be performer? Were you a high school cut- up?

VAN DYKE: I was the class clown, you know, that kind of thing, and I gathered around me a group of guys who also were silly. I was in all the plays and everything. But I don't know, at that time show businesses looked like the moon, you know, it was so far away. I wanted to be a radio announcer.

KING: Aha.

VAN DYKE: And actually, it was during the war. All the announcers got drafted. So at 16 I got a job at the local radio station. And I was working after school and weekends. I did the news; I did everything. I did -- played records.

KING: Did you know then that you could sing and dance and had all this kind of talent and...

VAN DYKE: No. I had no idea.

KING: No idea?

VAN DYKE: No idea. I picked -- just pure fear. I got into a Broadway show before I ever sang and danced. I learned how after I got in the show.

KING: You went to Broadway and auditioned?

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: Where did you break in?

VAN DYKE: Well, I...

KING: Did you do stock? Did you do...

VAN DYKE: No, I did night clubs right here in Los Angeles. My partner, Phil Erickson, put me in the business, a guy from my home town, a dear friend who we just lost a couple of months ago.

KING: That was "The Merry Mutes"?

VAN DYKE: "The Merry Mutes," yes. Phil formed it and it came to me and we came out here together. And we were together for about five years, great five years. And he just passed away unfortunately.

KING: And what made you go to New York? What made you want to be in theater?

VAN DYKE: Well, we came here, and we worked night clubs for a little while, and then went to Atlanta, Georgia, which we fell in love with at the time. Both bought homes on the G.I. Bill. And after a while we had to split up. We started having kids. So he opened a little nightclub called The Wit's End, very successfully, and I went to work for the local radio -- television station doing a daily show, an hour a day five days a week.

KING: Doing what?

VAN DYKE: Anything I could think of. I pantomimed (UNINTELLIGIBLE), told jokes, sang, danced, answered the phone, interviewed people on the street, anything I could think of.

KING: And was Jerry starting then, Jerry Van Dyke, your very talented brother? Was he starting to do the comedy route, too?

VAN DYKE: That's right. That's right, shortly after I did. He's five -- 5 1/2 years younger.

KING: What was the -- what was the Broadway show you got into?

VAN DYKE: "Bye-Bye, Birdie."

KING: That was your first show?

VAN DYKE: No, I was in a show called "The Girls Against the Boys," a review which ran about two weeks. But it was Bert Lahr, Nancy Walker, Shelley Berman and me.

KING: Wow.

VAN DYKE: And it was darn good, I thought.

KING: How did you get "Birdie"?

VAN DYKE: I was doing a game show for ABC at the time called "Mother's Day" from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Latin Quarter in New York, with no budget. We were having egg-frying contests, diaper- changing contests, that kind of thing. KING: Daytime.

VAN DYKE: Daytime, yes, and I said I don't think I can do this the rest of my -- I've got to do something. So every day the show was over, I'd go around and audition for shows, anything. Shakespeare, musicals -- I didn't care.

KING: But "Bye-Bye, Birdie," you got "Bye-Bye, Birdie"?

VAN DYKE: I got "Bye-Bye, Birdie." I got up on the stage in front of Gower Champion and sang "Once in Love With Amy" and did a little soft shoe.

KING: Which is not in "Bye-Bye, Birdie."

VAN DYKE: No, no. It's nowhere...

(CROSSTALK)

Yes, but that's all I knew, and a little soft-shoe was all I knew. And Gower Champion came on the stage and said, "You've got the part," which is like in the movies. I couldn't -- I called my wife and said, you're not going to believe this, I got the part.

KING: Where along this away did you say to yourself, you know, I've got a lot of talent?

VAN DYKE: I haven't said that yet.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: We'll be right back with Dick Van Dyke. We'll take your phone calls. The eight season of "Diagnosis: Murder" debuts on CBS. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DIAGNOSIS: MURDER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, everyone says that you have the perfect personality. But there are two other doctors.

VAN DYKE: Captain, I really never got the hang of shuffleboard or being the leader, for that matter.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Dad, don't sell yourself short. You were the bingo king at church fair three years ago.

VAN DYKE: That was three years ago, Steve. I'm a little out of practice now.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, we don't offer bingo anyway or shuffleboard. Too sedentary.

VAN DYKE: What do you offer?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Rollerblading, spinning. Do you like kick boxing? VAN DYKE: Kick boxing?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You know, maybe you better find somebody else.

VAN DYKE: I've always wanted to learn kick boxing.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, wonderful. You can learn as you teach. I'll make the announcement at dinner.

VAN DYKE: What announcement?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I think you just said yes to the activities director's job.

VAN DYKE: I did?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DICK VAN DYKE SHOW")

MARY TYLER MOORE, ACTRESS: Don't you think ought to wake Stacey up now? After all, the party is in his honor.

VAN DYKE: Yes, good idea.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Party.

Oh, hello there. How about a little twist? Come on.

(LAUGHTER)

Shut her motor off.

Oh, who's this?

RICHARD DEACON, ACTOR: I'm Mel Cooley.

VAN DYKE: He's the producer of "The Alan Brady." Mel, this is my brother, Stacy Petrie.

JERRY VAN DYKE, ACTOR: How do you do, Mel? Love your show.

DEACON: Well, thank you. Thank you.

JERRY VAN DYKE: If I ever need a producer, you're my man. How much do you make a week?

DEACON: How much do I make a week?

JERRY VAN DYKE: I tell, I'll give you twice that. Throw in a trip to Europe and a new pair of pants. What do you say to that?

DEACON: Well, Mr. Petrie, you are very generous. JERRY VAN DYKE: I'm also sound asleep.

DEACON: Yes, he is Rob's brother all right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That is Dick's brother, Jerry.

VAN DYKE: That's Jerry.

KING: OK, you are a big hit in "Bye Bye Birdie." How long do you run in that? How long...

VAN DYKE: One year.

KING: One year.

VAN DYKE: The one year.

KING: And does that lead to television?

VAN DYKE: That is right. I think -- I think Carl Reiner saw me in it and was planning the series -- for himself, as you probably know.

KING: Yes, that is right. It was going to be him.

VAN DYKE: Yes. And the network said, "You are not right for the part," which I thought was kind of funny.

KING: So he brings you to L.A. Did they -- did that series begin in L.A.?

VAN DYKE: Yes, they flew me out to L.A. Gave me a week off from "Bye Bye Birdie." We shot the pilot, which I was very enthused about.

KING: With Mary?

VAN DYKE: Yes, with Mary.

KING: And you clicked right away with her.

VAN DYKE: Absolutely right away, yes.

KING: In fact, you even liked her more than just a little bit, as you admitted on this show.

VAN DYKE: Oh, yes. Absolutely yes. Had a real crush on Mary.

KING: And did the pilot sell right away? Did...

VAN DYKE: Right away, yeah.

KING: Was it a hit right away?

VAN DYKE: No. We went in the toilet the first year. KING: You are kidding!

VAN DYKE: We were on against "Perry Como," which was a very, very popular show. And, of course, my name didn't mean any -- nobody had ever heard of me.

KING: Yes, you were a Broadway star then.

VAN DYKE: That -- well, kind of, yes. I have to tell you the whole story about "Bye Bye Birdie." I ran into a Gower Champion many years after "Bye Bye Birdie." And he said: "Do you know, in Philadelphia, the producers wanted to fire you. They didn't like you." And he talked them into saving me.

I was at the Choreographers Awards one day, when Marge Champion was there. And I told that story. And afterwards, she said, "You don't know the half of it." I did song called, "Put On a Happy Face," which was my big hit song.

KING: Gray skies are going to clear up.

VAN DYKE: Yes. And they brought the song down that morning. They had written overnight. It was not for me. It was for Chita Rivera to sing, not for me. And Gower Champion said: "Look, the ginny (ph) kid has got nothing to do in the first act. Why don't you let him have it?" That's it. And that probably changed my life right there.

KING: So the "Dick Van Dyke Show" was in -- threatened -- by today's standards, it would have been canceled.

VAN DYKE: It would -- it had been canceled.

KING: Oh, it was canceled.

VAN DYKE: They gave us the whole -- they used to give you a season.

KING: Sixteen weeks of summer, right?

VAN DYKE: Yes. And anyway, we were out and...

KING: What brought it back?

VAN DYKE: Sheldon Leonard (ph), I think, primarily. And my agent, Saul Leon (ph), went to Cincinnati to talk to Procter & Gamble, and said: " This -- you know, you really should give this show a shot."

KING: That was their baby. They packaged the show, so...

VAN DYKE: Yes. It was the Danny Thomas organization. And fortunately, they reran us during the summer. And without that competition, people kind of found us. And by fall, we were kind of rolling.

KING: Why did that work so well? And why does it hold up? It still holds up?

VAN DYKE: Primarily Carl Reiner, who was just a genius, a comedy genius. He wrote -- he didn't care how silly people got, as long as it was believable, as long as there was a reason. And they acted like human beings. And he could write. He heard our speech patterns, and could write to it. Nobody ever had to change the line. He had Mary talking like Mary and me talking like myself -- everybody. He was that good.

KING: And you had fun doing it.

VAN DYKE: It was more fun than I ever had in my life.

KING: And then what was your first movie?

VAN DYKE: The remake of -- the movie version of "Bye Bye Birdie."

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That was your first film.

VAN DYKE: That's right, yes.

KING: Boy.

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: And then, when did, along the trail, did "Mary Poppins" come -- did "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" before "Mary..."

VAN DYKE: No, "Mary Poppins" was in '63 and '4. And "Chitty Bang Bang: wasn't until after the Van Dyke show: '67, '68.

KING: So "Mary Poppins" was your first big movie.

VAN DYKE: Yes, absolutely. And Walt Disney, for some strange reason, thought of me. God bless him. Everybody else in the show was British. And I don't know why...

KING: You know, that is right.

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: You should have been -- it should have been a British guy.

VAN DYKE: I should have been a British guy.

KING: Jim Dale would have gotten that today -- or something like that.

VAN DYKE: That's right. Or who was the other -- who played Fagin in...

KING: Oh, yes, yes, I know who you mean.

VAN DYKE: Wonderful, wonderful.

KING: Oh, great.

VAN DYKE: I almost did that movie too, as Fagin. It didn't work...

KING: "Oliver."

VAN DYKE: Yes. But, what was I going to say?

KING: Did you know "Mary Poppins" would be as big as it was?

VAN DYKE: I...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN DYKE: Every day, I kept saying, "Oh, this so good." I could just tell. It was wonderful. And I had to -- I went to Walt and said, "I would like to play old banker." You know: "You don't have to pay me. I will do it for nothing. I want to play that old guy."

So he made me do a screen test for it. And he also made me contribute $4,000 to his art school, which -- he was an old horse trader.

KING: Pretty good.

VAN DYKE: Oh, yes. But he let me do it.

KING: And Julie Andrews didn't get the part in "My Fair Lady,"

VAN DYKE: No.

KING: Got that instead and wins an Academy Award.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: And you had fun doing that.

VAN DYKE: Oh, it was wonderful. I think, the "Van Dyke Show" and "Mary Poppins" are two of the best periods of my life. I had so much fun, I didn't want it to end.

KING: Now, by this time, you're on top of the world, right?

VAN DYKE: Oh, yes, more than I ever expected to be, I'll tell

KING: So what turned to alcohol? How did that happen?

VAN DYKE: I don't know. It was -- it had nothing to...

KING: Maybe it's unexplainable, huh?

VAN DYKE: I think so. I think most people will tell you that. They can go along and, while they're denying that they are addicted, say it's stress this, it's this, it's that. But I -- it's -- I think -- I really believe there is a gene. Some people become addicted and others don't.

KING: So you couldn't hold your liquor.

VAN DYKE: I could. That was my problem. I could hold it all too well.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You smoked a lot, too, right?

VAN DYKE: Oh sure, for 50 years.

KING: Were you -- did you ever work drunk?

VAN DYKE: Never, no, never did. It was just come home at night -- and never publicly -- you know, just come home at night. And the one martini became two. And some...

KING: Because when you announced it and you came out...

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: It was shock to people.

VAN DYKE: I know.

KING: We didn't see Dick Van Dyke lying on a floor in a restaurant, right?

VAN DYKE: I never did. Never fell down.

KING: No, they didn't carry you out of places, right?

VAN DYKE: No, no, nothing like that ever happened. But at the time, I thought I would come out, because there was so -- such a strange perception about alcoholism that people had serious character flaws, you know. They had weak wills or something. They had this image of, you know, a guy laying in on the street and skid row, whereas it can happen to normal, average middle-class guy.

KING: How did you beat it?

VAN DYKE: It just kind of went away little by little.

KING: No AA.

VAN DYKE: Oh yes, everything. Yes. And all -- rehab centers and everything. But slowly, it -- there wasn't a point at which it cut off. It just slowly went away. It was taken from me.

KING: How long you been sober?

VAN DYKE: Oh, god, 20 years. KING: Back with more of the incredible Dick Van Dyke. It's his night tonight. Tomorrow night, we will repeat our interview with Andy Williams. This Tuesday live, Governor George and Wife Laura Bush: the Bushes live Tuesday night on LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MARY POPPINS")

VAN DYKE (singing): Chim chimeney, chim chimeney, chim chim cher-ee! A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be. Chim chiminey, chim chimeney, chim chim cher-oo! Good luck will rub off when I shake 'ands with you.

VAN DYKE & UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN (singing): Chim chimeney, chim chimeney, chim chim cher-ee! A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be. Chim chiminey, chim chimeney, chim chim cher-oo! Good luck will rub off when I shake 'ands with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a funny noise it's making.

VAN DYKE: It's talking to us. All engines talk.

UNIDENTIIFE FEMALE: What's it saying?

VAN DYKE: It is saying, chitty chitty, chitty chitty, chitty chitty, chitty chitty...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bang bang.

VAN DYKE: Chitty chitty bang bang. Chitty chitty bang bang.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chitty chitty bang bang.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chitty chitty bang bang.

VAN DYKE (singing): Chitty bang bang. Chitty chitty bang bang.

VAN DYKE & UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Chitty bang bang. Chitty chitty bang bang. Chitty bang bang. Chitty chitty bang bang. Chitty bang bang. Chitty chitty bang bang. Oh, you, pretty chitty bang bang. Chitty chitty bang bang, we love you. And in chitty bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang, what we'll do. Near, far, in a motor car, oh, what a happy time we'll spend. Bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang, our fine four-fendered friend. Bang bang, chitty chitty bang bang. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You were British there? Danville, Illinois, British, right? You have other big roles -- "The Comic," right?

VAN DYKE: Yes, very few people saw that movie, but we were proud of it.

KING: You did a cable remake of "The Country Girl."

VAN DYKE: That's right, with Faye Dunaway.

KING: Faye Dunaway. Boy, that's a great play, right?

VAN DYKE: Yes, a wonderful play, yes.

KING: And then, of course, you had -- you were the -- given the career achievement award by the TV Critics Association. I guess next would be a Kennedy Center Honor. You certainly...

VAN DYKE: Oh, I don't know about that.

KING: I mean, you've written your own page. I mean -- and you keep on working, right? You like working.

VAN DYKE: Yes, I do enjoy it. I'd like to put my feet up eventually. I'm approaching my 75th birthday, which -- that's about long enough, isn't it?

KING: Yet the kind of talent you had, I guess today it would be the Jim Carrey's do this. It's unique that we find people that can do a lot of things.

VAN DYKE: And Jim is a brilliant physical comedian. I mean, he's a class mime. He's the best I've ever seen.

KING: Use of body.

VAN DYKE: Oh, yes. And he's got a sense memory and a pliable -- my god, he's wonderful.

KING: And as he told us, you're his idol.

VAN DYKE: Well I'm...

KING: And you have never met?

VAN DYKE: We've never met, never. No, and I'd like to meet him. We're going to meet at your house, are we?

KING: We are. We're going to set something. What about Jerry Lewis?

VAN DYKE: Oh, Jerry was wonderful, great clown, yes, absolutely.

KING: Now he's your age?

VAN DYKE: Yes, Jerry and I are the same age.

KING: You were coming along around the same time as him. VAN DYKE: That's right.

KING: What do you make of today's sitcoms?

VAN DYKE: You know, I'm almost out of the habit of watching episodic television now.

KING: Really?

VAN DYKE: Yes, I don't know why. Maybe I've done too many...

KING: What was one from the later years you liked? You like "Seinfeld"?

VAN DYKE: Oh, "Seinfeld" was brilliant, yes. And "Frasier" is a wonderful show, too. So many of them unfortunately depend so much on one-line jokes with very little character development. And I like the ones like "Frasier," and Jerry Seinfeld that have some wonderful relationships between the people.

KING: Was that the difference?

VAN DYKE: I think so.

KING: The good ones, "The Honeymooners," had character relations.

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: "Taxi" had...

VAN DYKE: Great character, yes.

KING: So in other words, the essence of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" wasn't...

VAN DYKE: The jokes.

KING: ... 15 jokes in an hour.

VAN DYKE: No, no, it was the relationships. That was that group. People believed that Rob and Laura were really married in real life. You know, a lot of people believed that.

KING: And the jokes were situational, right?

VAN DYKE: They came out of the situation, and they were believable. I think that's the difference. I think there has to be some credibility to the humor, especially if situation comedy has to have a situation. And some of them don't.

KING: Boy, well put.

Our guest is Dick Van Dyke. In a little while, we'll be going to your phone calls.

This is LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I had to find a liquid that would purify the scalp, acidic enough so as to cleanse it and yet vegetable enough so as to nourish and to blend properly with the olive oil.

VAN DYKE: Oh, what is it?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Vinegar.

VAN DYKE: That's oil and vinegar? Irwin, that's a salad dressing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW")

ALLAN MELVIN, ACTOR: The only scene I liked is where all the prisoners bang their cups because of the rotten food. Do you think that will work in our mess hall?

VAN DYKE: I don't know. All I know is we're not supposed to be here.

MELVIN: Boy, you really let this thing get to you.

VAN DYKE: You aren't kidding. Last night I ran a whole reel backwards. The first time in the history of movies a guy got up out of the electric chair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: When that first came up, I thought it was "Bilko."

VAN DYKE: That's right, Al Melvin. He was a regular...

KING: You were on "Bilko" once, right?

VAN DYKE: I was on "Bilko. I played a hillbilly who could throw with both hands. He tried to sell me to the Yankees.

KING: Did you ever turn down anything you regretted?

VAN DYKE: I turned down some movies that were quite good. mainly on the basis of taste.

KING: Like?

VAN DYKE: I remember "The Omen." They asked me to play that part.

KING: Really"

VAN DYKE: Which was eventually played by Gregory Peck...

KING: Gregory Peck.

VAN DYKE: ... so I don't think they missed anything. But it was a lot...

KING: Very successful. Scary movie.

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: You didn't like the...

VAN DYKE: A lot of violence, a lot of gore in it, and I just didn't want to do that kind of thing.

KING: What do you make of the government's movement now on violence and the Gore-Lieberman pitch and the...

VAN DYKE: Well, you know, it seems to come in cycles. Periodically, that happens every few years, and then it boils over and nothing happens. I certainly think...

KING: Should the government be involved?

VAN DYKE: I don't know that -- no, in the best of all worlds the producers would take some responsibility for the kinds of things they're putting out. Unfortunately, they don't. And then I -- they keep saying we can't have our First Amendment rights abridged and we can't have censorship. Well we had it back in the Hayes days, in the Johnson office days. And I think they should -- maybe the American people might bring it back if things get bad enough.

KING: And you wouldn't be unhappy with that?

VAN DYKE: Well, if responsible people did it. I just -- I don't think -- it's not a healthy thing, but if it keeps going in the direction it's going, someone, the government or someone, is going to take a hand in it.

I'm not the only one who looked at those congressional hearings and thought I was looking at the tobacco hearings.

KING: Did you like -- do you like the ratings system? Do you think that's helpful?

VAN DYKE: I don't think it's particularly helpful, no. I don't think parents can protect their kids in this media-nut culture.

KING: Also in a cable world, I mean, where everything's everywhere, right?

VAN DYKE: Of course.

KING: Anything goes. VAN DYKE: And so many people put it back on the parents, and I just think the parents can't do it today. The kids are out there in the world exposed to it.

KING: How many children do you have?

VAN DYKE: I don't have any children, I have four middle-aged people.

KING: How many grandchildren?

VAN DYKE: I have four children and I have seven grandkids.

KING: And one of your children works on your show, right?

VAN DYKE: My son Barry, of course, has been on from the beginning. And his son Shane is playing now a med student regularly on the show. And at one point or another, I've had all four of his kids on the show.

KING: And there they are.

VAN DYKE: There's Barry, yes.

KING: Boy, he's a good-looking kid.

VAN DYKE: Is he a good-looking guy or what?

KING: Good father? You were a good father.

VAN DYKE: Not as good as my kids. My kids are so much better parent than I was.

KING: When you were drinking, how did that affect your parenting?

VAN DYKE: Well, I probably it -- you know, promises not kept, things we planned to do that we didn't do because daddy was...

KING: I'll take you to the picnic on -- the ballgame Sunday, right?

VAN DYKE: That kind of thing. You know, but my kids say, you know, we were never aware there was a problem. It happened in the evening usually after they went to bed, and they weren't that aware of it, thank god for that.

KING: Do you ever have a chance go back to Broadway?

VAN DYKE: No, I've never had a chance. I might do it, though.

KING: Would you go back with the right vehicle?

VAN DYKE: Yes, something that would be fun to do.

KING: I mean, you're in good health, right? VAN DYKE: Excellent health, yes. I took a few too many falls in my life.

KING: You were faller, right?

VAN DYKE: I loved to fall down.

KING: You were pre-Chevy Chase.

VAN DYKE: I was only post-Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton.

KING: Laurel and Hardy must have been favorites of yours, right?

VAN DYKE: Absolutely, worshiped the ground they walked on.

KING: What was their brilliance?

VAN DYKE: Their wonderful, sweet friendship. That's what made them. Nobody else has ever been able to get -- they...

KING: And even though they got mad at each other.

VAN DYKE: Oh, they fought like two children. But...

KING: Hardy got mad at Laurel.

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: But they loved each other.

VAN DYKE: Stan said he used to keep Hardy late, make him miss his golf game, and really get him mad.

KING: But it worked because they were that way, right?

VAN DYKE: because they had that wonderful bond between them, yes.

KING: How did you start the falling bit?

VAN DYKE: Coming home from Saturday movies watching Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy.

KING: So you wanted to imitate them.

VAN DYKE: And wanted to imitate them. Now kids go home and imitate the wrestlers. They're killing each other.

KING: Is there a trick in falling?

VAN DYKE: Yes, you have to know how to tuck and roll. You know how to have to catch yourself. When you throw your feet up, you slap the ground with your hand first and take some of the force way

KING: So you know what you're doing.

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: But you can goof, right?

VAN DYKE: I have on a few occasions.

KING: We'll take a break, come back and include your phone calls for Dick Van Dyke.

Governor Bush on Tuesday night.

This is LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW")

VAN DYKE: All right, my impression of my wife's uncle Henry coming home after the annual Christmas party.

Oh, Genevieve, sweet Genevieve -- anybody home?

ROSE MARIE, ACTRESS: Is that you, dear?

VAN DYKE: Hello, sweetheart.

MARIE: My, it's awful late, dear, what happened?

VAN DYKE: Well, I had a meeting at the office and I just couldn't get away.

MARIE: Oh, well how about some coffee?

VAN DYKE: Oh, honey, I'd love some coffee, thank you.

MARIE: I'll get you some.

Darling?

VAN DYKE: Sweetheart, was there any mail today.

MARIE: Oh, yes, some very important letters. I'll get them for you.

VAN DYKE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DICK TRACY")

VAN DYKE: How can I support a maverick police detective who keeps making false arrests of private citizens and throwing them in jail?

Tracy, I am district attorney. UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Tracy, Tess can't get the kid to take off these smelly clothes.

VAN DYKE: Chief, I am a candidate for mayor. If you can't control Detective Tracy, you'll just have to take him off duty or I'll have to prosecute him and take you off duty.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Tracy, Tess is having a terrible time with...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How did you had get that weird role for you?

VAN DYKE: I have no idea.

KING: You were the district attorney for Warren Beatty in "Dick Tracy" with Al Pacino.

VAN DYKE: No one knew -- no one knew it was me.

KING: Didn't know it was you?

VAN DYKE: No one knew it was me. To this day, nobody it was...

KING: They didn't know Dustin Hoffman was Mumbles. They didn't know Al Pacino was the guy.

VAN DYKE: That's right. I don't know.

KING: Was that fun?

VAN DYKE: Well, it was only -- it was three days.

KING: He's tough to work for, though.

VAN DYKE: No, he was very easy to work for.

KING: He's a perfectionist.

VAN DYKE: Yes, he's a perfectionist. He called me one day and said, I need somebody who's above reproach. I need a district attorney that everybody would trust. I took that as such a compliment that I didn't get the (OFF-MIKE).

KING: Let's take a call.

Las Vegas, Nevada, for Dick Van Dyke -- hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry, thank you.

Dick, I've been so crazy about you since "Mary Poppins." My question is how did you meet your wife and maintain a personal life with your family while building your career back in the early days?

VAN DYKE: Oh, well, it was -- I met my wife in high school, of course. We barnstormed around the country. My two boys slept in a lot of Eurodrawers in those early days. I don't know. I was always in show business but in many ways was not really of show business. I didn't move in show business circles, particularly, still don't do it.

KING: You didn't go to all the parties

VAN DYKE: No, I didn't involve myself much in that. So as my kids will tell you, they had a pretty normal life.

KING: You were eventually divorced, though?

VAN DYKE: Yes, yes.

KING: And remain friendly or was it...

VAN DYKE: Yes, yes, and I think alcohol played a role. I really do.

KING: To Huntsville, Alabama -- hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. King, I love your show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I would like to ask Mr. Van Dyke, which is fabulous, what of everything that you have ever done, which is always great...

VAN DYKE: Thank you.

CALLER: ... what is your favorite?

VAN DYKE: Well, the five years I spent with Carl Reiner and Mary Tyler Moore on "The Van Dyke" show were the five best years of my life, the most fun I ever had, the most creative, and I think I learned the most working with Carl Reiner than I ever did.

KING: Learned what? Timing?

VAN DYKE: About comedy, about human behavior, about everything. Carl could have been a psychiatrist. He understands people so well.

KING: That clip we saw when you were playing drunk in that scene you were doing for the party...

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: That was the pilot, right?

VAN DYKE: That was the pilot that I flew out here from New York to do.

KING: Did you like that part right away? Did you say, this a good show?

VAN DYKE: Oh, I had an idea for a pilot of my own at the time, and then Carl sent me about eight scripts and simply I threw my idea out the window because the writing was just so good.

KING: He is -- there's no doubt about it. I mean, I love him -- he's a genius.

VAN DYKE: No doubt about it. He's getting the Mark Twain Award in Washington next month.

KING: Boy, does he deserve it.

VAN DYKE: Yes, he does.

KING: Carmel, New York -- hello.

CALLER: He. Hi, Larry, this is -- I'd like to say hello.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: First I'd like to say that I'm a big fan of Mr. Van Dyke's and I'd like to...

VAN DYKE: Thank you.

CALLER: ... of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," as well as "Diagnosis: Murder," especially when he has the older TV stars on, my question is, what does he enjoy most about doing Dick Van Dyke versus what he does with "Diagnosis: Murder," and also, what was the biggest challenge he faced in doing "Dick Van Dyke" and -- versus "Diagnosis: Murder."

KING: All right, let's compare the two shows.

VAN DYKE: Oh, well, my first love is comedy or singing and dancing. And so "The Van Dyke" show was more me. Carl understood what I did so well, it was like falling off a log. There was no challenge.

KING: But there was no singing and dancing.

VAN DYKE: Well...

KING: A little bit.

VAN DYKE: We did about 12 or 15 numbers, Mary and I, over the years. But that was just -- it was so much fun. I never really expected to end up playing a doctor detective, so -- and I'd I never considered myself much of a straight actor. The main challenge with that was not to be Rob Petrie, you know, because that would have been playing myself.

KING: Because we're so used to you as Rob Petrie.

VAN DYKE: That's right.

KING: By the way, was it hard to get -- you would think it would be hard to get "Mary Poppins" because you were so well known as Rob Petrie.

VAN DYKE: That's true.

KING: You know, that took a lot if guts for them to hire you for that.

VAN DYKE: And it was Walt's idea, and...

KING: Disney.

VAN DYKE: ... thank god for him. Yes, Walt Disney himself, he saw something.

KING: Obvious. Alexandria, Virginia -- hello.

CALLER: Mr. Van Dyke, it's an honor to talk to you. I was wondering if you have a favorite episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show"?

VAN DYKE: Yes, I do have a favorite one, and it's not necessarily the funniest one, but the one in which I had the most fun. And it was one called "Where Did I Come From?" where we go back in time. And it's all about Richie being born and my preparations for -- my nervousness as a father.

KING: So it's sort of a dream thing looking back?

VAN DYKE: Well, yes, it wasn't a dream thing, but we were just reminiscing about what happened, all the craziness that went on, and more what they call schtick luck happened.

KING: And why was that your favorite show if it wasn't the funniest?

VAN DYKE: Because I had fun. I got to invent a lot of movement Jim Carrey-style. I got to do a lot of various physical movement and jokes that Carl let me -- I used to come in once in a while on the weekend and work out my physical business.

KING: When you see physical comics, let's say Carrey, Jerry Lewis, in their heyday Laurel and Hardy, do you think about what they're doing?

VAN DYKE: Oh, of course.

KING: You don't watch it as I watch it, right?

VAN DYKE: Probably not now, no, because I appreciate so much...

KING: So when you watch Jim Carrey do whatever he's doing, when he does a fall or that face, you're looking at technique, right?

VAN DYKE: Absolutely. He does a scene in "Me, Myself and I," I think it is, where as a dual personality he throws himself into the car. It is classic. It's beautiful.

KING: I'm just thinking about it it's funny.

We'll be right back with Dick Van Dyke and more of your phone calls.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW")

VAN DYKE: Show your folks what kind of bum I am.

Hello, room service? Hello, there. I'd like an order for two, please, one soft-boiled egg for two, a half order of buttered toast. And look, you charge for marmalade? Well then forget that.

MOORE: I don't get marmalade? Then I'm leaving.

VAN DYKE: Hello, hi there. This is suite 17C. I'd like room service. Yes, I'd like an order for two, please, some hoers d'oeuvres, some caviar and a good bottle of champagne. January 1965, very good -- oh, and one rose -- thank you.

MOORE: Oh, Rob.

VAN DYKE: Did you want a rose, too?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

My question to Mr. Van Dyke, is, what was his happiest moment in memory and his saddest moment in memory?

VAN DYKE: You mean connected with show business?

KING: Life or anything...

CALLER: In his personal life.

VAN DYKE: I think the saddest moment in my life just happened two months ago. My old nightclub partner passed away, Phil Erickson down in Atlanta. He -- I owe him everything. He put me in the business and taught me about everything I know. And...

KING: Did you stay friendly over the years?

VAN DYKE: Yes, yes, we stayed in contact, and that was a terrible shock to me. Probably one of the happiest moments, outside the birth of all of my kids, was the first time we won an Emmy, that the show won an Emmy. That was a big night.

KING: Boy, when they announce that, there's nothing like it.

VAN DYKE: And there was no comedy category in those days, at all.

KING: So who'd you have to beat out?

VAN DYKE: You had to beat out...

KING: Drama.

VAN DYKE: Dramas, yes.

KING: Bridgeport, Connecticut, hello.

CALLER: Hi. How are you?

KING: Hi.

CALLER: I just wanted to tell Mr. Van Dyke I am one of your biggest fans. I saw your marathon weekend. I don't think I missed one episode. I love you to pieces.

VAN DYKE: Thank you.

CALLER: I wanted to ask you, do you stay in touch with the existing cast members of "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

VAN DYKE: Yes, unfortunately there are not too many existing anymore.

KING: Morey's gone.

VAN DYKE: We lost Morey. We lost -- we lost Jerry Paris, who played our next-door neighbor.

KING: I loved him. Oh, what a guy.

VAN DYKE: He directed a lot of our shows, too.

So, so many are gone. But Mary and I stay in contact, and of course, Carl Reiner lives out here. Mary's in New York, so I don't get to see her very often. I'll see her next month at the Thalians.

KING: Montreal, hello.

CALLER: Oh, Mr. Van Dyke, I have to tell you I absolutely adore you, and what I really want to know is on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," how much of it was from the script and how much did you guys ad-lib?

VAN DYKE: We had all week to rehearse. An audience would come in at the end of the week and we'd our little show. Most of the ad- libbing happened during the week on the show.

KING: If you liked it, you left it in.

VAN DYKE: We had Marge sitting there, our gal, writing everything down. So it changed dramatically during the week. But once we got on the air, everybody except Morey Amsterdam pretty much stuck to the script.

KING: Jerry Paris, the late Jerry Paris, became a producer himself, right?

VAN DYKE: Oh, yes, yes.

KING: A very successful producer.

VAN DYKE: And also he directed so many sitcoms after that, yes, and everybody -- he just was a genius, comic genius. A wonderful man.

KING: He directed the Richie Cunningham thing.

VAN DYKE: Yes, that's right.

KING: With the Fonz.

VAN DYKE: The Fonz!

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Dick Van Dyke, right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW")

MOORE: ... at the very end of the show. I didn't handle myself too well when that Patrick (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

VAN DYKE: Ohh. He got you to say something embarrassing, didn't he?

MOORE: Said Alan Brady is bald.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN DYKE: You -- you. You -- you -- you said he had no hair? On television?

Honey, oh, sweetheart, you -- you knew that was a secret, didn't you?

MOORE: Yes.

VAN DYKE: Yes, that's right. What's the fun in telling if it's not a secret.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the most embarrassed mayor in America today. I knew this would happen some day, but it's finally happened to Dick.

I want you to know that we know there should be a space between Van and Dyke, and it isn't there. And the minute this ceremony is over we will redo this star.

Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome to the Walk of Fame Dick Van Dyke.

(APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to change it? I have a pen for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We'll just put...

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's the one honor I can share with you, having a star.

VAN DYKE: On the sidewalk.

KING: Yes.

VAN DYKE: You know, they put me right next to Stan Laurel.

KING: Oh...

VAN DYKE: That -- the bow tie I was wearing was Stan's. That polka-dot bow tie, that was Stan Laurel's.

KING: He was your hero, right?

VAN DYKE: Oh, yes. He was a wonderful man, too. I knew him late in his life.

KING: How long do you want to keep on keeping on, Dick?

VAN DYKE: I don't know. I've retired so many times now it's getting to be a habit.

I have a feeling -- and I really mean this -- that we might have been scheduled in a bad spot this year and we might not survive.

KING: This could be it?

VAN DYKE: Yes.

KING: Irmo, South Carolina, one more call for Dick Van Dyke. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. I'd like to ask Mr. Van Dyke about how he feels about the family movies that are made today as per se to the ones that were made like "Mary Poppins"?

KING: They don't make "Mary Poppinses" anymore.

VAN DYKE: No, they don't.

KING: No budget for it. VAN DYKE: There are no more Walt Disneys anymore. That's I think the rain reason. Walt had the touch. I think he thought like a kid.

What family movies are there today?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You could -- I don't think they could make it. "Mary Poppins" would cost what today?

VAN DYKE: Oh, probably a lot, yes. But I wish they would make a musical of some kind. I miss musicals so much. You don't see them anymore.

KING: No, you've got to go back to Broadway and there...

VAN DYKE: What's a family movie?

KING: I think -- let's...

VAN DYKE: "Babe," "Babe" was one.

KING: "Babe" was a family movie.

VAN DYKE: "Babe" was one, and "Stuart Little," which I thought was very, very good.

KING: "Antz." Well, "Antz" was kind of hip...

VAN DYKE: Yes, "Antz," yes. There just are not enough of them.

KING: Everything well with you? Everything happy? The kids...

VAN DYKE: Everything is very, very good.

KING: Grandchildren?

VAN DYKE: Oh, yes, yes. I'm so proud of my family I can't take it.

KING: And if "Diagnosis: Murder" does get murdered by "ER"...

(LAUGHTER)

... no pun intended -- would you want to do another one? Another...

VAN DYKE: Not another series. No, I don't think I'd go into another series at this time in life, but I'd like to keep working.

I think when Mary was on the show last year, we talked about doing "Gin Game" as a play together.

KING: Yes, you'd be great at that.

VAN DYKE: Yes, I'd love to work with Mary on that.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Jessica Tandy.

VAN DYKE: Yes!

KING: You're my man.

VAN DYKE: Thanks so much.

KING: Dick Van Dyke, what an honor, what a man. Tomorrow night, we'll repeat our interview with Andy Williams. And don't forget next Tuesday night, George and Laura Bush, the governor and first lady of Texas, the Republican candidate for president. We'll be here in our studios live with your phone calls.

Stay tuned now for Jeff Greenfield as he anchors "The Race for the Presidency," a terrific idea for Friday night television.

We'll see you tomorrow night with Andy Williams. Don't forget the Bushes next Tuesday.

I'm Larry King. For Dick Van Dyke and our whole crew here in Los Angeles, thanks for joining us and good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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