LOS ANGELES: Jerry Van Dyke, who after decades in show business finally emerged from the shadow of his older brother, Dick, with an Emmy-nominated role in the long-running ABC sitcom Coach, died Friday at his ranch in Arkansas. He was 86.
Jerry’s wife, Shirley Ann Jones, who confirmed the death, said his health had deteriorated since a traffic accident in 2015.
From the beginning, Van Dyke’s television career was intertwined with his brother’s. One of his earliest TV appearances was in 1962 in a two-part episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, as Stacey Petrie, the would-be comedian brother of Dick’s character, Rob Petrie.
A boisterous performer who supported himself with a banjo-and-comedy stage act when television or film roles were scant, Van Dyke was a ham to his brother’s more dignified persona. But while Dick had runaway success early on, with the Broadway show and film Bye Bye Birdie, the Disney musical Mary Poppins and The Dick Van Dyke Show, his brother’s career was long defined by a string of short-lived projects, like The Judy Garland Show and the game show Picture This.
Van Dyke was frank but good-humoured about his failures. “If I had it all to do over again, I definitely would have turned things down,” he told The Associated Press in 1994. “Almost everything I did!”
In 1989 Jerry Van Dyke landed the role of Luther Van Dam, the assistant coach to Craig T. Nelson’s head football coach, Hayden Fox, on Coach. They worked together to lead the fictional Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles, often with guest appearances by professional football figures like Troy Aikman, Dick Butkus and Jerry Jones, as well as actors like Lucy Liu, Drew Carey and Mary Hart.
Van Dam, a bumbling, subservient second banana who had occasional moments of pathos, was a reliable source of laughs on the show, which ran until 1997.
Van Dyke was nominated for four Emmys for supporting actor for playing Van Dam, but he never won.
He told USA Today in 1990 that he was thrilled to get some recognition after his meandering career.
“Everybody talks about me making a comeback,” he said. “I say: ‘Comeback from what? This is as good as it’s ever been.'”
Jerry McCord Van Dyke was born on July 27, 1931, in Danville, Illinois, to Loren Van Dyke, a traveling salesman, and former Hazel McCord, a homemaker. He was a little more than five years younger than Dick.
Van Dyke married Carol Johnson in the mid-1950s; they divorced in the mid-1970s. Besides his wife, Jones, and his brother, survivors include a daughter, Jerri Lynne, and a son, Ronald, both from his first marriage; and two grandchildren. Another daughter, Kelly Jean Van Dyke-Nance, died in 1991. – NYT