Book Review - Dick van Dyke
"Dick van Dyke - My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business" by Dick van Dyke
I was randomly typing names into the search engine at my library when I came across this book. I immediately requested it and picked it up a few days later. I love the Dick van Dyke Show - it's hilarious and such a classic. His sense of humor and his expressions of it are just fabulous. So I was eager to read this book.
He gives some of his background and experiences growing up. One of my favorite parts was the mention of his time in the Air Force. The way he talked about his experiences made me think of Gomer Pyle - it was pretty amusing! He also documented his entry into stardom. He spent many years working from paycheck to paycheck and traveling the country before his talents were finally discovered and utilized. I really loved reading the parts about the filming of the Dick van Dyke Show. He talked about how everyone genuinely had a fabulous time working on the show together, and I think it's very evident in the features they produced. For the rest of his career highlights, you don't quite get the amount of information and behind-the-scenes look as you may desire, but it's still interesting to hear about.
There's a few things I wanted to highlight. The first would be his bought with alcoholism. I found this section to be very honest and straight-forward. His life serves as an example for one of the main reasons I choose not to drink. Unlike some teetotalers I've read, I don't see where the Bible clearly speaks to moderate drinking being a sin. My personal decision is largely based on not starting down a road that could easily become an addiction and sin - one you may not even be aware of while you're doing it. Mr. van Dyke's life is an example of this. He started off not drinking at all. After some time in Hollywood, he started having just one glass to help loosen him up and cut some of his shyness. That developed into 2-3 drinks, which eventually led to him getting drunk fairly frequently. Right before he sought treatment, he seems to indicate it was an almost daily occurance. I think one of the inherent dangers of alcohol is that you don't know if you will be attracted/addicted to it until you try it - and then it's too late. Not that it's too late to overcome the addiction, but now you have the addiction and the strong temptation to over-indulge. Mr. van Dyke also is very open about the long struggle to overcome this addiction. He candidly shares his setbacks in his 6-year journey to overcome what he calls the "disease" of alcoholism.
I also found his musings on life and the purpose of life to be interesting. From piecing together bits and pieces from his book, it seems fairly likely that he doesn't have a clear understanding of the Gospel and possibly even Scripture as a whole. Even though he was an elder in a church at one point, his own words don't really portray him as a Christian. He admitted to spending a lot of time throughout the years, and particularly during a mid life crisis, wrestling with life - what it's meaning and purpose was, and what his own life was supposed to be for. In the end, it seems in all his searching he missed the Truth. For Mr. van Dyke, the meaning of life is love. As he says near the end of the book, "Hope is life's essential nutrient, and love is what gives life meaning. I think you need somebody to love and take care of, and someone who loves you back. In that sense, I think the New Testament got it right. So did the Beatles. Without love, nothing has any meaning." (p. 271) I hope that soon he comes to see the riches and beauty of the true Gospel.
Another thing that bears mentioning- Mr. van Dyke divorced and lived the next 30 years with his girlfriend. The topic is covered in a gracious way - there's no dirty talk or very deep details of their relationship - either before and after the divorce. Though it's certainly disappointing, it's not an uncomfortable read. In the end, he decided to go with what felt good to him instead of what was right before God. I found this to be especially ironic as he would emphasize his desire for his public persona (people he portrayed on the film and tv screen) to be very family friendly and values oriented.
While he kept his relationship details clean, there were a few comments about movies or shows he participated in that weren't quite that way. I felt they could have been left out and not been detrimental to the storyline in any way. He also has a penchant for cuss words, even taking Christ's name in vain a couple times near the end of the book. It's something to watch out for as there's an average of about one per chapter. (some have none and some have several) Overall, I found it to be an interesting light read into the life of a beloved entertainer and comedian. It won't be finding it's place at the top of my favorite's list. But I would recommend it, with discretion, if only for the forthright dealing with alcoholism which I found very intriguing and honest.