By Greater Astoria Historical Society
In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.
Born on Dec. 9, 1928, and raised in Kew Gardens, Richard Vincent Van Patten was an actor best known for his leading role as family patriarch Tom Bradford in the television comedy-drama series, “Eight is Enough.” A prolific actor, his career spanned nine decades, nearly 50 films and over 100 television shows.
The Queens native died June 23, 2015. He is survived by his wife, Patricia, and three children, including actor and former pro tennis player, Vincent. Van Patten is also related by marriage to actors Martin Balsam and George Clooney.
As a child growing up in Kew Gardens, Van Patten’s star rose at an early age. Billed as Dickie Van Patten, he appeared in “Tapestry in Gray,” his first Broadway play, at the tender age of 7. He then went on to act in a dozen stage productions before his teen years.
As a young man, the rising actor earned his first starring role in a TV series in 1949, appearing as Nels Hansen in the eight-year CBS series, “Mama.” Van Patten would later name one of his sons after the character.
After establishing a name for himself on stage and screen, the versatile actor appeared in a number of roles on television and in movies throughout the 1960s. In the following decade, Van Patten played roles in “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “The Love Boat,” “Sanford & Son,” “Westworld” and “Soylent Green” alongside silver screen greats Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson. Dick Van Patten achieved everlasting fame, however, as father of eight Tom Bradford in the 1977-1981 ABC series “Eight is Enough.”
Following the program’s five-year run, the famed actor didn’t rest on his stardom. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Van Patten appeared in a variety of shows, including “Facts of Life,” “Growing Pains,” “Baywatch,” and even the animated sitcom, “Family Guy,” where he reprised his role as Tom Bradford.
He was also a commentator on the World Series of Poker in the mid-1990s.
With the dawn of a new century, the productive actor refused to slow down. Long since a familiar face to generations of Americans, Dick Van Patten continued acting in smaller roles in movies and TV shows up to his passing in 2015.
In recognition of a lifetime of achievement on stage, screen and TV, the actor from Kew Gardens was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985 as well as a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars in 2008.
In recalling her co-star on “Eight is Enough,” actress Betty Buckley shared a warm insight into the man millions of Americans welcomed into their living rooms. “Every day on the set he was a happy, jovial person, always generous and ready to play, tease, and always keep us all laughing. He was the consummate professional, a wonderful actor, master of comedy, and a kind and generous human being.”
Compiled by Dan McDonald for the Greater Astoria Historical Society. For more information, contact the Society at (718) 278-0700 or visit www.astor