Dick Van Dyke opens up about battle with alcoholism, former colleagues: ‘There’s no one left’

Dick Van Dyke may have hit the gym before his 98th birthday, but the iconic actor admits he’s a “pretty lazy” person by nature.

“As a businessman, I’m not much good. I would do a movie or something and come home and just sit down and wait for the phone to ring. I wasn’t aggressive, so I was out of work a lot because I didn’t go out and look for it,” Dyke said in a new interview on “CBS Sunday Morning.”

“I didn’t mind it. I’m pretty lazy, really,” he continued. “When I’m having fun, all right, but I’m a lazy person. I don’t have a lot of drive. I’ve been very lucky.”

His career has spanned more than 60 decades, with highlights including 158 episodes on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” 1963’s “Bye Bye Birdie,” 1964’s “Mary Poppins” alongside Julie Andrews, and “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” from 1971 to 1974.

Dick Van Dyke, on set for show aired November 23, 1965. Courtesy Everett Collection
Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in 1968. Everett Collection / Everett Col
Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins” in 1964. Courtesy Everett Collection

On “CBS Sunday Morning,” he was asked if he wondering why he was still around when former colleagues such as Norman Lear, Carl Reiner and Mary Tyler Moore were gone. (Lear died at age 101 earlier this month.)

“Everybody I knew and worked with, there’s no one left,” he said, adding that Reiner and Lear were his “two favorite human beings.”

“If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself,” he said, laughing. “I went through that whole period of alcoholism.”

Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews in “Mary Poppins” in 1964. Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evan

“But my wife [Arlene Silver, 52], god bless her, makes sure I go to the gym three times a week and do a full workout.”

Dyke has been sober since checking into a hospital for three weeks in 1972. He told Oprah Winfrey in 2016 that he found alcohol as a way to overcome his shyness.

“I was very shy – with strangers – I couldn’t talk to people,” he said at the time. “And I found if I had a drink, it would loosen me up. The barriers went down and I became very social. That’s what got me started.”

Dick Van Dyke on set of his “Dick Van Dyke Show” in the ’70s.
Dick Van Dyke and wife Arlene Silver at home on April 21, 2016 in Malibu, California. Getty Images

Now, the actor is set to be honored on CBS with a two-hour tribute special, titled “Dick Van Dyke: 98 Years of Magic,” on Dec. 21. He explained that having fun was a big part of his success and longevity in the business.

“That’s my whole career has depended on that. If I’m not enjoying myself, I’m really bad. I am,” he explained.

“It’s such a blessing to find a way of making a living that you love, that’d you do for nothing. I feel so sorry for people who hate their jobs. I look forward to going to work every morning.”

Dick Van Dyke and Arlene Silver at the SAG Awards on January 27, 2013, in LA. Getty Images

His work has even reached new generations through the years.

“I’m getting letters from little kids, and that is what I love,” he went on. “They watch the movies over and over, I’m getting so much more mail today than I did in the heyday of my career.”

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