Bobby Van

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Bobby Van
Bobby Van 1975.jpg
Van in 1975
Born Robert Jack Stein
(1928-12-06)December 6, 1928
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
Died July 31, 1980(1980-07-31) (aged 51)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Brain cancer
Resting place Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation Actor, singer, dancer, game show host
Years active 1950–1980
Diane Garrett
(m. 1952; div. 1962)

Elaine Joyce
(m. 1968; d. 1980)
Children 2

Robert Jack Stein, better known by his stage name Bobby Van (December 6, 1928 – July 31, 1980) was a musical actor, best known for his career on Broadway, in films and television from the 1950s thru 1970s. He was also a game show host and panelist.

Early life[edit]

Bobby Van was born Robert Jack Stein to Jewish vaudeville parents in The Bronx, New York City,[1] and grew up backstage, witnessing many memorable Depression-era acts. Originally, Van took King as his stage name (after his father's stage name, from the trio "Gordon, Reed and King"). He finally opted for Van, supposedly after seeing a Van Johnson poster hanging in his sister's bedroom.


Van began his career as a musician, playing trumpet. When his band played a venue in the Catskills,[1] Van was asked to fill in as a song and dance man for another act. His act drew rave reviews and gave Van a thrill performing live as a solo act. He went on to appear in several Broadway musicals.[2]

In the early 1950s, Van received a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and appeared in several films including the title role in The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953[3] and roles in the musicals Because You're Mine and Kiss Me, Kate.[1] Hal Erickson noted that "Van will always be remembered as the ecstatic young fellow who made like a human pogo stick during an expansive production number in Small Town Girl (1953)."[4]

In the 1960s, Van did comedy work with Mickey Rooney[4] in films and television. He appeared in three episodes of Rooney's Mickey sitcom on ABC in the role of a freeloading brother-in-law. He also did some choreography, as had his father years earlier.

Van appeared with his second wife, Elaine Joyce, on 1970s game shows like Tattletales and Match Game. Van also hosted the game shows Showoffs,[5] The Fun Factory, and Make Me Laugh.

Van starred in the 1971 Broadway revival of No, No, Nanette, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.[2] In 1973 he appeared in the musical remake of Lost Horizon,[1] the last occasion on which he took his traditional song-and-dance persona to the big screen. His novelty dance number from Small Town Girl (1953) was featured in That's Entertainment, Part II (1976). In 1978, he played swindler Warren Custer in the episode "The Two-Million-Dollar Stowaway" of the NBC crime drama series The Eddie Capra Mysteries. In 1979, he appeared in the original Battlestar Galactica episode "Greetings from Earth" as the robot Hector, working along veteran song and dance man Ray Bolger (Vector). Van also hosted a syndicated revival of the game show, Make Me Laugh during the 1979–80 season.[6]

In June 1977 he appeared in the musical Anything Goes as "Billy Crocker" at the Kenley Players in Dayton, Ohio.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Van married starlet Diane Garrett in 1952.[8] They adopted a son, Peter, in 1959. The marriage ended in divorce in 1962.

Van married Broadway actress Elaine Joyce in 1968. Their daughter, Taylor, was born in 1977.[9]

Illness and death[edit]

In 1979, Van was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. His widow, Elaine Joyce, stated on the Sally Jessy Raphael talk show that Van suffered 13 days of headaches and went to the hospital where they made a small incision and tested the tumor. He survived the initial surgery, but after a year-long battle with cancer, he died in Los Angeles in 1980, and was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles.


Stage Work[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Bobby Van". Masterworks Broadway. Retrieved August 16, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Bobby Van Performer". Playbill. Retrieved August 16, 2015. 
  3. ^ The Affairs of Dobie Gillis Turner Classic Movies, accessed August 16, 2015
  4. ^ a b Erickson, Hal. "Bobby Van Biography" The New York Times, accessed August 16, 2015
  5. ^ The Game Show Pilot Light: "Showoffs" with Larry Blyden
  6. ^ Make Me laugh, accessed August 16, 2015
  7. ^ Anything Goes, accessed August 16, 2015
  8. ^ Clark, Earl W.; Singer, Allen J. (January 1, 2010). Beverly Hills Country Club. Arcadia Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 978-0738566191. 
  9. ^ "Actor-singer Bobby Van Dies of Cancer at 47". Milwaukee Journal. Associated Press. August 1, 1980. Retrieved March 6, 2018. 
  10. ^ Advertisement, "Westchester County Playhouse, The Tunnel of Love with Mickey Rooney and Bobby Van, July 19 thru July 21", Herald Statesman (Yonkers, NY), June 26, 1963, p. 19

External links[edit]