Bobby Van

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Bobby Van
Bobby Van 1975.jpg
Van in 1975
Robert Jack Stein

(1928-12-06)December 6, 1928
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 31, 1980(1980-07-31) (aged 51)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeMount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery
  • Actor
  • singer
  • dancer
  • game show host
Years active1949–1980
Diane Garrett
(m. 1952; div. 1962)

(m. 1968)

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

Early life[edit]

Van was born 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, after seeing a Van Johnson poster hanging in his sister's bedroom.[2] In a 1976 interview, Van said he had legalized his name change from 'Stein'.[3]


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.[4]

In the early 1950s, Van received a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and made several films there, including the title role in The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953[5] and roles in the musicals Because You're Mine and Kiss Me, Kate.[1] In 2010, reviewer 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)."[6]

In the 1960s, Van did comedy work with Mickey Rooney[6] 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 frequently appeared with his second wife, Elaine Joyce, on 1970s game shows such as Tattletales and Match Game. Van also hosted the game shows Showoffs,[7] The Fun Factory, and Make Me Laugh.[8]

Van starred in the 1971 Broadway revival of No, No, Nanette, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.[4] 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 alongside 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.

In June 1977, Van appeared in the musical Anything Goes as Billy Crocker at the Kenley Players in Dayton, Ohio.[9]

In August 1979, Van appeared in the musical Damn Yankees as Young Joe with the San Jose Civic Light Opera in San Jose, California. His co-star was Van Johnson. Bobby Van and wife Elaine Joyce appeared in a Love Boat episode titled "Gopher's Opportunity".

Personal life[edit]

A Democrat, Van supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[10]

Van married starlet Diane Garrett in September 1952, though the marriage was kept secret until January 1953.[11][12]

Van and Garrett attempted to have children for several years and, after losing a baby in 1956,[13] they adopted a son in 1961 named Peter, nine months after taking him in as a five-day-old baby.[14]

In 1959, both Van and Garrett were injured when their car was rear-ended, and sued the other driver, seeking $107,000.[15] Garrett said she was unable to move for three weeks after the accident; both she and Van claimed back injury. Van was awarded $1,500 and Garrett was awarded $5,000.[16] Judy Garland, who was a passenger in the Vans' vehicle, testified in court for them.[15]

The couple separated in January 1964[17] and a divorce was final on September 27, 1966,[citation needed] despite rumors of an early reconsideration and a reconciliation in July 1964.[18][19] Van had returned to town as his son was undergoing emergency hip surgery, not to reconcile.[19] In November 1964, Walter Winchell wrote in his column that Van "(recently divorced after a dozen years) hopes to persuade actress Emmaline Henry to be his new spouse."[20]

Van married Broadway actress Elaine Joyce in 1968. Their marriage reportedly ran a difficult course – an announcement was made on October 30, 1967,[21][full citation needed] that they had wed, but they had not. In November, a blurb in a Hollywood column said that Van said he and Joyce planned to marry on December 2, 1967, but her brother, Frank Pinchot, had chosen that date to get married, so they would choose another date.[22][full citation needed] In February 1968, it was announced they would marry in Los Angeles on March 21.[23] Van and Joyce were finally married in Las Vegas on May 1, 1968.[24] One week later, Van filed for an annulment citing "fraud" and non-consummation, and that the actress "told him she wanted to have children but this was only to induce him into marriage".[24] An article states that Bobby said that Elaine felt "so unhappy and insecure, it's the only thing to do."[25] A preliminary divorce was filed in 1968 for Elaine Joyce and Bobby Van; Joyce is listed as Elaine J Pinchot, year of birth 1945.[citation needed] The divorce was never finalized, and the couple remained married until Van's death in 1980.[26] Their daughter, Taylor, was born in 1976.[8][27]

Illness and death[edit]

In February 1980, as recalled by his wife in December 1981, Van began having headaches that continued for two weeks. On going to the hospital, an angiogram was done and his doctors were not optimistic, finding the pressure in his head was due to a malignant brain tumor. Van chose to hide his illness and continued to work as long as possible, including as host of that year's Mrs. America Pageant. He later lost control of his left side and was in a wheelchair. After a five-and-a-half-month battle with cancer, Van died in Los Angeles on July 31, 1980.[26][28] He is interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery,[29] a Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles. In a December 1981 interview, Joyce said, "Bobby and I would have been married forever. There was no question about it".[30]

The Vans' daughter Taylor attended Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, where she met future husband Evan Meyer; they were married in October 2003, at which time she was employed as a television executive assistant for Paramount Pictures.[31]


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Skirts Ahoy! Himself Uncredited
1952 Because You're Mine Artie Pilcer
1953 Small Town Girl Ludwig Schlemmer
1953 The Affairs of Dobie Gillis Dobie Gillis
1953 Kiss Me Kate 'Gremio'
1961 The Ladies Man choreographer
1962 It's Only Money choreographer
1966 The Navy vs. the Night Monsters Ens. Rutherford Chandler
1972 Doomsday Machine Danny
1973 Lost Horizon Harry Lovett
1975 The Lion Roars Again MGM short subject
1976 Wonder Woman Monty Burns Episode: "Beauty on Parade"[32]
1978 Battlestar Galactica Hector Episode: "Greetings from Earth"[33]

Stage work[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Bobby Van". Masterworks Broadway. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  2. ^ Wilson, Earl (June 1, 1976). "Bobby Van owes success to sister and a picture". Akron Beacon Journal. p. D17. Retrieved March 9, 2022 – via
  3. ^ Kleiner, Dick (July 16, 1976). "Sing a Song of Security". The Times and Democrat. p. 6B. Retrieved March 29, 2022 – via
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Bobby Van: Performer". Playbill. Archived from the original on November 4, 2015. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  5. ^ The Affairs of Dobie Gillis Turner Classic Movies, accessed August 16, 2015
  6. ^ a b Erickson, Hal. ""Bobby Van Biography"". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016.
  7. ^ Mike (December 12, 2009). "Showoffs with Larry Blyden". The Game Show Pilot Light. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  8. ^ a b McFadden, Robert D. (August 2, 1980). "Bobby Van, actor and dancer". St. Petersburg Times. N.Y. Times News Service. p. B13. Retrieved March 9, 2022 – via
  9. ^ Anything Goes, accessed August 16, 2015
  10. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  11. ^ Clark, Earl W.; Singer, Allen J. (January 1, 2010). Beverly Hills Country Club. Arcadia Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 978-0738566191.
  12. ^ "Fidler In Hollywood". Nevada State Journal. January 11, 1953. p. 4. Retrieved March 9, 2022 – via
  13. ^ Johnson, Erskine (December 11, 1956). "Screen Lampoons Harvard in New Eddie, Debbie Film". The Fresno Bee. p. 4B. Retrieved March 29, 2022 – via Her medics have given Diana restored-to-health certificate following the cancellation of the Vans' stork date.
  14. ^ "Singer Adopts Son". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Associated Press. February 22, 1961. p. 10. Retrieved March 9, 2022 – via
  15. ^ a b "Judy Garland Heard in Van Damage Suit". Los Angeles Times. November 13, 1959. p. C28. Retrieved March 9, 2022 – via
  16. ^ "Bobby Vans Win $6,500 Injury Award". Los Angeles Times. November 20, 1959. p. 4. Retrieved March 9, 2022 – via
  17. ^ Carroll, Harrison (January 11, 1964). "Behind the Scenes in Hollywood". The Vidette-Messenger. King Features Syndicate. p. 4. Retrieved March 14, 2022 – via
  18. ^ Freeman, Alex (January 3, 1964). "Danny Kaye Show Set for 2nd Year". Hartford Courant. p. 10. Retrieved March 14, 2022 – via
  19. ^ a b Connolly, Mike (July 8, 1964). "Mike Connelly In Hollywood". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 13. Retrieved March 10, 2022 – via
  20. ^ Winchell, Walter (November 14, 1964). "Little Old New York". The Durham Sun. p. 4. Retrieved March 10, 2022 – via
  21. ^ Daily News, October 30, 1967
  22. ^ The El Dorado Times, November 29, 1967
  23. ^ Carroll, Harrison (February 22, 1968). "Behind the scenes in Hollywood". New Castle News. Pennsylvania. p. 6. Retrieved March 14, 2022 – via
  24. ^ a b "Singer Wed Week Wants Annulment". The Sacramento Bee. United Press International. May 7, 1968. p. 10. Retrieved March 14, 2022 – via
  25. ^ Written at Hollywood. "Couple Tries Elopement Then Gets An Annulment". It's a Woman's World. Evening Herald. Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. May 15, 1968. p. 8. Retrieved March 10, 2022 – via
  26. ^ a b Kleiner, Dick (October 12, 1981). "Elaine Joyce picking up pieces after sudden death of husband Bobby Van". Longview Daily News. United Feature Syndicate. p. B6. Retrieved March 9, 2022 – via
  27. ^ "Who's In The News: Bobby Van a Daddy". The Lexington Leader. June 24, 1976. p. A2. Retrieved March 9, 2022 – via
  28. ^ Michals, Bob (December 6, 1981). "The 'Blond of the Year' Rooting for 'Mr. Merlin'". TV Post. The Palm Beach Post. Florida. p. 5 – via
  29. ^ Written at Los Angeles. "Bobby Van takes final bow to world". The Daily Dispatch. Moline, Illinois. United Press International. August 2, 1980. p. 3. Retrieved March 10, 2020 – via
  30. ^ Michals, Bob (December 6, 1981). "The 'Blond of the Year' Rooting for 'Mr. Merlin'". TV Post. The Palm Beach Post. Florida. p. 18 – via
  31. ^ "Weddings/Celebrations; Taylor Van, Evan Meyer". The New York Times. October 19, 2003. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  32. ^ "Wonder Woman – Beauty on Parade". Apple TV. October 12, 1976. Retrieved March 30, 2022.
  33. ^ "Battlestar Galactica Season 1 Episode Guide". TV Guide. Retrieved March 30, 2022.
  34. ^ Pam, Jerry, ed. (September 12, 1959). "Bobby Van Stars in 'Oklahoma'". Screen : Drama Music. Valley Times. North Hollywood, California. p. 9. Retrieved March 26, 2022 – via
  35. ^ Taylor, Richard (March 16, 1961). "Let Me Tell You". The Star-News. Chula Vista, California. Retrieved March 17, 2022 – via
  36. ^ Written at Dobbs Ferry, New York. "Mickey Rooney Provides Zest in 'Tunnel of Love'". The Herald Statesman. Yonkers, New York. July 17, 1963. p. 18. Retrieved March 26, 2022 – via
  37. ^ Kleiman, Carol (December 2, 1977). "Van's 'Music Man' in key of quiet". Chicago Tribune. p. 27. Retrieved March 26, 2022 – via
  38. ^ Grooms, Roger (July 7, 1977). "Kenley's Updated 'Anything Goes' Well". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. D9. Retrieved March 26, 2022 – via
  39. ^ Chatenever, Rick (August 17, 1979). "Snatching Victory From Defeat". Santa Cruz Sentinel. p. 24. Retrieved March 26, 2022 – via

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Host of Showoffs
Succeeded by
Tom Kennedy on Body Language
Preceded by Host of Make Me Laugh
Succeeded by
Ken Ober in 1997