Dan Rowan

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Dan Rowan
Birth nameDaniel Hale David
Born(1922-07-22)July 22, 1922
Beggs, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedSeptember 22, 1987(1987-09-22) (aged 65)
Englewood, Florida, U.S.
MediumTelevision, film
Years active1952–1982
Phyllis J. Mathis
(m. 1946; div. 1960)

Adriana Van Ballegooyen
(m. 1963; div. 1971)

Joanna Young
(m. 1974)

Daniel Hale Rowan (July 22, 1922 – September 22, 1987) was an American actor and comedian. He was featured in the television show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, wherein he played straight man to Dick Martin and won the 1969 Emmy for Outstanding Variety or Musical Series.

Early life and career[edit]

Rowan was born on July 22, 1922,[1] on a carnival train near the small town of Beggs, Oklahoma, as Daniel Hale David. He toured with his parents,[2] Oscar and Nellie David, who performed a singing and dancing act with the carnival.

He was orphaned at the age of 11,[2] spent four years at the McClelland Home in Pueblo, Colorado, and then was taken in by a foster family at the age of 16 and enrolled in Central High School. After graduating from high school in 1940, he hitchhiked to Los Angeles and found a job in the mailroom at Paramount Pictures, quickly ingratiating himself with studio head Buddy DeSylva. A year later he became Paramount's youngest staff writer.

World War II[edit]

During World War II, Rowan served as a fighter pilot in the 8th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group[3] United States Army Air Forces.[2] He flew a Curtiss P-40N Warhawk, AAF Ser. No. 42-104949, currently recorded under civilian registration N537BR, from which he shot down two Japanese aircraft before being downed and seriously wounded in another P-40 over New Guinea. His military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal, and the Purple Heart.[citation needed]

Comedy team[edit]

Dan Rowan and Dick Martin as caricatured for NBC by Sam Berman

After his discharge, Rowan returned to California, where he teamed up with Dick Martin and started a comedy nightclub act. The team had appeared on television before, but it was not until the critical success of a summer special in 1967 that they found fame on Laugh-In.[1] Prior to breaking through on Laugh-In, Rowan was a serious contender to host The Hollywood Squares. However, Peter Marshall—who had written material for Rowan and Martin-had become estranged from Rowan and viewed him as a rival. He took the position solely to prevent Rowan from getting it.[4]

Rowan later appeared with Dick Martin on the series of The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials.

Rowan also appeared twice as an actor on The Love Boat, first in a two-part 1977 episode playing the part of Alan Danver, husband of Barbara Danver, played by Juliet Mills. He appeared again as Matt Heller, a father estranged for 20 years from his ex-wife, Jenny Heller, played by Marion Ross, and his daughter, Beth Heller, played by Eve Plumb, in the October 30, 1982 segment "Command Performance."

Personal life[edit]

In 1946, Rowan married the 1945 Miss America first-runner-up Phyllis J. Mathis.[5] They had three children: Thomas Patrick, Mary Ann, and Christie Esther.[5] He and Mathis were later divorced.[6] In 1963, Rowan married Australian model Adriana Van Ballegooyen.[6] They divorced[7] eight years later. In 1974, he married model and TV spokeswoman Joanna Young, to whom he remained married until his death.[1]

Later years and death[edit]

Rowan retired in the early 1980s and spent the remainder of his years between his residence in Florida and his barge in the canals of France, although he did reunite with Martin for some brief appearances on the NBC 60th Anniversary Show in 1986. In his forties, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which led to his becoming insulin dependent. He died of lymphoma in 1987 in Englewood, Florida.[1] His body was cremated.

In 1986, a book of letters written between himself and author John D. MacDonald was published titled A Friendship: The Letters of Dan Rowan and John D. MacDonald, 1967-1974.[7]

Rowan was portrayed by Jonathan Whittaker in the 1995 HBO movie Sugartime.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Gerard, Jeremy (September 23, 1987). "Dan Rowan, 65, a Comedian And a 'Laugh-In' Host, Dies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 24, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "'Laugh-In' Comic Dan Rowan Dies". Los Angeles Times. United Press International. September 22, 1987. Archived from the original on May 27, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  3. ^ Scott Baron (1 November 1997). They Also Served: Military Biographies of Uncommon Americans. MIE Publishing. pp. 156–. ISBN 978-1-877639-37-1.
  4. ^ Marshall, Peter; Armstrong, Adrienne (2002). Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-5585-3980-8.
  5. ^ a b "Welcome to the Memorial Page for Christie Esther Parker". Coos Bay Chapel. Archived from the original on February 2, 2018. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Oppenheimer, Peer J. (September 8, 1968). "Can TV's Hottest Comics Stay Friends?". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. p. 94. Dan's first marriage to Phyllis Mathis ended in divorce.
  7. ^ a b Burns, Frances Ann (April 10, 1987). "The comic and the writer". United Press International. Archived from the original on February 2, 2018. Retrieved June 23, 2017.
  8. ^ "Sugartime - Cast & Crew". TV Guide. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved June 23, 2017.

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