Lovable TV dad and journeyman actor Dick Van Patten, best known for his roles on the 1980s series Eight is Enough and Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, has died. Patten, who was 86, died at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California due to complications from diabetes, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
The former child actor began his career on Broadway at seven years old in a production of Tapestry in Gray, and first appeared on TV in 1949 as a regular on CBS’ Mama.
His biggest role was as Tom Bradford in Eight is Enough, playing a newspaper columnist and father of eight children. The series, which ran from 1977 to 1981, was based on the life of journalist Tom Braden who had written a memoir of the same name.
The actor appeared in three of Mel Brooks films: as King Roland in Spaceballs, the Abbot in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and Dr. Wentworth in High Anxiety. He also appeared in Brooks’ mid-70s Robin Hood-themed series When Things Were Rotten. “It’s great. It’s like a game,” Van Patten said in a past interview about working with Brooks. “It’s not like work. He keeps you laughing the full day on the set. He’s just a funny man.”
Van Patten also made a name for himself with his numerous guest appearances on TV series. The list includes popular shows like The Love Boat, Maude, Happy Days, Growing Pains, as well as appearances later in his career on Arrested Development, That ’70s Show, and others. The actor has appeared on more than 600 shows, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
An avid dog lover, Van Patten launched a pet food line called Natural Balance Pet Foods later in life, and founded National Guide Dog Month.
“He was the kindest man you could ever meet in life,” said his publicist Jeff Ballard in a statement. “A loving family man. They don’t make them like him anymore.”