Like many others in Hollywood, Van Dyke’s love life had its ups and downs, just like any ordinary person. Van Dyke, at the age of 20 in 1945, began a relationship with Margie Willett, a girl from his hometown of Danville, Illinois.
During the early stages of his career, the couple resided in Malibu and cherished their time there. They shared the common dream of starting a family and eventually welcomed four children into their lives. However, their journey was not without its share of sorrow. Willett experienced the joy of pregnancy with twins, but unfortunately, they suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage.
While Dick Van Dyke and Margie’s relationship blossomed, they encountered financial difficulties that led to their eviction from their Malibu home due to unpaid rent. During this challenging time, Van Dyke found himself obligated to embark on a performance tour with Philip Erickson for “The Merry Mutes.”
Despite their financial struggles, Dick Van Dyke and Margie were blessed with the arrival of four children during their time together. As the years passed, Van Dyke embraced the role of grandfather, having seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. However, when 1948 rolled around, the couple faced a significant hurdle: they lacked the means to afford a wedding.
Thankfully, a benevolent radio producer intervened, graciously offering to cover all the expenses and arrange a honeymoon for the couple. The only condition was that their nuptials would be broadcasted on his show. And so, in 1948, Van Dyke and Willett exchanged vows before two microphones, with their wedding ceremony reaching over 15 million listeners.
Despite her creative and grounded nature, Margie found herself disenchanted with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. In an industry where everyone clamored for a piece of her husband’s attention, she often felt overshadowed. Preferring to maintain a low profile, there were instances when people mistakenly assumed that she and Van Dyke were siblings due to her unassuming presence.
Van Dyke told The Guardian, “Once, when I appeared on a magazine cover, Margie snapped up six copies, and the cashier asked if she was my mother.”
Van Dyke and Margie’s children were born between the years 1950 and 1961, each adding their own unique presence to the family. The eldest son, Christan Van Dyke, came into the world first, followed closely by his younger brother, Barry, who was born just a year later. In 1955, their first daughter, Stacy, joined the growing family, and finally, in 1961, Carrie Beth completed the circle of siblings.
Following in their father’s footsteps, Van Dyke and Margie’s children began making early appearances in the entertainment industry. They were featured on various episodes of shows such as “The Van Dyke Show,” “Diagnosis: Murder,” and “The New Van Dyke Show.” This tradition extended to the next generation as well, with Barry’s children also making appearances on the show.
In a lighthearted comment to CNN in 1998, the actor humorously remarked, “It’s one way to get to see your grown kids. Barry’s teenage sons were on, and I had my daughter Stacy on the show, too. That’s carrying nepotism to its ultimate!”
Regrettably, the family faced numerous hardships, including struggles with addiction. In 1972, Van Dyke sought help for his battle with alcoholism and spent three weeks in a hospital, focusing on his recovery. During this time, Willett also found herself admitted to the same facility, grappling with issues related to prescription drug dependency. Reflecting on these challenging times, the actor shared with The Guardian:
“When I went into therapy, I realized I was repeating my father’s mistakes. He often came home drunk after lengthy road trips, and my mother threatened to walk out unless he quit – which he did. When I pledged to quit and entered a rehab clinic, Margie checked in as I checked out. I thought she’d come to pick me up, but it turned out she was hooked on antidepressants. I had no idea. What a pair.”
Over time, Margie gradually distanced herself from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, choosing instead to reside at the family ranch in Arizona. Meanwhile, the comedian persevered, but he openly acknowledged his ongoing struggle with alcohol addiction, acknowledging that he had battled this addiction for 25 years.
“I tried to be a good role model to my children, but I was an alcoholic for 25 years, which inevitably impacted on family life,” Van Dyke lamented. He further clarified that their struggles with addiction stemmed from underlying issues that plagued their relationship, causing it to slowly fall apart.
Finding Solace in Michelle Triola and Arlene Silver
As the realization dawned upon Van Dyke that his marriage with Willett was reaching an irreparable point, he sought solace in the company of Michelle Triola, his agent’s secretary and an actress. However, it was not just Van Dyke who was experiencing personal difficulties during this time—Triola herself was grappling with her own troubles.
At that time, Michelle Triola was entangled in a legal battle with actor Lee Marvin following the deterioration of their six-year relationship. It was amidst these tumultuous circumstances that Van Dyke and Michelle sought solace in each other’s company.
Van Dyke and Margie made the difficult decision to live separate lives, although their divorce was not officially concluded until 1984, after 36 years of being together. Van Dyke’s relationship with Triola, on the other hand, felt effortless and natural. Their bond was strengthened by the fact that Triola had an understanding of the show business world. They remained together for 35 years, despite never formalizing their commitment through marriage.
In the year 2006, a serendipitous encounter took place between Van Dyke and Arlene Silver, a makeup artist who happened to be 46 years his junior. This fortuitous meeting occurred in the green room of the SAG Awards, and despite Van Dyke’s usual reservations about approaching unfamiliar women, he made the bold choice to introduce himself to Arlene.
Silver, initially hired as Van Dyke’s makeup artist for the award ceremony, soon developed a deep and meaningful friendship with him. Over time, this bond blossomed into a romantic relationship. However, in 2008, a year that held promise, the comedian received devastating news that shattered his heart.
Tragically, in 2008, Van Dyke received the heartbreaking news of his ex-wife Margie’s passing after a lengthy struggle with pancreatic cancer. Despite their separation and divorce, the loss of Margie profoundly affected him. In reflecting on this painful event, he expressed, “Even though we were long divorced, with her death, I lost a part of myself.”
However, just one year later, Michelle received the devastating news from doctors that she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Van Dyke somberly added:
“When she asked if she was going to die, I pretended I didn’t know – the hardest acting I have ever done.”
Tragically, Michelle succumbed to her illness shortly after the diagnosis, but Van Dyke remained by her side throughout her final days, even during the difficult moments when she slipped into a coma. The actor recounted, “I sang and talked to her until the hospice nurses told me she was gone.”
Finding New Happiness Again
From their initial connection as colleagues, Silver became a pillar of support for Van Dyke following Triola’s passing. She cared for him, ensuring he had food and providing unwavering support. Van Dyke shared with People magazine, “She was such a support, I fell in love.”
In a lighthearted manner, Van Dyke later revealed on the Oprah Winfrey Network that he felt compelled to marry Silver after everything they had been through. Interestingly, at the time, Silver wasn’t aware of Van Dyke’s illustrious career. To familiarize her with his work, Van Dyke made sure she watched movies like “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
In 2012, they joyously walked down the aisle, radiating happiness in their wedding photos. Van Dyke’s publicist, Bob Palmer, remarked, “It’s a really nice relationship, most people like her a lot. Despite their obvious age difference, Dick has never been happier. She brings a lot of light into his life.”
Van Dyke revealed: “We don’t feel the age gap. I’m emotionally immature, and Arlene is very wise for her age, so we meet in the middle.”
Continuing to embrace an active lifestyle, the couple enjoys dancing as frequently as they can and cherishes their shared interests. Silver’s presence in Van Dyke’s life keeps him feeling youthful and invigorated. Notably, she has a penchant for singing, and together they engage in daily duets, filling their home with melodic harmonies.
Additionally, the couple derives immense joy from hosting karaoke gatherings in their home, extending invitations to anyone who shares their love for singing. One memorable Valentine’s Day in 2013, they celebrated in this delightful manner, embracing the festive spirit of music and togetherness.
“We have a karaoke party and all the gang that we know who like to sing come over. And we all get in the living room and sing all evening. It’s a tradition.” However, Silver added that instead of individuals taking turns with the microphone, everyone joins in, singing collectively while following the lyrics displayed on the television screen.
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