Actor Dick Van Patten, Of 'Eight Is Enough' Fame, Dies at 86

(FOX 11 / AP) Dick Van Patten, the genial comic actor best known as the patriarch of TV's "Eight is Enough," has died, according to his publicist Daniel Bernstein.

From Hal Eisner:

The last time I spoke with Dick Van Patten he was watching the races at Hollywood Park and lamenting how disappointed he was the famous racetrack was shutting down forever.

"Racing... young people don't go for it," he told me as he sat in a Turf Club box. "I feel very bad cause they've got a lot of memories here."

That was in December of 2013. Now, 18 months later his longtime friend Bernie Kopell tells me "He loved horses." And, he loved making bets, said Kopell who told me at his Tarzana home, "From his own mouth he said it doesn't matter about winning or losing, but what does matter is the thrill."

The two had a lot in common. They played tennis together. They were in various shows. They tried out for many of the same roles. Interestingly, Kopell wasn't the first Doctor on The Love Boat. Van Patten was. There were three pilots. Kopell says Van Patten was in the third. After that,he says, ABC wanted Van Patten to move to the cast of "Eight is Enough" and that's when Kopell became Doctor Bricker.

Van Patten's career started in 1935 when he was 7. He was cast in a Broadway show. By his death, Kopell says, Van Patten was in 27 shows on Broadway. Of course, he became best known for "Eight is Enough" and then used his fame to co-found a dog food company.

Love Boat actress Jill Whelan says, "All the nice things you could say about a person you could say about Dick Van Patten."

Whelan, who played the Captain's daughter says when Van Patten made guest appearances on the Love Boat it was memorable. "Everybody loves all the Van Pattens. They're just a great family. Nice guys. He was a good dad. And, always professional on the set. Always had a great attitude."

No details on his death were immediately available. He was 86.

Born in New York, the veteran entertainer began his career as a child actor performing on the stage and on TV during its infancy.

But his greatest success was as Tom Bradford, a middle-aged widower and father of eight children who met and married Abby, played by Betty Buckley. The ABC comedy-drama aired from 1877-1981.

Van Patten's film roles included "Spaceballs," "The Santa Trap" and "Soylent Green."

His many TV appearances included "Love, American Style," "The Love Boat" and, most recently, "Hot in Cleveland."

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