Magazine article The New Yorker

Supercalifragilistic

Magazine article The New Yorker

Supercalifragilistic

Article excerpt

Ten years ago, Dick Van Dyke was sitting at a Starbucks in Malibu, where he lives, when, he recalled, a young man approached him. "I hear you like to harmonize," he said. "I love to harmonize," Van Dyke replied, and invited the man and his friends to come over that night. The foursome became the Vantastix--rhymes with Fantastics--three basses and a tenor. "Tuesday nights, we order pizza and just sing," Van Dyke said. "We sang 'The Star-Spangled Banner' for the Lakers. Every time we sing at the Staples Center, we get introduced as the Vanta Sticks."

The other day, Van Dyke, who turns eighty-five this month, marched through a side door at the Geffen Playhouse, in Westwood, threw his arms wide, and boomed, "Ah, the theatre!" He was wearing a blue cashmere sweater, with his white hair styled circa "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Rehearsals were about to begin for "Dick Van Dyke--Step in Time!--A Musical Memoir," in which Van Dyke and the Vantastix will perform songs from his career and he will tell stories and dance ("Me Ol' Bamboo," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"), arthritis permitting. He sat down in a chair in the empty theatre and folded up his legs: a marionette at rest.

"The boys and I did a rap version of 'Spoonful,' from 'Mary Poppins'--Julie loved it," he said, meaning Andrews. "Someone said she was in town this week. She lives in Gstaad, so I never see her. I rarely see Mary, either"--Tyler Moore, who co-starred as his wife on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"--"because she lives in upstate New York." He pulled a harmonica from one pocket and a piece of Nicorette from another. "Mary was in town recently to do 'Hot in Cleveland.' Everyone's doing that. Carl"--Reiner--"did it, Betty White was on it. They sent me a script. I get sent scripts for everything. I got one from 'Grey's Anatomy.' They wanted me to play a part my audience wouldn't like--a sneak. You wouldn't believe the letters I got when I played a villain in 'Columbo.' People were yelling at me in the grocery store. For 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' I didn't even act. My wife said, 'That's not acting. You act the same way at home.' " Recently, he had an opportunity to appear on "Dancing with the Stars," and passed. "It was about twenty-five years too late," he said.

Van Dyke looked around. …

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