LOS ANGELES — If he hadn’t found his niche as an actor, Dick Van Dyke probably would have starved to death.
“I’m not good at math and I was a terrible salesman,” he said jokingly during a recent telephone interview.
Fortunately, he got his break as an announcer at WDAN Radio in Danville after World War II, and he hasn’t slowed down since.
That long, multi-faceted career as a singer, dancer, comedian, author and actor has earned Van Dyke the Screen Actors Guild’s highest honor, the Life Achievement Award. The award will be presented tonight in Los Angeles.
“I’m just thrilled to death,” said Van Dyke, 87, who was surprised when he learned about the accolade.
After having been recognized as a dancer and comedian, he said with a chuckle, “It’s nice to be finally confirmed as an actor.”
It’s even more special, he said, because he’s the first recipient of the award since the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists unions merged.
Van Dyke presented the award to Julie Andrews in 2006 and to former co-star Mary Tyler Moore last year. Moore isn’t in good health and is unable to return the honor, he said, so Carl Reiner will present the award this year. Both Moore and Reiner starred with Van Dyke on television’s iconic situation comedies, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
To receive the award, Van Dyke joked, “You have to live long enough.”
In reality, the award is given to an actor who fosters the “finest ideals of the acting profession,” and who is involved in humanitarian activities. Van Dyke’s main charity is the Midnight Mission, a shelter for the troubled and homeless in LA.
Van Dyke acknowledged that he’s received many awards — except an Oscar. But, he said, “I’ve got enough to make me happy.”