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Bobby Van

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b. Robert Jack Stein, 6 December 1928, New York City, New York, USA, d. 31 July 1980, Los Angeles, California, USA. Van’s parents were vaudeville performers and at the age of four he occasionally joined in their act. He showed musical aptitude and studied at New York City’s Metropolitan Vocational High School. He played trumpet in a band that entertained at resorts in the Catskills. This led to him turning to singing and dancing, which is where he found his niche. In the late 40s he played hotels and clubs, adopted his stage name, and gradually began attracting attention. He had small roles in the films Because You’re Mine (1952), Small Town Girl, The Affairs Of Dobie Gillis (in which he played the title role), and Kiss Me Kate (all 1953). His on-screen film career foundered after this, as did film musicals, but he choreographed The Ladies’ Man (1961) and It’$ Only Money (1962). Later, he returned to film roles, appearing in The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters (1966), The Doomsday Machine (1972), and Lost Horizon (1973). On television, he appeared in Playhouse 90 (1958) and Mickey (1964), which starred Mickey Rooney. Van and Rooney also worked as a double act in clubs in the 60s. Through the 60s and 70s Van made guest appearances on numerous shows, played bit parts in series, such as CHiPS and The Love Boat and was in a television film, Lost Flight (1969). He also hosted game shows through the 70s as well as the Mrs America Pageant, a show he had appeared in as a dancer in the early 60s. Since the early 50s, Van had made several stage appearances, including some on Broadway: Alive And Kicking (1950), Seventeen (1951), Red, White And Blue (1954), a revival of On Your Toes (1955, with Vera Zorina and Elaine Stritch), a revival of No, No, Nanette (1971, with Ruby Keeler, Jack Gilford, Helen Gallagher and Susan Watson), and Doctor Jazz (1975). In California, he appeared in a 1959 production in Los Angeles of Oklahoma!, and in 1979 was in the San Jose Civic Light Opera’s presentation of Damn Yankees. Also in 1979, Van was diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery. He resumed working, hosting the Mrs America Pageant, which was on live television in June 1980, but shortly thereafter he suffered a final relapse.

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