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Jerry Van Dyke

Comedian & Soda Jerk

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Jerry Van Dyke

Jerry Van Dyke in My Mother The Car

NBC, 1965
Jerry Van Dyke might have been more famous than his older brother, Dick, had he taken the role as Gilligan on Gilligan's Island he was offered. Instead, he turned this role down citing that the series was one of the worst things he ever read and started the series My Mother the Car. This show, about a man who discovers his talking 1928 Porter Flivver is his dead mother reincarnate, only ran for one season and has become known as one of the worst shows in television history. I think it's a playful bit of television kitsch.

Another role he turned down was the role of George Utley on Newhart. This role was written for him but eventually went to Tom Poston. The show would have taken a whole new direction had Van Dyke taken the role.

Jerry Van Dyke was born in Danville, Illinois. He began performing in High School and soon moved on to stand up. It was his brother who gave him his big television break with a guest appearance on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1962). He was soon hired to host Picture This (1963) and as comic relief on the Judy Garland Show (1963).

He was cast for various other film and television projects until he got his next "big break" playing Luther Van Dam on Coach, the role he is probably most remembered for. Luther was the lovable, cranky, but hilariously funny assistant coach to Hayden Fox, played by Craig T. Nelson.

More recently he was found again guest starring on his brother's show, Diagnosis Murder. This time, he also got to guest star with his nephew, Barry Van Dyke. Television is a family activity for the Van Dykes.

So, why the heck is he a famous Arkansas local? He and his wife, Shirley, once owned and operated a 500-acre ranch in Saline County. He also owned an entire block in Benton which housed "Jerry Van Dyke's Soda Shoppe & Royal Theater," a candy shop and an antique store. I've been informed that the soda shop has been closed down and the Royal Theater is now under new management but you can still see the block that was once Van Dyke heaven! If you were a Van Dyke fan (any of them) you could see all sorts of photos of Jerry and his famous relatives in the Soda Shoppe. It also housed Coach memorabilia and other cute items. The menu featured items named after some of his characters and great prices. It's just a fun place to eat and get a great soda. Formerly located at 117 S. Market.

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