Canadian Alan Thicke, a versatile performer who gained his greatest renown as the beloved dad on a long-running sitcom, has died at age 69.
Carleen Donovan, who is a publicist for Thicke’s son, singer Robin Thicke, says the Kirkland Lake, Ont., actor died from a heart attack Tuesday in Los Angeles. She had no further details.
Thicke starred in the ABC series “Growing Pains” from 1985 until 1992. He played Dr. Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist and father-knows-best who moved his practice into his home so his wife could return to work as a reporter. Along with his clients, he had three (later four) kids under foot, including his oldest son, Mike, played by breakout heart-throb Kirk Cameron, who served as a constant source of comedic trouble for the family.
Thicke, who was also a composer and a writer, had a prolific career that included cameos in recent years on the comedy “How I Met Your Mother” and the Netflix series “Fuller House.” He was also a frequent pitchman for ads on Sirius.
Thicke was born in 1947 and was a popular talk show host on Canadian television before making his name in the United States. He was nominated for three Emmy Awards for his work in the late 1970s as a writer for Barry Manilow’s talk show, and later for a satirical take on the genre in the variety show “America 2-Night.”
Perhaps his boldest assault on the U.S. market was as a virtual unknown taking on the King of Late Night, Johnny Carson. “Thicke of the Night” was a syndicated talk-music-and-comedy show meant to go head-to-head against NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
It premiered in September 1983 with great fanfare, boasting an innovative format and regulars including Richard Belzer, Arsenio Hall, Gilbert Gottfried and Fred Willard. But all too quickly, it was evident that Carson wasn’t going to be dethroned, and the ambitious “Thicke” disappeared into the night after one season.
Thicke was also the composer of several popular theme songs, including the original theme to “The Wheel of Fortune,” and shows such as “The Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes.”
Several Canadian entertainers have reacted to Thicke’s death with sadness.
“I am shocked & devastated at the news of Alan Thicke’s death. A friend for many years, he wrote & produced so many of my TV specials,” said singer Anne Murray.
Comedian Howie Mandel called Thicke a “good man” who gave him some big breaks in his early days. Actor William Shatner added on Twitter that he was “saddened over the loss of my friend Alan. Condolences to his family.”
Like any good Canadian, Thicke was a hockey fan, frequently attending Los Angeles Kings games. He took credit for introducing the sport to some celebrities. He began playing at age 5, but acknowledged he wasn’t very good at it.
“You were expected to play,” he said in 1998. “I was never good enough for the big time, but I always had fun at it.”
In 2003, Thicke received 30 stitches and lost five teeth after he was struck by a puck while practicing for a celebrity fundraising hockey game. “I won’t be playing any leading men roles in the next couple of months,” he joked after the accident.
He had the satisfaction of seeing his musical skills passed down to son Robin, a successful singer-songwriter and producer who, with brother Brennan, were born to Thicke and the first of his three wives, Gloria Loring.
In an email, Loring described Thicke’s passing as “a shock. We were all just together for Thanksgiving. He was funny, talented and deeply devoted to his family.”
Thicke also leaves a son from his marriage to second wife Gina Tolleson. He had been married to Tanya Callau since 2005.
With files from The Canadian Press
Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press