As anyone who follows me on my various other social medias is aware, this past week I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet one of my idols and have been unable to stop talking about it since. What originally began as a simple plan to take a much needed trip to Disneyland for a few days was upended by Phoenix Comicon’s announcement about a month ago that an astonishing guest was joining the line up: the incredibly talented, dashing icon of a man, Dick Van Dyke.
While I’ve always had a great appreciation and love for the man since I grew up with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins, it wasn’t until I first began watching the Dick Van Dyke Show a few years ago that my appreciation began to grow exponentially. Of all of the actors and actresses out there, he’s been my favorite of the lot. With his gracefully goofy ability to execute all ranges of comedy, and his perfect family of costars Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, and Morey Amsterdam, the Dick Van Dyke Show has gotten me through the many ups and downs of my life the last few years. Upon reading his book, “My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business” and the discovery of his vocal quartet group, Dick Van Dyke & the Vantastix, I came to realize that he is one of my few idols who’s still alive and kicking – and boy is he kicking!
When the stars aligned and we realized we could pull off meeting Dick Van Dyke, we immediately went to work on last minute outfits for Comicon and could think of much little else.
While I debated for awhile whether I ought to create this blog post since I think I’ve worn the topic to death, I decided to write it up as a memento and diary entry of sorts for future me! So, apologies for the gushing and rambling that will inevitably happen. The excitement is something I don’t ever want to lose!
Part 1: Disneyland!
Since I never managed to take a graduation trip for myself (being jobless and all for a few months after getting my Masters,) my lil sis Julide (who just graduated from high school) decided to combine our trips and take a Disneyland weekend for ourselves. As always, we simply HAD to Disneybound!
My roommate Lauren and I had planned a Pinocchio bound awhile ago for a cancelled trip that was going to take place on a hot summer day, so my sister hopped on the bandwagon and we opted for the group bound that would help keep us coolest in steamy weather. Ironically, it was freezing! While my roomie and I had something to throw on over our looks, poor Julide was shivering all day long.
We drove up to Anaheim after Lauren and I got off of work and got into our hotel around midnight. Excitement kept us awake longer than intended, but we soon crashed and woke a few hours later to prepare for our outing.
My look was composed of a Pinocchio Mickey ear hat that I’d seen in the parks for ages before deciding to make use of it, a black shrug sold by Pinup Girl Clothing awhile ago, a 50s bustier/bikini top that I strung a blue piece of fabric through, an apple brooch (to represent the apple he has when beginning his journey), a 60s overskirt from the Instagram shop Far From Here Vintage, 50s shorts from Etsy, and old character shoes that I cut the strap off years ago. The whole outfit was then topped with the perfect vintage cottage purse:
My sister’s dress was from Forever 21, and my roommate’s Jiminy Cricket look was made up of an old cardigan, mustard scarf, and sandals paired with an infinity wrap top from Le Bomb Shop, shorts from Pinup Girl Clothing, a hat from Amazon with the ribbon changed, and a handmade Official Conscience pin.
Although just a one day trip, we managed to meet many characters we’ve never met before including Pocahontas and (now one of my favorite characters to meet), the Shadow Man!
We also met some old favorites like Peter Pan (my sister’s absolute favorite character of all time), and, because we simply had to considering our impending meet and greet, Mary and Bert.
Bert was perfectly goofy and charming and only raised our excitement levels.
One of the most exciting parts of the trip was getting to FINALLY head to the Red Rose Taverne. While ironic that the time we pulled together a Pinocchio group bound was when his Village Haus was made over for Beauty and the Beast, I still couldn’t really argue with the change! I’m a sucker for anything Beauty and the Beast.
I naturally tried the grey stuff (despite maybe technically being allergic to it kinda) and it was DELICIOUS. I’m hoping we can head back before the Taverne changes back because the menu options sounded absolutely mouthwatering, and we had to opt out of food since we had reservations at Cafe Orleans.
The day was overall incredibly successful. We watched both parades currently running in the parks (I wish the Electrical Parade would never leave again!), met new characters, and even went on rides we rarely go on. While we missed out on a few key things, Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones, and Storybook, and were freezing most of the day, we had a wonderfully relaxed, happy, and successful trip with our friends Pinocchio, Jiminy, and the Blue Fairy.
Part 2: Phoenix Comicon!
As mentioned above, the preparations for Comicon began as soon as we realized we were attending. Since this was Lauren and my first Comicon (as well as Dick Van Dyke’s!), we knew little of what to expect. While we’ve both attended Broadwaycon, we assumed it would operate a bit differently, and hadn’t been able to get together outfits for that anyway. This time, we KNEW we had to do something despite huge budget and time restrictions.
Since we had previously put together a Mary Poppins themed bound, my sister decided to simply add to that outfit to make it into more of a costume, while Lauren wanted to put together a better Bert than what she’d done before with a pair of Pinup Girl Clothing’s 1940s Doris pants that properly matched Julide’s Jolly Holiday Mary. While I had personally loved my Mrs. Banks bound (despite nobody recognizing me in the parks), I knew I couldn’t in any way afford recreating her actual outfit and decided to go with something that I could both pull off more easily and represented someone even closer to my heart: Mary Tyler Moore’s Laura Petrie from The Dick Van Dyke Show.
While I knew going as Laura to a Con was a risk, and that I wouldn’t get noticed in a sea of Mary Poppinses I crossed my fingers that hopefully Dick Van Dyke would realize who I was trying to represent if no one else. I tried two trial run bouffants in the time I had and perfected her hairdo, found some vintage capris with my measurements, purchased Pinup Girl Clothing’s Jane top in white, and desperately tried to repair my pointed-toe flats to pull off Laura’s perfectly casual 60s look. I was so happy with the whole thing that I think I might try to expand my wardrobe forward to the 60s (even if my curves aren’t as easily shown off by the styles).
The night before heading to Comicon, we had heard about the prop weapon ban in reaction to a man who had managed to get in loaded with weapons, and anticipated long lines to get in, but our sole worry was getting to Dick Van Dyke’s panel early enough to get a decent seat. Once we made our way in, we managed to get better seats than we’d imagined and proceeded to stock up on the snacks and coffee we’d had to forego in favor of arriving early.
Lauren and I also took the time to take a few photos for our Instagrams, quickly realizing that the lighting was absolutely atrocious and we probably wouldn’t manage to get anything in passable quality.
But in the end, I was too excited to care or experience my usual frustration at bad lighting. After all, we only had an hour or so left before getting to hear and see Dick Van Dyke LIVE!
Photo from Phoenix New Times
Seeing Dick Van Dyke walking on stage might be one of the happiest moments of my life. As he’s 91, we were all a bit anxious to see him in person and unsure how he would handle such a big panel – after all, you never can tell how a person’s really getting along when your only exposure is through media; yet he walked on with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen someone give in real life with a spring in his step. And that smile never left his face.
His panel was a breath of fresh air. At a time when negativity and discontentedness seems to be celebrated, particularly among actors and artists, Dick Van Dyke’s only negative comment was an opening joke about Trump. Every question asked or story told was tied to statements of how lucky his life has been, how much he loved filming, how much he loved his costars. When asked what his favorite song from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was, he answered with “You Two,” surprising the audience who had been muttering “Hushabye Mountain” expectantly, and resulting in a chorus of “awws.” He talked about living in New York with a family and being jobless, and how that had pushed him to audition for anything and everything even without any experience in song and dance, which then led to him landing his role in “Bye Bye Birdie” alongside Chita Rivera, which then led Chita to suggesting he be given a song since he wasn’t doing anything, which then led to his casting in the Dick Van Dyke Show. He mentioned “Me Ol’ Bamboo” being the hardest dance he ever had to do – unsurprisingly! And his amusing story about begging to be the old banker in Mary Poppins. Perhaps the funniest moment was his story about asking a girl to prom where he walked up and her response was “Your fly’s open!” to which his response was to promptly laugh and blow snot all over her. The only moment his smile fell was when he spoke of the beautiful Mary Tyler Moore’s recent passing, a moment when the sadness was palpable in the room, but he also spoke of the best laugh the show ever got: the episode where Rob thinks they were given the wrong baby after Ritchie’s birth, only to find out that that couple their child was supposedly given to is black at the end.
My favorite moment, however, of all of these wonderful moments, was when he sang us the Dick Van Dyke Show theme song all the way through. Although he sang pieces of many other songs during the panel, this is the one that really got me. I wish I had a video to share of that spur of the moment rendition, but if you didn’t realize the song had words to it, you can hear him singing it here with his quartet:
He left the stage to a standing ovation and, of course, threw in a signature trip on his way out. I don’t think I’ve ever clapped so hard in my life!
Next on the agenda was to try to book it to our photo op with him, something scheduled for only 15 minutes after the end of his panel, and upon finally finding our way there, we realized that half of the giant auditorium was taken up by people waiting for their photo op with him as well. Phoenix Comicon had grossly overestimated the number of people that could go through within one hour, and they were understaffed. After 4 hours, we finally made it in for our photo, an experience that lasted under a minute including time to walk up and out. I was one of the few who retained her excitement for the opportunity as I had hoped that the delay was due to Dick Van Dyke being able to take a smidgen more time with fans, and was sad to find that this was far from the case. It was rumored that they had forgotten to book him a lunch, and nobody could believe that they had so crammed his schedule (autograph session, 15 minutes later a panel, 15 minutes later a photo op, 15 minutes later another autograph session, 15 minutes later another photo op). He did end up having to take a break, but was constantly having to jump between photo op and autograph sessions, and all other photo ops were postponed to try to get his line down. I am amazed that a 91 year old could keep up with this kind of pace with the smile he retained. Astonishing.
When we got our photo, he complimented Lauren and Julide’s outfits and asked if they were handmade basically as the picture was being taken, but he sadly didn’t get to see me since I was behind them and obviously less eye catching, and he wasn’t even given the time to glance over. It all happened so quickly that when someone was trying to let him know that “Laura” was standing there, he only had time to ask for clarification as I awkwardly hovered for a split second, hoping he’d realize what was happening, before being yelled at to leave. I was admittedly quite heartbroken, and the high from the panel left as I left the room. Everyone could tell that he was a gentleman who seemed to want to take the time to talk with fans a bit more instead of just stringing everyone through in an inhumane chain as fast as possible. Those first few moments, even the physical photo that helped serve as proof that I’d been near him, felt like a sad reminder of not even having the time to meet his gaze after more than a hundred dollars and 4 hours in line holding spots.
Luckily, this feeling was soon to change. After receiving our photo, we quickly headed to the autograph area, unsure of what was going to happen. After all, while we were a part of the second autograph group, our time had passed two hours ago. We were told it would be at least an hour before he could get to us, but he would be there, so we decided to head over and take a seat in the surprisingly sparse line. After the line of thousands we’d left, the line of around 10 seemed too good to be true. As we waited, I worked on trying to readjust my thinking and be positive again knowing that I had still experienced something unimaginable, yet before we knew it, no more than half an hour later, Dick Van Dyke was walking up to the signing table! Disappointment immediately forgotten, we all jumped up and tried to brush ourselves off and look halfway presentable again as he took his seat. We were standing right in front of him in the line, and I couldn’t believe he was truly up close. There sat an icon, yet he looked more approachable than anyone I’ve ever seen. Big grin stretching across his face, he started to greet fellow fans and sign their items.
There was a table set up with photographs to get signed if needed, and upon seeing my favorite photo of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, I packed away the little “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” booklet I’d brought in favor of the new image (if you follow me on Twitter, this sweet image has been my header photo…basically since I first got Twitter). It was made all the sweeter when he told me that this is his favorite photo. Who knew such a little comment could warm a heart so?
When I finally got to walk up to him, he greeted me with a, “Hello, Laura!” and I honestly can’t believe I retained my calm demeanor as much as I did. He had recognized me! No explanations necessary. His wife (who was sitting beside him) asked if my hair was a wig or really my hair and I mentioned it’s easy for me since I have a lot of it, and it was nice to see Arlene involved instead of just sitting off to the side and looking bored as is often the case in such circumstances. As I had hoped (and feared), DVD asked me if I could do Laura’s iconic, “Oh, Rob!” and in the moment, while I instinctually began to oblige him, I panicked and bashfully backed out. Luckily, a chorus of “Oh, Robs” followed – including from Dick Van Dyke and Arlene – and I joined in quickly, laughing at my foolishness as I walked away.
There’s a part of me that’s avidly against all fangirling from years of holding it back in the music scene, but it certainly happened with DVD. After we walked out with our autographs, the three of us stood nearby, gabbing excitedly with a fellow fan and gushing about how astonishing a man he is while we watched him give each new person the same kind of rapt attention. Talk about a smile that can light up a room! He’s definitely that rare kind of charismatic person who feels approachable and friendly despite his successful career and fame. And heaven, he has more energy in him now than I do! And I’m 25.
After about 8 hours devoted purely to Dick Van Dyke, we finally had the chance to walk around a bit more. Perhaps if our time had been taken up by anyone else, we would’ve been disappointed that we hadn’t been able to actually enjoy Comicon, but we had nothing but joy. We did some light shopping and entered the Doctor Who world momentarily. There, I met Cassandra, and 10 (who needed a little motherly comforting from Laura – one of my favorite photos of the night!).
We took a few more photos where I did my best to emulate Laura (despite how different our body types are):
And Lauren and Julide finally got the chance to pose together as Mary and Bert:
Then we decided we were a bit too exhausted to stay at Comicon, had already missed all of the other panels we’d been interested in, and had a two hour drive home, so we took off. I realized I didn’t have any photos with Bert and Mary, so we snapped a few of those outside:
Along the way, Lauren happened to open the door for a Phoenix Comicon worker who had been on Dick Van Dyke’s team, and he told us that we’d been the standouts at the photo op which immediately made all remaining grievances about it disappear. Plus, I’ve had his wife and another Comicon worker find me on Instagram and tell me they appreciated my Laura Petrie, so you could say I am pretty content with my choice to emulate this marvelous woman. I was certainly the only Laura Petrie, and I was amazed at how many people knew exactly who I was and were excited by it. Of course, outside of the Dick Van Dyke universe happening, Elizabeth Taylor was the most common assumption I got, and even within it, there were a few who didn’t know Laura Petrie at all and couldn’t give more than a dismissive shrug when they were told who I was, but hell, I’m not sure if I can top my Laura Petrie considering the circumstances. I hope that I paid her a proper homage (even if I was having a bad hair day and froze up when asked to say “Oh, Rob!”), and managed to show that Dick Van Dyke did something other than Mary Poppins.
All in all, it was probably the best weekend of my life. It’s bittersweet knowing that I will never get to see his brilliant smile in person again, but I wouldn’t change the weekend for anything in the world. I definitely plan on ordering his other books next paycheck, and I haven’t wanted to watch anything but the Dick Van Dyke Show or listen to anything but his music. There’s just no-one like him around and I’m still on cloud 9. The only thing keeping me going is knowing I have a trip to New York City coming up!
To think, this year I’ve gotten to see my musical theatre idol perform (Bernadette Peters), met my biggest idol of all time (Dick Van Dyke), and now I get to see the singer who started my love for pop rock music finally perform on the Broadway stage as I’ve always wanted him to (Brendon Urie). I can’t truly can’t imagine a better year for myself.
Have any of you met Dick Van Dyke? I’d love to hear some personal anecdotes! Also, kudos to you, if you made it through this whole post ❤️
I have a few exciting things lined up for my blog and my Youtube, including a how-to video on getting a bouffant flip, and a huge review of Besame Cosmetics’ products, so keep an eye out! And thank you, as always, for reading.
Miss Lark Bahar