Dick Van Dyke is in tune with his youthfulness thanks to his wife of 11 years, Arlene Silver.
The two first met in 2007 at the SAG Awards, Van Dyke recalling that he was talking with Cate Blanchett when he first laid eyes on her. She “stopped [him] dead”.
“I remember seeing Dick at the catering table with his bow tie and his big smile. Right when I sat down, he was sitting next to me. He said, ‘Hi, I’m Dic,’” Silver said of their first encounter. “The first thing I asked him was, ‘Weren’t you in ‘Mary Poppins?’ I wasn’t sure.”
Dick went on to hire Silver as his makeup artist. From then on, she was constantly in his life, especially when his longtime partner, Michelle Triola, was sick with lung cancer. Silver would frequent their home, cooking, doing dishes, and overall just to check up on him.
Triola passed away in 2009, and Dick and Arlene pursued their relationship, eventually marrying in 2012.
In a 2013 HuffPost interview, Dick said how people in his life thought he was “crazy” for marrying someone 46 years younger than him. He wasn’t fazed, though.
“But she is just an absolute angel. She sings and dances so there’s a lot of that going around the house. She’s a great cook,” he said of Arlene, adding, “And the age difference hasn’t been a problem at all. Emotionally I’m about 13. She’s very, very wise for her age so I’m just having the time of my life.”
Dick’s family, however, was very welcoming of Arlene. In 2013, he said his grandkids call her “grandma” and his own kids “just love her”.
Van Dyke’s biggest concern was that people would think of Arlene as a “golddigger”, a speculation he was sure to refute.
Last year, he talked with Closer Weekly about his initial concern with the public’s reaction to their relationship.
“I thought there would be an outcry about a gold digger marrying an old man, but no one ever took that attitude,” adding, “We share an attitude. She can go with the flow. She loves to sing and dance, which we do almost every day. She’s just delightful.”
Dick has referenced his wife’s love for dancing numerous times, and how that other physical activities have kept him youthful throughout his 90s.
“My wife is a good singer and dancer so there’s a lot of singing and dancing going on around here,” Dick told People in 2015. “I got up the other morning, she was in the kitchen doing the dishes and she had her tap shoes on, and she was tap dancing while she was doing the dishes!”
That same year, he talked with NPR about how they themselves have adjusted to having such a significant age gap.
“I sometimes forget that we’re doing a great experiment here — 46 years difference,” he joked. “And we work at it to some extent, there’s got to be some understanding, find out what old habits don’t work anymore. It takes some adjusting and fitting in but that’s part of the fun of it.”
Dick recently was the man in the animatronic suit on FOX’s The Masked Singer, an experience he was excited to do thanks to the musical activities he and Arlene take part in at home.
I learned all the music he knows so I can keep him singing,” Silver told People. “Every show tune, every standard. I know all of them now, and I didn’t know any of them before.”
There’s a lot of duets going on around the house most of the day,” Dick added.
Season 9 of FOX’s The Masked Singer kicked off on Wednesday, and in a Super Bowl promo, the network said the show would feature “the most legendary, decorated and beloved unmasking in history,” and boy, did they deliver on episode one with the revelation of Emmy, Tony, and Grammy winner, Dick Van Dyke.
Van Dyke performed Frank Sinatra’s “When You’re Smiling” and ended his performance with a snippet from Mary Poppins’ “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, a song that Dick fought for himself to be able to sing, calling back to his iconic role in the 1964 Disney film.
Dick admitted to People that he had never seen the show before, but “checked it out and it looked like a lot of fun”. A big factor in him agreeing to it was that he was confident the judges wouldn’t guess it was him underneath the giant gnome costume he wore. And he was right. But their guesses didn’t satisfy the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang actor.
“I was happy to say that some people thought it was Tony Bennett,” he told EW in an interview after the episode aired. “But then other people thought it was Dustin Hoffman [and Robert DeNiro].”
“Wait a minute, those guys can’t sing,” he added.
Upon doing the show, he was unaware just how secret his identity needed to be kept.
“From the time I got out of the car, my head was covered, so I never saw anybody,” Dick said. “I wanted to go back and meet them in person because I really never got to meet anybody. They led me around so I wouldn’t fall down. But I was blindfolded the whole time.”
His anonymity continued onto the stage, to which Van Dyke called the “weirdest thing” he’s ever done.
“I would say it’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever done. But they didn’t put a mask on me. They made a great big like Pumpkinhead thing that I had to do. It was a weird experience. I had two little peepholes I can see the audience with. It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic.”
When he was revealed to be the gnome, the show’s judges, Ken Jeong, Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, and Nicole Scherzinger, were absolutely shocked.
“I don’t think they expected anybody from my generation to be on that show. So I knew I was gonna fool them,” he told EW. “They were so surprised. I stepped out and everybody’s mouths dropped open. I think some people thought I was dead.”
Scherzinger even got emotional when addressing the maskless 97-year-old.
“I love you so much, we love you, the whole world loves you so much,” she said from her judging podium. “It’s an honor to have you on our show. I can’t believe you’re here.”
Van Dyke still gets similar reactions out in public when fans, and even children, pass by him and inevitably recognize him.
“You know what is fun now? We’re on our third generation and I would get little kids who will see me and say, ‘It’s [his Mary Poppins character] Bert!’ And I love that, that kids are just discovering those movies now. And it’s great to be on a third generation.”
Regardless of being on the show, Van Dyke still practices and enjoys singing, especially with his wife of eleven years, Arlene Silver, who both spend time dueting in karaoke, most recently on Valentine’s Day.
“I learned all the music he knows so I can keep him singing,” Silver told People. “Every show tune, every standard. I know all of them now, and I didn’t know any of them before.”
“There’s a lot of duets going on around the house most of the day,” Dick added.
Despite his age, Van Dyke is more ambitious than ever, saying he’d love to return to the stage and “do a play”.
“I’ve got enough material together to sit down to a one-man show, which I think I may do just for fun. I love to do that.”
You can catch new episodes of The Masked Singer on FOX every Wednesday at 8 PM.