It seems like every late-80s and 90s sitcom is getting revived, but if Hollywood had a soul (which they don’t), they wouldn’t even think about trying to bring back Coach again. Because how can you bring back Coach without Hayden Fox’s lovable dum-dum assistant coach Luther Van Dam? TMZ says that Jerry Van Dyke, who played Luther Van Dam for all 9 seasons of Coach, died yesterday. He was 86.
Jerry’s wife of over 40 years, Shirley, tells TMZ that she was by his side when he went off to the great beyond at their ranch in Hot Spring County, Arkansas. Shirley says that they were in a car accident two years ago, and his health wasn’t right ever since then.
Jerry’s older brother, Dick Van Dyke, may have gotten the better name and landed a role in Mary Poppins, but his career was just as good. Wikipedia says that while in high school, Jerry did stand-up at stripper joints and nightclubs. In 1954, he joined the Air Force where he became a member of Tops In Blue, which may sound like a gay Facebook group for power top police officers (or a gay Facebook group for power top Crips), but it’s a touring performance group of active Air Force members. Jerry was in a few TV shows before he was cast as sleepwalker Stacey Petrie on his brother’s show The Dick Van Dyke Show. Playing Stacey got him a regular spot on the short-lived The Judy Garland Show.
Bob Denver may owe his entire career to Jerry, because apparently JVD turned down the title role in Gilligan’s Island. He also said no to replacing Don Knotts in The Andy Griffith Show. Instead, Jerry chose to star in My Mother The Car, which lasted one season. Jerry went on to be on episodes of The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Charles In Charge, Grace Under Fire and The Drew Carey Show before he landed Coach. Playing Luther Van Dam got him 4 Emmy nominations.
After Coach, Jerry continued to grace TV screens by popping up in Yes, Dear, My Name Is Earl and The Middle. And Jerry also brought in that commercial $$$ by starring in ads for Big Lots and Hardee’s (co-starring that hot blond Frankenstein’s Monster from Coach).
Rest in peace, Jerry Van Dyke.