Dick Van Dyke Is Still Vantastix!
It's an "only in
Hollywood" story -- or more accurately, only in Malibu -- when Mike Mendyke, a
former aerospace engineer and NASA employee, bumped into Dick Van Dyke in a
coffee shop back in 2000.
Mike's love of
music had overcome his engineering desires and he was especially fond of vocal
music (a cappella), singing in his own group called Five O'clock Shadow.
When he happened to see Dick, he knew it was an opportunity he had to
"I just happened to
know the year prior Dick was made an honorary life member of the Barbershop
Harmony Society. The first words out of my mouth were, 'I understand you are a
big fan of barbershop,'" says Mike, adding that Dick responded with a wish that
there were more people in the area to sing with.
perfect invitation, Mike turned to his other talented friends, Bryan Chadima and
Eric Bradley, and asked them if they would like to sing with Dick Van Dyke.
After convincing them he wasn't joking, the guys eagerly jumped at the chance.
Before long, the group was gathered around Dick's piano eating pizza and
harmonizing their hearts out.
From there they
began singing at charity events in Los Angeles, appeared on television during
the TV Land Awards and sang the national anthem at a couple of Lakers games.
Dick even used his newfound buddies to surprise his friend Mary Tyler Moore
during a Larry King Show interview when they sang the theme song to Mary's
popular television show.
With all this love
and harmony, it's no surprise these guys have recorded and released a CD of some
of their favorite songs. Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastix: Put On A Happy Face
is an energizing collection of wonderful music that will appeal to a wide age
range. It includes selections Dick helped make famous, including Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ("It took a
long time to learn how to spell that," says Mike.)
Speaking of their
first CD effort, Mike says the project sprung from their desire to leave an
"The CD was a real
labor of love. We wanted to see if we could do this. I have been enjoying
working with the group for so long now, I wanted a formal record that this group
existed," explains Mike, adding that making the CD is only part of the effort.
"We made the album and now we are trying to figure out what to do with it. We
don't have a big record label or production company."
Calling it a "grass
roots effort," Mike is using his computer skills to market and promote the
recording, which is available from the website at
www.vantastix.com or can be downloaded in
digital from another site Mike co-founded that
specializes in a cappella music.
Listening to the
final result, I would describe it as anything but "grass roots." The harmonies
are superb and Dick's frequent embellishments add a great note of fun
entertainment to songs we've heard many times before. He even offers the theme
from his original Dick Van Dyke Show with unpublished lyrics attributed
to Dick's co-star on the show, Morey Amsterdam. Other tunes include You've
Got A Friend In Me, Baby of Mine, Bare Necessities and a very
cool rendition of A Lover's Question with Dick handling the bass while
Bryan Chadima croons the melody. (Brian, who along with Eric, is a professional
singer, is also responsible for recording and mixing this technically superb
Possibly one of the
greatest messages coming from this effort isn't in the songs themselves but in
what it represents. Big media is currently obsessed with reaching specific
demographics -- usually based on age. That has fractured our use of media into
distinct groups, leaving us with far too many formulated products that are
pigeonholed into categories like kids movies, teen music, and adult dramas. In
contrast, Put On A Happy Face has the potential to cross these
superfluous age barriers.
saying, "We have heard that message about integration of generations from many
other people. People Dick's age are delighted to see him up there. My kids love
it, and I love it too. We do each other good by enjoying one another's company."
Rarely does an item
come across my desk with this much heart and soul. With two bonus Christmas
songs completing the selections, The Vantastix album Put on A Happy
Face is a prime holiday gift that won't go stale for a long, long time.
To purchase a
copy of Dick Van Dyke & The Vantastix: Put on A Happy Face, go to the
Vantastix web site.
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
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