Legendary entertainer Dick Van Dyke was was one of five artists honored by the Kennedy Center for their immense contribution to American culture last month.
Van Dyke found success with his own brand of singing, dancing and physical comedy — and as he tells “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason he isn’t done moving yet.
“I’m 95. And a lot of my friends won’t do these,” the icon said while doing sit-ups in the backyard of his Malibu home. “All you old guys out there, listen to me, I’m telling you. You can keep going for — I’m still dancing and singing.”
For more than 60 years, Van Dyke has been known as a song and dance man, and an elastic-limbed comic with impeccable timing.
“I had always been an admirer of Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy. So as a kid I practiced falling. And I had worked it all out,” he said.
Van Dyke even has portraits of Stan Laurel and Buster Keaton at home — who he acknowledges are, in a way, his heroes.
“I stole everything,” he said. “I told Stan that and he said, ‘Yes, I know.'”
His trophy table is already crowded — Van Dyke’s long career has earned him five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, a BAFTA and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.
Asked how he feels about the Kennedy Center Honor, Van Dyke replied that he’d “been trying to think the last couple of months how I came to get this.”
Young Dick Van Dyke from Danville, Illinois started as a radio announcer in the Army during World War II.
“I thought that was my future,” he recalled.
Then, after being signed to CBS in 1955, Van Dyke spent a year-long stint hosting “CBS This Morning.”
“Nobody knew it because Dave Garroway was on NBC,” he quipped. “So nobody watched me. My news man was Walter Cronkite — wonderful guy.”
In 1960, he landed the part of a struggling songwriter in the Broadway musical “Bye, Bye Birdie.” His big number was a gift from his co-star Chita Rivera, during tryouts.
“They came down one day in Philadelphia and said, ‘We’ve written a new song-and-dance number for Chita.’ And she said, ‘You know, Dick doesn’t have anything to do in the first act. Why not let him have it?’ It was ‘Put On a Happy Face.’ Can you believe that?” Van Dyke recounted.
He went on to sing it again in the film version, and now credits that musical for launching his career.
“Carl Reiner saw me in that and that’s how I got into ‘‘” he said.
Van Dyke spent a five-season run with the show on CBS, co-starring with legendary comedic actress Mary Tyler Moore.
The series then led to Walt Disney offering him the defining film role of his career, as Bert the chimney sweep in “Mary Poppins.”
“Walt was there every day watching over it. Yeah, there was a spirit about it. Everybody was having such fun doing it,” Van Dyke said.
In 1974 Van Dyke surprised audiences on “The Dick Cavett Show” when he revealed he was a recovering alcoholic.
“By the time I realized I was in trouble I was too deluded, like most alcoholics are, to understand what was wrong with me,” he said in the November 1974 episode.
Van Dyke said it was not easy to discuss the subject in the 1970s.
“I had friends who said, ‘You’re crazy.’ But it seemed to — it seemed to help a lot of people. I got a lot of mail from people who said, ‘You know, if you can do it, I can do it,'” he said.
His career got back on track in the 1990s when he played a detective for eight seasons of “Diagnosis Murder.”
More recently, he went back to Cherry Tree Lane in “Mary Poppins Returns” — where the then-91-year-old did all his own dancing.
“He gave me three versions, and I took the hardest one. I said, ‘I want that one,'” Van Dyke said. “I had to prove I could do it.”
At the Kennedy Center, Chita Rivera presented his award, telling Van Dyke and the audience: “The combination of your boundless energy and ability to juggle physical onstage routines, while talking, remains unmatched. You broke the mold.”
At 95, Van Dyke still considers himself active as an actor.
“I knew I liked to perform, but I didn’t know how much till this year,” he said. “I’d do anything right now to get on the stage.”
He’ll even perform for small but no less appreciative audiences — he and his wife Arlene serenaded the CBS News crew filming at his home.
“Not too bad without our accompaniment,” he told her jokingly.
The stage and screen icon is still ready for his next role — and is looking forward to his next big milestone.
“I’m looking forward to 100,” he said. “George Burns made it, and I’m gonna do it too.”