Match Game Wikia

Bobby Van (born Robert Jack Stein, December 6, 1928-July 31, 1980) was an American Actor and Musician, known for his long-standing career on Broadway in the 1950s and 70s. He also appeared as a semi-regular panelist on the classic Game Show Match Game.

Born Robert Jack Stein to vaudeville parents in The Bronx, New York City. He grew up backstage, witnessing many memorable Depression-era acts. Originally, Van took King as his stage name (after his father's stage name, from the trio "Gordon, Reed and King"). He finally opted for Van, supposedly after seeing a Van Johnson poster hanging on his sister's bedroom wall.

Bobby began his career as a musician, playing the trumpet. When his band played a venue in the Catskills, Van was asked to fill in as a song and dance man for another act. His act drew rave reviews, giving him a thrill out of performing live as a solo act. He went on to appear in the Broadway musical Alive and Kicking in 1950, and also appeared in the revival of On Your Toes in 1954.

He received a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and appeared in several films including the title role in The Affairs of Dobie Gillis in 1953 followed by roles in the musicals Because You're Mine and Kiss Me, Kate. Hal Erickson noted that "Van will always be remembered as the ecstatic young fellow who made like a human pogo stick during an expansive production number in Small Town Girl (1953)."

In the 1960s, Van did comedy work with Mickey Rooney in both film and television. He appeared in three episodes of Rooney's ABC sitcom titled Mickey sitcom as the freeloading brother-in-law. He also did some choreography, as his father had done years earlier.

In 1971, Van starred in the Broadway revival of No, No, Nanette, for which earned him a nomination for a Tony Award. In 1973, he appeared in the musical remake of Lost Horizon, the last occasion on which he took his traditional song-and-dance persona to the big screen. His novelty dance number from 1953's Small Town Girl was featured in That's Entertainment, Part II (1976). In 1978, he played swindler Warren Custer in the episode "The Two-Million-Dollar Stowaway" of the NBC crime drama series The Eddie Capra Mysteries followed by the original Battlestar Galactica episode "Greetings from Earth" as the robot Hector, working along veteran song and dance man Ray Bolger (Vector) in 1979.

Bobby had also spent time in the game show world, mostly as a semi-regular panelist on Match Game most of the 1970s. He also hosted a few game shows including Showoffs (June 30-December 26, 1975 on ABC), The Fun Factory and Make Me Laugh (nighttime revival version, 1979-1980).

He has married twice. He was first married to Diane Garrett from 1952 to 1962 and they had one child, son Peter Van whom Bobby adopted in 1959. In 1968, he married Elaine Joyce, who also appeared as a panelist on Match Game and appeared together on Tattletales, and had one child, daughter Taylor (born 1977).

In 1979, Bobby was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Although he survived the initial surgery, he sadly lost his year-long battle with cancer, dying from the disease on July 31, 1980. His remains were interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery, in Los Angeles.