Alan Thicke, a versatile performer who gained his greatest renown as the beloved dad on a long-running sitcom, has died at age 69.
Carleen Donovan, who is a publicist for Thicke’s son, singer Robin Thicke, said the actor died from a heart attack on Tuesday in Los Angeles. She had no further details.
Thicke was a Canadian-born TV host, writer, composer and actor well-known in his homeland before making his name in the United States, most notably with the ABC series “Growing Pains.”
On that comedy, which aired from 1985 to 1992, Thicke played Dr. Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist and father-knows-best who moved his practice into his home so his wife could go back to work as a reporter. Along with his clients, he had three (later four) kids under foot, including his oldest son, Mike, played by breakout heart-throb Kirk Cameron, who served as a constant source of comedic trouble for the family.
Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1947, Thicke was nominated for three Emmy Awards for his work in the late 1970s as a writer for Barry Manilow’s talk show, and later for a satirical take on the genre in the variety show “America 2-Night.”
He composed several popular theme songs, including the original theme for “The Wheel of Fortune” and other shows including “The Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes.”
Perhaps his boldest assault on the U.S. market was as a virtual unknown taking on the King of Late Night, Johnny Carson. “Thicke of the Night” was a syndicated talk-music-and-comedy show meant to go head-to-head against NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
It premiered in September 1983 with great fanfare, boasting an innovative format and regulars including Richard Belzer, Arsenio Hall, Gilbert Gottfried and Fred Willard. But all too quickly, it was evident that Carson wasn’t going to be dethroned, and the ambitious “Thicke” disappeared into the night after one season.
In the 1990s and beyond, Thicke stayed busy as a celebrity TV host and with guest shots on dozens of series, including “How I Met Your Mother” and, this year, the Netflix series “Fuller House” and the NBC drama “This Is Us.”
Celebrities who had crossed paths with Thicke, whether through music, acting or simply as friends, expressed their sorrow at news of his death.
“I grew up watching him and got to know him through Robin. He was always so kind to me,” John Legend posted on Twitter.
“You were a part of my family and hockey family. You will be greatly missed. My heart hurts,” Candace Cameron Bure tweeted.
“RIP dear friend and gentleman,” posted Marlee Matlin.
Thicke’s fellow Canadians also responded quickly.
William Shatner tweeted that he was saddened by his friend’s loss, and singer Anne Murray’s Twitter post said she was “shocked and devastated,” recalling him as a friend as well as a writer and producer of many of her TV specials.
The Edmonton Oilers also weighed in.
“RIP to one of the great ones, Alan Thicke,” was posted on the hockey team’s website, with a photo of a young Thicke and Wayne Gretzky on the ice.
Like any good Canadian, Thicke was a hockey fan, frequently attending LA Kings games. He took credit for introducing the sport to celebrity friends.
He began playing at age 5, but acknowledged he wasn’t very good at it.
“You were expected to play,” he said in 1998. “I was never good enough for the big time, but I always had fun at it.”
In 2003, Thicke received 30 stitches and lost five teeth after he was struck by a puck while practicing for a celebrity fundraising hockey game. “I won’t be playing any leading men roles in the next couple of months,” he joked after the accident.
He had the satisfaction of seeing his musical skills passed down to son Robin, a successful singer-songwriter and producer who, with brother Brennan, was born to Thicke and the first of his three wives, Gloria Loring.
In an email, Loring described Thicke’s passing as “a shock. We were all just together for Thanksgiving. He was funny, talented and deeply devoted to his family.”
Thicke also leaves a son, Carter, from his marriage to second wife Gina Tolleson. He had been married to Tanya Callau since 2005.