Arts & Entertainment

'Growing Pains' star and TV host Alan Thicke dies at age 69

File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
Colin Crawford/AP
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: The Seaver Family on ABC Television's show "Growing Pains" left to right: Kirk Cameron as Mike, Joanna Kerns as Maggie, Jeremy Miller as Ben, Alan Thicke as Jason and Elizabeth Ward as Carol. Photo taken May 1985.
AP
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: Actor/producer Alan Thicke exchanges vows with model Tanya Callau during their wedding on May 7, 2005 at The One&Only Pamilla Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. At right is Thicke's son Robin.
Vince Bucci/Getty Images
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: Actor/producer Alan Thicke and model Tanya Callau (L) listen as Thicke's son Robin sings to them at their wedding reception on May 7, 2005 at The One&Only Pamilla Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Vince Bucci/Getty Images
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: Tanya Thicke and Alan Thicke attend the Dream Foundation's 14th Annual Celebration of Dreams Gala held at Bacara Resort & Spa on November 7, 2015 in Goleta.
Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Dream Foundatio
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: Alan Thicke (L) and Robin Thicke attend the "Festival After Dark" With Special Performance By Robin Thicke at Sugar Park City during the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: TV personality Alan Thicke speaks onstage during The 42nd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at Warner Bros. Studios on April 26, 2015 in Burbank.
Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NATAS
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: Actor Alan Thicke arrives at the 13th annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational gala at the ARIA Resort & Casino at CityCenter on April 4, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: (L-R) Honoree Rob Lowe, actor Alan Thicke and Sheryl Berkoff attend The Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe at Sony Studios on Aug. 27, 2016 in Los Angeles.
Christopher Polk/Getty Images
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: (L-R) Actor Alan Thicke, music producer David Foster, and TV personality Larry King attend the 2014 Carousel of Hope Ball presented by Mercedes-Benz at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Oct. 11, 2014 in Beverly Hills.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: Actor/producer Alan Thicke and model Tanya Callau pose after their wedding ceremony on May 7, 2005 at The One&Only Pamilla Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Vince Bucci/Getty Images
File: Alan Thicke, then-host of “Thicke of the Night,” smiles as he answers questions during an interview on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1983 in his office at Metro Media Square, Los Angeles.
File: Alan Thicke attends For ONE Night Only, hosted by the ONE Group + Gansevoort Hotel Group at Rock & Reilly's on Jan. 17, 2014 in Park City, Utah.
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Rock and Reilly


Alan Thicke's 1980s TV dad credentials were neatly in order on "Growing Pains." His Dr. Jason Seaver was an open-hearted parent and an enlightened husband, working from home to help tend the kids while his wife revived her career.

But Thicke's character anchored a sitcom that was also 1950s-retro, part of television's renewed embrace of the traditional nuclear family after a string of single-parent shows. "Growing Pains" debuted in 1985, one year after "The Cosby Show" showed the old formula could be made new.

While Bill Cosby's NBC series touched on social issues, ABC's "Growing Pains" was pure comfort food about a suburban family with a genial, father-knows-best patriarch, cheerful mom (Joanna Kerns) and a brood that included breakout heartthrob Kirk Cameron as teenager Mike and, in the show's final 1991-92 season, Leonardo DiCaprio.

Thicke, who died Tuesday at age 69, said in a 1985 interview with The Associated Press that he wouldn't have pitched a show like "Growing Pains" but suggested it fit the times.

"Ronald Reagan is president and there's no war, maybe that creates an environment for a show like ours," he said.

The Canadian-born TV host, writer, composer and actor died of a heart attack, said Carleen Donovan, who is a publicist for Thicke's son, singer Robin Thicke. She had no further details.

"I spent Monday through Friday for seven important years with Alan Thicke as my 'TV dad,'" Cameron said in a statement. "I'm shocked and truly heartbroken today at the news of his death. Alan was a generous, kind and loving man. I am so blessed to have grown up with him."

Other 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.

Thicke's fellow Canadians also responded quickly. William Shatner posted on Twitter that he was saddened by his loss, and singer Anne Murray's Twitter post said she was "shocked and devastated," recalling him as a friend and the writer-producer of many of her TV specials.

The Edmonton Oilers weighed in as well. "RIP to one of the great ones, Alan Thicke," was posted on the hockey team's website, with a photo of a youthful Thicke and Wayne Gretzky on the ice.

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."

Growing Pains season 3 theme song

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.

"Certainly everything I needed to learn about failure, struggle, damage control, career rehabilitation and ego bashing I learned in that," he said in a 1995 interview with the AP.

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."

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" starring Candace Cameron Bure and the NBC drama "This Is Us."

"You were a part of my family and hockey family. You will be greatly missed. My heart hurts," tweeted Bure, sister to Kirk Cameron.

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.

Thicke also leaves a son, Carter, from his marriage to second wife Gina Tolleson. He had been married to Tanya Callau since 2005.

AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles and Music Writer Mesfin Fekadu and Television Writer Frazier Moore in New York contributed to this report.

This story has been updated.