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older, Dick says he of­ten ex­pe­ri­ences age dis­crim­i­na­tion. He says: “Whether I am recog­nised or not makes all the dif­fer­ence in the world. If I’m recog­nised I’m treated very nicely, but some­times if they think I’m just an old guy, I don’t get much at­ten­tion at all.

“I walked into Tommy Hil­figer and I barely got in the door and the young sales­girl said, ‘Sir, I don’t think you’ll find any­thing you’ll like in here’.

“And I was at a de­signer hand­bag shop, and said, ‘Can I see that purse on the shelf ?’ I wanted to buy it for Ar­lene.

“And the sales­girl said, ‘Sir, I don’t think you could af­ford that’,” he says.

“The last ac­cept­able dis­crim­i­na­tion is age dis­crim­i­na­tion. It’s sad be­cause el­derly peo­ple used to be re­spected for their ex­pe­ri­ence and wis­dom but they get side­lined and it’s too bad.”

Luck­ily, Dick says he doesn’t get much hassle when he’s out with Ar­lene, who he met in 2006 when she was work­ing as a make-up artist. He ex­plains: “We get, ‘Is this your daugh­ter?’ That hap­pens a lot, and I’m very proud to say, ‘No, it’s my wife.’ But peo­ple have never been in­sult­ing to us.”

The cou­ple mar­ried in 2012 and Dick says they were ini­tially wary of the age gap. His el­dest son, a lawyer – one of four chil­dren with his first wife, Margie Wil­lett – was cau­tious that Ar­lene might be a gold-dig­ger. But the ac­tor says: “She won them over pretty quickly.”

How­ever, Dick is still prag­matic about his ad­vanc­ing years.

“I have a liv­ing will,” he says. “And the last thing I would want is for her to care for me. That I wouldn’t stand for. I tell her I would like her to find some­one else.

“She is young, beau­ti­ful and bright so she won’t have any prob­lem at all find­ing a part­ner. It makes me happy she would have an­other life with some­one else.

“I don’t have any qualms about death. There is noth­ing fore­bod­ing about it for me. I choose to live in the mo­ment.”

Dick’s sunny dis­po­si­tion en­dures de­spite him hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced his fair share of loss. He sep­a­rated from Margie in the 1970s, when they were both go­ing through dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods.

Dick was deal­ing with al­co­holism – the clos­est he says he has ever come to de­pres­sion – and Margie with an ad­dic­tion to an anti-anx­i­ety drug.

But the pair were still close when she died of pan­cre­atic cancer in 2007. He says: “With her death I lost a part of my­self.”

Af­ter his spilt from Margie he found love again with ac­tress Michelle Triloa, who was his part­ner for three decades. She passed away from lung cancer in 2009.

He says: “I sang and talked to her un­til the hos­pice nurses told me she was gone.” Dick also lost his first grand­child, Jes­sica, in 1987, when she was just 13. She had Reye’s syn­drome, a rare disease as­so­ci­ated with tak­ing as­pirin to treat the symp­toms of vi­ral in­fec­tions.

“That loss de­stroyed ev­ery­one and changed our lives for ever,” he says.

But it seems Dick’s eter­nally cheery de­meanour gives him great re­silience.

“I find let­ting go is hard, but you re­ally have to. I have had to let go so many times it has kind of be­come a way of life.”

At 90, he still has am­bi­tions. He reg­u­larly sings with his a capella group, Dick Van Dyke and The Van­tastix, and he wants to do some “se­ri­ous” act­ing.

“I’m try­ing to get some­one to let me do Death of a Sales­man. And I’ve al­ways wanted to do a bit of Shake­speare.”

But there is one job he might not be

Trump re­minds me of Mus­solini in the 1940s – he’s got me scared

DICK ON U.S. PRES­I­DEN­TIAL HOPE­FUL DON­ALD TRUMP so keen on pur­su­ing – a part in Dis­ney’s up­com­ing Mary Pop­pins re­make, with Emily Blunt in Julie An­drews’ shoes.

“I’d have to see the script,” he says, diplo­mat­i­cally. “With­out Walt Dis­ney, and the Sher­man brothers to write the score, and Julie, it will be dif­fi­cult, I think.

“Ev­ery day we came to work and we knew there was some­thing mag­i­cal go­ing on. There was such a spirit,” he says of film­ing the 1964 orig­i­nal.

“Walt was al­ways there as a morale builder. We both said we were chil­dren look­ing for our in­ner adult – Walt was such a big kid.

“Se­quels are tra­di­tion­ally not as good as the first. But I wish them well.”

Best wishes from Dick Van Dyke? That’s sure to go down well, even with­out a spoon­ful of sugar.

Dick Van Dyke’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is now pub­lished in the UK. My Lucky Life: In And Out of Show Busi­ness is pub­lished by John Blake and is avail­able for £8.99.


1ST WIFE Dick & Margie Wil­lett in 1964 PART­NER In 2006 with Michelle Tri­ola YOUNG AT HEART Dick with his wife Ar­lene Sil­ver, 44

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