Canadian actor Alan Thicke dead at 69

Alan Thicke, the Canadian-born actor best known for playing the dad on the '80s sitcom Growing Pains, has died. He was 69.

Thicke was reportedly playing hockey with his youngest son when he suffered a heart attack

Actor Alan Thicke, best known for playing the dad on '80s sitcom Growing Pains, has died at the age of 69.

Carleen Donovan, a publicist for one of Thicke's three sons, singer Robin Thicke, said the Canadian-born actor died from a heart attack Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Thicke was playing hockey with his youngest son, Carter, when he suffered the fatal attack, Robin Thicke told the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier in the day, Thicke tweeted his thanks to the Whistler Film Fest, where he had recently received a Canadian Icon award.

Onscreen sons pay tribute

Born in Kirkland Lake, Ont., in 1947, Thicke played Dr. Jason Seaver on Growing Pains, a psychiatrist who works out of the home, where he also finds himself juggling the challenges of marriage and parenting.

"I spent Monday through Friday for seven important years with Alan Thicke as my 'TV dad,'" actor Kirk Cameron said in a statement, adding that he was 'shocked and truly heartbroken' to hear of Thicke's passing. 

"Alan was a generous, kind and loving man. I am so blessed to have grown up with him."

I've seen him a number of times over the years and when Alan Thicke walked in the room, quite frankly, no one was cooler.- Leonardo DiCaprio

Thicke "knew how to harness the power of the entertainment industry to be a positive influence in so many lives — including mine. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I had to work with Alan early in my career," said Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio, who had an early role as a homeless youngster taken in by the Seavers on Growing Pains.

"I've seen him a number of times over the years and when Alan Thicke walked in the room, quite frankly, no one was cooler."

In an interview with q host Tom Power earlier this month, Thicke said he was proud about the show's history of touching on difficult subject matter while maintaining a light and comedic tone. Thicke said the character of Jason Seaver was a blend of his own experiences and the talented writers on the show.

"I think I brought some of my own values, my good old Canadian, northern Ontario backwoods values to the character and, in turn, I learned something from what they were writing, so it was a nice exchange," he said.

Alan Thicke talks about growing up Canadian

6 years ago
Duration 1:10
Actor interviewed on CBC's 90 Minutes Live in 1978

The show debuted in September 1985 and helped form a strong Tuesday night for ABC, often with Who's the Boss and Moonlighting also in the lineup. Growing Pains ended its run in April 1992.

By the time of his biggest hit, Thicke was already a veteran of nearly two decades in the entertainment business in a host of roles.

Steady work on both sides of border

After graduating from Western University, Thicke began in showbiz with a host of writing credits beginning with commercial jingles for radio.

"I got my BA and that [only] taught me how to find my apartment," he joked to Peter Gzowski on CBC's 90 Minutes Live.

He worked for CBC shows and variety specials beginning in the late 1960s, including The Tommy Hunter Show, Time for Living, and That's Showbiz, calling the network "the best training ground" despite the occasional bureaucratic challenges.

Thicke in the 1970s and into the early 1980s began to demonstrate his versatility as actor, writer, producer and host.

Among his producing efforts were variety shows featuring music performers Anne Murray, René Simard, Bobby Vinton and Mac Davis, as well as the cult comedy talk show satire Fernwood 2 Night, starring Martin Mull and Fred Willard.

He even wrote several theme songs, usually with his first wife Gloria Loring, for shows including Diff'rent Strokes, The Facts of Life and Wheel of Fortune. 

In an email to The Associated Press, 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."

Between 1980 and 1983, he hosted a Canadian afternoon talk show on CTV called The Alan Thicke Show, which he followed up with the short-lived U.S. late-night show Thicke of the Night, an unsuccessful competitor to The Tonight Show. 

"It was a complete dog. Johnny Carson kicked my Canadian butt," Thicke joked on q. "I wasn't very good at late night, which is the domain of stand-up comedy. I was a schmooze-ier kind of guy."

Alan Thicke on his Ontario upbringing

6 years ago
Duration 0:09
Actor talks on Canada's Walk of Fame red carpet

Most recently, he starred in the film I Don't Care and It's Not My Fault Anyway which premiered Dec. 2 at the Whistler Film Festival in B.C.

Thicke had filmed a guest spot in season two of Fuller House, Netflix's reboot of the '90s family sitcom Full House led by original star Candace Cameron Bure, younger sister of Thicke's former on-screen son Kirk Cameron.

"You were a part of my family and hockey family," Bure wrote alongside a photo she posted of herself with Thicke. "My heart hurts."

Bob Saget of Full House fame called Thicke "a good husband, father, brother and friend," while comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres declared: "America loved Alan Thicke."

He 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.

When not on screen, Thicke often toured in various musical theatre productions.

Thicke told CBC's Stroumboulopoulos Tonight that he was content with his place in the entertainment industry.

"Instead of me being able to do anything particularly well, I did a bunch of things that were fun and I did them OK … my career has been different just about every day."

Thicke maintained friendships with a number of expat Canadians in California, including Wayne Gretzky and music producer David Foster. The actor was part of the chorus for the Foster-organized Tears Are Not Enough famine relief song in the mid-1980s.

Thicke said that Gretzky was house-sitting the Thicke residence in California with wife Janet in 1988 when he found out he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings.

He was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto in 2013.

Survivors include current wife Tanya and his sons — Carter, born to second wife Gina Tolleson, and Brennan and Robin, born to Loring.

With files from The Associated Press


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