LOS ANGELES -- Dick Van Dyke said that when he first came out to Hollywood in 1960, he wanted to find one of his heroes, Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame, but everyone he asked said that they didn't know what had happened to him.
"One day in '61, I was looking in the Santa Monica phone book for a number, and there it was, Stan Laurel, Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica," Van Dyke told a press conference here, publicizing the return of his "Dick Van Dyke Show" to prime time. It will run at 9 p.m. weeknights on the basic-cable Nickelodeon network in the fall.
Van Dyke called the number, learned from Laurel's wife that Stan was a fan of his show and was invited to their house the next Sunday.
"I went over there, spent the afternoon with them," he said. "And pumped him with questions. I must have driven him crazy. I spent a lot of happy hours at Stan's house on Sundays just talking about comedy."
Van Dyke said that Laurel told him that he and his partner, Oliver Hardy, were so involved in making their comedies that they really didn't realize their popularity.
"He told me, 'We didn't put that much importance on it. We loved what we were doing, but it's 30 years now, Dick, and people are still watching our shows.'
"Driving here this morning I thought it's 30 years for me, too, now," Van Dyke said of his classic comedy. "I can remember the same thing, that we were so involved in doing that show, having so much fun.
"And now I can say that, 30 years later: that people are still looking at it just surprises all of us. So now when I get some budding young comic who'll come up to me and say, 'What was it like to do it in those days?' I try to be as gracious to him as Stan Laurel was to me."