3.8 C
New York

Actress and singer Conny Van Dyke dead at 78, son compares life to Britney Spears

Published:

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -


Conny Van Dyke, an actress known for films like “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” as well as her early singing career with Motown, has died at 78.

Van Dyke died Saturday, Nov. 11, due to complications from vascular dementia. 

Her son, Bronson Page, confirmed the sad news to Fox News Digital, saying, “She was really phenomenal.”

Born in Virginia, but raised in Detroit, Van Dyke had a long career in music and acting, beginning at 15 when she appeared in a movie called “Among the Thorns,” and signed with Motown Records.

WANDA YOUNG OF MOTOWN’S THE MARVELETTES, DEAD AT 78

Split screen of younger Conny Van Dyke with a recent photo from circa 2016

Conny Van Dyke died at age 78 on November 11. Her son, Bronson Page, confirmed the news to Fox News Digital, remembering his mom as “phenomenal.” (Getty Images/Bronson Page)

Van Dyke had been Miss Teen USA, and, according to Page, was discovered performing at a drive-in theater concession stand, “and [they] mentioned her to Smokey [Robinson], and the rest is history.”

She went on to release her first two singles, “Oh, Freddy,” written by Smokey Robinson, and “It Hurt Me Too,” previously written and recorded by Marvin Gaye.

Conny Van Dyke, with her brother Benjamin, in a childhood photo

Van Dyke, with her brother Benjamin, in a childhood photo provided by her son, Bronson Page. (Courtesy Bronson Page)

Van Dyke went on to star in “Hell’s Angels ’69”, which, according to Variety, she called “a terrifying, and yet, exhilarating experience.”

Her movie career continued, with a role in the 1975 film “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” alongside Burt Reynolds.

Conny Van Dyke and Burt Reynolds on the post for W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings

Van Dyke starred alongside Burt Reynolds in the 1975 film “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings.” (LMPC via Getty Images)

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTER

“When she was on screen, she lit up,” Page recalled.

His mother appeared in other films like “Framed,” and multiple television appearances, including “Adam-12,” “Barbary Coast” and “Nakia.”

Van Dyke took a break from acting in the late 1970s, but returned to onscreen roles in 2008 with appearances in “Cold Case” and “CSI.”

Page said of her return to acting, “I wasn’t the least bit surprised. I was like, She’s a natural. She always was.”

Publicity shot of Conny Van Dyke

Van Dyke had a career as both a Motown singer and actress.  (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

FORMER ‘CSI: MIAMI’ CHILD STAR EVAN ELLINGSON DEAD AT 35

The star suffered from several health complications over the years as well, first being diagnosed with colon cancer in the early 90s.

“She really took it head on. The diagnosis was made accidentally. And when she learned of it she really charged in and took the chemotherapy and actually did really, really well with chemotherapy,” Page said. 

“She’s always been a fighter, so she really fought and she beat it. We were really grateful. And then she just kind of kept going like this has never happened, which was always her way,” he continued.

Fifteen years ago, she also suffered a stroke that she never fully recovered from.

Conny Van Dyke holding guitar and smiling near a microphone

Van Dyke battled cancer in the early 90s and suffered a stroke 15 years ago, but her son said, “She never let it stop her.” (Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images)

LIKE WHAT YOU’RE READING? CLICK HERE FOR MORE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

According to Page, “she never let it stop her. She had a really positive attitude about life. She was the same person. But just in a much mellower form.” 

In looking back on his mother’s life, Page, who is her only child, noted a startling similarity to Britney Spears as he was reading her memoir, “The Woman in Me,” prior to Van Dyke’s death. 

“It’s so interesting because here’s this girl, she’s 15 years old… She’s thrust into the public eye. She signs a record contract. People are listening to her music. And on a smaller scale, that’s exactly what happened to my mom,” he said. 

He continued, “You know, she was 15 when she signed to Motown, and suddenly around all these people who have a very grown-up life and everything that goes with it, all of the sexism and chauvinism and abusive situations, all those things are persistent. And it really saddened me to see my mom’s story in Britney Spears’ story.”

Conny Van Dyke sitting for a portrait

Van Dyke’s son said he recognized similarities between his own mother’s experiences and those recently detailed by Britney Spears in her memoir. (Courtesy Bronson Page)

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Despite the hardships and frustration, Page said, “She was never bitter about any of it.” 

Van Dyke had been working on a memoir throughout her life, and Page said he plans to complete it. 

“The whole thing about my mom is, she lived very close to the fire, and that’s how she liked it,” Page said. 

He recalled his mother telling him, after she had completed work on “Hell’s Angels ’69,” that they had a party on the beach, “And I sat so close to the fire that my eyelashes curled up… but I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.”


- Advertisement -

Related articles

Recent articles