Most of my friends were obsessed with movies like Dirty Dancing and Grease by the time we hit 5th grade. They would strut around the playground saying, “Don’t put Baby in a corner” or singing “There are worse things I could do.“ Patrick Swayze and John Travolta’s bad boy characters were often the subject of conversation. I never had anything to add when they would gush over the sexiness of these men. I didn’t care too much about boys…especially moping boys in tight jeans and tee shirts. My secret crush was a tall lanky man with a great big smile, a goofy sense of humor, and talents that included chimney sweeping, chalk artistry, kite selling and playing in a one-man-band. Dick Van Dyke’s "Bert" was my perfect man, and because of this, my VCR sometimes played Mary Poppins up to 3x in one day. Watching him in this 1964 Disney classic, I knew that someday I wanted to be with a guy that was funny and could handle a strong willed woman.
A couple of months ago I was able to meet Dick Van Dyke, now 86 years old, when he did a book signing of his autobiography. It was such a thrill to shake hands with the man of my 10 year old self’s dreams. He was just as kind and full of smiles as I had hoped, but since the line was being rushed I wasn’t able to tell him what Mary Poppins meant to me. I couldn’t explain to him that by having a wonderful character like Bert to crush on, I was able to stay a child for just a little longer than my female peers. While their crushes were in movies that involved pregnancy, abortion, and break-up story lines, I was watching my crush in a movie about the importance of adventure and play.
This last Sunday, I once again watched Mary Poppins by myself because once again my friends were not interested in seeing something that didn’t have some edge to it. This time it was the Broadway musical though. Although not quite as good as the movie (to my disappointment, they didn’t include the scene in which everyone joins Uncle Albert on the ceiling for a tea party in the musical number “I Love to Laugh,” nor did they have the penguin dance sequence Dick Van Dyke made so famous), I still found myself caught up in the show's magical quality. Life is much more complex than it was when I was 10, but it’s still just as necessary to sometimes escape to a world where supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is a word and the only criteria for my ideal husband is a guy in a one-man-band.
Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke as Bert
Bert as a one-man-band
Bert as a chimney sweeper.
Bert as a kite seller.
Dick Van Dyke at his Barnes & Noble book signing I went to this last May. After spending my entire childhood watching him as Bert on Mary Poppins and as Rob on The Dick Van Dyke Show, meeting him was surreal.
Mary Poppins, the Broadway musical.
My theatre apparel: Black and cream striped dress from Anthropologie; black and gold vintage belt; Twiggy style earrings; 1960's black and gold purse; black ballet flats from Nine West.
My 1st grade teacher Mrs.Hopkins taught me that it is important to always dress up when you attend the theatre out of respect for all those involved in the production. I still follow this rule.
Close-up Twiggy style earrings.
Close-up of my 1960's black and gold purse I got from the Rose Bowl flea market.