Alan Thicke – Father Knows Best

I’m on the phone with entertainment legend Alan Thicke — and he’s in a bit of a bind.

“I have a show on tonight that happens to be against my son’s appearance in The Voice,” he says with a laugh. “We’re both on radio all day, promoting things in competition with each other.”

He’s referring, of course, to Robin Thicke, the chart-busting R&B singer who’s making excellent use of the songwriting genes he inherited from his dad. But while Robin’s irresistible smash hit “Blurred Lines” blazes brand new trails through the international music scene, Thicke’s own musical portfolio bursts with classic tunes that have stuck throughout the years. Think Wheel of Fortune, Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.

But as Thicke’s devoted audience knows, it’s not only his music that has shot him to stardom. He’s tickled viewers’ funny bones from behind the camera, penning jokes for the likes of Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, and it was with his role as Jason Seaver on the 1980s hit show Growing Pains that Thicke coined himself the title of “America’s Dad.” As his onscreen character comically juggled the adventures of his three kids, journalist wife and at-home psychiatry practice, Thicke became an inspiration for father figures worldwide. It was a commission that “America’s Dad” — who happens to be a Canuck — embraced, sparking a theme that would touch on most of his career: fatherhood.

With a decision to pen his parental knowledge, Thicke turned to the publishing realm for his next act. “There’s about 14,000 books for the wife and two for the husband when it comes to the childhood experience,” he explains. “And they’re both scary — you know, like how much it’ll cost you and how you’re going to faint.”

Thicke saw an opportunity, seized it — and in 1999 he added published author to his repertoire when his book, How Men Have Babies: The Pregnant Father’s Survival Guide, was born.

When his enlightening — and hilarious — book was welcomed with open arms into the parenting community, he wrote a follow-up guide. In How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You: Bringing Up Rockstars and Other Forms of Children, Thicke reveals the tricks of an onscreen/offscreen father with characteristically quirky, entertaining dialogue. And the star’s golden advice for parents? “Nothing tunes our kids or our grandkids out faster than knowing that we’re not relating to them, or we’re not relevant,” says Thicke, a native of Kirkland Lake, Ont. “I think that nowadays, with technology being what it is, we have no excuse. We have every opportunity to stay connected, to be relevant to each other’s generation — to make for a better world and a better understanding.”

Thicke continues to exercise his writing hand through Boomer Monologues, his blog with The Huffington Post. His joke-cracking commentary on all corners of the boomer generation will evoke riotous laughter in readers of any age.

The father of three — and grandfather of two — also harbours a passion for philanthropy. An advocate for the March of Dimes Canada, an association dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with physical disabilities, Thicke has devoted his scarce spare time to the organization for the past two years. It’s an experience, he assures me, that benefits him as much as the cause, because it gives him the opportunity to exercise not only his philanthropic heart, but his stage presence as well. “I really quite enjoy emceeing these kinds of events, or speaking at them, because it’s a chance to be in touch with real people and live audiences,” says Thicke, a special guest at the March of Dimes’s Ability and Beyond Gala in Toronto this June. Fans can also catch the star alongside Eddie Cibrian on June 15 in the fittingly titled family film Playing Father, the Hallmark Channel creation that’s been dubbed as one of this year’s must-see Father’s Day flicks.

Despite his packed portfolio of compositions, scripts, acts and novels, it’s clear that Thicke’s most precious accomplishment — his most acclaimed role — is being a father. I have to ask. “What about your kids? Do they see you as the All-American Dad?” Of course, Thicke replies with the wisdom of a man with three kids, and the whole world watching him raise them. “I think that they see me for my good qualities, and the ones they need to improve on in their generation,” says the seven-time Emmy and Golden Globe nominee. “I think they see me as a little overindulgent. I’ve probably spoiled them all to some degree, but there was never any question in their minds that they were the absolute priority.”

Eight hours later, the Internet is exploding with fresh news of the Thickes; while Facebook bubbles with links to Thicke’s appearance on Who Gets the Last Laugh, his son Robin’s single shines from the No. 1 slot on iTunes. The radio duel, I realize with a smile, has ended in a tie.

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Amanda Storey

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