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

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

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

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

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


A split screen of a younger Conny Van Dyke with a recent photo circa 2016

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

Van Dyke was 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 taken by her son, Bronson Page. (Courtesy of Bronson Page)

Van Dyke went on to star in “Hell’s Angels ’69,” which she called, according to Variety, “a scary experience, but nonetheless.”

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

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

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


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

His mother appeared in other films such as “Framed,” and several television shows, including “Adam-12,” “Barbary Coast” and “Nakia.”

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

Page said before she returned to acting, “I was almost surprised. I was like, She’s a natural. She always has been.”

Publicity photo of Conny Van Dyke

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

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The star also suffered a number of health problems over the years, and was first diagnosed with colon cancer in the early 90s.

“She took it very seriously. The diagnosis was made by accident. And when she learned about it, she filed a serious complaint and took the chemotherapy and did very, very well with chemotherapy, ” said Page.

“She’s always been a fighter, so she fought really hard and she beat him. We were very grateful. And then she never kept going like this, something who was always in her way,” he continued.

Fifteen years ago, she also suffered a stroke from which she did not fully recover.

Conny Van Dyke holding a 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 Film Collection/Getty Images)

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According to Page, “she never let it stop her. She had a positive outlook on life. She was the same person. But only in a much worse form.”

Looking back on his mother’s life, Page, who is her only child, noted a striking resemblance to Britney Spears while reading her memoir, “The Woman in Me.” before 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’s signed a record deal. People are listening to her music. And on a smaller scale, that’s exactly what happened to my mother,” he said. said.

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

Conny Van Dyke poses for a photo

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

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

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

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

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

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