Talentless young actors and their lives after the spotlight

Macaulay Culkin. I bet you haven't heard that name in a while. Neither had I.

Mac's parents finally settled their legal dispute over custody of the young star after years of battling. Culkin's mother now controls his career and money. And, oh yeah, he also lives with her and she loves him, blah, blah, blah.

Mac, now 17 years old, plans to make a return to the big screen if he can land some juicy parts. The only real stumbling blocks for him are that he has no talent, that no director wants to work with him after the horrors of working with his now-estranged father, and that he has lost any boyhood charm that he once had. Besides those minor details, I'd say he has a good shot for a comeback. Then again, I predicted fruitful careers for so many young actors.

Take Soleil Moon Frye, for example. She was on top of the world while riding the enormous success of her own sitcom, "Punky Brewster." It seemed as though her mismatched socks, her patched-up jeans, and her cute little pigtails would never get old. Unfortunately for her, they aged faster than Henry, her adoptive father. Even her schoolyard chums, Cherie, Margeaux, Allen, and Mean Moose McGirk weren't enough to save the show from the scrap yard. Soleil went on to a lackluster career consisting of a bit part on an episode of "The Wonder Years" and multiple talk show appearances.

And then there was "The Ricker." That's right, little Ricky Schroeder had a blossoming career full of potential that would never fade. His boyish charm and devilish good looks carried "Silver Spoons" to the top of the Nielsen ratings. A whole generation envied Schroeder for his posh lifestyle filled with race car beds, arcade games, duck phones, and enormous toy trains. Too bad for Ricky; he rode that train straight into obscurity. He was reduced to starring in movies such as "Across the Tracks" with then unknown Brad Pitt. He proved himself to be anything but "The Champ."

And how could we possibly forget the cast of "Diff'rent Strokes"? Gary Coleman was cute for about five minutes, but his puffy cheeks, his close friendship with Mr. T, his fish Abraham, and his "Whatchu talkin' bout, Willis" just weren't enough to carry him through to stardom. Todd Bridges, the aforementioned Willis, turned to a life of crime after the show's demise. Dana Plato, who played Kimberly, faded off after drug problems and a Playboy pictorial. The only people who remained successful were Charlotte Rae, who played the housekeeper Mrs. Garrett (yes, that Mrs.Garrett), Dixie Carter, who played one of the maternal figures, and the bike store owner who tried to molest Arnold and Dudley. That guy is now the Maytag Repairman. I guess I should have seen the end coming when that little redhead Sam joined the show...

There are many others out there in the same situation as these unfortunate souls. Emanuel Lewis ("Webster"), Kirk Cameron ("Growing Pains"), Missy Gold ("Benson"), and many others would love to regain their lost careers. For now they must simply float in that area that lies between stardom and obscurity, always recognized but never approached. I feel for those young stars of the past few years who are feeling the pinch.

However, there is a more immediate problem. There are many young actors currently losing their careers and it's not too late to stop it. Beside Macaulay Culkin are many of his youthful brethren, yearning once again for the public's adulation. Mac's co-star in "The Good Son," Elijah Wood, has sunk to starring in movies such as "Flipper" with Paul Hogan. Jonathan Brandis has combined a successful "Seaquest" television career with such brilliant cinematic masterpieces as "Ladybugs" with Rodney Dangerfield and "Sidekicks" with Chuck Norris. And then there's my favorite, Jonathan Taylor Thomas. After his success on television with "Home Improvement" and in the movies with "The Lion King," J.T.T. has been spiraling downward. "Man of the House" and "Pinocchio" have yielded few sterling reviews.

We have the power to save them, people. Reach out to these fine actors, let them know you care. If you see a copy of Tiger Beat in the store, buy it. They need all the help they can get.

Jamie Kanter is a junior majoring in Spanish and psychology. His column, 'On the Flip Side,' appears every other Thursday.

By Jamie Kanter (columnist)
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 10, 1997

(LAST_STORY)  - (Wildcat Chat)  - (NEXT_STORY)