Opening Night of Hollywood Museum’s “Child Stars: Then and Now” Inspires Giddy to Kiddy Enthusiasm Now (More than Then) or Ever!

L-R Alison Arngrim, Paul Petersen, Museum Founder Donelle Dadigan, Jon Provost, Councilman Mitch O'Farrell--Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

L-R Alison Arngrim, Paul Petersen, Museum President and Founder and President Donelle Dadigan, Jon Provost, Margaret O’Brien, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell–Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

Hey! Teen Beat, Tiger Beat! Remember them?!? Ever wonder what it was like at one of their photo shoots? Well, I have no such information for you either. However, I was able to procure a little intelligence regarding a noted and erstwhile publicity session for BOP!—From snaps of Jonathan Taylor Thomas wielding a fluffy kitten or two, to Kirk Cameron posing against a generic gray buffed-out background the color of an old lady’s hair, the story within eclipses both scenarios to the max! That being said…ever imagine which teen stars teen stars crushed on? Which fans made the most standout impression?And/or which shows had the highest thread count in plot thickness to accompany that fluffy soft nostalgia to which you so giddily hearken every time you so much as envisage Soliel Moon Frye chowing down a cheeseburger or Lisa Bonet’s vegan kid on the Cosby show abstaining from any manner of fry (soleil or otherwise), then you’ve got the Hollywood Museum’s latest exhibit: Child Stars: Then and Now!

The display features everyone from currently working child stars to child stars of yore galore. The youngest member in attendance Hunter Payton, best known for A to Z, and the eldest member uhhh sort of there, but in most comatose fashion, Mrs. Beaseley herself to much silent yet agreeable aplomb!

YEESS!!! Said exhibit’s opening night was just what the doctor ordered in order that you may ironically banish a visit to Doogie Howser MD, or snort a breath of fresh air off John Boy Walton’s rustic windowsill. Like a new kid on the block echoing New Kid’s on the Block (in most nonmusical fashion) but in deference to The New Girl, this long overdue exhibit is just what the Hollywood Museum has been waiting for!

The opening itself featured the likes of Keith Coogan, grandson of noted child star himself Jackie Coogan being surreptitiously interviewed in front of the likes of a photo and bio of his grandfather. It was Coogan Senior–star of Cowboy G-Men, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, and best known as Uncle Fester from The Addams Family–himself who inspired the invaluable Coogan Law safeguarding a portion of each child actors’ funds until they reach adulthood.  It is Keith who now carries out his legacy via “A Minor Consideration” under the great mentorship of Paul Petersen. On the flipside, he will also never let his grandfather live down his very own screaming fan contingent. “So I was out walking with my grandfather once, and out of nowhere, these screaming girls came around the corner and completely surrounded me,” quips Coogan Jr. “After they leave, all he can say is, ‘Wait. How did you do that—all those girls? I never had that happen!’”

Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

Keith Coogan; Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

And that statement alone was only the first in a myriad and sundry of juicy details obtained throughout the night!

“I had a crush on Michael Landon. Helloooo?!?,” proudly admits a fetching and glitter-eye-lidded Judy Tenuta to a happily empathetic Alison Arngrim (aka Little House on the Prairie’s Nellie Oleson; not so much a bad girl in this little triad of a conversation, which would certainly win some Emmys if ever it was reenacted on the latest episode of How I Met your Mother, or would that be, How I never Met Michael Landon?)

Alison-Did you see my facebook? I just posted a really sexy picture of him yesterday.

Judy-Ohhh I gotta go check it out!

Alison-It was shirtless sexy picture and I posted it and said, “No I have no idea why the show was so popular…”

LA Beat-He had quite the head o’ hair that man…

Judy-Oh my God. Yeah, he did!

LA Beat-Did you ever get a chance to meet him?

Judy-No!  But Alison worked with him!

Alison-You would have loved him. He was so fun. He was so fun!

Judy-But at least I got to meet Alison…

Arngrim in turn had some fascinating stories of her own:

LA Beat– Now okay Alison I know that when you were younger everybody obviously thought you were such this bad girl and stuff…

Alison-Like I was real…

LA Beat-Sooo not true… So what’s one of your craziest fan interactions that you ever had?

Alison– It was at the L.A. County Fair. I had an autograph show. I was sitting there at the table and this woman comes up and stares at me and says “I forgive you!” and walks out. That’s it. No autograph. “I forgive you!” She was that angry!  This was like the 90s. She’d been holdin’ it in for like… 30 years!!!

LA Beat-So now…okay…maybe a slightly weird question, but did YOU have a crush on Michael Landon?

Alison-I didn’t. To me he was like that guy from Bonanza then he was our boss. I thought he was funny as hell… And then I saw why people liked him… I can see why people were madly in love with him. He was stunning. But to me, he was just the really crazy, nutty guy I worked for!

LA Beat-In light of all that, what’s one of your favorite memories from working on Little House on the Prairie?

Alison-Well, we’re commemorating it.  Somewhere in the exhibit they’re setting up. It’s when I go down the hill in the wheelchair!  It’s everyone’s favorite episode! It’s the greatest moment ever!

All in keeping with incongruous times commensurate with autograph signings in public settings, everyone’s favorite youngest brother, and one of the nicest former child stars I have ever had the pleasure to meet, Jeremy Miller from the–“everything that made the girls the craziest” sitcom in the 80s–Growing Pains had this to say:

Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

Alison Arngrim; Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

“The weirdest fan interaction I ever had I was at a Grand Old Opreyland in Tennessee and a lady came up and said, ‘My daughter’s too shy to come and say ‘hello’ to you, would you mind coming and saying “hi”?’ So I said, ‘No problem.’ I always did. In fact when people would come to me and say, ‘Could you sign an autograph for my daughter, she’s too shy to come over here,’ I would say ‘Where is she? We’re going over there now!’ So I started to walk over there and this lady grabbed me by the arm and started dragging me across the park! I was almost 14 at the time, so I stood up for myself, yanked my hand out of hers and I kinda got a little upset–as you can imagine. That’s it! hands down… Otherwise, I’ve had very wonderful fan experiences. I’ve gotten great fans who have always been wonderfully respectful and that one has always stood above and beyond!”

LA Beat-Did you have a bruise after that lady?

Jeremy-A little bit yeah! And a couple fingerprint marks!

Also making an appearance were Mrs. Beaseley herself copping a self assured comfortable perch right next to a beloved Kathy Garver’s conversational space (aka Cissy who shared the screen on the self same show), a John Boy Walton doll along with his friend But none of them wished to be interviewed for some reason…as far as I could tell. ‘Twas no matter of course because right after my vain entreaty for inanimate conversation, I caught up with the noted, the lovely, the amazing Carolyn Hennessy of Cougar Town and General Hospital fame standing nearby by proxy enabling myself to move on to the more cheery subject of celebrities copping celebrity crushes from afar,( hence with zero bruise marks pocking the body mind, or heart)…

“Did I ever have a crush on a child star and did I meet them? I think it might’ve been Johnny Whittaker. In fact I’m almost positive it was Johnny Whittaker! I also really enjoyed me some Johnny Crawford… From The Rifleman.”

LA Beat– I bet they would have fainted if they saw you and said ‘Oh my God, she likes me!’

Carolyn-Well I would love to meet Johnny Whittaker now. Because he’s just a favorite!

LA Beat-It’s so funny because when we were interviewing Kathy Garver last year about her book Surviving Cissy, there were pictures in it and there was a picture of Johnny Whittaker like about as old as he is now and I couldn’t help but notice, he looked a lot like Brian Keith aka Uncle Bill.

Carolyn-He did…he did absolutely, Uncle Bill right!

LA Beat-Yes, and when I looked at it I was like, ‘The apple doesn’t fall too far from the red headed avuncular tree!’

Carolyn-Ha ha, ‘the red headed avuncular tree’ That’s genius!

Erin Murphy aka little Tabitha from Bewitched, had nothing but kind things to say about her fans and even from the get go could not help but exclaim:

“Oh my goodness. Surprisingly they weren’t that crazy… [As a kid] I didn’t even sign my own autograph! I had a stamp. So people would come up to me and I would stamp my autograph for them. My craziest ones were mainly as an adult… I would do things like tours with TV Land and Nick at Nite and I would have people bring me strange things to sign, like saddles and horses and things like that. But fans are always nice, so I don’t feel quite right to use the word ‘crazy’… Though when I was a kid, people thought I really could do magic. So they would ask me to give them money and things like that…”

Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

Donelle Dadigan, Founder and President of The Hollywood Museum with Jon Provost; Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

Jon Provost, aka Timmy from Lassie, had some of his own observations regarding fan reactions and celebrity non-crushes but in the most noteworthy and juicy of fashions!

“I was doing you know Chiller Theatre in New Jersey–it’s like Comicon in San Diego–and this guy… I saw him coming and his whole body was nothing but tattoos and piercings! He had a bald head and he came right over and I thought, ‘Oh boy what’s this?’ and he goes, ‘Oh my GOD, it’s TIMMY!’ He came running over and he said ‘Sign my head with a Sharpie!’ And I signed it with a Sharpie and he said he was gonna have it tattooed!–My signature tattooed on his head! Whether he did it or not, I don’t have a clue but that was the craziest interaction I think I’ve ever had!”

As to any observance regarding celebrity child crushes, his rejoinder was simply and entertainingly this:

“No! Because people have also asked over the years…what actor was I in awe of and all of that, and I started in the business when I was like 3 years old. So I literally grew up on a sound stage so when I would see the actors come in, I would see them in their clothes before they had make-up on. So they were just people like myself. I would be in the make-up room and…y’know…Robert Redford would be sitting in the chair next to me. But he’s just like me! We’re both there to do our job. And yeah I liked his shows. I worked with Natalie Wood…when I was 15 years old and boy I…yeah that was somethin’ else! But I grew up with the business and around those people so it was just a normal thing for me…”

Yes! The unveiling was awash with child stars galore studying their stats (for accuracy) convening with the people, and eating plenty of cheese belying any slight measurements to their apropos waistlines. One such stat checker was Darby Hinton, best known for his role as Israel Boone on the beloved historical-fiction based televised romp Daniel Boone. Ironically enough as the legend goes (as per his biographical chart) having initially arrived at Twentieth Century Fox to audition, in lederhosen and a feathered cap to boot, for The Sound of Music, his mother merely dropped him off to go find a place to park, only to discover her tow headed 7 year old mistakenly in the wrong line of coon skin capped kids!  Said error proved to be a stroke of unintentional enterprising genius (new royal frontier style) however thusly catapulting his namesake to household recognition in a colorful acting career that would grace (and still anoints) TV screens and stages alike for years to come! It is also interesting to note that following his stint as little Israel, Hinton would go on to attend high school at the American School in Lugano Switzerland and venture off to college thereafter on World Campus Afloat Institute for a more sea faring coed experience—minus any planks, wooden legs or poop deck duty to be sure–but by this point we were hedging towards shows like The Love Boat to speak nothing of his subsequent appearances on  the likes of How to Steal a Real Submarine and Malibu Express, so it was all much less salty and more sugary a sea faring experience to behold! Moreover, it might just catapult a few more fan interactions of extreme interest!

Photo Courtesy of Bill Dow Photography

Darby Hinton checking out his Bio; Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for The Los Angeles Beat

“[My craziest fan reactions came when I was on] Days of Our Lives playing the Salem Rapist. My wife at the time was getting a lot of parking tickets ‘cause she thought, when they painted the curb red that was a good place for her to park. And I had to go into the Beverly Hills police Department and bail her out. So I got to the front desk and there was a female officer there and her head was down and she was writing… there were a lot of policemen just kinda milling around and she looked up and goes, ‘You, you, YOU! You’re the rapist!!!’ and two of the cops went for their guns, two of them encircled me and I was like ‘No, no, no it’s a show. It’s a show!’… I didn’t really expect that many [in law enforcement] to watch it. Although before I was a rapist I played a probation officer, so I would have a lot of probation officers that would write and I’d say, ‘How do they even get to watch this show in the middle of the day?’ Well, [turns out that] was in the early days of VHS and all that fun stuff…”

Naturally I couldn’t help but ask about his ostensibly more tame and innocent if not uh…more antiseptic childlike experiences:

As a kid I got recognized a lot but there was this one time, I was ‘resting’ inside a stall inside a restroom sitting down and trying to do my business in peace, and a guy opened the door and went ‘Oh ‘scuse me,’ then started to close the door and went, ‘Oh wait, you—You’re Darby Hinton right? Can I have your autograph?’ And I was like, ‘Can I finish first please?’

“Uh, I think I’m gonna stop asking questions now…” I can only muse aloud.

“No, it’s good,” assures Hinton. “It taught me to lock the door!”

To this day Hinton’s fan sightings are still going strong via his acting, chiefly in the realm of live theatre!

“We’ll be doing my last play again this January, [via Theatre 40] up at the Doheny Estate. It’s called The Manor and it’s about The Dohenys and everything that took place up there. [So we’ll be doing it in the Doheny Estate] and the audience goes room to room where the murders actually took place and all the intrigue and it’s a lot of fun!”

Ah! A production worthy of a standing-O review from the LA Times to be sure—but Tiger Beat? Teen Beat? BOP! Not so much… But hedging back to that extreme intelligence I cited back in paragraph 1, I couldn’t help but save Jeremy Miller’s painless part of Growing Pains story for last!

“We did a lot of photo shoots. BOP, Teen Beat, Tiger Beat. Because I was younger, I was never the centerfold. I was never the big spreads…that kind of thing. But I got a few nice little layouts in those and I believe it was Bop…it might’ve been Teen Beat…but they would pay for a weekend for the young child stars and it was me and Danny Pintauro from Who’s the Boss, Alyssa, the kids from Wonder Years…just 40-50 child stars. They’d take us down to Palm Springs and we’d go to the zoo and we’d go to Oasis Water Park and we’d do all these fun things and they paid for everything! They took care of us and all they wanted to do was to snap pictures to do a special edition of the magazine! And we got to do that every year for four or five years running. It was great!”

And that folks is the icing—along with any and all of Tiger’s paw prints on Cousin Oliver’s last Brady Birthday cake!!!

Seriously, as Scott Baio is my witness, yours truly enjoyed herself more than, a presumably overlooked, Scott Baio at a Trump rally whilst taking in any and all other child stars bios!

For more information on The Hollywood Museum and all its current displays, including the one we are discussing now, please visit:

www.thehollywoodmuseum.com

http://thehollywoodmuseum.com/exhibit/child-stars-then-now/

Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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