Ex-teen idols may understand the vagaries of fame better than anyone. Just ask florist Michael Gray, 54, who starred as Billy Batson on the hit '70's TV series "Shazam!" His shag-haired puss graced countless fanzines alongside fellow heartthrobs such as Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond. The spotlight fizzled, however, and Gray had a rough go of it before finding his way to marriage and purchase of Casabella, his in-laws' Beverly Hills flower shop, which he's built into a successful business catering to industry clients such as Garry Marshall, Berry Gordy, Stevie Nicks and, oh yes, a neighborhood family called the Osbournes.
From Tiger Beat to tiger lilies--seems like a long journey.
I wouldn't want Tiger Beat again, not that I could have it. I enjoyed it a lot at the time, sure, but I wanted to be an actor. I was just born with the looks I had and the teenyboppers took to them, and my managers steered me there.
Is it tough serving famous people?
The problem is not the people. I love being around entertainment people, always have. What's difficult is, there's a void in me that wants to be acting. And I'm not. Some people have made peace with it, but it's still a hunger for me.
Why does teen stardom often not carry over into adult success?
I've done so may soul-searching episodes with myself over that issue. It may be an industry thing, people scoffing, "Oh, you were a teenage idol, we can't put you on our show." Or it may be an audience perception thing, I just don't know.
How do today's teen interviews compare to the '70s?
You mean, what's my favorite color, do I like girls with long or short hair, what is my favorite pet dog? Back then I always answered those questions truthfully. That was a different epoch. Today, kids are far more advanced. We'd probably get more questions [a la Howard Stern accomplice "Stuttering" John Melendez], who once, incidentally, interviewed me--his first question was, "Do you masturbate?"
Have you seen yourself watering plants on any MTV segments of "The Osbournes"?
When I was there for a Christmas installation I saw a tiny camera they'd placed on a tripod behind a potted palm in the entryway. I walked up to it, stuck my eyeball on the lens and said, "Hi, remember me?" Since everyone else had to sign a release and they never asked me, I assume my eyeball wasn't that amusing.
What flower should a man not send a woman?
Carnations. My mother loves carnations, so she'll be upset with me. But it's an old-fashioned, not very romantic flower. He should send something delicate and feminine like tulips and lilies. Men like to send women roses. Women don't like to receive them, at least that's what I've learned from my female clients. They'd prefer something more feminine and unusual.