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This time, they're in on the joke

Several former child stars poke fun at themselves in a new movie (and later, too).

September 03, 2003|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Who better able to joke about the lives of former child stars than real-life former child stars?

That's the premise of one of the funniest scenes in the new David Spade comedy, "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," which opens Friday. Five ex-child stars -- Barry Williams from "The Brady Bunch"; Danny Bonaduce of "The Partridge Family"; Dustin Diamond, late of "Saved from the Bell"; Leif Garrett, the former teeny-bopper pop star; and Corey Feldman, star of "The Goonies" and "The Lost Boys" -- portray the poker-playing buddies of Spade's Dickie Roberts, a down-on-his-luck former TV superstar who now works as a valet parking attendant at a Beverly Hills eatery.

The quintet pokes good-natured fun at their former child stardom, especially Williams, who keeps trying to bet items from "The Brady Bunch," including the Tiki figurine and Marcia's braces, during the poker game. And in person, the five continue to have fun with one another. The group recently got together to chat about their former and present lives, as well as working on the movie.

Sitting around a table at a Los Angeles hotel, each actor is distinctly different: Garrett, 41, is quiet; Bonaduce, 44, is funny and opinionated; Feldman, 31, tends to dominate the proceedings and loves to good-naturedly argue with Bonaduce; Williams, 48, is down-to-earth; and Diamond, 26, is the baby of the group and isn't shy about letting the rest know they are older. "You know, I didn't know until recently you were in 'Gremlins,' " Diamond tells Feldman. "I was like a sperm when 'Gremlins' came out!"

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 04, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
TV series title -- In a Wednesday Calendar story on former child stars, the late 1980s-early '90s television sitcom "Saved by the Bell" was, on first reference, incorrectly called "Saved From the Bell."

Question: So how did you all get involved with "Dickie Roberts"?

Bonaduce: The second I heard about this movie, I was just sitting by the phone. They can't do it without me and him [pointing to Williams]. You can't do this child star thing without a Brady and a Partridge. It's like when they say an ex-child star has been arrested on "Entertainment Tonight," I wait for them to mention me by name. There are certain things that are just a given.

Feldman: I was at my manager's office and we were looking through this year's newest projects and we said, of all the Academy Award-winning vehicles that are on your plate now, which one should we really hone in on? Just for pure character reasons, I felt this would be the one that would push it over the edge.

Bonaduce: When does the bull in that story start? With "I actually have a manager" or "I have projects"?

Diamond: I just liked the fact that it was well-written and it made everyone come off in a good light and didn't tear anybody apart. When I first heard about this, I didn't know if I wanted to do it or not because I wasn't sure it was going to be constant poking and ribbing. I have never been arrested or had drug problems. I never stopped working, but I went into stand-up comedy -- it's not television. So some people said what happened to him? He fell off the face of the Earth. I had to talk [to the producer]. I finally got to see the script. Scripts always read different than they play as far as funny, but there was nothing negative.

Q: You felt the same way, Leif?

Garrett: Absolutely. I didn't want it to be just shredded. But you should be able to poke a certain amount of fun at yourself, anyway. It's not mean-spirited at all. We gave the character of Dickie Roberts legitimacy.

Diamond: But [our roles] are not that big in the movie, though.

Bonaduce: There's no little part, only little actors. They couldn't pull this movie off without us.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you go into acting as a child?

Garrett: I would actually do it again. It is such a rare thing to be able to do it. Obviously, you wish you had the information you had now, but I'd do it again.

Bonaduce: People think that being a child star is carcinogenic. They think it's being an ex-child star that leads you to rehab. Well, when I was in rehab I was the only ex-child star, but there were nine dentists! We have become a cautionary tale.

Feldman: It's almost like being an urban legend.

Williams: Being in the limelight is not a normal upbringing. It's one of the things that bond us. We all have it in common. I do think that you trade a part of your childhood in once you become a professional and it shifts the dynamics for the family and it certainly shifts all the dynamics to whomever has all the attention. It's not for everyone. I think it has a lot to do with parenting and family. Often the wrong personalties and the wrong people are attracted to the business in the first place. The more successful they become, the worse off they are because it feeds their neurosis.

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