by Kara Kovalchik – May 21, 2009 – 2:12 PM
This week’s edition of TV-Holic highlights some child stars who, in one way or another, had serious parental problems.
Taran Noah Smith was seven years old when he was hired to play Mark, the youngest Taylor son, on Home Improvement. By the time the series ended in 1999, he had approximately $1.5 million tucked away into a trust fund (thanks to the Coogan Law*), which would become available to him when he turned 18. In the intervening years, he received almost $15,000 per month in a combination of interest from his trust fund and residuals. Of that money, his parents gave him an “allowance” of $300 per month and used the rest to buy a $600,000 house in Sherman Oaks and pay for other family expenses. (His mother appointed herself his manager and accepted 15% of his earnings as her fee.) His parents and sister all had American Express cards in Taran’s name, and his father started up a business funded with Taran’s money.
When Home Improvement went off the air, his parents badgered him to find another acting job quickly so that they wouldn’t “lose everything.” Smith instead left home at 17 to marry a woman 16 years his senior and subsequently sued his parents over his trust fund. The marriage ended in divorce in 2007, and Smith has since attempted to reconcile with his mom and dad.
2. Danny Bonaduce
Joseph Bonaduce had an itch to become a TV writer, so he moved his family from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in 1963. While meeting with producers to pitch scripts, he often was able to get the first notice when casting directors were looking for child actors. He had his wife take the kids out on cattle call auditions, and while all of the Bonaduce offspring landed the occasional commercial, it was red-haired, precocious Danny who landed several guest-starring roles on sitcoms. When Danny auditioned for The Partridge Family, it was his smart-aleck attitude combined with his on-screen chemistry with Dave Madden (who played manager Reuben Kincaid) that landed him the coveted role of the middle Partridge child. Thanks to “I Think I Love You” hitting number one on the charts just as the series aired, and the teen-scream appeal of David Cassidy, The Partridge Family was an immediate hit.
As the series progressed, the producers exploited Bonaduce’s comedic timing and he became the focus of more and more episodes. Soon groups of fans camped out in the Bonaduce family driveway and young Danny couldn’t go to the mall without being mobbed. All of this heady success did not set well with father Joe. Joseph had always maintained discipline among his children with an iron fist (and occasional belt), but once Danny’s star began to rise and Joe was still having to knock on doors to get his scripts read, tension in the Bonaduce household reached critical mass. Danny showed up on the Partridge set enough times with blackened eyes that Shirley Jones and Dave Madden feared for his safety and started taking him to their respective homes on weekends. Certified psychologist types would probably ascribe Danny Bonaduce’s continuous destructive behavior in adulthood as a reaction to his turbulent upbringing.
3. Gary Coleman
Gary Wayne Coleman was born on February, 8, 1968, in Zion, Illinois, and adopted four days later by Willie and Edmonia Sue Coleman. Gary was born with a congenital kidney disease that rendered his right kidney malformed and useless at birth. His overworked left kidney gave out when he was just five years old, which led to years of dialysis and two eventual kidney transplants. The immunosuppressant drugs he took stunted his growth, and the accompanying steroids gave him a permanent chubby-cheeked appearance. If you’re a turn-lemons-into-lemonade type person, you might theorize that Coleman’s illness led to his eventual stardom.
Mingling with adults in the dialysis unit matured him beyond his years, and when he was nine years old he could still pass for a preschooler, so the adorable tyke with the snappy adult repartee found plenty of work in Chicago-area TV commercials. NBC honcho Fred Silverman happened to notice the appealing tot and cast him in a new series called Diff’rent Strokes. Suddenly fans couldn’t get enough of the precocious Coleman, and he received not only paychecks from his series work, but also numerous endorsement deals.
Even though a percentage of his earnings were placed in trust (again, due to the Coogan Law), the majority of his money was funneled into a production company his parents set up in his name, and in which they installed themselves as executives. They also accepted a salary from the trust fund for acting as “employees” of Coleman’s estate. When all was said and done, when Coleman reached the age of majority, after earning an estimated $3 million during his youth, his trust fund yielded a paltry $220,000 (which, of course, resulted in a lengthy son versus parents lawsuit).
4. Anissa Jones
Anissa Jones was a beautiful baby, and her ambitious mother felt that the little girl had a future in show business. She and her husband moved with their two children from West Lafayette, Indiana, to Playa del Ray, California, where she enrolled four-year-old Anissa in dancing classes. Anissa landed her first job, a TV commercial, when she was six years old, and one year later she was cast as “Buffy” on a new sitcom called Family Affair. The series was a hit, partly due to America’s love affair with the irresistibly adorable Jones.
At that time, sitcoms filmed 30 episodes per season, and when Jones wasn’t busy on the set, she was off promoting the series or one of the many products bearing her likeness. There were Buffy coloring books, paper dolls, lunch boxes, and Mrs. Beasley dolls. Despite working harder than most adults, Jones remained a kind and thoughtful child. Everyone on the set loved her, from grouchy Brian Keith to the studio janitor, who often entertained her with magic tricks between takes. Anissa refused to accept gifts from people unless they also brought one for her younger brother. Yes, everyone seemed to love Anissa except her own parents.
Her folks had divorced since moving to L.A., and Mrs. Jones took charge of her daughter’s career. She forced an unhappy Anissa to wear baby-doll dresses and style her hair in childish pigtails at the age of 13, simply because she had a lucrative marketing deal to sell a Buffy-style clothing line. When Anissa turned 15, no one in her family remembered to buy her a birthday cake. When her father passed away, Anissa started spending more time at the homes of friends, and her angry mother reported her to police as a runaway. She spent several months in juvenile detention as a result, and after that her life went into a downward spiral. She died of a drug overdose at the age of 18.
5. Jaimee Foxworth
Jaimee Foxworth played the youngest Winslow child on Family Matters for four seasons. But between the lack of character development (with Urkel’s burgeoning popularity, there was little use for little Judy Winslow) and Foxworth’s mother’s demands for more money, she was quietly written out of the show without explanation. Foxworth returned to high school and looked forward to receiving the $500,000 in her trust fund when she turned 20 years old. However, one year before coming of age, her family was facing bankruptcy and her mother successfully petitioned the court to have Jaimee’s entire trust turned over to her to pay the bills. With zero cash in the bank, Foxworth turned to drugs and alcohol and a brief career in the porn industry. She is currently working to get her life back on track and recently appeared on the VH1 reality series Celebrity Rehab.
* For more on the Coogan Law and the actor who inspired it, read Kara’s post about 8 Memorable TV Uncles and scroll down to Uncle Fester.
Bravo to DrCoolSex, aka Alex Charak, Dustin Drury, and Greg Murtha.
Arizona Police Officer Describes Rape of 8-Year-Old Liberian Girl as a Tragedy
By James Butty
28 July 2009
The 14-year-old Liberian refugee boy who together with three other children raped an 8-year-old Liberian girl earlier this month in Phoenix, Arizona is awaiting trial after being charged as an adult.
The case generated enormous international outrage after it was reported that the little girl’s parents and relatives blamed her for bringing shame to the family.
Even Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has had to step in to say that the 8-year-old girl’s parents were wrong for blaming her.
Phoenix Police Officer Sergeant Andy Hill who investigated the initial rape allegations said it was one of the most horrific cases he has ever seen.
“At this point the Phoenix Police Department’s job in this investigation is pretty much done for now. We have turned everything over to the Maricopa County attorney’s office which is the prosecuting authority. And we did that after we detained the four suspects in this case,” he said.
Hill said police investigators still have some work to do on the case, including completing their forensic analysis.
In published reports, the police said the boys lured the girl to an empty shed on July 16 under the pretense of offering her gum. They then held the girl down while they took turns assaulting her.
Officer Hill described the case as a horrible tragedy.
“We have an 8-year-old girl who was victimized. We have four children who were arrested with charges involving sexual assault and kidnapping in this case. And at this point for law enforcement, we have to go over the facts which we have done,” Hill said.
He said the nature of the case rises to international level because it involves an alleged child victim and alleged child perpetrators.
Sergeant Hill confirmed the 14-year-old was charged as an adult with two counts of sexual assault and kidnapping while the other boys – ages 9, 10 and 13 – were charged as juveniles with sexual assault.
“One of the suspects has been charged as an adult by the Maricopa County attorney’s office. And that was the result of them reviewing the information. So that is something that the prosecutors decide on,” Hill said.
He said his investigation found that the family had blamed and shunned the 8-year-old girl for bringing shame to the family.
“I don’t know what the traditions are and I would not try to speak to cultural traditions. But what I can speak to is what happened in this incident. And in this particular incident the family said they were ashamed of their child and they were not supportive of her. They blamed the little girl for what happened, and as a result of that Child Protective Services took the action that they did,” Hill said.
In a phone interview on CNN last week, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf disagreed with the parents of the 8-year-old victim.
She said rape is a crime that is no longer acceptable in Liberia and that perpetrators, when caught, are punished severely.
I can’t decide what I’m more appalled about. That parents would blame an 8 year old child for being raped or that 4 boys would sexually assault a little girl. This poor child. I wish I could do something to help her. I wish I had the means to adopt her.
Many people say that Jon and/or Kate Gosselin love their children and will only do what is best for them. Not all parents idea of “what is best” is the same. Obviously, the emotionally damaging parents of this poor girl are doing what they think is best.
Little Stars, Big DramaOctomom’s TV deal and Jon & Kate’s tabloid world bring new focus on child labor laws
Now that Nadya Suleman, better known as Octomom, has inked a TV deal for all 14 of her children, she might want to take a close look at another reality show that owes its success to a large brood–the Pennsylvania Department of Labor is currently looking into whether the hit reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8 is complying with the state’s child labor law. All of this underscores an important issue that tends to slip through the tabloid headlines. If publicity-hungry parents aren’t always looking out for their kids best interests, who is?
The answer varies depending on what state the show is filming in. Suleman and her children live in California, while the Gosselins call Pennsylvania home. According to Kelly Scott, head of the Employment Law Division at Ervin Cohen & Jessup in Beverly Hills, child labor laws generally apply to reality show kids in California, though every state has different laws, which have not all caught up with the reality TV craze. Pennsylvania laws, for example, “say you have to get a permit for a kid seven years of age and up, and that’s when they can start working in the entertainment field,” Scott tells iVillage.
But six of the eight Gosselin kids are only five years old. Does that mean being filmed around the clock for Jon & Kate Plus 8 might not qualify as working in the entertainment field? If not, then technically parents Jon and Kate Gosselin aren’t working either, despite receiving hefty paychecks–between $25,000 and $75,000–for each episode. There is, however, a case to be made that the Gosselin kids aren’t actually subject to child labor laws. “I think the argument here is that they’re in their own home. They’re not doing anything other than what they’d ordinarily be doing, or so we’re told,” says Scott. “And is that really working? Should the laws apply? I think that’s what the Pennsylvania Labor Department has to look at. I think for them it’s really the first time they’ve had to look at that.”
Others aren’t as likely to play devil’s advocate. Stuart Shapiro, a partner at Cohen & Lombardo, P.C. in Buffalo, NY, feels that by appearing on the show, the kids are doing work. “The reason money is changing hands is because of these kids, so the parents aren’t getting a gift. There has to be work involved,” he says. “It’s very hard for anybody to argue that when you’re doing this number of episodes and featuring the kids and featuring their images, that they’re not really providing an entertainment service.”
The child labor guidelines facing Octomom, however, are more clearly delineated. Because her kids’ work will fall under the California child labor laws, 15 percent of the children’s earnings must go into a special fund called a “Coogan Account.” That requirement came out of a 1935 case involving a child star named Jackie Coogan–a Los Angeles actor who had been discovered by Charlie Chaplin. Cougan sued his mother and stepfather whom he claimed had spent most of the millions he earned on luxuries for themselves like diamonds and cars. He won the case, but only got $126,000 after legal expenses. Coogan Accounts are currently only required in California, New York, Louisiana and New Mexico. A financial guardian has been appointed to oversee the remaining 85 percent of the Suleman kids’ earnings. However, Scott explained that Suleman could still access that money “for the caring of and well being of the minor(s).” How much she can withdraw for those purposes is unclear. Monetarily, at least, it seems her children are more protected than the Gosselins, merely because they live in California.
Of course, it’s not just about the money. Octomom already finds herself fending off one law suit by a child labor activist. And nobody knows yet how these reality shows will affect the lives of the children who star in them. From the TV show cameras–which are currently capturing the Gosselin’s divorce–to the endless paparazzi attention, they’re in the constant spotlight. Kathleen McKee, a professor at Regent University’s Law School in Virginia, worries about the Gosselins in particular. “Why are these children less entitled to protection than any other children?” she asks. “They can’t say, ‘No, I don’t want somebody to come in to my home. No, I don’t want anybody to film me.’ They’re vulnerable. There is a certain level of exploitation going on. There wouldn’t be a program with just Kate and Jon. It’s because of the children that it has marketability.”
California, on the other hand, has strict rules for kids in entertainment. According to Scott, issues like “lighting, how long they’re in the lights, how many minutes they can work, if there has to be a nurse present when you have a certain number of infants, when you have to have a studio teacher present, when the guardian has to be present and when permits are required” are all regulated, protecting kids from any potential exploitation. Going forward, production companies will more likely make similar efforts to take the kids into account. “I think with the increased regulation and the possibility that you’ve got these advocacy groups out there that did not exist before, that you’ll see less of that kind of stuff,” says Shapiro. “There’s going to be more control over it at the basic level.”
— Jacki Garfinkel
Posted by Jaclyn Garfinkel on July 29 at 5:18 PM
Conan’s first youtube moment.
July 26, 2009
The news for kids in the entertainment business is filled with alarming stories, led by the continuing inability of the State of Pennsylvania to render a decision as to the status of the eight Gosselin children who make up 4/5th of the cast of “Jon & Kate +8,” a show due to end its hiatus on August 3rd 2009 and resume production shortly thereafter. After the media circus that took place in New York City over the past weekend that saw the Gosselin children dragged through hordes of paparazzi over a span of more than eight hours to promote TLC’s programming, a reasonable person might conclude that there is no one in authority at TLC to end the serial abuse of reality show kids. In brief, are the Gosselin Kids working, or not? If they’re not working, why is everyone else in the Gosselin home-studio being paid?
In far off India, a nation stung by the sorry tale of two young workers in the film business, that nation’s Supreme Court has ruled that employers who willfully put minor-age workers at risk in any industry will be subject to fines of up to One Million Dollars (US).
Finally, in a tacit admission that they really didn’t know what they were doing, the attorneys representing Nadya Suleman who is popularly known as “Octo-Mom” have filed actual employment contracts for the Octuplets, and are asking for Court Approval. Left unasked and unanswered are two critical questions: 1. What were the octuplets paid from January 27th 2009 to the date of the court filing, July 24th 2009? And 2, Where are the fourteen children’s work permits and when were they issued? Readers familiar with the issues raised in these pages already know that all of the children on these reality shows share the risks of their professional counter-parts. Saying that these infants are not the same as professional young performers is a distinction without a difference.
Why are my people embracing Jon? First the Glassmans and now the Zarins. Jill, why don’t you fix Jon up with Allie. You will have instant grandchildren and reality TV for life. I loved Jill. Even spending friviously I still loved her. No longer. I now believe what I’ve been told all along. Jill Zarin is a self-promoting attention whore and she is no longer my favorite housewife.
The first photos have emerged of Jon Gosselin and his new Kate, former Star magazine reporter Kate Major, from their romantic Hamptons getaway.
The duo posed for shots with their double date from Wednesday evening–Real Housewives of New York‘s Jill Zarin and her husband Bobby.
Gosselin and the hard-partying blonde are currently shacked up at the Long Island, NY home of Lindsay Lohan‘s father, Michael.
Zarin spoke out to press about the dinner, claiming Jon and Major were most certainly an item. She was, however, skeptical about Gosselin involving himself with a younger woman who had designs on a marriage and family.