Freelance entertainment journalist/author/funny woman Joal Ryan has started up a shiny new blog dedicated to a very niche media obsession that has served her well over the years: former child stars. Scoff if you want to, but her blog posts are more addictive than Doritos (and we’re going to guess, better for you, too). Ryan tells FBLA a bit about the philosophy behind Former Child Star Central.
1. What inspired this? The day Dana Plato got arrested for holding up a video store in Las Vegas. I don’t know, something changed. Honestly, this began as a goof, and ended up as my niche because people really care about what happens to the people they grew up with, whether the people be former classmates or former child stars.
I originally intended to have fun with the subject, and I still do. But since former child stars are far too easy to make fun of, I find it’s more interesting to actually think through the stories.
And, by the way, I’ve since visited the locale where Plato pulled her botched heist. Reality checks always spoil the fun because there’s nothing funny about imagining someone reaching the end of their rope in the desert. In a strip mall.
2. What do you do to research this stuff? I’m a very good Googler. Also, I’m very fortunate to have a readership that’s kind enough to pass along tidbits every now and then.
3. Who are your top three favorite former childhood stars?
The three quintessential former child stars are: Gary Coleman; Gary Coleman; and, Gary Coleman.
He is the whole package. He had the top-rate fame. He had the post-adolescent fall. He had the Jackie Coogan-esque court battle with his parents.
And then he had The Moment: Punching a spurned autograph seeker who dare to call him a former child star to his face.
Britney Spears could be pretty good, too, but she’ll probably always be worth way too much money to qualify for quintessential status. At least I hope she will be. I wouldn’t wish an 800-CASH gig on anyone.
4. Have you heard from any former childhood stars about your site? Keith Coogan (“Adventures in Babysitting”) had some fun with my confession that I can never keep him and Scott Grimes (“Critters”) straight.
Claudia Lonow (“Knots Landing”) asked me to remove her birthday. I didn’t. And I feel badly about that because I’m old now, too.
A former costar of Dana Plato’s, Krista Errickson, who starred on a “Diff’rent Strokes” spin-off called “Hello, Larry,” wrote in after Plato’s death. It was an open letter to Plato, and was very touching, and very, very down on the company that produced their shows. Time does not heal all wounds.
Oh, and Brandon Call’s mother–at least she said she was Brandon Call’s mother–wrote in to dispute a sighting in which Brandon Call (“Step By Step”) was called a jerk.
I think more former child stars should read my site. Not like constantly, because they should have lives, but just to reassure themselves. Out of all the child stars I’ve tracked, I’ve come up with only one convicted felon. (Former Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie.)
5. OMG, is that really the girl from Land of the Lost? Hey, you try living among the Sleestacks for three
6. Would you let your own child try to be a star? A “star?” No. A child who wants to be a “star,” and a parent who encourages the ambition are on the low road to “My Kid Wants to Be a Star.”
Now, if my child wants to *do* something, that’s a different story. Sing, dance, act, paint–that’s doing. And that’s real.
During the early audition rounds of “American Idol,” there are always these people who cry to the judges that they’ve always wanted to be singers, when what they really mean is they’ve always wanted to be stars. If you want to be a singer, then sing. That’s what street corners are for. Do it. Don’t dream it.
Wow, did I just channel a sneaker commercial there?
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