The lovable geeky TV and movie high school character.
We do love the funny underdog. Like Steve Urkel the neighbor in Family Matters, Arnold Jackson in Diff’rent Strokes, Webster Long from Webster, James Evans Jr. in Good Times, Danny Partridge from The Partridge Family, Carlton Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and characters played by Anthony Michael Hall in National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Sixteen Candles.
The quintessential Saturday morning TV geeky guy was Screech played by Dustin Diamond who recently and quickly succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 44. Dustin’s untimely death is the final of many bad blows dealt to the actor since the series ended when he was just 23 years old.
It was difficult, well, nearly impossible for Diamond to live down and move on professionally and personally from a character whose voice literally screeched like an adolescent boy for 12 years. Listening to some interviews that Dustin conducted later in life, the man had a low-pitched voice. Being Screech after his adult voice developed could not have been easy.
Diamond’s follies were difficult to escape living in Wisconsin after the show ended. Diamond lived in Port Washington, Wisconsin for much of his adult life. His troubles include making an unsuccessful sex tape after seeing how much money that Paris Hilton made on her video. He had a Go Fund Me account in a failed effort to save his home from bankruptcy. Until learning of his illness a few weeks ago, the most infamous was a story about a Christmas day bar fight. A fight that ended with Diamond stabbing a man that he was arguing with. That stabbing earned him some jail time.
Diamond’s plight isn’t a new one. Many child stars have had trouble adjusting to life after fame. Danny Bonaduce struggled for years before finding his way in radio, same for J. J. Walker who dabbled in radio and stand up comedy after Good Times ended. Emmanuel Lewis and Gary Coleman never escaped their original TV characters. Type casting can harm many, but it seems to be hardest on young actors playing quirky roles.
There are exceptions, Anthony Michael Hall grew out of his geeky youth to become Dexter. Jaleel White has left Urkel in the dust for a successful acting career. It doesn’t hurt that both of these actors became very handsome as adult men, but they could’ve easily given up when others tried to typecast them into roles similar to the shallow roles they played to become famous.
While many of the original cast of Saved By The Bell prepared for a reboot of the show, Diamond learned of his cancer death sentence. Art does not always imitate life…
Rest in peace Dustin. From the interviews I saw today, it looks like you found peace with yourself after all of the bad dust finally settled. I pray that is true.