Post by flossieskid on Aug 15, 2021 3:23:24 GMT -5
As the news is filled with lots of press about Britney Spears and her father as her conservator, I was thinking about child actors and how so many have terrible, show biz stage Moms. But, I don’t recall any bad press about the children who portrayed the Waltons. These young actors seemed to navigate the choppy waters of show biz without any negative press. So, I was wondering if there was any bad press about pushy stage Moms on the Waltons? Some child actors weren’t so lucky!
I remember going to a dinner party at a friend of my parents when I was around 13 or 14. He was a famous songwriter and always had a very unique blend of guests at his gatherings. At this particular party, one of the guests was Jay North, the original “Dennis the Menace”. He was around my age and I think his show was off by the air by then.
I thought he was very cute and, being the only kids around the same age, we spent most of the evening together. He was very pleasant and tried, quite hard, to make a stellar impression. But, I was truly shocked at how overly sensitive he seemed to be - apologizing constantly about little things that made no difference. For instance, he sat next to me at the BBQ, but by doing so, he blocked my view of my parents. BIG DEAL! But, he was overly contrite saying he didn’t realize he was in the way and he started to get up and find another seat, apologizing again for blocking my view. I told him to sit down because believe it or not, I knew what my parents looked like and I didn’t need to see the 24/7!
Jay was so sweet, but a conversation full of “I’m sorry” got a bit tiresome. But it appeared he just didn’t know how to behave around people. He lacked any social graces and I felt so bad for him. After a while, an adult woman appeared at our side and told Jay “We are leaving now.” Her voice was stern and lacked any warmth. Then this woman said to me, “Was he bothering you?” “Of course not”, I replied. “He was great to talk to.” Jay lowered his head, said a quick goodbye and told me he had a nice time. I didn’t know who that woman was, but she sure seemed mean.
I found out later that the woman was his aunt who was also his guardian. Over the years I read many articles about Jay sadly depicting horrible physical and emotional child abuse he suffered at the hands of this horrid woman and her husband. I felt even worse. Jay was a lovely young boy, but I could tell, now in hindsight, that he was trained to “be perfect” and his constant apologies were the only way he knew how to talk to people because he wanted them to like him. It made me so sad.
I didn’t realize when I was a freshman in high school that one of my classmates, Jeanne Russell, played “Margaret” in the “Dennis the Menace” series. Jeanne left my school after freshman year and it was during that summer I met Jay.
Parents must always put the emotional well-being of their children first if they allow them to be actors. It is a tough business, but it surely seems Earl Hamner and the casting staff picked the right people for the roles on the Waltons. Not once, has the public heard ANYTHING negative about any of the young cast. They all grew up to be successful, caring adults from what I have read. I hope it was BECAUSE of their parents and not IN SPITE of them!!
I think with the Walton kids being around each other so much, both on set and off, they became a family of their own and had back-up. I can see the younger kids going to the older cast members with their problems, questions, concerns, etc.
I didn't know Jay's background. I remember him as Dennis the Menace and, years later, in a show with elephants and another 'poster boy'. The show was called Maya. I was completely unaware of his horrible childhood. As you mentioned, his social graces were virtually non-existent, and that was due to his mother not allowing him to socialise with children his own age. She literally ruled his life as any 'stage mother' tends to do. I can almost hear the woman saying, "It's time for your bowel movement, Jay."
According to his Wiki page, his guardians, "Marie and Hal Hopper, had become strict taskmasters and stern disciplinarians" who wouldn't allow him to socialise with not only other children but with his fellow cast members.
His only opportunity to relax was the occasional "free day" when he could play baseball with other children or when his uncle would take him to see horror films.
Of course, despite his efforts, Jay's career went nowhere and he ultimately quit show-biz.
I found this disturbing item about him on his Wiki page:
A Minor Consideration On January 18, 1990, North received a phone call from Paul Petersen telling him that former child star Rusty Hamer from The Danny Thomas Show had died by suicide. Hamer's death was a turning point for North when childhood friends Petersen (Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show) and Jeannie Russell (Margaret Wade on Dennis the Menace), concerned that North was heading down the same path, stepped in and put him in touch with therapist Stanley Ziegler, who specialized in helping troubled former child actors. North later credited his friends and therapist as being instrumental in helping him deal with his long-held anger and resentment regarding his unhappy childhood growing up in Hollywood. He later joined Petersen's organization, A Minor Consideration, using his experiences to counsel child stars dealing with the same pressures and difficulties he had faced growing up.
Hearing and reading about this story, it gives me a whole new outlook on stage moms, soccer moms, pageant moms, and all those other people who exploit their children to make a few bucks. To think of all the lives that have been destroyed and are still being destroyed.
This, Tracey, has been the most important story you've ever shared here. I truly had no idea. I grew up with Jay North. He's less than a year older than I, and for all these years, I never knew the truth.
"As long as there's one person on earth who remembers you, it isn't over." - Oscar Hammerstein
Thankfully because I think the Walton kids came from loving families, they seem like the least problematic and drama-free child actors out there. I am sure that's why you don't see as many articles about them as others.
I have seen articles about the "Dennis The Menace" actor about having the worst childhood. Poor kid. At least you got to interact with him, even if Jay was apologetic and nervous. No kid should have to be alienated away from other kids. It could stunt their growth in social interaction and bite them in the back later on. I don't know where Jay is these days but let's hope he has a much happier life than as "Dennis."
Every time I hear about how former child actors were controlled by the hands of their stage moms (or dads) starting at a young age, makes me want to just reach out and hug them even if I'm not a fan of their work 😢 They're so vulnerable. I do remember once wanting to be a child star and being jealous how these kids had more money than me but didn't understand the price they paid growing up in the Hollywood world.
The older and more experieneced child stars definitely should be mentors for the newer child stars in this generation. Who cares if they're "washed out"?
Thank you always for sharing your stories! I love reading about them. 💖
"I think I like wildflowers best. They just grow wherever they want. No one has to plant them. And then their seeds blow in the wind and they find a new place to grow."
I don't know where Jay is these days but let's hope he has a much happier life than as "Dennis."
It too some serious Googling and piecing bits of a number of articles together, but I discovered that Jay North is alive and well. He had his 70th birthday on the 3rd of August, just a few weeks ago.
Jay has been married 3 times. The first time, he was married to Kathleen Brucher from 1973 to 1974. The second time, Jay married Rosita North in 1991. They separated 3 months later. In 1992, Jay was attending a charity event for Pediatric AIDs in Florida. There he met a caterer, Cathy Hackney. They were married the next year in 1993. Jay moved to Florida and became stepfather to Cathy's 3 daughters. They had no children of their own, but they are still married.
He has come to terms with the abuse inflicted upon him by his aunt and uncle.
"As long as there's one person on earth who remembers you, it isn't over." - Oscar Hammerstein
Post by flossieskid on Aug 15, 2021 23:02:49 GMT -5
Thank you all for your remarks about stage moms and your thoughts about Jay. A special thanks to Easton for doing your outstanding research to find out about Jay’s later years. I am so pleased that he has seemed to find happiness and a family. As they say, maybe “Third time’s the charm!”
I do remember Paul Petersen going on many talk shows to discuss the challenges that face child actors. Not sure how long his organization “A Minor Consideration” has been helping young actors. When I worked in program development at The Disney Channel, they were just beginning to create several shows starring very young kids. I always thought “The Mouse Factory”,as some of us called it, should have offered weekly visits to therapists or many hours spent with people like Paul Petersen, who could help guide them through the difficulties of being the star of TV series when you are under 10 years old. When you review how many teenage stars took their own life, it is truly heartbreaking!
Carl Betz, who played Paul’s father on “The Donna Reed Show” was a dear, dear friend of our family. He was so handsome, a terrific actor but also an AMAZING artist who painted a wonderful mural in my brother’s bedroom when we were young. From what Carl used to tell us, both Paul and Shelly Fabares (who played his daughter on the show) were treated well and cared for by the producers and he and Donna Reed loved them like their own.
I ran into Shelly at a hair salon about 10 years ago (my hair stylist cut the hair of her husband - Mike Farrell - of MASH) and I shared how much Carl meant to our family. She told me she and Paul “adored” Donna and Carl and it seemed she, too, appreciated Carl’s artistic talent. So, she also confirmed they were treated very well on the set. Too bad that wasn’t every child actor’s experience!
Post by patriciaanne on Aug 16, 2021 18:05:46 GMT -5
flossieskid Tracey, what a sad story about Jay! I truly hope he's been happy these past years. I'm confident none of the Walton kids had these issues. I think there were too many caring adults on set who might have noticed something amiss. Plus, I think most, if not all, of the actors came from pretty solid families. It's tragic to hear what some of these child stars experienced. 😢
This is sort of on-topic. I just read a portion of an interview with Elijah Wood. They were talking about his new film about Ted Bundy ('No Man of God'). The interview also included The Lord of the Rings and Elijah's rocket ride to stardom and how he managed the celebrity. He was asked:
Q: You were just 18 when you started filming "Lord of the Rings." What helped you cope with the fame and attention that ensued?
Wood: Working as a child actor, being raised by a mother who was so concerned with me keeping a sense of humility and identity, that really helped me. I had a foundation, so when those movies came out and were everywhere, I was able to hold it in its own place. When Frodo's on the side of a building or an Air New Zealand 737, I was able to go, "That's not me, that's Frodo."
An important part is also that we were experiencing it all together. The notion of that fellowship (among the cast) was real. We're a family – we're linked for the rest of our lives. So we were able to lean on each other and enjoy it and celebrate it together. It was an unforgettable experience, and integral in being able to process it in a healthy way.