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The Questionable Parenting Behind 5 Child Stars

This week's edition of TV-Holic highlights some child stars who, in one way or another, had serious parental problems.

1. Taran Noah Smith

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

dannypartridgea.jpgJoseph 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-coleman.jpgGary 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.jpgAnissa 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.jpgJaimee 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.

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John P. Johnson, HBO
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10 Wild Facts About Westworld
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

The hit HBO show about an android farm girl finding sentience in a fake version of the old West set in a sci-fi future is back for a second season. So grab your magnifying glass, study up on Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare, and get ready for your brain to turn to scrambled eggs. 

The first season saw Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her robotic compatriots strive to escape bondage as the puppet playthings of a bored society that kills and brutalizes them every day, then repairs them each night to repeat the process for paying customers. The Maze. The Man in Black. The mysteries lurking in cold storage and cantinas. Wood described the first season as a prequel, which means the show can really get on the dusty trail now. 

Before you board the train and head back into the park, here are 10 wild facts about the cerebral, sci-fi hit. (Just beware of season one spoilers!)

1. IT’S NOT THE FIRST TV ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE.

Though Westworld, the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a hit, its 1976 sequel Futureworld was a flop. Still, the name and concept had enough cachet for CBS to move forward with a television concept in 1980. Beyond Westworld featured Delos head of security John Moore (Jim McMullan) battling against the villainous mad scientist Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), who wants to use the park’s robots to, what else, take over the whole world. It would be a little like if the HBO show focused largely on Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs, which just might be the spinoff the world is waiting for.

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER HAS A CAMEO.

Ed Harris and Eddie Rouse in 'Westworld'
JOHN P. JOHNSON, HBO

The HBO series pays homage to the original film in a variety of ways, including echoing elements from the score to create that dread-inducing soundscape. It also tipped its ten-gallon hat to Yul Brynner’s relentless gunslinger from the original film by including him in the storage basement with the rest of the creaky old models.

3. QUENTIN TARANTINO, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, AND MANY OTHERS COULD HAVE REBOOTED IT.

Speaking of Brynner’s steely, murderous resolve: His performance as the robo-cowboy was one of the foundations for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s turn as the Terminator. Nearly 20 years later, in 2002, Schwarzenegger signed on to produce and star in a reboot of the sci-fi film from which he took his early acting cues. Schwarzenegger never took over the role from Brynner because he served as Governor of California instead, and the reboot languished in development hell.

Warner Bros. tried to get Quentin Tarantino on board, but he passed. They also signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh (whose old West would have been unbelievably lush and colorful, no doubt), but it fell through. A few years later, J.J. Abrams—who had met with Crichton about a reboot back in 1996—pitched eventual co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy on doing it as a television series. HBO bought it, and the violent delights finally made it to our screens.

4. IT COSTS $40,000 A DAY TO VISIT THE PARK. (AND THAT’S THE CHEAP PACKAGE.)

Thandie Newton and Angela Sarafyan in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, Logan (Ben Barnes) revealed that he’s spending $40,000 a day to experience Westworld. That’s in line with the 1973 movie, where park visitors spent $1000 a day, which lands near $38,000 once adjusted for inflation. Then again, we’re talking about 2052 dollars, so it might still be pricey, but not exorbitant in 2018 terms. But a clever Redditor spotted that $40,000 is the minimum you’d pay; according to the show’s website, the Gold Package will set you back $200,000 a day.

5. BEN BARNES BROKE HIS FOOT AND DIDN’T TELL ANYONE.

Once Upon a Time’s Eion Bailey was originally cast as Logan but had to quit due to a scheduling conflict, so Ben Barnes stepped in … then he broke his foot. The actor hid the injury for fear he’d lose the job, which is why he added a limp as a character detail. “I’m sort of hobbling along with this kind of cowboy-ish limp, which I then tried to maintain for the next year just so I could pretend it was a character choice,” Barnes said. “But really I had a very purple foot … So walking was the hardest part of shooting this for me.”

6. THE CO-CREATORS RICKROLLED FANS OBSESSED WITH UNCOVERING SPOILERS.

Eagle-eyed fans (particularly on Reddit) uncovered just about every major spoiler from the first season early on, which is why Nolan and Joy promised a spoiler video for anyone who wanted to know the entire plot of season two ahead of its premiere. They delivered, but instead of show secrets, the 25-minute video only offered a classy rendition of Rick Astley’s internet-infamous “Never Gonna Give You Up,” sung by Evan Rachel Wood with Angela Sarafyan on piano, followed by 20 minutes of a dog. It was a pitch-perfect response to a fanbase desperate for answers.

7. IT FEATURES AN ANCIENT GREEK EASTER EGG.

Amid the alternative rock tunes hammered out on the player piano and hat tips to classic western films, Westworld also referenced something from 5th century BCE Greece. Westworld, which is run by Delos Incorporated, is designed so that guests cannot die. Delos is also the name of the island where ancient Greeks made it illegal for anyone to die (or be born for that matter) on religious grounds. That’s not the only bit of wordplay with Greek either: Sweetwater’s main ruffian, Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), gets his last name from the Greek eschaton, meaning the final event in the divine design of the world. Fitting for a potentially sentient robot helping to bring about humanity’s destruction.

8. JIMMI SIMPSON FIGURED OUT HIS CHARACTER’S TWIST BECAUSE OF HIS EYEBROWS.

Evan Rachel Wood and Jimmi Simpson in 'Westworld'
HBO

In season one, the show’s many secrets were kept even from the main cast until the time they absolutely needed to know. Jimmi Simpson, who plays timid theme park neophyte William, had a hunch something was funny with his role because of a cosmetic change.

“I was with an amazing makeup artist, Christian, and he was looking at my face too much,” Simpson told Vanity Fair. “He had me in his chair, and he was just looking at my face, and then he said something about my eyebrows. ‘Would you be cool if we just took a couple hairs out of your eyebrows, made them not quite as arched?’” Guessing that they were making him look more like The Man in Black, Simpson said something to Joy, and she confirmed his hunch. “She looked kind of surprised I’d worked it out,” he said.

9. THE PLAYER PIANO MAY BE AN ALLUSION TO KURT VONNEGUT.

One of the show’s most iconic elements is its soundtrack of alternative rock songs from the likes of Radiohead, The Cure, and Soundgarden redone in a jaunty, old West style. In addition to adding a creepy sonic flavor to the sadistic vacation, they also may wink toward Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, which deals with a dystopia of automation where machines do everything for humans, leading to an entrenched class struggle. The show’s resonant elements are clear, but Westworld also mentions that the world outside the theme park is one where there’s no unemployment and humans have little purpose. Like The Man In Black (Ed Harris), the protagonist of Player Piano also longs for real stakes in the struggle of life.

10. THERE ARE TWO JESSE JAMES CONNECTIONS.

Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright in 'Westworld'
HBO

Anthony Hopkins’s character Dr. Robert Ford is an invention for the new series, and he shares a name with the man who assassinated infamous outlaw Jesse James (a fact you may remember from the aptly named movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). The final episode of the first season flips the allusion when Ford is shot in the back of the head, which is exactly how the real-life Ford killed James.

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The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM
Fox
Fox

FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

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