You’re A Marked Man, Charlie Brown!

And you thought Elmo was in trouble…

Charlie, in happier days...

Charlie, in happier days…

Peter Robbins, now 56, who was the voice of Charlie Brown on the TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as well as other “Peanuts” television shows, has been arrested and charged Wednesday with stalking and threatening his ex-girlfriend and the plastic surgeon who gave her breast implants—no, this was not the little red-headed girl. I don’t think…

He’s accused of terrorizing her, calling her as many as 37 times in a 24-hour period on her cellphone and threatening to  kill her and her son if she did not give back his dog and car. In the most recent and ugliest incident, Robbins allegedly confronted his former girlfriend in a hotel room and began beating his dog—no, not Snoopy!…at least, gee, I hope not… and threatened to continue hurting the dog, not to mention killing her, if she did not promise to get a refund for the breast enhancement.

I have two observations.

1. This sad story illustrates one of the ways in which children are harmed by premature exposure to pop culture fame before they can understand the ramifications to their future. Robbins’ meltdown and shame, as well as his face and name, are all over the national media today, as the idea of Charlie Brown turning into a stalker is too strange and juicy to ignore. Without the link to the lovable “Peanuts” gang, such an item would barely be local news, much less national water-cooler fodder, but thanks to Robbins’ parents’ decision, made for him, not by him, although his life was the one most affected, his reputation is branded far and wide. Parents have an obligation to consider these things with their children’s best interests in mind. Today’s momentary stardom mat be tomorrow’s shame and permanent handicap. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Lindsay Lohan

So, Lindsay, you really are a “mean girl,” eh? Good to know.

I have been sympathetic to Lindsay Lohan, a tragic example of a child star who has been programmed by an abnormal upbringing and awful parents to be self-destructive and irresponsible. However, Lohan has just signaled that she is also a mean-spirited jerk. Fellow child star Amanda Bynes, once frequently cited as an example of a performing tot who grew up normal, has had a bizarre string of hit-and-run accidents and appears to be dealing with some substance abuse issues. Bynes is facing charges, and has lost her license to drive. So is Lindsay, who has been in and out of court, jail and lawyers’ offices repeatedly over the last several years over everything from drunk driving to violating probation to grand theft, empathetic?  Hardly. Here was her recent tweet regarding Bynes’ problems:

Continue reading

Jodie Foster on the Cruelty of Child Stardom

Actress Jodie Foster was moved to write a passionate essay for The Daily Beast by the firestorm of gossip, rumor and harsh criticism surrounding the romantic triangle involving “Twilight” star Kristin Stewart, her live-in boyfriend and “Twilight” heart-throb Robert Pattinson, and a 40-year-old film director caught on video smooching with Stewart.  Foster is, as we all know, a former child star, like Stewart, who co-starred with Jodie in “Panic Room” when the 20-something “Twilight” idol was just 11. In her piece, Foster eloquently (even though she went to Yale) condemns the fishbowl life that celebrities have to endure today in the social media, and expresses the belief that parents do their children no favors when they push them to early Hollywood stardom.

“I’ve said it before and I will say it again,” she writes, “if I were a young actor today I would quit before I started. If I had to grow up in this media culture, I don’t think I could survive it emotionally. I would only hope that someone who loved me, really loved me, would put their arm around me and lead me away to safety.”

I have been privileged to know former child actor Paul Petersen, a truly great man who has tirelessly and passionately worked to alert the public to the inherent abuse of child stardom in Hollywood, and to make the industry more sensitive and humane to its youngest participants. It was Paul who alerted me to Foster’s commentary.

You can read it here.


Corey Feldman’s Frightening, Important, Unethical Revelations

Corey Feldman in his prime

Corey Feldman could be the poster boy for troubled ex-child stars. The quirky, funny kid who had major roles in “Stand By Me,” “The Goonies,” and “The Lost Boys” was exploited by his parents, damaged by the industry, and left with an addiction to attention and fame. Feldman, like many other child stars, was never able to transition into adult parts, and now he is 40, still with the hunger for attention and validation that characterizes the breed. He has tried reality shows and low-budget films, and now he is trying to get himself back in the news by making sensational accusations.

In an interview on ABC’s Nightline, Feldman dropped a genuine bombshell, saying…

“I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia. That’s the biggest problem for children in this industry. … It’s the big secret.” Continue reading

The Saga of Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt: Life in a Culture That Values Lies

Post-surgery Montag, trying to stay famous

If you have taste, a job, and a brain, or don’t read a lot of “Us” and “People” in doctors’ offices, you may never have heard of Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag. They were stars of the once popular TV reality show “The Hills,” and despite being two vacuous and shallow individuals of minimal common sense, talent or education, they presumed that they could ride the “famous for being famous” gravy train in celebrity-and-media obsessed America indefinitely. They couldn’t.

The Daily Beast features a horrifying interview with the pair, which is worth reading for its ethics lessons on several levels. For one thing, the degree to which the culture of dishonesty has progressed in America  surprises even me. Allowing yourself to be presented to the public as a completely manufactured personality in exchange for fame and fortune has always been part of the celebrity experience, but the reality show phenomenon has removed it from everything else—now the lie is all there is. And there are thousands upon thousands of attractive, young dimwits who actually aspire to such ersatz enshrinement in the culture as their life’s pursuit. Paris Hilton and the Kardashian sisters are these deluded individuals’ goddesses, despite the fact that 1) there are not 500 IQ points among the four of them and 2) they all have the benefit of rich trust funds to fall back on, so their jaunts as pop culture comets are more like diversions than careers, though profitable ones. Continue reading

Lindsay’s Sad Lie

Lindsay Lohan, when the future was bright

I’m still rooting for Lindsay Lohan to turn things around, so I didn’t want to make too big a deal over her recent tweet in connection with the 24-year-old’s latest drama, a felony charge for walking out of a jewelry store wearing an unpurchased necklace priced at $2,500. Being still on probation as she is, the downward-spiraling former child star is facing the possibility of serious prison time. The tweet said, in part,

“…I was not raised to lie, cheat or steal…!”

This is either self-delusion on an epic scale or one of the most brazen lies since Lindsay told police, when they found cocaine in the pocket of her jeans, that she wasn’t wearing her own pants…or perhaps since she told a judge that she couldn’t make her court appearance on a drunk driving charge, after flying off to the Cannes Film Festival shortly before she was due in court, because “her passport was stolen.” Continue reading

Guest Commentary: “When Children Work; A Dialogue”

By Paul Petersen

[Paul Petersen is the founder and president of A Minor Consideration, a non-profit advocacy group that seeks to protect the welfare of juvenile performers. Mr. Petersen was a prominent child star himself, most famously as “Jeff Stone” on the long-running TV comedy, “The Donna Reed Show.” The following commentary, also posted on his website, is inspired by the hearings this week on proposed child labor legislation in Pennsylvania, where “Jon & Kate Plus 8” was filmed. The legislation proposed  by State Representative Tom Murt defines reality television and would require all minors to have work permits issued by the state Department of Labor and Industry to ensure all adequate provisions have been made for the minor’s educational instruction, supervision, health and welfare. The bill also provides that minors can only work between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and sets guidelines for the amount of hours, work, recreation, school and activities per day. A certified teacher would be required on the set of any production to monitor working conditions, and the bill would require 15 % of a child actor’s gross earning be set aside by the employer in a trust.]

Imagine if your boss unilaterally declared that your time spent in a commercial workplace wasn’t work at all but merely “participation.” That might be said of the drug store cat, or a barnyard animal, but to say that about a living, breathing, conscious human being passes all understanding. Yet that is precisely the position taken by reality show Producers and the Networks that broadcast commercial products called “reality shows” that feature children. Continue reading

Isolating Corey Haim: Child Star Deceit and Disinformation in the Media

It is clear that the news media, and especially the entertainment and pop culture media, don’t want to lose their cuddly child performers. Thus when a former kid star like Corey Haim perishes at a young age, the victim of a dysfunctional childhood turned fatal by addictions to fame and drugs, the sad story is usually told as a cautionary tale about how one young actor’s early promise and talent turned to dust and destruction because of his own weaknesses and missteps. A responsible media would use such events to examine the larger, serious, and mostly ignored problem of child abuse and exploitation in the entertainment business, and its terrible toll of casualties.The media is not responsible on this topic, however, and in the case of Haim, seemed to go out of its way to falsely represent his fate as the exception, rather than the rule. Continue reading