By Tom Ward
Pop Culture Contributor
On behalf of Golf Center of Arlington
“X Child Stars: Where Are They Now?” Book Review
Last year, actress Kathy Garver’s book “Surviving Cissy: My Family Affair of a Life in Hollywood” was a big hit with fans and garnered vast critical acclaim. With her new book on sale now called “X Child Stars: Where Are They Now?” she may have outdone herself, along with the help of book author Fred Ascher. Garver, a renowned child star herself, starred as Cissy on the popular television series “Family Affair” which ran on CBS from 1996 to 1971.
This book is a terrific go-to guide for fans encompassing an enormous amount of TV history condensed in a 40 year timeline. The pages are filled with rare photographs, lots of helpful biological information and fascinating trivia about all of your favorite child stars and the shows in which they starred. The book deals with and examines both the successes and unfortunate misfortunes of many beloved child stars. Included in this book are the stories of Anissa Jones, who played Buffy on “Family Affair” and who tragically died from a drug overdose at the age of eighteen, and Ron Howard, who starred in both “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Happy Days”, and who later became an Academy Award–winning director. Kathy Garver profiles these and other legends of classic television in a book that will answer the question: “Where are they now?”
Garver is not only qualified, but I think she’s the ideal person to write this type of book having vast firsthand knowledge of the workings in the entertainment industry since she started working in films as a young girl. She approached writing this book with great insight and lots of experience. This book delivers on many levels because she handles the subject with a sensitive touch, but doesn’t pull any punches discussing the disastrous pitfalls that lay waiting for these child actors.
The book starts off chronicling shows beginning in the 1950s like “I Love Lucy” which featured young child actor Keith Thibodeaux as little Ricky. It continues on with “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”, “Make Room for Daddy”, “Lassie”, “Father Knows Best”, “Mickey Mouse Club” and many, many more. One of the things I particularly liked was how the book gives detailed information regarding how many seasons a show was on the air. It breaks down how many episodes were aired and on what network it was shown. It also includes the year the show debuted and the year the show ended. For example, I learned from reading the book that the show “The Rifleman” started on September 30th, 1958 on ABC with all episodes in black and white and the series finale was on April 8th, 1963. There were 168 half hour episodes produced during that time. The show starred Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford played his son Mark. In the book is a brief synopsis of the show for each series. Authors Garver and Ascher then added a short profile on the young child star and in this case it was Johnny Crawford. It gives the date of birth of the actor and some interesting tidbits about his career before and after his show went off the air. In some cases, Garver gives some intriguing insights if she happened to know the young child actor or if she acted with them. It turns out she acted with Crawford in an episode of “The Rifleman” as a teenager and found him to be very personable.
Ex-child actor Paul Petersen, who co-starred on the Donna Reed show which ran from 1958 to 1966 on ABC, wrote a wonderful foreword for the book. Petersen is the founder of A Minor Consideration which he and his wife started back in 1990. Petersen’s A Minor Consideration organization has done a lot helping these young actors deal with the financial aspects of child labor. At the end of the book Garver wrote a poignant four page summation. She discusses the elements that are shared by many of the successful ex-child stars, the ones who were able to make the transition to either acting in adulthood or walking some other satisfying life path. Her book is a cautionary tale for any young, talented child actor trying to navigate the trappings of Hollywood.
I highly recommend you read this book and order a few extra copies for your friends as I promise you they will thank you. I found flipping through the pages transported me back to my childhood and a simpler time when there were no DVRs and people used to actually watch commercials. The book is 330 pages and it’s chock full of some great photographs in both black and white and color. It’s published by Taylor Trade Publishing and distributed by National Book Network. You can order the book online at www.amazon.com or visit www.kathygarver.com and order your signed copy by the author today.
Tom Ward can be contacted at www.teetimewithtom.com