What Happens to Child Stars?

Many child stars fade away shortly after their cuteness factor diminishes, and we hear nothing more about them unless they end up on the front page of a tabloid having committed a crime, entered a rehab clinic or otherwise run afoul of society. Some, like Ron Howard and Brooke Shields, continue their careers with constant work, but their cases are more the rarity than the norm.

As a television producer, I used to work with a lot of celebrities and over the years, I got quite a collection of photos. The usual poses with the celebrity and myself on a set somewhere by a shoot photographer. They all look pretty much the same. Only our hairstyles changed. Some I filed away but there are a few I keep out not for the sake of possibly impressing people who wander into my study, but because they are memories that are actually fun ones.

One of the ones still hanging on the wall is a picture of Fred Savage and me. Remember him �the cute kid in The Wonder Years? He was cute and adorable but pretty much went off the radar after the series folded. At the height of The Wonder Years success, I had to produce a commercial in which he starred. There was the usual working around his schedule which is made even harder when the actor is a minor and strict work laws exist as they do in California. The only way we could fit into his schedule was to actually shoot the commercial at his home, so off we went to a house in the San Fernando Valley.

The Valley isn’t exactly a Mecca for stars’ homes and the house the Savages were living in was a simple middle-class house full of children, bicycles in the driveway, and so much normalcy that I thought I was in the wrong place. Fred couldn’t start with our crew until he finished loading the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher âÂ?¦mother’s rules!

Fred was remarkably normal and yet professional as an actor. He’d studied the lines, knew them and we were finished in record time with no attitude, no ego, and a kind demeanor. His siblings were in and out giving him a little grief now and again, which only added to what seemed like the most normal family atmosphere I’d ever seen. The mother and the children were living in California while Fred worked with their father commuting from Canada when time permitted, and Mrs. Savage seemed determined that her children would stay out of the Hollywood fray.

Dissolve to a number of years later. I walk past that photograph every day and it was only this morning that I stopped and wondered what had happened to Fred Savage. A quick look up and I find he’s all grown up (no surprise there), is still working a little, is married and expecting a child this summer. No scandals, no arrests, and no scrapes with anything other than a decent life. He got a degree in English at Stanford, married his childhood sweetheart (ironic after The Wonder Years character being romantically involved with his neighbor), asked that all wedding gifts be contributions to a children’s cancer center, and is now producing some children’s shows for television along with a small movie role here and there.

There are no more impressive film credits, but his life credits are impressive. Somehow, his parents, who produced two more actors in the family, managed the difficult juggle between celebrity and normalcy. They deserve a lot of credit and so does Fred âÂ?¦for just being decent, good people. Those people don’t get into the tabloids, but they should!!!!

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