WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Harrington Park Press

 
 
 

CHILD STAR (excerpt)

by Max Pierce

     Few child actors sustain a career beyond puberty. It is a difficult time physically and emotionally, and Hollywood has never suffered from a shortage of fresh juvenile talent eager to seize the spotlight. The luckiest ones fall into obscurity, trading camera angles for meaningful careers. Others become notorious casualties.
     By age twelve, for the talented Laura Pierce, as both a television star and having several memorable films under her tiny belt, the only way to go seemed down. Personal tragedy kept her mostly off-screen from age thirteen until seventeen; but she rebounded with a vengeance, propelling forward to new acclaim and a cinema endurance that a select few from the golden age (Roddy McDowell, Natalie Wood), and even less of her contemporaries (only Jodie Foster comes to mind) have achieved.
     Coming to prominence as the death rattle of the studio system became a final gasp, the Dallas-born moppet, at the ripe old age of five, was the last contract player signed by the once-mighty MGM. With the ink barely dry, the studio loaned her to Twentieth Century-Fox while deciding what to do. She made an auspicious debut on TV's Batman as the young sister of Boy Wonder Robin during the show's last season. Returning to MGM, where the famous 'little red schoolhouse' was reopened amid much fanfare, she appeared in her first feature film, Happiness. In late 1969 she played a ghost in the television "Movie of the Week" Daughter of the Mind, starring old-timers Ray Milland and Gene Tierney.


     After hearing rumblings of a clever family sitcom being produced at Paramount, MGM-TV, whose successes had been limited to The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Flipper, and Dr. Kildare, jumped feet first in the water. Utilizing their old back lot sets from the Andy Hardy movies and Meet Me in St. Louis, they filmed their sitcom concept on a modest budget. The show was Riverview Mansion and ostensibly focused on a trio of mischievous siblings who lay claim to an abandoned estate as their clubhouse. Running on ABC Friday nights at eight o'clock from the fall of 1969 through the spring of 1975, Riverview Mansion joined an evening of classic favorites such as The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and The Odd Couple.