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“The Adventures Of Little Diego - Former Child Star” Chapter 1 - Part 2 of 2 - 'The Beginning'

Updated on January 3, 2014

Marc Copage

My father is a man far more talented than his status in life would indicate. He's been an actor, a musician, a realtor, a songwriter, a welder, a railway operator, porter, an herbalist, a machinist, etc., etc. And everything he's done he's done quite well I might add. He seemed to know something about quite a few things and has had quite a number of different jobs over the course of his lifetime.

John Copage

However, when friends would ask what it was my father did for a living I could never come up with an answer. I could never quite put my finger on what he was doing to earn a living in the present. I knew of a lot of things he had done in the past, but I could never figure out what it was he was doing at any particular time in the present to make a living. Though I do remember growing up in a middle class environment throughout my childhood, even before I was cast in "Julia" where income from the show allowed us to move into a middle class neighborhood in Beverly Hills. Yes, there is a middle class in Beverly Hills. Not everyone who lives there is filthy rich. That said, I never knew of my father to have an actual on going profession or regular job.

Jack Of All Trades

My father was also a bit of a clutter bug or pack rat as some would call it. He would spend hours looking for things because there was no sort of organization in all his clutter. We slept in the same bed until I was 13. Not because there was anything inappropriate going on, but because there was not enough room to fit another bed into any of the houses we lived in because he would always keep the rooms so full of junk there was no space for me to have my own living quarters. I didn't mind sleeping in the same bed with him up to a certain point. Falling asleep in my fathers arms while lying on his chest felt like the safest place to be in the whole world to me.

John Copage & Marc Copage

But when I reached the age of 10 or so I found myself needing my own space. Ever since I can remember I was always surrounded by junk in all my living environments growing up. I was never able to have friends over. It was too embarrassing as my friends had ‘normal’ households uncluttered by all this stuff. I never felt like I lived in a home. Just different houses filled with a lot of junk. Boxes filled with things, papers, and just a lot of clutter all around me. It was a bit like living with Fred Sanford.

Fred Sandford

My father would rarely complete things. He would begin all kinds of projects, but would never finish them. Home renovations were no exception. One day I can recall, my father randomly just started knocking down a wall in the living room with a sledgehammer. He wanted to make the room bigger. He just started breaking the wall down.

John Copage Demolition Expert

But he never finished. The duration of the time we lived in that house it remained in this unfinished condition. With a half broken wall.

Ongoing Construction

Or he would hire contractors, but get rid of them before they finished the project. Whether he got rid of them because he couldn’t afford to continue paying them to complete the project, or got rid of them because for some odd reason he liked living in these kinds of conditions I do not know, but it was quite bizarre. To live in houses that were always under some kind of construction that would never get completed. By the time the properties were sold the new owners would have to tear the whole house down and start from scratch.

My father could also be rather short tempered. He spoke fluent spanish as well as english. Learning to speak spanish fluently was another one of the many things my father taught himself how to do. He tried his darndest to get me to learn to speak spanish too. I remember one day, I was probably around 3 or 4, as I know this happened before I got cast on the television show which happened at age 5. He had me pinned in this corner of a room and would not let me escape until I could count to ten in spanish. He had his belt out and would hit me with it each time I made a mistake.

Eventually I was able to do it, but I think it did some psychological damage as far as learning languages for me goes. I love the spanish language, not to mention the beautiful women from around the world whose native language it is and who I could not talk to unless I spoke it. As I got older, my desire to learn heightened. Just for the sake of being able to speak to these lovely ladies if nothing else. Not that I have any particular preference of ethnicity in the women I'm attracted to.

But in spite of multiple attempts to learn I still cannot speak fluently for the life of me after many, many, attempts over the course of my lifetime. My father would try to teach me in the car as well when I road with him and would become physically violent with me when I couldn’t remember the words or phrases he was trying to teach me. It’s as if he thought he could beat learning spanish into me. Perhaps this is the way things were done in the environment my father grew up in. My fathers father died when he was a small child and I had heard stories that my fathers mother was quite physically abusive to my father when he was growing up. Stories of him being beat with an iron and switches. I’m not saying that I grew up in a household with on-going physical abuse, but there were times when my father was unjustifiably physically as well as mentally abusive. I never did get beat with an iron. It was generally a belt, sometimes a hand or fist, but never an iron. My father also rescued me from my Uncle Bob and I am grateful for that. My father always made sure that I was fed and clothed properly.

MC

As I said earlier, he's a good man but we all have our issues.

Our relationship began to take it’s toll around the time I reached puberty. I’ve always thought my father to be rather controlling, at least when it came to his relationship with me. Perhaps since he grew up without a father he thought this was the way fathers were supposed to be. As long as I did exactly as he said and did not question him about anything there was no problem. The minute I disagreed, or asked questions, then there would be a problem.

John Copage & Marc Copage

I guess puberty is about the time you start to question things and want to become your own man. I’ve never felt that I was brought up, encouraged, or taught to think for myself. My father never explained or taught me much about things I felt I should know. When I was on "Julia" he would give me line readings where I was instructed to read the lines back exactly as he would read them to me verbatim. I believe this is why my acting came off as stilted at times. I'm surprised it came off as natural as it did. I was never encouraged to find my own interpretation of the dialog. Later, as an adult, I looked myself up on the internet one day and came across a review and the reviewer had me on a list of worst child actors of all time. Ouch! Just one persons opinion, but painful to read none the less. I was nominated for an Image Award though. Even though I didn't win I guess my acting couldn't have come across as being too horrible.


Image Award Nomination Letter

Or maybe it was my cuteness and like-ability factor that compensated for my acting and won me the nomination.

Marc Copage

The income I made as a child star was never discussed with me by my father, ever. And perhaps I was just as guilty in being complacent about it. Even as an adult. As long as I felt I was taken care of. As I looked back on it when I became much older, our relationship seemed like the stereotypical type of relationship that a husband and wife might have had in the 50’s or early 60’s before the women's movement began. Everything will be fine as long as you shut up and do as you are told!

1950's Couple

The kind of relationship where the husband wants to keep his wife dependent on him for the rest of her life, never wanting her to gain independence, to become her own person. Needless to say, that mentality increasingly took its toll and ultimately resulted in the demise of our relationship. It’s sad that two people in the same family who can get along so well with so many other people could not get along with each other. It is only recently that I have broken free of my fathers influence completely.

Former Child Stars

Which of these former child stars were managed by one or both of their parents?

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    • profile image

      shanna 

      2 years ago

      After reading all of your blog, got answer to some of my questions , but still have question about ancle Bob.

    • profile image

      Shanna 

      2 years ago

      I’m reading your blog, it is fascinating life story. When I read about your father forcing you to learn Spanish or he would hit you with belt. I so relate to you, I was hit many time growing up, not just with belt , I’m sure our parents are good people but I would not bring excuse or defend them for their action. I’m a parent too, I never spanked my son, learned, discipline and reprogramed myself to new parenting system , I broke that evil cycle which our parents and their parents we taught to do, yes sir, I broke it with my generation. My parents could have done the same but they did not. They took easy way out, I had too much love for my son to treat him that way and kill his self-steam.

      I’m thankful for watching endless episode of Julia show growing up, I’ve learned how to be good parent like Julia...

      You mentioned ‘’ my father also rescued me from my Uncle Bob’’ but you did not explain what happened?

      You said once a reviewer had you on a list of worst child actors of all time. I’m sorry but that is B.S. Not sure who that person was! He/she is so wrong. As a fan of Julia show I’m amazed with your and Michael Link acting and surprised why didn’t you received the award for your fantastic and natural acting not to mention your cuteness.

      By the way, where is Michael link? Also you never mentioned your mother!

    • Little Diego profile imageAUTHOR

      Marc Copage 

      5 years ago from California

      We would clear out one room, usually the front, whenever guests were expected. I never had any of my friends over growing up. Not even my neighborhood pals. I guess there are a lot of people that live with a lot of clutter though, barring most of my immediate friends that I grew up with at the time. Clutter bugs are not that uncommon a thing I’m sure. I think we probably went to visit over at your house much more frequently and yes I do remember there being a lot of clutter there, lol. I remember visiting over at your place when you moved to the house in the Palisades as well as before. In fact, I remember that move. I remember when your Dad bought the place! Thanks for the comment!

    • GPAGE profile image

      GPAGE 

      5 years ago from California

      Wow Marc! You have really been on a roll here since you started! Your life story is fascinating! LOVE seeing all of the photo's also. I'm so glad you finally have a forum to share all of your experiences and past adventures. Interesting to hear more about your dad. I have very clear memories of him. One in particular is how "together" and well dressed he always was. I was at your home also but do not remember much about the clutter? But my dad liked to collect stuff also....Anyway, glad you are getting this all out there for people to enjoy. Very interesting!! G

    • Little Diego profile imageAUTHOR

      Marc Copage 

      5 years ago from California

      Thanks Duffsmom. I appreciate your support!

    • duffsmom profile image

      P. Thorpe Christiansen 

      5 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      I remember the series well. You have come a long way and I hope that you find peace. Well done!

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