“The Adventures Of Little Diego - Former Child Star” Chapter 3, Part 1 of 2 - 'Child Star!'
Limousines, helicopter rides, and five star hotels! I wasn’t quite the Beetles or Elvis, but I do remember being chased around shopping malls on quite a few occasions.
The studio would send me to a different part of the country each weekend to promote the show. They would send a big Limo to come pick me up at home. Cadillac was the popular choice of limos at the time.
And then there would be another limo waiting to take us back to the hotel where a large basket of fruit and candy would await.
Everything would be first class! We flew first class. We slept first class. We stayed in the Presidential Suites of some of the finest hotels in the country.
There were parades, and there were police escorts to make sure we got to our destinations on time.
I was required to do a lot of hand waving and signing of autographs. The studio had to have a stamp made with my name on it the first season because I hadn’t yet learned to write my own name when the show first aired.
I was given countless awards and trophies. I was presented with keys to the city by it’s mayors and other top city officials. I got to hang out with other child stars from popular TV shows as I’d meet them at different events. "The Brady Bunch" kids, the twins from "Bewitched", the kids from "Family Affair", all huge and extremely popular shows of the times.
Me & The Bewitched Twins Erin & Diane Murphy
Los Angeles Times Photo Shoot
Me and the kids from "Family Affair" Johnny Whitaker & Anissa Jones with my co-star from the show Michael Link. And let's not forget Bozo The Clown. Oh, no... I think that was another clown from my childhood.
Bozo, The Worlds Most Famous Clown!
We had many wonderful guest stars to come on the show. I particularly liked it when kids my own age would come on to make guest appearances. Susan Olsen before she became Cindy Brady. Jodi Foster before she became uhm, well, Jodi Foster.
Michael Link and myself with Susan Olsen making a guest appearance on "Julia".
Multiple Emmy award winner Phil Silvers
We also had Hollywood icons on the show like Bob Hope, Phil Silvers, Don Ameche, and Caesar Romero. If you’re not old enough to remember who those people are I would encourage you to look them up!
However, the most memorable episode for me was the one where we went on location to shoot in Las Vegas. It was my first time to Sin City. Cleavon Little and Gary Crosby, Bings son, where the guest stars in this three part series of episodes. I have very fond memories of them both. Open Doom buggy rides with them across the desert sands of Nevada! The excitement of being around the casinos and the Vegas showgirls! Cleavon went on to star in one of my favorite comedy western's "Blazing Saddles". I later found out that Mel Brooks had originally written the role Cleavon played for Richard Pryor, but the studio would not approve Richard. Cleavon did a fantastic job, but it would have been interesting to have seen what Richard Pryor would have done with the role.
Cleavon Little In The Movie "Blazing Saddles"
Co-star Michael Link & myself with guest star Cleavon Little shooting in Vegas.
My father got to date some of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. I only wish I had been older so I could have taken advantage of all the lovely ladies that were clamoring for my attention. After all, I was one of the stars of a primetime network hit TV show!
Unfortunately, I was just too young and afraid of women at the time. Hmm, maybe I’m still afraid of them, lol. I had quite a number of girls offering themselves to me during this period. Or as much as any 5, 6, 7 or 8 year old little girl can offer themselves to anyone.
My first kiss was from a fan. She was two or three years older than me. I think she was either Latin or of perhaps Indian. I remember she had this beautiful brown skin, but she wasn’t of African American decent. We were at a big promotional event the studio had sent me out on and this very attractive girl comes up to me and says, “Can I kiss you?” Before I could even respond she just planted one smack dab square on my mouth! Me, oh, my! I remember the kiss being so sweet and tender. Innocent enough, but quite pleasant all the same! She had the softest lips. Interesting how I can still vividly remember her and that kiss. A moment in time she has most likely long since forgotten.
From time to time I would make guest appearances on other popular television and variety shows. Ed Sullivan, Art Linkletter, Mike Douglass, Merv Griffin, The Flip Wilson show.
Michael Link and Myself on "The Art Linkletter Show" with Art Linkletter.
Bob Hope flew me out on his private jet to support some of his causes. Howard Hughes had done the same. Mr. Hughes would fly me out in one of his private jets and I’d go make a personal appearance at one of his Casinos or Resorts. However, I preferred traveling by the commercial airlines. Most particularly PSA as the stewardesses looked quite delicious wearing those colorful sexy short skirts and hot pants and boots outfits. Hot pants were a fashion of the times.
I remember traveling with the studios publicist. Kathy was her name, an extremely attractive young woman as most studio publicists are. She would wear these rather short skirts with nylons or pantyhose underneath. I would rest my head on her lap during our flights. Her nyloned legs would feel so good pressed up against my cheek. This would also give me a nice view of the PSA stewardesses as they would pass by me down the isle wearing their short skirts and hot pants and boots. I think I developed a fetish for legs and pantyhose during that period of time. But alas, I digress.
One of the shows I was asked to make a guest appearance on was called “The Dating Game” a popular show where contestants would go on to try to win a date for themselves.
They would sometimes have celebrity contestants come on and I was the invited guest celebrity for one particular episode. In this case I was coming on the show to find a date for my single father. So my father gets an all expenses paid trip to Italy with this beautiful woman I picked out for him and I got a portable TV. Hmmm, I think my father made out much better than I did in this particular instance.
I picked her over the other two bachelorettes only because she told me she’d make me a Batman and Robin costume which was my favorite TV show at the time.
Batman and Robin
"Batman" shot on the same lot as “Julia” just a few stages down. Some other popular shows that shot on the lot at this time were “Room 222” with another child star buddy of mine Eric Laneuville. Eric has become quite a successful hollywood TV director. They shot just up the road from us.
“Land Of The Giants” shot next door, “Ghost and Mrs Muir” down a ways and to the right and “Daniel Boone” shot up and to the left. Even though “Batman” shot only four sound stages away it was quite a journey for a six year old to make alone so I had to wait for my father to take me. By the time I was able to get him to take me, neither Batman or Robin where working that day which was quite a big disappointment! I did get to sit in the Batmobile! It was on that day that I also met and became friends with another fellow child star. Darby Hinton who played Israel Boone, the son of Daniel, on “Daniel Boone” a popular television series that ran on NBC for 6 seasons.
Darby was a good looking blond, blue eyed, child star who came from a very well to do family. His father was a successful actor as well who unfortunately died in a plane crash when Darby was only fourteen months of age. Darby was quite popular! They lived down the street from former president Ronald Reagan and one of the Rockefellers was his Godfather. His mother would throw these extravagant parties at their Bel Air estate. I can’t recall the exact names of the very rich and powerful people who attended these parties as I was quite young and could have cared less. I would venture to say there were some 1 per-centers at those parties for sure! Oh, BTW, the girl I picked out for my father to go on that trip to Europe with never did make me the Batman and Robin costumes!