“The Adventures Of Little Diego - Former Child Star” Chapter 5 - 'Back To Life, Back To Reality. Well, Sort Of.'
Marc Copage Publicity Still From Pilot Episode Of "Julia"
In spite of the show having just been cancelled my name still had quite a bit of value and recognition to it and there were people who thought there was still some money to be made. I did some guest appearances on other television shows and variety specials as well as being in talks with producers regarding new shows people were interested in developing for me.
One of the shows that was written specifically with me in mind was to be called, “Chip Off The Old Block”. I would play the title character Chip and it was about a Black ‘Dennis The Menace’ type of character to be produced by Emmy Award winning producer Harry Ackerman.
"Dennis The Menace" child star Jay North
Mr. Ackerman was responsible for having produced “Dennis The Menace”, “The Flying Nun”, and “Bewitched”, just to name a few of the very many shows Mr. Ackerman is accredited with.
Harry Ackerman's star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame
He had also hired me for a guest starring role on "Temperature's Rising" where Mr. Ackerman served as Executive Producer and Show Runner. It starred Cleavon Little and James Whitmore. Unfortunately, this was not one of Mr. Ackerman's greater successes. The show was constantly being re-worked, and eventually completely revamped. In spite of the network and studios strong support it still only lasted a couple of seasons.
Temperature's Rising - Executive Producer, Harry Ackerman
"Young Dr Kildare" was another show I booked a guest starring role on. I got to work with singer/actress Cass Elliot from the popular recording group The Mama's and The Poppas. She was wonderful to work with and to be around! We had a lot of fun filming that episode together.
'Mama' Cass Elliot
"Mama Cass" Cass Elliot singing 'Dream A Little Dream Of Me'
Mr. Ackerman also served as VP of production at Screen Gems where he oversaw the TV sit-coms, “I Dream Of Jeanie”, “The Partridge Family”, and “The Monkees”. I know some of you reading this may have no idea what some of these shows I'm mentioning are, but they were all hugely popular and quite successful shows of their times!
"I Dream Of Jeanie" stars Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman
Mr. Ackerman was a producer with a proven track record! However, as close as we got, the pilot was not picked up and the show, unfortunately, never aired.
So more meetings, and more meetings were taken regarding another project that was written specifically for me. It was a TV movie to be called, “Thomas Jefferson Gibbs Is Home”. I can’t remember exactly what this was about or who else was attached, but ultimately we couldn’t get a studio or network to green light the project.
My guest appearance playing a young Fred Sanford on "Sanford & Son". I was about 13.
To be perfectly honest, I was quite fine with just being a kid. Going to public school, playing sports with my friends. Cub Scouts, Little League baseball, Pop Warner football. Not that being a child star wasn't fun, but making friends and playing around with kids my own age was fun as well! When I was on a weekly television series I didn't have nearly as much time to do that.
Little League Baseball
Pop Warner Football
I used to dread going out on auditions. There was just nothing about the process that I really enjoyed. My father was still coaching me and giving me line readings. I would sometimes forget altogether that I had an audition because I was so wrapped up in my after school activities with friends. My father made quite certain that this would not be an occurrence that would happen often. I also did some recordings.
Will It Be Me
I had recording contracts and put out several singles and a Christmas album that were all met with moderate success. I never had a smash recording, but I did have a couple that turned out to be minor hits. Perhaps I would have had more success if I had really wanted to be doing it. It's difficult to say. I was basically a parrot. Singing the songs line by line like line readings. Interpreting the material as I was told. None of the songs organically came from me. Maybe I was just too young at the time to come up with my own interpretation of a song. Maybe I just hadn't lived long enough yet. Who knows?
One Of My First Recordings
Me with record producer and arranger Sonny Casella
My Guest Appearance On Soul Train
It’s interesting being a kid in the entertainment business when you have these other people making all your decisions and telling you what to do. So I did continue to work periodically growing up, but primarily I was just a kid which was fine with me. There's plenty of adventure in just being a kid as well.