book reviews, celebrities

Repost: What’s it like to be Arnold Jackson’s best friend? Shavar Ross gives us the scoop on being “Dudley”!

Here’s a reposted book review from March 6, 2018. It appears here as/is, as I consider what the subject of today’s fresh content will be. Lately, I’ve been watching tons of 80s era sitcoms. I find them oddly comforting.

Today’s title probably only means something if you were around in the late 70s and early to mid 80s and watched TV.  That period of time happened to be during the prime years of my childhood, when we had no Internet and TV was the thing rotting everyone’s minds.  I was a big fan of the sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, which was an enormously popular and successful show during that time period.  It’s been really sad for me, and for a lot of my peers, to watch the cast of that beloved show die off, one by one.

As of 2018, Conrad Bain, Dana Plato, and Gary Coleman are all dead.  So are Mary Ann Mobley, Nedra Volz, and Dixie Carter.  But we still have Todd Bridges, Janet Jackson, Danny Cooksey, and Shavar Ross, who played Arnold Jackson’s (Gary Coleman’s character) best friend, Dudley Johnson.  To this day, the only other Dudley I know of is Dudley Moore.  I don’t think “Dudley” is a very popular name these days.  According to Shavar Ross, his character “Dudley” was named after someone on the Diff’rent Strokesproduction crew.  I learned that little tidbit and a handful more when I read Ross’s book, On The Set of Diff’rent Strokes.

The theme song for the famous sitcom that Gary Coleman so hated…

Ross published his book in 2007, when Gary Coleman and Conrad Bain were still alive.  Nevertheless, the cast of Diff’rent Strokes did seem to have a bit of a curse.  Dana Plato died of a drug overdose in 1999, having previously fallen into an abyss of drug addiction, porn, and crime.  Nedra Volz, who played housekeeper Adelaide, had died years earlier of old age.  Todd Bridges is still living, but he had some serious problems with drugs and was even tried for the attempted murder of Kenneth “Tex” Clay, a Los Angeles area drug dealer.  And Gary Coleman just plain seemed pissed off at the world.

At the beginning of Ross’s book, he explains that the book isn’t about all of the scandals that plagued the cast of Diff’rent Strokes.  Instead, he focuses on his experience getting cast in the role of Dudley.  He also explains that he likes to write the way he speaks, so the book won’t be as grammatically correct as it could be.  That made me twitch a little, but it’s fair enough, I guess.  I only spent about $3 on the book, anyway.

I managed to read Ross’s book in a couple of hours.  The only reason it took longer than an hour or so, is because I had to take a brief nap while I was reading.  This book is only 36 pages and contains no pictures.  It starts off with a brief history of Ross’s family of origin.  He was born in the Bronx and his parents separated when he was six years old.  His dad was an actor who decided to move to Los Angeles.  His mom took Ross and his half sister to Macon, Georgia so they could be close to family while his mother went to college. 

Ross went on a vacation to California to see his father at Christmas time.  During that visit, he was discovered by a top children’s talent agent named Evelyn Shultz.  Shultz noticed him when he was watching a play starring Kim Fields, who later became famous in her role as “Tootie” on The Facts of Life, which was a highly successful spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes.  Ross writes that he was a fan of Diff’rent Strokes and had watched it in Georgia on a black and white portable TV.  When the opportunity came up for him to audition for a part playing Arnold’s best friend, Dudley, he jumped at it, beating out about 250 kids.

Ross’s first appearance on Diff’rent Strokes was on a 1980 episode called “Teacher’s Pet”.  His father was one of the extras on that episode, which was about Arnold’s dad, Phillip Drummond, asking out Arnold’s teacher after meeting her at a parent/teacher conference.  The teacher began to dote on Arnold, causing his friends to tease him.  The chemistry was good enough on that episode that Ross was asked to be a recurring character.

Basically, that’s about it for Ross’s story, which I think is a real shame.  I appreciate that he didn’t want to share any dirt on the series.  I imagine it would have been tempting to do that, since the show was so popular.  He does offer a few superficial insights about Gary Coleman and the rest of the cast, but a lot of what he wrote was stuff I already knew.  Like, for instance, Coleman loved trains.  If you watched the show, you’d know that.  He basically says Dana Plato was “nice” and Todd Bridges was “cool”.  Janet Jackson was very “sweet and shy”.  I think he could have gone into more detail without stooping to spreading gossip.

Also, while I think the book is basically well-written, especially for someone who flat out writes that he isn’t concerned with proper grammar, there are a lot of typos and some misspellings.  I understand that editing is a chore, but it really wouldn’t have taken much to polish this book a bit more and give it a more professional air.

A funny rehash of Diff’rent Strokes’ most special episode, ever.

Finally, I can’t believe Ross didn’t write more about the episodes themselves.  Anyone who watched Diff’rent Strokes knows that Ross was featured in a very special two part episode called “The Bicycle Man”.  That episode, in which the late LDS character actor Gordon Jump starred, was about child molestation.  The show handled the subject in a rather G-rated fashion, but it was still pretty shocking material at the time.  It would have been interesting if Ross had dished a bit about that episode.  But maybe it was too traumatic for him. 

I do know that Ross eventually became a pastor, so maybe some subjects are taboo.  He’s also been married for a long time and has two kids.  It would have been nice if he’d written more about his family and his life beyond his acting career.  That would have been interesting reading and he wouldn’t have been guilty of spreading dirt.  He could have written more about how he broke into acting.  The way the book reads now, it sounds like he went on vacation, lucked into meeting an agent, and *poof*, he was an actor.  I think he could have offered more details and a more accurate accounting of his time.  What did his family think of his success?  Did his mom stay in Georgia with his sister?  Did Shavar Ross live with his dad?  He addresses none of this in his very brief book.

Although I appreciate that Shavar Ross took the time to write his book, I think On The Set of Diff’rent Strokes could have been a whole lot better.  I don’t think it’s terrible as much as it is incomplete.  It’s just a very short book and doesn’t reveal much at all.  I think if a person is going to go to the trouble of publishing a book, he or she should make the book worth reading.  This book probably doesn’t reveal anything that a determined researcher can’t find online.  But, on the positive side, it’s cheap, and Ross straight up says he’s not going to dish much.  At least I didn’t spring for the paperback version, which sells for $7.95.

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ethics, healthcare, law, TV

Some men just don’t get it, do they? Women aren’t incubators!

Darn it… I’m writing yet another post about abortion. I’m writing this post, even though Roe v. Wade was settled in the early 1970s. People are still trying to deprive American women of their right to bodily autonomy. And men… even men who claim to be “pro choice”, are still trying to force women to incubate developing fetuses for them.

I just so happened to download the first season of the hit 70s era sitcom, Maude, yesterday. Maude was a spin off of the great Norman Lear show, All in the Family. The show starred the wonderful actress, Beatrice Arthur, as a caricature of an extremely liberal woman of the 70s. The character, Maude Findlay, was the cousin of Edith Bunker, from All in the Family. Edith, as many people know, was the dimwitted wife of extremely conservative and racist Archie Bunker. If Archie was obnoxiously conservative, Maude was ridiculously liberal.

As a 70s era TV buff, I was sitting there in awe yesterday, as I realized just how many great sitcoms spun off of All in the Family or its spinoffs. There’s a total of seven shows– Maude, Gloria, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Checking In, 704 Hauser, and Archie Bunker’s Place. Granted, some of those shows weren’t very good and didn’t last long at all. But some of the spin off sitcoms were truly groundbreaking… and as I watched Maude yesterday, I realized just how timely and relevant that show still is, almost fifty years in the future. Maude premiered when I was about three months old. I’ll be 50 in 2022. And yet, we’re still fighting about racism and abortion. In fact, I think we’re even less reasonable about both of those subjects today than people were in the early 70s!

In any case, I happened to catch a double episode of Maude yesterday, called “Maude’s Dilemma”. It originally aired in November 1972 and was on the subject of abortion. Roe v. Wade would be a landmark Supreme Court decision the following year.

In “Maude’s Dilemma”, the character, Maude, had just turned up pregnant at age 47! Over the two part episode, Maude agonizes over whether or not she should try to have the baby, even though she was ancient for a pregnant person. Her grown daughter, Carol, who has a son of her own, encourages Maude to have an abortion. In the end, Maude decides to have an abortion, although that’s done off screen. Even still, CBS got many letters of protest. Some network affiliates never aired those episodes again after the initial airing. A couple of affiliates never aired them at all.

I was sitting there with my mouth agape as the characters on the show tried to talk Maude into having an abortion, since it wasn’t “wrong” anymore. And her fourth husband, Walter, even said he would have a vasectomy, although in the end, he chickens out.

Interesting discussion with Norman Lear… Rue McClanahan was on that episode. Years later, on The Golden Girls, Rue’s character, Blanche, would think she was pregnant, but it would turn out to be menopause.

Who would have thought, back in 1972, that people would still be arguing about abortion in 2021? Who would have thought that so many people– men, in particular– think that it’s right to force a woman to be pregnant when she doesn’t want to be?

Yesterday, my first cousin once removed, Liz, shared the below image.

I thought this was pretty awesome.

Liz is one of the few liberals in my family. Her dad is my cousin, and he is very conservative. Her mom is very liberal. They had three kids, two of whom are more like their liberal mom than their conservative dad. I’m sure it must be rough for Liz, especially, since most of the rest of her dad’s family is dyed in the wool Republican. I used to think my dad was conservative, but actually, he was probably one of the more liberal of my grandparents’ brood of nine children.

Anyway, I liked the image Liz shared, so I shared it myself. I noticed a lot of my liberal friends liked it. I decided to go to the original post, just to see what people had to say. I was quite amused to run across this thread…

Eileen said, “…there are many reasons for abortions. Maybe men should take responsibility for a change.”

Mike responded, “…men do take responsibility just as much as women do lol; it takes two people to make that pregnancy happen. I’m all for pro -choice, but the one thing that I think sucks sometimes is that, let’s say my fiancé gets pregnant and wants an abortion and I don’t want one, it’s ultimately her decision on whether to get one or not regardless of what I want.”

Um… I have to interject here. He’s all for “pro-choice”, but only if it involves some other woman besides the woman with whom he’s in a relationship. He thinks he should be able to force her to stay pregnant if he gets her pregnant. I wonder if he’s willing to pay her medical bills. I wonder if he’s going to get up with her in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep because she’s uncomfortable. I wonder if he’s going to go through all of the physical inconveniences and outright dangers pregnant people go through. My guess is that he hasn’t thought about it that much.

A woman tries to educate Mike, writing, “…because she’s the one who has to carry the useless parasite. Not you.”

Mike says, “…and that’s where the pro-choice reasoning gets absurd, that it’s ultimately the woman’s decision whether to terminate a pregnancy regardless about what the father would want. Again, I’m all for abortions and such, but if one person wants the potential baby and the other does not then have the baby for that one person and sign over your rights. Just because biology says a woman has to carry the baby does not mean the man is utterly useless and has no say about the potential baby.”

DUDE! Mike just doesn’t get it, does he? He’s “all for abortions and such”, but he doesn’t see that the burden of pregnancy and childbirth is unequal. He’s involved in the fun part of having a baby. His role is pretty much done until she gives birth. No one should be forced to have a baby. No one should be forced to be pregnant, for ANY reason. I get that some men think it’s unfair that biological women can bear children and men can’t, but that’s just life. I’m sure a lot of women would love it if men could have babies. But that’s not how we’re made.

Yet another woman peevishly writes, “…we aren’t incubators, waiting for men to plant their seed, find a person who wants children with you instead of trying to force someone to carry the child for you.”

Seems to me this point is pretty obvious. But Captain Clueless then says, “…the fuck are you talking about?

How is it that Mike still doesn’t get that men aren’t impacted by pregnancy in the same way women are? Where did he get the idea that it’s okay for him to force a woman to bear his child? Sounds to me like he needs a simple business fable to get the point across. I wonder if Mike has ever heard the story of the chicken and the pig.

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

Pig replies: “Hmm, maybe, what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”

In other words, men are “involved” in making babies. Women are “committed”. A man deposits his sperm during a few moments of passion, then waits nine months for the fun to begin. His body won’t change, and for the most part, he won’t be experiencing any health repercussions. A woman experiences those nine months completely differently and, at the end, will be going through significant pain and potential risks to bring that particular project to fruition.

Even on Maude, though, the pregnant character was talking about having the baby at age 47, not because she wanted to have a baby, but because she wanted her husband to have a say. I do think that is an admirable attitude, as long as Maude can love a baby she didn’t actually want to have. On the other hand, trust me. As someone who was born in 1972 (the year before Roe v. Wade) and heard many times how unwelcome the news was of my impending arrival, it’s probably kinder to terminate unwanted pregnancies. My parents did love me, I guess… but if my mom had had an abortion, I would not have been any the wiser. Maybe my mom would have been happier. I doubt she would have considered having an abortion, though, even though it was clear she wasn’t actually up for having me. Fortunately, I managed to grow up okay, anyway. Or, at least some people think so.

As someone who is 49, I have a feeling that pregnancy would probably be very difficult, even if I can technically still get pregnant. The risks of having a baby with extreme special needs would also be high. But even if I had a healthy baby, I can’t even imagine being a woman in my 60s as my kid started high school. I’m sure there are kids out there who face that reality, since medical science has advanced since the 70s. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t think that’s an ideal situation. Life is tough enough.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to be pregnant, particularly since few people want to help when the baby comes. I don’t think adoption should be presented as the best alternative option, either. Realistically speaking, carrying a baby for another couple (or person) to raise is still a lot to ask, and it remains potentially dangerous. Fewer people die from abortions than full term pregnancies. It’s also not right to expect people who are unexpectedly pregnant to solve other people’s fertility issues.

I am still really sickened by the new anti-abortion law in Texas, which deputizes private citizens, encourages them to use the legal system to police women’s bodies, and inspires people to act like it’s East Germany in the 1970s. I ran across another argument yesterday in which a man all-knowingly wrote that the law in Texas includes a proviso for women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy. All I could think of was a case in Texas that came up during the year Bill and I were living there. See the video below:

This poor woman was forced to stay on life support at John Peter Smith Hospital for many weeks, simply because she was pregnant. But she was already pretty much already dead, and her family was forced to watch her rot, against her will and theirs.

In the end, Marlise Munoz was taken off life support. Her developing fetus would not have survived, in spite of the over eight weeks Marlise Munoz spent on a ventilator. The fetus had catastrophic birth defects. And the family, no doubt, were presented with huge medical bills after this debacle. They also had to watch their beloved family member’s body degrade to the point at which she was just a living corpse. Imagine how traumatic that was!

What a horrifying ordeal this woman and her family endured!

Given what happened to Marlise Munoz, I have no confidence that doctors in Texas will respect a mother’s life over that of a developing fetus’s. And quite frankly, it’s just not right to force people to give birth, or be living incubators. It’s a violation of privacy and civil rights.

So count me among those who pray this law is overturned quickly. And really, we as a country need to settle this issue, once and for all. I’m sorry for the men who are truly devastated that they have no say in a woman’s decision to have an abortion… but my guess is that the vast majority of them just want to control people.

When the shit comes down, as it always does when there’s a baby around, I highly doubt most of the men will be interested in doing the heavy lifting of parenting, just as they physically can’t do the heavy lifting of gestation. The reality of parenthood is probably more than a lot of them can bear, anyway… certainly people who are as immature and unreasonable as “Mike” is, anyway. I mean, if Mike really thinks that making babies is a 50/50 proposition, he’s probably not someone who ought to be breeding. Maybe Mike should watch Maude for some perspective.

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silliness

Reposted: I was a teenaged Tina…

Here’s another repost from my original blog. It was written December 13, 2017, and I’m reposting it because I think it’s funny. Enjoy!

Last night, while enjoying copious amounts of wine, chocolate, and pizza with my mother-in-law and Bill, I told them that when I was a kid, people often said I looked like Tina Yothers.  For those who don’t know, Tina Yothers played Jennifer Keaton on the hit sit com Family Ties.  I loved that show, as did many of my friends.  It was the show that really put Michael J. Fox on the map as an actor.  It’s also where he met his wife, Tracy Pollan. 

In the 1980s, Tina Yothers had long blonde hair and bangs.  I never had long hair, but it was definitely blonde.  I also had bangs until I was about twenty-five years old.  They were a bitch to grow out.

This is a picture of Tina Yothers when she was a child.

This is a picture of me when I was twelve.

I probably looked the most like Tina when we were younger.  As she grew older, her hair got bigger. 

Teenaged Tina

Teenaged knotty…

I believe Tina has since colored her hair black.  I have never had black hair.  In fact, nowadays, my hair is pretty blonde/white.  I’ve been letting it go natural because I hate the process of coloring it and feel like it’s a waste of time.  Even if I were inclined to color my hair, I wouldn’t want to go black.  I think it’s a rather harsh look for someone with really fair skin like mine.  Tina seems to wear it well, though.  It probably helps to have professional hairdressers, which I never bother with.

Like me, Tina Yothers is musical.  She’s in a band and, I think, has pretty much given up on the acting gig.  The last I saw of her, she was on Celebrity Fit Club or was it Celebrity Wife Swap?  I don’t remember.  I don’t know what she’s like off camera, but Tina’s personality on Family Ties was somewhat like mine, too.  We were both sardonic wiseacres.  

Tina sings on Family Ties…

I’m not sure what prompted me to post about this today.  I could easily write about police brutality or Alabama’s election results.  But, for some reason, I wanted to write something kind of silly.  This is some pretty silly stuff.      

Incidentally, my very kind mother-in-law thinks I look like Lee Remick now. There’s a reason why I love her and her son now. They are much too kind. 😀

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