book reviews, celebrities, TV

Repost: “Screech” has his say about Saved By The Bell…

I’m reposting this review that I wrote for Epinions.com in February 2011 because I have been looking for it forever. It appears as/is. Dustin Diamond died on February 1, 2021.

Comments from 2014:

Heigh-ho!  I’m reposting this classic review of a book written by Dustin Diamond, aka Screech, from Saved By The Bell.  I was dying of curiosity, so I read and reviewed the book.  I didn’t like it.  Gave it one star.  This was one of my funnier reviews, though, so I’m reposting it so it doesn’t go into oblivion.

Original 2011 era review:

In 1988, I was 16 years old and had long since given up Saturday morning cartoons.  That was the year the teen oriented situation comedy, Saved By The Bell, was born.  According to Dustin Diamond, author of the 2009 tell all book Behind the Bell and the actor who famously played “Screech” on Saved By The Bell, that show ushered the beginning of the end of Saturday morning cartoons.  Maybe I should hate Saved By The Bell for that very reason.  I never watched it until I got to college.  Some of my male friends were fans, mainly because they all thought Kelly Kapowski (played by Tiffani Thiessen) was a hottie.  There was something mesmerizing about the cheesy, goody-goody sitcom and I ended up eventually seeing every episode more than once.

Fast forward to 2007.  My husband, Bill, was deployed and I was watching a lot of bad reality TV.  One show I unexpectedly got hooked on was Celebrity Fit Club.  Dustin Diamond, who had been the scrawny, token, nerdy sidekick to the “cool kids” on Saved By The Bell was now on Celebrity Fit Club trying to lose weight!  And, I couldn’t help but notice, his behavior on that show in 2007 was the antithesis to his character on Saved By The Bell.  He came off as a complete @$$hole.  Nevertheless, I love a good celebrity tell all.  I had read reviews of Diamond’s book, Behind the Bell, and the vast majority of them led me to believe that Diamond is still an @$$hole.  Because I was curious and am a glutton for punishment, I decided to buy a copy of Diamond’s book, just to see if it was really as bad as the reviews claimed.  I just finished the book this morning and am more than ready to skewer it.

Birthing the “Bell”

Behind the Bell is basically one part autobiography and one part scandalous tell all.  In prose liberally peppered with profanity, vulgarity, and typos, Dustin Diamond explains how he got into acting and landed guest roles on commercials and shows like The Wonder Years before he won his iconic role as Screech.  He gives readers a little background about his family, but not much.  Mainly, he sets up how tough it is to be a child actor, even as he admits that as a child actor, he had some pretty awesome experiences as well as enough money to buy whatever gaming system his little heart desired.

It doesn’t take long before Diamond dives into dishing about his fellow Saved By The Bell cast members and the powers that be at NBC and Disney.  Back in the late 80s, NBC and Disney were talking about merging.  Saved By The Bell was originally called Good Morning Miss Bliss, starring Hayley Mills as Miss Bliss.  That show aired on Disney and consisted of just 13 episodes.  It was set in junior high and starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar as cool kid Zack Morris, Lark Voorhies as Lisa Turtle, Dennis Haskins as Principal Richard Belding, and of course, Dustin Diamond as Screech. 

The original premise didn’t work out, nor did Disney want to keep airing the show.  The folks at NBC revamped the cast and changed the premise so that the show was about high school kids.  Gosselaar, Voorhies, Haskins, and Diamond were joined by Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Kelly Kapowski, Elizabeth Berkeley as Jessie Spano, and Mario Lopez as A.C. Slater.  Saved By The Bell became a huge hit and eventually went into syndication.  That’s how I ended up seeing it. 

The “sour grapes” of Screech’s wrath…   

If you’ve ever seen Saved By The Bell, you know it’s a fairly wholesome show featuring stereotypical high school kids.  The cast is attractive and the storylines are fun, but pretty silly.  Watching those kids on camera, one would never come away with the idea that they were anything but squeaky clean.  But, according to Dustin Diamond, every single one of the kids on Saved By The Bell was somehow sullied by the Hollywood lifestyle.  He is particularly bitter toward Mark-Paul Gosselaar, whom he refers to as “The Golden Child”.  He has very little good to say about anyone involved with the show, with the exception of Hayley Mills and a certain NBC executive who has since died of breast cancer.  But even the NBC exec isn’t spared Diamond’s crass treatment; according to him, the two had a torrid love affair, even though Diamond was underage at the time.  Nothing classier than kissing and telling, right?  Especially when the other person involved is no longer around to defend herself.

Screech, the man-ho

Once Diamond has trashed most of the cast and crew on Saved By The Bell, he moves on to writing extensively about all the women he laid.  On page 177, he asks “is it bragging to say I’ve banged over two thousand chicks in my life?”  Dustin Diamond gives new meaning to the expression star f*cker and comes across as a complete dick in the process.  He seems to hate women and even writes an “open letter” to all the chicks he’s banged before, basically shaming them for being “filthy” and engaging in sex acts with him to further their careers.  That’s an interesting thought, given that Diamond admits to “banging” over two thousand women and even spells out his methods for bagging them at Disneyland.

Screech gets screwed…

According to Dustin Diamond, Hollywood is full of shallow people who would screw over their own mother to get ahead.  He may be right about that.  However, he makes himself out to be a decent enough guy who bent over backwards for others.  One guy, referred to in his book as “Captain Douchebag”, apparently really double-crossed Diamond and inspired a lot of bitterness.  Diamond never actually identifies the person, but he does devote plenty of pages toward venting about the guy.  He also complains bitterly about his neighbors and all the fake people in California who fail to recognize Screech’s genius.  In fact, he pretty much seems to think (and actually calls) most people he encounters a “douchebag” or worse, a “douchenozzle”.  Just as an aside, I’ve never understood why a person should be offended by being called a douchebag.  A douchebag is basically a bag of cleanser.  I think I would be more offended by being referred to as douchewaste, but that’s just me…

My thoughts

Even though, up to this point, I’ve mentioned a lot of negative things about Behind the Bell, I do have to admit parts of this book were entertaining and even interesting.  And though this book is full of typos, misspelled words, and occasionally bad grammar, Diamond isn’t that bad of a writer.  His tone is snarky, occasionally funny, and conversational, but very profane.  If he’d run his manuscript past an editor and added some more information about himself, this book would have probably turned out much better and might have even been somewhat well-received.  I really have read worse writing and Diamond does include some photos.

However, Dustin Diamond also comes off as a legend in his own mind, revealing some disturbing narcissistic traits that make me think that if he’s anything like the way he comes off in his book, he’s the one who’s a douchewaste.  Diamond exhibits a very angry and entitled attitude and seems to hold just about everyone in contempt, including his readers.  I actually congratulated myself for getting this book second hand.  I would have hated to pay full price for Dustin Diamond’s smug musings and bellyaching.

Overall  

Behind the Bell might be worth reading if you don’t mind profanity and endless vulgar fish stories about Dustin Diamond’s many meaningless sexual conquests or if, like me, you’re curious about the poor reviews.  For most people, though, I’d say it’s best to play hooky and skip Behind the Bell.  Your time would most likely be better spent douching.

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book reviews

Repost: My review of Pan Am Unbuckled: A Very Plane Diary…

I originally posted this review on Epinions.com in 2011. I reposted it on my original blog in 2014. And because I am watching the TV series Pan Am on iTunes, I’m reposting it again here, as is. Enjoy!

Last Sunday night, ABC aired the premiere of a brand new television show called Pan Am.  The show, set in the 1960s, is all about the now defunct Pan American Airways, an airline that operated during the glory days of American aviation.  I watched the premiere of that show last week and thought it was “just okay”.  One thing that did stick out to me, however, was the glamour the show was trying to project.  I started to wonder if there had been any books written by former Pan Am flight attendants.  Off I went to my Kindle, where I quickly found a brand new e-book entitled Pan Am Unbuckled: A Very Plane Diary.  Written by Ramona Fillman and Ann Shelby Valentine and priced at a very economical 99 cents, this book was released just in time for the new show.  I’m sure that was no accident.

Pan Am Unbuckled is the story of how Ann Shelby Valentine, once a pretty co-ed in Florida, made the decision to quit college during her senior year and go to work for Pan Am.  Valentine explains how she had applied for jobs at several airlines, including Delta, National, and Eastern, but had her heart set on Pan Am.  National and Eastern passed; Delta offered her a job, but she wanted to know what Pan Am could offer her.  Little did Valentine know that she had applied at a very fortuitous time.  In 1969, Pan Am was hiring like gangbusters and Valentine’s ability to speak French and Russian made her a very competitive candidate.  She was hired on the spot by Pan Am’s chief executive officer.

Because of her ability to speak Russian, Valentine was originally based in New York City.  New York was not her preference, but she was soon flying all over the world.  Pan Am was, back in the day, exclusively an international airline.  Valentine found herself serving servicemembers on their way to or from Vietnam.  She also escorted Vietnamese babies to Guam, where they were eventually routed to Hawaii and then to the United States.  She had the opportunity to study Russian at a university in Moscow, along with other flight attendants.  She was able to buy a car in Germany, keep it in an underground garage, drive it on the autobahn until she had 500 miles on the odometer, and ship it to and from Europe for free, courtesy of Pan Am.   

I think my favorite part of this book is when Valentine writes about her experiences studying in Russia when it was still the Soviet Union.  She explains that for some reason, the Soviets decided they wanted to keep an eye on her and another flight attendant named Regina, who originally hailed from Lithuania.  Valentine explains that the Soviets had somehow gotten some faulty intelligence that her father was some high ranking official in the U.S. government.  Valentine’s father had nothing to do with the government, but the Soviets still insisted that she and Regina share a room, which they discovered was bugged and had hidden cameras in it. 

Valentine explains that during the Soviet era, all non Soviet visitors had to travel at all times with a guide from Intourist, the Soviet tourist agency.  Valentine explains that the group was taking the metro one day.  Moscow’s metro doubled as a bomb shelter; consequently, the stations were all situated deep underground and high speed escalators were used to move people.  Because of a fear of heights, Valentine got separated from her group when they stepped on the escalator and she balked.  She spent a precious hour wandering in Moscow by herself before a private citizen and two police officers delivered her back to her hotel.  I was interested in this part of the story because I used to live in the former Soviet Union and experienced the Armenian metro system many times.  I could picture what Valentine experienced in Moscow.

Each chapter is introduced in English and French, using typical airline jargon.  For instance, at the end of the e-book, Valentine writes in English and French “Thank you for flying with us.”  Her tone is light and breezy and frankly, quite a pleasure to read.  She doesn’t focus on the cranky passengers and sore feet that come with the territory of being a flight attendant.  Instead, she focuses on the glamour and adventure of the job and makes it sound like she had a wonderful time.  As a result of her upbeat attitude, I had a wonderful time reading. 

If you’ve ever been interested in what it was like to be a flight attendant back in the days when flying was still fun and somewhat luxurious, you might really enjoy Pan Am Unbuckled.  Frankly, I enjoyed Valentine’s book much more than I enjoyed the new television show, Pan Am.  If I have to offer a criticism, it’s that I might have enjoyed reading more about the people Valentine encountered on her flights and the people Valentine worked with.  I might have also enjoyed reading about how today’s flight experience differs from flying in the 1960s and 70s.  But who knows?  Maybe the two authors will write a sequel.

This book is well worth the 99 cents I paid for it.  If you have a Kindle, I encourage you to take the plunge! (As of 2020, looks like the price has gone up a bit…)

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