Friday, April 24, 2015
Child Star Support Group A Minor Consideration: The Anti-Scientology
An interview this morning with former child star and current president of the non-profit organization A Minor Consideration Paul Petersen involved the most genuinely breaking news situation in the three-year history of this site and a nine-year career writing about home-video releases of films and television shows.
The pre-scheduled telephone conversation began pleasantly, but a sharp left-turn roughly 20 minutes later ended the interview roughly halfway through. A question (which is discussed below) inadvertently prompted Petersen to assert a seemingly strongly held opinion regarding an alleged lack of understanding as to the nature of his organization.
Petersen also stated that a 19 year-old former child actor had committed suicide the night before, that Petersen had already received four calls regarding that incident, and that he needed to go. This abruptly ended the conversation.
A Google search immediately on hanging up with Petersen quickly revealed that the actor was Sawyer Sweeten, who played young twin Geoffrey Barone in the early 2000s sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond." That article understandably lacked any information regarding the circumstances that caused Sweeten to kill himself.
This obviously is a horrible tragedy for the Sweeten family to which far too many of us can relate. Directly knowing that Petersen and his organization are already on the case is nice.
Awareness of Consideration had prompted interest in an article on that organization for some time. That group coming up in a recent conversation led to another look at the organization website, which led to discovering the recent focus on the practice of children who appear on reality shows not being paid under the false (and despicable) justification that they did not work.
Veteran readers of Unreal TV (which has that name to reflect a strong dislike of reality programming) may recall the March 2013 site manifesto "Reality Stinks" that expresses the philosophy of this site. This seemed right in tune with the beliefs of Consideration.
This led to contacting Petersen via his email address on the website. Petersen quickly responded and agreed to the interview.
The Past and the Present
The initial portion of the conversation regarding former child stars related to Petersen retaining connections with his peers from the '50s and '60s. Mentioned names included Billy Gray of "Father Knows Best" and Tony Dow of "Leave it to Beaver."
The conversation also touched on Tommy Kirk, whom Petersen knew from his days on the original "Mickey Mouse Club." Petersen's response to a comment regarding Walt Disney personally acting to end the career of Kirk based on Kirk coming out as gay was sympathy for Kirk not working for Disney in the current era of that company no longer discriminating against gay actors.
Petersen added that "There was a difference 30-40 years ago. You expected people you hired to be of good character. That is no longer true."
Petersen further addressed the concern in stating "we have problems in the community of young performers who are not being protected." He added that members of that group were exempt from child-labor laws.
A concrete example of the exploitation of child actors that Petersen provided was the Discovery Channel not paying the children who appeared on the series "Jon and Kate Plus 8" a single cent despite the network making $200M from the series.
Comparison to Scientology
Indications that Scientology arguably exploited the insecurities of actors of all ages for financial gain prompted asking Petersen if the support that Consideration provided current and former child stars resulted in that organization considering itself the "anti-Scientology." His immediate and unequivocal response was "of course we do."
Petersen went on to express very strong anti-scientology sentiments that included describing that group as a "deliberate societal attack" and that they were "a lie" and "always have been."
On both reminding Petersen of the history of Scientologists to come after those who criticized them and confirming that he was agreeable to publishing his remarks on the subject, Petersen responded that his clear message to Scientology was "F**k You!"
The aforementioned abrupt end to the conversation came in the wake of asking Petersen if there was a high-profile case about which he felt that he could speak. The general reference regarding that was a sense that the scope of the work of Consideration extended beyond overall advocating for securing and enforcing legal protections that were designed to fairly compensate child actors and ensure that they retained that pay to counseling individual former and current child stars.
This belief was based on information on the Consideration website. Text in the "Who We Are" section of the home page reads "The members of AMC are always on call to assist parents and their professional children on a 'No Cost basis.' By providing a strong emphasis on education and character development, plus helping to preserve the money these children generate, the members of AMC are always available to help with the tricky transition issues that for many kid stars prove to be so troubling. We've 'been there, done that.'"
Similarly, a January 13 2014 entry in the "News" section of the Consideration website reported on a drunk-driving arrest of former "The Partridge Family" star David Cassidy. This entry, which seemed to be personally from Petersen, stated "We're here to help if called upon. David, you have a standing invitation to call."
Petersen initially responded that I was focusing on the "molecules" rather than the "ocean" community that Consideration supported. This led to his seemingly becoming agitated and stating that I did not understand the purpose of the organization and replying a couple of times "I don't think that you do" on my very politely and calmly expressing the opinion that I did understand the work of the group.
Petersen then politely ended the interview as expressed above before providing an opportunity to refer to the above-mentioned information from the website.
Nothing in this post is intended to criticize or insult either Petersen or Consideration; this article was intended to promote the good work of the latter.
It is unfortunate that things took a rapid turn for the worse. An invitation to continue the discussion remains open.
The best way to conclude all this is to state that the apparent intense agitation that Petersen experienced regarding the suicide of a child actor about whom he most likely lacked any knowledge before that genuinely tragic event speaks volumes regarding his commitment to his cause.
It further supports that stated belief of Petersen that those of us who are outside the community of young performers cannot understand that world regardless of how many "behind-the-scenes" specials that we watch or auto-biographies that we read.
Anyone with any questions or comments regarding this post is strongly encouraged to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.