BREAKING THE SILENCE

Regular visitors to our site will have noticed a distinct lack of news lately, and given that the headlines have been filled with all manner of “Kid Actor” stories…Macaulay Culkin isn’t responsible for his parent’s legal fees…”The Apt Pupil” lawsuit (minors filmed with full frontal nudity) seems stalled…and a former Mouseketeer is re-arrested in a securities fraud case even as SAG leads them into battle against the Disney Corporation…folks are beginning to ask, “Why the silence?”
Why indeed.
Let’s take them one at a time. We bitterly protested the New York Superior Court’s decision to “allow” Macaulay to pay support to his dysfunctional parents and younger siblings…not because a son shouldn’t help his family, but because the size of this Court-ordered largess was staggering. Remember, the money we’re talking about is TRUST FUND MONEY, promised to an eleven year old boy by the citizens of the State of New York. $350,000.00 per year is a lot of money to pay out…and there were no provisions for repayment, nor did the Court see fit to tell this family to reduce their standard of living to that which the parents could afford.
The Court has heard our voice, and ruled, finally, that Macaulay is NOT responsible for the $140,000.00 in legal fees his divorcing parents have racked up. This is a good sign…and we’re hopeful that the learning curve will allow Macaulay to make a clean break when he reaches his 18th birthday (August, ’98). If asked we will advise Macaulay to take urgent steps to catch up on his schooling, and if that takes the kind of dedicated education available to star athletes, then so be it. We would then advise that he enroll in college and make it his business to prove to himself that he is special, and find out for himself where he fits on the pecking order. There is plenty of help out there, and while the Law says we are ‘adults’ at age eighteen we all know better, so when the rough spots crop up…and they will…we’d plead for some understanding all across the board; the Press, the Industry, and most of all Macaulay’s family which has taken far too much from this boy who is about to become, in Law, a man.
The “Apt Pupil” lawsuit is the most aggravating problem we’re dealing with. The Los Angeles District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, refuses to issue his office’s position in this case. Mind you, the evidence of minor’s being filmed with full frontal nudity is on film and no one on Earth can give permission for this sort of exploitation; not the parents, not the studio teachers, and certainly not the film company or any of its employees. This is flat wrong…criminally wrong, and that the District Attorney can’t see the forest for the tree is shameful. Worse, the Department of Labor which specifically ordered that no frontal nudity be employed has failed to issue its report, too.
Sony-Tri-Star and Phoenix Pictures continues to employ children. At what point do we, as citizens of this nation with a responsibility to the young, say “Enough?”
It has been more than seven months (!) since the kids in “Apt Pupil” were filmed in the nude. April 2nd, 1997 is the precise date, for those of you concerned with such matters.
The senior executives of Screen Actors Guild responsibly asked for our silence as this legal morass was examined. Our patience is wearing thin. You can expect fireworks when and if “A Minor Consideration” takes this whole disgusting episode public.
Similarly, the Guild has formally requested that “A Minor Consideration” keep its own council on the matters out-standing between the Mouseketeers and the Disney Corporation. Part of this is an understandable need to remove the passion from a contentious issue, and the other part is that the Founder of this organization is, like it or not, a party to this arbitration (the dispute, we remind you, is an arbitration, not a lawsuit).
Unfortunately, a person’s reputation is at issue. Darlene Gillespie, who led the fight within the Guild to prove the validity of the former Mouseketeer’s claim, is bound hand and foot to a man whose past is checkered…to say the least.
Darlene’s attachment to this man is profound…and ill-considered. Since Jerry is not a former Kid Star and is oblivious to the damage he has caused he does not come under the protection of this foundation.
The man claims to be a Congressional Medal of Honor winner. He is not. He has been called “a professional thief” by the Judge who heard the shoplifting case in Ventura County. Reports indicated he has been the Defendant in 18 lawsuits and the Plaintiff in 15 more. This sort of track record does not recommend Jerry F. to any but the blind.
And it is this blindness that we must now address. Without divulging secrets we ask that you consider…again…the singular proposition that there are consequences to juvenile participation in Show Business. Darlene Gillespie has, in her adult life, suffered those consequences. These waters are deep, dark and dirty. Consider, please what bearing the ears of a Mouseketeers means after forty years. Is there anything about the shoplifting charges or even this Security Exchange Commission flap that deserves national attention? Do you think the teen-age Darlene Gillespie knew or had any idea what might happen forty years on?
Of course not. But the Mouseketeer image is NOT going to go away. And kid actors all across the spectrum are being tied to this barrage of publicity, equally smeared because a former kid star got hooked up with a very bad man.
Whatever may come of this federal indictment we want to make our position known.
Darlene Gillespie is one of us. She is a reflection of this Industry and our culture. She is a real person and she will never be without our support and understanding. Whatever our misgivings, whatever our personal views Darlene is now and will forever remain a part of “A Minor Consideration.”
When we make a promise we mean it.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better, of that we’re certain. Our hopes and prayers go out to Darlene, and we ask that a Higher Power guide her toward making a break with the ruinous influences that have brought her to this place and time.
It is both cliché and true that the world is made new each day.
As a final word it is necessary to state the case when it comes to this organization and the Disney Corporation. There is some validity to the claims being made on behalf of the Mouseketeers by Screen Actors Guild. There are also some compelling realities which support the position of Disney vis a vis The Mouseketeers. We will not detail the specifics. Some of you will remember that the Founder of “A Minor Consideration” wrote a book about the Mouseketeers and Disney twenty-one years ago called “Walt, Mickey & Me,” and his reward for telling that part of the truth which the Mice, discretion and the Disney Corporation allowed him resulted in severe sanctions from every quarter.
But it should be made known, however, that as things now stand within the Industry the clear leader in the effort to make things better for working children is the Disney Corporation…and in particular the office of Mr. Michael Eisner, Chairman of the Board and CEO.
 
All children who work for Disney now have a portion of their incomes set-aside in Trust. All juveniles contracted to Disney who go out on the road for publicity now do so with California credentialed studio teachers and work within the rules. A series of private, back-channel meetings have been underway for more than two years, and this undisclosed progress is not an accident. From the man at the top to the Disney Channel employees, a sincere effort is currently underway to improve the true state of working children in this people-eating business.
Remember that it is express purpose of this organization to seek solution rather than retribution. For this reason and this reason alone we are uncomfortable with the actions taken by Screen Actors Guild on behalf of the Mouseketeers. The “truth” always lies somewhere between competing extremes.
It is a harsh truth that had this Industry addressed itself to the legal and moral issues surrounding “Our Gang” and its participants way back in the 30’s, from Spanky to Hal Roach, none of this Mouseketeer nonsense would have happened.
Equity and Fair Play are things we try to teach our children.
Let us repeat what must surely be clear: There are profound and long-lasting consequences to life as a child star. A beneficiary or Fame can quickly become its victim.
“A Minor Consideration” was never consulted on this dispute between The Mouseketeers and Disney. Even those AMC members who serve on the Young Performers Committee within Screen Actors Guild were not informed on events unfolding behind doors closed to us. Our standing within the Business was not utilized, and events show we are all the poorer for that fact.
So, here we are. In a mess…with many issue unresolved.
Nothing new in this state of affairs. We’re not here to quit, and we are not going to go away.
Till next time.