The Feed

Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Todd Bridges: Still Stroking

3

September

Todd_bridges Through it all -- the drugs, the extra-legal episodes, the tabloid headlines -- Todd Bridges seems proudest of one thing.

He still makes six figures in the acting game.

"It's better than zero," says the former Diff'rent Strokes star, who claims parts in modesty-budgeted movies -- San Franpsyco and Treasure n' Da Hood are two salient titles, according to IMDB.com -- keep him in the acting game.Inhumanitydvdcover

"Here's the thing: once a celebrity, always a celebrity," says Bridges, calling from his home in California. "There's not way out. The only difference between today's celebrity and yesterday's celebrity, is that today's celebrity won't end up broke, because they're getting paid. Today, the celebrity has the power...And the only time you stop being an actor is when you stop working."

If Bridges sounds a little bitter, you might understand after checking out the latest cheesy behind  the scenes TV movie generated by NBC, Monday's The Unauthorized Story of Diff'Rent Strokes (see a few clips here).

You may wonder how unauthorized a behind-the-scenes move can be when the two biggest stars in the series at hand participated in the movie-- Bridges and Gary Coleman -- but NBC's TV movie wastes little time in pointing fingers at those it finds responsible for stars' tragic declines: their parents.

Strokesdvdcover Dana Plato's mom is a loose woman given to spending weeks in Las Vegas unexpectedly -- turning her adopted daughter into a deserate sponge for attention and affection. Todd Bridges' dad is an abusive drunk who beats his mother -- making Todd a womanizing drug user. And Gary Coleman's parents are showbiz neophytes who eventually are seduced by the money and prestige of his stardom -- working with an unscrupulous manager to get around child labor and salary laws. They're shown overworking a precocious child with a kidney problem who winds up puking on set while they're figuring new talent deals.

"in this business, you need two stable parents," says Bridges, who insisted the movie doesn't blame the kids' parents for their problems. "We all three were in dysfunctional familie...When you grow up in a home where you see your father beating your mom all the time, when you get older, you're going to have violent streaks -- because this what you've been watching your whole life."

It's the kind of cheesy look back you'd expect from a low-budget TV movie -- bad wigs, bad dialogue, actors who barely look like the people they're portraying. But there's a car-wreck, can't-look-away quality to this TV movie -- especially when they show Willis and Kimberly hooking up off camera.

Coleman got sick of the way his stunted growth limited him to playing kids. Bridges got wiped out my a manager who took lots of his salary. And Plato had a kid which kept her from working much.

All of which makes Bridges sympathetic to the press-fed tribulations today's young stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin timberlake.

"They're being tortured by the media and they'e not allowed to make mistakes...Could you imagine if this media coverage of today was like that back then?" asked Bridges, who is shown falling into a life of addiction after Strokes was canceled. "If you noticed, I didn't have problems until the show was over. I was professional enough to know, if I had to be at work on Monday, I could straighten up for then, and keep it together for a whole week. Much as my dad beat my mother, I got something good from him." Todd_jeniclosea4u0077_1widec

Now, with a life balanced between motivational speaking, small movies and the occasional reality TV  gig -- yes, that was him on Skating with the Stars -- Bridges seems to have more or less come to terms with his fate. unlike his diminutive former co-star.

"Gary still hasn't forgiven his parents," says Bridges. "Until you do that, you're gonig to be bitter. That's why we both did this movie: The way the media has protrayed us isn't true. In this movie, they'll have an opportunity to see that."

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]

    

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