KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Your kid’s cute. He or she has received praise for doing a local commercial. And that agent from Tinseltown says your child has star quality. So, it’s off to Hollywood for fame and fortune, right? Beware.
A few month ago the book “Grace Is Enough,” a revealing look at growing up in the entertainment industry by “Willie Aames” of TV’s “Eight is Enough,” was published. On the heels of that forthright examination of show business, comes Kirk Cameron’s “Still Growing” (Regal Books), which also indicts the entertainment industry.
Similar in purpose, they are a one-two punch in the solar plexus of child stardom. But both of these books are more than just a warning to prospective stage parents. These bios also concern forgiveness and finding true purpose. They help remind readers to instill biblical principles in little ones and for the need of a spiritual balance in all our daily lives.
While Grace Is Enough is more intense due to the revelation of child sexual abuse, Still Growing contains both touching and humorous antidotes that may cause adults to think twice before allowing their offspring to enter a community dominated by anything but their true well-being. Both are involving reads.
Cameron, as many 30-something ladies will attest, was an ’80s TV star. He began his acting career at age 9 when the mother of his friend Adam Rich (Eight Is Enough) suggested young Cameron meet Adam’s agent. Cameron quickly landed numerous commercials and guest spots on TV shows and made-for-TV movies. In 1985 at the age of 15, Cameron got his big break. As the budding con man Mike Seaver on the long-running ABC family sitcom “Growing Pains” (1985-’92), Cameron became a teen idol, receiving as many as 10,000 letters a week from young girls less shy than the 15-year-old actor.
Though never a hit with critics, Growing Pains became a family favorite. The series not only presented comic problems and solutions, it also tackled serious issues such as racism, peer pressure, drinking, drugs and even teen suicide. Cameron married Chelsea Noble, a co-star who played Kate during the show’s final two seasons, and when the series came to an end in 1992, he got his own series on the then fledgling WB network.
Cameron has starred in a number of films over the years, and this fall will place a leading role in “Fireproof,” the latest release from the makers of “Facing the Giants.”
I recently chatted with Cameron. Here is the transcript:
BOATWRIGHT: “What caused you to write the book at this time?”
CAMERON: “People got to know the Mike Seaver character and the public persona, but they haven’t had a chance to hear from me, to hear my story concerning the things that have gone on in my life. You’ve got everybody else’s spin on what I’ve been up to, from the E! ‘True Hollywood Stories’ version of my life, to former co-stars saying what I did to ruin Growing Pains. So this is my chance to tell my own story in my own words.”
BOATWRIGHT: “There have always been negatives to child stardom, but does it seem that the lifestyles have become even more brazen, more decadent, without regard for career consequences?”
CAMERON: “Of course, the old Hollywood adage goes ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity.’ If that’s your goal, to stay on the front pages of the tabloids, I suppose you can do anything -– and maybe have to in order to get reporters to keep an interest in you. I’ve been in the limelight, I know what it’s like to have the world watching your every move. It’s pretty easy to get caught up in that whirlwind. And when you don’t have parents who are pulling back on the reins and you don’t have a strong faith in God to anchor you during those turbulent times, you’re simply going to follow the desires of your depraved heart. In Jeremiah we’re told that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know how bad it is?
“The problem is, when you have all the means and all the opportunity, like the Lohans or the Britney Spears or myself or anyone else for that matter, the natural course is to spiral down morally. And that only gets reversed by the regenerating power of the Gospel.”
BOATWRIGHT: “There’s a double-edged sword to stardom, as you’ve indicated, for those without a spiritual awareness. But how about for those who do walk with Christ? What are the negatives about celebrity for the Christian?”
CAMERON: “Well, you’ve got temptations on steroids. You add a lot of money to the mix and all the beautiful people and all the exciting opportunities, and you’ve got some serious pitfalls that you need to watch out for. Now, the upside is that light shines even more brightly the darker the atmosphere you put it in.
“So there’s an opportunity for your faith to grow and for you to stand out in contrast to the world around you if you’re in a world like Hollywood. There aren’t too many Christians walking the walk in this industry, because frankly it’s hard to make a living while trying to live for Christ.”
BOATWRIGHT: “What’s the main thing you want readers to get from your book?”
CAMERON: “I’m hoping that when people pick it up, there will be a fond memory of the 1980s. I try to take them on a rocket ship back to 1984. Back to the days of big hair, big shoulder pads and big acting. I was guilty of all three. I wanted to put them in my shoes and see what it was like to be getting 10,000 fan letters a week, to have to fire your own mother as your manager, to have another manager steal your money, and having to run away from pedophile stalkers at 16 years old, and ultimately finding faith in Jesus Christ –- and how that transforms your whole perspective on life. And then having to navigate your way through Hollywood as a believer. I think it will be a nostalgic journey and hopefully a spiritual journey.”
BOATWRIGHT: “Tell me about your upcoming film Fireproof.”
CAMERON: “It’s from the makers of ‘Facing the Giants.’ It’s about a firefighter on the brink of divorce who gets right with God and tries to win back the heart of his wife. How does a man take a marriage that’s he’s trashed and neglected and take it from a cold and lifeless state to something that is warm and living?”
BOATWRIGHT: “I know you and Chelsea are heavily involved in Camp Firefly. How did that come about?”
CAMERON: “We met a lot of kids on the set of Growing Pains through the Make a Wish Foundation and we started this camp about 20 years ago. We bring families with terminally ill children away from hospitals for a bit, giving them an all-expense-paid vacation. They are with each other and are able to meet other families who know what they’re going through.”
BOATWRIGHT: “Why the name, Firefly?”
CAMERON: “When you think of a firefly, you think of a little bit of light in the darkness. That’s what we hope this experience is, a little bit of light, a little bit of hope. Not to mention that there are thousands of fireflies at nighttime. The kids catch them in jars.”
Phil Boatwight reviews films for previewonline.org. and is a regular columnist for Baptist Press.