Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
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“Growing Pains” was yet another one of those family friendly sitcoms that was extremely commonplace in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Starring Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns as the parents of children that included characters played by Kirk Cameron and Tracey Gold. Everything seemed fine on the show, especially since it was so innocent on the surface (except the fact that one of the family friends was named Richard “Boner” Stabone), but that was not the case, especially according to Cameron and Gold.
Gold suffered the most as she was the subject of some unwarranted criticism from the writers and producers. When the show started, Gold was reportedly weighing in at 133 pounds. Producers started to insert fat jokes into the script, which sent Gold into a panic thinking that she was overweight. Gold turned to anorexia thanks to the body shaming and nearly lost her life as a result. Gold almost completely stopped eating (even faking eating on camera) and her weight dropped all the way down to 79 pounds.
It was so bad that Gold had to be hospitalized. Joanna Kerns said that “I just saw her wasting away and she was getting foggy and she couldn’t remember lines, and I was just afraid that it was much further than any of us imagined.” Needing to be hospitalized had Gold written out of the show for much of the final season of “Growing Pains” as she recovered from anorexia, and looked much healthier when the cast reunited years later.
As for Kirk Cameron, his religious beliefs got in the way of making any lasting relationships with some of his co-stars. Cameron met Chelsea Noble on the set of “Full House”, and she would end up being a recurring character on “Growing Pains”. The two would eventually get married in 1991 as the series came to a close. They are still married and run The Firefly Foundation and run an Evangelistic ministry.
Cameron was close with his fellow cast members before then, though, then started to get deep into the Christian faith. It made him doubt his time as a star, saying that his fame made him feel hollow and that he should be praising the higher power and spreading the word of God instead. Kerns said that “Kirk kind of pulled away from all of us in a way that made it very odd suddenly. We were all really close, then we weren’t.”
Kerns wasn’t the only one that noticed the change. Jeremy Miller, who played Ben Seaver, said that “He kind of pulled into himself and became much more shy. That was hard, hard watching somebody that you love that much become somebody you really didn’t know.” What really kicked off the growing gap between Cameron and the rest of the cast and crew were the storylines that the Seaver children got involved with.
Producers started to push for more mature content on “Growing Pains” as members of the cast grew up to become adults. Cameron was upset with this, and went straight to the executives at ABC to complain. Cameron even called the producers “pornographers” for changing the content. One fo the producers, Steve Marshall, said that Cameron’s complaints “made it an unhappy set and the actors were not happy and the producers were not happy.” Three of the producers that were being complained about quit the show because of Cameron.
Cameron had actually grown up as an atheist, but then converted to Christianity three years into “Growing Pains” to cause the rift. Cameron’s character had a fiance on the show played by Julie McCullough. Part of Cameron’s conversion was that he forced producers to write her out of the show because she had previously appeared in an issue of “Playboy”. McCollough was not too happy about losing her job, and had a long lasting resentment toward Cameron as a result. Not only that, but the story goes that Matthew Perry (who would later star in “Friends) was killed off on the show because Cameron called him an agent of Satan. That has been protested in the years since, but it sounds believable enough.