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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 03/31/2008

Dimmed Stars: Not Gone, But Mostly Forgotten

By Liz Kelly

Dom DeLuise. (Getty Images)

If a star isn't visible in the night sky, has it burned out? And if a celebrity is no longer on our radar screen, is he or she in effect "dead to us?" Just now, reading through some of last week's comments, I was transported decades back in time to the late '70s -- "The Muppet Movie" and "Cannonball Run" -- by a passing mention of that jolly, bearded talent, Dom DeLuise. What happened to dear Dom and his "bowl full of jelly" brand of ribald humor? Why was he forgotten? Was he, like Robbie Benson, only supplied with enough vital fuel to burn hot and bright and disappear while we were watching "Star Wars" and getting our heads wrapped around Reaganomics?

And what of Peter DeLuise, Dom's son, who endeavored to break out of that doughy DeLuise shadow to try his hand at becoming a teen idol on "21 Jump Street?" Did Johnny Depp suck up all available star power from that cast, leaving the younger DeLuise and the rest (remember Richard Grieco?) to fight for mere survival?

I could name more: What about Barbara Mandrell and Bridget Fonda and Meg Ryan and Irene Cara and Arsenio Hall and Gary Shandling and the guy who played Ed on "Northern Exposure?" A darkened galaxy of once-bright stars, now consigned to the dustbin of our collective entertainment memory. And, if lucky (or especially doomed) they may surface on a celeb-reality show, gasping for air as we shake our heads and say, "Oh Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), what hath thou wrought?"

Sure, I could Google all of these people and find out if they still live or if they are now merely celluloid memories, digital dreams that rattle randomly around the corners of our conscience. I would find out that Dom DeLuise recently filmed a brief cameo in the upcoming "Horrorween." And that son Peter is still plying his trade, too, in equally humiliating fare like "Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon." And you may well take exception to my premature eulogizing, saying "But Meg Ryan is still working. Gary Shandling CHOSE to step out of the spotlight."

But it doesn't matter. It's not the same. And it never will be.

By Liz Kelly  | March 31, 2008; 10:42 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities  
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I just watched the Muppet Movie (for the umpteenth time) last weekend and found myself wondering whatever happened to Dom DeLuise. Heck, he even disappeared in the movie after handing out his business card.

Isn't the youngest DeLuise kid a fixture in commercials now?

Posted by: Stuck @ Work | March 31, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Bridget Fonda, I believe, married Danny Elfman and has semi-retired.

Posted by: John | March 31, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Ah, the stroll down memory lane! I LOVED the late 70s, early 80's movies and TV shows - "Cannonball Run" was hysterical - and am miffed that "Hot Stuff" isn't available from Netflix (RIP Suzanne Pleshette). I used to watch the Mandrell Sisters and looked forward to the Muppet Show (okay, so TV was my babysitter - at least there was some good stuff for families on back then - I'm not a big fan of "family" offerings these days). I can always count on you, Liz, to take me back to the good old days!

Posted by: J. | March 31, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I love the muppet movie and its random celeb cameos!

Poor Meg Ryan, too much plastic surgery and she's no longer America's sweetheart.

Know who else I miss? Christian Slater. Sigh.

Posted by: sjcpeach | March 31, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Richard Greico!

Posted by: KG | March 31, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Meg Ryan really counts in that list. Isn't she involved with the remake of "The Women".

I thought Bridget Fonda stopped working after she got married.

Posted by: MGC | March 31, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I thought Dom was dead. Think they'll bury him in that hat?

Posted by: 23112 | March 31, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I think I saw Peter DeLuise on a Nickelodean show - something about a family of witches. Or maybe it was some other guy who just looked like him.

Posted by: arlington | March 31, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Peter DeLuise makes a nice living as a writer/producer/director for shows like Stargate now...

Posted by: Amy F. | March 31, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Instead of mourning the past, we should be planning the future. Friday list: Which of today's stars would YOU like to burn out tomorrow so that you never have to see them or hear them again?

The short list of usual suspects (Britney, Paris, LiLo) should not be named, because, being on EVERYONE's Please Burn Out Tomorrow List, they drop out by default.

Posted by: Sasquatch | March 31, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I think in the case of some of these people - I'm going to use Darren Burrows, who played "Ed" on Northern Exposure - they just kinda let themselves fade away.

They made their big money, probably invested it wisely, and don't feel the need to keep grinding themselves between the millstones of Hollywood. Either the need for physical perfection or the incredible invasiveness into your personal life - unless you really enjoy the lifestyle or the attention, I can see opting out if you have enough to live comfortably.

I Googled Darren Burrows (I always liked him, especially when you compare his sweet/goofy play on Ed with any of the excellently weird and creepy characters played by his father, Billy Drago) and he apparently has four kids and lives with his French chef wife.

I'm sure between her income, the occasional gigs he seems to pick up and Northern Exposure and other TV show cameo residuals, he probably has a nice life.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 31, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

If you want to see some dimmed stars, check out the SciFi. Just yesterday, Tom Wopat (Luke Duke) in a movie about killer ants in the jungles of Brazil, and Dawson's Creek himself (James Vander Beek) fighting a giant squid.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 31, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I was watching "A League of Their Own" yesterday and wondered about Lori Petty- she was all over the place back then, haven't seen her in years now.

I wish they would restart "Circus of the Stars" so that we could see some of the fine B-listers again. Those were the days.

Posted by: surlychick | March 31, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Tom Wopat's been doing a lot of Broadway in recent years, usually as a replacement in shows like Annie Get Your Gun, Chicago and 42nd Street.

In fact, that seems to be what happens with a lot of actors to whom Hollywood hasn't been too kind of late: They hit the stage. Neil Patrick Harris was doing Sondheim shows for a number of years before How I Met Your Mother, and turned out to be really good. A production of The Threepenny Opera I was in more than 15 years ago at Williamstown Theater Festival starred Stephanie Zimbalist. Just about everyone has done Chicago at some point.

Posted by: KLeewrite | March 31, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

In response to someone above David DeLuise is on Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place." As kids shows go, it's not bad, but then I'm not their target audience.

Posted by: cab91 | March 31, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Meg Ryan humiliated herself by leaving Dennis Quad for Russell Crowe; however, Russell wasn't really that into her and she couldn't go back to Dennis. Her movies failed at the box office and she started to age really badly. She turned to plastic surgery but like Russell, the plastic surgery wasn't into her either. She made another bad movie and adopted a child. She is in the remake of "The Women". Good luck with that, Meg.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 31, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I was listening to NPR recently, and Robbie Benson has moved to sorta my neck of the woods. He's purchased a small farm somewhere in the NC mountains, and admitted that his neighbors take great joy in laughing at him and his family out walking their cows.

Posted by: Organic Gal | March 31, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

for every 10 former b-list celebs who fade into well-earned obscurity, there's a Tara Reid or a Courtney Love. Would we trade them for Joyce DeWitt, Ally Sheedy, or ReRun from What's Happening? given half a chance? sigh... if only the answer were yes...

Posted by: Quintilus Varus | March 31, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Fred "reRun" Berry may you RIP.

Posted by: Irish_Ed | March 31, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

anonymoose at 12:10 - I remember that squid!!!

Posted by: byoolin | March 31, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse


Tell me you didn't mean to likn Robby Benson with "Star Wars"!

Posted by: Fairfax | March 31, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse


I meant to say . . .

Tell me you didn't mean to link Robby Benson with "Star Wars"!

Posted by: Fairfax | March 31, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Oprah trots out Holly Robinson (Jump Street) from time to time which probably just exacerbates her case of "Am I a Has-Been?" (that was the title of an 80s game show in Canada...any Canandians in the house? ay?)

Posted by: Anonymous | March 31, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I wonder where the actor who played Jake Ryan is Sixteen Candles is?

Posted by: still | March 31, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Helen Hunt: From the mid to late 90's, this perky Oscar winner was inescapable. A couple of duds later ("Pay it Forward" anyone?), she's in the witness protection program.

Jennifer Grey: Entirely self-inflicted. She got that nose job and went from being one of the most recognizable actresses to looking like every other blond actress in Hollywood. She played herself in a bad "Seinfeld" knock-off and was never seen again.

Jonathan Silverman: After the "Weekend at Bernie's" franchise, this likable schlub seemed poised on the cusp of stardom. Then NBC tried to force-feed us "The Single Guy" as part of their Must See TV lineup and quickly learned that America was just not that into Jonathan Silverman.

Robert Conrad: Back in the 70s, you couldn't turn on your TV without seeing this abrasive tough-guy. Shooting down Zeroes in "Baa Baa Blacksheep," going toe to toe with Gabe Kaplan in "The Battle of the Network Stars," daring us all to knock a battery off his shoulder. Now? Not so much.

Posted by: Cameron | March 31, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Hey still, I was intrigued by your question and here is what wikipedia says about that:

Schoeffling is best known for his role as Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles, serving as a legendary lust object amongst generations of fans. On Valentine's Day of 2004 a full twenty years after the film's American premiere, the Washington Post ran an article entitled "Real Men Can't Hold a Match to Jake Ryan of Sixteen Candles", which celebrated Michael, and his character Jake's enduring popularity.[1]

Michael has been unable to duplicate the same level of success he saw with his role in Sixteen Candles, and in various magazine and newspaper interviews stated the lack of roles and a family to feed were his reasons for retiring from acting. He now lives with his wife Valerie Robinson, also a former model, and their two teenaged children in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, producing handcrafted furniture as the owner of a woodworking shop.

Posted by: sunnydaze | March 31, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"Meg Ryan humiliated herself by leaving Dennis Quad for Russell Crowe"...

Ah, Dennis Quad, a man so buff and ripped he changed his name to a muscle group. Join us now as we wonder, What's next for Dennis Biceps?

Posted by: RE: 12:48 | March 31, 2008 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Why is being in "Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon" humiliating? Somebody has to be in those movies, because people apparently watch them. Might as well be a former star. And really, if being in quality movies equalled star power, where would JLo be? Pedalling pictures of her twins? Oh yeah. Anyway, whatever happened to the Indian in the Village People?

Posted by: rashibama | March 31, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I see Dom Deluise often, in Blazing Saddles and Haunted Honeymoon. He was fa, really, I wish he was making more movies.

Speaking of sons, a la Dom Deluise and his son--what about Dirk Blocker, son of Hoss from Bonanza? Yes, people I am old but I watched loads of tv in my day.

Howard Hesseman? Patrick Duffy? Toni Basil? Julie Brown? Martha Quinn?

Posted by: chocolatetiara | March 31, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Well, I was about to post pointing out to Cameron that the reason we haven't seen Robert Conrad is that he's dead. Luckily I checked, because -- and this is a shocker -- he's actually still alive. Who knew? Of course, he is 73, so I guess that explains the slow-down in appearances. "Baa Baa Black Sheep" -- now that was some FINE television.

Hmm, celebrities whose disappearance I'd like to be puzzling over in 20 years? Oprah.

Posted by: Snarky Squirrel | March 31, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Liz Kelly, don't you remember that you, yourself, told us he had cancer? (You know, *down there*.)

Posted by: byoolin | March 31, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Seriously? You're wondering what happened to female performers over age 40? You're surprised that they're not working regularly in high-profile vehicles?

Have you not been paying attention?

Posted by: Karen | March 31, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"He" being Dom DeLuise, I mean.

Posted by: byoolin | March 31, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"Meg Ryan humiliated herself by leaving Dennis Quad for Russell Crowe"

Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid were separated when she began her relationship with Russell Crowe. BTW, her movies where going downhill before that bit o' information came out.

Holly Robinson Peete starred in 3 series after 21 Jump Street, one was fairly successful.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 31, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Snarky S.: If being 73 explains Bob Conrad's slow-down in appearances, how do you account for William Shatner's ubiquity at age 77?

Posted by: Cameron | March 31, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Wherever Bridget Fonda may have disappeared to, can she please stay there? She's the most surefire movie-killer this side of Andie MacDowell...UGH!

Posted by: LittleMissMuskrat | March 31, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the 411 on Jake Ryan, sunnydaze. The idea of "Jake" (he will always be Jake to me) all grown up as a carpenter is quite thrilling.

Posted by: still | March 31, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

"I Googled Darren Burrows .... and he apparently has four kids and lives with his French chef wife.

I'm sure between her income, the occasional gigs he seems to pick up and Northern Exposure and other TV show cameo residuals, he probably has a nice life."

He's not just doing occasional cameos, though. He had one of the lead roles in Rip Torn's movie "Forty Shades of Blue" a couple of years ago, which got rave reviews and won some serious awards, including the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. I think you're right about the grander scheme of things--that some people simply opt out and basically change careers the same way the rest of us do--but in this specific case, I wonder if he's just at a stage of his life where he can be picky about the roles he takes.

Posted by: D.C. | March 31, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"He now lives with his wife Valerie Robinson, also a former model, and their two teenaged children in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, producing handcrafted furniture as the owner of a woodworking shop."

Jake Ryan is now a hunky carpenter? Yum.

Posted by: jelo | March 31, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Oh and I'd take a role in "Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon" than work at my lame job any day.

Posted by: jelo | March 31, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

LOL, the Beek's in an octopus movie.

Posted by: 23112 | March 31, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Peter DeLuise play Sipowicz's son from his first marriage on NYPD Blue?

Posted by: Arlington | March 31, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

It was middle son Michael who was on NYPD. (thank you, imdb)

Posted by: Arlington - Corrected | March 31, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Peter DeLuise HAD worked on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis for many years.

Peter currently was directing for the Canadian TV series, jPod.

And Robert Conrad was severely injured in a car accident a few years ago in Calif. and was partially paralyzed.

Posted by: Morjana Coffman | March 31, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I wonder where the actor who played Jake Ryan is Sixteen Candles is?

Posted by: still | March 31, 2008 02:27 PM

Someone already mentioned this, but the WaPost did a GREAT Jake Ryan article a few years ago... here's a link to the author's page (for some reason it doesn't show up in a search):

Posted by: 98102 | March 31, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

To DC -

Yeah I saw that (and man, I gotta say from the pics on IMDB, he is aging *well* :D).

You got the primary point though - might as well choose projects you like than simply make movie after movie (unless that's your thing - one of the many things to love about Samuel Jackson is that he fully admits he'll make just about any movie because he likes his lifestyle ;) ).

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 31, 2008 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Barbara Mandrell works out at the same gym I do in Nashville. She still looks great and is in full retirement.

Posted by: Jeff | March 31, 2008 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I loved watching Barbara Mandrell & the Mandrell Sisters when I was a kid. She continued to put out albums and tour into the mid-90's, until her official retirement in 1997 according to wikipedia. Last year, she was included in People Magazine's Top 100 beautiful people, so for a woman of 60, she's content with her life in Nashville with her husband knowing she's still a good looking senior citizen! Go Babs!

Posted by: JohnStar | March 31, 2008 11:31 PM | Report abuse

A lot of the smart actors invest their over exorbitant salaries in other businesses knowingly that this career can short lived. Dom DeLuise has written a couple of cookbooks and is regarded as talented chef. He has done about a movie or TV every year. The others that are flashes were poor actors to begin with or the offspring of actors or actresses that think acting ability is hereditary and the dumb industry gives them a chance to demonstrate the lack of talent.

Tom Cruise is on his way down (thank God) he couldn't act if his life depended on it.
Clooney is hanging on because of good script writing. In fact all of the successful films (that is ones without all the SF crap) were the result of original stories which are a rarity.

That is why I don't go to the theaters. I instead watch films from the 30s 40s and 50s when real movies were made.

Posted by: Don | April 1, 2008 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Don, for your consideration, please find below a brief list of 'real' movies made in the last 48 years. Feel free to use it as a starting point.

1963: The Birds
1969: Midnight Cowboy
1972: The Godfather
1978: The Deer Hunter
1983: The Big Chill
1988: The Last Temptation of Christ
1992: Reservoir Dogs
1997: The Sweet Hereafter
2000: Memento
2005: A History Of Violence

I respectfully submit that any of these is equal to 1955's "The Seven Little Foys," 1947's "Green Dolphin Street," or even 1931's "The Maltese Falcon."

Posted by: byoolin | April 1, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

Where is Liz Kelly today?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 1, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Some of the blogs (e.g., this one, Achenblog) have been out of commission this a.m.; I wouldn't be surprised to learn that WaPo has been AprilFooled by a hacker...

Posted by: byoolin | April 1, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The posts are ready and waiting to go live... just having a little trouble getting them on the site. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Liz Kelly | April 1, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Byoolin, I'll not stand by as you imply "The Seven Little Foys" (TSLF) is not quality cinema. I have a mom who loves old movies and as a kid I didn't realize how old they were. "TSLF" was one of my all-time favorites, though I adored pretty much anything with Bob Hope and/or Bing Crosby. I had a crush on both of them when I was 10. Now, at 32, I've still got a major soft spot for that chin.

Posted by: Wikijen | April 1, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Wikijen, noted. (I prefer the Road movies, myself.)

Posted by: byoolin | April 1, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

How about stars who seemed destined to fade to black, only to make a surprise turnaround and revive their careers? I nominate Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly and Debi Mazar from Entourage. (Freakin' great show.)

In fact, Entourage is a great way of finding out what happened to these former superstars. Ironic cameos have included Bob Saget, Gary Busey, Pauly Shore and Ralph Macchio. Love it.

Personally, I always wondered what happened to Skippy from Family Ties.

Posted by: musicgeek | April 1, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Arsenio Hall had a brief comeback during the writer's strike. He was appearing on Leno like twice a week. Arsenio came in handy because Leno had lots of time to fill when he couldn't book guests. Arsenio can still riff for ten minutes without a script and I'm sure he didn't have any other commitments.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 1, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Barbara Mandrell retired from show business in 1997. In fact, The Nashville Network broadcast her final concert, which was a benefit held at the Grand Ole Opry House. Since that time, she has surfaced a few times, most notably when she received the Academy of Country Music Living Legend award for lifetime achievement and when a recent tribute album of her music was released. The album, entitled "She Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool," included tracks by Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire, and Kenny Chesney, to name a few. A companion television special was also produced for GAC, which showed Mandrell visiting each performer at the recording studio as he or she was recording her songs.

In short, Mandrell is off our radar because she chose to be. She is retired and enjoying life as a "normal" person in Nashville, gardening, traveling, and just enjoying the rewards of a 40 year career.

Posted by: Lisa | April 26, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

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