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Thoughts, information, commentary on Hollywood's former child stars | Joal Ryan, Editor

"George Clooney: What Might Have Been for Village Extra"

According to the Internet Movie Database, George Clooney notched his first screen appearance as Village Extra in the 1978 TV miniseries, Centennial. Clooney would have been about 17 at the time, and would have been considered a child star had Village Extra Mania swept the nation.

Alas, the latter was not meant to be, and Clooney didn't become an adult star in the non-porn sense until he was in his early 30s, which Clooney says was fine by him.

A feature today on young stars who burn too brightly, called "Young Stars Who Burn Too Brightly," spotlights a slightly used quote from Clooney in which the gray-tinged Oscar-winner professes thanks for his relatively obscure youth:

"If I'd been as famous as some people are at 18 ... I would have been shooting crack into my throat by now," he said.

The assumption of the article, if not of Clooney, is that the Hollywood money and the toys that can be bought with Hollywood money (cars, houses, drugs, assistants who get paid to go clubbing with you, etc.) would have done in the actor's younger self.

Maybe, maybe not. Clooney seems like a person who spent a great many years thinking about what kind of work he would do, and what kind of life he would lead should he ever come into power. He also seems innately sensible, even if he did fall in with the hockey-player hair crowd in the 1980s.

If it seems that my assumption is that a sensible sort, as I perceive Clooney to be, is immune to the usual child-star-related woes, that is incorrect. I just wanted to point out that Tiger Beat Clooney might have emerged from early fame unscathed .... had his breakthrough role not been that of Village Extra.

Woe is the child star with the funny character name: The Chachis, the Arnolds, the Urkels, etc. Did Tiffany Brissette, last spotted singing in church, forsake Hollywood by choice, or by virtue of the fact that she is, and will always be, the Small Wonder robot? (And, yes, I know that wasn't her character's actual name -- except, really, it was.)

That Ron Howard managed to move past Opie, that Neil Patrick Harris managed to go beyond Doogie, that Kim Fields did work after Tootie, is the nothing short of miraculous. Just go ask Jim-Bob.

And next time Clooney isn't asked by a fan to say that funny thing Village Extra used say ("Hey, hey, who goes there?"), ask him if he's grateful for a certain ER doctor named Doug.

(Originally published by Joal Ryan on March 4, 2008.)

c. Joal Ryan