By Stacy Jenel Smith
It's safe to predict that within the year, another juvenile star will sue his or her parents for misappropriation of funds and/or seek emancipation. Such stories pop up that frequently, at least.In 2003, pop star Aaron Carter
alleged that his mother, Jane - matriarch of the show business-minded family including Nick and Leslie Carter -- had taken more than $100,000 from his bank account without permission. He resolved his differences with her in January, the same week she was taken into custody for allegedly assaulting her estranged husband's girlfriend.
In 2002, LeAnn Rimes settled a suit charging her father with fleecing her of more than $7 million while acting as her co-manager. She wanted her dad to come to her wedding.
In 2001, former "Home Improvement" juvenile star Taran Noah Smith battled his parents in court for control of his $1.5 million trust fund. The actor best-known as Mark Taylor, who had married 33-year-old artist Heidi Van Pelt at age 17, complained that he'd spent eight years working to support his family and didn't have a real childhood. He was quoted saying that he wasn't seeing any money from his trust fund, and that he was still paying a mortgage of $5,000 a month "on my $585,000 house in Sherman Oaks, California -- that they live in." His parents called the whole mess a matter of teenage rebellion.
It goes on and on. Who could forget the legal and emotional woes of Macaulay Culkin and his stage father, Kit, a man reviled throughout Hollywood? Or former child star Gary Coleman's assertion that his parents squandered the fortune he'd made on "Diff'rent Strokes"?
Right now, tennis-playing pinup Anna Kournikova is in a bitter legal dispute with her parents over a house she purchased, with their names on the title.
It's enough to make one believe no young star is safe from the corrupting influence of money and fame on his or her parents. But that is, thank goodness, not true.
As former child star Paul Petersen, who is the founder of the A Minor Consideration organization advocating on behalf of child actors wrote: "Solid Parenting can overcome most of the difficulties faced by young performers."
Petersen stresses a strong emphasis on education and on helping to preserve a young star's earnings as key to success for parents of young stars, and notes, not quite joking, that kid stars should "choose their parents" carefully.
Child star-turned-Oscar-winning director and mogul Ron Howard is the son of veteran Hollywood actor Rance Howard. Being part of a show business family who know the town and have learned to take the glamour industry's vicissitudes in stride could certainly help a child star. (On the other hand, failed Hollywood actors who attempt to succeed through their children are practically a clich?.) Now, Ron's daughter Bryce is the Hollywood up and comer, with a starring role in M. Night Shyamalan's "the Village."
Former "Wonder Years" child star Fred Savage and his brother, "Boy Meets World" star Ben Savage, are just two of the numerous juvenile actors whose parents did, indeed, stress education as a means of keeping their famous offspring on solid footing. Both Savages are Stanford grads, while other former child stars including Sarah Gilbert and Anna Paquin joined the Ivy League (Gilbert and Paquin at Harvard and Columbia, respectively).
In the area of money management, the obvious extreme opposite of all those squandering parents has to be Jamie and Dave Olsen, parents of guess-which-twins, who put entertainment lawyer Robert Thorne in charge of managing Mary-Kate's and Ashley's careers when they were four years old. Thorne guided team Olsen into becoming the billion dollar enterprise it is today.
No one would expect other parents of star children to necessarily develop a massive conglomerate -- just to make careful and considerate financial decisions, putting their children first. As any loving parents would do.