The public outrage over Harvey Weinstein’s shameful exploitation of star-struck actresses has raised awareness about other patterns of abuse in Tinseltown.
Paul Peterson, a former child star who played Jeff Stone on “The Donna Reed Show,” is a longtime advocate for young people in show business through his organization, A Minor Consideration. He says Hollywood has long been exploiting young people.
“This has been going on for decades, way before my time, back in the 20s with Jackie Coogan; Diana Serra Carey who has written wonderful books about the experience of young people; unfortunately, because there is now in place a feeder system that is bringing innocent young boys and girls into the ‘beast.’ “
Peterson says the experience of young performers is challenging under the best of conditions.
“It’s not just the work. Remember, you’re limited by law to being on the set for eight and a half hours. It’s the rest of your life that gets thrown in a cocked hat. The thing about becoming famous when you’re young is that it never goes away. It affects your parents, it affects your siblings; it affects those friendships that you’re able to hang on to. And it doesn’t quit.”
He said it took a fellow child star to steer him away from further disillusionment after his youthful career ended.
“My friend and mentor Mickey Rooney, with whom I share a birthday, actually came to my house as my career was going in the toilet and said to me, ‘Paul, you’ve got to get out of town, get your education because Paul they’ll never let you work here.’ And I said, ‘Why are telling me this?’ And he said, ‘Because, Paul, it happened to me.’ ”
Peterson was a guest on McIntyre in the Morning.