Let us now consider the pitfalls and rewards of Hollywood stardom.
Our test cases: two former youth stars, both of whom have endured ups and downs and whose adult careers are now proceeding along diverse paths.
First on our list is John Travolta.
Now starring in the theatrical release “Michael,” the 42-year-old Travolta is the featured player in a film that was released this week on video: “Phenomenon” (see capsule review).
And word comes that he is in the process of signing a $20 million contract to appear in Universal’s forthcoming production of “Primary Colors” - which is the movie version of the best-seller by Joe “Anonymous” Klein.
But remember how he started out? As one of the Sweathogs on the ABC sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” (1975-79), his Vinnie Barbarino was a cool combination of beefy good looks and limited intelligence that put a premium on his street-wise toughness. It was a character that he would perfect in such films as “Carrie,” “Saturday Night Fever” (for which he earned his first Oscar nomination) and “Grease.”
But after a disastrous series of film choices (anybody remember 1979’s “Moment By Moment” with Lily Tomlin?), Travolta was reduced by the late 1980s and early ‘90s to playing co-star to cute kids and even cuter animals in the “Look Who’s Talking” series.
Then “Pulp Fiction” won him a deserved second Oscar nomination, and he found himself back on the A-list affecting a seedier, more experienced and sometimes dangerous if likeable attitude that he adapted easily to each of the films in which he starred, from “Broken Arrow” to “Michael.”
At the other end of the extreme, we have Corey Feldman, the 25-year-old co-star of “Bordello of Blood,” which also is available on video this week (see capsule review).
Feldman began doing commercials at age 3, and he appeared in several television productions before making his big-screen debut at age 8 in the comedy romance/thriller “Time After Time” (1979).
After appearing in a series of horror-type movies (“Friday the 13th, the Final Chapter,” “Gremlins” and “Friday the 13th, a New Beginning”), Feldman created what would become his trademark bratty kind of character in 1985’s “The Goonies.”
It was that character which Feldman perfected in his greatest success, Rob Reiner’s 1986 film variation of a Stephen King story, “Stand By Me.” Feldman was featured as the most troubled of four young characters out for an extended overnight adventure to find a dead boy’s body.
(Trivia question: Who were the other three main stars? See answer below).
From there on, though, Feldman’s success became increasingly spotty. Off-screen drug problems mixed with poor on-screen choices (“Dream a Little Dream,” “Meatballs 4”) made Feldman a problematic film commodity.
He retained a certain amount of talent, however, and that talent helped win him a vocal role in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990) and spots in other grade-B films.
In “Bordello of Blood,” his performance is little more than a cameo appearance that features him disappearing early and showing up only for a moment near the end.
So we’re left with this: Travolta, despite losing the battle of the waist bulge, is more popular than ever. Feldman, many of whose contemporaries seem to have become answers to where-are-they-now queries (remember Corey Haim?), is hardly a star - but he continues to find work.
It’s the curious way of Hollywood, which boasts a thousand tales of similar fortune amid the million or so stories of the hardest luck imaginable.
John Travolta stars as an ordinary 37-year-old guy living in a small California town who, through mysterious circumstances, becomes a genius with strange kinetic powers. But this is no science-fiction fantasy. Instead, the movie remains a simple study of human interaction, principally detailing how appearance tends to affect perception and, ultimately, attitude. But the probe never delves too deeply, and the movie’s main draw is the reinvented Travolta, whose pleasing screen presence is best rendered in scenes played with Robert Duvall, Kyra Sedgwick and Forest Whitaker. Rated PG
Bordello of Blood
Another “Tales From the Crypt” horror collection, this one starring Dennis Miller as a second-rate private detective hired by Erika Eleniak to investigate the disappearance of her brother (Corey Feldman). Seems the case involves a house of ill repute that happens to be full of vampires. Barely better than the cable-network show, the movie is brightened only by acerbic-tongued Miller’s trademark wisecracks, which add some much-needed humor. Rated R
So who were Corey Feldman’s main co-stars in “Stand By Me”? Will Wheaton, River Phoenix and Jerry O’Connell, of course.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available: “Bordello of Blood” (MCA/Universal), “Phenomenon” (Touchstone), “Scorned 2” (Apix). Available Tuesday: “Alaska” (Columbia TriStar), “Fatal Combat” (Columbia TriStar), “D3: The Mighty Ducks” (Disney), “Maybe, Maybe Not” (LIVE), “Bullet” (New Line), “Escape From L.A.” (Paramount), “Eddie” (Touchstone), “Chungking Express” (Miramax), “Family of Cops” (Vidmark).