A hit when it began in 1985, Growing Pains was growing a bit long in the tooth by its 1991-92 season. Even having baby Chrissy age six years over a summer couldn’t buoy the ABC sitcom. The fix? Homeless-but-cute teen Luke Brower joined the household of psychiatrist Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke), wife Maggie (Joanna Kerns), and their brood — and he was played by a 16-year-old named Leonardo DiCaprio.
”They brought Leo in to get another teen idol, but it was too little, too late,” says Harry Gold, DiCaprio’s former agent and father of then costar Tracey Gold. DiCaprio — who appeared in 17 episodes before the series’ final episode in May ’92 — would of course become the Titanic generation’s Valentino. But what about his costars? Here’s a Pains-taking update.
·Kirk Cameron (Mike) saw his dwindling pinup status end with the show. After marrying his Pains costar Chelsea Noble in 1990, Cameron, now 27, had a WB sitcom (Kirk) canceled last year.
·Gold was hospitalized for anorexia nervosa in 1992 (her character, Carol Seaver, was trotted off to London). This month the actress, 28, starts filming an independent feature, Wanted. DiCaprio’s addition, she says, ”was for that Kirk Cameron [appeal], which Leo’s surpassed three times over.” Now 28, Gold and husband Roby Marshall have a son, Sage, 1.
· Currently costarring on Tom Selleck’s The Closer, Kerns, 45, appeared on Chicago Hope and has directed various television series.
· Ashley Johnson (Chrissy), 14, still acts, most notably in 1995’s Nine Months.
·During Pains, Jeremy Miller (Ben) moonlighted as the voice of Linus on Peanuts TV shows. Miller, 21, hosted a 1996 children’s Hanukkah special, Shalom Sesame, before attending the University of Southern California.
·Post-Pains, Thicke, 51, starred on Hope & Gloria from 1995 to ’96 and currently hosts the syndicated game show Pictionary. He married his second wife, former Miss World Gina Tolleson, in 1994 (they have a 9-month-old son, Carter), and Thicke will make his Broadway debut this fall in the revival of Chicago. Of DiCaprio, the actor remarks, ”Much as I love Leo, if he were my adopted son, he’d be grounded for not going to the Oscars.”
Time Capsule: April 10, 1992
At the movies
Robert Altman’s wicked Hollywood satire The Player stars Tim Robbins as a homicidal studio exec. The film, from Michael Tolkin’s novel, would begin an Altman renaissance (Short Cuts, Kansas City).
On the pop charts
Vanessa Williams’ syrupy ”Save the Best for Last” is No. 1 for the 11th week. The former Penthouse photo subject and dethroned Miss America would turn to acting, costarring with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1996 flick Eraser.
Marilyn Quayle — wife of then Vice President Dan — publishes her first novel (written with Nancy T. Northcott), Embrace the Serpent, a political thriller.
And in the news
Convicted in Miami of racketeering, drug trafficking, and money laundering, Panamanian general Manuel Noriega enjoys his first days as a felon.