Nov 10, 2015

Ghostwriter: Urban Teen Muscle

If you were a kid in the early 1990s -- or even if you were a teenager -- you probably watched Ghostwriter (1992-95), the most popular PBS series of all time.  Instead of the raucous muppets of Sesame Street or the conflict-less Mr. Rogers, it had a group of multi-ethnic kids solving mysteries in a rather realistic Brooklyn,New York. Sort of like the 1990s version of The Electric Company, but here the problems were grittier: gangs, kidnappings, drugs, arsonists, corruption, and even divorce.

Their benefactor was Ghostwriter, a being who manifested to Jamal (Sheldon Turnipseed) one night.  Invisible, unable to speak, he communicated by rearranging letters on signs, in books, even in sentences the kids wrote down.  At first he didn't know who or what he was -- a ghost, an earthbound spirit, an alien -- but gradually he remembered a few things: he was the ghost of a man,  he lived over 100 years ago, and he didn't like the sound of dogs barking.

The Ghostwriter team consisted of  three boys and three girls, all in late childhood or early adolescence:

1. Jamal
2. Alex (David Lopez)
3. Rob (Todd Alexander Cohen), replaced by Hector (William Hernandez).
4. Lenni (Blaze Berdahl)
5. Gaby (Mayteana Morales, Melissa Gonzales)
6. Tina (Tram-Anh Trang)

Alex and Tina commence a hetero-romantic relationship, but none of the other characters express any heterosexual interest.  There is significant buddy-bonding between Jamal and Hector, however, and beefcake, as Jamal begins to noticeably muscle up.

William Hernandez is gay, and coincidentally the only one of the boys still involved in acting. He appeared as himself on MTV's The Real World (2004-2005) and later appeared in the gay comedy A Four Letter Word (2007).

David Lopez attended Rutgers, and upon graduating moved back to Colombia.

Todd Alexander and Sheldon Turnipseed attended NYU together.  Both seem to have dropped off the map.

The biggest mystery -- who was Ghostwriter -- was never revealed during the series.  But 20 years later, in a March 2013 article, writer Kermit Frazier tells us: he was a runaway slave who was teaching other slaves to read in the woods, when he was killed by slave catchers and their dogs.  His spirit was trapped in the book that Jamal found