May 1, 2013

Ronnie Scribner: Generation X Teen Idol

Many Boomers kids began having kids of their own during the 1970s and 1980s, resulting in a second baby boom, Generation X, and a sharp increase in the number of kid-friendly tv shows and movies.  And child actors to star in them: Shane Sinutko, Moosie Drier, Lance Kerwin, Scott Baio, Chris and Patrick Petersen -- and Ronnie Scribner, who specialized in roles as boys who form emotional bonds with teenagers or older men.

Born in 1966, Ronnie broke into the child actor biz with an Afterschool Special, A Home Run for Love (1978).  He continued in the Afterschool-Weekend-Schoolbreak Special circuit with The Contest Kid (1978) and The Contest Kid Strikes Again (1979), plus roles as boys who bond with older men on Fantasy Island, Dallas, Chips, and Code Red, another boy on The Love Boat, and a girl on Little House on the Prairie.

But Generation X kids remember him best for three movies:

1. The Castaways on Gilligan's Island (1979), in which Gilligan and company turn their island into a Fantasy Island style resort and solve people's problems.  Ronnie plays a boy who runs away from his parents due to their pressuring him to excel in sports (a problem that many children of Boomer overachievers faced), and ends up bonding with Gilligan.

2. Salem's Lot (1979), the vampire drama starring David Soul and Lance Kerwin.  As Ralphie Glick, the first preteen vampire in the movies, he floats outside the bedroom window of his brother Danny (Brad Savage), trying to lure him into "letting him in" to be bitten.  It was a new, fresh, and chilling entry into the threatening kid genre.

3. The Long Days of Summer (1980), about Danny Cooper (Ronnie), a boy in the 1930s who takes up boxing to challenge a bully (David Baron), while his parents face antisemitism after taking in a Jewish family.

All of them have same-sex plotlines and minimal heterosexual interest.

By 1980, Ronnie was a full-fledged teen idol, with semi-nude and shirtless pictures in the teen magazines and gushing articles about his dreaminess. He also showed his acting talent with "problem" roles as deaf or mute boys.  But he didn't want an acting career. After a minor role in Split Image (1982), as the brother of a young man lured into a cult, he retired, studied business in college, and works today as a financial analyst.