This weekend, I read Dustin "Screech" Diamond's entire autobiography, "Behind the Bell". And I might be the only person who's ever done that.
Literally, the only person. I'm fairly sure no editor actually read it cover-to-cover; on page four we get the sentence "Fuck fame. Allow me to tear down your allusions"... and that sets off a book just riddled with spelling errors, punctuation errors, repeated references to craft services as Kraft services and weird line breaks. On two separate occasions, entire paragraphs are actually repeated.
But you're not reading this for me to call out Dustin Diamond's copy editor. Nor was I reading his book to look for such errors. (I just notice them because I'm a precocious-in-a-bad-way son of an English teacher.) No... we all want to know the unbelievable "Saved by the Bell" sex scandals that he witnessed first hand. (Or, as he disclaims in the prologue, some of them are "things [he] heard from reliable sources.)
And I've got 'em for you.
1. Dustin Diamond has a large penis and has used it to have sex with more than 2,000 women, most of whom he picked up at Disneyland.
Diamond's sales pitch for this book, it seems, is: "As wholesome as 'Saved by the Bell' appeared on screen, the exact opposite was happening behind the scenes, and I'm broke and desperate enough to sell everyone out and tell you about it." But his unspoken mission statement is: "I'm not Screech. I'm 100 percent, in every single way, not Screech. I'm cool, I follow no man, and women find me irresistible."
Diamond tells of many of his exploits; even starting one chapter about halfway through the book with the sentence, "Is it bragging to say I've banged over two thousand chicks in my life?" (And as my fellow journalism brethren will note, yes, that line contains yet another misused word.)
And while it seems he met many of these anonymous "chicks" when they were extras on the show or during the cast's mall tours and cross-country appearances... he says he actually seduced a large number of them at Disneyland.
"People don't realize that Disneyland in the early '90s was the perfect place to meet and hook up with chicks," he writes. He then goes on to describe the best rides on which to carry this out ("The Haunted Mansion -- a totally dark, nine-minute ride.") And finally, he explains, his method was simple. He and a friend would walk around, wait until two (often international) tourist girls would recognize him as Screech, and take it from there.
The saddest part of all this? As I read that, I said to myself, "Yep. That probably did work."
Definitely the most damning accusation in the book... but one that Diamond doesn't hedge (like many of the upcoming points). He flat-out says that Mario Lopez "lured [a girl] back to his pad... and was forced to have sex against her will."
NBC's lawyers stepped in to maintain the image of its clean teen stars, though, and paid the girl to be quiet. "And my understanding," Diamond writes, "is that it wasn't a boatload of cash, either, somewhere around fifty grand."
I found a "Variety" article about Lopez being accused of date rape, so there is other corroboration on this. It's amazing -- back in 1993, before the Internet turned the American celebrity gossip press into the British celebrity gossip press, a huge "SBTB" fan like me never heard a word of this. If this date rape accusation had happened 15 years later, within moments of the story coming out a photo of A.C. Slater would've been on Perez Hilton, complete with a MS Paint mouth semen.
3. Tiffani-Amber Thiessen cheated on the actor who played Johnny Dakota simultaneously with Mario Lopez and Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
Thiessen comes off pretty poorly in the book. In this instance, Diamond discusses the famous anti-drug "SBTB" episode -- the one where a movie star named Johnny Dakota shows up to film an anti-drug PSA but then tries to get the crew to use drugs... and they stand up to him. Apparently, Thiessen was dating Eddie Garcia, the actor who played Johnny Dakota.
But, little did he know, Diamond says, she was having sex with both of the other male leads of "SBTB" under his nose. In fact, he says, for the entire week of that episode, Thiessen was sneaking off, right under his nose, going from one guy's dressing room to the other's. Garcia eventually found out and ended things, because, it turns out, he was nothing like his character and was the most "steadfast dude you'd ever want to meet."
4. During the "No Hope With Dope" episode, the cast members were all smoking weed in their dressing rooms.
Diamond doesn't reveal that much about the drugs floating around the cast, but does say that "the 'No Hope With Dope' episode ended up being a huge hit ... I just can't help but think of all the off-camera drinking and recreational drug use being indulged in by the cast members during that time ... I could even smell a certain 'smoke' wafting from the crack beneath Tiffani's dressing room."
Man. I feel more betrayed than Ox when they accused him of being the one smoking the joint in the men's room.
5. Elizabeth Berkley also did both Mario Lopez and Mark-Paul Gosselaar... but only once Tiffani-Amber Thiessen was done.
Berkley doesn't get a ton of ink in the book -- you almost perceive that Diamond has sympathy for her post-"SBTB" career being almost entirely a spiral of slut/hooker roles spurred by her decision to do "Showgirls".
He does, however, mention that, once Thiessen was done with Lopez and Gosselaar, Berkley decided she wanted to get with both of them too. He says "there was a desperation to [her] ho'ing, like she had a lot of catching up to do."
I don't know about that. I think she just might've found jeans with two rows of belt loops too irresistible to pass up.
6. Lark Voorhies then did them as sloppy thirds.
From this book, and other things I've read, I get the impression that Voorhies is one of the shyest people in the history of mankind. According to Diamond, it took years for "Lisa Turtle to come out of her shell" (and I give him a point for that pun)... and when she finally did, she took her requisite turn on the Lopez/Gosselaar ride.
Basically, Diamond says, you can match up the timing of these relationships with the timing of Zack's romances on the show. Kelly got the early years... then Jessie had the kiss during the rehearsal of "Snow White and the Seven Dorks" (eight if you count Studly)... and finally, Lisa got her quick run during her fashion show.
Diamond also seems to take legitimate personal umbrage with how that fashion show episode went down -- he feels that Zack kissing Lisa, while knowing Screech had always loved her, was the ultimate sign that Zack Morris was a Bad Person. It's one of the few times that he allows the line to be blurred between himself and Screech. I would've thought he'd be more upset that he didn't get a crack at Thiessen during the famous "Kelly and Screech? Way to go Screech!" episode. Kevin probably cockblocked him.
7. When Lark Voorhies was engaged to Martin Lawrence, he abused her (at a minimum verbally).
This might be the strangest (and most abstract) scandal that Diamond tries to expose. He basically suggests that Martin Lawrence did something to make Voorhies even more reclusive and non-communicative.
He says that he saw Voorhies shortly after her fiance, Martin Lawrence (yes, the famous one) ended things with her, publicly, on the "Arsenio Hall" show. Diamond says "She flinched whenever a man was near her or a man's voice was suddenly projected toward her. She rocked back and forth mumbling to herself in a very disturbing fashion, as if in her own world. You can draw your own conclusions from that."
8. Dustin Diamond had sex with NBC's VP of children's programming, Linda Mancuso.
Diamond doesn't go into too much detail about his other 1,999 sexual partners, but one of the NBC executives who oversaw "SBTB" gets almost an entire chapter.
Mancuso was 18 years older than Diamond but, he says, from the moment they met she treated him like an equal. Eventually, as he got older, that turned into a sexual relationship.
As I read this I kept thinking, "Wow, this is really specific and controversial stuff to be saying about this woman who he seems to really care about -- how pissed off is she going to be?" Then I got to the point where he reveals that she died from cancer in 2003. She was 44 at the time of her death.
The skeptic in me quickly thought, "Well, what a convenient story -- the only sexual partner whose name he reveals, and the highest-profile sexual partner at that, is dead." But hey, draw your own conclusions, right?
9. Mark-Paul Gosselaar confessed to the cast that he took steroids before "Saved by the Bell: The College Years".
Enough with tell-all books revealing steroid use. Those revelations jumped the shark when Jose Canseco declared that he used to inject steroids right into Mark McGwire's ass. This next decade had better yield an era of tell-alls revealing (1) athletes cheating on wives (spoiler alert: all of them) (2) pop singers who really couldn't sing and (3) plastic surgery confessions.
10. Ed "Max" Alonzo used to get gay with Neil Patrick Harris while they talked about magic.
This one was probably my favorite. It's about Ed Alonzo, who played the mostly useless character of Max (owner of The Max) during the early years of "SBTB". Max would always do magic on the show, which corresponded to Alonzo being a magician in real life.
Well... Neil Patrick Harris has always been a big fan of magic. (Now, as an adult, he's on the board of LA's famous Magic Castle... and all the magic that Barney does on "How I Met Your Mother" is inspired by Harris's real-life skills.)
So, according to Diamond, "[Alonzo] wound up spending a lot of time with Harris. A lot of time. For a while they were inseparable, going away to perform magic together, conjuring their mystical spells of enchantment. It wasn't until years later that Neil Patrick Harris announced he was gay."
That's a clever literary way to draw a syllogism... and I completely bought it. What can I say? I'm also the one who spotted Dumbledore as gay from a mile away and saw homoerotic sexual tension in every interaction Harry and Malfoy had for all seven years at Hogwarts.
I just see my homosexual friends slowly but surely taking over magic, the way they took over steelwork, snapping, racquetball and Bravo. (And they'll take over marriage unless you put your foot down. Don't turn around, there may be a gay guy standing over your shoulder, trying to marry you as we speak. It's definitely something that's worth being afraid of and spending millions of dollars to fight against.)
11. Executive producer Peter Engel used to have bisexual threesomes with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar in his office.
And why not, right?
According to Diamond, Engel was a former cocaine user and Hollywood party scene guy who saw the light and became a born-again Christian. As the showrunner for "SBTB" he banned swearing on set, and refused to let Bayside High be anything short of a utopia that was as clean as Singapore and pure as Walton's Mountain. (It's why there was never an episode that broached the topic of teen sex.)
But... he really tries to guide the reader into believing Engel, Gosselaar and Thiessen used to get-it-on. He never says it directly, but if he's not implying it, then I surrender my reading comprehension merit badge. Here are a few excerpts, in order, from the section about this.
"I've heard lots of Hollywood hearsay in my day, but I can only vouch for what I saw... here is one of the most fucked up things I saw behind the scenes of 'SBTB'. Draw your own conclusions because I still don't know what to make of it.So, yeah. At least through Diamond's eyes, the entire "SBTB" era was pretty much one giant orgy and everyone was invited. (Except Mr. Belding. Dennis Haskins, who Diamond refers to as a close friend, escapes this book with very few mentions and virtually nothing controversial. Either Diamond left him out of the stories, or Rod Belding swooped in and took his spot in all the orgies.)
"[Gosselaar] started getting called to [Engel]'s office for long meetings... and closed the door behind him. Which was weird... because typically Peter kept his office door open.
"[Thiessen] also began to be summoned upstairs for long, cloosed-door meetings... then, both [Gosselaar] and [Thiessen] (!) were called together into [Engel]'s inner sanctuary for another mystery marathon behind closed doors.
"[Gosselaar] and I were selected to go on a Paris [publicity] trip together... lo and behond, [Thiessen] pitched a bitch. She went up to [Engel]'s office for another hours-long, closed-door meeting, and when she re-energed it was suddenly her and [Gosselaar] now making the trip.
"[Thiessen] wasn't even supposed to be around for 'The College Years'... all of a sudden, [Thiessen]'s locked again in those troubling closed-door meetings in [Engel]'s office and, voila, she's off to college with the guys. From then on the show's writing became all about Zack and Kelly."
Now that I've cashed out the 11 biggest bombshells in the book, you might be wondering if it's worth reading. My answer is... sort of. The writing isn't great (I don't think Nobel Prize-winning books repeatedly use the word "douchenozzle"). There's such an aura of a money grab here that it's hard to buy into Diamond's credibility -- how many half-truths or complete fabrications are included simply to pump up the craziness of the book?
But, over the 300+ pages you will get two things. One: You'll get a lot of cool behind-the-scenes looks at "SBTB" which, for huge fans like me, were fantastic. And two: You'll get a really strong look into the mind of a scarred, desperate child star, forever typecast, alienated and altered by his time on such a seemingly juvenile television show.
To me, the book read very sad. Diamond clearly perceived himself as a picked-on outsider during filming and that bitterness still stays with him today. The constant insistence that he's not Screech (I smoke pot and shoot BB guns, look at how cool I am! I've banged 2,000 chicks, look at how much of a player I am!) falls squarely into the zone of him doth protesting too much. And little throwaway lines -- like one about him and his widower Dad no longer speaking to each other because his Dad mismanaged and lost most of his earnings -- give fleeting honest looks at the unhappy, unfortunate state of a guy my age who I grew up with and admired.
If you're a big "SBTB" fan... and you're willing to see it without rose-colored nostalgia glasses... I strongly recommend the book. (In spite of all my criticisms, I read the entire thing in one day and never found myself bored or daydreaming.) If you're not a big "SBTB" fan, though, or you'd like to keep the cast members pure and innocent, preserved in mylar bags attached to your wall like The Collector... then focus your reading attention on a book with more literary merit.
AKA any book written by anyone other than Dustin Diamond or Stephenie Meyer.