Sunday, August 4, 2013

Comfort TV Facebook Connections

When I was growing up in Skokie, Illinois, and I first started to watch television and become aware of actors and their roles, it was just a given that these famous people led very different lives from mine. They lived in Hollywood and appeared on the covers of People magazine and TV Guide. You could write them a letter but you knew they received thousands of them. If you were really lucky, you might get an autographed photo in return.

Today, we’re all friends on Facebook.

So many of the TV stars I grew up watching now keep me up to date on where they had lunch yesterday, or when they land a new role. They share photos of their homes and families, and invite me to “like” the causes and organizations they do. Sometimes they even wish me Happy Birthday.

Facebook friendships are not the same as real friendships, of course. But it’s still a curious experience to remember being a kid watching Family Affair
, and thinking Cissy was so beautiful, and now I send her messages and she responds, no barriers remaining between celebrity and fan.

During my first frenzied months on the social media network I sent friend requests to several of my favorites, and most responded. But then I stopped before becoming a full-fledged Facebook star collector, and now I limit myself to those that I’ve either met in real life, or where there’s some other pre-existing connection, such as a mutual friend.

These are a few of my classic TV Facebook friends. They can be yours too.

John Schneider
I first met John when I was writing my companion guide to The Dukes of Hazzard. Now he keeps trying to sell me on a fitness program. I’ll think about it over my next pizza. 

Geri Reischl
Immortalized as “Fake Jan” on the legendary Brady Bunch Variety Hour, Geri has a wicked sense of humor and shares both memorable moments and the minutiae of her life with Facebook. And unlike many celebs, she doesn’t just post and run – she keeps the conversation going throughout the thread and is generous with her “likes.” She even poked me a few times, which was more fun than I expected. 

Gregory Harrison
I knew Greg pre-Facebook, though not well. He and his wife, ChiPs star Randi Oakes, were once fixtures on the 1980s competitions known as the Battle of the Network Stars. I had them all on tape and sent him copies of their appearances. I also interviewed him several years ago for a magazine article I wrote on the classic miniseries Centennial. He’s a fairly frequent poster, but usually it’s about something related to politics, and he and I are on opposite ends of that particular spectrum. We’ve had some rather intense exchanges over the last few years, but no one has severed the connection yet. 

Teri Copley
The first thing I discovered about Teri on Facebook is that she is a woman of very deep-rooted faith. I was 18 the year We Got it Made debuted on NBC. If you had told me I’d one day have a chance to chat with the goddess that played Mickey Mackenzie, I don’t think religion would have been my first topic of choice. Thirty years later, it’s a bond we share. And she’s still a knockout. 

Willie Aames
The last time I saw Willie Aames on TV was on the dreadful VH-1 series Celebrity Fit Club, where he looked like his life was falling apart. Now he works on an international cruise ship, seems happy and healthy, and posts amazing photos from ports of call around the world.

Paul Petersen
After his days on The Donna Reed Show, Paul established an organization called A Minor Consideration to help former child stars cope with a post-celebrity existence, and to make sure studios are treating kids like kids and not investment commodities. 

Shirley Jones
Mrs. Partridge isn’t around very often, and from the excerpts I’ve seen from her new biography, I don’t even want to speculate on what she’s doing when she’s not on Facebook.

Gloria Loring
I’ve never met Gloria Loring, but she sent me a friend request a couple of years ago. I don’t know how or why this happened, but if the woman who sang the theme to The Facts of Life wants to be friends, that’s fine with me. 

James Best
Another Dukes of Hazzard cast member, who is now a very fine painter.

Jennifer Runyon Corman
One of the few celebrities who ignored my Friend request was Susan Olsen. But if I couldn’t connect with Cindy Brady, I did become Facebook friends with the actress who played Cindy in A Very Brady Christmas. It was a better match anyway, as it turns out we have a lot in common – we’re both from the Chicago area, we have similar opinions on the issues of the day, and we both briefly dated Scott Baio in the 1980s. That last one may not be entirely true. 


  1. Besides Teri Copley, Marcy Walker was another lovely blonde actress of the 1980s who left a successful show-business career behind in favor of life as a Christian minister. I wonder if the two women know each other.

  2. It's a good question. I never contacted Marcy thru FB but I remember her well from 'All My Children.'