PCA Interview: Paul Petersen

Paul Petersen – child actor, TV icon, teen idol, pop star and social crusader.

Paul Petersen has been many things in his career – child star, teen idol and pop star.  However, his ongoing legacy in Hollywood goes far beyond these accomplishments.

Starting his professional career at age nine, Paul was one of the original kids hired to be a Mousekteer on The Mickey Mouse Club.  However, before the cameras even rolled, Paul was the first kid fired from the show when, legend has it, that he punched the casting director in the studio commissary.  A few acting roles followed, with the most noteworthy being a part alongside Cary Grant and Sophia Loren in Houseboat in 1958.  However, Paul would become part of Americana later that year when he was cast in the role of Jeff Sloane on the classic family sit-com The Donna Reed Show.

Paul Petersen, Shelly Fabares, Donna Reed and Carl Betz as The Sloane Family on “The Donna Reed Show.”

In the role of ‘All American Boy’ Jeff, Paul quickly became one of the era’s top teen idols, appearing on magazine covers and becoming the teenage fantasy of girls all across America.  Paul even had a brief flirtation with music when he had minor pop successes in the early 1960’s with Lollipop and Roses, She Can’t Find Her Keys and My DadThe Donna Reed would be a televisions staple until 1966, but when the series went off the air, like most young actors, Paul found it harder and harder to find work.  The days of the family sitcom and the popularity of the ‘All American Boy’ were over, and Paul Petersen was finding that his acting career fading at an alarming

However, there was a much important work for Paul Petersen than just being a TV star.  Paul would use these experiences to do so much more.

Since 1990 Paul Petersen has been helping child actors, both current and from the past, as the head of A Minor Consideration.

In 1990, after the suicide of his friend and contemporary Rusty Hamer, Paul Petersen  put together A Minor Consideration, an organized support group for former child stars that are suffering from any sort of issue due to their unique experience of being in front of the camera.  From drug addiction to sexual, physical and emotional abuse, to exploitation and any other sort of injustice that children may face as the result of show business, be it In the past or the present, Paul Petersen has lead the charge to make sure that this unique subculture of people are taken care of.  An accomplished writer, for decades Paul has written extremely thoughtful and hard hitting essays about the harsh reality faced by child stars on A Minor Conisderation’s web-site.  He is a man who knows the laws, knows the history of children in entertainment, and takes a keen interest in making sure that the best interests of the child is put forth on movie and television sets.

Simply put, Paul Petersen is a true crusader.

I have been aware of Paul’s work for years, and have been an admirer of his writing and essays. Thus, it was a great thrill to be able to talk to Paul Petersen about the work he does, and how A Minor Consideration is preparing itself to ensure that its work will continue in the future.

 

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