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No more kidding around

Country Musings by Robert Loy, October 2001

I was standing in line at the Post Office the other day, flipping through the wanted posters of the "Different Strokes" cast members, and it started me thinking about child stars and how maybe we ought to just outlaw them.

Think about it. Robert Iler who plays the son of a thug on "The Sopranos" was recently arrested for robbery and drug possession. River Phoenix succeeded in destroying himself, and so did that girl who played Buffy on "Family Affair." Danny Bonaduce - well, I better not get started on Bonaduce or this issue of CST will be thicker than the Beijing phone book.

Country music has child stars too. Always has, going back to Little Jimmie Sizemore, who was singing at the Grand Ole Opry when he was 4 years old. (I'm sure y'all remember his big hit "Chawin' Chewin' Gum.") Brenda Lee began her recording career at the age of 11 and had her first million seller at age 15. Conway Twitty and Barbara Mandrell both started their careers in their teens.

But something changed with Tanya Tucker, arguably country's most well-known child star. She first gained our attention as a 13-year-old chanteuse belting out tunes like "Delta Dawn" "What's Your Mama's Name?" and my favorite, the hillbilly gothic "Blood Red and Goin' Down." But it wasn't long before we were hearing less of her husky singing voice and more about her rowdy social life, her problems with substance abuse and her tempestuous relationship with Glen Campbell. Yeah, she seems to have gotten herself straightened out, and she even makes periodic comebacks, but I think we can all agree that she never lived up to her potential.

And now LeAnn Rimes seems determined to follow in her footsteps. No, Rimes doesn't seem too interested in Glen Campbell or Glenlivet Scotch, but this kid is not yet 20, and she's already filed for divorce twice - once from her father-manager and once from her record label. Dad countersued, and Mom had to throw in her two cents worth, testifying that her daughter was "spoiled" and "selfish." LeAnn probably would have won the suits, but this megalomaniac fell prey to the Richard Nixon syndrome and taped her own phone conversations, including the one where she plotted just when to break down and cry on the stand - "go wah-wah" in her words. Sordid, people, sordid.

She's made other bad choices as well in her quest to take over the world. Going head-to-head against Trisha Yearwood on the song "How Do I Live Without You" didn't win her any new friends. She chose to star in ŒHoliday in Your Heart' (a horrendous TV movie that barely anyone saw based on LeAnn's own novel that nobody read and that her book publisher took one look and dropped her from its roster), rather than take the supporting role of the young girl in "The Horse Whisperer."

So, rather than tie up the courtrooms and the pages of the National Enquirer, I say the next time a talented youngster comes along, singing (or yodeling) like an angel, we quote the immortal Bobby Vee and tell "Come back, baby, when you grow up."

You might think I'm overreacting, but I bet you'll change your tune some time in the not too distant future when you get mugged by a strung-out Billy Gilman.