Dustin Diamond, ‘Saved by the Bell’ actor often embroiled in scandal, dies at 44

Dustin Diamond, the former child star who most notably played curly-haired geek Samuel “Screech” Powers on NBC’s healthy 1990s sitcom “Saved by the Bell” and went on to become infamous for a number of post scandals. -show, passed away. He was 44 years old.

Diamond, who revealed on January 14 that he had stage 4 cancer, died Monday morning in a Florida hospital as arrangements were made to transfer him to hospice care, his talented agent Roger Paul told The Times. Diamond had a small cell carcinoma that metastasized to his lungs after it originated elsewhere in his body.

“He was diagnosed with this brutal and relentless form of malignant cancer just three weeks ago,” Paul added in a statement. “During that time, he managed to quickly spread throughout his system; the only mercy he showed was his brutal and swift execution. Dustin didn’t suffer. He didn’t have to lie in pain. For that, we are grateful to him.

As Screech, Diamond played the ultimate yes-man sidekick who executed Zack Morris’ most wacky ideas. Each week, the bizarre character enhanced or subverted Zack’s plans with his scientific know-how, while also pining for the band of friends’ wealthy fashionista Lisa Turtle, played by Lark Voorhies. (He never won her heart, but came close several times.)

The San Jose native was in fifth grade when he was cast and made his debut on the series while it was still airing under the title “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” a precursor to the high school comedy that aired on Disney Channel after the death of NBC. the series. It starred Hayley Mills as the titular Miss Bliss and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dennis Haskins and Voorhies. 90s TV stars Jaleel White from “Family Matters” and Brian Austin Green from “Beverly Hills, 90210” have also appeared in some of the series’ 14 episodes.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar, left, as Zachary “Zack” Morris, Dustin Diamond as Screech Powers and Mario Lopez as AC Slater. (Alice S. Hall / NBCU Photo Bank)

Following a drop in ratings, NBC relaunched the show in Indiana in 1989 as the teen multicamera sitcom “Saved by the Bell,” shifting the attention of the Mills college teacher to one. group of six archetypal students from the fictional Bayside High in California. Mario Lopez’s sensitive AC Slater jock, Elizabeth Berkley’s brilliant feminist Jessie Spano, and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen’s cheerleader Kelly Kapowski have joined Diamond’s Screech, Zack de Gosselaar and Lisa de Voorhies.

The comedy aired Saturday mornings on NBC until 1993. It was badly received by critics, but grew a dedicated Millennial fan base and ultimately spawned the prime-time sequels “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” and “Saved by the Bell: The New Class” (with two TV dramas and various stunt meetings, for the greatest pleasure of his worship). Diamond continued for a year with “The College Years” before moving on to “The New Class,” which debuted in 1993 and lasted until 2000.

In 2020, NBC once again relaunched the cultural touchstone as a postmodern, self-aware series for its brand new Peacock streaming service. The main players have returned in important roles – with the exception of Diamond. (Screech was mentioned briefly in the series, and Voorhies only made one cameo).

On Monday, some of Diamond’s “Saved by the Bell” classmates paid tribute to the deceased star.

Thiessen was “deeply saddened” by his death, and Gosselaar described him as “a true comic genius”, fondly recalling “those raw and brilliant sparks that only he was capable of producing”.

“Dustin, you will miss my man,” Lopez tweeted. “The fragility of this life is something that should never be taken for granted. Prayers for your family will continue …”

After the original series and the series’ sequels faded, Diamond quickly rocked his character’s impeccable image and began making headlines for more sinister escapades, including a 2006 sex tape titled “Screeched. “and a brawl at a Wisconsin bar for which he was jailed. .

“The hardest part of being a child star is giving up your childhood,” the actor said in 2013 on “Oprah: where are they now?” “You don’t really have a childhood. You are a professional and you got to know your lines, rehearse and practice. It was making sure you were the funniest and the best you can. be because if you weren’t funny, you could be replaced.

Born January 7, 1977, Diamond was 23 when the series ended and said he had worked weekly for 10 years.

“I felt lost. Growing up I realize, wow, I was sort of going through my rebellious teenage years in my twenties,” he told Oprah Winfrey.

He also said the sex tape he made when he was 29 was one of the things he was “most embarrassed about”. He said he only agreed to do so when he learned that the Paris Hilton hotel heiress would have made $ 14 million from his illicit video. He noted that it was only his face in the video and not his body. He claimed he used a stuntman for this.

“Looking back now in my thirties, I realize that was really stupid,” he said, explaining that even though he had made money with the band, it “wasn’t worth it. the consequences”.

“People still look down on me today. There is a lot of people [who think] “How disgusting you are” – and I didn’t really do it, ”he said.

Also in 2006, the actor embarked on a viral campaign to save his Washington, Wisc., Port, home from foreclosure. To supplement his meager income as a stand-up comedian, Diamond tried to sell some 30,000 autographed T-shirts that read “I paid $ 15.00 to save Screeech’s house.” (The extra “e” in the character’s name was to circumvent copyright laws).

Dustin Diamond in 2013

Dustin Diamond is shown following his September 6, 2013 deportation from “Celebrity Big Brother”. (Ben A. Pruchnie / Getty Images)

Another spinoff ensued when he released the revealing 2009 book “Behind the Bell,” recounting his experiences working on the beloved show. It was another disappointment for the actor. The first-time author used a ghostwriter, who he says used his throwaway stories for more outrageous stories, including casting orgy allegations which he had to dispel later.

The series was also dragged through the mud in a lifetime movie from 2014, “The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story”, whose telplay was based in part on Diamond’s memoir and did not involve any other member of the original cast. He received an equally negative reception on social networks and a public whip of Gosselaar, who went on to be successful in television, among others.

The diamond was stopped in 2014 and faces felony and misdemeanor charges for stabbing a man. Although he pleaded not guilty and said he never intended to stab anyone in the Christmas Day brawl, he was convicted of both offenses and sentenced to four months in prison in 2015. Diamond said he tried to scare patrons at the Port Washington bar after his girlfriend was punched in the face.

Dustin's Diamond

Dustin Diamond as Screech Powers in “Saved by the Bell”. (Paul Drinkwater / NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

“We are aware that Dustin is not considered by most to be of good reputation,” his agent said Monday. “He had a history of misadventures, of unfortunate events. We want the public to understand that he was not intentionally malicious. He – just like the rest of those who act and behave badly – had suffered a lot of unrest. and heartache. His actions … stemmed from loss and lack of knowledge of how to properly deal with this pain. “

Paul said that Diamond was “a humorous and witty individual whose greatest passion was making others laugh. He was able to sense and sense the emotions of others at such a length that he was able to handle them. feel too – a strength and a flaw, all in one.

“Dustin Diamond was a character in himself: an unpredictable spitfire who always shocked us, but never let us get bored. We are grateful that he trusted us enough to share his genuine, genuine self with our team. We want you to know him as we did. “

The stand-up comedian has made a subsequent career playing himself or his character “Bell” in numerous projects. Some of his eclectic titles included the 2001 educational documentary “Dustin Diamond Teaches Chess”, a cameo in the 98 Degree music video for “I Do (Cherish You)” and several TV movies. He also appeared as himself in the controversial 2007-08 season of “Celebrity Fit Club” and a 2013 series of “Celebrity Big Brother”.

Diamond was a professional wrestling fan, avid player, and played bass in alternative metal band Salty the Pocketknife.

“I have been involved in music for about 22 years, I just never pushed it,” he said in a control of chaos 2004 interview. “I started to learn classical guitar with my father and I switched to electric guitar. In 1994 I took up bass again and I never looked back.… I am a performer and I am more at comfortable on stage. “

Any resentment between him and a few of his former classmates was apparently allayed when the actor was hospitalized with stage 4 cancer and receiving chemotherapy. Lopez and Thiessen wish him good luck on social media after the news of his diagnosis.

Diamond is survived by his mother, his girlfriend and “very loving friends,” his agent said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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