Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tragedy of Pebbles

Expect a bunch of this over the next week or so.  I've uncovered a bunch of old short-writing that amuses the hell out of me that isn't amusing anyone locked in a box, so I'm transcribing it.

The first time I appeared on Loose Cannons happened to be the day that Dana Plato from Diff'rent Strokes died.  I got the call in the afternoon asking if I had anything I could present on the show that night.  I said I'd write something.  What follows is what I wrote.

   Pebbles would have turned forty-one today.  But like many a child str, things got complicated - dense - after she'd gone supernova at such a young age, during the hey-day of Hanna-Barbera, when "The Flintstones" was the best on the box.
   Former co-star Bam-bam Rubble, now a stock promoter in Aristona remembers her fondly...

BAM BAM: Peb was so sweet.  Always popular on set, shewas everyone's favourite with her innocent charm.  I've often wondered if that was where things started to go wrong.

  Certainly that is a distinct possibility.  Pebbles' downward spiral began in the show's fourth and last* season when he began a Lolita-esque relationship with character actor Edwin Slate who played Fred's boss on the show.  It is generally assumed that the child starlet - who was once described as having 'all the innocent delights of Shirley Temple combined with the girl-next-door charms of Annette Funicello' - was introduced to drug use by Slate.  Slate died destitute in 1974 in  freebasing accident.
   The signs of drug use on the set of the landmark animated sitcom were thin, but by the time spin-off show "The Pebbles and Bam-Bam Hour"** tried to cash in on the beach-party-rock craze, Pebbles had developed a habit estimated to be costing five to six thousand dolars a day.  Her star falling, and her blood toxin rising, the young teen became difficult...

BAM BAM: She ws denying everything, but it was clear just how strung out she was.  You could see it in her eyes.

   Says Rubble...

BAM BAM: Somehow, her natural charm masked what was going on inside her head from the camera.  But off screen things were ugly.

   Things got so bad during one hallucinogenic episode that she attacked the show's director - a young Robert Zemeckis - with  chair, breaking his wrist...

ZEMECKIS: We were shooting a scene at a roller-derby event.

   Recalls the director, who has since won an Oscar fr his efforts on "Forrest Gump..."

ZEMECKIS: Pebbles kept charging at the camera, insisting that it would look 'groovy and psychedelic.'  It was getting really tiresome andI kept asking her to stop.  Next thing I knew, she was throwing a stool at me... uh, a chair - not the uh... other thing.

   The incident was prety much the end of the show.  Pebbles was fired.  And in site of the program's impressive showing at the Emmys in that, it's freshman season, without Pebbles, the sponsors didn't expect the show to fly.  A simple equation: no backers - no money; no money - no show.
   Following the show's demise Pebbles spun into a seedy descentwhich somehow managed to maintain her celebrity. She spent the majority of the seventies rubbing elbows - and possibly other body parts - with the likes of Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley and Keith Moon.  Not the most auspicious of company. She even recorded an updated version of her novelty hit "Let the Sunshine In" with Sly and the Family Stone...

SLY:  Yeah, Pebs was so hip and that was such a funky little groove we got a good twenty minute jam out of that on wax.  But it seems like everyone already had enough of that repetitive little ditty the first time 'round.

   Her image as a celebrity groupie was forever etched in stone when her two-year marriage to consumate party-animal John Beushi started in a dramatically public manner - with a headline stealing indecent exposure trial.

   Pebbles and Belushi had been separated for over a year upon his death in 1981.***  His family employed top civil litigators when it came to dividing his estate.  Belushi died intestate and by the prevailing law of the time all of his worldly trappings became possession of his wife.  The Belushi family won the case in precedent setting fashion - citing her role in advancing his ultimately lethal drug addiction and the fact that she and Belushi had not shared an address for thirteen months.

   Pebbles public image limped along for a few years supported by guest appearances on shows such as Love Boat and Hollywood Squares, a few cereal commercials and a cameo in a John Waters' film.  The entire time she struggled with her addiction and appeared to have cocaine beaten in 1983 when she spent six months in rehab after she was found naked in a delusional state wandering the Santa Monica Freewat.

   Things went well for several years during which she gave birth to twins out of wed-lock to her then boyfriend Bib Goodyear.  Then in 1989 it looked like Pebbles was poised to make an enormous comeback.  Cartoonist Matt Groening...

GROENING: Fox had offered us an excellent development deal but they told us they weren't going to move further forwards without a star.

   Groening went to Fox with the suggestion of building a sitcom about a chroncially dysfunctional family around a retro-nostalgia celebrity.  Groening suggested Pebbles.

GROENING:  Fox went nuts.  They thought the idea was inspired.  We started negotiations and set her up with an excellent pay or play deal where whether the show went ahead or not, Peb was in the green.

   Pebbles sudden fiscal liquidity was ultimately her downfall.  An alcohol and prescription drig dependency quickly accellerated out of control.

GROENING: Peb started not showing up for meetings and soon Fox got worried.  But they were liking the potential of the show we were creating and started looking for options.

   Fox changed the show concept and instead of a shrewish matriarch for the "Plimpton" family, they found an ex-steeplejack turned stand-up comedian and renamed the show after him.  Homer Simpson was an overnight success. 
   Pebbles took the news hard.  Leaving her twins behind, alone in her Venice Beach home, she disappeared for thirteen days before being found in a Tijuana jail where she'd been arrested for driving a car through a poncho stall at the public market, and firing a gun into the air.  Luckily for her, The Flintstones was, at the time, the top rated show in syndication on Mexican television.

   Her sentence was reduced and she was transferred to the United States and put on probation.  Due to her abandonment of her twins she was declared an unfit parent and was denied access to her children.

   In November of 1990, shortly after the start of The Simpsons' second successful season**** a despondent Pebbles started making rounds to old friends.

BAM BAM: I feel I should have known.  Should have sensed something was wrong.

   Says Bam-Bam from his split-level in Phoenix...

BAM BAM: If I knew the truth about what was going on for her - the show falling through; the probation; the twins - I might have seen that she was saying goodbye.  She just... I remember - sh just kept on telling me how she'd quit.  How she had finally beat the drugs.  When she left I couldn't help but think how good it was that she was back on track.

   Then on November 13th - a Friday***** - she missed her meeting with her parole officer.  The next morning she was found in her bathtub, drowned.  No note.  No sign of foul play.  No immediate trace of drugs or alcohol in her system.  A traic and confusing end to a life long streak of bad luck which plagued a desperate and insecure woman who had once won herself a place in the hearts of a country, and a page right out of history....

*Ah the days before Google... the show ran six seasons.
** Was actually called The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show and was not an hour.  Though there was a show called The Flintstone Comedy Hour which incorporated it.
*** It was 1982.
**** I did get that date right.
*****November 13th 1990 was a Wednesday - you can check it out on your computer's calendar.

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