That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Just your typical
story that is just sooooo done to death these days.
I’ll try to have a more original take on deconstruction next time.
Sorry to let you all down.
If my brains were demolished by the time I got to LunaticCamp™… I don’t even remember the next months of my life.
The new, new cocktail of medication and the new, new diagnosis and even newer therapy schedule with new therapists will obliterate whatever memory function or personality or thought processes I had left.
The holidays arrive– which means it’s time for another Barclay Family Adventure!!
The day before Christmas 1994
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 294 – Unto Us a Child is Born
This is the episode where Mary’s Uterus™ produces the final Barclay Family kid, Stewart Reed. I believe this is the episode where I am first told that all the Barclay family members were named after the characters and actors from It’s a Wonderful Life.
George and Mary are the characters Jimmy (Stewart) and Donna (Reed) play.
I have remarked over the years that the character of Stewart Reed is totally forgotten in my brain. This is mostly because his arrival occurs right in the middle of my mental health breakdown where I’m overloaded on meds and whatnot and weeks away from a massive suicide attempt.
So, I always forget L’il Stewart™ exists.
But, I also was so checked out on the storylines at this point. Like most family sitcoms, the inevitable arrival of the new baby in season 6/7 is the familiar sign that the writers have effectively thrown in the towel.
And is that the case here? Were they just out of ideas? Were we becoming too teenagery and they needed a young kid again?
Or was one of their actors melting down and they needed to wrap up the family arc?
I’ve always wondered what role my health issues caused for the logistics of a creative team that doesn’t believe these are actual health problems.
I felt that Jimmy kinda got sidelined at the end of my tenure on the show… maybe that was just my perception. I definitely wasn’t at the top of my game for that last year. Did they decide to wrap up the storylines that were hanging because Donna and I were getting older? Were the writers tired of the characters– again they never tired of other characters they had for decades.
It’s hard not to feel that it was specifically my health problems that brought about the end of the Barclay Family on the show.
Because… no Jimmy… no Barclays.
Which would confirm the theory that the family was built around me.
Why not recast the kids?
They recast the parent characters multiple times.
I am one of the rare actors in the history of show business, where the audience demanded the actor back after I was first written out of the show.
How many actors has that ever happened to in the history of recorded media?
And how many child actors?
And I believe that the reason they had to write us out is that the health problems I had… FOTF specifically did not/does not believe are real and that they felt it would have been a bad look for their “family focused” organization to have one of their star kids smoking cigarettes and killing himself as a prodigal sinner.
So, hurry up and sweep the kid away.
Hal just died… reboot the series with a new family… this is my theory.
Nobody will ever remember Dave Griffin anyway
BECAUSE WE STILL DON’T CREDIT HIM AFTER 7 YEARS.
Nobody will even notice.
Maybe I’m wrong.
Whichever backroom decisions were made, on the mic side of things the new baby was a signal to me that the timeline of my character was probably drawing to a close.
These sessions occurred before the massive suicide event. But, it had been the year from hell and each session I was booked in was becoming more awkward and uncomfortable.
The tsk-tsking of my smoking addiction– which I cannot stop— is killing me because people I cared about are giving endless StillFaces™ and pestering the world’s greatest voice over artist Corey Burton because they think he’s a bad influence on me— which is craziest fucking sentence of all the crazy sentences I’ve written in this project.
I think I’m realizing for the first time in 30 years just how sad I was knowing that things were dying in slow motion. These relationships that had sustained me and made me excited to come into the studio… now everything’s changed… or has it?
Maybe I’m just paranoid….
Mental health is a total mindfuck, btw. If you weren’t crazy before all the shit happened, the reality of being a mental health patient would turn you into one even if you weren’t already mentally ill. It’s utter crazymaking how being a patient in these scenarios and the way people treat you destroys your sense of self and security.
Needless to say, there was a lot going on in the fog soup that was my brain during these final recordings and I don’t remember a lick of them.
February 4, 1995 is the debut of
Adventures In Odyssey: Episode 300- Preacher’s Kid
7. years. later.
This was the final episode I recorded before the massive suicide attempt. I have no idea what this episode was about other than that it was a Donna-centric storyline.
When this episode airs… I will have recorded 23% of the series over 7 years.
Not an insignificant contribution for a child actor.
No. other. kid. gave. more.
35 years later.
While this show is airing
my life has totally fallen apart
and now is about to get even worse
It was decided after the massive attempt and subsequent hospitalization that I am deemed too severely ill and unstable to be living at home.
After all the experts were consulted– nobody of course realizing that I had a misdiagnosis– it is determined that I must be moved into a longterm group home for adolescents with severe mental illness that I will affectionately call SadolescentLand™.
This decision is made earlier during the holidays– but during the airing of this episode I am visiting group homes and numb to the reality that I’m about to effectively be locked up and institutionalized for months/years.
Read. that. sentence. again.
I have been sentenced to SadolescentLand™
I can’t remember how many places we visited.
I do remember one place and it was frightening.
At this point, I am so overly numbed out on meds and brain damage and spiritual confusion that I resign myself to the inevitability. I can’t control what’s going to happen and forces more powerful than me are making decisions I have no input on.
I am a desiccated leaf
headed over the Niagara F
At some point in the winter or the spring my friends actually hold a going away party for me after the place was decided on. I was expected to move out and leave everyone behind.
Which goes to show you that I did have people that cared about me! However, this friend group was not affiliated with any of my christian/evangelical spaces which is why I got some love instead of shunning.
Fucking Evangelicals™ never did shit for me and still haven’t 30 years later.
Deus Ex Machina…
At the last minute before I’m scheduled to be shipped off to SadolescentLand™, I luck out because my 18th birthday is occurring soon and this disqualifies me from living in SadolescentLand™.
And so plans to kick me out of the house are put on hold for a few more months.
A new therapy regimen is added. More meds. I drool often and am a total zombie.
I battle this therapist for months eventually going the silent treatment route. This is the part of my life that resembles the montage in Good Will Hunting where the kid is being bounced from therapist to therapist because nobody can figure out what the problem is.
At some point… I am moved out of the house and sent to live in the back of a church in some rent-by-the-room apartments.
And this is how the year 1995 and being 18 will go.
I’ve been kicked out of the family home.
I’ve had to quit school. Again.
Btw… college is attempted again in the Spring and again in the Fall of 1995 and I’m unable to finish both semesters and have to keep dropping out after trying to start classes. This is a cycle that will repeat for several years.
This takes a terrible toll on my self esteem which is gone… and just keeps going lower. Every failure piling up.
More glass shards from other Broken Mirrors in my life.
At some point after nearly a year… I get the call.
They want you again.
Drive down to Burbank.
Through the front doors.
Hey look, there’s another new celebrity on the wall with Marc Grau!
Next to the pictures of Hal…
and Earl Boen…
and Janet Waldo…
and Dave Madden…
and Alan Young…
Into the Lounge of Legends where I get my script(s).
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 340 – Pokenberry Falls R.F.D. Pt 1
Adventures in Odyssey: Episode 341 – Pokenberry Falls R.F.D. Pt 2
I remember it had been nearly a year. And just like the year I had been written out of the show 4 years earlier when my voice changed… I figured after the massive attempt that I would never hear from them again.
Not like anybody from the show ever bothered to call and check up on how I was doing or anything. No get well cards. No passing the hat at the Chapelteria for sick L’il DaveyBoy™.
And so I was super excited to go in again… but I suspected this was the end.
And I was right.
As soon as I read the script I knew.
The basic plot is that George gets a job to be a pastor at a church in a town called Pokenberry Falls. The R.F.D was a nod to The Andy Griffith show spinoff Mayberry R.F.D. and they even brought in the actor who played Ernest T Bass on The Andy Griffith Show… the one and only Howard Morris.
And you want to talk show business legends…
Howard Morris was responsible for the longest recorded laugh in the history of television during a sketch on Sid Caeser’s Show of Shows. It’s old school improv.
^ enjoy some classic nostalgia.
That sketch is written by Mel Brooks, btw. Who liked to hire Howie, too.
As soon as I read the script my heart broke. And it confirmed all my worst fears that it was my fault for being sick. And all the broken parts of my life that made me hate my illness… knowing in my gut that it was responsible for finally killing off the one thing I enjoyed doing more than any other thing in my life.
This was the second time I was being exiled from the show.
I know this feeling.
Been through it once before.
And just like the first time, there’s no warning. The script is a surprise that you can’t prepare for. So you can’t prepare emotionally.
And. I. was. devastated.
And everyone knew it.
But I don’t think they knew why (or bothered to care).
I remember as soon as the reality hit me and I asked– with dread or gallows certainty– “so you’re moving the Barclays out of Odyssey….”
And then somebody… writer? Producer? Some new face maybe?
There’s the suggestion that The Barclays are being moved to Pokenberry Falls and that the AIO production team are going to do a spinoff show for teen audiences because the Barclays are getting older.
The Barclays are going to get our own show!!!
Except this is a totally rehearsed lie from the pit of hell.
They are telling me this to lift my spirits. They can tell I’m devastated. I can barely hold in the tears that I can’t cry. Feel like I wanna puke.
The final death of all the things that died off because of this stupid Depression crap.
I will never see these people again.
Ever had to say goodbye to everyone you love and care about all at once?
For the second time?
Now do it while not fucking up 2 thirty page scripts.
The story isn’t even about Jimmy anymore. The shift of the family narrative is George. Perhaps I’m too much of a mess to be a main character anymore. Or they’re just trying to bury the character so the audience isn’t paying attention. Or who knows… maybe they were getting letters wondering why the actor sucked.
At some point I am so upset… I go outside to have a cigarette.
And while I am out there trying my hardest to not cry– which considering how much medication I’m on and how numbed out I am, even though I want to cry that would not be possible for awhile at this point.
Most of my emotional state is 1,000 yard stare. Mental health patients go through traumas much like war veterans. It’s all encompassing and lasts for years of non-stop devastation and trauma. The way that fucks up your nervous system and brain and soul… at some point part of your humanity dies. And you just never stop hurting.
And so there I am staring into space… kicking parking lot pebbles… sucking down a cigarette. Feeling everything and nothing simultaneously.
And then something astonishing happens.
I’m hesitant to share this story and so it may not make it into the final draft… although I guess vomiting my rough drafts into the internet will mean I can’t take this story back…
I hope she forgives me.
Donna comes out to the parking lot.
She comes up to me and asks me for a cigarette.
This. has. never. happened. before.
Donna smokes, too?!?!
Never seen this ever.
If there is a person over the course of my life who I had the most confusing relationship with…
it is the actor who played my sister for 7 years on Adventures in Odyssey.
Jimmy’s older sister.
And I’ve mentioned earlier in Volume 1 my feelings about naming the other child actors so I’m sticking to “Donna” to protect her privacy.
My relationship to Donna was the strangest of all the relationships I ever had.
In studio or in real life.
I’ve never spent that much time around someone and barely known them.
I have a hard time recalling a single conversation with Donna.
I don’t know that we communicated that much.
I mean, I’m sure we did… but I can’t recall any.
And the biggest reason is that most of the time I spent with her, was in the recording studio on the mic side of things.
We were almost never in the Lounge of Legends at the same time together.
Usually in family sitcoms that are child focused… there’s an A storyline and a B storyline. And the A storyline features one kid. And the B storyline features the other kid.
So, when I’m in the Lounge waiting my turn, Donna is recording. And when Donna is in the Lounge, I’m recording. And on Jimmy stories… she spends more time in the green room than I do. On Donna stories I get to hang out with Hal and Corey and Katie and Howie Morris.
We were always passing each other.
And the times that we are in the same room, it’s usually IN the recording studio on the mic side. And so you don’t have time to talk or hangout and get to know each other. You’re too busy spitting lines into mics.
And one of the things that made our dynamic weird for me… is that Jimmy is the annoying younger brother of Donna. And so most of the time we are together, we’re arguing. Or she’s mad at what Jimmy is doing. The vibe between the two of us is often us acting out the squabbling dynamic of arguing siblings.
Which sucked. Because I was always somewhat fascinated by Donna. She was smart, talented as heck, and a lovely person. And it sucked having to always be her bratty little brother that bugs her.
And in the same way that my relationship to the executive Producer was somewhat odd, because there was a fatherly dynamic at play… because again, the emotions you are experiencing in your brain when you are acting if you’re doing the job right… your brain pings those same sensors that say “this is dad this is sister”. And so, I always felt like our relationship was somewhat strained because I thought she couldn’t stand me. I always assumed I annoyed the crap out of her. And so I often avoided her. Didn’t know what to say. Plus she was a couple years older I think… and I was slightly intimidated by her.
Maybe that’s in my head. I was always nervous and uncomfortable and never quite knew how to bond or communicate with her.
In a way, she occupies the space of a total stranger in my head. I know nothing about her. She was a fairly quiet person. Or maybe we just were always two ships passing. I dunno… Maybe I really did annoy her.
So, it was beyond bizarre that she is now standing front of me in the parking lot asking for a cigarette.
Is Donna coming out here to console me? That was the vibe for a second or so. Or was Donna also frustrated/sad/awkward… is this the second time she’s being written off, too? Is that something that bothers her? (I always got the sneaking suspicion she never really cared about being on the show… but not sure where I got that vibe from)
Or were things being said in the green room after I left to smoke a cigarette and she came out in smoking solidarity with me? Or to piss the production team off, too?
She was always an impenetrable wall of mystery to me.
I’ve never spent so much time around someone and known so little about them.
Maybe she thought I was a rude person.
But here we are… I give a cigarette and a light… and there in the parking lot of the Marc Grau studios… the actors who play Jimmy and Donna Barclay are sharing the world’s most heartbreaking and awkward cigarette in the history of tobacco production.
My brains were also mashed potatoes so I may have remembered the few grains of memory wrong, but my grains of brains have the feeling that she was trying to show some empathy to me. I was upset. I was very upset.
Recording was my favorite thing to ever do.
Every other part of my life was regular and boring and full of mental illness and pain and destruction.
And this was where I shined. And I was losing it. Again. A pattern that will repeat forever in my life.
I remember it seemed like Donna wanted to say something but didn’t really know how or what to say because we weirdly don’t know each other. The adults get to go out and have drinks afterwards. They had wonderful friendships and relationships.
The kids barely knew each other. I never really had a relationship with any of them.
We were familiar strangers, effectively.
And with Donna it’s so bizarre because literally… we spent significant time together over almost a decade of our childhoods. In some ways she is like an extended family member. But one that is totally estranged.
The most vivid memory I have of that moment is Donna leaning against a car across from me and the two of us just staring at each other not knowing what to say but knowing this is probably the last time we will ever see each other and it’s the weirdest shit ever.
Do we hug?
We never have before… how do you say goodbye to someone you barely know but in a weird way was a psuedo-sibling?
The sunlight glints off her tongue piercing as she exhales a plume of smoke…
my sleeves hiding my cigarette burns on my arms…
the Barclay kids ain’t in Odyssey anymore.
Of all the people I miss and have hoped to reconnect with over the years from my time on the show, Donna is the one I miss most. How I would have loved to have ever gotten to know her.
She’s like some odd cousin that you saw at family reunions but never managed to spend time with on any significant level. There’s a connection, but it’s superficial and limited by circumstances beyond both people’s control.
Donna… I wish you well in life wherever you are. I hope happiness and health and a great life are being lived by you. I hope some day we get to have a conversation again.
Maybe for the first time.
This business is weird to people.
I wish I had better people around me to guide me through it. I probably could have avoided most of the problems I ever had if I had been born into a show business family who knew what to do with a kid like me.
At some point towards the end of the day… I find myself sitting at the table in the Lounge of Legends with many of the other cast and crew as the day wears on.
And somebody, decides to start asking me and Donna what we hope to do with our lives now that we won’t be on the show anymore– wait, didn’t they say there was gonna be a spin off series?
Donna mentions college but had no desire for show business on any level.
They turn to me…
“So David, what do you hope to do with the rest of your life…”
I can barely squeak the word out.
I’m so close to crying THANK GOD for the psychiatric medication killing my ability to physically emote.
This was all I ever wanted.
I woulda made that show forever. And if not that show, just to work in the industry and be able to have a life and pay bills. That’s all I ever wanted. I wasn’t greedy. I wasn’t trying to become famous.
I was happy jamming in studio with the best in the world and cashing a paycheck when I got home.
All I wanted was that career. At the age when I need to find something it was at my fingertips… but always out of reach.
And my family had zero interest in supporting that dream.
Especially once the mental illness stuff hit.
My Religious Parent’s issues with Hypochondria, Medical Anxiety, Munchausen and Munchausen by Proxy (fictitious disorder)… once I got sick, I was thrust fully into the mental health system. There was no looking back.
And what part of that was because I was actually mentally ill? Or was I driven to suicide by a family that stymied my career interests because of their fears of Hollywood? And once the suicide attempt happened I could be trapped in the mental health system as a diversion?
Which came first? The chemical imbalance that destroyed my life? Or the life destruction that destroyed my brain chemistry? No idea.
Both paths lead to the same destructive outcome.
After I say “this” the conversation shifts to other topics.
And I believe it is here that there is a conversation that I first mentioned in the post I wrote about telling Hal Smith I loved him like a grandfather.
A question that is fair to ask as a reader: what are the odds that the production team didn’t know that Dave Griffin was sick with suicidal depression and severe mental illness?
Maybe they didn’t even know about the massive suicide attempt and writing the Barclays out had zero to do with any of that?
Correlation does not equal causation, right?
Perhaps they just saw a kid smoking cigarettes and thought I was rebelling.
Maybe the whole Prodigal Dave vibe they thrust my way is because they were not informed of what I was going through.
But… there was a conversation.
It was in the Lounge of Legends.
I remember because I was there.
(although the details are admittedly hazy)
I struggle to remember the context of the conversation and which session it occurred.
The day I told Hal I loved him I was super emotionally unstable and during that time of my life and in the years that followed I would go through phases where I don’t say anything to anybody about Depression and Mental Illness because nobody can handle it and everybody treats me like shit… and then I ALSO went through these periods of time where I can’t stop talking about it.
Like a new church convert. Or someone who starts AA to get sober. And suddenly that’s all they talk about for the next 2 years. Their language changes. the words they use. The phraseologies… little meme dialogue pieces that they’ve brought into their lives.
Same thing happens with mental health patients. At some point you over explain to everyone what’s happening to you, because you’re dealing with it so much it becomes normal to talk about and you forget that it’s taboo.
And emotionally unstable people sometimes can’t shut up or feel the need to explain to everyone why they’re acting so twitchy and have dry mouth and can’t emote.
And it would make sense I blurted this out the same day I told Hal I loved him because I thought I was gonna die… and I was being an overly honest blabber mouth.
But, I also have the memory that I was trying to use the idea of having the “spin off Pokenberry Falls show” deal with more mature subjects for a teen audience.
And even though I suspected the spin off show idea was them totally blowing smoke up my ass to manipulate me to get me to record those final two episodes… I held out hope it could be real.
And I was desperate for them to have a reason to keep me around.
So, in that moment of desperation…
I pitched the idea to the team of doing a storyline where…
Jimmy struggles with Depression.
I distinctly recall telling a packed Lounge of Legends… that they should do a storyline based on what I was experiencing “because I bet there’s listeners out there going through the same thing I am… AND IT COULD HELP.“
A sick actor clinging to hope that his sickness can be used as fodder to entertain people so that he can keep doing the job he loves.
Even worked in the moral angle so it would be a public service.
I learned from the best of the best.
And I will never forget what happens next.
After I say those words…
the. room. is. dead. fucking. silent.
A pin could drop.
You could hear a mouse fart in the building across the street across 4 busy lanes of traffic on Burbank Blvd.
A roomful of christians got real silent.
I think it was the Executive Producer sitting to my left– but it may have been a head writer– and after I say these words and the deafening silence that follows…
This person just slowly nods and says some inane thing like “that’s definitely something to think about” which is industry speak for “absofuckinglutely not.”
So, if ever you find yourself in a situation where somebody may be arguing that there’s no way possible the crew could have known that Dave Griffin was dealing with suicidal depression… even if my Religious Parent didn’t tell them… which I don’t think that’s possible for one second, they’re the type to call them first thing.
But, maybe not, though.
Let’s say the AIO team truly had an information blackout from my family because of stigma or shame…
I, Dave Griffin, told everyone– blurted it out like an oversharing dumbass– that I was mentally ill to the crew of Adventures in Odyssey.
Because I wanted to keep my job.
That I loved.
It was actually one of those times where I learned that there were definitely rooms you could not say those words in.
I learned real fast that had been a bad idea.
I was not greeted with love and hugs and christian fellowship.
While someone nervously coughs in the corner.
A tumble weed blows by.
If laying on a cold cement floor in a psychiatric isolation room was where my faith in God was first shown to crumble…
This moment… here in the Lounge of Legends with the production staff of Adventures in Odyssey blowing off my mental illness struggles is where my skepticism of the system the Fucking Evangelicals™ push was born.
I gave 7 years of killer performances while being underpaid, not credited, ignored, never given fan mail or any pats on the head, not even a fucking pizza party, for an organization that made million$ off this show.
And L’il DaveyBoy™ is suffering a life threatening illness (and may be a victim of Munchausen by Proxy)…
And the people who claim Jesus’ name…
How do they show their love to that sick kid who did so much for them?
I did it cheerfully, btw.
As the years of pain multiply and the life destruction continues… a show will continue to be made for decades… the people who make that show calling each other “family” regularly.
But, not everyone gets to be in that family. Just like my own family.
And some of that is the nature of the business. I’m certainly not the only kid that they never talk to anymore. 1,000 actors over the course of 1,000 shows over 35 years.
But I wasn’t just some random kid actor.
Imagine if I never land in their lap for episode 002, 003, and 004.
Imagine if 3 of the first 4 episodes that ever hooked audiences didn’t feature L’il DaveyBoy™.
Imagine if Jimmy Barclay is never created 6 months later.
Does that show still get to 35 years and 1,000 episodes?
But I damn sure played a very significant part in that success.
And now the kid that you rode for 7 years… that you squeezed all those performances out of and benefitted from those episodes way more than I ever did…
The kid God sent you is sick…
WHAT DID FOTF/AIO DO?
They quietly nodded.
We finished recording.
And I walked out the back door to the parking lot without so much as a slice of cake, card, pictures, promises to see anyone again, numbers exchanged, no “thanks for all you’ve done”… no closing cast party for 7 years of selling the entire concept of “FAMILY” to white evangelical kids all over the world… no appreciation for all the careers that were made off me… nuthin.
Didn’t even take me out to dinner for fuck’s sake.
See ya, kid.
Coldest shit of all time.
So if you ever thought to yourself over the years…
“Whatever happened to the actor that played Jimmy Barclay?”
Now you know.